Busking in the Streets: Inside Studio A with Passenger
Mike Rosenberg, also known by his stage name Passenger, met with Maggie and I in Studio A last Monday. While I listened in on his interview, this Brighton, England native poured out the story behind his new album All the Little Lights. Rosenberg was notably one of my first personal encounters with a British artist, let alone a folksy one who "busks."
So I heard that though you were born in UK, you have "joint custody" between the UK and Australia. Can you explain how that happened?
Yea, so I would go out to busk in the streets, in England. (Busking, a term coined by the Brits, is when a performer entertains by singing, dancing, or reading aloud on the streets or in a public place.)
But it’s starts to get pretty chilly in the summer there—so cold that my fingers would hurt. So I tried busking in Australia, and the people there loved it. I ended up recording the album there.— I think that there’s something honest about a guy playing in the street versus singing on American Idol.
But Passenger wasn’t always just you.
Yea, yea, Passenger was originally a band, but 4-5 years back, being a band stopped working. I was in a bad place. I had just broken up with my girl and had gotten kicked out. But being an independent artist has opened great and fun ways to get my music out, especially with the busking and playing venues. They fund my traveling, my records, venues, and food— all that good stuff.
So who influenced your music? Some Neil Young?
My Dad—he’d play Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, 60’s/70’s artists around the clock. It’s all I heard while I grew up, and it’s kind of all I listen to now. (chuckles)
Yes, Passenger’s sound draws from the musical tastes and influences of his childhood, but it doesn’t skimp holding to its own grass roots feel with some sweet, folksy acoustics.
During his set, Rosenberg played three fresh tracks from his new album All the Little Lights— "All the Little Lights," "Let Her Go," and "Traveling Alone." Each song sounded like a natural extension of his heart’s thoughts. As he gently and quietly finger- plucked on his acoustic, I felt like I was surrounded by rain. Each note individually washing over my ears and eyes. His lyrics painted bittersweet and, many times, humorous stories but then in a breath were able to melt into heart break.
Right before Rosenberg played his final song, he decided to describe the stories behind "Traveling Alone."
The song is actually two separate conversations that Rosenberg had during his travels. While in Denmark, Copenhagen, an Aussie man in his early seventies shuffled towards Rosenberg, who was busking at the time, in the street. The gentleman’s hands were tucked tightly into his pockets looking to strike-up some small talk.
The man started talking about his travels. This was the first time that he had ever left Australia. He and his wife had been planning and carefully saving up for their first trip out together. They purchased their tickets and were finally ready to go. But then she passed away before they could leave together.— "But we’d made a plan to get out and see the world," the man said, "so here I am."
Shortly after, Rosenberg met a woman in Switzerland. He was sitting outside of his hotel, nestled on a patio chair. The woman came out, tears streaming down her face. She had just been dumped after a 15 year relationship. She poured out her story to Rosenberg. She felt so alone and left with a broken heart.
"Their stories got to me," Rosenberg added, "You know, they’re just regular, ordinary, people but with stories that break your heart. So this song ‘Traveling Alone’ is simple and reflective about the little conversations that you have with people while traveling alone."
The world comes out in a different light when you think you’re traveling alone. Passenger’s voice on this album alone can take you there.
Be sure to check out Passenger and listen to his new album All the Little Lights for free on http://passengermusic.com/music/.