I recall meeting Michael Kaltofen a few months ago, not long after the new local independent bookstore, Main Street Reads, opened as he was playing guitar there during a Third Thursday evening. In fact, he will be there 5-8 p.m. on Dec 19.
Michael says we met after he played his set at one of the summer’s “Downtown Get Down” music events in Hutchinson Square. Either way, he was playing his guitar. Michael says his music is a part of the Americana genre.
Regan: Michael, how long have you been a musician and songwriter?
Kaltofen: I started playing guitar when I was 18 years old in 1988.
R: What brought you to Summerville (as you said you used to live in the windy city of Chicago)?
K: We moved from Chicago in 2011 after we had a snowstorm and then we decided that we’d had enough of the ice and snow. My wife’s family has been here for 17 years and we had visited many times, so we had a great love of the town already.
R: Tell us about your story playing music and songwriting. Is there a particular song you’ve written which touched you deeply that you can tell us about? Who was your main influence(s) in music?
K: I was a poet in college and had several poems published in the “Prairie Light Review Magazine”. I have an older brother Steven who was a professional musician in the Chicago area as well as cousins who played the sky resorts of Colorado and another who was a blues star in Spain. There were great, rich musical influences everywhere. I was a morning news radio personality in Chicago at a jazz-based radio station and I had won the 1999 Illinois News Broadcaster of the Year award for “Issues Dealing with Public Health”. All of that really helped me grow and create because I was surrounded by music all the time. My favorite song I wrote is called “You Won’t Be Forgotten” The lyrics came to me after I lost a friend in the 10th grade in a drunk driving accident.
R: Where can one hear you playing music?
K: I play every 3rd Thursday at Main Street Reads in downtown Summerville. I also play in the Knightsville Porch Jam presented by Dan Riley Music each month (2nd Saturday afternoon) at the Knightsville General Store. Locally, I also play at Homegrown Brewhouse and as part of the Downtown Get Down at Hutchinson Square.
R: You have a new CD in progress through working with another area songwriter/Joshua Jarman who I profiled a while ago (and you believe this may be out on Spotify after Christmas)?
K: I am working with local musical genius Joshua Jarman and Wings Back Entertainment on my new CD project of all original acoustic songs. I look forward to having that released in February or March of this coming year. It’s such an honor to have both Josh Jarman and Dan Riley in my corner. They have been very helpful in getting my musical career on track in this area.
R: What’s the secret to good songwriting and performing? What makes a good Americana song?
K: For me, it’s all about authenticity and life experience. We have good times and rough times, it’s not about writing all my songs about the things that hurt, but it’s also not about making everything sunshine and rainbows, either. It’s about being a real person. That’s what I write about and what I enjoy.
R: What else would you like to say? Any opinion about the Greater Charleston/Summerville music scene?
K: The Summerville music scene is rich with talent. I love that I can go see a young performer like Matthew Chrisman and Jerimiah King play and, at the same time, hear a more seasoned performer like Fleming Moore. We all support each other and it’s a real community of artists. The local businesses are quite supportive as well and we all can lean on each other. That makes me want to write a song about that!
Mary E. Regan, Columnist, is a Publicist with her ProPublicist consultancy. Story ideas? Email: Mary@ProPublicist.com.