Mike Field – My Songlines

Mike Field is back in Australia. A champion of Canada’s jazz scene, the trumpet-player-turned-vocalist just landed an Independent Music Award in the music producer category for his latest EP, ‘The Ghost and the Paper Boy, which was also nominated in two other categories (among great company).

Now, the fiery jazzman is getting ready to bring his signature blend of jazz, blues, funk, latin, folk and who-knows-what-else to Melbourne and Ballarat – and he was willing to share with us some of the music that matters to him.

What was the first album or single that you ever acquired?

I remember sitting in the living room of the house I grew up in and unwrapping A-Ha’s debut album, Hunting High And Low and Wham!’s Make It Big. We also had this monster ghettoblaster with two built-in tape decks, which was state-of-the-art at the time. I think it took about forty size D batteries to run if you didn’t plug it in. Maybe forty five, I can’t remember. It was a lot.

What was the most recent album or track that you purchased?

I recently spent several weeks in New York City for a professional development program and downloaded Harry James’James Session, which I listened to on the subway on repeat about a hundred times. I spent a lot of time on the subway, living far out by JFK airport and going into town at least once a day, sometimes twice, so I had lots of time on the train to listen to music. When you live in NYC as an artist, you’re on the subway a lot. Unless you live in Manhattan, which is insanely expensive.

Which album should be on everyone’s collection?

One summer when I was a teenager, before I ever listened to jazz, a friend of mine from Quebec made me a mix-tape with a few tunes from Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie’s album called Ella and Basie.There were some other tunes on it too, but I thought the whole tape was some of the coolest music I ever heard and got me hooked on jazz. The music is just amazing, so I’d be happy to show it to everyone. The particular songs were Them There Eyes and Honeysuckle Rose.

Which song reminds you of the best concert you’ve ever attended?

One of the albums by Bela Fleck and The Flecktones has a tune called Stomping Grounds. This tune blows me away every time I hear it, the band is so tight and the recording is so musical. Then I saw The Flecktones in concert, and they were just as amazing. Those guys are sick.

Which song reminds you of your favourite journey?

My second biggest trip ever was backpacking around the world for one year. I started in Mexico for one month and made some amazing friends. On my last day, a friend made me a mix that happened to have The Cranberries’ tune, Just My Imagination. I listened to that on repeat on the flight across the Pacific all the way to Hong Kong, and then still on repeat while I wandered the streets of that incredible city. That whole trip, which took me to sixteen different countries, was life changing and one of my favourite trips for sure.

Which song reminds you of your most important rite of passage?

My first huge trip was an exchange to Lausanne, Switzerland for three months when I was 16. The Spin Doctors’ new tune Two Princes was just out, and so was Pearl Jam’s Alive. This was the first time I was away from home, my first time overseas, and my first time in a non-English speaking country. For sure, my most important rite of passage.

Which song best describes your relationship to your loved ones?

I have a new original tune that I’m recording right now called The West Side Of Town. It talks about my friends, my family, how I miss them when I’m away, all the things I love about home, and my internal struggle between wanting to be at home and wanting to be out in the world exploring.

Which song best encapsulates your idea of jazz?

One of the tunes from that mix-tape from that summer when I was a teenager: Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie
performing Them There Eyes. And then theres also Louis Armstrong performing On The Sunny Side Of The Street. When I was at university (I majored in languages), I started listening a lot to Louis, which made me really want to learn how to play the music. Louis, Ella and Basie it doesnt get more jazz than that.

If your life was to become a movie…

…which song would be heard on the opening credits?

I would love to see the movie open with my song called Magnolia. The story is about a crazy maneater woman who drives a black Cadillac and locks up guys in her fridge. No, I don’t know anyone named Magnolia, and I don’t know any maneaters who specifically lock guys in the kitchen. But the idea behind the music is to be completely silly and write whatever comes to mind and never let the truth stand in the way of a good story. Life’s too short to take it seriously, so just have fun.

…which would be on the end credits?

Five Days In Hermosa, by this Canadian jazz musician named Mike Field. It’s another fun tune, and it’s instrumental so it would work really well for end credits. I wrote this tune because every time I’d travel on tour from Canada to New Zealand and Australia, I’d stop through Los Angeles and would play at The Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach. It’s such an iconic club with so much jazz history, and even though there’s a lot of karaoke and reggae bands playing there these days, there’s still jazz three days a week. Each time I was there, it would take me about five days to rehearse with the band and play the show, so after doing that a bunch of times, it inspired this tune, which I ended up recording on my third album.

…which would be on the action scenes?

Either Spybreak! by Propellerheads, which was the music for the crazy lobby scene in The Matrix, or The Devil Is In The Details by The Chemical Brothers, which was used in Hanna. Both pretty amazing action scenes.

…which would be on the love scene?

I wrote this tune on my second album called The Last Of The Summer Days. It’s a nostalgic tune about two lost loves. It’s nice and ballad-y, so it would work well for a romantic scene in a movie. Either that, or November Rain by Guns ‘n’ Roses.

Which song do you wish you had written yourself?

I wish I had written Tu Vuo Fa LAmericano by Renato Carosone and Nicola Salerno. It’s such a fun tune, it’s totally silly, it’s a mix of Neapolitan dialect and English, and we perform it at almost every concert. The first time I ever heard it was in the movie The Talented Mister Ripley with Matt Damon and Jude Law, and now I’ve seen it covered by so many other people. We just recorded it too and released a cute animated video with translated lyrics.

Which song do you wish had been written about you?

All Star by Smash Mouth. It’s another super fun tune, with pretty silly lyrics but it’s actually motivational, and also good workout music. Another track to live by, in my opinion.

Which song best describes your current state of mind?

The title track from my second album, Rush Mode, is where things kinda fall right now. It’s an instrumental tune about how we tend to live our lives in rush mode, rushing around from one task to another without taking much of a break to enjoy the scenery. As much as I try to stay calm at most times, it’s so easy to cram your schedule so full that you try doing the small tasks as quickly as possible. Especially when living in the city, rush mode is definitely an urban phenomenon. Plus, we’ll be performing this tune at our upcoming concerts, so I’ll play through it every few days to keep it fresh.

Mike Field plays at the Paris Cat Jazz Club in Melbourne, on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 April, and at Ballarat Jazz Club on Sunday 8 April.