Interview With Michael Hartenberger – Austrian Singer/Song Writer

In the Spotlight

Interviewed by Sumiitra Yiohan Sooriaarratchi

Michael Hartenberger

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a rising star in the music industry – singer/song writer Michael Hartenberger from Klagenfurt, Austria. Multi-talented and full of energy, Michael has had a crazy journey in the world of music including making it all the way to Los Angeles, California to record his music with four-time Grammy winning recording engineer and mixer – Robert Carranza – who also produces music for Jack Johnson and Marilyn Manson.

Throwback to December 2009-first time working with this incredible man! Can‘t believe it‘s been 8 years already! So thankful! (L) Robert Carranza, (R) Michael Hartenberger.

Michael is a singer, a song writer, a husband, a father, a surfer and he’s got a truly unique way of selling his music that involves burgers on a restaurant menu. He sees his project as more of a recording project than a live artist project and travels every year to Los Angeles, California to mix his music at Robert Carranza’s studio. Michael’s goal is to always record a song that is a really good sound – how does he do it? Check out the interview audio clip and text below.

***Write us an email – – and receive a download code for Michael Hartenberger’s new single Love.Life.Today. The first ten requests will receive download codes for Love.Life.Today – out in June 2018.

Leaf Blogazine: Hi Michael, Thanks for taking time-out to speak to us today. What are your influences and what kind of music do you listen to?

Michael Hartenberger: Lots of surfer singer / song writer stuff, also a lot of pop, Angus & Julius Stone, relaxing stuff. Mat Kearney -he’s a singer/song writer from Oregon, U.S.A- he has some hip-hop vibes in his music its good stuff.

LB: Do you like any particular genre of music?

MH: I like most of the music I listen to. I don’t like R&B that much, I don’t listen to Techno, Country is ok, I’m more into Pop genre singer/song writer genre. I also listen to classical genre; so most of the music I like.

LB: How did you get into the music industry?

MH: I started in kindergarten when my parents put me into flute classes and stuff and then I played in Brass bands coz my dad played. Then I switched to drums – I was the drummer for a Punk-rock band in high school. The thing was that I was the only one able to write songs, the other band members didn’t want to write songs. So I sang and played drums but it was very difficult so I switched to guitar. So guitar was self-taught. I used the acoustic guitar to write songs – you know back then in high school we were writing songs about girls – and then when the first Jack Johnson album came out I bought a new guitar and my music changed some how. I was inspired by Jack Johnson and I started to do singer/ song writer stuff.

LB: Oh wow that’s a big change. How old were you when you were inspired by Jack Johnson?

MH: I’m 35 now so this happened when I was 23. A friend of mine introduced me to G.Love  – G.Love is in the same label as Jack Johnson- then I listened to Donavon Frankenreiter and then I listened to Jack Johnson. So this is how it all started. We always recorded with a friend of mine and we did a lot of home recording over and over again – he’s like a super perfectionist – we’d do like hours and weeks and stuff, recording and re-recording. I found Jack Johnson’s producer (Robert Carranza) on the web and I wrote to him saying I’m really inspired by Jack Johnson and really appreciate the things he has done with the sound and that it would be great if he would mix the  song. He replied saying thanks for writing to me but that I would have to contact the management. The management wrote to me quoting an incredible sum of money but back then I thought its worth it so we took a hard disk with our music and flew to California and handed in the hard disk – we didn’t know if this guy was real or something – but then it all worked out and we went to the studio and he was mixing our first song. That was our first contact with the producer  and how this whole project started. So every year we fly to California to do the mixing. Its more recording than a live artist project. Our goal is to record a song that is really a good sound. If its finished then I close this chapter and go on to the next chapter.

LB: Do you record singles or albums?

MH: It was an EP first. It took me 3 years because of the money and the time between. My friend who does the recording also does it as a hobby and has family obligations. So at the moment it’s singles. I can concentrate on one song at a time though there are more songs on the side. Its easier to sell to radio stations, especially nowadays with streaming and stuff the industry has changed a little bit.  For me its the only way possible because at the moment I wouldn’t have the time or the money to record an album. So I concentrate on one song and then move on to the next song. You have to do the whole marketing and publishing process and see that it gets on the radio and then move on to the next song.

LB: What’s the most number of takes you’ve had to do in the recording studio to get a song right?

MH: Back in the early days I would sing forty times, play guitar sixty times. It was crazy. Really crazy.

LB: How did you first meet Jack Johnson?

MH: I first met the producer –  Robert Carranza – and the studio assistant contacted us when she was on tour with Jack in Europe. She arranged for us to get tickets to Jack’s concert. It was a three hour drive from where I live and after the concert she took us aside and said to Jack “these are the guys from Austria” and Jack was like “Oh I’m so thankful that you came, its a three hour drive to get here.” Jack told us about his kids and about his tour in Europe. At the time I met Jack I had my first EP ready so I gave Jack a copy of it, thanked him for the inspiration and told him that I did it with his producer. It closed the circle on that experience. I was a really inspiring moment.

LB: So what’s Jack Johnson like?

MH: He’s super mellow. He was telling us about his kids and how they enjoyed the tour of Europe and Asia and how he appreciates that we came to see him. He took his time and was really like the neighbour guy. It was right after the concert and his kids were playing around. He was super mellow. A bit of a side story – the producer told me that he (Jack) got my CD but he lost it in the tour bus; so the producer had to take another CD and left it at Jack’s studio in Hawaii.

LB: Jack Johnson is from Hawaii right?

MH:  He was born in and lives in Hawaii. He has a studio in L.A and a studio in Hawaii. Everything he earns on tour he gives away to his All At Once charity – – he pays his staff and musicians but he doesn’t earn money from going on tour. He also funds a charity called Save The Sea. He was a surfer back then but he hurt his head and gave up on surfing.

LB: Do you surf too?

MH: A little bit. We have a lake here where we surf. I’m still a beginner but I love to surf.

LB: What’s the best and the worst moment you’ve had in your career?

MH: Ha ha, the best was the first time I went to the studio in L.A and I had a feeling that this could just mean a lot in my life, it was the moment I realized that I had been brought so far across the ocean and my music had brought me there. The whole studio experience was the best moment.  The worst … there were some.. you know when you play a concert and you know you’re in the wrong spot. Where people expect different music coz they’re in the party mood or “I don’t know” mood. And you just play for yourself and struggle. My music is very mellow so it has to be in the right spot.

LB: What’s your advice to young musicians starting out in their early twenties?

MH: Just stick to it, don’t give up and if there’s a song ready play it to others but play it to people that can give you honest advice but don’t destroy you. When a song comes out its very personal, very delicate and you need feedback of course but you need the right people to give you feedback. Coz it can kill you. You just have to stick to it and be creative in your marketing and promotion of the music. You have to be creative to get your music out there. Do it because its your passion.

LB: It is tough, how do you know you’re good enough when you’re starting out?

MH: You have to struggle in the beginning. You need feedback but you need to be confident and have an inner circle of trusted friends to give you feedback.

LB:  Sometimes the music industry can be brutal. Do you agree?

MH: Yes of course. Just recently I talked to a major radio station in Austria and again they put my song down saying that it just doesn’t fit into their program, and at first I thought “Oh you ass-holes”; but then I thought ok maybe its just the wrong song for their music which is ok. It can be hard to take.

LB: I like your song Gina and Jonathan. Its really good. I like the positive vibes of the song.

MH: Thanks

LB:  I also saw that there’s a new single coming out Love.Life.Today ?

MH: It comes out on 01 June 2018 on itunes and Spotify. For now only a local radio station plays it and we have a deal with a local restaurant that sells a burger and the burger has my name on it; and if you buy the burger you get the song! I sell the music with the burger.

The #heart ‘n’ burger. Created by Michael Hartenberger and sold together with his songs.

LB: Wow that’s really awesome – the music is on the menu.

MH: Yes its called the heart ‘n’ burger

LB: You must be the first person in the world to do that.

MH: Ya could be. I got this idea from Star Bucks. They handed out download cards as a free sample for U2 albums. I thought having a download card is better than a CD because I for example don’t use CD’s anymore – streaming is more convenient. Then I thought it would be cool if I could find a coffee place or restaurant that could give it out as a sample. Then we came up with the burger idea.

LB: How’s the response so far? Are people buying the burger?

MH: Ya ya. We’ve sold about a thousand burgers!

LB: Wow that’s huge. So you get the music and your tummy is full too.

MH: Exactly.

LB: Did you get involved in the what goes into the burger?

MH: Yes. I designed it and I can eat as many burgers as I want. Its a beef steak with bacon on it and avocado and tomato. There’s also sauteed onions and the sauce is a secret. You can add cheese as an extra.

LB: What’s your method for song writing? Does the tune come first or is it the lyrics?

MH: Mostly its a mix. Sometimes when I play a melody the first line of the song comes along with it, but to finish the song I have to do it privately.

LB: How long does the process take?

MH: It depends. Sometimes its very fast. Sometimes its long. But it needs some time to let it grow somehow. The thing about songs is that if you listen to it on a bad speaker and it sounds good then you can say for sure that it will sound good if its recorded professionally. If the song is good its good. Then recording process will be easy. So now we only go into the recording process when we know the song is almost done because it makes the recording so much easier. Small things may still change during the recording process if we decide to add drums or piano or if Robert has some new ideas.

LB: You mentioned that you need privacy to finish a song. Do you prefer to be alone to finish a song?

MH: The moment I play it for my wife is when the song is finished for me. So I have to finish it myself.

LB: Thank you so much Michael, what are your plans for the near future?

MH: I’m gonna play a few concerts here in Austria and Italy. I’m just trying to get the song out as much as possible. We also plan to do a video later this summer and also get people to eat the burger to buy the song. After the summer we will try to record the next song and start the process all over again.

LB: Your music is very positive. With all the negativity in the world do you think that your music is doing something to increase the energy of the world and make it more positive?

MH: I don’t think I will change the world with my songs but if there are a few people who have positive emotions from the songs then I feel my work is done. That was always my intention with my songs to make positive energy. If I can manage that then its all good for me. My work is done.

LB: Thank you for your time Michael and wish you all the best. Looking forward to your new single in June.

MH: Thank you. I have some down load cards for you and the readers to access the songs.

LB: Thank you Michael its been great talking to you. Take care.

MH: Thanks. You too.

***Write us an email – – and receive a download code for Michael Hartenberger’s new single Love.Life.Today. The first ten requests will receive download codes for Love.Life.Today – out in June 2018.


Delicious Heart ‘n’ burger

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