>> Geographer's Mike Deni finds comfort on the road by listening to podcasts, packing the essentials, and making his touring van into a home. Learn more about his aspiration to be one of the "biggest small musicians" in the world and his ambitious outlook on the future in our latest interview.
What would you like people to think about and feel as they listen to your new EP?
I want them to be put into a pensive yet celebratory mood. I want them to be transported to the moment when they became themselves, to catch flashes of their childhood that they forgot, and look through them as a lens at their current lives. But mostly I want them to feel that the music is a way to peer into the abyss without falling.
What's the hardest thing you have learned during the process of making this EP?
That it hurts to care, it hurts to dream big, but it’s even worse to do neither.
Moving around a lot and not having an official home for a while, what were five things that always made you feel comfortable and grounded?
My van. Wherever I am, if I’m driving that thing, I’ll feel at home. I also am an avid packer, so I have a little essentials kit that is very small but I keep with me and every time I see that I feel warm, maybe that’s insane, but it’s true. Listening to podcasts. In an unfamiliar place, you get that familiar voice in your ear that feels good. My computer, too. Wherever I was, I could make a song, and looking at that program interface always made me feel good. And talking to friends on the phone has always been important to me. On a long drive, I’ll just pass the time catching up with people who I love but am not physically close to.
How have your dreams and hopes changed over time? What major experiences (if any) have affected them to change?
When I started making music I wanted to be the biggest musician in the world. I just wanted everyone to know my music. And I actually thought it was possible. I would tell my friends you’ll never achieve anything if you don’t dream big. After living in the music industry for about a decade though, and pondering human nature, that dream has definitely changed to be one of the biggest small musicians in the world, ha. Now if I can just play large theaters for the rest of my life I’ll be happy. I think I learned that what people like is so rarely based on its inherent merits and that no one with the money to make me huge is ever going to spend it on me and not Ariana Grande. And that’s fine. The world needs heroes like that. But there’s plenty of people who need thoughtful music too, just not like, the whole population! I wish they did, but it’s not the 70s anymore, and it hasn’t been for a long time.
What are some things you do to stop feelings of discontentment?
I often remind myself of the things I do have when I’m lamenting the things I don’t. I’ll wake up and just run down the list out loud. That helps. And then I also try to be around people every day. I have a tendency to be a hermit. It comes with the craft, and I’m also very nervous out there, I often assume the worst. Sometimes I’m amazed I’ve ever accomplished anything I’m so unsure of myself sometimes. But I think I was born with a trust fund’s worth of ambition, and I’ve just been depleting it like a wealthy party animal ne’er do well but it’s sustained me through a great many embarrassing experiences.
If this EP could be the soundtrack to any film, what film would you choose and why?
The tree of life. I think it’s one of the 5 best films ever made, and it was a big visual touchstone for me in writing a lot of the songs, particularly the mostly instrumental ones and “Summer of my Discontentment.” The way the haze of memory is represented is so realistic. The richness of the forest in the childhood sections, the way the parents are portrayed. It’s not childlike in any way. It is grown up but through the eyes of a child, the brain of a child processing adult memories. It’s a breathtaking movie that deals with identity and creation. That’s always where my head is at. The big questions. Why. And most importantly, Now what? <<
Listen to 'New Jersey' HERE!
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