It’s been 32 years and eight albums since Genesis’ co-founding guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford formed Mike + The Mechanics to complement, rather than replace, his original band, and their new album, Let Me Fly, is scheduled for release in the U.S. on April 7 from The End/BMG.
“In 1985, we were having the best time in Genesis,” Rutherford recalls. “But after 28 years, myself, Phil [Collins, Genesis drummer/vocalist], and Tony [Banks, keyboardist] wanted variety, so we ran our band and our solo careers side by side happily for many years. To be honest, it saved Genesis. The fact I’m still doing it with the Mechanics just makes me smile.”
I’ll be conducting a new, HRAC-exclusive interview with Rutherford in this space fairly soon, so stay tuned. If you want to see the details of the previous discussion I had with Rutherford here on HRAC back in September 2014, wherein the topics included early Genesis recording mistakes, the band’s creative process, what he thought the future of Mike + The Mechanics would be (“I want to have some new material to play next year with the band. I’m tempted to actually write the songs and play them live first before recording them”), and what his favorite LP is, click on this link.
Let Me Fly is now available for pre-order via Amazon and iTunes, while the first single, “Don’t Know What Came Over Me,” is now available for download and streaming. You can check “Don’t Know,” out right now, right here…
Of the album’s above first single, Rutherford observes, “Here’s this guy who’s happily married, loves his lady, and everything’s wonderful. Then, one night, he goes AWOL and loses everything by having a one night-stand. It was a moment of madness, and he’s beyond remorseful. Was he forgiven? The song just leaves him hanging. And no, it’s not autobiographical!”
In support of Let Me Fly, Mike + The Mechanics will be touring Europe throughout February and March, and they will also take to the stage at BST Hyde Park in London with Phil Collins and Blondie on June 30. (The full schedule of M+TM tour dates can be found below.)
Let Me Fly began to take off as the band toured to support 2011’s The Road, the first album featuring the current M+TM line-up that consists of Rutherford (guitar/bass), Luke Juby (keyboards), Gary Wallis (drums), and Anthony Drennan (guitar), plus vocalists Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar.
Rutherford notes, “The Mechanics hadn’t played live much, so we started to do what I’d done 40 years ago, and built a name. We did Euro festivals, UK tours, and small places and, yes, I really did wonder at my age if it was OK to be at Portsmouth Guildhall, but we got to be a great live band. The chemistry works because we’re all very different people, who’re fun and quirky — if there were any personality problems I couldn’t deal with that, I really couldn’t. We needed new songs, though.”
Rutherford’s friend, producer Brian Rawling (David Bowie, Tina Turner, Cher’s “Believe,” Mike + The Mechanics’ “Now That You’ve Gone”), played the role of Let Me Fly’s sounding board. In turn, Rawling introduced Mike to former Johnny Hates Jazz singer Clark Datchler and, in December 2015, a new songwriting partnership was born. “We sat down together and, from day one, it worked,” Rutherford reports. “Clark’s a proper writer, and he brought something new. I’d send him lines, and he’d bring them to life. We never had a slow day.”
Along the way, Rutherford also collaborated with old friend Fraser T. Smith (Kano, Kaiser Chiefs, Adele, Sam Smith) and Ed Drewett (One Direction, Professor Green), while both Mechanics singers Roachford and Howar collaborated too. Big studios were out. Instead, Rutherford and one of the singers would make a demo that would be passed around for the others to embellish and layer, and the songs evolved into something special. Notes Rutherford, “You don’t go into studios anymore. Doing it this way feels like you’re working on the good bits all the time, but the songs really have to deliver.”
The results pleased even the chief Mechanic himself. “The Road didn’t move anyone’s world, as we made it just after we’d met,” Rutherford admits. “We’ve learned to play together now. For me, it’s about proving I can write a good song, but the older you get, the less you let yourself off with ‘it’s not bad’, the less you pretend, and the tougher you are on yourself. The hardest part of the whole process is staying relevant, but anyone who says success doesn’t matter is a liar; what you really want is people to like it. Then you feel it’s all been worth it. It’s as simple as that. Oh, and my wife loves it, more than she’s loved an album of mine for a while! Trust me, that’s a really good sign.”
The title track, “Let Me Fly,” which is performed by Andrew Roachford, provided the album’s title and its emotional center. “For the sleeve, we used a base jumper leaping around on a trampoline,” details Rutherford. “He had to shave his head for the shoot. The [title] phrase has a lovely, aspirational feel, but the song isn’t just about love; it’s about life. It’s got a great Roach vocal and a choir, and it sounds fantastic. I imagine a guy on a hill just letting go and seeing what happens. If you don’t try things, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”
Meanwhile, “The Letter” is based on the “Sliding Doors” principle, as Rutherford details: “Someone finds a letter in a drawer. It’s from his wife, and it says things about him she’s never said to his face. His whole life turns around. If he hadn’t opened the drawer, everything would have carried on the same. Once he’s done it, it’s too late. He’s left hanging too by the way.”
In contrast, “Save My Soul” could have easily slipped into mawkishness. “The chords and melody were great, but I couldn’t find a setting to take it away from sounding like a corny Michael Bolton ballad,” Rutherford admits. “I asked Fraser T. Smith’s beats guy, Zak Kemp, to have a little mess around. He used a couple of R&B loop ideas, and it came to life. Its whole feel and texture changed, and it has space now. It’s about people who ride roughshod over others because they can. Believe me, they never get away with it.”
“Are You Ready” is the most uptempo song of a mostly uptempo album, Rutherford says: “It works on two levels — are you ready to stand up and say we’re a couple? But also, are you ready to be who you are, to admit what you are and what you do?”
So what’s next, Mike? “I’ve never had a long-term plan, even with Genesis,” Rutherford concludes. “I never imagined Mike + The Mechanics would last. Then again, as a 15-year-old, I never imagined Genesis would last. I’ll put Let Me Fly out, and I’ll see where it goes. What happens this year will tell me what to do next. I like that!” So do we.
For more information, head on over to www.mikeandthemechanics.com.
LET ME FLY —
12. Save My Soul
2017 Mike + The Mechanics Tour Dates
02/27 Victoria Hall, Hanley
02/28 G Live, Guildford
03/01 Colston Hall, Bristol
03/03 Pavilions, Plymouth
03/04 St David’s Hall, Cardiff
03/05 New Theatre, Oxford
03/07 Hexagon, Reading
03/08 Corn Exchange, Cambridge
03/09 Regent Theatre, Ipswich
03/11 Cliffs Pavillion, Southend
03/13 Dome, Brighton
03/15 Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
03/17 Concert Hall, Perth
03/18 His Majesty’s , Aberdeen
03/19 Festival Hall, Edinburgh
03/21 Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
03/22 City Hall, Sheffield
03/24 Pavilion, Bournemouth
03/25 Guildhall, Portsmouth
03/26 Royal Albert Hall, London
03/28 City Hall, Salisbury