With a haircut reminiscent of Joan Jett and an attitude as flashy as her green nail polish, Michiko Egger taps her foot and strums away on her beloved acoustic guitar. A small town girl with big dreams, “Michi” isn’t your typical 18 year-old.
Ever since she pounded on her father’s drum set at the age of five, Egger knew music was it. She learned the piano and guitar in the succeeding years. Whereas many people nowadays get their 15 minutes of fame from televised talent competitions, Egger works her own way through perseverance. No “American Idol” wanted. No “X-Factor” or “The Voice” needed.
“I think it’s definitely worth taking the time to get there because it’s instant fame, but you’ll fade off a lot sooner than having a long career where you’re gonna grow and get a lot more opportunities,” Michi advised. “It’s definitely worth waiting for.”
Michiko, which means “beautiful, intelligent child” in Japanese, is of German, Irish, Spanish and Japanese descent. An only child, Egger grew up with parents who encouraged her passion and to this day, still make sure to attend every show she performs.
“My parents rock. My dad’s a drummer so he’s always been super supportive and my mom goes to every single show,” Egger said. “Now that I moved to [New Jersey], they still drive out the three and a half hours to everything.”
Egger had formal voice training in Italian opera. She’s strummed her guitar in places you wouldn’t think- from rodeos to vegetarian festivals. The self-proclaimed “female John Mayer” draws inspiration from other musicians such as Eric Clapton, Tom Petty and Jimi Hendrix.
Egger got her start at songwriting with a more personal approach. She chose to write her first song at nine years old about someone already close to her — Hamlet, her pet hamster.
In her old band, her father played drums while her guitar teacher was on bass and guitar. Since she moved to Jersey City, Egger had to get new bandmates and leave the old ones behind. Although she’s sad to depart with the people who got her to where she is today, Egger knows it is for the best.
“I just wanna play a lot, everywhere. We’re in the process of building a younger-looking band for me and we’ve pretty much found everybody, but I’m so excited to start playing with them,” Egger said. “It’s hard parting with [my old band] because I’m so close to them but they’re totally understanding of it.”
While New York City and its tall skyscrapers and bright lights differ from her small, rural town in Pennsylvania, Egger makes sure she stays in touch with her roots.
“I visited home for a day maybe a week ago and it was the first time I had seen cows in two weeks and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Cows.’ There were like 20 of them,” Egger exclaimed.
When she doesn’t perform or visit the cows back home, Egger does not party like the average person her age. In her spare time, she enjoys photography and video editing. Egger will shop with her roommate (never for pants as she only wears dresses), cook and catch up on the latest episode of “The Big Bang Theory.” As a matter of fact, Egger’s obsession with Steve Madden has transpired her entire shoe and sunglasses collection to be from the designer.
Egger has released two albums prior to her current one, but “Where Your Heart Is” is the most heavily promoted of them all, but it’s still a home-grown production. Egger chose to work on the album cover with her mother and a close friend. The three ladies have been the main contributors to the album’s creative work.
Egger fancies writing about the lost loves in her life. Conveniently, Egger was able to compose her entire album based off relationships with two former flames. She has a special connection to one song in particular.
“I think ‘Warrior’ is one of my only happy songs,” Egger said. “It’s one of those super empowering songs about how you’re in love with somebody and with that person you can face anything. I got a lot of sad, frustrated songs and it’s weird cause sometimes the ones with the happiest lyrics will sound super sad and vise versa.”
Things have mostly worked out, but that’s not to say it has all been easy for her.
“I’ve lost a lot of friends along the way,” Egger said. “People never quite understand what I’m doing. You lose a lot of people along the way. In my head I’ve been an adult for a while just because I’ve been working for so long, I never really felt like a kid.”
She’s assumed a mature role so early in life. It could weigh her down, but Egger has never felt sorry for herself. She currently works in a performing arts center- she teaches young children how to play the guitar.
A recent high school graduate, Egger plans to put off college to pursue her dream. And she’s certain – you won’t see her on next season’s “American Idol.”
“I don’t think when music comes from the heart, I just don’t think that you should compete over something like that,” said Egger. “It’s just not my thing.”
It isn’t fun for anyone being told what to do. Professionally, Egger has had to encounter her fair share of gems throughout her musical journey.
“Sometimes when you work with singers, they can be divas. I’ve had a few experiences where they’re telling me how to play guitar and I wasn’t too happy about that,” said Egger. “Me being younger, they don’t wanna pay you as much and I just get ripped off a lot and [have gotten] treated really badly.”
Almost awkwardly charming and animated, Egger uses her signature “thumbs-up” and “jazz hands” to emphasize points. Despite her quirky yet timid nature, she thinks nothing of people who don’t have her best interest at heart.
“I don’t take crap, man. I always see it coming and I just don’t let it happen. You gotta be super alert with those kinds of things,” said Egger.
With a new band and album to add to her ever-growing resume, Egger has her goals set high for the future. Within the next few years, she would like to go on tour, meet more people in the music industry and “just play.”
While other people her age have just started to grasp a sense of who they are, Michi Egger has always known that music is her ultimate refuge.
“There is no backup plan. This is what I’ve been doing my whole life. I’m gonna get there,” Egger affirms. “I’m on my way.”
Photo by Alan Hawkins