Interview: Mike Gordon’s Balancing Act

For Mike Gordon, having just finished an exhaustive two month swing of projects that included a 13-date Phish tour, the donning of another musical costume for Halloween as Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus, the release of the new Mike Gordon Band album, Moss, and a 17-date tour behind it (that at one point included ten shows in just 11 days), it comes as no surprise that the opening track on his latest album is titled Can’t Stand Still.

[Photo by Brad Worsham]

Gordon has always been known for his tireless output — be it his bass playing with Phish, his collaborations, his solo career, writing, filmmaking or any number of other outlets — but at this point, the creative synapses are firing on overdrive.

Unlike many musicians who take the approach of churning out a record and touring behind it before taking an extended break, Mike takes a more calculated path. He aims to strike natural balances between his work with the two main bands (Phish and MGB), his professional time and his down time, his bass playing and other instrumental endeavors, and even his music and other creative outlets. It’s all a balancing act. And in the words of Albert Einstein, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

On Being a Bandleader

Given that Mike Gordon’s solo career exists in its relative infancy, as does his role as a bandleader, this era brings about many exciting changes and challenges. For example, he’s had to learn how to put together setlists; increase his sensitivity to people’s reactions to songs; internalize what’s going on in the room; and “let the music become what it wants to become.”

“It’s about discovering what is already there, and figuring out certain balances,” Mike explains. “For example, I really like playing music that people can dance to. So, if the people are dancing, do we try to keep them dancing? Or do we give them something more contemplative, or a slow song, to change moods? And if people seem to be sweaty and revved up and want to dance, is it OK to be counter-intuitive and say, ‘Maybe it’s time to change it up and explore something that’s more soul and less about body?’ You only learn to make these decisions by trial and error.”

READ ON for more of Ryan’s feature on Mike Gordon…

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