Artist of the Week Band of the Week

Artist to Watch: Passenger


This past weekend I heard a familiar voice on the radio: Mike Rosenberg of UK-based band Passenger. I chatted with the singer-songwriter five years ago about the band’s upcoming album and U.S. tour dates and hadn’t heard much from them since until their current single, “Let Her Go” was being played on the radio.



Passenger’s music is catchy, but the stories within each song are much deeper and even more intriguing. Take “Night Vision Binoculars,” a song about a guy who has a stalker-like crush on his co-worker. “If you listen to the lyrics you realize it has quite a darker side to it. It’s quite tongue-in-cheek,” Mike said.

Below is my interview with Mike from 2008, right before Passenger released their debut EP, Night Vision Binoculars. For more on the band, visit their website and catch them on tour in the U.S. later this summer.

Tell me a little about Passenger. Did you grow up always wanting to be in a band?
Yeah. I’ve always played guitar since I was little really. It was just one of the things that I felt I was good at. Well, one of the only things I felt I was good at. It’s always been a dream really. I started writing songs when I was about 15 and they were really terrible and I hope they got a bit better. I met Andrew, my songwriting partner, about five years ago and we just hit it off and we started writing together and that’s about it. Then we recorded the album and got the band up and running.

I just got a chance to listen to your debut album, Wicked Man’s Rest and it deals a lot with heartbreak and unrequited love. Did you go into the studio having a certain concept for it or was there an overlying theme to the album?
I don’t know really. What I try to do in my songs is just to tell stories, stories from all sorts of different walks of life. Whether it’s an old man in a pub or a guy who can’t get a girl, or a stray dog or whoever it is. There wasn’t really a concept behind the album, it’s just trying to be as honest as possible about everyday situations and they can be really heartbreaking.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Oh, I hate them all now [laughs]. Favorite song, I like “For You” it’s the little quiet one. It just takes me back. I was in Mexico when I wrote it. It’s a really lovely time in my life. It takes me back there a little bit.

I wanted to ask you about the title track. There are clips of Allen Ginsberg talking throughout the song, how did you come up with that idea?
That song took a long time to write, and sort of get right. There were a couple of different versions; it’s such a complicated track. The other songs are much more natural really and they seem to just fall out. I don’t know really. I always explain it as, you know when you’re lying in bed and you can’t sleep, and you’ve got billions of things running around in your head and the later it gets the worse you feel? It kind of reminds me of that really. That part of you that grows with anxiety. I think Ginsberg, there’s just something about the tone of his voice and what he is saying it’s so massive, it’s so poetic and it works in the song.

I really liked “Things You’ve Never Done,” especially that one line “The only failure is never to try.” What inspired the song or what were you thinking when you wrote it?
From personal experience I guess. I think we’ve all made decisions in our lives that we regret, and I think most of those regrets comes from not doing things rather than trying something and failing. I think it’s a very simple concept and a very simple line but it seems to really affect people and really ring true of it. There’s something sad about growing old and not fulfilling everything you wanted to do. I think everyone can relate to that.

How would you explain your music to someone who has never heard it before?
That’s a difficult one. To be honest, I usually try and get the storytelling aspect of it across. It gets the hat of people like Neil Young and Bob Dylan, but also with the production and the band side of it, it’s kind of more elements of massive attack and that whole sort of thing. It’s a really difficult question and after five years I still haven’t gotten it figured out. Lots of local harmonies, lyrically-based kind of country-pop music I guess.

What can we expect from your EP being released in the U.S. later this month?
Our EP, the title is Night Vision Binoculars. You can expect a quirky song in “Night Vision Binoculars.” It’s quite tongue-in-cheek. It’s about a guy who falls in love with one of his co-workers and she doesn’t know he exists. He ends up hiding up in a tree outside of her house. The idea behind the song is people listen to it and sort of start singing along and only the third or fourth time of hearing it, if you listen to the lyrics you realize it has quite a darker side to it.



So how many songs are going to be on the EP?
I believe, I’m not actually sure exactly, but I think four. I think there’s an acoustic version of one of our songs and possibly some live ones as well. I think its a little taste of what’s to come really.

What do you feel makes your band different from other bands?
I think the subject matter of our songs is different. A lot of modern day pop music all revolves around the person’s girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever. I’ve tried to broaden that a bit. [Going] back to Bob Dylan and country and folk music when storytelling was a common thing and now it’s not so much. We just try and be slightly different, the production is slightly different and hopefully my voice is different.

What inspires your music? Do you have a certain writing process?
When I’m walking along, I don’t know if it’s the blood flow or whatever, I get a lot of ideas when I’m out and about. I use my mobile phone, which is a picture phone, when I get ideas. It can come at any point. You can go two months without writing a song and I wrote five last week. I don’t understand it at all, but I love the process.

CD Reviews

What Are Your Favorite Albums and Songs of 2008?

I know all the music bloggers and magazines have been writing about their favorite albums, songs and moments of 2008, but instead of reading another journalist’s massive “best of” list for 2008, I’m more curious to know YOUR favorites. Was there an album you continually had on repeat in your car or your iTunes play list? What song could you absolutely not get out of your head no matter how hard you tried? What about your least favorite song you seemingly couldn’t escape from wherever you went — be it your drive to work, shopping at the mall or at your favorite bar? I’d love to read your “best of” lists! Plus, it’ll give me some new music to listen to as I ring in 2009!

Below, I’ll post some of the music I’ve featured on my blog this year — hinting at 10 of my favorites to give you some possibilities of new music to check out for yourself. Take a listen. I think you’ll enjoy them as well.

Brent Shuttleworth‘s video for “When I Reach California” below.


Joshua Radin – “I’d Rather Be With You” listen here.

Jason Reeves – “You In A Song.” For Windows click here, for Quicktime click here.

Brett Dennen‘s music video for “Make You Crazy” featuring Mandy Moore below.


Passenger – “Night Vision Binoculars” check out here.

Pete Murray performing “Opportunity” live below with John Mayer or check out the music video here.


Serena Ryder – “Brand New Love” here. For Windows users you can listen here.

Sia performing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. For Windows. For Quicktime.

Theresa Andersson‘s video for “Birds Fly Away” recorded live in her kitchen.


Lastly, Ray LaMontagne‘s “You Are the Best Thing.” You can listen to it here for Windows Media or here for Quicktime if you haven’t yet.

What do you think? Can’t wait to read your lists! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Concert Reviews

Passenger Pleases New York Crowd in Third U.S. Show

Though it was only Passenger’s third show in the U.S., you wouldn’t have been able to tell. The UK-based band had Mercury Lounge filled Wednesday night to an impressive set of solid acoustic guitar playing and even better vocals. The night included a six-song acoustic set with an unexpected, but highly enjoyable cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella.”

Frontman Mike Rosenberg introduced New Yorkers to his band by saying, “We are two of Passenger,” before kicking off the night with “Things You’ve Never Done,” a slower ballad with simple guitar strumming and soft vocals.

“It’s been a crazy week and a half. Before now, we’ve been in Nashville and L.A. It’s a different world down in Nashville. A lot of haircuts . . . or lack of them,” Mike joked before beginning “What You Think,” a song he wrote while in Nashville. With quirky lyrics like, “My girlfriend says I’m a mess/I should call her my ex-girlfriend I guess,” he had the crowd laughing throughout Passenger’s performance.

While some have compared his voice to that of David Gray and his songwriting reminiscent of Damien Rice in that you really have to listen closely to truly appreciate the lyrics and understand the story behind the song, whatever it is, Passenger’s music is definitely catchy.

Although the majority of their 25-minute set featured mostly acoustic, slower numbers, Passenger’s impressive “Umbrella” cover had the crowd erupting in claps and laughter. “I was trying to do the rap in there as well, but English people don’t rap well,” Mike joked. Throughout the slower, softer songs played during the evening the room was so quiet and attentive to the two men on acoustic guitars on the stage that you could almost hear a pin drop. “Thank you for being so quiet,” Mike told the crowd.

Bandmate Steven’s deeper voice accented perfectly with Mike’s higher vocals while the two guitars blended well throughout each song, often assisting with the crescendos and decrescendos in Mike’s singing. Four of the songs played can be expected on their upcoming full-length album, Wicked Man’s Rest due out later this summer as well as a few on their EP due to hit stores June 24.

Perhaps crowd favorite of the night, a close tie with Rihanna’s cover, was their final song of the evening, “Night Vision Binoculars.” This song was the most upbeat of the night and you could tell Mike and Steven were having a blast onstage as the crowd thoroughly enjoyed it as well. Definitely a faster beat and quicker guitar playing and singing, the song ended the night on a high note.

Although this was Passenger’s last U.S. show for a while, be sure to check out their MySpace or Website for when they’ll be back!


Audio Interview with with Mike Rosenberg of Passenger

Here you go! This is my interview with Mike of Passenger for you to listen to and enjoy his lovely accent. I’m hoping to upload my concert review from tonight’s show at Mercury Lounge tomorrow before I leave for vacation for a few days. This week will be a fun-filled week of Passenger coverage for you all! They’re going back to the UK for a bunch of upcoming tour dates, but check out their MySpace if you haven’t yet and their full-length album out later this summer! Below is a video if you want to put a face to the name and learn a little more about the band.


(Special thanks to my friend and former Jane intern Monica Perry for creating this awesome graphic for me! And the previous soundbite graphics for my blog!)