Gotta Have that Funk

Photography by Libby Williams

By Savannah Crocker

Mike Quinn lives and breathes for the saxophone.

He did not plan for a life in the music scene. After attending the College of Charleston and majoring in English, Mike found himself playing the saxophone with a group of his friends at his house as a hobby. When he and his friends realized they could play in local bars, his mindset shifted from his English studies to hope of a career of playing music.

“I realized I could make a living doing it, and it kind of just took off,” Mike says.

Mike grew up listening to artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Huey Lewis and Joshua Redman to name a few. The musicians he listened to represent all genres and a mixture of vocalists and instrumentalists. He says his parents introduced him to the sounds of rock and roll and the blues. Mike says they supported his love of music, but never pressured him to make a career out of it.

“I don’t know too many parents that want their kid to become a full-time musician,” Mike says. “It’s not the healthiest lifestyle, and certainly doesn’t come with the financial security of accounting or banking.”

Mike played different instruments throughout his childhood after taking music classes for eight years, including the keyboards, guitar, and drums, but he says he lives for the saxophone.

Mike can’t pinpoint any one reason as to why he lives for the saxophone; he says he simply has always had an affinity for it.

“It can have such a vocal quality to it, so alive, so organic, like the human voice itself. It can sound achingly beautiful, frightening, or sorrowful,” Mike says. “In the end, I’d say the saxophone chose me.”

Today, Mike plays with well-known local bands such as the Emerald Empire Band, which plays weddings; Doom Flamingo, an ‘80s-inspired band led by vocalist Kanika Moore; Shimmy Ghøster, a improvisational trio; and Motown Throwdown, which brings the soul and funk. You can find Mike playing with a different band and at a different venue almost every night.

While Mike started his career playing locally, he has hit the road and is playing in Cuba for the first half of February and later this month at the Brooklyn Bowl in New York City.

“I want to enjoy playing music as much as I can, play to my own interests as a performer and artist, and in each moment, I want to bring joy to the audience” he says.

Mike is known for playing with a great deal of passion, soul and funk. He says the music inspires and emotionally affects him. He truly believes in a deeply passionate performer-and-audience relationship. There’s no way you can sit still while you listen to him.

“I’m really concerned with the quality of every moment. Energy is one of the most relatable and transferable parts of art,” Mike says. “The power that energy has is what keeps me engaged and keeps me in the game.”

New artists Mike’s been listening to recently:
“Blow,” by Donny McCaslin
“Thanks For Listening,” by Chris Thile
“Gumbo,” by PJ Morton
“Drunk,” by Thundercat
“Oxnard,” by Anderson .Paak

Catch Mike each week beginning Feb. 17:
1 to 4 p.m. Sundays at Pour House (Sunday Brunch Farmers Market!)
9:30 p.m. Mondays at Bar Mash
9 p.m. Tuesdays at Prohibition
8 to 11p.m. Wednesdays at Graft Wine Shop
10 p.m. Thursdays at Palace Hotel