Interview by Kit Burns
Singer/songwriter Mike Press is one of the few artists who is both influenced by Americana and hip-hop music – and you can actually hear traces of those radically different genres in his songs. While his tunes are colored by lap-steel guitars and country twang, Press’ rhythmic and sometimes funky vocal delivery is rooted in rap.
Kit Burns: Your music has the rootsy characteristics of Americana but your vocal delivery and spontaneous lyrical style almost remind me of rap. Did you listen to much hip-hop growing up?
Mike Press: I used to listen to a lot of rap. Not as much anymore but I definitely was and am influenced by anyone with a good lyrical flow. A Tribe Called Quest, Bob Dylan and a NYC poet named Todd Colby. I played drums in a band with him called . He is an amazing wordsmith, and he taught me a lot about playing with words, not being afraid to take chances. There was a time I wanted to do a rap project, and I have even written song but the whole white rapper thing got a bit played out; I coined the term Hick-Hop way b4 ever said it. I have witnesses!etc. I must say though I am very influenced by
Burns: Some of your lines such as “I have a history of” seem like confessions. Are you drawing upon your own experiences?
Press: Yeah, I pretty much draw solely on my own experiences. I have been called selfish; every time I write it comes back to being about me. What do I know about anyone else? That line, “I have a history of bad credit obligations ” was given to me by Sears when I applied for a credit card.
Burns: You’re based in San Diego now. Isn’t that mostly a punk scene there? Or is there room for singer/songwriters fueled by the alt country of Wilco?
Press: I am in San Diego, and I do feel like a . There are some Americana type acts around but they all seem to be either really traditional or what I like to call “cartoon-country” where they are just playing/acting hicks. Almost mocking redneck culture. I seem to be appreciated much more elsewhere. Boston will always be my home and, as you probably know, American roots music thrives there.
Burns: How long have you been writing songs? What have you learned since you began?
Press: I have been writing songs since I can remember but I was always the drummer in my bands. Drums came to me faster than guitar. These days I do both. I have learned that songwriting for me is best when I am not trying to target the music. I have a lot of half-written songs. When I go to the studio I do not let that hold me back because I always find the words and lyrics best when under the gun. Right as I am going to do a vocal take, words, rhymes, and concepts will come into my head that I never could have come up with if I was just sitting there a desk trying to force them out of my brain. I guess this harkens back to your first question. I usually only have the first verse and a chorus when I go to record. It is cool that you picked up on that.
Burns: You were once in the Boston group Sticky. Why did you split?
Press: Sticky split because I had to move out to California to be near my daughter. We still do shows once a while and put out two CDs that are still available on CDBaby. I still work with all my Bostonbecause quite simply they all rock and understand where I am coming from.