Keep the jam in the cupboard, please. We don't need it onstage.
I've never been a fan of the jam band. Getting up there and riffing for 10 minutes and ruining my flawless flirting skills with loud, incessant noise is a quick way to make me angry. But there is one band that's allowed to play as loud and as long as they want – the Mike Leslie Band.
Mike McDonnell, Mike Parrott and Bryan Reilly make up the band. The local boys have created an effortlessly cool band whose sound harkens back to when songwriters were blunt and emotions were raw. Think Elliott Smith with B.B. King on guitars.
The trio is fresh off their DOUG FM (RIP) Battle of the Bands win and looking to make their mark on the Detroit rock scene. Their long-awaited debut album is set drop at their album release party at the Magic Bag on 1/17. With excellent pop rock songs that give you a glimpse into their soul, the Mike Leslie Band is worth checking out.
RDW spoke with the enigmatic frontman about making music and what it's like to open up in front of fans. Read on:
How amped are you for the record release party?
I'm stoked. It's going to be the biggest night of my life. Last year's EP release was the biggest night of my life and now we're headlining the Bag, so I'm super excited.
I know that Elliott Smith is a major writing influence for you and I can hear your earnest heart on the debut.
I could talk about Elliott for hours. He was a big inspiration for me to start up this project. As far as songwriting goes, he wasn't afraid to say exactly what he wanted to say. There are so many rules to write a pop song for radio, so I'm working on breaking into that world.
Is there a lesson you've learned about songwriting over the years?
I've learned that you can't hold back. I want to have a conversation with listeners and tell them how I feel. This album is an expression of feeling. It's a dark record. Some of the songs are fun and poppy, but the lyrics are really troubled. It's something that everybody goes through.
Did songwriting become a primary way of dealing with things?
A lot of lyrics I write are about experiences that I've had, but lately I've been finding out that they're coming true. It's scary. It was like I had a feeling this song was going to happen, and it just did. It's like interpreting a dream.
You're an artist with the guitar. Is it a tool of expression for you?
People tell me that a lot. Sometime I have trouble talking to people, but I can express exactly what I'm going through with my guitar. Every jam and solo is different every time. I try to tell a story with the guitar. I'm not just going through scales and trying to show off.
You have a relatable quality to the band, an Everyman sort of appeal, but you're real rock and rollers.
Rock and roll is a state of mind, and it's what we do for a living. I don't think we overdress or underdress, try too hard or not hard enough. We're just very passionate and driven about what we do.
It sounds like you're pouring every ounce of yourself into the band.
It's burning inside me. I'm taking the biggest risk of my life. I'm dropping everything and sacrificing everything to do this. I might not make money. It might not work out like everybody wants it to, but you do it because you don't want to do anything else. | RDW
Mike Leslie Band • 1/17, 8 p.m. • Magic Bag • 22920 Woodward, Ferndale • ticketweb.com • $10