January 31, 2011

Interview with Passenger (Mike Rosenberg) by Eva Rinaldi

Mike Rosenburg

Passenger is a classic journeyman musician, cut from the same mould as Van Morrison, Neil Young and John Prine. His latest critically acclaimed album 'Flight Of The Crow' which features collaborations with Josh Pyke, Boy and Bear and many others was self funded entirely through money earned busking across Australia & the UK. He returns to the road off the back of a sold out headline tour to again take his audience on a musical journey from the humorous to the heartbreaking.

Being a journeyman musician, the name 'Passenger' suits Mike perfectly. “Watching the world go by, song writing, story writing set about a series of collaborations with musical friends along the way; after the band broke up I just kept the name,” he explains.

Mike has performed in quite a variety of venues. I wanted to know the difference between busking on the streets and performing to an appreciative audience of 20,000 people. He was happy to oblige. “Some buskers perform all day, some are totally unique in their performance, it’s a different mindset busy presenting their show living a life of wonder outside the office cube and down a carefree highway,” he starts. “It’s great to actually treat to feed each other, it’s so amazing to perform in front of a live audience that have paid to watch you; sometimes I would get nervous not knowing how I would come across to people and trying to tap straight into the crowd is a great feeling.”

The most difficult part about being in an industry of feeling, emotions and art, it is quite an effort to balance the two aspects of feel and finance. So how does Mike aka Passenger measure success? “Selling over a hundred CDs in a bag was a great feeling, it’s not about selling it for the money but the buzz you get when strangers are listening to your CD in their car. It is a wonderful and extraordinary feeling,” he says.

Worst days for the singer? “In the worst day of busking sometimes cops move you along and there are so many things you can and can’t do it all depends in different towns with the different laws it all varies."

Passenger’s new album “Flight of the Crow” is currently making the rounds. The story behind the name is as unique as the sound on the album. Mike explains: “Well one my songs is called Flight of the Crow. He’s caught in a net depressed and sad and has a lot of stuff to let go.”

One or two of Passenger’s songs reminded me a bit of Simon and Garfunkel. I wonder if he's heard that before.I ask anyways. “I have, it’s a massive compliment, I’ve heard that before. It’s incredible.” He adds that his “influences have also been Neil Young and Bob Dillon- anything from the 1960s.”

Speaking about the media, Passenger is one of those singers who steer clear of what people think about his work. “I try not to read my reviews. Everyone will always have a different perspective of you and you won’t always please everyone. However it’s great to get recognition.” He doesn’t fail to mention Rolling Stone magazine where his music was rated a 4 on 5.

Passenger’s collaboration with Boy & Bear has led to the IMB Building Society commercial. As Mike explains, he “met them as mutual friends, at a gig on board, a lot of fun doing a track with them, one thing led to another.” Apart from this combined effort, Mike is also looking forward to touring with 'Old Man River'. “Met a month ago at the same booking agent, a great and talented guy, we just got along,” he explains.

Passenger’s song 'What Your Thinking?’ has beautiful lyrics that mention “Just a photograph in a draw” and “the ghosts we can't forget”. Explaining what’s behind the words, Mike explains: “Own experiences everyone can relate to some break up or an old photograph you find, past and hurt I try to write things that people can relate to everyday circumstances, things about life.” More interesting is the fact that his album was recorded in one day. Was that stressful?

“Extremely stressful, I went in as a drums and bass player, normally people take a week to do that, it looked like it wasn’t going to happen, overall it was a huge success,” he replies.

Other than travelling and music Passenger’s hobbies include “football, soccer, swimming, walking and reading.” In the course of the interview Mike also adds his fascination for history. “You wouldn’t probably think it’s very surprising or even very cool but I love to read history books, I love anything about History,” he says.

Passenger is all ready to perform in Sydney with shows lined up throughout the country in February. “Annandale is a great venue; I’m excited to go back it’s quite a rock and roll kind a feeling great audience,” Mike exclaims.

Without thinking too much about his professional and personal highlights of this year, Mike has smartly chosen to continue his journey and enjoy the ride. “I don’t think it’s something you can ever guess what will happen sometimes when you think it’s going to work out it doesn’t and vice versa quite often hard to predict,” he explains.

Passenger will be performing at The Between the Bays Festival that happens at Penbank, located at the end of Rickards Road in Moorooduc, Mornington Peninsula (Mel Ref 146 G8) approximately 1 hour south of Melbourne. There is 35 beautiful acres to spread out in and enjoy the day, nestled ‘Between the Bays’ and just five minutes from Mornington, which has many different accommodation options.