Mike Midwestern: It's very therapeutic for me to write songs
Photo courtesy of the artist
If you have a weakness for mellow folk-pop, look no further than Mike Midwestern. The singer-songwriter with the average-Joe mentality has been chipping away at a new record, his follow-up to 2010's Inhibitors. The new album, titled Oh My Soul, is a 12-track collection of tender, sparse folk tunes that touch on themes that are, yes, distinctly Midwestern. As Mike takes inspiration from his family life and friends, it's easy to imagine this album playing late into the dwindling dusk hours, the sounds burrowing into your consciousness.
We caught up with Mike ahead of his release show this Saturday at Honey with Party House to talk about the album-making process and what his biggest influences are. Read on for the details.
Tell me about Oh My Soul. How long have you been working on it?
You know... I started writing the songs May of 2012, about a year ago. I totally finished writing all the material around the beginning of the year. The songs started coming out quick... I started a Kickstarter last fall, and that came out successfully. I started recording in December, actually, and I had had all the songs kind of written. I have a family and two kids... it takes me a lot of time to get to the studio, I can't just go in for a week and pound it out. It was a long process. I finished recording in April or early May.
This album is really keyed down compared to your debut record, Inhibitors. What brought on the change in pace?
I like a lot of different styles of music, and I think the first few songs that came out quick when I felt inspired kinda just happened to be really chill -- slower songs if you will. I love Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska album, and he totally stripped it down, and I wanted to do something like that, just write really good songs and just let them be themselves without a ton of production. I think it translates a little better live, but I guess just keeping it stripped down -- I've always liked that idea, and I knew that I wanted to record the album to tape, to do it analog rather than ProTools the whole thing.
What do you think has been the biggest influence on your music so far?
Oh man... not to be cliché or cheesy, but my music is very personal, it's kind of my outlet. It's very therapeutic for me to write songs. Growing in faith and having a family, that's kind of my influence at this point. I guess seeing friends go through different trials and different things, I tend to write about different things, and there's a somber tone overall to my music.
What are you most proud of about this album?
To be honest, I'm really proud of what a group effort it was. I just brought theses songs as skeletons, as bare melodies, and I'm really proud of the people I worked with. There's Andy Keech, who produced it... he's a young engineer around town and he did such an amazing job. Ash St. John is one of my best friends -- my music wouldn't be half of what it is without him. He kind of does it all. And Courtney Deer, she sang on the record, and she just makes my voice sound good. So that's what I'm most proud of. We wrote the album kind of on the fly in the studio, and they were amazing people to work with.
What can we expect from your release show at Honey?
It's gonna be way different for me. Ash, Courtney will be playing the show... there will be a lap steel. I usually play solo and acoustic, so it'll be a unique full band thing, and we'll be playing the record pretty much start to finish in sequence.
Mike Midwestern will be playing at Honey on Saturday, July 13, with Party House. 6 p.m. $5. More info here.
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