A moment with Mike Love at One Love Cali Reggae Fest
One Love Cali Reggae Fest 2019 brought a new era of reggae musicians, all bringing back the true roots sound! One such talented artist was the amazing and eccentric Hawaiian native Mike Love. Back in May of 2018, I attended the Trevor Hall show at The Observatory Theatre in Santa Ana; opening for him was Mike Love. Before the set, I bought a Mike Love pop dot for my mom, but little did I know exactly what I was in store for...
The ever-present and spiritual Mike Love took to the stage.
The ever-present and spiritual Mike Love took to the stage. I was hooked on his eccentric musical style, backed by an amazing band and emphasizing raw truth in his lyrics that spoke directly to my heart. When it was announced that Mike Love was going to be playing his first One Love Cali Reggae Fest, I had to be there! And, I just had to interview him!! I hope you fall in love with this man and his music just as I did.
TSR: Your music has been called “revolutionary, conscious music”... it seems you have a message of returning to a more natural and spiritually-grounded way of living. Who do you find inspirational in this process?
- ML: It’s kind of a really long process, I guess, to describe. But, there’s kind of been a million different shifts that have led me to this point. But, you know, I’ve always been [that way]: growing up where I grew up, I’ve always been connected to the earth. Just always in the ocean or the mountains. I'm kind of blessed to grow up in a place surrounded by a really natural habitat instead of growing up in the city.
With the rat race.
- [Laughing] Yeah! So, I think that definitely contributed to it. And, then being raised by my beautiful parents; that really taught me the importance of our connection and our balance with nature. They taught me to be a caring and compassionate person. That’s really the most crucial thing I think, you know?
I think that comes through in your music.
- That’s what attracted me in the first place, to positive music. To want to make music that actually touches and heals people and connects with people rather than just, you know, rocking out and partying... playing my guitar as fast as I could.
Lyrics no one can understand.
After forming Melodious Solutions and your 10-piece band Dub Conscious, you started playing solo in 2008 and released your first solo album in 2012. What was it like to be a one-man band, playing multiple instruments when you usually had a band behind you?
- It was a really good experience for me because I came from a place of writing music and arranging music for a really big band and I was really focused on that. And, I was really focused on like kind of the pizazz of it all, just having a bunch of instruments to work with. Creating really cool arrangements that kind of built up to these big credenzas and then broke down into stripped down parts. That arrangement was what I was really focused on.
- When I started playing solo, I realized I couldn’t play most of those songs because they depended on these moments that were dependent on these big drum parts and hits with the horns and all this stuff. When you took all that stuff away, it’s like you had a song that kind of really didn’t make sense without it. You know? That was when I realized hey, you know, maybe I’ve gotten too far away from the song just being powerful and having an impact on its own. So, I started writing songs without any arrangement in mind and just to write music; a song that I could just play with just my guitar. It would be still good if I didn’t have a bass player or if I didn’t have a drummer. And, then I sort of rebuilt everything from scratch like that.
- That was a really key thing for me, because I retain that all times now and have discovered the importance of that. Even though now I have a big band again, I come around full circle back to that. I still retain that essence of having a song that is potent and powerful on its own for its lyrical content and its melodic chordal structure that works without the band. And then, when you add a band to that, it becomes something even more powerful and there’s so much beauty in that. I just love it. And, I’m still totally in love with the process of arranging and writing parts that a group of musicians can really sync up together and dig into. I have the most amazing band in the world that I love and am so thankful for. But, it took stripping it down to be able to build it up again and I was able to build a band that I really feel strongly about each member and really connected to each member. We’re really connected as a group with one heart.
I’ve really enjoyed following your friendship with Nahko, Trevor Hall, Xavier Rudd and Satsang. I feel there’s a new movement coming along... sort of like what Bob Marley was doing. It’s a new generation creating a novel movement for kindness and getting back to being cordial with one another. The power of music is really unbelievable to me. Have you seen a shift yet in how we are treating each other as fellow humans?
- Yeah, of course! You know, I think the music that a lot of musicians are making that’s really inspiring to me is of course coming out of the times that we are living in. And, people are having very profound reactions to the way that the world is changing. A lot of people are having these really deep and amazing spiritual awakenings; we see it all the time because our music attracts the kind of people that are going through this shift. And, so everywhere we go in the world, we come across the most beautiful people that are really kind and take care of each other.
- Of course, we are out in the world and see a lot of the darkness and a lot of the anger and a lot of division that is going on in the world. It makes it just that much more precious for us that the messages we are always trying to put forth is empowering the people that we attract. I feel like we are the strongest people in the world, because we are so loving and so caring. We have the power of love on our side and we have the power of compassion, of kindness, of forgiveness, of understanding. And, so now, we have the chance to make a real change with our understanding, with our forgiveness and with our love and compassion. We are able to go out into the world in a place where we don’t necessarily feel the same safety and protection that we feel when we come together in these groups to sing and to give praise together and give thanks together and take care of each other. We do that to nourish each other so that we know that we are strong; and we remind each other that we are strong. And then we go back out into the world and do our best to share it with everybody that we come across.
- It’s a difficult path in a world where there’s a lot of negativity. There’s a lot of sorrow, but all we can do is our best and all we can do is try and be the brightest lights that we can be and shine the brightest. Also, remember that there are people who will see that light and be envious of it and hate it because they have led such a life where they’ve been left behind and neglected and abused and have never known that kind of caring and compassion. While we attract the positive people, we also attract the negative people in that way. So, you have to be conscious and aware of that, aware of how we can use our positive energy and our strength to redirect that anger and hopefully, help fill some hearts with love and kindness. Show people that they are not alone.
You’ve collaborated with quite a few people. Going forward, is there anyone that you would like to collaborate with?
- [Laughing] Oh yeah, there’s a million! We had a really cool experience in Brazil with a brother named Allesandra Carlo from a band called Natty Roots down there in Brazil. The biggest reggae band in Brazil, a beautiful brother. We made some music with him and looking forward to doing some more of that. Our uncle Clinton Fearon: amazing, legendary founder of reggae music from the band The Gladiators. Working on some stuff with him and working on a project with some of the musicians from the band Groundation, which is one of my absolute favorite band of all time.
- There are so many musicians that I just love and look up to, and I know I’ll just keep manifesting that. Like you said, I’ve been lucky enough to make music with Nahko and Trevor Hall and Xavier Rudd and Paul Fua. You know, lots of amazing musicians... Tubby Love, Paul Isaac. Great, great musicians out there. I’m just so thankful! You know sometimes, I just can’t believe the journey this music has brought me on; all the incredible musicians that I’ve been able to collaborate with and just to know as friends. It's amazing. I’m so thankful.
Photography by Sean McCracken