Artist: Mike and the Moonpies
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Latest Album: One to Grow On
Personal nicknames: The Moonpies
All answers by Mike Harmeier
Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?
It would be impossible for me to narrow it down to just one artist. Early on, I was heavily influenced by George Strait and ’80s/’90s country artists, in general. I really thought that was the path I would take — a very commercial approach to country music. I would later gain a new perspective when I started listening to more songwriters like Guy Clark and John Prine. It was then that I wanted to add more depth and sincerity to my music. When I moved to Austin in 2002, I started to get more into the art of record making and that process was heavily influenced by bands like Wilco and Radiohead. Lately, I’ve kind of melded all that into an approach that’s more along the lines of Jerry Jeff Walker. Freewheeling records with thoughtful lyrics and just having fun playing music with my friends.
What’s your favorite memory from being on stage?
I’ve had countless moments that stick out in my memory from being on stage. Most of them include our artist friends joining us on stage. From the big jams we usually host at Mile 0 Fest in Key West, to our encores with the opening bands joining us for a cover song to end the night. Most recently, Jerry Jeff Walker’s son Django joined us on stage in Alpine, Texas, for our rendition of “London Homesick Blues.” It’s a song written and performed by Gary P. Nunn and made famous on Jerry Jeff’s Viva Terlingua record. We cut it in London at Abbey Road Studios for our Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold record. That was a very special moment and felt like a culmination of a lot of things for us. You never know who will join you or when, and that excitement always makes for a memorable show.
What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc. — inform your music?
I’ve always found a lot of inspiration in film. Especially when that film uses the right music for a particular scene. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit pause on a movie to write a song. Some songs can take on a whole new meaning when you put them behind the right scene or character and I will sometimes use those character’s emotions to inspire a new subject to write about. I’ve written quite a few songs just off one line I heard in a movie or TV show.
What’s the toughest time you ever had writing a song?
I actually had a lot of tough moments writing songs for this record. I had more time than normal to write and rewrite these songs. There were countless edits and rewrites and versions of the songs that we just scrapped and then started over. While I think these are some of the best songs I’ve written, it really took much longer to get to a place where I was happy with them. I think if you spend too much time on one thought it can be a dangerous game to play. I’m still learning when to put the pen down and be satisfied with what came naturally. It’s a fine line.
How often do you hide behind a character in a song or use “you” when it’s actually “me”?
I think I have subconsciously done this a lot with many songs in our catalogue. Not until this record have I made the conscious decision to write from a character’s perspective. While I was experiencing or have experienced a lot of the feelings and virtues of the character on this album, I tried to take myself out of it as much as I could. I wanted to broaden the scope and viewpoint beyond my own personal experience so I strayed away from talking too much about road life or really much to do with my personal experience with my work as a musician. I wanted to project a world view from the perspective of an everyday nine-to-fiver and play with how that intersected in my own personal experience. While there is a lot of myself in these songs, I think it translates to the everyman in a very relatable and accessible way. At least to anyone that works hard to get where they want to be.
Photo credit: Lyza Renee Photography