Musician, Founder of Letters to Baghdad
“From the outset, I’ve had a keen interest in the war effort and the citizens who volunteered to serve and fight. I’d been at a loss as to how I could pay tribute to these amazing individuals, to bring attention to their work and to support charities that supported our soldiers. The answers to my questions arrived in July 2005, when I made a visit to the Milblog, ‘Boots in Baghdad.’”
» Read more about Letters To Baghdad following the Q/A.
|Watch a slideshow of Michael’s photos accompanied by “When I Get Home” by Cliff Knizley » LOW | HIGH|
1. How do you describe what you do for a living?
I’m a songwriter, guitarist and vocalist. My interests range from populist song styles to esoteric, non-commercial instrumental guitar pieces. This dual nature keeps me stimulated, leads to an abundance of ideas and gives me exposure to different audiences and sources of income.
2. What inspired you to undertake this work?
Writing and music were always serious interests and areas I actively participated in growing up. In college, I played in various bar bands and continued to do so after graduation. I eventually recorded my own cd’s and made music the centerpiece of my life.
September 11 was the pivotal moment of my lifetime. The awesome responsibilities our soldiers have taken on since that day never cease to amaze me.
The “Letters To Baghdad” project was my symbolic way of demonstrating my gratitude for our soldiers. I’m donating proceeds to Lest They Be Forgotten and Homes For Our Troops as a tangible way to pay tribute.
3. How do you approach the work?
I write 6 days a week. Try to play a variety of different venues where I can test drive new material and give myself a few breaks a year during which I record my favorite new material. Some venues lean heavily toward the “song” side and others more towards the composer/guitarist side. I also spend a lot of time listening to a wide variety of musical styles. I’m also on a quest to find the ultimate “live” guitar sound!
4. Where do you find inspiration?
I love the challenge of staying creative as a way of life. I’m curious to see how others will respond to my new material and I firmly believe that the best material is yet to come.
5. What books are you reading now?
“John Adams” by David McCollough
6. What do you consider required reading in order for people to understand the world today?
“Islam and The West” (Bernard Lewis), “A Case For Democracy” (Natan Sharansky), “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson and any articles by Victor Davis Hanson, Mark Steyn and Christopher Hitchens.
7. Whose work (in any field) do you admire the most?
My father, a physician still practicing after 40 years. Always intelligent, passionate and full of energy even as the profession has gone through so much negative change. A master of his craft and a true gentleman.
8. What do you consider as an overrated person, place or thing?
Mainstream, corporate media and entertainment.
9. What do hope will be your most lasting contribution?
Entertain, provoke thought and feed the imagination.
10. When is the last time you laughed out loud about something?
I have a Fox Terrier, which means I’m laughing out loud every 10 minutes.
11. What do you think people need to spend more time doing (or paying attention to)
Logic should be taught in every high school in America.
12. What is the most important piece of equipment (or skill) in your arsenal?
Logic and the ability to organize and present my ideas.
More about Letters to Baghdad
From the outset, I’ve had a keen interest in the war effort and the citizens who volunteered to serve and fight. I’d been at a loss as to how I could pay tribute to these amazing individuals, to bring attention to their work and to support charities that supported our soldiers. The answers to my questions arrived in July 2005, when I made a visit to the Milblog, “Boots in Baghdad.”
The author, National Guardsman Mark Miner was a great writer and gave me a sense of what amazing people we have fighting on behalf of the American people. I wrote the song, “When I Get Home” after my first visit and then contacted Mark to tell him. We began to correspond on a regular basis. I recorded the song and sent him the file while he was still in Baghdad. He posted it on his blog and I began to get emails from all over the world.
These thankful notes motivated me to write and record three more songs and to release the CD “Letters to Baghdad: A Tribute To Our Troops.” The ultimate goal was to donate proceeds from the album sales to charities whose sole existence was based on aiding our troops and their families.
Mark was gracious enough to provide photographs for the album and he helped me select the charities “Lest They Be Forgotten” and “Homes for Our Troops.” We’ve become friends and stay in contact on a regular basis. Sales have been steady and always spike when the CD receives any amount of exposure to the public.
The disc features an impressive group of musicians which includes songwriter/producer Stan Lynch, a 20-year veteran of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and also Ronny Cates, a longtime member of the Christian rock group, Petra, who has won multiple Grammy and Dove awards.
This project has been the most rewarding one I’ve ever done as a musician and writer. Through it, I’ve corresponded with soldiers and their families, as well as numerous pundits and politicians who share an interest in our troops. My hope is that greater exposure about “Letters to Baghdad” will increase the chances that this project can achieve its goal of supporting our troops on many levels.
“Letters To Baghdad” is available at Cliff’s website www.cliffknizley.com. There are versions of the site for both high speed and low speed internet connections.
» Mark Miner’s last weblog posting from Iraq, written on the eve of his return home, is featured in the Frontline Forum.
» Cliff’s Web Site: www.cliffknizley.com
» Cliff interviewed by StAugustine.com: VIDEO
» Cliff featured in article at StAugustine.com: READ
» Boots In Baghdad
» Lest They Be Forgotten
» Homes For Our Troops