Sitting in The Uncommon Ground on a summer Saturday night, the crowd in the Music Room watched as Michael D. Heidemann transformed into Michael J. Foxy. Heidemann’s affable temperament was exuded in Foxy’s performance, as each song came with a story and a smile; the highlight of his set being his obvious passion for music.
This passion was sparked years prior by the influence of his father. Heidemann reflects on listening to records with his dad – his first vinyl-memory being of The Beach Boys – and receiving a fiery electric guitar from his dad that he would later name “Tiger”. With the guitar came two Beatles books with every single one of their songs, which the young musician would practice on his guitar for hours at a time.
“My dad always encouraged me to keep practicing,” says Heidemann. “It wasn’t until high school that I realized girls like guys who play guitar and I could make friends playing guitar.” This is when he joined his first band – a Grateful Dead cover band called Free Firewood.
Playing music with friends and playing to crowds only made Heidemann’s passion for music grow stronger, leading him to begin dabbling in radio while in college. Cut to today and Heidemann is one of the top producers at WGN Radio – one of the country’s most famous radio stations – where he creates air wave magic by booking guests, making sure the commercials are in check, running the sound from the board, and working with promoters to create contests and ticket giveaways, among other things.
However, Heidemann has his sights set on helping usher WGN into a new era of media consumption. “The work that I’m trying to do is bring WGN into the new phase of what people are listening to; by bringing in podcasts, by bringing in video components, by talking with artists,” explains Heidemann. He’s doing just that with audio podcasts Sound Sessions (which is devoted completely to music), 2 Dudes and 1 Disc, as well as the video podcast Brews and Bands.
When not producing and hosting, Heidemann (better yet, Foxy) can be found performing at various venues around Chicago. Every Saturday night he hosts and performs at the open mic night at Bill’s Bar and Burger, where he does both covers and his own material. “I love sappy love songs. The sappier the better, I’m like a tree” he says when describing his style. He also stresses the importance of a performer taking the audience into account. “There’s nothing worse than when someone is playing to a room and they think they’re the total attention,” states Heidemann. “You need to make the people a part of the show.”
He does just that in his performances, as he quips and jokes with the crowd and shares stories behind the lyrics. At Bill’s, he can often be found collaborating with other musicians as he strums on his acoustic guitar and participants play piano and tambourine. With this, he creates an environment where anyone and everyone is welcome to come out and showcase their talents and passions through music.
“Whenever you find your passion, no matter how weird it is, just make sure you focus on it 100 percent, and don’t worry about what other people have to say about you.”
Stay up-to-date with Michael Heidemann and be sure to catch one of his shows: