FAQ/ Help Mike
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Was Mike born in New Zealand?
A: Yes. He was born in Rotorua, in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island. Rotorua is in an area of intense and spectacular thermal activity, with many geysers, mud pools, etc and is a very popular area for visiting tourists.
Q: What is Mike’s birthday?
A: 03 April.
Q: What is Mike’s family background?
A: His father was born near New Plymouth in NZ. His mother was born in Melbourne, Australia. Mike’s grandfather (his father’s father…) came from County Kerry, Ireland.
Q: Where did Mike grow up?
A: Initially in Rotorua, but when he was 12 months old his parents moved to Lower Hutt, a city immediately adjacent to NZ’s capital of Wellington. His father worked for a government research establishment and also bred and trained racehorses. Mike lived there until his late teens. These days this area is highly industrialised, but back then it was quite rural with a number of small holdings, etc…
Q: What was Mike’s first musical experience?
A: He often jokingly answers this question: “Hearing my father singing “Danny Boy” in the bath…” Factually Mike began studying classical piano when he was five. When he was fourteen he joined his first rock band. (His parents and his piano teacher were horrified as they had planned for him to become a concert pianist…) Initially he played bass, but later changed to keyboards. By the time he was fifteen Mike was performing with his band 4-6 times per week, often travelling many hundreds of kilometres to do so.
Q: When did Mike first begin to play acoustic guitar?
A: In his early 20’s. Mike met an American blues guitarist in NZ and was fascinated by the manner in which he played. It was a style generally called Piedmont picking, as played by blues guitarists such as Blind Arthur Blake and The Rev. Gary Davis. Mike began by imitating their style and over the years this has developed into a style of his own.
Q: Has Mike always worked as a professional musician?
A: No. There were times when, due to his family’s needs, he had to get “a shave, haircut, and a real job...”
Q: Is it true that Mike was at one time a professional soldier?
A Yes. Mike has been a member of both the NZ Army and the NZ Airforce.
Q: Has Mike always lived in New Zealand?
A: No. He spent a period in the mid-1970’s living in Australia, and from 1994 until 2000 he lived in the UK. From 2000 until now he has been a resident in Germany. It is however his intention in the very near future to once again reside in New Zealand. That is, at least, for those infrequent periods when he’s not on the road playing concerts!
Q: How many CD’s has Mike released?
A: He has released 6 CD’s as a solo artist, 5 of which are currently available. These are: Wasted Time, Streets of Glass, Downunder Blues, and On A High Wire. His new album Beneath Southland Skies was released in January 2006
Q: The song “Tuatapere” appears on both Streets of Glass and Wasted Time. Why is that?
A: Tuatapere is one of Mike’s most popular songs, and Mike wanted to try a more-acoustic arrangement that better represented his live solo delivery for Wasted Time.
Q: From the “Tuatapere” lyrics it appears that Tuatapere is a town or city. Where is it?
A: Tuatapere is a small rural town of approximately 500 people in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. As Mike is fond of saying at his concerts: “Tuatapere is one of the southern-most towns in the World, and from there, it’s one hell of a long way to anywhere.”
Q: There appears to be 2 completely different bands on Wasted Time. What’s the story behind this?
A: Mike’s earlier record company wanted to release a single from him in Germany in 2000. “End of the Game” and “Slide Action” were both recorded in NZ at the beginning of 2000 for this purpose, using his band from Streets of Glass. For various reasons the songs were never used for that purpose but instead were released on a compilation Mike Brosnan album in Germany in June 2000, and later included on Mike’s 2002 album Wasted Time. For the remainder of the album he used German and Austrian musicians, most of whom are old friends. Guitarist Fritz Glatzl and bassist Wolfgang Frosch are both members of the well-known Austrian band Bluespumpm with whom Mike frequently works. German harmonica player Marc Breitfelder is highly regarded amongst the World’s harp players. Mandolin player Rudi Köpper has been a close friend of Mike’s for many years.
Q: “End of the Game” from Wasted Time sounds almost identical to the John Hiatt song “My Old Friend” from his “Tiki Bar Is Open CD. What’s happening here?
A: Mike’s song “End of the Game” was written, copyrighted, recorded and released a full 18 months before the Hiatt song.
Q: Mike’s song “Duagh Memories” from Streets of Glass seems very personal? What’s it about and what is Duagh?
A: “Duagh Memories” is about Mike’s grandfather, Daniel Brosnahan, who emigrated from Ireland in the 19th century to NZ. Daniel came from a small village in County Kerry called Duagh.
Q: Are all Mike’s songs written from his personal experiences?
A: Yes, mostly…
Q: There’s someone doing backing vocals on Streets of Glass that sounds a lot like Aaron Neville? What’s the story there…?
A: That’s a young Maori singer called John Fletcher. Mike found him singing jazz standards in a tiny bar in Napier, NZ in 1997, when he returned to record Streets of Glass. Mike really liked what John was doing and asked if he wanted to work on his album. John agreed, although we feel he never thought it would happen until he was standing in the studio. This was John’s first experience in a major recording studio, and he was so nervous that Mike had to stand in the vocal booth with him to help calm his nerves. We really like what John did on this album.
Q: The first track on Streets of Glass is only street noise with some slide guitar. What’s happening here?
A: The title track “Streets of Glass” (track two) is about Wellington, New Zealand and is a dark song about the sell-out of public assets to big business. This was done despite considerable public protest. Mike got the idea for the song whilst talking about this to Irish singer-songwriter Eugene Brosnan (A distant relative of Mike’s) when they were both touring in Germany in 1997. Track one is intended as an introduction to the title track. For this they recorded some ambient street sounds from Wellington to which was added some atmospheric slide guitar.
Q: The last track on Streets of Glass seems to develop into a bar brawl. Is this for real?
A: No. Mike and his co-producer for that album, Phill Adams, had worked on Streets of Glass 16 hours per day for almost 2 months. They felt the need to let of a little steam and they targeted the end of the CD for this. Their intention was to have the brawl part as a ghost track, but somehow it ended up as part of the final listed track.
Q: In which countries has Mike performed?
A: Clearly in NZ he has repeatedly performed over the length and breadth of the country. Other countries he has also performed extensively in include: Gt. Britain, France, Austria, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, Hong Kong, Ireland.
Q: Has Mike ever toured in the US or Canada?
A: No, but plans are underway to remedy this omission in 2006… And another NZ tour is confirmed for June 2006. As well as this he will continue to tour extensively throughout Europe as per usual. 2006 is going to be a particularly busy year for Mike.
Q: How many concerts does Mike play each year?
A: Generally an minimum of around 170. In 2001 he performed 211, an all-time high.
Q: Are all Mike’s concerts in theatres…?
A: No. Mike performs in a wide range of venues: from theatre halls to music clubs and bars. He also does quite a few house concerts.
Q: For many years Mike toured almost exclusively in the acoustic blues circuit, in which he has quite a high profile. Now he seems to be presented in the Roots Music singer-songwriter field. Why this change?
A: Mike still plays many straight-ahead blues gigs. However his original songs were never in a strict blues vein, but rather covered a range of genres, encompassing elements of folk, country, rock, and of course blues. Such music is more and more being classified as Roots Music, or as it’s often called in the US, Americana. Mike prefers to use the description “Roots Music” as he strongly feels that use of the term Americana would tend to give people the incorrect idea that he is actually American.
Q: What guitars does Mike use?
A: For many years his main stage acoustic guitar was a white archtop built by the NZ luthier Kevin Almy. This white guitar became something of a trademark for Mike. Sadly after more than 1000 concerts and countless tours around the World (combined with the damage that only airlines are able to inflict on musical instruments…) it is in well-earned retirement. His current favourite acoustic is the M32 CP concert-size six string, hand built by a small company in Germany called Lakewood. (www.lakewoodguitars.com) He has 3 of these guitars, the last being a beautiful all-black custom signature model. Mike also has a number of other acoustic guitars, some of which he built himself. And most recently he became an endorser of Duesenberg electric guitars (http://www.duesenberg.de/). He's currently "making friends" with one of their fine Starplayer Special solid body guitars, and believes it's going to become his main live electric guitar...Mike has a large collection of electric guitars; mainly Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters, almost all of which have been extensively modified for slide playing.
Q: What amplifier does Mike use live for electric guitar?
A: Over the years Mike has used many different amp/speaker combinations. His favourite for a long time was an extensively modified blackface Fender Twin. Sadly this amp was stolen, along with his van and other equipment in London. He’s also used at various times a couple of hand built valve amps, various Jansen amps (Made in NZ), a Marshall JCM 800 stack and various other Fender’s, his favourite being a late-1950’s Bandmaster. He had a custom amp built by Torres Amps in the UK, but it caught fire on stage, and almost killed him in the process. He has had this amp re-built but at the moment his favourite amp is a highly modified MusicMan RP112 from the early 1980’s. This amp was modded by Mike's "amp doctor" Tom Rahn of Darmstadt, Germany.
Q: What effects does Mike use for acoustic guitar?
A: Very few. He tours with a small rack containing two Mindprint Envoice valve preamps (one for vocals, one for guitar…) both of which run through a Behringer MX882 splitter and a TC Electronic M300 dual engine effects processor. He adds a little reverb to both guitar and vocals, and occasionally a touch of chorus to guitar.
Q: What effects does Mike use for eletric guitar?
A: His guitar goes first into a Petersen StroboStomp, which he believes is the finest guitar tuner pedal available. Then it goes into a Boss compressor and finally into an old Ibanez delay pedal from the late-80's. sometimes, depending on how he's feeling, he adds a Boss CE-5 chorus pedal to the signal chain.
Q: What strings does Mike use?
A: Mike is currently endorsing Elixir Strings. He finds they sound superb on both his Lakewood’s and on his various electric guitars. He uses their Nanoweb-coated light-mediums (.012-.056) for acoustic and their Nanoweb-coated heavy gauge (.012-.052) on his electrics.
Q: What open tunings does Mike use?
A: Mike’s most commonly used alternative tunings are: Dropped D, Open D, DADGAD, Open G, Open Gm (DGDGBbD) and G Modal (DGDGCD).
Q: How often does Mike perform solo?
A: Approximately 60% of Mike’s concerts are performed solo. The remainder is split between using a second guitarist, and a full band. With the January 2006 release of "Beneath Southland Skies" Mike intends to lift the percentage of concerts using the full band. He will though continue to play the largest percentage solo.
Q: Mike has never played in my town. What can I do to make this happen?
A: See the HELP MIKE page for info on this.
Q: Who are Mike's favourite songwriters?
A: Mike is a big fan of fellow NZ songwriters Dave Dobbyn and Neil Finn. Particularly Dave Dobbyn, who Mike believes has plumbed the depth of the NZ psyche. Other songwriters include tom Petty, Ray Davies, John Hiatt, Graham Parker, Lowell George, and Lyle Lovett, to name but a few.
Q: Who are Mike's favourite guitar players?
A: Mike says there are so many fine guitar players about it's impossible to be objective, but the late Lowell George holds a special place in his heart. Mike says: "I reckon that the only guy who's come close to Lowell in terms of ability to put emotion into his playing is Ry Cooder..."
Hey, great question…!The best way to help Mike or for that matter any artist is to buy their CDs directly from them. This can be either via this website or at one of Mike's live shows. If you don't already one or indeed all of Mike's CD's, please go to the STORE page. And if you really want to spread the word, don't forget that music makes a truly wonderful present for Xmas and all those birthdays that are coming up!
Next best thing is to tell all your friends about Mike and his music. Explain clearly and simply (Don’t browbeat them too much…) what you particularly enjoy about his music. Maybe offer to loan them your Mike Brosnan CD's. But PLEASE do not burn copies of your Mike Brosnan CD’s! As with most musicians, Mike relies on the income from CD sales to help support him in what is economically, a particularly difficult industry…
Next you can call your local roots music radio station and request your favourite Mike Brosnan songs. Even if they don't put the song on the air right away, stations log requests and take them into account when they program their music.
And while we’re on the subject of Radio Stations, if you think the format of your local roots radio station would suit Mike’s music, let his people know by emailing the radio station contact information to: officemikebrosnan.com
If your favourite local record store does not have Mike's CD's in stock, ask them "Why not..." Give them Mike’s website address. All the contact information for Mike’s various record distributors is listed on the Contacts page.
And if Mike has never performed in your area (Yes… there are still one or two places in the World he’s never been to…) tell your local venues that it’s about time Mike performed in your town. Let them know in the strongest terms that you and your friends would support his show if it were to take place. And please let Mike’s booking people know of likely venues by contacting them at: officemikebrosnan.com
And maybe you don’t know, but Mike Brosnan plays many house concerts each year… If you can get 30-40 people together, and have got somewhere for Mike to play, this is a very real possibility. Check out the booking contact information on the CONTACT page and give the people at Flying Kiwi a call.
And HEY... when you attend one of his concerts please don't forget to take the time to talk to Mike. You will not be intruding on his privacy. For Mike, one of the real benefits of touring all over the World is the opportunity to meet so many great people. There have been over the years, many people who started out as Mike Brosnan fans and are now counted amongst his closest friends.