A new release from Michael Stanton Armstrong brings out a forward-rolling classic southern rock and blues single that features all the bells and whistles you could possibly want from a song of its genre.
"Midnight Train" comes through as genuine as it gets and quickly lets you envision the band live right in front of you because the energy portrayed on the song is so vibrant and so electric that you really want to just be there.
The instrumentation across the track is absolutely nailed from the guitar parts to the harmonica and vocals, everything is really pinpointed and has this natural flow to it.
The drumming is absolutely outstanding and that rolling snare and kick really drive the song and give it that Midnight Train feel which really works wonders for the song.
Everything about this is so authentic and you can really hear the love for the craft that the entire band has throughout the course of the song to the point where it almost feels like it was actually recorded live on the floor.
It seems like the players on the track were just feeding off of each other's energy is the entire time and that's a real major part of why the song has so much life in that rhythm.
Being able to take such a classic genre and give it a refresher is an outstanding thing if it's done right and it was certainly done right here.
You can clearly hear Michael's influences coming through during the course of the song, but he gives everything his own touch and his own staple sound.
This is a naturally gifted performer that is putting music out there that a lot of us love and even miss.
This track has that aesthetic of blues rock that you hear on the radio or that you can walk into a bar in the south and have this live band playing with such gusto and such heart that you can't walk out.
And again, this brings us back to wanting to see this live because it has that vibe to it and the song comes through alive and breathing with all the attention to the right details that it needs but never losing its soul.
That's what this song encompasses. It's got a lot of character, and great energy, but it has a ton of soul which is probably the most imperative part of releasing a song like this.
You have to have a real passion for it to do it right and Michael clearly does.
With the release of such a wonderfully performed single, we wanted to have a chat to find out where this song actually came from and what might be coming up next for the artist.
Here's what happened.
Buzz Slayers: Okay, let's start with "Midnight Train" This single had a classic vintage vibe and it worked so well with such authenticity!! How did this track come about?
First off, thank you for the kind words. It’s amazing that you’re into the song and I’m excited for the opportunity to do this interview!
I wrote this song a little over a year ago. At the time, I had been struggling with a bit of writer’s block and one night I decided to lock myself away and not come out until I had a solid song idea. I started to free write about getting on a train in the middle of the night with no destination, in search of inspiration. And that jumble of words turned into a song about a journey to write a song. With the destination of the journey being the song itself. It was one of those rare songs that all came together pretty effortlessly once I got started and was finished in a matter of hours.
This song also has a secondary source of inspiration that was somewhat veiled in the lyrics of the song, of which only a handful of people know about. The title “Midnight Train” and the underlying train theme actually came from a strain of medical Mary Jane I had responsibly smoked before this particular free writing session, something that usually sparks the creative, right side of my brain. The strain was called “Midnight Express” and became the image in my mind that I was writing from. So the subtext of the song is secretly about getting high, eliminating distractions in an effort to create something new. And having fun while doing it. But that’s a secret.
Buzz Slayers: How did this all start for you as an artist? When did you fall in love with music?
I think I have always had a deep connection with music. As a kid I was always singing and performing for family. I remember all my babysitters were super impressed because at like 6 years old, I knew all the words to every song that played on the radio. But I was also into sports and my focus was mainly on athletics for the majority of my youth. I picked up a guitar when I was 14 and started teaching myself to play Jack Johnson and Tom Petty songs. It wasn’t long before I started trying to write my own songs. I wrote my first (what I would consider) “good” song called “The Surface” when I was a senior in high school and I’ve continued writing ever since. I still perform that song and it will be on an upcoming EP release.
I played at parties, around campus and at bonfires throughout high school and college but never gave it a real go until about three years ago when I began consistently and intentionally building toward an eventual career in music. That process is still ongoing but up until about three years ago I was pursuing a career in medicine. I was in my second year of residency and I was miserable and looking for a way out. I decided to step away and pursue my passion for a few years. Try and recenter and start fresh. And here we are, three years later having just released my first official single. Feels like it’s been a long time coming.
Buzz Slayers: What kind of things really inspire songs for you?
I tend to draw inspiration from all kinds of things. Other music is a big and obvious one but also small moments or happenings that strike me and stick with me for one reason or another. An off-the-wall thought or a phrase that catches my attention. I’ve sort of developed this internal alarm bell that goes off when I encounter a good song idea. That’s usually the time I scramble to get it into my phone before the moment passes.
I’m a big movie guy and I like to watch with the subtitles on because a lot of times I will hear (or read) a line in a movie that will spark something in me. I’ll write it down and try to spin it in some way that suits my personality and voice. But the great thing about inspiration is that it can come from absolutely anywhere if you’re looking for it.
Buzz Slayers: This single has some great heavy styles on it! Can you give us some of your biggest influences musically?
I think in general, the songs I write tend to be greatly influenced by the artists and styles that I am listening to at the time. Around the time I wrote Midnight Train, I was listening to a lot of Bob Dylan (especially Highway 61 Revisited), Lennon/McCartney, JJ Cale, The Beach Boys, that sort of thing. We were really leaning into the retro/roots/analog type vibe and tried to give it an Indie/beach-rock twist and I think we nailed it.
Buzz Slayers: What are you doing when you're NOT working on music?
When I am not working on music I am either working my full-time job as a case manager or I am hanging out with my daughter, who just turned 6. But that’s about it. I chose to get into the game a little later than most and for this reason, I think I have this “I need to make up for lost time” kind of mindset that has kept me very focused and driven for the last couple years. Not to the point of feeling rushed or in a hurry. But enough to be used as motivation to keep moving forward.
Buzz Slayers: Who's in your headphones right now?
I am a huge Mt. Joy (and Matt Quinn) fan. I’ve listened to all three of their albums on repeat the last few years. There’s something about his writing style and delivery that really resonates with me and aligns with the kind of music that I would like to create. With my own spin, of course. But also I’m listening to a lot of The Black Keys, Lord Huron, Rayland Baxter, The Nude Party, Noah Kahan, etc.
Buzz Slayers: Are you doing any live performances right now?
This summer I have gigs lined up in and around the Springfield/Branson, Mo area. But I plan to start expanding my booking radius over the next couple years. I perform both solo as “Michael Stanton Armstrong” and with my band “Michael Stanton & The Shade.” The name “The Shade” comes from the idea of the “shadow self” or the part of yourself you tend to try and hide from the world for one reason or another. When I’m on stage, my goal is to be my complete self, including the shadey parts. It also is a reference to a respite from the sun. Somewhere you can relax and enjoy yourself away from the heat of daily life. If you would like to check out a live performance, I post all of my upcoming shows and gigs on my social media pages. On instagram, you can find my solo/personal page @Michael_Stanton_Armstrong and my band page @StantonAndTheShade. Or on Facebook, my band page is “Michael Stanton and The Shade.” I have a website in the works but is not quite ready to go live yet.
Buzz Slayers: Did you record this yourself or hit a big studio for this?
I wrote Midnight Train about a year ago and brought it to my friend and fellow singer-songwriter Justin Larkin (@JustinLarkinMusic) to see if he’d like to collaborate with me in recording and producing the song. He’s kinda the man around here and I had been wanting to work with him for quite a while. He graciously agreed and over the next 6 to 9 months, whenever our schedules would allow, we’d get together at his studio (Cosmic Ozarkana Studios) to continue building it out. A couple months before release, we were fortunate to have some local legends come in and track some of the instrumentation on the record with us, which blew my mind and really opened my eyes to just how supportive, close-knit and unique the music community here in Springfield really is. It’s a special place.
Buzz Slayers: What can your fans expect from you in the near future?
In the very near future, I will be releasing a second single called “Bird In My Ear.” This is another high energy tune with a somewhat classic/retro vibes that sits at an intersection between americana, folk, country and rock and it features a trumpet section by a guy named Cory Johnson (@CoJo65) that will blow your socks off. I’m super excited about it. Release date coming soon but my goal is end of September.
Long term, I’ve got two EPs written, demo’d and ready to go into production. Each EP will be 7-8 songs in length, with 2-3 singles from each one being released prior to each EP dropping. I hope to release the first EP by the end of the year, but that timeline is very fluid at the moment.
Buzz Slayers: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?
I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and support. It means the world to know that something we’ve worked so hard on and poured our heart and souls into is having an impact and reaching people who can appreciate and enjoy experiencing what we had so much fun creating. And stay tuned! There are some exciting things on the horizon and I cannot wait to share them with you.