Mike Mitchell has been playing drums since he was two years old, when he watched an older cousin play drums and learned quickly. "I come from a very musical family," he says. He has other cousins who play drums, an uncle who plays bass, aunts who play organ, piano and sing.
Born in Fort Worth, Mitchell moved to Arlington when he was in first grade. He enjoyed playing Motown songs and practicing to Earth, Wind & Fire before starting at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts at 14, where he started focusing on jazz.
Mitchell credits his jazz instructor, Bart Marantz, with showing students how to express themselves and allowing them to focus on whichever genre of jazz they prefer. "He always taught me to learn the basics and history," explains Mitchell, who focused on bebop in school. As a drummer, Mitchell can play all sorts of different types of music and anyone can see that he is a powerhouse behind the kit. But his sound is not easy to describe, as he readily admits. "I'm still searching," he says. "I want to have my own independent style and voice. He has been influenced by jazz fusion drummers like Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette and Lenny White. But he also takes queues from rock drummers like Mitch Mitchell, Keith Moon and John Bonham.
In 2012, Mitchell was in New Orleans with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and performed in a group led by Herbie Hancock. The group was introduced by Harry Shearer and the performance just happened to be the Sunrise Concert in Congo Square for the first International Jazz Day. The next day he started a Master's level class at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.
In 2013, a YouTube video of Mike Mitchell performing caught the attention of jazz pioneer Stanley Clarke. They jammed and clicked, so Mitchell has been touring with the Stanley Clarke Band internationally since 2013 and also appeared on Clarke's latest album, Up.
In America the Stanley Clarke Band's shows are club-based, with some performances at festivals and performing arts centers. But overseas the band plays at theaters and arenas.
After touring in Europe for a month and a half, Mitchell kicked off 2015 with a packed show on January 2 at Three Links to celebrate the release of his first album, WiFi. Throughout the album, Mitchell fuses jazz with different kinds of music, which is something his jazz predecessors did in the '70s. On WiFi, Mitchell fuses bebop and free jazz with pop, hip-hop, trap, math rock and metal.
He has also worked with Christian McBride, a virtuoso jazz bassist and multiple Grammy award winner, as well as Antonio Hart.