India, Seattle, the sophomore album from Victoria-based singer-songwriter Mike Edel, delectably pairs indie-folk instrumentation with literary story-telling. It is a record that Mike describes as specific to places, moments, snapshots, and people in his mind. But the poetic lyrics that Mike writes are also universally relatable. It is an album about the human experience. On the first day of a three-and-a-half week tour which included a stop at The Buckingham in Edmonton, I talked with Mike about his music.
A big part of the album’s story, as well as Mike’s, is the prairies. The 29-year old spent the first 18 years of his life on a small farm in Linden, Alberta. It was there in his mid-teens that he would delve into drumming and then eventually into songwriting. Mike even spent two years living in Edmonton attending then-Grant MacEwan Community College and working at the Edmonton International Airport. “On one of my previous records, there’s the song “Turn the Lights on Bright”, and the setting in my mind is in Edmonton. I think in a lot of ways where you live affects your songwriting or your art, that’s why I think where you’re from is so important when it comes to like music, and I think a lot of those places influence my songs.
Edmonton or Alberta is like an old friend to me that I’m always excited to see but someone that’s not in my life every day.
This relationship with his home province is evident throughout the LP but perhaps mostly on “the Closer,” a track about a boy pitching a perfect game of baseball. The mom runs to the bound and tells her son he has to leave the game because his father had a farming accident. “I think this one baseball game, it’s seemingly insignificant right because it’s like who cares about one little league baseball game? But I think the reason that song exists is because seemingly insignificant moments matter to the people of the town and baseball games or concerts are a metaphor for people’s lives.
[People] want to go live vicariously through this game and relax for a bit and they’re happy and sad with the wins and the losses or the ebbs and flows of the game.
Mike Edel also nods to Alberta on “Julia”, the oldest song on the album. Originally intended for his debut, The Last of our Mountains, it is now one of the pinnacles of India, Seattle. Mike’s former producer, Neil Osbourne, had insisted that you can’t say ‘Calgary’ in a song because it’s awkward. “I remember listening to Death Cab For Cutie singing “I Will Follow you into the Dark” and there’s that ‘Bangkok to Calgary’ line,” he says. “And that was a moment for me in my life… I think I was like, wow, Neil Osbourne was completely wrong. […] I think it serves the album really well,” he says of “Julia”. “In the sense that maybe it’s one of the anomalies of the record. Most of the record is pretty mellow and “Julia” hits a little bit harder.”
Because India, Seattle is a very personal album, Mike must deal with the emotional weight of each song when he performs live. He tells me that he hopes those emotions will translate to the fans, but when they don’t this is especially hard for him. He laments about the struggle of an artist to know that he’s playing sold out shows but to not feel validated, to not feel like people ‘get it.’ “It’s something I poured my blood, sweat, tears, and soul into. […] You play a show and you hope that someone understands this art in a way, not completely in the way you intend but they understand most of what you’re experiencing or sharing.” He credits this disconnect to the weight that this generation places in pictures.
People are not articulating a lot in words these days…I think we should pause, slow down, and read words.
With India, Seattle we are given something beautiful. It is an album in the true sense of the word. “[Things like] the track listing, those things are so important to me. Hopefully, people recognize that the thing that I made is not like two singles and then I wrote a whole shitload of songs in a month. It was a labour of life, writing-wise over quite a long period and then I recorded 18 songs for this album and recorded two of the songs twice.”
With its warm acoustic guitars, its lush reverb, and its intricate layers, listeners will surely have no problem discerning the difference.
Banner photo courtesy of Mike Edel Facebook page.