Interview: Mighty Oaks
- Don't choose the most difficult song to sing as a single
That the multinational band even met can't be described as anything but a long line of fortunate event. Vocalist Ian Hooper explains that he moved to Hamburg after college, and became good friends with bassist Craig Saunders during times when they were both singer/songwriters. A couple of months later they met multi-instrumentalist Claudio Donzelli at a small acoustic festival where they all played, and then kept in touch afterwards with music as their common ground. Despite this, music wasn't actually their line of work at the time; Claudio was working on a doctorate as a telecommunication engineer, Ian was studying international politics, German literature and language, and Craig was working in Hamburg. Ian explain that when they realised music was what they wanted to go for, they all moved to Berlin and slowly became a band: -Music was always in our ives. It wasn't anything that provided any kind of income or something we took seriously, it was just for fun.
The boys say that the dreams were obviously there, but were more about being able to quit their day jobs and be full time musicians rather than becoming rock stars - something they've now been able to do. With a distinct folk sounding music, it's vocalist Ian - with his lumberjack shirt and full beard - which has the greatest impact on the style, and he's also the one behind the lyrics and the basic structure of the songs: - I grew up in Seattle, Washington, where there's a lot of folk music. My mother's from Dublin and my Dad plays in an Irish band, so we always listened to folk music at home, and that's the natural way for me to write songs. The other boys have different sources of inspiration, which they feel gives the music more dimensions and makes it interesting to a wider audience. Claudio mentions Radiohead and Coldplay as bands he keeps returning to, as well as American indie bands like Death Cab For Cutie. The boys also have a few shared favourites, like Led Zeppelin and Local Natives. Craig explains that with a lot of hours on the road, they have plenty of time to check out playlists and new music.
Being a band in a genre as popular as folk rock is at the moment. the boys feel it's natural that they'll be compared to other bands who are doing well right now. Craig feels it's necessary and important for music journalists to compare them to other bands, to have a point of reference when describing the music. Ian describes in a fascinated fashion hpw this is particularly important in Germany, where folk music isn't as known as in the US, the UK and the Nordic countries: - None of the interviews we've done up here have focused on who we sounds like, and that's extremely refreshing! - Very pleasant, Craig confirms smiling, as Ian continues: - It's like you don't have this need to compare us to anyone!
When asked if this might be down to us having our own kinds of folk music - which despite being somewhat different from country to country - still has many similarities, Claudio nods eagerly: - The fascinating thing with folkmusic is that it grew from every single country even though there was no contact between the different places. And still the same instruments and styles of music show up several places... the music is the same even though the countries were isolated. It comes straight from the people.
Since the majority of the bands lyrics are auto biographical, Ian feels it's interesting to see how the songs are received and perceived by audiences who tend to put their own spin on the meanings and fit them to their own lives: - All the songs are loosely based on my life, but they're written in a ways which lets the audience identify with them. The songs are about basic human emotions; friendship, love and family, and the need to explore the world and to see more and be more. He smiles and tells us that they often get feedback on the songs helping people through hard and trying times: - It's great, because that's what you're hoping for when you make music, that it will become something bigger than what you meant initially.
Mighty Oaks' debut album, "Howl", was released in February, and has already done very well in several countries. It went to the top 10 on the charts in Germany and Switzerland, and now the rest of the Europe is about to find out about the three boys and their music. The guys were pleasantly surprise at the reception on their Oslo showcase: - People were singing along, Ian says with big surprised eyes; - and wanted to have their pictures taken with us afterwards!
Despite being surprised, the boys are very used to a atypical crowd of people in the audience at their gigs, ranging from "screaming teenage girls to frustrated middle aged men". Communication with the crowd is essential for the band, and Ian in particular likes feeling connected to the audience since his songs are often very personal.
The band's big hit singel Brother has done - and keeps doing - well on radio all over Europe, but the boys soon realised that it was by far the most difficult song they could have chosen as a single, considering Ian's voice: - it's THE most difficult song for me to sing, so we were being a bit stupid there. That's something we've learnt now; "Don't choose the most difficult song to sing as a single". He laughs: - It's very high and at the same time very powerful, and it's hard because I need to push my voice to be able to sing it. He adds that he keeps getting people telling him to be careful with his voice, but doesn't quite understand why: - it's just how my voice sounds!
When Musikknyheter asks how they cope with having a difficult single to sing when visiting morning shows on radio and TV, the boys crack up laughing: - EXACTLY!! Soundchecks at 4:30 am, recording at 8:30.. Bad strategy!
(Published April '14)
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