Aspiring local songwriter Matthew Shannon gave himself one rule when he started performing weekly at open mic night at Lansing’s Blue Owl: “I had to have at least one new song to premier each time I played. Since I started going there, I’ve written 26 new songs.”

Local open mic performances are foundational for artists looking to perform in a laid-back setting. Musicians play in front of relatively small crowds with minimal sound setup, providing for a quieter, more intimate feeling.

Lansing and East Lansing have a range of open mic events. Michigan State students can perform or attend the biweekly University Activity Board’s open mic at the Union on campus. The Avenue Cafe in Lansing does open mic on the third Thursday of every month. Blue Owl Coffee in REO Town has open mic every Monday night. Moriarty’s Pub in Lansing hosts one every Wednesday night.

Shannon, 32, of Grand Ledge, has been at it for over a decade.

“About 12 years ago, I used to perform at Magdalena‘s Teahouse regularly when it was still open,” Shannon said. “Once departing from my last band, Off the Ledge in June 2017, I decided to give a solo career an honest try.”

Shannon credits Blue Owl Coffee for starting him on a path of regular open mic performances.

“I began attending the Monday open mic night at Blue Owl Coffee in REO Town, hosted by the wonderfully talented Tania Howard, on a semiweekly basis,” Shannon said.

-Mike Bass, 34, of Lansing, uses open mic performances to perfect his music.

“My advice to any beginner open mic performer is something I discuss with musician friends all the time: Don’t wait for a song to be perfect,” Bass said.

Lansing’s range of open mic experiences has established an open, supportive and creative field for local musicians.

“We’re all trying to lift each other up,” Bass said “I’ve met some of my closest musician friends there. It’s also very songwriter focused, so you’ll see a lot of people testing out new material there.”

Mimi Fisher, 28, hosts open mic at the Avenue Cafe. A Lansing native, Fisher gets to witness community members pursuing their creative outlets.

“Open mic is a platform that gives locals a chance to showcase their talents, whether they have been performing for years, or doing something new they want to try out,” Fisher said.

“Any advice I would give is just be aware of what you want to perform, the venue you’re performing at and the audience you’re performing for,” Fisher said. “Some environments are better for poetry, comedy, etc. and others, for music.”

This article was contributed to City Pulse by MSU’s Spartan Newsroom.