Michael League

Michael League (born April 24, 1984) is an American composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. He is the bandleader of New York-based instrumental band Snarky Puppy and the international music ensemble Bokanté. He also founded the band Forq with keyboardist Henry Hey, and is also an owner and founder of the record label GroundUP Music.[2] League has won four Grammy Awards.

Michael League
League at the Heineken Jazzaldia
League at the Heineken Jazzaldia
Background information
Birth nameMichael Kellyrea League[1]
Born (1984-04-24) April 24, 1984 (age 37)
Long Beach, California, US
  • Bass
  • guitar
  • keyboards
Years active2004–present
Associated acts
Michael League (2019) in Aarhus, Denmark


League was born in California on April 24, 1984.[1] He had an attraction to music from an early age and began playing guitar at 13 years old. He started playing bass at age 17, when he was requested to do so in his senior high school jazz band.[3] He went on to study jazz at the University of North Texas, then spent three years playing in Dallas's Gospel and R&B scene under the unofficial mentorship of keyboardist Bernard Wright.[4] There he performed with gospel artists like Walter Hawkins, Kirk Franklin,[5] Marvin Sapp, Myron Butler & Levi, and Israel Houghton, and frequently performed at the Potter's House.[3] He was also a regular member of Erykah Badu's backing band, the Gritz. League moved to Brooklyn, New York in 2009.

Music careerEdit

League formed Snarky Puppy in his freshman year of college at the University of North Texas, originally consisting of him and nine of his peers. He composed most of their original music, as well as produced all albums released by the band.

He has performed or recorded with artists from a variety of genres including Laura Mvula, Lalah Hathaway, Joe Walsh, Chris Thile, Michael McDonald, Terence Blanchard, Esperanza Spalding, Joshua Redman, Wayne Krantz, Chris Potter, Salif Keita, Eliades Ochoa, Fatoumata Diawara, Bassekou Kouyate, Susana Baca, and Kardeş Türküler.[citation needed] He currently serves as musical director for David Crosby in his Lighthouse touring band, alongside Becca Stevens and Michelle Willis.

In 2014, League won his first Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance with Snarky Puppy and Lalah Hathaway for a live performance of the Brenda Russell and David Foster song "Something" on the Family Dinner – Volume 1 album.[4] In 2016, Sylva, the collaborative album between Snarky Puppy and the Metropole Orkest and conducted by Jules Buckley, won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, as did the band's follow-up album, Culcha Vulcha in 2017.;[6] Snarky Puppy's 2020 album Live at the Royal Albert Hall, recorded before a sold-out crowd at the historic London venue, won the 2021 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.[7]

League formed the world/blues ensemble Bokanté in 2016, and has produced two albums for the band: Strange Circles, and What Heat. Strange Circles was released on GroundUP Music and What Heat, also a collaboration with Jules Buckley and the Metropole Orkest, was released on September 28, 2018, on Real World Records.[8] In 2019, What Heat was nominated in the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album category.[9]

One number on David Crosby's League-produced Lighthouse album featured Crosby, League, Becca Stevens, and Michelle Willis (with Bill Laurence on piano). The quartet became the Lighthouse Band on Crosby's 2018 Here If You Listen album. The band then toured for six weeks in November and December 2018.[10]

Selected production workEdit

Michael League has worked as producer or co-producer on 42 albums for artists including:[11][12]

GroundUP Music FestivalEdit

In 2017, the GroundUP Music Festival, also known as GUMFest, debuted[13] within the grounds of the North Beach Band Shell in North Beach, Miami.[14] The first GroundUP Music Festival was initiated by Andy Hurwitz, directed by Paul Lehr, and artistically directed by Michael League.[15] The festival features performances by Snarky Puppy all three nights, with a line-up curated by League that has featured David Crosby, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, The Wood Brothers, Robert Glasper, Knower, Concha Buika, C4 Trio, Pedrito Martinez, Jojo Mayer + Nerve, Mark Guiliana's Beat Music, John Medeski's Mad Skillet, Charlie Hunter Trio, Laura Mvula, Eliades Ochoa, Esperanza Spalding, Lionel Loueke, Joshua Redman and Terence Blanchard, as well as the full GroundUP Music roster, among others.[16][17] GroundUP Music Festival, Miami, is now planned as an annual event.


  1. ^ a b https://www.californiabirthindex.org/birth/michael_kellyrea_league_born_1984_16396955
  2. ^ "Michael League". fbass.com. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  3. ^ a b Jisi, Chris. "Michael League Top Dog With Snarky Puppy". bassplayer.com. Future Publishing Limited. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  4. ^ a b Johnson, Kevin (2014-02-13). "From the Ground Up: An Interview with Michael League". notreble.com. Coreyweb LLC. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  5. ^ "Michael League". pigtronix.com.
  6. ^ "Search Results for Snarky Puppy". GRAMMY.com. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  7. ^ "2021 Grammys Winners: The Full List". NY Times. March 14, 2021. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  8. ^ "What Heat". Real World Records. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  9. ^ Online Editor (20 November 2019). "Bokanté receives Grammy nomination for What Heat". Real World Records. Retrieved 11 February 2020. {{cite web}}: |last1= has generic name (help)
  10. ^ "Michael League: Snarky Puppy's Jazz-Schooled, Grassroots Visionary". All About Jazz. December 10, 2018. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  11. ^ "Michael League - Credits - AllMusic". All Music Guide.
  12. ^ "Michael League". Discogs.
  13. ^ Garno, Kelly. "Announcing Late Night at GroundUP Music Festival". sensiblereason.com. Sensible Reason. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  14. ^ Schlein, Zach (2018-02-06). "Michael League Crafts an Intimate Festival Experience in GroundUp Music". miaminewtimes.com. Miami New Times. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  15. ^ Andrew, O'Brien (11 January 2017). "Snarky Puppy's Michael League Talks GroundUP Festival, New Projects And More". Live For Live Music. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  16. ^ Kahn, Andy (2016-10-13). "Snarky Puppy & GroundUP Music Announce 2017 GroundUP Music Festival Lineup". jambase.com. Jambase. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  17. ^ "GroundUP Music Festival Feb 9 - 11, 2018". jambase.com. Jambase. 2017-10-17. Retrieved 14 September 2018.