Touring musician tells story of lesser-known Seattle landmark for PBS series

MikelParisĀ prefers off-the-radar spots for his series "TuneTrek."

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Touring in a successful rock band seems like a dream. Big cities, bright lights, and thousands of fans cheering you every night.

But MikelParis (yes, he spells it as one word), who lives that life as the touring keyboardist for the rock band O.A.R. (and who has also toured with P!nk, and played with Jewel and Train, among others) has found a deeper appreciation of the road by playing original songs in historic landmarks across the country.

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Now, it’s become a TV series, and his latest episode was filmed in Seattle.

MikelParis reveals that composing these original songs after doing weeks of painstaking research was a way to connect to an America he wasn’t seeing.

“I was going to cities and being complacent about getting out of the hotel – getting off the tour bus,” he said.

So he decided to force himself to truly experience America by writing songs about historic landmarks and debuting them at the site.

He calls it “TuneTrek” (yes, again just one word!) and says he prefers off-the-radar spots. That's why, two days after playing the Gorge in George, Wash., this summer, MikelParis visited -- not the Space Needle or Pike Place Market -- but the Georgetown Steam Plant in Seattle. The plant helped power Seattle’s trains and streetcars in the early 1900s.

He writes most of the lyrics in advance, and says for this song, he wanted to put the listener inside the steam plant.

“I thought that I would write it as if I was writing a commercial back in the early 1900s about this steam revolution, you know -- electricity, and how it’s gonna change the world. A new innovation coming into your world,” he said. “I tried to write it like something that would be on the radio, almost like a jingle, so that sent me down a certain path.”

What started as a journey of personal fulfillment will soon take him back to the national stage. Not the concert stage, but the TV stage.

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PBS will soon air multiple seasons of TuneTrek nationally.

Eventually, MikelParis says, “I’m gonna release all 16 songs from season one, as an album. That’s part of the idea of the whole concept is to get my music out in a different, creative way.”

There are 52 episodes of TuneTrek so far. You can see them online at MikelParis.com. The Seattle episode will be online by early 2018.

The Georgetown Steam Plant is open to the public on the second Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Watch KING 5 Mornings Friday 4:30 - 9 a.m. for more on this story.

Related link: Georgetown Steam Plant's historical status