Behind the Music – Mike Brookfield
Mike Brookfield, Liverpool-born, Dublin-based blues guitarist and songwriter plays Dublin’s The Wild Duck on October 23. We asked him the BIG questions. . .
Mike released his last album Built to last in July, the fifth disc of a superb player with a true virtuoso flair, including that of 2017 Brookfieldwhich saw Mike sing lyrics written by Horslips drummer Eamon Carr.
Tell us three things about yourself. . .
After 38 years of playing, five solo albums and endless musical adventures, I still love the guitar more than ever. There is so much to explore in music and guitar that it still excites me every day.
I discovered that I was dyslexic a few years ago. I was so relieved because I didn’t understand why I had this crippling fear of reading out loud or why it took me so long to make sense of the things I was reading. So now I don’t think about it anymore and I accept it. It didn’t affect my interest in words and lyric writing, but I think becoming a musician was a convenient way to avoid real-world reading tasks.
The most important thing happening right now is our move into the country. I was in Portmarnock for 18 years but have just moved to the Lusk area. I have a studio I can work in and it’s a great place to cycle, I ride for fun now but have enjoyed many years of competitive cycling, racing Ras Tailteann etc.
How would you describe your music?
I guess it’s singer-songwriter rock n roll with guitar solos! I have one foot in the old school style of Freddie King and the other in writing contemporary rock songs from guys like Springsteen, but I always try to go my own way. I consider myself a blues guitarist but open to all music and I listen to everything. I often have ambient intros to songs on my records that juxtapose the rock guitar oriented tracks it’s easy to hear Brian Eno or soundtrack music influences around Hendrix and Clapton.
What are your musical inspirations?
Apart from the obvious Rory, Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, my biggest heroes are local players or teachers who have directly influenced or guided me. I studied jazz with the great Charlie Banacos for nine years, big band arranging with Jerry Gates from Berklee College, and did an MA at Trinity just a few years ago. These teachers helped me think artistically and gave me the confidence to write and perform what I thought was important to me. It’s easy to put up barriers and reasons not to create. You have to encourage people around you to say “do it anyway” because they understand your needs as a musician.
What was the first concert you went to?
If we skip comedian Ken Dodd at the Southport Theater it was ZZ Top Stafford Bingley Hall around 87. I had a newspaper round and saw concerts advertised in a travel agent window every morning it cost around £18 coach transfer and ticket. I went with my dad, and he had to lift me up for most of the show because the stage was obscured by biker jackets and big hair. Their set was a car dashboard and they had lasers, all very hip and hi-tech for a small Texas blues band.
What is the first record you bought?
Buying records is like therapy for me, something about flipping through vinyl is so relaxing that I get away from it all for a while. Some people go to pubs or restaurants, I like them too, but I still prefer to be in a record store. There’s even a track on the new album called East Village Vinyl Queen. When I started buying records, I took what was fashionable at the time, guided by my older brother, like Eurythmics or Simple Minds, but I wasn’t very interested in it. It was August by Eric Clapton bought at the supermarket during a weekly shop with my parents who fired me up, the guitar playing was so expressive. I then worked in a second-hand record store and we were doing record fairs in the North West of England. Traders were buying each other before the doors opened to the public and I was blowing my paycheck on Rory Gallagher records, which at the time were really hard to come by. I got acquainted with a tremendous amount of music during that time, and it still resonates with me now.
What’s your favorite song right now?
There are a lot of great new artists with great songs, but I still listen to a lot of old ones. I listened to the title song of fire water Free album again. Paul Rogers’ voice is phenomenal and of course Paul Kossoff is just perfect alongside him. The production is really sparse so you can hear all the parts clearly, I can’t imagine anyone producing like that today. It takes so much discipline to leave so much space and the arrangements live and breathe, never rushed. The tempo and groove on the track heavy load, you can really imagine the character and the weight on his shoulders, slowly progressing down the road. The blues influence on bands like Free and Led Zeppelin is very well balanced with adventurous songwriting that really inspires me. If I had to choose a modern recording it would be something from Clapton sideman Doyle Bramhall II, he has it all, great production, vocals, guitar and songs.
Favorite lyric of all time?
I couldn’t choose but right now I love strawberry wine by Ryan Adams, I love this verse: “Can you still have some famous last words, If you’re someone nobody knows, I don’t know, Someone’s gonna ask Clair, She’s been dead twenty years old, look at her hair, Strawberry blonde with curls, She gets her hair done and then she chats, With the young waitresses at the bar, The old Irish rose, Drinking strawberry wine, Until it comes out her nose .
If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Ouch! It’s hard, anything Living at the Fillmore by Derek and the Dominos. They’re my favorite band, they really brought out the best in Clapton with Bobby Whitlock on backing vocals and the best rhythm section you could have had at the time for this music with Carl Radle and Jim Gordon.
Where can people find your music/more information?