Lawyer chasing dream of pop stardom
Most law school students aspire for success in the courtroom. But Houma attorney Michael J. Billiot became a lawyer to fund his real dream: becoming a pop artist.
After 25 years of chasing his vision, Billiott’s first album, “Fantasy Love,” is out. In addition to the title cut, the self-published album includes “Genuine,” another original. “Smooth and melodic classical sounds with intense and intellectual lyrics … that’s what I like to write,” he writes on his Facebook page.
The 41-year-old Dulac native is also releasing the music video for the title song.
“It includes a lot of my early influences,” Billiot said. “I wanted to do a retro, ‘This is where I come from’ kind of song.”
A spin-off of George Michael’s “Freedom” video, the New Orleans-filmed piece features supermodels lip-syncing the song. The attorney-turned-crooner does not appear in the video.
Billiot describes “Fantasy Love” as a love-at-first-sight song. The lead character sees his life’s love and imagines what life will be like when they are a couple.
“It is a brilliant artistic expression,” he said of his decision not to appear in the video. “I love the idea because I want people to focus on the sound and charisma behind the song. I don’t necessarily think you need the artist to get that across.”
Billiot began the long, grueling process to music stardom in 1991.
“I started recording when I was 20 or 21. I have been at this a long time,” he said. “In 1991, if you wanted to do anything, you needed a label. Being from Dulac, I had no idea how to even begin to get a label.”
A fledgling English and philosophy major at Tulane University, Billiot was working in the French Quarter when he stumbled across a recording studio in Maison Blanche, now the Ritz-Carlton.
En route to the Canal Street store’s second floor, Billiot came across an old elevator operated by an attendant.
“There was a sign taped inside the elevator that said there was a studio on the 13th floor,” he recalled. “I asked the guy if he could take me up there, and he did.”
There, Billiot explained his situation to the studio engineers: He was afraid of graduating the getting a job because it would leave little time to write music. Through them, he met producer Matt Buras, who helped the Dulac law student record a few songs.
The music was put on hold, however, when Billiot graduated in 1993. Seven years later, he was public relations director of Impulus Computers.
Inspired by artists like Depeche Mode, Michael and Janet Jackson and George Michael, Billiot knew recording his style of music would be costly.
That’s when he decided to attend law school.
Billiot landed a job with a downtown New Orleans firm, Ostendorf Tate Barnett Wells (Ostendorf Tate Barnett today).
“The firm hired me to do legal research while I was going to law school,” he said. “I was working downtown and taking classes in the evening.”
Billiot finished in the top 10 in his 2005 law class with every intention of relocating to New York. Hurricane Katrina derailed that plan.
It may have been serendipitous. OTBW assigned the young attorney intellectual property work for an entertainment company it owned.
“They had no idea I had recorded before or about my interest in music,” Billiot said.
The work helped get the attorney cross the music industry’s threshold. He worked with Island Def Jam artist Nikki Williams, who has penned tunes for Demi Lovato, and producers Heather Holley and Rob Hoffman, who have handled Skylar Grey and Rebekah Del Rio, and composer Dave Eggar.
“I became friends with Heather and she visited me in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. She had no idea that I was a songwriter,” Billiot said. “Working closely with artists allowed me to learn a lot about intellectual property rights in regards to music. I never thought I would have access to this kind of information.”
With an impressive Rolodex of contacts and enough of a bankroll to get the project rolling, Billiot called his old New Orleans buddy, Buras.
“He came down to my house with his own makeshift studio. We recorded an original song of mine called ‘Genuine,’” the artist said, marveling that it was recorded in his Downtown Houma living room.
Intent on producing the “Fantasy Love” video himself, Billiot used Craig’s List to reach filmmakers in Los Angeles and New York.
“I chose the top five,” he said. “I went to their studios and saw their equipment.”
Andril Prudnicov, a Ukranian, filmed the video in 2012. Pals Holley and Hoffman also lent a hand.
“I would sing in Garage Band and (Hoffman) would do a basic beat and create a program track,” Billiot said. “(The trio) would then do the audio editing.”
By the close of 2013, Billiot had five songs completed.
Soon after, Billiot crossed paths with Grammy-nominated arranger Eggar. The musical genius arranged 11 of the album’s songs and provided introductions to several other Grammy nominees.
“I realized what I had stepped into and just thought, ‘Wow,’” Billiot said.
The final step – finding a publisher – was kismet. Billiot’s intellectual property experience prepped him for creating his own label, Pendent Music and Entertainment.
“I am the publisher, record label, artist and songwriter, as well as the executive producer,” Billiot said. “This is the new age of music. It can be done if you are tenacious and willing to spend 25 years.
“Actually, that is just my story,” he chimed. “You probably don’t have to spend that long to get where you want to be. From a practical and business perspective, it is all considered personal income.”
Lawyer turned pop artist, Michael Billiot is ready to release his first album titled “Fantasy Love” after nearly 25 years of working toward his dream of becoming a pop star.