Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ruby Hornet First Look: Mike Maven


Colin Munroe put out a cover of Kanye West's "Flashing Lights", and a year and some change later is opening up for Wale's national tour, has a critically acclaimed and bloggerific mixtape, and is readying a Dallas Austin assisted debut LP. Mike Maven is hoping for a similar result, after his acoustic cover of "Amazing" (assisted by 6th Sense) hit the web a couple weeks ago. We posted it here on RubyHornet, and check out more from the Austin-living/East Coast bred singer songwriter and liked what we saw. We think you should see some it too, so we put him under the First Look microscope. Check it out below.

RubyHornet: Mike Maven...real name no gimmicks?

Mike Maven: No, not my real name actually! If you get a hold of a copy of the first Mike Maven record, I use my real name to introduce myself on track 9 and refer to myself as "the Maven," which was a name 6th Sense gave me when we were working on the album. Later, that became my stage name, Mike Maven. If you've read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, that's where it came from. Oddly enough, the Roots used that book's title for an album later, and the term became popular amongst musicians. Questlove himself is an excellent example of a Maven.

RubyHornet: 6th Sense tells me that you're compared to Maroon 5 and John Mayer...How do you take those comparisons? Do they have merit, or is it lazy music journalism?

Mike Maven: I think that most comparisons are a combination of laziness and the nature of the industry. Until you're known, you have to compare yourself to someone. Some people say I'm like if John Legend was a White guy. Hopefully one day people will be comparing themselves to me! But honestly, both John Mayer and Maroon 5 have been influences for the way they've paved a niche in the industry for soulful white boys, and thanks to John Mayer it's now cool to be a music nerd and girls dig it. Thank you John!

RubyHornet: "Waiting On The World To Change" Vs. "This Love"...

Mike Maven: "This Love" is a jam. That song was hot when it came out. Wedding bands killed it. But I err on the side of John Mayer's tasteful and well-disguised social and political realism. I studied sociology in college, and I relate to the sentiment of "Waiting on the World to Change," feeling somewhat powerless to change the status quo.

RubyHornet: You just put out an acoustic cover of Kanye West's "Amazing" (click here), which 6th told me he kind of convinced you to do. Was this a greenlight from the start, or did you actually need convincing? If so, why?

Mike Maven: I thought it was a great idea, because 808s and Heartbreak, though it was a hard sell for me at first, has turned out to be one of my favorite recent albums. It showed me the power of simple melody and good songwriting, and how an artist can be atmospheric and melodic as well as lyrically sensitive and still be Hip Hop. When I heard that Kanye called himself a Maven on "Amazing," I laughed. My first album is called "Welcome to the Goodlife." I swear Kanye is watching me from afar. I wish he'd give me a record deal!

RubyHornet: "You" seems to contain the same drums as "Umbrella" by Rhianna...Are my ears playing tricks on me?

Mike Maven: No, you're correct. The producers of “Umbrella” seriously jacked a free Garage Band loop that comes with every Mac. I used the same break to build the track for "You!"

RubyHornet: You're band is called The Good Life...What does living "the good life" mean to you?

Mike Maven: Actually, my band stopped using the Goodlife name after awhile. We discovered that it was hard to sell a frontman with a band in my genre. Imagine if D'Angelo had been D'Angelo and the Soultronics from the jump. People would have had a much different impression of him.

The Goodlife idea though came from my Italian American background. My grandfather had his idea of living the good life, of being surrounded by your people, by your family. The people I work with on music are my family, so I decided to call them "the Goodlife." It had a better ring than "the Mafia." :)

RubyHornet: Your bio says you have home bases across the country, which base is "home" home base? Does being spread out in the U.S. add anything to your sound or songwriting approach?

Mike Maven: My family is from Providence, RI but I have been spread across the country my whole life. My dad felt like he had a lot of exploring to do. That journey eventually took him out of my life, but I kept moving. I live in Austin, TX right now, a seemingly random choice that has turned out to be a wise one for now, but I see myself getting back to NY or at least closer to my family soon enough. I spent 5 years before I moved here in Boston, where I met 6th Sense.

One of the reasons I moved here was in fact to absorb new music and influences and work in a starkly different music environment. There are so many venues here, and I've been able to sharpen my performance skills by performing out often loving here. Also, with the Americana scene being big here, I've been able to expand my horizons. The Austin way of making music is so much different from the NYC way or the LA way.

RubyHornet: What's your day to day like? Are you out on the road a lot?

Mike Maven: I play a lot of shows. I tour around Texas a good amount, and this state is HUGE. One town I play in is seven hours away, and that's an easy weekend trip. We'll drive 3 hours to Dallas, play a show, and drive home, then wake up the next day and play at Texas State in San Marcos. I've been able to live on the money I make from this, and I'm grateful for that. Lately, though, I've been cutting back on shows and getting in the studio more. This whole experience has put a lot of music back in my veins. I'm ready to make more records.

RubyHornet: You recently hit up SXSW. Did you go in with any expectations? How did they measure up afterwards?

Mike Maven: SXSW was incredible thanks to 6th Sense being here with Outtasight, The Kid Daytona, and U-N-I. We rocked some great shows, and saw some inspiring concerts. But mostly it was just another week here in Austin man, except, on crack. We had a blast.

RubyHornet: For some of our readers, this is an introduction to Mike Maven. What are three things you'd like them to know about you before checking out more music?

Mike Maven: My music is definitely unique and ever evolving. A lot of my music is about understanding the meaning and purpose of love on a personal and broad level. People ask me about spirituality a lot, I say I live based on a philosophy of love, and a lot of that is also living with and expressing its opposites, hate and anger, struggling with ego. I hope my music helps other people better understand themselves, and I'm excited to continue sharing my gift with those who are listening. Is that three things? Check out my Myspace because I use it to broadcast all my new stuff. Thank you to RubyHornet!

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