🎸 From the Music Industry to Software Development: An Interview With Mike Brylinski

I interviewed Mike Brylinski, a software developer and former music industry vet who toured with bands such as the Goo Goo Dolls (6 min read)

Homescreens is a weekly publication about how we interact with our most intimate possession, our phones. Each week I interview interesting people across industries and we reflect on the apps they use, how they’re organized, and their philosophy on notifications and mindfulness.

Mike Brylinski, a software developer and former music industry vet knows how to create content. Mike spent years on the road, touring with the Goo Goo Dolls as their audio technician, while also networking with bands and developing their websites and apps—a serial entrepreneur. Always on the go, the introduction of the iPhone was a pivotal moment for him like many others— Mike could now create studio-quality content from a phone.

Mike’s home screen is organized and has a purpose. Apps are in position based on their proximity to his thumb while holding the phone. There’s negative space at the bottom of the screen, enough that his pug Hercules’ face peeks out. His folders contain apps focused on creativity and development.

Here’s our interview, edited for length and clarity.

How has freelancing been going?

I’ve been lucky enough, I’ve had a few decent projects through Corona, but now I’m trying to jump into something bigger. You know how it is- once you get a team of smart people, it starts to take shape. I’m always looking for the next best idea. I’m reading this book by Ray Dalio, and he states, “1+1=3,” meaning when two people collaborate, they’ll be three times as effective. I agree, and that’s why I like to work with small teams to bounce ideas back and forth.

That’s interesting, 1+1=3. I noticed the Udemy icon in your Education folder.

I’m a big fan of self-taught teaching. I know enough to know that I don’t know everything. I really haven’t taken any formal classes, I put the code editor up and just get to work. When we would play at big colleges, I would sit in on some of the computer science classes, and the professors would say they can’t teach you everything because the field is constantly changing. With that being said, I do take Udemy classes. I’m taking some Amazon Web Service certifications, and it’s a daunting task, but I’m getting there. I like it because you can buy a course for $10-$15, so it’s not like paying $300 and you may not finish it.

That’s cool, I’ve never tried Udemy. I don’t recognize that Headway app, what’s that about?

That’s an app I downloaded a few weeks ago; it’s pretty much cliff notes for audiobooks.

Oh! That reminds me of Blinkist!

Yeah, the same concept, it’s pretty new. I’m actually reading a book called Mind Hacking by John Hargrave with it. I finished two books today; I don’t remember the last time I finished two books in one day.

I’ve been struggling to finish books recently.

Exactly, right? Like that book I told you about the other day, Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss—it’s almost 800 pages. It’s great, but I don’t know if its ADD or lack of time, but I can’t get through that. It’s great, though, if you need a little inspiration.

I just recently got into Tim Ferriss’ work. I knew who he was but never read anything of his or listened to his podcast.

I’ll be honest with you; I copy a lot of what he does, he’s like the Apple Computer of the blog world. He’s one of the power players and is super interesting.

What about social media?

I try and not use it as much as possible, but I’m guilty- you check Facebook, you check Instagram 17 times a day for no rhyme or reason. If you could take back those 25 minutes and read a book on that app (Headway), you’re in a much better place. My (social media apps) are hidden deep; you have to dig through a folder to get to them.

Right, I noticed you organized many of your apps in folders, but you left apps like Headspace, Camera, and Chess out. Are those your most-used apps?

Yeah, I’m all about function. If you notice the camera is at the top, I use my phone as a camera most often—I love it—top right, closest to my hand. Music is top left. Amazon by my finger. I’m an Amazon addict, I’m not going to lie. I try to do what I need to do and get off, though. Like Tim Ferriss, for example, he tries to bring his screen time down to a minimum, like 3 minutes a day.

Were you always a chess player? I don’t remember knowing you played chess.

I was a closeted chess player. I was in the chess club but didn’t tell anyone to hurt my social status. It’s weird how it came out— when I was on tour with the Goo Goo Dolls, the drummer and I would play Chess with Friends all day. It would keep me focused and thinking three moves ahead. Kept me really mindful.

Speaking of mindfulness, I see Headspace. I’ve been using it recently and love it.

I love Headspace, I’ve been meditating since I moved to California and it has literally changed my game from 0-100. I feel mindfulness is important, but no one teaches it. To me, it’s all about zooming out. In Photoshop, you zoom out to see the big picture instead of focusing on the three pixels driving you nuts. I also like Headspace because it will remind you to take some time out of your day.

Speaking of notifications, what’s your philosophy? I see your business folder has 94 notifications.

I like to keep them on if they’re for me like Headspace is for me. I don’t need to know if Johnny emails me about something I’m working on. My thing is, I will respond within 24 hours.

I’m staring at your Photo & Video folder, is that— Apple Clips I see?

I believe…yeah…that is Clips.

Wow, I didn’t know that still existed.

Me neither, but I guess it’s kind of like Vine, I just keep it around. Vintage apps.

I see you have the Lightroom app, do you actually edit photos on your phone?

Yeah, like on that cigar blog I showed you—I shoot all the photos on my phone, and I’ve been using Lightroom to edit them. The mobile version is great. It’s crazy how when we were younger, and something like Adobe Photoshop was $800, and now you can get the whole package for $30 a month.

I used to spend days searching torrents for the newest Creative Suite versions.

I think they learned; the subscription beats the pirates. Their subscription has been great, it offers lessons, and you’re able to watch people and how they do things.


Thanks for reading my interview with Mike. To learn more about him, check out his portfolio, and connect via Linkedin.