Interview with The Singer: Wandering Globally, Performing Locally

The Singer. Photo by Anne Cassar The Singer. Photo by Anne Cassar

The Singer, a.k.a. Mike O’Dowd, is an Australian singer-songwriter who has made his home in Montreal in recent years. We recently chatted via email. I certainly can’t blame him for escaping the winter here and going back home for summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Hope you’ll enjoy getting to know him, too. Stay tuned for a review of his EP New Blue Moon, coming soon.

Stephanie Weiner (SW): Where did you get your start in music?

The Singer (TS): I played bass in a few touring bands for many years, but I always wrote my own music on the side. I started playing solo gigs a few years back and left the other projects to put all of my time into my music.

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SW: Tell me about your name, The Singer. Is there a story behind your choice?

TS: The name is just a blank canvas. It doesn’t conjure up anything to me. Also my name sounds like an Irish folk singer, so I couldn’t go with that!

SW: How does a musician from Down Under wind up on the other side of the world making music?

TS: After touring through the states and living in New York, I wanted to stay in North America for as long as I possibly could. Montreal has such a rich artistic culture and a great music scene too, so it was a natural progression. Also being part of the commonwealth comes in very handy when visas are involved!

SW: Which person/artist would you say has had the greatest influence on you and your music? Tell me about that.

TS: I’m influenced by the great Singer/Songwriters. People like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Mickey Newbury, Townes Van Zandt. They all have great lyrics and great songs that have stood the test of time. They’re the kind of artists that really appeal to me.

SW: Some artists talk about a flash of inspiration where they have to stop what they’re doing and write, others talk about making notes wherever they go and building a song in parts. Tell me about your process for songwriting.

TS: For me it varies with every song, but I try to make time to write every day. With modern technology there’s no excuse not to. You have the means to write and record at any moment. I read once that Leonard Cohen has lost multiple note books, so many lost masterpieces! I’ve lost a few phones, but icloud has always had my back.

SW: You’ve listed Sydney, New York, L.A., Toronto and Montreal as places you’ve performed. Where in the world has been your favourite, and why?

TS: I always dreamt of playing in New York growing up, so for me the first time I played there was very special. Sydney during the summer could almost win on the back of Bondi Beach alone.

SW: Someone from back home has come to visit you in Montreal, what is the first thing you want them to see/do/eat?

TS: I’ve had a few friends visit and I always make a stop to La Banquise. Not going there would be like not having a slice in NY! I usually send them home with a bag of St-Viateur Bagels too. I’ve lived off them exclusively for a year and have seen no side effects whatsoever. Also Big in Japan whisky bar is great late at night.

SW: You’ve recently released your debut EP, New Blue Moon, what’s next for The Singer?

TS: I’m playing launch shows in Australia over summer and will be playing North American shows throughout the year too. I recorded the EP a little while ago, so I have a lot of new songs ready to go and will be back in the studio as soon as time allows.

You can check out a few tracks from New Blue Moon here.