M 897 Artist Spotlight: July 2013
MIKE MAINS & THE BRANCHES
M897 Michigan Artist Spotlight: Mike Mains & the Branches
--Earnest singer/songwriter Mike Main's band
is the M897 Artist Spotlight for July 2013
Story by LCC Radio Staff Reporter Karen Hopper
Mike Mains could never hold a good song back. Ostensibly, we are having a chat about Mike Mains & the Branches. But our conversation falls down the songwriting rabbit hole. We talk about process, Bob Dylan, Hemingway, Jesus, Taylor Swift, and the nature of creativity itself.
“Some peoples’ approach to music is to be afraid to lay down your hand; afraid you won’t have something later,” he says. But Mains puts the song out there, and then he writes another one. He doesn’t have one or two good tracks that he’s holding on to for the next record or the record after that. He knows another good song is already on the way.
The story of how Mike Mains & the Branches (MM&TB) came to be meanders a bit. It starts with Mike Mains the songwriting boy, then just 18, hitting on a girl while they both played music at Houghton Lake. He told her she looked like his sister. Shannon said “thanks” and walked away.
He lived (but did not enroll) at Central Michigan University, couch-surfing and bumming meal passes. He wrote songs. At 21, he had a quarterlife crisis and went to Texas. He wrote more songs, working with a drummer who would later leave music in favor of going to seminary. Mains sent songs back to Michigan, to Shannon. Then he came home.
Mike Mains & the Branches got a record deal. They put out an album. Bassist and “most enthusiastic barista ever” Nate came to the launch of the new album and then joined the band. Last year, Mike and Shannon married.
They bought themselves out of their record deal and crowd-funded their upcoming release. The next album, “Calm Down, Everything is Fine,” is being finished in Nashville, TN shortly before their (July 12th) Common Ground Music Festival appearance here in Lansing.
When we spoke, MM&TB had wrapped up a month-long tour in May with Relient K and Hellogoodbye. According to their Facebook page, MM&TB’s concert tally between February and late June is fifty-six performances, scattered across the midwest, southeast, and both the east and west coasts. Only four of those performances were in Michigan.
It’s when we are talking about Common Ground Music Festival and MM&TB’s relationship with music here in Michigan that Mike Mains brings up Jesus.
“It’s tough. Jesus said that a prophet is welcome anywhere except his own country,” quotes Mains. “I know we have a lot of people here who respect what we do, but I don’t feel as a part of this as I would like to be, because we travel so much. But we love Flint Eastwood, American Opera, and Fusion shows--Nate is one of my favorite people in the world, and when we do shows in Michigan, we go through him. But everyone knows we’re from Michigan and we’re fricking proud of it.”
They mean it. When they’re home, they live in a lake house in Ludington that is rented from Shannon’s parents. Mike and Shannon even honeymooned in Traverse City.
Mains calls the opportunity to tour with Relient K an “affirmation” because he’d grown up listening to the band. “They took us under their wing,” says Mains.
For Mike Mains & the Branches, the next album is nearly done. But for Mike Mains the songwriter, the next step is about “working on writing for other artists.” We talk about his dream clients (Taylor Swift, Keith Urban) and then, when asked about a song for Shannon, he talks up his wife.
“Shannon is really really gifted at writing and singing, but she doesn’t give herself enough credit--if she starts writing songs and singing, I’m out of a job,” he says.
But that’s doubtful from the guy who wrote this: "'Well, don't be so rational,' I'd rather that than casually throw all my dreams away."