“I love that I suck!”

Pointing out a favorite line from the movie, “Keeping the Faith,” singer/songwriter Mike Mentz noted that struggling is OK.

Mentz was once a self-described "sucky college student" until he took a semester abroad. Taking his guitar to the banks of the Seine in Paris, Mentz wrote songs for hours.

What: Mike Mentz free concert

Where: Music Instruction Building

When: Sept. 15 at 6 p.m.

“I sucked at guitar. I sucked at writing songs,” Mentz said. “The only thing I could kind of halfway decently do was sing.”

In a small eighth-floor Paris apartment, Mentz chiseled away at songwriting. 

Just inside the Music Instruction Building, senior Alex Rodriguez progresses in his field of sound engineering as he and Mentz work together to record Mentz's music. 

While serving as an intern, Rodriguez met Mentz on campus during the recording of "The Song." This reality show’s pilot has yet to air to the public.

“Listening to his sound, how it progressed through 'The Song,' I learned a lot about him. I knew it was something I wanted to work with,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez has spent the week hosting Mentz on the campus to record and perform a free concert Sept. 15 for students. This is part of the Audio Engineering Society’s push to bring a music scene to Ball State and Rodriguez’s senior project.

“He wants to make something great. If we’re not doing that, what the hell are we doing?” Mentz said. “We’re well on our way to doing something.”

Mentz plans to return in October to meet Rodriguez’s deadline, but the two agree that their work extends beyond a requirement.

“It’s one of those things where I’m doing it not to just benefit myself; we’re both going to benefit,” Rodriguez said.

Mentz keeps select work private and releases other songs in records. The music produced on campus will be released as singles over time.

“It is rare to have a situation where you can go into a studio and just say ‘I don’t remotely know what I’m doing right now, but let’s kinda just throw stuff at the wall and see what works,’” Mentz said.

This is not the first unique situation Mentz has been in. After singing for one and a half years on a cruise ship, Mentz made travel part of his music career.

“It’s so easy when you’re in your routine to get in your head,” Mentz said. “You can’t hold onto pettiness when you’re on the road.”

His next record to be released, “Souvenir,” was recorded while traveling around Thailand.

“Because of all the ship writing, I had this bunch of songs that had been written in transit,” Mentz said. “I thought it’d be cool, because they were all written in transit, to record them in transit.”

Mentz’s love of travel inspired him to self-title his genre “travel pop.”

“If you take Jason Mraz, Fountains of Wayne, Jameson Whisky, and you put them in a plane and fly them around for awhile, that’s pretty much what I sound like,” Mentz said.

Mentz notes that he writes the best when he is traveling and when he is in love. His song “Cigarette” is written about meeting someone during a layover.

“My favorite thing about being in an airport is that it happens all the time,” Mentz said. “It is so easy to meet someone in transit when you’re both equally uncomfortable.”

Mentz describes being uncomfortable as phenomenal because it allowed for an open mind in his semester abroad.

This semester, Rodriguez experiences a similar feeling in his project with Mentz.

“As of late, it’s been quite the ride,” Rodriguez said. “It’s making me push my boundaries.”

Keeping with his motto of “good vibes make good music,” Rodriguez strives to make Mentz comfortable in the chilly studio.

“I like that [Rodrigeuz] is very enthusiastic,” Mentz said. “I get to the studio, and he’s very excited.”

Mentz and Rodriguez also spend time together outside of the studio, even playing video games together.

“I’m getting the experience of a lifetime,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez will expand his personal portfolio with the singles he is producing, while also contributing to Ball State’s music program. He advocates for bands to contact Music Media Production and Industry program director Robert Willey to add to the scene.

While Mentz embraces the notion of sucking, Rodriguez works through this to bring more music to campus.