From a young age, Mike Love learned to appreciate the power of music. Listening to his father craft folk tunes on his guitar or his grandfather compose gospel on piano, he knew the dream of becoming a musician was possible despite the odds. He learned to play guitar from his father and sister, and it became his main instrument for writing and playing. Now, as an internationally touring musician with three albums under his belt, Love hasn’t forgotten where it all started.
“I think—coming from that line of musicians—I always was interested in playing music,” Love says. “I think that’s the thing. That’s really important.”
Growing up in Hawaii provided an ideal atmosphere for poetic inspiration, with its lush forests and tranquil beaches. The culture and community of Hawaii first introduced Love to reggae and its spirituality, which ultimately would become a driving force in his music.
“It’s music with a deeper meaning and a purpose to inspire people to awaken their own spirituality—and to open their minds to the controls of the system around us and the revolution against that,” he says. “All those things really appealed to me; I started writing music in the same vein.”
Reggae music may be the cornerstone of Love’s sound, but he isn’t restricted by genre. Over his musical career, he has delved into different traditions—from blues to psychedelic rock to R&B and soul. Before embarking on a solo career, he played in reggae bands, including Dubkoncious and Melodious Solutions, but once he struck out on his own, he began to revisit past influences.
“On the first [solo] album [“The Change I’m Seeking”], there’s quite a bit of reggae music, which I guess is on a lot of the other albums, but I started bringing in other styles—R&B or acoustic-rock songs,” Love says. “I never really think about whether it’s going to be heavily reggae. It’s just what songs are at hand and how they fit together.”
Love’s creative process is free-flowing—not just in constructing an album, but also on a micro level of songwriting. Even with his busy schedule of touring and raising children, he carves out time to write, whether while he’s driving home from a gig or sitting in a hotel room after a long day of traveling. He lets the inspiration come to him when it can.
“For me, creativity kind of flows through from the universe, and I feel like I can really be creative any time,” Love says. “It comes in any way at any time.”
Love has produced three albums by adhering to this philosophy, as well as his EP, “Love Overflowing” (2016). All of Love’s albums are released independently on his own label, Love Not War Records. The grassroots approach is inherent to Love’s music: He creates without relying on a dying system of megalithic record labels, and brings creative and spiritual connection directly to people. In the age of digital networking and social media, breaking free of the music industry’s bonds is more possible than ever.
“Ten years ago, I couldn’t have done what I do now,” he admits, “and I wouldn’t have been successful touring and traveling the world. But all of the technology that’s come along in the last 10 years has been great for independent musicians.”
People are at the heart of grassroots movements—whether musical, political or social. Love doesn’t let the stresses of touring distract him from making real, human connections. Living on the road is far from luxurious, and can easily wear down a person. But for Love every live performance feeds his creative energy.
“We tap into the energy of the universe, and we use that energy to lift people up, and as a result, their energy lifts us up, and it’s a circular flow,” he says. “After playing a show for two or three hours, most people say, ‘You guys must be exhausted,’ but it’s exactly the opposite. . . . Sometimes it’s hard to get to sleep because we’re so energized from the positive music and energy we received.”
After concluding multiple tours this year, which include Europe and both US coasts, Love will return to the studio to record another album with a live seven-piece band. Until then, folks can check out Mike Love in a three-piece setup (with bass and drums) at The Calico Room on Monday, Mar. 20, at 7 p.m. Local reggae/rock group Signal Fire will open the show.