Americana artist Mike Ross is launching his new album, Jenny’s Place, in Brighton next month. Ahead of this launch we talk to him about his influences and genre, travel, and the challenge of recording a live album.
Your music is reminiscent of Americana, blues and soul – can you tell us a little more about your influences?
Not in the amount of words you’re likely to print! But in a nutshell I guess you could say I like blues and soul from Memphis & Muscle Shoals with an early 70’s rock type of delivery.
What challenges – if any – have you faced as an Americana/blues artist in the UK? How have you overcome these?
I don’t know that I’ve faced any particular challenges due to ‘artistic direction’. There is so much worldwide appeal and acceptance of ‘Non Southern American’ artists playing in the style that I do that I don’t think it’s a problem really.
The tracks on your new album are more energetic than on your debut, Spindrift. How would you say your style has progressed over the past couple of years? Do you think you’ll continue with this sound on any subsequent releases?
Energetic? Great! Spindrift was recorded quickly and simply, so it has a more stripped back feel, but on a track like ‘Ran Thru Here’ from that album you get a hint of how I wanted to progress. I’ve always had a powerful, ‘energetic’ band but I feel that the new album is the first time I’ve really been able to capture that properly in the studio. Certainly anyone that’s been to see me play live will recognise the vibe immediately. Moving forward – who knows?!
Your new album, Jenny’s Place, has been described as “career-defining”. How would you describe the album to existing fans, and likewise to new listeners? Do you agree with these claims?
Well I feel that it’s the best representation so far of what I’m capable of as a singer, songwriter & guitarist so in that respect I guess it is defining. I wrote the songs over a pretty short space of time and with a specific theme in mind so there is an underlying coherency which I feel gives the album a spirit of its own. And it really rocks!
How do you expect the new album to be received?
Well it’s going to be massive, obviously (laughs!)
Is there a story behind the album title, Jenny’s Place?
Yeah, my wife (Jenny!) is Swedish and she has a little summer house up in Northern Sweden – we spend time there as much as possible and it’s a really beautiful, peaceful, inspirational place – one of only a couple of places I’ve ever visited where I got an immediate sense of ‘belonging’ from the moment I arrived. There are photos of the house all over the album cover actually.
It looks like you’ve travelled around – a lot! Paint us a picture of how your life’s experiences have shaped you musically.
Everywhere I’ve ever been has taught me something, and sooner or later it ends up coming out in a lyric, or a groove, or a melody!
What ultimately brought you to down to Sussex (and Brighton)?
A girl! No, really! I grew up in a mining village in Durham and it’s not a place that I’d describe as ‘artistically supportive’, but when I first visited Brighton in early 2000 I instantly felt at home. We’re all such a lovely collection of freaks and weirdos down here by the sea – how could I ever leave?
You’re recording the show at The Latest Bar for a future live album. It’s a really exciting concept, but do you feel any extra pressure knowing that it’ll be recorded?
Yes! But it’s really exciting to be launching a new record by playing it all the way through while making a live version of it and filming it all at once so I’m trying to focus on that rather than on any pressure.
You’ve decided to split the set between a solo performance and an augmented full band. Why did you choose to do it in this way, and do you have a preference?
I wanted to showcase some of the Spindrift songs with the new band as well as capture them for the live album, plus there are a few songs I want to play solo that will fit the mood I want to create for the evening so I thought I’d slip them in before getting stuck into the Jenny’s Place set proper. I have some great guests on the album so it’ll be brilliant to have them come and be part of the live show. We’re also planning a big finishing number too, but that’s a secret!
Mike Ross is launching Jenny’s Place at The Latest Music Bar on Sun 17 Apr.