It’s been a sort of nonstop ride for Mick Southerland and his music. Playing in various bands over the past 20 years in and around Austin, being part of a duo that’s no more, and then finally stepping out on his own with his 2019 EP, A Night Divine. In our back and forth we talked about all of that and then some and below you’ll find not only that exchange but the premiere of his newest single, “Succumb to Fears.”
Always sounding like you’re taking a step back into the best days of the ‘80s, “Succumb to Fears,” falls in line with Mick’s signature style. One that’s nostalgic but present in the here and now. So hit play on that, and enjoy both the new tunes and a little part of his story.
Kendra: Being part of the Austin scene for two decades, would you say it’s imperative for an artist to settle down in a music-centric city?
Mick Southerland: Not at all. I would venture to say that the opposite is true. The internet is a much shorter path to getting heard by large numbers. I toiled in many bands of the indie rock scene in Austin, with some great experiences and great music education, but mediocre success. It took leaving to embrace my voice and not be too self-conscious to do music that would not exactly fly in that scene in Austin.
When I start recording on my own I committed myself to do whatever came out and be as sincere as I could, no matter what that looked like. Now, I hide away from others and record for weeks at a time, sometimes never leaving the house, thanks to Amazon and Instacart. I don’t ask for feedback often and I don’t listen to outside music, or I rarely do. I listen to Tame Impala and Depeche Mode some. The deprivation forces me to tap into deep-rooted influences.
Kendra: In recent years you’ve been busy as part of Southernayers. What made you want to branch out on your own and pursue a solo project?
Mick Southerland: Southernayers started as a duo, but quickly changed into a project where I wrote, recorded sang everything. I’m obsessive and controlling. I didn’t want to let go of any of my songs so my partner was relegated to showing up at the end of each song and singing backups. Then she took a few months off to audition for Amerian Idol, which I found reprehensible, and that was that. I already had at least two albums worth of songs in the bag when we split, so it didn’t change the music, just the pictures. My fiancé now sings back-up when I need someone. She is Yoko.
Kendra: What elements of who you were making music as part of Southernayers did you take with you when started penning A Night Divine and what elements did you leave behind?
Mick Southerland: Nothing really, I wrote and recorded that entire album while we were still together. I think, if anything, the impetus was that I finally had the confidence to stand up on my own.
Kendra: Very ’80s inspired, I felt like I was like listening to a Bowie or U2 station on Spotify. Obviously, you’re an admirer of the music from that decade, but if you had to pick another aspect of the ’80s that you look to for inspiration, would it be the movies, the fashion or the television?
Mick Southerland: I write music that is a rip-off of John Hughes’ flavor of magical realism. I’m not ashamed to admit that. His movies are more pervasive in my songs than any musical influence. When I finish a song, I’m always like, ” I wonder if people are gonna know that this song is really about Pretty in Pink.”
Kendra: As we mentioned earlier, you dip back into the ’80s for inspiration but looking forward, what current artists or styles do you feel will stand the test of time 30 years from now and influence artists in 2049…if the world makes it there…
Mick Southerland: We will never see 2049. But, Tame Impala, The Killers. Is George Michael “current?”
Kendra: Sticking with future predictions, one of the things I think about when I go to a show is how there are certain “hits” an artist or a band has to put in their set and I wonder, are they tired of performing those? Some bands seem to be on autopilot when those songs pop up on the setlist and then there’s Garth Brooks who I saw in 2014 sing “Friends in Low Places” like it was his first time. So, what I’m saying is what song off your current EP do you feel will be your “Friends in Low Places,” a song you’ll never tire of?
Mick Southerland: Garth Brooks. I’m from Texas, and you had to go here. I think I will never grow weary of “Slumber.” That song still makes me cry just about every time I hear it. It’s so desperate and hopeless, but there’s love. “My love she sleeps alone, she dies.” I will never write anything that good ever again. I peaked at that song. I’m starting to cry right now.
Kendra: Lastly, what’s on the books as we roll into the final part of 2019 and into 2020?
Mick Southerland: I’m going to keep recording. I’ll leave the house a few times. My only goal is to create wonderful music that makes people sad