Mike Waters is another one of those BIGSOUND artists who I’ve heard rumblings of before and seen his music filter through my inbox. Once I sat down with the man on the final afternoon of BIGSOUND, I was, however, blown away from his storytelling ability. The way Mike creates his songs is so pure and comes from such a sincere motive from the Adelaide singer-songwriter. Mike’s story of how he fell into the world of music is a truly compelling tale.
Your songs have such a personal feel to them. Is it tough to put yourself out there in such a public medium?
Mike: It was at first; it was something that I struggled with. The first song I ever wrote and released, which is on my EP, called, ‘Daisy’ was something I didn’t want people to hear. I didn’t want the people on my Facebook to know that I wrote music and was singing. I was embarrassed about it. I know now that I shouldn’t have been but it took me a really long time to get over that. To come from not having any association with music to being a musician, it was a really strange transition. Once I got over that and once people started to catch on, actually putting stuff out there got a whole lot easier.
When it comes to song writing, which is the part I enjoy the most, I only like the stuff that is actually personal and does mean something to me. I’m a lot happier to put this kind of stuff out there than I would if I was writing songs about bitches and hoes (laughs). I don’t try and write to a particular genre or I, thankfully, don’t restrict myself. I just write whatever feels good.
So you’re not one to see boundaries when you’re song writing?
Mike: Yeah, I guess so. I suppose it comes down to taste from all the influences I’ve had over time. I see things I wouldn’t do and places I wouldn’t go but mostly because I don’t want to go there. I don’t go in with a specific mindset of wanting to create. When I first started writing music, I tried to write the stuff I was listening to and it felt really awful and contrived and insincere. It’s just about being honest with both the music and lyrics.
What does home mean to you?
Mike: To me, home means my sense of childhood. I grew up in Adelaide and I define my life very differently from when I was 15 or 16 years old. At that time my mum passed away so everything changed for me. I have the memories in life that have happened since then, and then I have my life before that. In that before life, I was very naïve and very childish. I can’t really relate to that now because I was so young and didn’t know anything about the world. Although I have very fond memories of being young and of the feeling of being safe and comfortable while at home with your family. At the moment, I live away from my family in Melbourne.
My song, ‘Feels Like Home’ really speaks to that. The essence behind it is that I found this real connection with music in a live setting. Just being there and feeling that gives me this sense of nostalgia that I can tie into my childhood.
‘Feels Like Home’ was written on your way home from Splendour in the Grass 2013, correct?
Mike: That’s right! It was there that I had been pretty stressed out from working hard and I was worried that I wasn’t going to write any more songs that meant anything to me. There’s always this worry, as a song writer, that you’re going to be maxed out on what you’re capable of. I might write something and feel like it’s rehashing something I wrote previously but I was at this point where I had a handful of songs and thought, “What if that’s it? What if that’s the extent of my song writing ability?” I got lost in that mentality for a couple of weeks before heading off to Splendour in the Grass. That whole three day camping, getting dirty, seeing all those bands in a live setting and watching just how the artist and crowd interact with each other was a really eye opening experience. I had been to Big Day Out’s and other single day festivals, especially when I was younger, but that was my first camping festival. Yet, in retrospect, it took me three days to reconnect with that sense of home that I had as a kid.
Was it tough to document that experience?
Mike: Well I had parts of that song beforehand but that’s where it all came together. One of the things I like about that song is how differently is came together with all my other songs. Previously, I had written songs that I smashed out in a single day and really love it. ‘Feels Like Home’, though, I had struck on the melody and chorus for a while but couldn’t make anything of it. When I got back from the festival, I realised what I was trying to convey in that melody.
Mike Waters’ debut EP, “LIFE” is out now.