Mike Ator – Happy

Singer/songwriter Mike Ator will perform at the Nashville stop of the Bearapolooza 2008 tour and after hearing Happy, his gorgeous and wistful new single, I asked Mike for the backstory to the song.

“Happy” is a tribute to my friend Lance, a wonderful, unforgettable character, who sadly took his own life last Summer. Yes, I know, a singer/songwriter’s ode to a suicide has Phoebe Buffet written all over it. But, there’s more to the story… Actually, I took Lance’s death very hard and so did others. I knew his mother and best friend and was there for the fallout. That part was strange and horrible, but I personally went through a kind of spiritual crisis afterward. Ultimately, that’s what inspired the tune. I wrote it in a flash over two days and recorded it with some sparse accompaniment. I shared it with a few friends and it got passed around some.

In August, a film-maker named JoséAntonio Danner (LA) heard it and contacted me about a doing a video. At first, I thought ‘no way.’ I didn’t know him from Adam and it just didn’t seem right for a number of reasons. The whole “experiment” was rather unplanned on my part. I never intended to perform it or feature it in any way. The loss was still so fresh, and part of me felt that it was inappropriate. Well, nobody agreed. In short order, “Happy” became a project with a life of its own. A composer friend Edwin Wendler with whom I’ve collaborated a number of times – also from LA – took my string parts and re-arranged and re-recorded them, adding some additional orchestration here and there. I worked on cleaning up the demo tracks on my end, and by mid-September we had a mix that was sounding remarkably release-worthy. JoséAntonio kept his word and flew in for a weekend of shooting me playing the song all over inner-city Houston – quite an adventure by itself.

Ator is selling Happy on iTunes and donating the proceeds to OutYouth, an Austin, Texas-based LGBT youth organization that his friend Lance was involved with. Get it on your iPod today. I’ve already played the video a dozen times, I can’t get enough of it. I’ve always had a weak spot for songs that make me tear up. Best song of the year so far, easily.