Producer Mike Puwal (aka Mike P) is a multi-platinum musician with producing, engineering, and songwriting credits with such varied acts as Bones Thugs-N-Harmony, D-12, Grand Funk Railroad, Kenny Wayne Shepard, and others. Born and bred in Detroit, Puwal left the Motor City and headed to America’s Music City about a decade ago.
“I just wanted a change of scenery and a change in my career,” Puwal says of his decision to move. “I always really loved being in Nashville. It’s just like Berklee; everyone here is obsessed with music.”
Puwal’s obsession with music began at age 10 after his mother bought him a guitar. He was hooked immediately. During his teen years he joined a band and performed regularly around Detroit. They opened up for some prominent bands at the time.
Puwal’s hometown guitar teacher Mark Jasper pointed him in the direction of Berklee’s concrete beaches. “He told me about this music school in Boston where I should consider going,” Puwal recalls. “I had an awesome experience at Berklee. It was a place where everyone understood me and I fit in.”
After Berklee, Puwal was drawn back to Michigan. “Detroit really has its own sound, its own thing,” he explains. “So many cool things start underground in Detroit then go to London, and come back to the U.S. Then all of a sudden they’re in the mainstream.”
A major connection for Puwal came after he followed up on an ad in the Detroit Metro Times for a studio engineer. Psychopathic Records, the label of the hip-hop group Insane Clown Posse, had placed the ad, and ended up hiring Puwal to build the band a studio and become their engineer. He later played the band a few instrumental tracks he had written and produced hoping hey might give him some advice. Instead, they went into the studio the next day with him and put vocals on his tracks. Fast-forward, and today Puwal has more than 180 credits on ICP records. Psychopathic Records has since signed Puwal’s his rock band Zug Izland.
Puwal’s road to the producer’s chair had its beginnings with his practice of poring over credits on record jackets. Wanting to learn how to produce, Puwal approached the staff at Harmonie Park Studios in downtown Detroit. “I begged them to hire me,” he recalls. “My first day in the studio, I assisted for a Grand Funk Railroad session. Soon I was working 70 hours a week—and loved it.”
Creating something new and hearing it come to life on a record remains a powerful motivator for Puwal. Every now and then he gets to watch something grow from record, to radio, and then onto the Billboard charts.
Some of Puwal’s recent successes have been with fellow Detroit natives. The album Breaking and Entering that he produced for Detroit blues artist Eliza Neals received four 2016 Grammy nominations.
Puwal recently busted out his guitar and hit the road with his band Zug Izland for tour dates that included opening for the legendary Ted Nugent. Puwal reports that the “Motor City Madman,” is actually “a real chill guy when you get to hang with him alone. Not many people get that opportunity,” Puwal reports. But then, not many people are Mike P.