NEW YORK-BORN MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST, COMPOSER, AND PRODUCER MICHAEL GHEGAN REMAINS DEVOTED TO HARD WORK, AUTHENTICITY, AND THE TRANSCENDENT POWER OF SOUND
BY MADELYN DAWSON PHOTOS BY TOM ZAPCIC
I have always been a work in progress,” said Michael Ghegan, reflecting upon some of the highlights of his career. The internationally acclaimed musician reached back into his memory to reminisce on his time working with artists such as Justin Timberlake, Michael Bolton, and the Allman Brothers. “I’ve always personally felt completely blown away and honored to be there, but there’s also a part where you have to be thankful and proud that you worked really hard and deserve it,” he noted.
Ghegan’s ardor for music began at age seven with the saxophone, though the multi-hyphenate is also an acclaimed vocalist, keyboardist, composer, programmer, and producer. At 20 years old, while studying jazz performance and music education at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, he landed a dream job for any rising musician working with the Rocket Man himself, Elton John. “I was 20, and I showed up early and stayed late, every single day…just in case,” said Ghegan. “So I built a reputation for working hard, being on time, and learning everyone’s parts.”
Though Ghegan loved the stage, the artist quickly realized that performing alone would not be enough to fulfill his creative hunger and enthusiasm for music. He felt called to create, and in 2000, he dove head first into the complex world of composing and producing after being offered a job in Los Angeles as the on screen musical director for Comedy Central’s e Chris Wylde Show. From there, he was tapped to write the music for 13 different television titles, including mega-hits Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, and The Ellen Degeneres Show.
His career also took him to the rolling hills of Tuscany, Italy, sharing the stage with Italian tenor and friend, Andrea Bocelli, backed by a full 100-piece orchestra. It’s one of Ghegan’s most memorable experiences. “It was Andrea, myself, my musical brother and close friend David Bryan from Bon Jovi, and an impossibly full moon, surrounded by a crowd full of fans on a Tuscan hillside. Simply unforgettable.”
For the past seven years, Ghegan has been traveling the world with Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson as sax soloist, keyboardist, and vocalist. The troupe’s most iconic hits (“Give a Little Bit,” “Breakfast in America”) are often performed with a full orchestra on stage, yet no matter how many times he plays with them, Ghegan doesn’t lose sight of the reverberant power the experience gives him. “To have a full symphony behind you is one of the most powerful things you can feel,” said the New York native.
When he’s not on stage with Super tramp, touring with Cirque du Soleil, or arranging and playing his solo music, Ghegan can often be found at BlueTone Recording Studios, a 120-year-old Victorian house in Red Bank that’s been repurposed as a state-of-the-art recording studio. Here, he creates all of his music for television and regularly collaborates with local artists and businesses. Though BlueTone has produced multiple Grammy-nominated tracks, it’s also an incubator for local artists and where many commercial jingles for NJ businesses are born.
Ghegan’s favorite aspect of the creation process, he noted, is the opportunity to shape something that never existed before. “The idea of starting with a blank canvas and coming away with a fully developed piece of art,” he said. “Every time you sit down at the piano and press record is a new opportunity.”
Today Ghegan is constantly on tour, from Miami to St. Tropez, producing, collaborating, and performing with internationally acclaimed DJs in the dance and house music scene. He also continues to share his experience and knowledge with the next generation of artists, teaching music master classes from an elementary to graduate level. Nurturing young musicians, he said, is just as influential for him as it is for them. “It’s rewarding in a completely different way because every artist has something to say and everyone that leaves my studio walks out happier than when they came in.”
Looking back on the years, Ghegan said his success can best be attributed to his diligence to the work and dedication to the honesty of his craft. “If there’s one thing I know from being on stage for 35 years, it’s that people truly know when you’re giving them your heart,” he added.
michaelghegan.com / @michaelghegan / @bluutonerecordingstudio