When asked about Michael Hsu's promise as an up-and-coming singer/songwriter, Rob Reinhart of the nationally-syndicated radio show Acoustic Caf answered quite simply: "Michael has what it takes."
If what it takes to succeed are songs that are "thoughtful and beautifully executed," then Michael is in good shape. His flowing melodies, poignant lyrics, and electrifying stage presence have brought him to some of the most prestigious acoustic music venues in the country, opening sold-out shows for artists such as Richie Havens, David Wilcox, Tom Rush, Jonatha Brooke, Catie Curtis, and the Nields. Michael's fast ascent on the acoustic music scene has made him an emerging artist to keep an especially close eye on.
Michael's songs, which have been described as "passionate and highly individual" by David Siglin of the Ark, are carefully crafted vignettes. His lyrics may speak explicitly of the present, but they are rich with implied pasts and futures. Phil Ciganer of the Town Crier has said that Michael's "eloquence and lyrical skill speak volumes." Indeed, Michael can use a few details to tell an intricate story, all with a poetic sophistication well beyond his years. Michael was fortunate enough to win the 1997 Rose Garden Performing Songwriter Contest, judged by Ken Irwin, co-founder of Rounder Records, and Anne Saunders, artistic director of the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.
One of the most stunning aspects of Michael's live performances is his unmistakable guitar style. Michael writes guitar parts that manage to distill the sounds of a full band from a single instrument. It may be the percussive slap that suggests a drummer where there is none or the shimmering harmonics that ring ethereally above the basic chord progression. As he experiments with alternate tunings and partial capoing, Michael unleashes voices rarely heard from an acoustic guitar.
In concert, Michael's stage presence is genuine and inviting, and his singing displays a wide dynamic and emotional range. He can deliver a vocal line that is held strong and pure one moment, only to fade into a whisper, conveying a sincerity that cuts through pretense and speaks directly to the heart.
Michael's gift as both a performer and a songwriter has led Catie Curtis to praise his talent as belonging to "the most gifted of musicians." If his success continues at the rate it has been going, it won't be long before the acoustic music audience at large also discovers the talent of this promising young artist.