Have you ever wondered how in the world Mike Helsabeck became the most talked about NC artist since Bob Timberlake? Let us tell you the Reader’s Digest version…
Since childhood Mike has always had his creative side but for most of his life his creativity was channeled into the more performance oriented genres of art. It became evident at a very early age Mike’s passion was for the stage instead of the canvas. From the moment he heard the Beatles’ “I Should Have Known Better”, he knew he wanted to perform. In fact, Mike has a storied past in music. His years of playing drums in one of the South’s most popular country music groups found him sharing the stage with such superstars as The Dixie Chicks, Travis Tritt and Lonestar. Forget the fact that he’s performed at Nashville’s legendary Wildhorse Saloon or his band’s 1998 CD Take it From Me, recorded at Sony Music in Nashville, received airplay on radio stations all over the East Coast.
So how did Helsabeck go from music to art, especially art featuring wildlife and waterfowl? He’ll say “It’s a long story,” although the real answer is more interesting. The strange turn of events leading Helsabeck to put down the drumsticks and pick up the paintbrush came from a combination of Helsabeck’s experience in music, his “real job” and another of his passions- being in the great outdoors.
Although Mike had intended on receiving a degree in Music from Appalachian State University he soon realized the safer route was in the field of broadcasting, the occupation Helsabeck had begun in high school when he worked as a part-time DJ on a local AM radio station. Helsabeck found a home in the radio industry for nearly twenty three years, and it was there, through a Bass Pro Shops promotion with the nationally syndicated John Boy & Billy Show, he was introduced to Louisiana native Phil Robertson, better known in the sporting world as The Duck Commander.
When Phil Robertson learned of Helsabeck’s musical past, he asked Mike to create the soundtrack to his upcoming outdoor video. Not only was this an opportunity to combine his love of music with his fascination of nature, unbeknownst to Helsabeck, this invitation was also the beginning of a promising career as an artist.
Io those who know him, it’s no secret Mike has had his compulsions when it comes to recreation. From riding horses and motorcycles to playing golf and coaching his son’s little league baseball team, his interests and hobbies are as diverse as his taste in music. But the one constant throughout his life has been his obsession with the natural world. From hunting ducks in Canada, elk in Washington and deer in Texas to fishing for trout in western North Carolina, marlin in Mexico, and bass in his own back yard; Mike has always found solace in being surrounded by “God’s creation.”
Helsabeck will be the first one to tell you, “Everything happens for a reason.” Such is the case in his metamorphosis from a full time radio General Sales Manager and part time musician, to a full time business owner and artist. It was during the release of Robertson’s 2003 Duckmen VIII video at the Ducks Unlimited Outdoor Festival in Memphis, Tennessee where one of Helsabeck’s two traveling companions mentioned those fateful words: “What I’d like to have is a license plate with a hand painted duck on it.” Hearing his friends’ request, Helsabeck mentioned he be glad to paint one for his buddy saying, “I think I can paint a duck.”
At that time no one knew Helsabeck could paint, including Mike himself. Although he remains reluctant to call himself an artist, it’s pretty evident Mike knows how to “paint a duck.”
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