Passenger – Interview 2018


He came. He sang. He conquered.

Mike Rosenberg, aka Passenger, took to his home streets of Brighton on a baking Bank Holiday Monday to perform a busking set, as part of a four-day busking tour of the UK. Using the opportunity to promote his Brighton show later in the year at the Dome, 9th September, and to talk up his forthcoming album, Runaway, which is out at the end of August, Rosenberg was in his element. Thousands congregated to witness the Brightonian doing what he does so well; singing and performing, with just a semi-acoustic guitar, and that appealing mix of self-deprecation, humour and heart-on-sleeve passion.

Before the career changing Ed Sheeran support slots, and the worldwide success of ‘Let Her Go’ – number one in 19 countries back in 2012 – Rosenberg had spent a decade trying to make a career of it, releasing albums, dividing his time between Brighton and Australia, and gigging and busking most everywhere. It’s in his DNA, this need to write and perform. While not an immediately recognisable face in the manner of a Sheeran, it’s not so easy nowadays to just rock up, find a pitch and sing some songs.

Yet, in rock’n’roll fashion, Rosenberg appeared via North Street, and strode to the makeshift stage, guitar in hand and sunglasses on head. Performing a set made up of the likes of ‘Let Her Go’, ‘Life for the Living’, ‘Scared of the Dark’, and new song ‘Hell and High Water’, Rosenberg cracked some jokes and engaged the audience in some uplifting sing-alongs. He also put up with the obligatory car horns and generally won over the hearts of those familiar with his work, and those who just happened to be in the right place, at the right time. “It was so much fun to get back. The weather was amazing. Busking is less pressure than a gig or a festival, so it helps to ease back into performing. And I remember how much I love doing it. I was blown away by the turnout. It was fantastic,” says Mike. “We’re up to London today, and then Manchester, and then busking in Copenhagen, Hamburg and Berlin at the weekend. Chockers, but all fine. It’s really just the beginning of the madness.”

For the most part, Mike revels in the hustle and bustle of gigging. However, he was glad for a break this time around. “I’ve had some time off, and I feel more rested and prepared this time, which is a novel feeling. It’s crazy, man. I find it really difficult to stop. I write so much, I get really excited about a groups of songs. I record them and then once you’ve got an album you want to tour it. It’s turned into this relentless cycle, and I had to work quite hard to break it. It was a really good thing to do, come off the road, come down a little bit.”

Releasing an album a year since 2014’s Whispers II, including the chart topping Young as the Morning Old as the Sea, this will be Passenger’s tenth album. “The concept behind Runaway is American, but in a good way,” laughs Mike. “I am half-American. My dad is from the States. I feel very at home there, but there is so much I haven’t seen. I only get to see the cities I’m playing in. We were really off the beaten track for a lot of it, and I saw a different side of America.

“I decided to film all the songs, and go on a road trip with some mates (long time producer and musical companions Stu Larsen and Chris Vallejo). We ended up making 20 videos; ten official videos, for each track on the album, and then we shot ten videos for each acoustic version (which will be on the deluxe version of the album). The plan is for a song to come out every three weeks, and within that three week window there will be an official video, an acoustic video, and some behind-the-scenes stuff. I think it’s a nice way of doing it, with the way people are consuming music now – Spotify, streaming – I think it’s a nice way of giving each song its own little window to shine.”

Jeff Hemmings