Mike Love: Evangelical Reggae
Musician Mike Love was born and raised on O’ahu, he’s been playing in bands since Kaiser High School. Riding a wave of internet popularity, he’ll perform in Costa Rica this month, then in 28 cities nationally from Portland, to Key West. HPR ‘s Noe Tanigawa reports Love attracts a local following too, with rock/jazz reggae, dreads to his ankles, and a message of unity.
Mike Love plays solo on Mondays and with Full Circle on Wednesdays at Hawaiian Brian’s on Kapi‘olani. In March 2018, he'll be heading to Costa Rica then on a three month tour of over two dozen cities in the U.S. He will be playing in Austin, Houston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Orlando, Key West, Denver, Seattle, Portland, Bend, among other locales.
Mike Love’s song, Permanent Holiday has racked 12, 934,775 views on Youtube, and climbing.
Mike Love: It's just one of those things that, you know, you write a song and you don't really realize how this might be the song that a lot of people connect with.
Did it change your life?
Love: I mean everything everything changes your life you know, I think I can definitely say without that song I probably wouldn't be touring in all the places that we go to. I'm surprised when I go to a country like Poland or Portugal or Aotearoa and everybody knows the words to your song.
Love says, he has always written songs, at first, only for whoever the lead singer was in the band. Then, one day he realized maybe he could get a little closer to what he had in mind by singing it himself.
Love: I realized I just had to kind of come out of my shell. I've been singing in my whole life and I've loved singing my whole life but I never pictured myself like the lead singer or a front man, you know, to have that kind of presence. I just realized at a certain point that I couldn't teach other people to sing my songs anymore. I had to learn how to do it myself, so I just really dug into teaching myself how to sing. I always heard people saying, Sing from your diaphragm, and I hear people doing a vibrato and I never knew how to do it. I didn't have anybody to teach me how to do it, so I just started trying to experiment with my voice and my technique. Figuring it out, and slowly I just kind of learned how to sing and my technique got better and better, and it’s still getting better. I'm constantly trying to improve my technique, and I think over time it just naturally happened.
According to Love, finding yourself is an ongoing endeavor, one that took him from rock bands, to reggae bands, to solo performance, and back to inviting many musical influences into the mix.
Love: If you try to capture that same energy in that same moment when the song came through when I first wrote them it's never gonna happen. I think that's really part of finding your voice, is that you never really find it. You're constantly searching for a more perfect version of yourself, and I think that's kind of a reflection of life too because you know we have this life and our time here is so finite. So it's all about growth, and growing and finding your voice is a whole part of that. Finding your spiritual voice too, you know?
Love: As a musician who is successful you always get that question from musicians that are kind of coming up or starting out or just starting to write songs, and they’re like, What would be that one piece of advice, and it's always just for me a thing I realized kind of early on about all the music that I love and about my success, and what people really connected with for me, is that honesty.
Love: When I got a little older I started to realize the connection between music and how it healed me and then I started to make music that was more about that and as it started connecting with people, that was when I really realized what music is for, the first time I acknowledged that if I've been given a gift then I should just make myself open to it. From that point on, I just kind of took any praise anybody gave me and just give it to the source of the music and that's what I still do. To allow the music to come through is really simple when you realize that. The more I would see it reflected through others, the more I would understand what it really meant to myself.
Love says he started out playing rock in high school but when he discovered reggae, he went full tilt.
Love: It was the foundational reggae music from the 70’s bands like Bob Marley and the Gladiators, Israel Vibrations, the Congos, and the Abyssinians. When I really got into that music it’s music that’s heavily connected to Rastafari, to the movement of Rastafari, and to that idea of connectedness, interconnectedness, that one love, that of course Bob Marley famously sang about. That we're all connected, that we are all one people, and that we're also people that are being oppressed by a system that's seeking to control us, seeking to use us like cogs in a machine. When I got into playing that kind of music it was an epiphany for me because it was what I was always looking for. It was a message of positivity, of love, and also a message of, Think for yourself, rise up! Don’t be a part of a system that’s controlling you! All of those elements, the spirituality present in the music, the meditative qualities of the music really resonated with me. At that point I stopped making any other kind of music and I just started making reggae music.
Love: There's so much division, and I think with the mainstream media and the entertainment industry, a lot of it is designed to divide us, designed to really magnify the negative aspects of all cultures, and what keeps us separated. (Why not) Rejoice and triumph over the beautiful aspects of our culture that can connect us, that can expand beyond just one race, one culture, one individual. I think seeing those connections together and growing outside of the oppression of those industries can really help us to come together and help us to grow and help us to move forward in this in these troubling times.
Love: I'm still on a permanent holiday you know because I don't work for a system that I don't believe in. I work toward something that I know is helping people. And somehow my path has led me to that point that can sustain me and sustain my family, and I'm so thankful for that.
Love: I guess there's no secret formula to getting to that point but first it takes a leap of faith. I think everybody out there knows there's something they could be doing that they wish they were doing, that they know could help people, they know could make a difference, and they also know could sustain their lives and be sustainable. For the most part, probably 99% of people are afraid to quit their job that they're in, or their career that they’ve been working for the last 10 years or 15 years or 30 years or 50 years, and just throw caution to the wind and go after what they know they really truly should be doing. It’s what they truly want to be doing, what they need to be doing and they have a vision for, and yet they're afraid to do those scary things, to take to scary steps where you know you step out into the unknown.
Love: Sometimes you just have to realize that I'm working a 9-to-5 job at the bank or at the gas station, or at the grocery store, I'm comfortable and it pays my bills, but I know I should be doing something better. But then I don't know that if I quit this job if I'll ever be able to go back, or I’ll make it doing whatever it is I know I should be doing. It's a scary thing, but I think that in this life it's all about those tests and if we do take those leaps of faith like at a certain point of my life I had to, we’re always rewarded and we're always taken care of and we're always provided for.
Love: If you look back in your life you can see that you’ve always been provided for and that your path has led you to this point, and that obviously you’ve had everything you need because you’re not dead! Right? You can wait and wait but the longer you wait, the further that dream gets away from you and the further that vision gets from being a reality, and you get further and further entrenched in the idea that you can’t do it.
Love: You still have something to give and you still have something to share and there’s no time that’s better than now.
In the extended interview Mike talks about his relationship with his grandfather, Robert Loveless, a much loved minister, educator, radio commentator, and former director of Honolulu’s Model Cities program. Loveless and his father, Wendell Loveless (also a minister), wrote one of the most well-known gospel choruses worldwide, 'Every Day With Jesus.'”
When it came time to pass his name down to his children, Mike changed it officially to Love.
Mike Love’s discography: 2012 debut CD: The Change I’m Seeking, Love Will Find a Way, Love Overflowing. Love and the Full Circle are currently working on a live in-studio album.
Full Circle band members:
Sam “Ites” Gonsalves on drums; John Hawes, bass; Keith Tsukamaki, keyboards; Reggie Padilla, sax/ piano; Arthur Davis, trombone.