Sharing Aloha with Mike Love
If you need a guitar player, call Mike Love. If you want a singer, call Mike Love. If you desire backup vocals, brass, woodwind, piano, didgeridoo, a beat box, or dreadlocks filled with Hawaiian salt-water air and aloha, call Mike Love. Are you looking for music with something to say that can release you from the chains of everyday life so you can experience a journey into space and time the way humanity was meant to? Listen to Mike Love.
“The reason why I make music is to heal myself and to heal others,” Mike said at the Island 98.5 VIP Music Hall 2013 in Honolulu.
His message to Hawaiian artists in the local reggae scene is, “Before you worry about things like making it or getting on the radio, or anything like that, you should worry about your music being honest and true. I think the only music that’s worth making, [you] should be true to yourself. Whatever messages you have within you, use the music to unlock it and open it up.”
“I think that music is a channel and a key tool for people that feel music; to release energy that they have. Whether it is negative or positive energy, music can be released. If it’s negative you should just get it out so you can get the positive music flowing and out to the people.”
Listen: Mike Love – “Let the Healing Begin”
Mike Love’s mother taught at a Montessori school, known for its emphasis on independence and freedom when focusing on student development. With mixed age classrooms, constructivist teaching styles, and a focus on learning concepts through uninterrupted teaching blocks, students are given the opportunity to build their own talents through real life application. No wonder it is the environment that gave us one of the most creative musical minds in known memory.
Growing up in Hawai’i, Mike Love’s earliest memories involve music, “I always remember loving to sing, and everywhere I went just singing the songs that I love.”
He recollects his music teacher in preschool bringing various instruments for students to play sitting in a circle. With an expertise in steel pan music from Trinidad and Tobago, his elementary school teacher became a major inspiration.
“He was a big influence on me and we still keep in touch,” remembers Mike as he explained couple of tracks on his new album Love Will Find a Way, out on September 1, 2015, featuring his panning mentor.
Piano was Mike Love’s first instrument by which he became familiar with theory and the many technical aspects of music. “It’s a great instrument to learn theory on because you can do so much more,” Mike explained.
Moving his hands up an imaginary guitar neck and playing unseen piano keys, as if directing the flow of our interview into its very own opus, he continued, “With a guitar, your left hand and your right hand are combining to do one thing. The piano… you have five fingers on each hand, and you can play a baseline down here and a melody down here.”
Close your eyes while listening to his guitar solos and tell me if you cannot hear some piano-style melodies. “I took many [piano] lessons as a kid so I got my foundation on how to read music from that… but it’s fun to branch out.”
Listen: Mike Love – “Permanent Holiday”
Mike’s idea of branching out includes the bass guitar, trombone, didgeridoo, and, as a musician growing up in Hawai’i, the ukulele. His talent extends to his voice and he is known for creating vocal loops encompassing a combination of pitch, melody, and beat boxing. Deciding on a favorite instrument seemed fairly easy for the artist.
“Singing is definitely the best instrument, if you can even classify it as an instrument, because you don’t need anything. It’s more of who you are; I kind of think of singing as who I am, because I’m always singing. Even when you’re talking… you’re singing.”
Anyone who has seen his performance probably gathered his guitar has become a figurative part of who he is. “I never go a day without picking up my guitar. Even if I don’t have a gig, I gotta pick it up and play. It’s been that way since I started.”
Mike Love can be seen all over O’ahu on a weekly basis while at home on the island. Since incorporating a full band he has a weekly gig typically at Hawaiian Brian’s in Honolulu in addition to a rehearsal to fine tune their set. Sam Ites on percussion plays a key role and brings a different dynamic to percussion and backup vocals. The accompanying keyboard, bass, and horn section add countless tools to his tuneful arsenal.
“Doing the looping thing and playing by myself is fun. I love doing it and it’ll always have a place. It’s always better when you’re playing with other people on stage. Its cool, I’ve built it up from starting with myself so I can add a band and still do the looping stuff and be creative with it that way.”
Listen: Mike Love – “Moving On”
No Matter The Venue or Crowd Size
This humble writer has been fortunate to see Mike Love in different elements from a small bar in Waikiki, to performing with Paula Fuga at the Honolulu Museum of Art. I witnessed him on stage with Kimie Miner and Tubby Love at Jazzbones for the Spirit Soul and Songs Tour in Tacoma, Washington and packing The Bowl at California Roots 2015. His cries of freedom and peace must have reached the edges of the Monterey County Fairgrounds because people flocked into The Bowl entranced by the kaleidoscope of vibrations resonating in the atmosphere.
He has fans that will come from far and wide after months of anticipation. His supportive fans in Hawai’i will either see them one hundred times a year or possibly pass up a show because they can see him the next night. The sentient performer will bring listeners on a passionate musical journey no matter the venue or crowd size.
“You can have the same epic experience playing for five people as you can for five thousand. Something like [California Roots] is a bit special because we’ve been planning out our set and we’re able to do more than we usually do, so it’s special. I think that energy translates when people are just excited and really feeling it.”
His wife was watching the California Roots live stream from Hawai’i with what could have only been a profound feeling of aloha. I pictured his keiki (children) gazing at the screen patiently waiting for dad to come home and serenade them with creative and pleasant lullabies.
“For them it’s just like everyday life, they’re used to us being out at the store and someone wanting to take a picture with me. I think they’re totally desensitized by it. To the kids that’s just another show, they see me play all the time.”
I can only picture a house full of hundreds of musical instruments strewn across the floor and overflowing the top of the toy box. Mike Love assures me they have plenty of toys too. His kids are big fans of music and love to sing with him but, as a parent, it is difficult to sit down and teach them music when they follow along for five minutes and instantly ready for something else.
Listen: Mike Love – “No Regrets”
Mike Love Will Find A Way
As Mike Love continues to gain momentum with his honest approach, his music continues to heel those of us who desire something new. His musical ability improves exponentially with each performance likely due to his acute ability to adapt to his atmosphere.
“Things are born out of necessity; I started playing gigs by myself and needed to fill it up… and you’re really horrible at it. But you have a vision. If you have a vision of what you want it to be and you just keep working at it, you get there. By that point you have a whole other vision.”
We will keep you updated on the September 1, 2015 release of Love Will Find a Way and I promise you will listen to his music and put it on repeat in order to hear something new in each song. I believe that’s the definition of timeless.
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Article by: Blake Taylor
Photo by: David Norris
Listen: Mike Love – “Penniless”