Songwriter Spotlight: John-Michael Lyles

Next up in our Songwriter Spotlight series is John-Michael Lyles. John-Michael is a multi-talented actor, songwriter and musical theatre writer. This is John-Michael's third concert with us. In April, he'll be performing alongside Norm Lewis in Sweeney Todd at Barrow Street Theater.


1. How does sharing your original music fit in with the context of this concert?

It feels heartwarmingly appropriate to share my song Hold Your Head Up because I sing it thinking of these families and youth experiencing oppression in the form of a debilitating prison system.

2. What surprised you during this process?

I was surprised to learn about [the Raise the Age campaign] altogether. I’m sad to admit, I was unaware and remain much too ill-informed about the flaws of the American incarceration process. 

3. In what ways have you recognized yourself in these real-life stories? In what ways are they foreign to your experience?

I recognize a sense of Wendy-esque growing up that I can relate to as I learn of these kids having to face the monstrosity of adulthood. However, coming face to face with a new set of morality as they rediscover themselves behind bars, that is foreign to me. 

4. What about the concert excites you most?

I’m excited to be a part of a platform that inspires people to get informed and get active. Sharing stories is the best place to start, and music will only amplify the humanity and the heart involved in this Raise The Age movement. 

5. How do political and social justice issues influence your work?

I’m entering a new chapter with my musical storytelling. Before, I only wrote about boys and feelings, but now I’m more concerned with how I can inspire or connect or give voice to the marginalized with my music. 

6. What can artists do to resist oppression?

Write & share without apology. I’m still learning to be brave in this regard.

Check out a video of John-Michael performing with us here: 

Get tickets to our concert here.