Creative souls often put their gifts and talents to process and release their experiences. Some write prose or poetry, others a letter they never intend to mail… One such instance / individual is Michael Slilaty. An undergrad student of Management Information Systems & Business Analytics at Binghamton University, Slilaty also serves as the Worship Leader at Valleyview Alliance Church in Vestal as a staff member. Slilaty’s family consists of parents – George and Sharon, two siblings – twin brother Matthew and younger sister Megan; and, his faithful four legged friend Fae. Garden Spices Magazine sat with this young musician in his home-shared-bedroom-studio to get a flavour of his Muse-icality. (Cover Photo by Keegan Pulz)
Garden Spices Magazine (GSM): Who are you?
Michael Slilaty: I am an oldest child (by 2 minutes but it still counts), an avid coffee lover (iced especially), and a marching band kid. I am Enneagram type 2 and an INFP (maybe ENFP on a good day) on the Myers Briggs scale. I love connecting with people and just hearing their experience. I love learning and I am seeker of truth. I have been called a slight diva by my friends but it’s part of the whole package!
Garden Spices Magazine (GSM): What does a day in a musician’s life look like?
Michael Slilaty: A musician’s day generally consists of only three things: eating, sleeping, and music! For me, I’m either writing a song, practicing an instrument, jotting down lyrics, or planning for worship sessions and, if I’m not doing those things, I am either eating food or I’m asleep.
GSM: How did / do you master your art as a musician?
Michael Slilaty: A large portion of my growth happened a few years ago when I started college at SUNY Fredonia in 2016. I attended as a composition major and was immersed in learning about music theory and aural training. I also learned the more technical end of composition as well as had the opportunity to branch out creatively and explore new techniques and sounds. Another portion of growth that is often overlooked was my involvement with the worship team at the college fellowship group. That was really my first chance to improve my piano, guitar, and vocal skills and just the act of constant practice and performance really shaped my abilities.
GSM: Do you practice regularly? Please share about your growth and evolution.
Michael Slilaty: I took part in a few composition concerts and band concerts in college. In high school I won an award for a jazz performance. Now I bring all the elements both compositionally [sic.] and musically together as a worship leader. Every week I get the chance to grow in all these areas as modern church worship is all about a balance between planned execution (growing my musicianship) and in-the-moment spontaneity (developing my composition skills).
GSM: The garden vines whispered there is an album in the making… What can you tell us about it?
Michael Slilaty (excitedly): Yes! This album, named Frozen Cathedral, has been a dream of mine for a few years and is finally coming to fruition. It is my first album and really the start of my musical journey as a singer-songwriter. It details a 9-inch journey from our head to our heart, not just believing in God but in believing God. Its jam-packed with influences from my experiences in the concert composition, jazz band, concert bands, marching band and worship bands as well as other influences in the Christian music realm such as Kings Kaleidoscope and Gable Price and Friends.
“Frozen Cathedral is an experience, a journey. It is relationship specific – just you and the Lord. It is a state of the heart. This album resonates with elements of trust and taps into one’s own soul searching.”
– Michael Slilaty
GSM: Who is your support system?
Michael Slilaty: The support system for this album is crazy huge! I mean first of all my entire family has been supporting this process, giving me time and space to work as well as constant encouragement and celebration for the milestones during the production of the album. My wonderful friends who really have championed my creativity and pushed me to step out of my comfort zone. Angela Filieau has also encouraged me and even more so has been challenging me to make this album actually count and gift my listeners something beyond entertainment. Almost every day this summer, she has called me to talk about the progress I’m making and has helped steer the album in a beautiful direction. I really couldn’t have done this without the support of my family and friends. Their love has truly carried me and this album forward!
GSM: Artistically what is the most challenging aspect of music making?
Michael Slilaty: The most challenging aspect of music making for me is making sure I truly believe what I say. Because I constantly lead worship and sing songs and make music, it’s easy to get somewhat deaf to the wonder that is defining and talking about my relationship with God. When I write I really strive to make sure that the wonder is still there, that if I am recording it, I truly believe it. Actually, I made a last-minute decision to exclude a song from the album because although it was theologically accurate and beautiful, the words did not have an impact on me.
GSM: What is Frozen Cathedral about?
Michael Slilaty: The album springs off of the second part of John 10:10 – “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” The reality of our lives is that we are created, valued, and purposed for God. And that does not change no matter our struggles or challenges – feeling bitter, cold and lost on the inside. No matter how far we think we are from him our hearts are still cathedrals. Our hearts always have been and always will be His, but in His abundant love he will not go against our freedom to choose and so waits patiently for us to let Him in. That is what Frozen Cathedral is all about. We may close ourselves off to God’s love; however, that doesn’t change the fact that we were made by Him and are loved by Him. All we need to do is open up our hearts and let the sun (or Son being Jesus) come shining in, bringing us back to a full life with Him.
GSM: We want to know what the process involves… Would you give us a teaser please?
Michael Slilaty: I don’t always start with the same instrument. I test out music on different instruments before transferring them to a master file on my MacBook. I use Logic Pro X to record, tune, adjust, edit and sometimes rerecord for fine finishing… [Especially] if I hear my father or Fae in the background. To answer your question, absolutely! Here goes…
GSM: What can you tell us about ‘Unexpected Ways’ – a song from your album?
Michael Slilaty: ‘Unexpected Ways’ is a deep dive into an Old Testament Bible story found in the book of Exodus. Basically, the Israelite people have just been freed from slavery and into a wilderness before they reach the Promised Land. They’ve seen God work in unfathomable, dare I say, unexpected ways and now they stand at the bottom of a mountain as their leader, Moses, goes up to have an encounter with God Himself. They can physically see the cloud is still on the mountain yet, after a week of waiting for Moses to come down they turn away from God and start worshiping statues made out of gold. This song is a call for them and us to remember the Lord’s faithfulness and power as we wait for Him to move again. The signs of His faithfulness are all around and if we would just look, we would be in awe of what we see.
GSM: Speaking of shiny stuff shed some light on your work ethics, principles, and habits as an artist… Feel free to spill some secrets too!
Michael Slilaty: The most important principle for me as an artist is rest. I start my day sitting for at least an hour with God just encountering Him and resting in His presence. I think dedicating that time instead of jumping right into music really helps center me and allows me to come at my music with fresh perspectives and a clear reminder of who I do this for. My secret is hard work, self discipline, creating a schedule and staying focused.
GSM: A unique quality that none of your peer musicians have is…
Michael Slilaty: The most unique quality about me is my willingness to be uncomfortable in the Christian music landscape. Contemporary Christian music is on the rise. It is influenced by cinematic instrumentals, rap, hip hop, indie… etcetera. There are genres within genres. I want to dive into the raw and unfiltered parts of the human experience, and I want to shine the light of Christ there. I’m starting my own lane and not defending or being apologetic about it.
GSM: When not working on your music, you are…
Michael Slilaty: I am currently finishing up college now at Binghamton University studying Management Information Systems and Business Analytics. When I’m not studying I like to connect with people and just talk about life with them. Honestly my favorite thing to do is simply get a cup of coffee and just talk!
GSM: Do you intend to do a Mashup song of the entire album?
Michael Slilaty: You mean like an overture… [laughs] Probably not! I will leave it to Sam Tsui.
GSM: What is your message to our readers, viewers, listeners, audience?
Michael Slilaty: I am loved by Him far beyond I could know and so are you. I am releasing the need for people’s approval and I am putting it in the Lord’s care. I’m embracing the process of music making. It is not for appreciation or applause. This summer is/was my last shot and I own my calling… I own my craft. This is my first album. It is free flowing and spirit guided. Just like a cathedral is made by many, this album is a creation of my close community. Yes, it is mine. But it is not a product of just one individual. It is part of my network, their love and support. It is just as much yours as it is mine. You have my personal invitation to give it a spin.
With that Garden Spices Magazine concludes this interview. Fluent in playing five instruments viz. piano, guitar, Cajón, trumpet and vocals – he wrestles with thoughts and intentions to compose music that is unique and universal. To learn more about Michael Slilaty and his creative endeavours join the conversation on his Facebook.com/MichaelSlilatyMusic page. You can follow him on Instagram. To pre-order the album go to www.MichaelSlilatyMusic.com.
– Interviewed by Pratik Mamtora for Garden Spices Magazines
Pratik Mamtora was born & raised in India. He has lived in London, United Kingdom for three years & absolutely loved it there. Pratik has a Bachelor’s in English from India and Master’s (ABD) from UNA. He loves to read and write, especially poetry. Pratik enjoys coffee & conversation and is passionate about serving the community. He invests himself in understanding the needs of the modern world and the evolving spirituality within. Pratik is known to walk that extra mile to make others happy. If you ever meet… or when you meet him, Pratik will make you smile.