Mike Waters emerged like a butterfly out of his ten year corporate job revealing a stunning array of soul filled and catchy indie-folk tracks with his LIFE EP. An emotive EP that takes you the roller coaster of self discovery into the inner most thoughts of this bearded crooner. Life is a brilliant debut and a beacon of light for those working a 9-5 and dreaming of being an artist. Having a Q&A with the man himself I got to ask about the personal stories as well as him giving us a little advice on following a dream which I found quite inspiring.
Alex: Hey there Mike, thanks for taking the time to look over these.
Mike: Hey! No worries at all.
A: Gambling Man has got a great reception from everyone, what’s it been like for you seeing everyone talking about your music?
M: Surreal for sure! But honestly just so cool. Seeing my face on websites I read regularly is strange! I hope I never get used to it. I honestly didn’t expect such a broadly positive reception on everything. I’m very happy.
A: How did you go about revealing to your friends, family and colleagues that you had been writing music?
M: For the most part I just posted a song on facebook, actually. But I did grab my guitar and play a song for a friend of mine, who then handed me a guitar a few days later in front of a group of our friends and convinced me to play it again.
A: What were their first reactions to hearing your tracks?
M: I think the word ‘surprised’ covers it pretty generally, haha! Maybe a little impressed even? Broadly just really positive and supportive. Way more supportive than I thought. I think for most people I know they can see that this is me chasing my lifelong dreams, and a lot of people have been happy for me for that.
A: Coming out of 10 years working as a web-developer was it nerve wrecking to move into music?
M: Absolutely, it was and still is! It’s a huge shift into an industry that I have no background in. Changing careers is stressful at the best of times, but with this the risk/benefit analysis points staunchly toward risk! I’m honestly not much of a risk taker, so it’s completely uncharacteristic of me, but it’s something I’ve wanted my whole life, and I’m not prepared to die knowing that I hadn’t tried as hard as I could to achieve my dreams. You only get one shot at life.
A: Has working in an office for 10 years taught you any lessons about yourself?
M: It’s taught me that I’m not really built for working in an office! I’ve never been cut out to deal with things like KPIs and office processes. I need a lot of freedom and variety to remain stimulated. I think that I can thank that time spent in an office for teaching me everything about myself. It’s really helped me crystallise my life goals. I spent so much time thinking and dreaming, now it’s time to do the doing.
A: You started off writing in your bedroom without anyone knowing, did it all start as just a hobby or did you know from the start that music was what you wanted to be doing?
M: I’ve dreamed of being a musician since my early teens. I first heard Blink 182’s ‘Dude Ranch’ when I was 12 years old, and everything changed. I spent the next couple of years learning how to play the guitar terribly, and then hitting punk rock gigs at every opportunity. I just never had many friends who shared that dream. So I let it slide. I’d never even considered the solo artist route because all I knew was bands. Millencolin, NOFX, Lagwagon, Strung Out, Pennywise, these guys were all I listened to for a while, so I was blind to the opportunities. I picked up songwriting as a hobby only a couple of years ago. I got an acoustic guitar for the first time having always only played power chords on a shitty electric, and started playing songs. I didn’t want to learn the tabs to other songs, so I just started making up my own versions of a few songs I liked, using the chords I knew. When I’d nailed a few chord progressions I felt like I could probably write my own lyrics and it started there. I honestly just haven’t put the guitar down since I picked it up again in 2013. Since then I’ve played at music festivals, recorded an EP, made music videos… Talking about it now it all feels really surreal actually.
A: Tracks on your LIFE EP seem to be a bit of an autobiography of your years. Was that the feel you were going for? Do you always write about you?
M: I almost always write in the first person, but it’s not always about myself. I’m really critical of my songs and I’m quick to trash things that sound contrived and aren’t sincere, or don’t really mean anything to me. The most personal stuff usually gets through because it’s the only stuff that I feel is authentic. At the moment, if I’m talking about a situation in any of my songs, it’s pretty much a guarantee that it was an experience I had at some point.
I wouldn’t say that was the feel that I was going for, but I became aware of it pretty quickly after I put the tracks side by side. The name came pretty naturally.
A: Daisy seems to lead you in one direction and then you turn it around like nah not really. Who is Daisy and what are your actual feelings about her?
M: Daisy is a fantasy, she doesn’t exist. The song is about longing for the perfect person, but that’s just fantasy. At the same time it’s about being hung up on the idea of that fantasy, and wanting it so badly, but never being able to have it. It’s named for Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby – The ultimate literary embodiment of being in love with the idea of someone instead of the person themselves. It’s a beautifully tragic thing.
A: Gambling Man seems to be a very personal and open song. It’s probably my favourite off the EP tying with Daisy perhaps. The video is very cool, and looks like things got kinda messy. How did the shoot go down?
M: Thanks, yeah that song is really rooted in self-deprecation, feeling like a fake. Those elements really made it into the video concept too. It was messy but it also tells a story of having expectation heaped upon you but trying to break free and be yourself. The shoot itself was done in a day, but we rehearsed for weeks in advance. I got covered in colourful goop more times than I care to remember! It was a really iterative process though, eah time we rehearsed it we added new elements or changed something. What you see in the video is the product of countless trial and error!
A: When I’m listening to the EP I keep imagining tracks as appearing in a movie like Juno for some reason. If the LIFE EP was the soundtrack to a movie what kind of movie would it be?
M: That’s a hard one. I can’t really imagine my songs in a movie, mostly because the content is so personal. Maybe it would be an autobiography, haha! What a shitty movie that would be. I wouldn’t watch it.
A: You’ll be heading off on the LIFE EP tour soon, are you pumped to get on the road?
M: Yeah, absolutely. I start off in Adelaide which is my hometown and it will only be my second time playing there, and my first headline show. Really excited to get out there in front of old friends and family and show them what I’ve been doing with myself for the last little while.
Then off to Sydney which is always fun, I’ve played a few shows there and I’m really starting to like it. Melbourne will be fun too, I’m playing in one of my favourite venues! Not to mention the incredible support acts that I’ve somehow convinced to join me. Ali Barter, Maggie Rutjens, Ed Wells, Mia Wray, Delia Obst and Jake Howden. I genuinely can’t wait to see all of their sets.
A: What can we expect from a show? Is it going to be a solo acoustic show or will you have a band?
M: Solo show this time around. I’ve been rehearsing with a band the last few weeks, but they won’t be joining me this time around, so I’ll be running it solo, just me and a guitar. Hopefully we can call it intimate!
A: Can’t wait to see you live man hopefully get the chance to in SYDNEY at OAF. Have a great day man. Thanks.
M: Thanks so much, hope to see you there!