Grateful Web Interview with Mike Love

Article Contributed by Vinh Nguyen | Published on Friday, August 21, 2015

Before his appearance at the 2015 ARISE Music Festival, Mike Love graces his fans packed outdoors in a modest, standing patio venue in historic district of Denver.  His latest record Love Will Find A Way will be released September 1, 2015 along with additional shows and festival dates across the US during September of 2015.  Grateful Web sits with Mike Love to discuss his new album and his revolutionary music that is the focus of his rise. 

GW:  Mike, welcome to Grateful Web.

Mike:  Thank you.  Thanks for having me.

GW:  You’re are from Hawaii?

Mike:  Yes.  Born and raised in Oahu.

GW:  Sweet.  What was it like growing up in Hawaii?

Mike:  It was awesome man.  We’re at the beach all the time.  We go hiking.  Those are the kinds of stuff we grew up doing. 

GW:  You surf?

Mike:  We more grew up on the east side which is more like body surfing.

GW:  Is that like the half-board…boogie board thing?

Mike:  It’s body boarding or body surfing.  Body boarding is like with the boogie board.  Body surfing is just with your body.

GW:   I saw a documentary some time ago related to Hawaii and locals giving a hard time to Caucasians.  Did you have issues growing up in Hawaii?

Mike:  No, I never had.  I’m sure maybe in certain parts of the island.  I don’t know; I think that tourist or people who come from the mainland who have no respect for Hawaii and the land may run into problems with those who do have respect for the land.  If you grow up there, you just go with the flow of the ways of the island – and everything is all good. 

GW:  Maybe it’s not so much the color of your skin, but…

Mike:  Because of your attitude and the way you act.

GW:  You live in a musical family.

Mike:  Yes, my dad is a musician.  My grandpa was a musician and great grandpa.  My sister is a musician.

GW:  What instrument did your dad play?

Mike:  He plays guitar, sings and writes songs.

GW:  They’re a big influence on you.

Mike:  Yes, I would say that my family is the biggest influence on me just in life.  In music – maybe not so much the way that you sound – and the message, the energy and the feeling, those are influenced the most by my family.  My whole philosophy and my whole way of being I think are influenced by my family.  And, I think that’s the most important aspect of my music.  When people ask about my influences, I always say my family is the biggest.  Musically as well.  My dad, all the time growing up, was singing songs for us.  He taught me how to play guitar, he got me involved in music, my parents were always getting me involved in music and encouraging me to learn music.  Whenever I had a desire to do something musically, they always helped me out supporting me and they still do. 

GW:  You had your first gig at 16 years old?

Mike:  Yes, I did my first public gig at 16.

GW:  Tell me about that.

Mike:  Oh gosh.  I was just in a rock band in high school.  We sounded horrible.  We just rocked out.  It was great. [laughing]  I was playing bass actually for a band.  

GW:  Bass.  What other instruments do you know?

Mike:  I grew up taking piano lessons.  I played trombone…just tried to play everything a little bit.  I think all musicians especially song writers, who write songs and arrange music, should at least try to play everything a little bit.  Because if you get a feel for an instrument, it’s easier to translate to somebody who plays that instrument.  If I had a piano part in mind and had a really good piano player who’s doing the part for me (and who plays far better than me), I can at least hash out a basic idea of what I want on the piano for them.  It’s a lot easier to translate to them then just saying “well, I don’t know what I want on the piano but what you’re doing is not it”.  If you have an idea of what you want to do and can get it across to another musician on their instrument, it’s helpful as a songwriter.  I have friends who write songs and don’t play instruments too much.  In the studio, they tend to go in and are kind of at the mercy of the musicians or the producer because they don’t really know what they want or even fathom what another instrument sounds like in the context of their song – they don’t know how that instrument works.  So, I think being able to play drums, piano, bass, and trombone makes it easier for me to write horn parts, write string parts, and write piano parts.

GW:  At that age, you knew you were going to be here today?

Mike:  I definitely always knew that I was going to play music.  All my life, music has been in every aspect. 

GW:  Your folks are doing music for a living as well?

Mike:  No, my parents are both teachers.  Not music teacher, my mom is a pre-school teacher and a college…my dad is an English teacher.  Music was really never their goal.  My dad writes songs all the time – it’s a passion for him.  My grandfather and great grandfather were both composers, gospel composers.  So if you look in a church hymn book, you’ll see their music. [laughing]

GW:  No kidding.  [Laughing]  Being so passionate about music, what do your folks think about you now making a living in music?

Mike:  Yeah, they’re stoked.  They’re really proud.  They really believe in my music and they love it.  When I first started playing music and writing songs, I can definitely see a point where I started writing songs they really liked.  That was cool for me to see where I grew musically to a point where they genuinely and actually liked my music rather than just liking it because they feel sorry for me, or because they love me and want to support me.

GW:  What was it that they really like about your music – the sound, lyrics, both?

Mike:  Just everything combined.  The musicality, knowing the positive messages I was putting out, and seeing the effect it had on people makes them really proud.

GW:  The message in your songs: love, hope, struggle, moving forward, mother earth, animals, a lot of good stuff.  Do you want to talk about it a bit?

Mike:  The reason that we make music as musical healers is to help people and to bring a message that we feel is necessary.  It’s a message that has sort of come through me and I just feel bless to be able to put it out there and help in every way possible.  Yeah, it’s a message of healing like you said.  It’s a message of hope.  It’s also a message of awakening, of revolution from the mental and spiritual oppression of the system we’re living in.

GW:  When were these messages instilled in your songs? I figure at 16 you were more just rocking out. 

Mike:  Exactly.  Growing up in Hawaii, I think…

GW:  Did you just say Hawaii? [‘w’ pronounced like a ‘v’]

Mike:  Yeah, that’s how it’s pronounced.  In the Hawaiian language, most of the time the ‘w’ is pronounced as a ‘v’. 

So growing up in Hawaii, just that connection with nature, that connection with the earth was really a natural thing for really everyone living there.  I didn’t know anything else.  So, I think it was naturally already part of the message in the music that I was making would kind of come to fruition.  Overtime, those ideas that were meaningful started surfacing more in the music.  There was a certain point in my life where I had a major spiritual awakening and a lot things changed in my life.  That led to a big change musically.  That was kind of at the point where I realized that I wasn’t making music for myself – for my own ego.  I was supposed to be making it to help people.  At that point, I realized all this music that is out there doesn’t really come from us.  These ideas are all out there; everything is all out there.  All we are really doing is channeling these ideas and making ourselves open to them coming through us.  Once I made that realization that I’m just a vessel for the music to come through and put out to help people, everything for me musically changed.  I started writing a whole different kind of music.  It was a healing kind of music.  And, that was really at the point where people started paying attention to what I was doing too. 

GW:  This awakening was about five years ago?

Mike:  No, this was maybe 10 or 12 years ago.

GW:  What was that spiritual awakening – a religious awakening?

Mike:  No, it was more of a shedding of the ego and the realization that we’re all connected and put here to help each other.  I don’t necessarily follow a particular religion.  I’m more a student of all spirituality.

GW:  You are vegan

Mike:  I am Vegan.  At that point, I wasn’t vegan yet but I did become vegetarian.  That was a big change in my life.  It definitely made a difference in me.  I started fasting, meditation, just awakening and being more aware the realization of the connection of everything and everyone. Up to that point, I felt like I was living a selfish life.  Even though I love all my friends, love my family, and I thought I was a happy and good person, I wasn’t really fulfilled.  I’m still of course growing and learning all the time.

GW:  Let me get into your albums.  Your first record is The Change I’m Seeking.  I’m just going to run through some tracks if you don’t mind.   I like “Barber Shop” and bass on the there.

Mike:  That was a song I actually wrote quite a long time ago.  It’s related obviously to my dreadlocks and a lot of my reasons for growing dreads and growing my beard.  It was just a major rejection of the vanity of honored society.  That was just a song of all the ideas of going to the barber shop, going to the salon, going to get your fancy clothes, your makeup and all of that stuff.  And, just how what a trap it is, how pointless it is and how in the end, it just gets you wrapped up in something meaningless.

GW: “Barber Shop” is a metaphor for all that.

Mike: Yeah, exactly.  It’s a fun song.  I really still like to play it.  It’s got a fun and uplifting energy.  It’s a funny song in a way because it just has that kind of carefree more comical attitude to it. 

[“Barber Shop” Video:]

GW:  Yeah.  It’s on my playlist now.  “Permanent Holiday” is cool.  It sounded like you looped the bass and the vocal effect.

Mike:  I loop a lot of stuff.  In that tune, I loop a beatbox, I loop a bass line, loop some guitar line, and stuff.  There’s a section in the middle that is a unique thing that has been something for me that people have identified with where I have a phrase where I break up the sections into syllables and sort of loop it that way.  It comes in with a certain section of syllables and then another section.  At the third section, it all comes together and then it makes sense.  It sounds at first that I’m not speaking English laying down nonsensical syllables.

[“Permanent Holiday” video:  At 4:24 in, Mike begins the section where he loops the syllables.]

GW:  It’s funny you brought that up.  I had the “Permanent Holiday” lyrics in hand trying to follow that syllable loop section – did the lyrics match up with the song?

Mike:  No, I never wrote that part out.

GW:  Ok, I was futilely trying to follow the lyrics to it and just couldn’t make it out.  [laughing]

Mike:  [laughing]  I just have the finished part of it listed in the lyrics.  That song has been really a successful song for me.  Part of it is because it’s so unique to what I do.  I haven’t seen anybody else do anything like that.  At the time I wrote it, I wasn’t really thinking that this is going to be something people will identify me with.  But, it has been.   

GW:  Is there a name for it? [laughing]

Mike:  No, I don’t.  Beyond that unique aspect to it, it has this resonance that people respond to.  I think because it’s about something so simple in our lives.  More people feel trapped in at least some aspects of their life, working a job that they don’t necessarily believe in or feel like it’s not fulfilling to them spiritually or giving them happiness.  I think a lot of people are working to pay the rent and take care themselves.  People don’t have just a clear path.  I’m blessed in that my path has been clear to me since I was young.  I just believed in it and kept going.  I knew if I kept going that I’d be ok.   I never really have been somebody who worried about money.  I learned at a pretty early age that if you don’t’ worry about money, you’ll always have enough.  If you do worry about it, you’ll never have enough, you know.  So, I just always realized that I’ve always had everything I need.  I’m still alive so I must have made it here somehow.  I never really had problems with not having enough money.  In times when I needed something, it came.  I just always believed that would happen.  That’s kind of the key and part of the key to my success.  But, in that song, it’s a ‘permanent holiday’ from that idea of being stuck in something that you don’t’ want to be in, being in a place that you don’t want to be because you feel like you need something that’s going to help you survive.  I think the true path to being on a holiday is just believing in yourself, knowing your path, and knowing where you need to be.  For some people, it’s just harder to find. I think that song resonates with people because they all want to find that.  Some people view it as like…just being on a permanent holiday as in being on vacation all the time…

GW:  Versus perhaps finding something fulfilling…

Mike:  Right. For me, I feel like I work harder than a lot of people.  I enjoy the work that I do so it’s not hard for me.  But, I do put a lot of energy and time into it.  But it’s fulfilling, so it’s not something that drains me.  It gives me energy.  That’s the holiday that I’m on.  I’m on the holiday of being away from a system where I need to do this & that and things I don’t’ want to do – and basically enslave myself just to be able to get money to pay for something I really don’t’ need.

GW:  I guess realizing you have everything you need and not looking fruitlessly for more...

Mike:  Exactly.  You might have a great job making half million dollars a year but you still aren’t necessarily fulfilled.  And, you still might not be doing something that’s actually helping anybody.  If you’re making that much money, more likely than not, you’re doing something that’s hurting people.

GW:  Onto your next album, Jah Will Never Leave I Alone.  “Rockaz’ Jam” is an inspiring song. 

Mike:  That’s album is kind of different.  I got together with a friend of mine.  He’s a bass player in a band -- that when I was coming up and playing reggae music – in Hawaii that really inspired me the most.  The name of the band is Ooklah the Moc.  They’re a local Hawaiian reggae band.  They do progressive roots music and kind of dub style stuff, heavy in awesome syncopated drum & bass patterns, cool breakdowns and really cool vocals and horns and stuff.  I used to watch them play all the time.  The bass player is kind of the band leader.

GW:  Is he the same bass player in the “Barber Shop” video?

Mike:  No, that’s a different bass player.

GW:  Is that whole album like that?

Mike:  We used to play with that other band.  I recorded an album at the studio with that band.  Then, we started working together a lot and playing together in a band.  He has a studio called Father Psalms studio.  He’s a bass player but plays a lot of different instruments too, an excellent drummer, guitar player and an awesome producer.  We started working together, we write songs at his house and work on ideas.  That whole album is written with me and him.  That song in particular was a song where he had a jam written out, I wrote lyrics to it, and played some solos.

GW:  I heard horns, synthesizer, and different stuff than from your initial record.

Mike:  Yeah, it’s all different.

GW:  Are you working on another album?

Mike:  Yeah, I got a new album coming out in a month, September 1st 2015. 

GW:  Tell us about that record.

Mike:  Yeah, I’ve been working on it for the last two years.  It’s just been a great mountain of work that I’m really excited about.  It has a lot of songs I think are the best material that has come through me – just a lot of uplifting, hopeful music.  It’s an album about the times we’re living in.  The title of the album is called Love Will Find A Way.  It’s about the times we’re living in, the struggle that mankind is going through, so much confusion, so much deception, and so much corruption.  All over the world, there are suffering, disease, oppression, slavery, genocide happening and countless wars.  It’s really hard to wrap your head around how many atrocities is taking place.  We live in a relatively sheltered world.  The media keeps us sheltered from what’s really going on and feeds us half the story or half the lie of a story.  There’s so much evil taking place in the world now.  Sometimes, it feels like there’s nothing we can do about it.  Sometimes, it feels like it’s too hard to do anything about it.  The elite groups that are in place forwarding these agenda are so powerful that it just seems sometimes impossible to really even think of what to do to overcome any of this evil that is going on in the world.  The idea of the album is that at the core of everything, at the core of all living thing is love.  Even in the darkest, hardest and most troubling times, that love will connect us, bring us and carry us through even in the most impossible situation.  All the music on the album is dedicated to the idea, the idea that hope is needed at this time – in time where it seems so dark.  I’m really excited to share it.  There are countless of amazing musicians that have helped me out on this album.  It has been a huge undertaking.  A lot of different instruments.  My band I play with now; we have a tight knit relationship.  It’s a four piece band: me, a drummer, a bass player and a keyboard player.  We did all the basic tracks.  Beyond that, I just called upon all the musicians that I really believe in who are amazing to do all the horns, the strings.  Then, I have my music teacher from pre-school until the whole elementary, a steel drum player who taught me the steel drums…he played steel drums on a couple of the tracks. 

GW:  That’s pretty special.

Mike:  Yes.  I have another Friend, Dan Lebowitz, who you guys may know.  He’s plays with ALO and plays around a lot in the jam band scene – guitar player. 

GW:  He’s from Hawaii.

Mike:  He’s in San Francisco.  He played pedal steel on the album.  Marcus Urani from Groundation, their keyboard player, did a huge arrangement of keyboard on one of the songs.  It’s amazing.  One of my closest friends and musical collaborators Paula Fuga, another singer, sang on it.   Also, Trevor Hall…also sang on it.  It’s a cool song, “Love Will Find A Way”, with four different lead vocalists going back and forth.  I’m really stoked on how that all came out.  I’m really excited all the music I’m sharing.

GW:  Looking forward to it in September? [2015]

Mike:  September 1st, yep!

GW:  You’re doing a tour.

Mike:  Yes, all of September.

GW:  I think you’re doing a 20 date tour in September or something crazy like that.

Mike:  Yes, more than that.

[Mike Love Tour Dates:]

GW:  That’s all I have Mike. You got the ARISE Music Festival tomorrow.

Mike:  I’ve heard so much about the festival so I’m excited to check it out.

GW:  I’ll give you the last word.

Mike:  Thank you so much.  I’m grateful for this opportunity to share this space with you, getting my word out, and to your viewership.  Thank you man. 

GW:  Thanks Mike.