You Can Go Home Again-Mike McMann Interview By: Amy Modesti
Written by Staff on February 5, 2022
Fourteen years has passed since Stephentown resident, Mike McMann, released new music. 2007’s Streamside was McMann’s final album heard in listener’s ears until True came along.
RRX: I listened to your album!
MM: Oh good!
RRX: Out of the songs I heard, a few of them you performed at different gigs. I was familiar with “Kayak”, “Streamside”, “Walleye Vision”, and “Fast Train to Georgia”. “Stephentown” was cool.
MM: I’m hoping to get WGNA to play that for me. PYX 106 played half of it, and WEQX played a few of my songs. That was cool. I’m trying to get some interest in this darn thing. Jimmy Barrett got a copy, Melody Lemony has a copy. I’m steadily plugging along.
RRX: You’re welcome. “Stephentown” was a favorite and “True” was cute. That was a tribute to your wife, Kim, right?
MM: I always wanted to write a disco love song. I’m confident I wrote a good love song. “Kayak” is dedicated to Kim cause she’s in the kayak quite frequently. We started recording this project in 2018. I started it and I didn’t like the version that we did. I wrote a couple songs, ditched songs, and Caroline Isachsen passed away. Jeff Prescott, Kyle Esposito, and I re-recorded again and then COVID hit. Last year, we started back up again doing all the overdubs, having everyone add their parts to it, and finished it up at the end of this summer (2021). It took two and a half years, but we got it the way we want. We had plenty of time to change anything and listen to it to death to make sure it was right.
RRX: How did you come up with the songs you wrote?
MM: I was lucky enough to know a lot of great musicians around here. It’s been a while since I put a record out. Five years ago, I quit drinking. So that freed me up a little bit to think about writing songs. Maybe I was inspired a little bit by that and stuff that’s going on in the world. I’m not sure where the hell the songs come from. They come from somewhere.
RRX: They come from your life’s experiences. Congratulations on your sobriety! That’s awesome!
RRX: Why did you create True?
MM: I was due to put something out. There’s a lot of great musicians that I’m fortunate enough to play with and they were all interested in it. I talked to Sten about recording at his studio, maybe record a bluegrass album or record more stuff with The Nellies. Then I decided, I got these songs I should do a rock album. I hadn’t done a rock album in a long time. My last album was bluegrass acoustic. True is more of a rock album or more pop-rock.
RRX: You have some catchy hooks!
MM: You gotta have that in a song.
RRX: What was your inspiration behind “Stephentown”? You’re originally from Center Brunswick.
MM: I was born in Troy, and I lived in Center Brunswick. I’ve been in Stephentown for 18 years. Some friends of ours used to run this event that they stopped during Covid. It was called Celebrate Stephentown. They have a lot of local vendors, musicians, and others that create, do crafts, and have different businesses in Stephentown. It was a big town thing they would do for a whole weekend. I played it before, and Matt Mirabile played it before COVID. I wrote this song for that and played it a few times, but I didn’t have a recorded version of it. So, the town has an official song. They have the sign. It’s about the sign that you see, and it really is the only Stephentown on Earth. Even though I’m out in the f****** middle of nowhere and it takes forever to go anywhere, it’s nice living out here and it’s a cool place. For the people of Stephentown, I wrote a song about Stephentown, the sign, and the event.
RRX: It gives you that great sense of hometown pride.
MM: Good, and Kevin Maul playing the pedal steel certainly helps. I was lucky to have Kevin play on a few songs on the record and “Stephentown” was where he really shined.
RRX: That’s awesome.
MM: I think about the bluegrass jam I used to do at the Ale House and as much as I don’t miss that, sometimes I do. I met Peggy Lecuyer, Karen McEvoy, and Gene Lemme. The Nellies were formed at either the bluegrass jam that Mark Jones and I started at the Ale House or the Hill Hollow one that started at Babson’s. Jeff Babson was running the restaurant in North Petersburgh.
RRX: Right at the intersection of Route 22 and Route 346.
MM: Jeff Babson used to run it every Wednesday or the first Wednesday of the month. Their jam was legendary. When Babson’s closed, the jam moved to Brunswick BBQ & Brew. So, between that jam and the one at the Ale House I got to meet and play with a lot of musicians. The whole community thing was kind of gone cause of COVID and some open jams started back up again. I go to Family Tree once a month. There’s a whole big community in this area and that was a big part of my album. What great musicians I know would come play on my record? I was lucky. If you look at the back of it, I got a good group of musicians. I hog the guitar parts.
RRX: You’re the guitarist after all.
MM: I did well on that end. It was cool having Sten play on “Gypsy Girl”. With the horns, keyboard, bass, percussion, and vocals, these guys filled out the record nicely. I’m pleased with what everyone played on it.
RRX: Everything worked out well.
MM: Sten did a great job engineering and mixing. We spent as much time mixing and mastering as we did recording. We did a lot of cutting and splicing. Some of the guitar and saxophone solos weren’t played the same. You take the parts, patch them together, and make it sound like you’re playing it that way. Sometimes you play the first three quarters of it great and then you blow it at the end. If you miss a note, we’ll fix it. Having Sten at the helm made things smooth. We had time to get it right and everybody played great. The songs are decent. I wrote good songs. “True”, “Future?”. “Birdie”, “Kayak” kind of goofy but it’s still a good, catchy song. “Streamside” and “Walleye Vision”, I wanted to do updated versions with Luke McNamee on saxophone.
RRX: Luke was dominant on those songs live.
MM: We switched it up a little bit. We went with some Eric Johnson guitar and Luke added harmony. “Walleye Vision” had a new intro. The new intro wasn’t long enough to be a whole song, so I tacked it on “Walleye Vision”. “Fast Train” is a song I’m known for. I finished it with “Walleye”, “Streamside”, and “Fast Train”. Sten played mandolin and Kevin on dobro. They are two top notch guys when it comes to playing bluegrass. The first seven songs are all new. The other three songs are three or four years old.
RRX: Where can people buy your album?
MM: It’s at the River Street Beat Shop, Mike McMann’s True on iTunes, and Spotify. They can get the CD from me by mail or at my gigs. They can reach me at my website www.mikemcmannband.com .
RRX: People can contact you directly on Facebook?
MM: They can go through Messenger. I’ve advertised on Facebook here and there. We do what we do and hopefully somebody will take notice. I wrote some good songs. I got the best guys I could. We put out the best record that we physically, possibly could. I’m proud of what everybody did and what Sten and I put together. We’ll see what everybody else thinks.
RRX: If you’re happy with the album, that’s what matters. You’re stating your reason why Stephentown is your home.
MM: That would probably be the hit of the album, but we’ll see. I appreciate ya taking the time to bull**** with me.
True is a ten-song solid album mastered and produced by Sten Isachsen, with nine of ten songs written by McMann. It features McMann’s musician friends, Ted Hennessy, Jason Maloney, Jeff Prescott, Kevin Maul, Sten Isachsen, Luke McNamee, Drew Costa, Kyle Esposito, and Brian Patneaude. True was produced in memory of McMann’s brother, Joseph George McMann.