Gavin Mikhail is an American pianist, singer-songwriter, and composer. Born in West Lafayette, Indiana, he attended Purdue University as a finance major and later moved to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue a career in music. As the winner of the ‘Lay It Down And Mix It Up In The UK’ fan-vote contest, he traveled to England to record at Peter Gabriel’s renowned ‘Real World Studios,’ and to date, has released more than 30 albums and singles independently. His piano soundtrack to the Ruta Sepetys novel ‘Between Shades Of Gray’ was released in 2011, and the book went on to become a New York Times Bestseller. Propelled by this success as well as the featuring of his song ‘Evergreen’ on YouTube’s homepage in December 2011, his current video series has received in excess of 5.5 million views internationally.
Mikhail was born in West Lafayette, Indiana to an Egyptian professor father and American professional dancer mother. With a heavy family emphasis placed on the arts, by the age of 7, he had begun studying classical piano and pipe organ, and by age 10 was performing for weekly church services. He would continue to perform/compete throughout the next 11 years culminating in a Keller Symphony Competition win in 1991. Turning his attention to mainstream music, he spent the next 4 years at Purdue University performing in bands as lead vocalist/keyboardist while pursuing a degree in finance. Graduating in 1995, he spent the following year touring, eventually leaving to Nashville to begin a career in the music industry.
In 1997, after a year of part-time work at various music companies, Mikhail landed a job at Irving Azoff’s Giant Nashville (a subsidiary of Warner Music Group). He was originally hired into the finance department, but within 4 months, a spot on the A&R staff opened up, and he was asked to fill the position. Throughout the next 2 years, Mikhail assisted in the signings and/or promotion of such acts as Blake Shelton, Clay Walker, Daryle Singletary, The Wilkinsons, and Georgia Middleman. Leaving Giant at the end of 1998 to pursue songwriting/production, he spent several years working with independent artists during which time he began to focus more heavily on his own writing and solo artist career.
Mikhail completed his first self-produced demos in early 2002. The demos included “Take,” “Handed Over,” “You Grieve,” and “Fight The Sky.” All four songs would later appear on his debut release “My Personal Beauty Needs.” The demos led to a series of showcases for major record labels in Los Angeles, and although they failed to produce a record deal, the songs caught the attention of EGM, Inc. (Third Eye Blind, Dakona). Tracks for “Fight The Sky” were subsequently sent to Austin-based producer Dwight Baker (Kelly Clarkson, Enrique Iglesias, American Bang) who produced the final version.
In 2003, Mikhail released “My Personal Beauty Needs” independently and immediately began work on his follow-up “Like Normal People Do.” Like the debut album, it was self-written and produced but incorporated more elaborate production including layered guitars and orchestral string arrangements. Musicians on the album included Frank Cuden (Danielle Peck, Julie Roberts), Paul Rippee, Neilson Hubbard (Garrison Starr, Glen Phillips, Matthew Ryan), and Chris Carmichael.
In January 2006, Mikhail launched his MySpace page posting a self-penned biography entitled ‘The Anti-Rockstar.’ Written as a result of a growing dissatisfaction with many commonly-held music industry beliefs as well as the emotional shift brought on by the birth of his first child, it resonated with fans and his MySpace popularity grew. By the start of 2007, his friends list counted more than 170,000, and he was ranked in the top 300 out of 3.2 million artists registered on MySpace. That same year, Mikhail signed a licensing deal with Trolley Bus Records to distribute “Like Normal People Do” to HMV and Tower Records stores in Japan. Winning the “Lay It Down And Mix It Up In The UK” fan-vote contest sponsored by Eventful, Tunecore, and SSL in October of that year, he traveled to Peter Gabriel’s “Real World Studios” in England to record. In early 2008, Mikhail was featured as an internet sensation by Billboard Magazine in their “Underground” video series, and later that year was invited to perform alongside Matt Wertz, Matthew Perryman Jones, and Jeremy Lister for the Tin Pan South Festival in Nashville.
“The Real World Sessions: Volume I,” Mikhail’s first album from the trip to “Real World Studios,” was released in April 2009 and included his piano-based cover of Death Cab For Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into The Dark.” The song and associated video later went on to become a YouTube hit (amassing well over 1,000,000 views), and spawned his current YouTube series. In October 2009, Mikhail was chosen as a finalist for the ASCAP Lester Sill Workshop in Los Angeles. The workshop brought together 14 independent songwriters to work with notable industry icons such as Greg Wells (ADELE, Mika, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson).
2010 saw the release of Mikhail’s soundtrack to the Ruta Sepetys penned novel “Between Shades Of Gray.” The historically-based fictional account of a Lithuanian family deported to Siberia during WWII quickly became a New York Times Bestseller. In 2011, Mikhail continued his online video series, and on December 3rd released an animated video for his song “Evergreen.” Featured on the homepage of YouTube, the video amassed over 250,000 views in a single day. At the start of 2012, YouTube, working in conjunction with the band Coldplay, invited Mikhail to participate in a collaborative project based around the Coldplay song “Paradise.” Although the project was later abandoned by YouTube, Mikhail released a solo version of the song and video on January 18th, 2012.
Having grown up with 4 sisters, and now a husband and father of 3 children, Mikhail often cites family experience in his blogs and on his Facebook/Twitter pages. He maintains close personal contact with his fans and asserts a tongue-in-cheek cynicism toward mainstream media and the unrealistic images sold to society. As a frequent speaker at digital music and songwriting events, he works extensively with young artists and musicians to promote independence and entrepreneurship.