We collect stories throughout our lifetime, adding them to our own narrative and reworking them into our own frame of reference. One of the most celebrated roles in all societies and throughout various time periods has been that of the storyteller. Mike Edel is a musician and storyteller, not just in the obvious sense with his lyrics, but the music itself plays out a tale for listeners. On April 12 at the Buzz Café, Edel will be taking the stage and sharing life as he sees it through his rootsy rock-country sound. Also upcoming is the release of his new album, India, Seattle, set to be available by April 14, 2015.
India, Seattle is Edel’s sophomore LP, and when you compare it to his previous album, The Last Of Our Mountains, it’s evident that Edel’s career isn’t going to deliver the same sound over and over again. His sound has flushed out, the songs feel purposeful, and the instrumentation has grown considerably. The album is satiated with provocative percussion, an abundance of strings, and an impeccable level of restraint. With his album set to drop and a performance coming up in Nanaimo it was exciting to dig deeper into the the man behind the stories.
Navigator: Whenever I read stories about musicians in various publications I always wonder whether or not the journalist is using the same music genre descriptions as the artist themselves would use. How would you describe your music to someone who is reading about you for the first time?
Mike: I was at the bank cashing a big cheque yesterday and the lady said, “Oh my, is this from your employer?” and I responded with, “Well, you could say that. It’s actually for drugs,” which is a joke of course, because I’m a good prairie boy from Alberta. But then I said I’m a musician, and she said, “What kind of music?” So to the 62-year-old bank teller I said, “It’s kind of like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, but a little more upbeat at times.
What’s the story behind your album title, India, Seattle?
It’s my life wrapped up in two words. I think words and places always have specific connotations to every individual person. For me, it’s specific—specific to places and snapshots in my mind, and it’s specific to a person. It’s loving someone and losing someone and it’s about a breakup. India, Seattle is a monument for a good four-year chunk of my life, and I think those two words are both specific and universal.
You introduce this album as personal and specific. Could you tell me more about this? Why was it important to you to open this project up to an audience knowing this?
These songs are mostly for myself, but if I didn’t think people could get anything from them, I wouldn’t have released it. At one point I nearly threw the harddrive that had this record on it into the ocean. I’m not even joking—there’s a lot of dramatic internal stuff wrapped up in this record.
How do you think you’ve grown as an artist since your last album, The Last Of Our Mountains?
It’s way better. Everything is. I think you mature as an artist and then hopefully you don’t get irrelevant after you are mature.
When I listen to the albums back-to-back I hear a significant growth in confidence. Your delivery is more sure; do you think you’ve become more confident in who you are as an artist and what you have to say?
I just think I know what I am saying. When you play more, and music or writing is more a part of you, you don’t really care as much, or care what people think, and I think that makes you more confident.
The production on India, Seattle is honey-thick and lush. What was your experience working with Colin Stewart and Jason Cook like? Were you as involved production-wise as you were on your last album?
I feel like I produced most of this record. I’m pretty hands-on with everything. Colin is like your supportive uncle who doubles as a grizzly bear, and Jason Cook works like he’s at NASA, engineering the next challenger mission.
The song “More Than Summer” has such exuberant music with propelling percussion and hand claps, yet the lyrics talk about an apprehension for summer coming to an end. Could you tell us about this juxtaposition of themes?
It’s about being 21 years old. I think most 21-year-olds are really stoked on life and have lots of energy, but are also scared shitless. For me, the story of this song spans two summers, and the upbeatness is because my memories of these moments are nostalgic. Nostalgia is often upbeat, I think. It’s called a pastoral myth in literature, where we perceive the past better than it actually was. That’s me.
I read in an interview with the Calgary Herald that the public came close to not getting to know the song “Julia.” What was the story there, and how has this changed you as an artist?
My first producer said, “You can’t say Calgary in the chorus—it’s awkward.” Then I forgot about the song and didn’t put it on that record, but one of my good friends said, “What about that ‘Julia’ song? It has a great chorus.” And since then Bon Iver released a song called “Calgary,” and Death Cab For Cutie talks about Calgary in one of their songs. That one will be a bit anthemic for me I think because I am from there. It’s crazy how a song takes on a new life and has so much energy, even when it’s not new.
Some of the songs on India, Seattle sound like they were inspired by growing up in a small town in Alberta. How has your childhood impacted the artistic expression you share today?
A couple of them are. I’ve been trying to write the song “When The Good Goes Wrong” for about 10 years. It’s about my two best friends dying in a car accident when I was 18 and about the community of the town. It meant a lot to me to get that one out. “The Closer” is also a nod to the prairies and my sporty background. This is one of my favourite songs ever, and the best song I’ve ever written in the lyrical and story sense. I still love Alberta, and I miss it, except for a few things.
What parts of this album would you say are nods to your current Island roots? Has being based out of Victoria impacted the kind of music you make?
Yeah, “Thought About July,” “Blue Above The Green,” “St. Columbia” definitely, and “India, Seattle.” I’d say a bulk of this album has the Island as the background. “Blue Above The Green” is the most fun when thinking of the Island. It’s actually about the tressel in Goldstream and falling in love there.
You’re embarking on a pretty big national tour. What are your hopes along the way? What are the challenges you’re thinking about with such a jam-packed tour?
My hopes are to come back alive and get to meet lots of people and see how good humanity is. I really like people and I’d like to spend more time with them, and less time with technology. It’s what I love about music.
Have you played in Nanaimo before? Is there anything about visiting that you’re looking forward to?
I’ve played in Nanaimo a couple times before, but I’m looking forward to Nanaimo surprising me. I really would love for some of my assumptions to be proved wrong.
What do you think the future holds for you as an artist? What projects are you thinking about next?
I’d love to put aside lots of time to write again. It has been busy lately. I would also love to produce another record or two like I did last year. But pretty much I’m hoping to play lots and get lots of people to hear this record.
If you want to check out Edel’s show you can reserve a spot by going on his website and clicking on the Tour tab. Tickets will be $10 at the door, and the show is open to all ages. The show starts at 7 pm on April 12 at the Buzz Café.