Mike Tompkins, who originally started out as a Canadian producer, never wanted to be a singer. He says so himself: “I never wanted to be an artist, it’s something I just fell into.” He started uploading to YouTube in an effort to push his work out to the masses. However, as if the web simply couldn’t let Tompkins’ musical gifts go unnoticed, the singer/producer has become a YouTube phenomenon in four short years.
Primarily known for his a capella versions of cover songs, Tompkins has trotted the globe with his unique remixes and performances. The producer recently ended a tour with the Jonas Brothers, which according to recent news, could be the Brothers’ final tour — not a bad feather to have in your cap.
We caught up with Tompkins to talk about his career as an a capella artist, his shift towards original music, and, of course, YouTube.
How did you get your start on YouTube?
I started about four years ago. I was a music producer in Canada for other artists. I started YouTube to help promote myself as a producer. My goal was to create a video — it was kind of around when YouTube was becoming a thing. Tyler Ward had just started and was gaining traction. And so it kind of inspired me to do something. I never wanted to be an artist, it’s something I just fell into.
What’s the general turnaround time from picking a song to cover to shooting the music video and publishing it? Do you follow a release schedule?
I’ve always wanted a release schedule, unfortunately it doesn’t work out that way for my creative process.I spend a lot of time on my original music. I was just on tour working on my live show and crafting my original music side, which has yet to be unleashed.
Music takes me a couple of days to arrange — two to three days usually. I spend a lot of time writing and producing for myself and other people, my life has never allowed for the time to be on a schedule. I always try to release one thing, at least one, for my people.
How do you go about picking which songs to cover? Is it just stuff you like? Or do you take fan requests?
It’s really a combination of things. What’s kind of popular at the time — that was really what I thought when I started out. How can you try and get as many people to watch you, and get fans?
Now it’s become a little different. Now it’s covers that I like that I want to do. I want to be doing covers with the actual artists of those things like Common and Boonie & Kye.
How much of what you do right now are covers, and how much are original songs?
I think we’re getting close to a point where my fans and followers, who have known me for my covers, will be asking for more originals.
I have a lot of original music. I’ve just been waiting for the right time, with all the right pieces to be in place, to release it. And I think that time is coming. But I’ll still doing covers and remixes, I will always be doing that, but we are just getting close to where that’s [original music] going to be the main focus.
What has the fan response been so far to your originals?
It’s been interesting. It’s been positive, but it’s scary because you’re releasing something that’s entirely yours. The reaction whether they liked your cover or not isn’t as bad as whether they liked your original or not.
I haven’t been to the point where I have done a solid release of an original. I’ve never released an actual music video, in the way that I kind of want to set it up.
I’m excited. My goal has always been how can I blow people’s minds and do something different and change the way people look at a cappella. That’s what I’m setting up for. That’s what I’m looking to do with my art.