INTERVIEW: Musician Mike Younger looks out for ‘Little Folks Like You and Me’

Mike Younger’s new album is Little Folks Like You and Me. Photo courtesy of Alan Messer.

Mike Younger, the Nashville-based musician, has been playing the guitar and writing songs for many years, but his latest studio effort, Little Folks Like You and Me, seems like the a brand-new start. The album centers on unity and defiance in uncertain times. Given Younger’s journey to date, it would seem some of these themes are apropos when describing his own professional life.

Younger will celebrate Little Folks Like You and Me at a special record release party Friday, Aug. 11 at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall. The musician takes the stage at 10 p.m.

Bob Britt — a neighbor of Younger’s who worked with Leon Russell, John Fogerty and Bob Dylan — produced the new album, which has received praise from multiple industry outlets. Younger’s first album, in 1999, was produced by Rodney Crowell, and his second album, in 2001, was produced by Jim Dickinson. Unfortunately, the second album fell apart after issues with the record label, but Younger is currently working on resuscitating the project.

Recently, Hollywood Soapbox spoke with Younger about his musical past, present and future. Here’s what he had to say:

On how Little Folks Like You and Me came about …

“Well, as a matter of fact, myself and my girlfriend got a little piece of land, 5 acres, and we’re running our little mini-farm up here. And one of my neighbors ended up being Mr. Bob Britt, who is one of Nashville’s best guitar wizards here. He’s a major player. He played with Leon Russell, and Bob Dylan, and John Fogerty and people like that, and he and I struck up a friendship. …

“I had become a little bit disillusioned in the music industry and started to disengage and walk away from that, feeling that the commercial establishment was so just monolithic or exclusive that I would never be able to get there, and I was moving away from having aspirations of a career and was doing a lot of mechanic work, fixing cars. And I was working on Bob’s car, his wife’s car, his daughters’ cars, and finally Bob just turned to me and said, ‘Would you like to make another record?’ He knew I had come to Nashville for that, and we got to be good enough friends where he threw that out there.”

On the development of the record …

“We started making plans and brought my band, the guys who have been playing with me for years, the guys who I’ve done a lot of road miles with. I brought them in on the project, and he brought some people as well. … Chad Brown was an engineer who was willing to take on the recording project that Bob and I were putting together, on credits for mechanic work, which I have an ongoing account.”

On the uniqueness of his sound …

“I would say it’s derivative of blues, and rhythm and blues, country, some gospel, and soul elements, rockabilly. I draw from all of the music that I listen to and connect with when I write, so it’s sort of a hybrid of all those styles. They call it Americana nowadays.”

On how he first got into music …

“Well, the gateway for me was rock ‘n’ roll. I came up listening to blues-based rock in the form of Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd, and The Who, and all those classic British invasion, and ’60s rock bands, the Beatles, and the Stones, and Bob Dylan and [Creedence Clearwater Revival], all the big groups. I listened to all that. That was the first wave of rock ‘n’ roll discovery for me, and knowing that those guys were listening to blues records was a gateway to the blues culture of the 1920s and ’30s through the ’60s, and ’70s and on into today. But, yeah, as far as my own musical journey, it started in the same place where a lot of young kids connect with rock ‘n’ roll, and that’s with those groups that I just mentioned, the big classic rock bands.”

On recovering the tapes of his lost second album, including a collaboration with Levon Helm …

“[Chad Brown], the sound engineer behind the record that I am releasing at this moment, Little Folks Like You and Me, he is currently working on some tapes that I recovered, that I lost in one of those worst-case scenario record company situations back in 2001. Gosh, it was a different world then, wasn’t it. It was before 9/11 happened or anything. … We recorded some of my material, and it was lost to me for 15 years. And I recently was able to come into possession of those tapes, and so Chad Brown, once again the engineer behind Little Folks, he has stepped up to the plate to help me move that record [to] at least see what’s there, and move it toward completion and hopefully be able to share it with fans and friends one day.”

On the difficulties of the music industry in 2017 …

“Well, it’s akin to a collapse. I think the realities for young musicians like myself and those coming up behind me is that [we are] scraping together a living out of playing music in this modern era. We live in a culture where a lot of people don’t make the association that if you buy this record, you’re supporting the artist, but if you just get it for free, you have done nothing to support this artist. People don’t understand that equation, or it doesn’t move them enough to do the right thing. Some people do. There are plenty of fans that love and support their bands and their artists, and they make that connection. And they spend their money reflecting that.

“But we live in a society based on commerce, where getting something for free, that’s regarded pretty highly, so if you can get something free, why not get something free. I mean, a lot of people think like that, but the deeper implications of that are a collapsing music industry. And the absence of opportunities for developing musicians coming along to continue their creative paths, and continue growing, and cultivating their talents and fulfilling their greatest potential, on a societal level this is what is transpiring.

“It’s the consequences of a mismanaged industry that is driven by profit motive, which all industries are driven by profit, and that can’t be cast into a completely negative light. It’s just in the rush to profit, or in the scramble of prioritizing and achieving that result, the cultivation of the art and the artist has been woefully neglected and mismanaged, and unfortunately we face a new paradigm as artists. You really have to feel a higher purpose or a higher calling to go through all the difficult circumstances that you have to go through.

“Everybody else is squirreling away money toward their retirement, and raising families and stuff like that. You made all these sacrifices because you want it that bad. Well, it’s a heavy price to pay, and people have to be willing to pay it nowadays. I mean, you really have to sacrifice and put everything in.”

On the appreciation he receives from fans and friends …

“I believe that in our culture we still have the ability to appreciate art because I experience it whenever I play, sometimes from very unexpected places. People are very generous and kind to me if something in my music connects with them, so I know that it’s possible.”

 

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Mike Younger will celebrate the release of his new record, Little Folks Like You and Me, with a special concert Friday, Aug. 11 at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall. Click here for more information and tickets.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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