If you scratch below the surface of catchy pop melodies, Mike Mains & The Branches bares its soul with deeply personal lyrics that resonate with the listener. The band brings its high energy and heartfelt performances to the Fairfield Theatre Company on March 27. Mike Mains spoke with Andrea Valluzzo about the show.
Andrea Valluzzo: What can the audience expect?
Mike Mains: Energy and we are putting more thought and effort into our production, lighting and our set that we have ever done in the past. And I’m going to be doing a lot more storytelling throughout the set to provide context for the new album, I’m really wanting the concert to be something that when people leave they feel we all went somewhere really beautiful together.
AV: Your last record, “Calm Down, Everything Is Fine,” you did through crowdfunding. What were the best and hardest parts of that?
MM: For us, it was a really exciting and nerve-wracking process. We raised upwards of $40,000 in a matter of 30 to 40 days. To see that kind of support come from our fans was affirming and also surprising because we are not a really big band. To raise that amount of capital was extremely encouraging, and let us know that while we are not Coldplay, we definitely have a core fan base that connects with what we are doing.
AV: How do you connect with the audience?
MM: Why do people come to shows? I’m convinced it’s because it makes (people) feel a little bit less alone and adds meaning to sometimes difficult lives. So I go into every venue with this idea that I’m playing for blood. I don’t know whose marriage is in shambles in that room, I don’t know who is thinking about committing suicide, I don’t know whose mother just died. I’m there for an hour of their time and it’s up to me to say something they can apply to their lives in a beautiful way and I want to make it count.
AV: Your new album coming out in April is very personal. Was it cathartic?
MM: It was! It sounds cliche but it’s the God’s honest truth, it feels like people eavesdropping on sessions that I had with my therapist. It was mostly just going through a really painful season in my marriage and my personal life. My therapist said, ‘Why don’t you go the studio and write more songs and write about what you are going through.’ I know it’s silly that a guy who makes a living writing songs, would never think to write about something like that but it just clicked a light bulb on. It was really therapeutic and helpful.
AV: The songs are catchy but the lyrics are quite deep.
MM: Something that Tom Waits says is ‘I love beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.’ The subject matter weighs a couple thousand pounds but I wanted it feel as light as a feather. I also feel like you are able to sneak a really difficult subject matter into someone’s iPhone or car if it’s wrapped in something extremely catchy. To me that’s fun to do because when you are first listening to a song you just think, ‘Oh, this is really melodic and fun and catchy’ but then once you start listening to it, and peeling under the layers, you realize there is a lot more going on.
AV: What’s your favorite song to perform?
MM: From all the years and all the albums, it’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” I’m always writing in some way, shape or form about brokenness and mental health and that song does really well with people.
AV: What do you enjoy most about being a musician?
MM: I’m making money doing what I’d dreamt of doing as a kid. It’s extremely hard work but I often have moments throughout the week where I am at home writing in my studio, thinking from the time that I woke up in the morning to the time I went to bed, I did what I wanted to do with my day. It’s extremely humbling and something I don’t take for granted. It makes me want to write songs that resonate with our fans.
AV: If you were not making music, what do you think you would you be doing?
MM: I would probably be acting.
AV: Who have you most been influenced by musically?
MM: Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and The Cranberries will be forever be ghosts in the machine. More recently, Sharon Van Etten is a huge inspiration. I also channelled a lot of Arcade Fire and Neil Young for the new album.