1. What’s it like to be Mike Dawes, and what would you really like people to know about you?
It's physically quite relaxed for the most part, but there's always things going on in the brain. Right now I'm stretched out on my sofa but I have 5 tabs open on my computer and my phone keeps making noises. Anyway, I'm Mike and I play guitar. I love talking to people and having adventures. I'll try everything once, at least! When I'm not stretched out doing emails, I'm on the road constantly. I took about 70 flights over the past year taking my solo show to almost every continent. The wonderful Mr Hayward invited me out to the States and here we are :)
2. Who influenced you?
Many guitar players, musicians and life experiences. Michael Hedges was very important in my musical development. I still listen to his music when I travel. It inspires me to play.
3. What advice would you give to other aspiring guitarists out there?
Be real, don't try and lie to yourself. If you want to be silly for a while, do it. Honesty is invaluable and makes it so much easier to connect with an audience.
4. What type guitar you like to play with, what kind of wood do you prefer to make your sound resonate better.
I use Nick Benjamin guitars. Nick builds 12 guitars a year by hand in his workshop in Lewes, UK. The one I travel with is Sitka Spruce and Mahogany. I like the simplicity of this combination. My other guitar is Alpine Spruce/Cocobolo. Much deeper and darker in tone.
5. What’s your message when you are deep in a hammer on and playing harmonics, what are you trying to say to listener.
'This is the sound or emotion I'm trying to convey at that time'. I'm very obsessive about the pitch or note I want, so a lot of the time, harmonics are ways of getting to these sounds.
6. If asked, would you do another tour with Justin (or appear as a guest on a Moody Blues Cruise)?
Of course :) It's a great family to have been welcomed into.
7. Who are some of your favorite musicians and songwriters, and why? And what is your favorite song?
I mentioned Hedges, I have a strong love for people like Erik Mongrain and Petteri Sariola who find their own unique sound on a single instrument. I'm also listening to Dirty Loops right now, they're awesome. As far as songs go, some are just perfect. Jeff Buckley's version of Hallelujah is perfect, as is Johnny Cash's version of 'Hurt'.
8. Interviews can tend to become boring if you have to keep answering the same questions all the time. What do you wish people would ask you about in interviews?
I don't mind, I'm just happy that people listen to my music.
9. Justin frequently talks about his approach to songwriting as going into his studio on a regular schedule, knowing he’ll come up with something by the end of the day. Can you tell us about your approach to songwriting?
I wish I could be that disciplined. I get writers block easily, and anything I do compose comes from an emotional experience. I think that's why I like to travel, I'm trying to gather experiences to draw from.
10. Please tell us about your musical evolution and how you developed your unique style.
I suppose it's the sum of a lot of influences gained over the years, from rock to solo guitar music. It’s all pop music at the end of the day, all the parts are there, it's just being produced in a slightly unusual way.
11. You have a lot of things going on at once when you play acoustic guitar – rhythm, melody, percussion. How do you feel about rhythm vs. melody in your own music, and can you compare what it’s like to play your own songs vs. playing Justin's music.
With my solos, I have to play everything, as you mentioned. It's very challenging music to play. It's sometimes harder to focus on the music when you're breaking into a mental sweat. With Justin's songs, I have a lot of fun listening to the other musicians and soaking up the atmosphere. The bigger challenge is to fit in and serve the song well.
12. Did you know that Moody Blues audiences have been traditionally “tough” on opening acts? We haven’t seen such a positive reception from fans and critics since The Moody Blues toured with Stevie Ray Vaughan. What have you been experiencing on the tour, and do you have any funny or noteworthy stories to share?
Wow, I did not, and that's a huge compliment. Thank you. I'm incredibly grateful for this opportunity, and the love I've received stateside. I have plenty of stories, but they are for me and my songs to know :)
13. Forgive us for asking the most basic question, but how did you originally meet Justin and become part of his tour?
He emailed me and asked me to jam. We did, I believe we played through Western Sky and In Your Blue Eyes together. He offered me the gig later that day. it was all a bit of a blur!
14. You have a variety of different musical interests and directions (including teaching). Do you have a definite plan for your future, or are you taking things as they come? If you could make a wish for your musical career, where would you like to be doing in 10 years?
If I can carry on paying the bills playing music then that's my dream achieved. When you guys buy my CD's and things, that helps me to directly achieve that. Anything else is a bonus. I am very ambitious, deep down, but it doesn't take a lot to make me happy. Having a positive attitude in life is important.
15. If someone threw a false leg onstage while you were performing, what would you do about it (hint: you can ask Justin about this if you don’t already know the story!)
I'd probably say something stupid. 'That was a Leg-end-ary part of the concert', or words to that effect.
16. If your music was like ice cream, what flavor would it be?
Neapolitan? with sprinkles?
17. You have several admirers in your style of playing, but what was the best praise and the worst criticism you have received? And how has that affected your approach to music?
The highest praise has come from people who have told me stories of overcoming suicidal thoughts or PTS from the wars in the middle east through listening to my music. That is beyond touching. I've been fortunate enough to avoid criticism for the most part, at least that I'm aware of! Mostly, criticism comes from a political angle than a musical one.
18. How do you rate Justin as a guitarist and songwriter?
Question. That says all that needs to be said!
19. What CD is playing in your car right now and why?
Loopified by Dirty Loops, or maybe Perfect Darkness by Fink. Both awesome records in totally different ways! Check them out :)