Michael Mortenson wrote his first piano piece at eight years of age during his second week of piano lessons. Sensing potential, his teacher encouraged him to continue to explore and learn music, which he did with great enthusiasm.
In 2008 Michael’s cousin, Peter Mortenson, released an album called Songs from Pablo’s Attic, which kindled in him a desire to write songs. However, he had a problem—he didn’t have a clue how to write lyrics. Then, when he was thirteen years old, he came across a quote by Sara Bareilles, a singer/songwriter whose work he greatly admired. She said:
“I’ve been writing songs for as long as I can remember. Some of them make me happy . . . but all of them come because I can’t imagine what else to do with my head and the things that are in it besides write songs. Songs, and some pretty bad poetry. But mostly just songs.”
“It was like the proverbial idea light bulb dropped out of the sky and conked me on the head,” said Michael. “If the secret to Sara’s lyrics was writing ‘some pretty bad poetry’, then I figured I ought to give it a try.” Shortly thereafter he began writing poetry and, soon enough, he discovered that he could write lyrics. By age sixteen, Michael had written over 50 pieces of music and songs.
Noticing his interest in poetry, Michael’s teachers encouraged him to explore other forms of writing and to begin sharing his work online at Smiles in the Sky, a site which derives its name from one of the first poems he posted online.
In 2013, Michael began studying engineering at Brigham Young University. Halfway through his freshman year, he was contacted by a company in Israel who offered to publish the poem “Lucky Green Pencil” in a textbook for students learning English as a second language.
Following this initial publishing success, Michael continued to write, even as he took leave of his studies to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Lithuania, where he learned to speak Lithuanian. Upon his return, Michael published two more works, a poem called “Looks Like a Pretzel” and a creative essay called “On Graviton Decay” in Scribendi, a literary magazine published by the University of New Mexico Honors College.
He currently studies at Brigham Young University, where he continues to write and compose.