“The Gypsy Man”
When most people hear the term ‘new country artist,’ their mind immediately paints a picture. Young. Naïve. Unseasoned. Cheese. Members of the Idol Generation where record deals are obtained by winning a contest and success is measured in YouTube views.
That picture couldn’t be further from the truth.
Mike Love is a new artist, but one with fifty thousand miles on him. An artist who not only grew up in and around the music industry, but has spent his entire life strapped with a guitar both onstage and in the studio. With a four song EP to his name back in 2002, Mike’s also no stranger to the center stage spotlight. A decade and million miles later, Mike saw it as time to step back into the center of the stage and take the music where he wants it to go.
With his new album Gypsy Man, Mike has made a definitive statement…he loves country music. Not what most (sadly) consider to be country music, but REAL country music. Songs that are rooted in stories and melodies that don’t cross over onto Adult Contemporary radio. Country so authentic that when it comes through your car speakers the dashboard starts to smell the same as a stale beer soaked bar stage.
Gypsy Man is an album in the sense that there is an underlying theme that threads all of the songs together, and that theme is the road life of a musician. It is the story of the gypsy lifestyle and a peek inside a life that most people never experience. What it’s like to be on the road hopping from town to town and never really settling in.
Recorded with a bunch of different players he’s played with over the years, a drummer from Oklahoma, steel player and organ players from Kansas, and the bulk of the guitars from a player in Texas, Love tracked most of the album at his own studio in Kansas. That said, the guitars were recorded in Texas and the album was mastered by Richard Dodd in Nashville. Yes, the same Richard Dodd that won a Grammy for his work on Tom Petty’s Wildflowers as well as worked on albums by The Traveling Wilburys, Ringo Starr, Joe Cocker, Steve Earle, Keith Urban, John Mellencamp and more.
Mike grew up around music as his Dad filled his son’s ears with the songs of George Jones, Merle, Willie & Waylon. He gave up his dreams of becoming an artist in his own right in order to raise his kids, but remained a singer / songwriter and producer for many artists in Kansas. When Mike started playing, he worked with him to the point that when Mike became part of a major act, his Dad was an integral part of the project from behind the scenes.
“My first real country gig was playing rhythm and singing harmony for a friend of mine named Terry Henry. He had his own deal going so I was basically his sideman. He was based out of Kansas, but we toured all over the country. We tried to get a record deal in ’92 as a duo and when that didn’t work out we parted ways. My Dad produced us and we wrote with him as well.
“Back then we were just trying to fit into whatever mold Nashville wanted. The look, the sound, trying to be marketable, but as I got older I realized that all of that didn’t matter.” What really mattered was the music.
After twelve years on the road, Mike decided to step back and take a break. While he may have backed off, he didn’t back out. In addition to owning a construction company that specializes in building homes, he also owns and operates a recording studio in Wichita, KS. For the four years that he was shaking the road dirt off his guitars, the studio allowed him to keep his creative muscles in shape.
“I’ve been around producing and engineering all my life with my Dad but more since I came off the road. It’s fun to be on the outside of the music looking in at the other people and trying to help them get a better sound or come up with a better idea. It’s nice to help with the overview without being in the middle of it. That allowed me to be creative as well.”
As any true musician will tell you, you can never really leave it behind. As the years passed by, four in all, Mike began toying with the idea of trying again. He started writing some new songs, revisiting some old ones and before he knew it, Gypsy Man was a real thing only done with a whole fresh approach.
“Right before I decided to take a break about five or six years ago, I hooked up with a producer, went out to Nashville and cut an album. I didn’t like it though because it sounded like the same ol’ same ol’. Now I decided to give it a shot again but I produced this album Gypsy Man myself. I did it my way. Now when I get back up there and play it’s a reflection of what I am hearing instead of the same cookie cutter thing. I just need to deal with what I want to do and the style of music I want to play. I don’t play what I do for the fame and fortune. It’s more or less this is my music and I hope you like it.”
With a sound rooted in the realm of Texas artists like Randy Rogers or Josh Abbott, Gypsy Man is the story of the traveling musician. Songs like “Long Way Home,” “Drifter’s Lament” and the title track paint the lonely picture of the road and empty hotel rooms while the song “Get Going” stands strong in its almost Eagle-esque melodies.
But don’t for a moment think those stories lend themselves to a laid back, acoustic coffee shop sound. Mike is an artist that comes from the stage and he knows and appreciates the power of a show. In fact, that’s what he thrives on.
“I like to play. I want to be a touring artist. I like to sell my records and play live, but I really record so I CAN play live. It’s a full band with me. I’m really into the big live show, I’m not really a coffee show acoustic guy.”
With Gypsy Man out and available, Love is gearing up to hit the road. Starting at his home base in the Midwest, the bus wheels will more than likely spider out all the way west to Wyoming, south to Texas and hopefully as far north as Chicago. The goal is to spend the summer playing festivals and then take it inside to the clubs come fall with a grand total of about 150 plugged in dates this year. Even with his four year absence from the road, the public has spoken and there are still plenty of people out there who ‘found’ Mike when he was opening up the show for superstars that range from Toby Keith to Tim McGraw to Jason Aldean.
“I still have a fan base out there. My fan club is still very strong and it gives me a good foundation to build off of.”