Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Musician Mick Coon Returns to Sandpoint

In 2002, Mick Coon strapped his guitar to his back, walked into the Festival at Sandpoint office and asked the staff what it would take to hire him to play at the popular summer music festival.

“I told them I’d play for them right then,” said Coon, now 25 years old, who still cannot believe he was so bold. After auditioning in their offices that day, Coon was hired as the opening act for performer Keb Mo. At the Festival that summer, Coon strummed his guitar in front of his hometown audience and sang for an hour and a half onstage.

“That’s where I really got the bug (to perform),” said Coon, a 2001 graduate of Sandpoint High School.

Then relatively new to the music scene, Mick did not start playing guitar until his junior year in high school. Struggling with insomnia he found he had a lot of time on his hands and stayed up many sleepless nights teaching himself to play his mom’s guitar.

“The first song I learned was Leaving on a Jet Plane,” said Coon.

After graduating from high school, where he was one of the top wrestlers in the State of Idaho, Mick passed up a wrestling scholarship in North Dakota to attend a school in Southern Idaho. While there, he won a music competition. Deciding to pursue his love of music, Coon left college after the first year and moved to Missoula where he performed weekly. He married and moved to Boise and later to Salt Lake City where he and a group of friends started a band that was together almost three years. But when thousands of dollars of equipment was stolen from their studio, some of the band members dropped out.

“We could never break through that threshold,” said Coon. “It was time for me to make a decision.”

Coon decided to devote the next year of his life to making a go of it in the music profession, but this time it would be on his own, not with a band.

He had a manager who booked shows for him three months in advance. On a tight budget and determined to not to spend all his earnings, Mick did what he could to minimize all his costs – including living out of his car.

“I packed up Raman noodles and tuna fish and got in my car,” said Coon, who said he had shows all over the west coast. “I put 8,000 miles on my car in one month.”

With an all club pass to 24 Hour Fitness, Coon worked out one to two times a day and showered at the health clubs in the cities where he preformed. He admits that sleeping in his car could be a bit risky; but Coon said he followed nice vehicles and exited off the freeway when they did. He would follow them with the assumption they were headed to a nice area of town. It was there he would rest for the night confident he would be safe.

“I loved living in my car,” said Coon. “There was a freedom.”

During a week when Coon did not have shows lined up, he played on the streets of Santa Monica. The first day he made $30 and the second day after being there two hours he had not made a dime. But then a man approached him, told Coon he liked his voice, and asked Mick if he would be willing to sing a song the man had wrote. Coon agreed to meet the man, Jim, at 8 a.m. the next day.

Because it was an early meeting, Coon did not take the time to go to the fitness club to shower.

“I just figured I was going to some guy’s house,” said Coon. Instead he drove up and found himself at Viacom Studios. He was stunned. He pulled himself together and went in to meet Jim whose company was renting space from Viacom.

“What I write is soulful music,” said Coon, who says he likes the music of Marvin Gay, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. “The song he wanted me to sing was very r and b. I did not think I could do it.”

In the end, he sang for the Viacom employees who loved his voice and before he knew it he was given a check for $1500 and being whisked off to get fitted for a Calvin Klein suit.

Jim then told Coon he would be performing Jim’s song the next day on a new television show, The Simply True Show. “I instantly freaked out,” said Coon.
He had less than 24 hours to not only learn the twelve chord changes the song required, but also had to learn the vocals.

“I wasn’t going to get up there and do karaoke,” said Mick. “I had to sing it so it was me. It had to be from the heart.” He knew he had a lot of work to do in less than 24 hours.

Jim handed Coon $600 and told him to go stay in a nice hotel and get a good night sleep. Coon told Jimmy he would rather sleep in his car. But Jim insisted.
Mick stayed up until 2 a.m. and got up at 4 a.m.; practicing every waking moment.

“Any performer knows you never really have a song down until you actually perform it in front of people,” said Coon.

But he said while he nailed it a few times prior to the TV appearance, the closer he got to his time onstage the more mistakes he made. Then came his moment on stage. He made it through the first line and ended up making up the rest.

“I totally messed up,” said Mick, convinced he had blown his once in a lifetime chance.

But the show allowed him to take time and re-tape the segment. He finally sang it the way it was meant to be sung.

Refusing to be what he refers to as a “money pit,” Mick did not want to keep living in hotels paid for by the studio. Not wanting him to live out of his car, the studio finally agreed to allow Mick to sleep at the TV studio. It was an adventure, he said.

For several months, Mick worked on an album and performed in the same studio where Brittany Spears, Jessica Simpson and many others had recorded.

After awhile the studio moved him into a huge home with a swimming pool where he had a Mercedes Benz at his disposal and attended many Los Angeles Dodgers’ and Los Angeles Lakers’ games.

But the studio was dragging its feet releasing his single, Mick’s marriage was suffering and he was realizing that what he thought was his ultimate dream was not so.

“I really went through an identity crisis,” said Mick. “Even though everything that I ever wanted was happening (in my life), I was lonely.”

Going through a divorce, Mick reconnected with an old high school girlfriend - one with whom he had broken up because she was not of his same faith. But he had thought about Annie every day since they parted ways in High School. After corresponding for awhile, Annie told Mick she would be on a business trip in San Francisco and invited him to visit. They instantly reconnected.

“I wanted her to know that she could always depend on me to be there for her if she needed me,” said Coon. But it became more than that and they both knew it. “I discovered everything wonderful about her remained. She was till the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.”

The two corresponded and when Annie came to surprise him one day in California, he knew he had found his real dream. He moved back to Sandpoint last October and immediately found a job as a waiter at the Coldwater Creek Wine Bar. Very much a people person, Coon says he loves what he is doing and is happier than he has ever been in his life.

He will continue his music and knows that whatever lies ahead it will be an adventure. And he also knows now that his real dream come true was not at recording studios in California, it was here in Sandpoint.

“I don’t know exactly what lies ahead and that’s what I love,” said Coon. “I’ve never felt more like a rock star than I do now. I’m back to my roots, not only as a person but as an artist. Sandpoint is such a creative area. There are so many inspiring people. I am living the dream.”

Mick Coon performsregularly at Pend d’Oreille Winery in downtown Sandpoint as well as the Coldwater Creek Wine Bar.

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