Mike McClellan on refining his art and living his life through song

Mike McClellan on refining his art and living his life through song

Like a fine wine, long-time singer, songwriter and acoustic music legend Mike McClellan is only getting better with age. “I certainly think I’m singing better than I ever have,” he says, “I’m probably lucky in that my voice has matured since my early days of singing and playing; it all sounds stronger.”

For Mike performing is now about refining his art, as with a wealth of experience behind him, his career now spans over 40 years with success in multiple countries. “I haven’t changed the way I perform all that much but as I’ve gotten older, I’m more in command and more relaxed than I might have once been.”

A handful of hit singles, multiple industry awards, and an impressive list of collaborations, Mike’s resume does not end there. With stints as a presenter on ABC, a highly successful career in advertising and a teacher of song writing, Mike’s hiatus from music, and imminent return with his seventh album in 2015 only reaffirmed his love for song writing and performing. “For me, it’s just about focusing on getting back on stage, and engaging with the audience. I think I am enjoying it now more than I have ever done.”

In true testament to this, Mike enjoys a healthy and loyal fan base, which he attributes to his authenticity and honesty. “My songs are generally fairly personal songs, some of them intensely so it’s very much a sense that I have in a way, lived my life through my songs. Sharing that with an audience is for me, one of the most gratifying things I can do.”

Speaking to the longevity of his music, Mike’s shows still attract the masses. “More than anything else it really surprised me to find that there were so many people who had such a sense of engagement with some of the songs, who would come up to me in concerts and say; ‘I always loved that song, I played it constantly and have played it for the last 30-40 years’, or ‘it meant something special to me, or special to my partner, mum or dad.’ In so many ways, that for me, simply reconfirmed the decision I made to go back was the right one. It also reconfirmed to me how valuable a creative life and creative endeavours can be within a community.”

Mike’s fan base has if anything grown, as he played several big concerts in America and Ireland in the past 18 months to rave reviews. He also spent time in Nashville recording and writing new music among some of the most successful songwriters in the US, to which he deemed ‘hugely rewarding.’

“For me, the experience was wonderful, however it isn’t a process I’m necessarily at ease with, as I tend to be a solo writer. I love words, I love music, I love the process of putting it all together. For me, it’s to a large extent a solitary endeavour – but it was a fascinating experience. I really enjoyed it, I enjoyed the people, and I’ll be going back sometime later this year.”

Although collaborating with new sounds and ideas and aiming for a ‘broader audience’ with his next endeavour, Mike does not stray too far from the old hits. Experiencing the height of his popularity in the ’70s with his hit ‘Song and Dance man’, the tune’s decades long resonance encouraged the tributary task of re-imagining the hit song with a fresher outlook. The re-worked song appeared on his most recent 2015 album, Dancing in the Rain, interpreted in context with the sound and feel of the rest of the album. “In an ironic fashion the lyrics of the song are probably more appropriate for me at this stage of life than they were when I first wrote the songs. It’s given the song a new lease on life.”

Mike’s thorough enjoyment of performing, his deep love and appreciation for the music and his constant inquisitive and experimental approach to re-working, developing and growing his sound is joyously evident. For Mike, this won’t be ending any time soon: “Essentially, for me, it’s about continuing to write, perform and travel for as long as I can physically do it. Like most artists, you never retire – it’s something you do because you love doing it. I could go on sitting at a desk writing forever.”

Sounds like this prized bottle of red is staying on the top shelf.

Written by Megan McNeel

When & Where: GPAC, Geelong – April 20