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Interview: Mike O’Dowd Talks Up His Latest Album, ‘One Lover Leaves’

With his debut album ‘One Lover Leaves,’ Australian indie-folk singer/songwriter Mike O’Dowd extends a heartfelt invitation to embark on a poignant expedition through the labyrinthine emotions of love, anguish, and profound self-discovery. This compilation represents a candid and unfiltered exploration of the intricate tapestry of human emotions in the realm of love, all skillfully woven together with O’Dowd’s distinctive flair for evocative storytelling and poetic lyricism. We had a chat with Mike to find out more about the EP, writing process, collaborations and more.

Your debut album ‘One Lover Leaves’ is described as a raw and honest exploration of love, anguish, and self-discovery. Can you share the emotional journey you went through while creating this album?

I wrote this album over the course of a few years. I went through a break up and was traveling a lot. On a few occasions I moved to a country without knowing a single person, so there’s usually a little loneliness involved in that. Writing music was a great way to work through whatever was bothering me at the time. I think everyone deals with the same issues. I just feel extremely lucky to be able to work through it while creating music.

You mentioned not censoring or second-guessing yourself during the writing process. Can you elaborate on how this approach contributed to the honesty and truth embedded in the songs?

I feel the more you second guess and question what you’re writing, the more you water down what’s really truthful. I feel as songwriters our main goal is to go after what’s true to us and ignore the outside noise. I think everyone prefers that kind of single mindedness anyway. I’m not doing anything controversial, but I’ll never apologise for a single lyric if I know it’s honest.

The album features a blend of indie-folk and contemporary sounds with hints of country. How did you navigate fusing these different musical elements to create a cohesive and distinctive sound for the album?

I just went after what I felt was right for the song. I think the songs sit together quite well because they’re all from the same period of time. That links them together on some level. I mixed the record with Burke Reid too. When you’re working with someone as talented and experienced as he is, it’s hard to really put a foot wrong. He brought a great balance to the record.

‘One Lover Leaves’ showcases a range of instruments and textures. How did you go about selecting and arranging these elements to create a sonic landscape that complements the lyrical narrative?

The general idea was to have the vocals up front and have the instruments add texture and colour in the background. I didn’t want anything to step on the vocal. For me that’s the heart of the record. I obsessed over the vocals for a very long time, but as soon as I had a solid take, it all seemed to fall into place pretty quickly.

How did you collaborate with Jon Graboff from Ryan Adams & the Cardinals in bringing out the unique sound of ‘One Lover Leaves’? 

Jon played pedal steel on a few tracks and brought an amazing quality to those songs. Pedal steel is such an otherworldly instrument. Especially drenched in reverb and played through an old Fender twin. We met quite a few years ago when I was living in New York and I always wanted to work together. I was lucky enough to work with some incredible musicians on this record. 

Jesse Williams completely blew me away in the studio. He’s one of those musicians that can add so much to a song, but still leave space for it to breathe. Finding that balance is one the hardest skills to master. I learnt a lot from working with Jesse.

Can you share any memorable moments or challenges you encountered during the recording process of ‘One Lover Leaves’? Were there any particular songs that presented unique creative opportunities?

I felt like every step was a challenge, but that’s the only way to move forward and learn. Songwriting and recording for me is like trying to solve a puzzle. If you persist, you can get there in the end. You just never know how long that will be. There’s definitely an addictive quality to songwriting. As soon as one song is finished, you start the whole process again.

‘One Lover Leaves’ is set to be released on vinyl. What significance does the vinyl format hold for you in presenting your music?

Seeing and hearing the album on vinyl was incredible for me. It was always one of the main goals. I always viewed that as the endpoint while making the album. I’m not sure what it is, but it just seems to make the album more real. It’s a tangible thing you can hold in your hands. Also, I’ve listened to my heroes on vinyl for years, so in some way it makes me feel linked to that world. It’s really the most beautiful format. No one can really argue with that.

As this is your debut album, what message or legacy do you hope to leave with ‘One Lover Leaves’, both for your existing audience and for new listeners discovering your music for the first time?

I’m just hoping it will lead to more records. Making music has always been my goal and if I can get my foot in the door with this album, that’s all I’m really hoping for. 

Can you tell us about any upcoming plans or projects related to the release of ‘One Lover Leaves’?

I’ll be playing shows in Australia and overseas as often as possible this year and next year and hopefully recording a second record as soon as I can get back in the studio. If the stars align, I should have a second record out by the end of 2024.

“One Lover Leaves’ takes audiences on an emotional odyssey, vividly depicting the narrative of a relationship as it reaches its poignant conclusion with heartfelt passion and intensity. It’a available now, everywhere.

Written by John Zebra