Mike Sempert extends the release of his highly acclaimed debut solo album Mid Dream with the release of Mid Dream Complete Sessions – A hugely exciting extension to the original LP, featuring six bonus tracks.
The former Birds and Batteries frontman made the bold transition to soloist earlier this year, further highlighting his unique creative ability to build upon the foundation of his time with B&B. Carrying with him a sound best described as organic, the move has been seamless.
For folk aficionados Mid Dream Complete Sessions will come as a pleasant surprise, adding a further twist to what is already the unique personal brand of a songwriter for whom simplicity is key. Put simply, the record is quite the perfect showcase of creative diversity – Both natural and apparently effortless.
Mike Sempert granted us the opportunity to discuss with him the origins of the album, allowing us an insight into his mindset as a writer and an intriguing hint as to his future plans!
Here’s our Mike Sempert interview in full..
LADIM: Firstly, Bay Area aficionados will be pretty familiar with you as fronting Birds & Batteries. With this in mind, has it been a long-standing ambition for you to work as a soloist?
MS: It wasn’t really an ambition, in fact the whole idea of the solo project initially was to make music without an agenda. But it was a blurry little daydream for many years that came into focus as the band went through its lineup changes and various struggles. Even though B&B was my project and a vehicle for the music I was writing, I felt like I needed more independence in order to keep going forward. And the nature of this material was more suited to a solo thing.
LADIM: Mid Dream carries what has been described as a wonderfully organic sound, indicating a seemingly natural transition from group to solo artist. Is this a fair statement, or was there a hint of trepidation at any point?
MS: I would describe the transition itself as very organic. I had been passively developing solo material over the last decade, music that didn’t fit into the B&B aesthetic but felt worth exploring. And yes, plenty of trepidation to work through of course!
LADIM: Mid Dream has been warmly received and continues to generate rave reviews. How cool is it for you personally to be able to expand on that through Mid Dream Complete Sessions?
MS: Thanks so much! It’s been really cool to extend the release with this bonus material. I cut this music from the initial release because I’m a fan of brevity and wanted to give listeners something more curated up front. These bonus songs feel like part of the bigger story, almost like deleted scenes in a movie.
LADIM: I wanted to ask you about Finest Line. In our review we described it as being the perfect illustration of your diversity as a writer. It lends itself beautifully to its acoustic version, is this something you had in mind for the track from the onset?
MS: Well, thank you for that. It wasn’t my initial intention to do an acoustic version of Finest Line because the Rhodes loop was really the impetus for the song, but when I started performing it on acoustic guitar there was this Neil Young-esque guitar voicing that was really right and compelled me to record the acoustic version. In general, I’m trying to write songs that anyone could play around a bonfire. This is partly out of a desire to rehearse less! It’s a special challenge to write simple music. But the simpler the song, the more adaptable and universal it can be. That’s really the nature of folk music, right?
LADIM: The Finest Line video feels almost as profound as the song itself – It fits beautifully. How much of an input did you have in its concept, given the fact that many solo artists like to take a back seat with such things?
MS: I got so lucky with that. I surrendered creative control to Justin Frahm and Greg Gheorghiu who absolutely nailed it. It was their vision and their execution that carried the day. We had so much fun creating that video together with help from a lot of talented people.
LADIM: The entire album is obviously very personal to you. Can you describe your mindset at the time you wrote it and the impact your move to LA had on the album?
MS: The album was made before my move to LA, almost entirely in Oakland as well as Sacramento. It’s really an Oakland record to me because of the people involved (folks like Blake Henderson, Sonya Cotton, Jill Heinke, Colin Fahrner, Kacey Johansing, Emily Ritz, Andy Strain, Nick Aives, Ezra Lipp, Anton Patzner and Andrew Maguire). But it was definitely leading up to the move to LA and it’s a record about transitions in life and music.
LADIM: The bonus material we find on Mid Dream Complete Sessions comes as a really exciting surprise. For those who perhaps haven’t heard it just yet, what can they expect?
MS: Awesome. Well, the bonus tracks include “American Dream” and “Drones” which are both more on the political end of the spectrum, but they’re as personal as anything else on the album as well. There’s also a bit of a sea shanty vibe to the other bonus tracks like “For A Long Long Time” which is a bookend for the album, related to the song “Oceans of Rock and Roll” in that it’s about music and time and uses the ocean as a place to explore those ideas. The acoustic versions of “Oceans of Rock and Roll” and “Finest Line” are also very inspired by the coastline. “Shared World” is a lost track that seemed to fit in this collection of tunes.
LADIM: Was it always the plan to follow on from Mid Dream with Complete Sessions, or was it simply a case of ‘due to public demand?’
MS: Actually yes, it was an early part of the release plan to release both the album and the Complete Sessions. I’m really glad these tracks get to see the light of day.
LADIM: Finally, now that you’ve tasted success as a soloist and as part of a group, what does the future hold for Mike Sempert? Can we expect further solo material?
MS: I’m definitely hoping to make another Mike Sempert album. In the meantime I’m working on an album of progressive electronic music as Volcanic Legacy, which has been a blast!
Stay tuned for Mike Sempert updates. In the meantime Md Dream Complete Sessions is available right now via Velvet Blue Music.