On the surface, Michael Ford is an extraordinarily ordinary gentleman. By day, the mild-mannered restaurateur manages NoDa's Roux! At Boudreaux's (3306-A N. Davidson St.). However, Roux's Thursday night karaoke event initiates a change in Ford. Like a Bruce Banner of barkeeps, Ford casts aside a humble alter-ego to reveal his true form as a soulful singer with some powerful pipes. The wiry, quiet Ford reveals, "I get a little nervous before going [on stage]. But once the song starts, I don't think about it ... the nervousness just goes, and I do what I'm [going] to do." Creative Loafing recently met with Ford to discuss his killer karaoke. Ford can be found singing on stage at Roux! every Thursday beginning at 9 p.m.
Creative Loafing: Have you considered stepping out from the bar business and singing professionally?
Michael Ford: It's been a hobby for me. I really only feel like it's in the last couple of years that I've got to the point where I'm a lot better than I have been. I did some recording a couple years ago, and I learned a lot. The next step is to get a vocal coach.
Do you have any staple artists or styles that you gravitate toward on stage?
I'm a child of the '80s. I [do] a lot of British pop from that time. So, people like Phil Collins, Genesis, George Michael, Sting and U2. If it's a well-crafted, creatively written, three- to five-minute pop song, yeah. I enjoy finding songs like that that were not hits in America and exposing people to that with karaoke.
You often get requests from patrons. Are there any songs that you refuse to perform?
"Paradise by the Dashboard Light" is definitely one. I loathe that song. A recent one is "Pumped Up Kicks," by Foster The People. I won't sing it because of the subject matter. I work with Virginia Tech alumni. I was working here the day that the massacre happened in 2007. It's a ridiculously catchy song, but I can't sing it. That's inappropriate. Also, really misogynistic stuff. That's not me.
What would you say to someone who's reluctant to sing in front of a group of strangers?
The No. 1 thing if you've never sung in front of a group before is to pick a song that you know backwards, forwards and sideways. Maybe a song that you sing in the shower all the time. As long you don't have to look at the lyrics, you will be more comfortable with the song. You're going be nervous enough. You don't need to be thinking, "well, how does this go?"