Q&A with guitarist, singer and songwriter Mighty Mike Schermer, one of the best musicians in the blues today

"Music can bridge all barriers…race, socio-economic, political…it can be as simple as people forgetting their problems and differences for 90 minutes to enacting actual long term change. Let it move you, and a lot of other things will fall into place."

Mighty Mike Schermer: Just Gettin’ Good!

Mighty Mike Schermer was a fixture on the Bay Area blues scene for over 20 years when he relocated to Austin TX in 2009 and joined the touring band of swamp-boogie piano legend Marcia Ball. He had already carved out a solid solo career...with four critically acclaimed albums, an award winning single and thousands of performances at festivals and nightclubs the world over. He was also the “go to guy” sideman for such heavyweights as Elvin Bishop, Maria Muldaur, Angela Strehli, Bonnie Raitt, Howard Tate, Charlie Musselwhite, Sista Monica, Shana Morrison and many, many more. Mighty Mike Schermer delivers on all fronts! With his searing tone and passionate delivery Mighty Mike has long been a respected, if sometimes underrated, favorite of blues guitar fans. With the release of his last four albums BE SOMEBODY (2013), Blues IN GOOD HANDS (2016), BAD TATTOO (2019) and his latest JUST GETTIN’ GOOD (Release Day: June 2022) he has cemented his reputation as one of the finest and most prolific songwriters in the genre.                                       (Photo: Mighty Mike Schermer)

Mike Schermer’s 8th solo album and Little Village recording debut describes the 55-year-old guitarist/ singer/ songwriter’s musical journey perfectly. Recorded throughout the pandemic at Greaseland in San Jose, CA with the help of perennial Blues Award winner/nominee and multi-instrumentalist Kid Andersen, “Just Gettin’ Good” showcases Mighty Mike at his guitar-slinging, soul-singing and storytelling best. 12 original songs retain an energetic live show feel throughout, with stellar performances by some of the Bay Area’s top musicians. Mighty Mike Schermer has performed in all 50 US States and in 25 countries around the world. His discography includes over 30 album credits and his songs have appeared on Grammy nominated albums. His energetic live shows leave audiences happily exhausted and begging for more!

Interview by Michael Limnios           Special Thanks: Kevin Johnson, Little Village

How has the Blues/Soul and Roots music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Playing this music has brought me to 25 countries and all 50 US States. Getting to meet people from all these different places, with roots music as our common bond, has made the world a much smaller place and made me realize how similar we all really are. At the same time, I have enjoyed trying different foods and embracing our cultural differences. There have often been language barriers in my travels, but the language of music always seems to bridge the gap.

How do you describe your music philosophy and songbook? How do you have grown as an artist since you started?

For me it’s all about being real, being honest and playing music you believe in from your heart. Chops are great, but all the fancy licks in the world won’t get you anywhere if they aren’t played with feeling. I think with every album I have tried to be more of myself and less of trying to just sound like my heroes.

Where does your creative drive come from? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?

I try to just observe life and listen to people. There are songs everywhere, and a lot of them still haven’t been written yet. I think a truly great song has the ability to transcend the person singing it. My songs all try to tell a story that someone else can hopefully relate to.

"Be kind and gracious to everyone you meet. You have no idea what they are going through or what their life is like. It may not always get you what you want at that exact moment, or how you feel at that exact moment, but you can at least feel good that you conducted yourself in the right way. You can never have too many friends, but one enemy is too many." (Mighty Mike Schermer / Photo by Terry Way)

You've your debut release with Little Village. How did that relationship come about?

I have known and played music with Jim Pugh for close to 30 years. I really appreciate what LV is doing for such a wide variety of artists from different backgrounds. I touch on a lot of different styles of music on this album, not just blues, so I thought LV would be a good fit for this release.

Do you have any stories about the making of the new album?

Hmmm…good question…The songs “Just Gettin Good” and “Cook Up a Little Love” were both written for videos Kimmy Pickens and I were doing during the early days of the pandemic. We did a bunch of songs and videos, but they were all about Covid, quarantining and such. So, it was a fun challenge to try and make a couple of those songs survive into the post-Covid era by changing words and such. Also, we got a dog during the pandemic. His name is Wally, but before we got him, we almost got another dog named Murph…except we were too slow going to pick him up and someone else got him first. So, a few weeks went by where we had an “imaginary” dog named Murph, and every time we would do certain things…like prepare dinner… we would imagine that “Murph” would help us by eating things that dropped on the floor. At this same time, I was discovering some great Calypso music by such artists as Growling Tiger and Lord Relator. So, all that came together one day, and I wrote “The Hungry Dog”.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Well without a doubt hearing Albert Collins for the first time when I was 18 years old changed everything about what I thought was possible to do with a guitar. I bought a Fender Telecaster the very next day. I got to meet him several times. Once I went to find him to say hello to him before a show and he was under his bus changing the oil himself! He told me to go listen to and learn from T-Bone Walker, but mostly to always try and sound like myself and do my own thing.

Delbert McClinton said “Don’t ever leave your wallet in the dressing room”. That was good advice too!!

"For me it’s all about being real, being honest and playing music you believe in from your heart. Chops are great, but all the fancy licks in the world won’t get you anywhere if they aren’t played with feeling. I think with every album I have tried to be more of myself and less of trying to just sound like my heroes." (Mighty Mike Schermer & Elvin Bishop / Photo by Bob Hakins, 2006)

Are there any specific memories or highlights of your career that you would like to tell us about?!

Just all the great opportunities I have had to not only play with so many great blues artists…Elvin Bishop, Bonnie Raitt, Charlie Musselwhite, Angela Strehli, Marcia Ball, Howard Tate, Pinetop Perkins, Snooky Pryor, Nappy Brown, Ruth Brown… so many greats… but more importantly to get to actually hang out with them as people and hear their stories. Hubert Sumlin put his hands on my shoulders after a gig once and said “we ain’t gonna be around forever man, it’s up to you guys now!” That was pretty damn inspiring!

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Well, most of the music I like was recorded before 1972, and I was only 6 years old! I do miss getting to be able to hear a lot of blues legends, they’re almost all gone now…and I was fortunate enough to have 20 plus years of playing gigs where we could sell a lot of CDs right off the bandstand. That is almost completely gone these days, which is a huge blow to the bottom line of any band trying to make it on the road…couple that with hardly any gigs on weeknights… it’s gonna be almost impossible for up and coming artists to make a living playing music. That’s a sad thing.

What is the impact of music on the racial and socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Music can bridge all barriers… race, socio-economic, political… it can be as simple as people forgetting their problems and differences for 90 minutes to enacting actual long term change. Let it move you, and a lot of other things will fall into place.

"Playing this music has brought me to 25 countries and all 50 US States. Getting to meet people from all these different places, with roots music as our common bond, has made the world a much smaller place and made me realize how similar we all really are. At the same time, I have enjoyed trying different foods and embracing our cultural differences. There have often been language barriers in my travels, but the language of music always seems to bridge the gap."

(Mighty Mike Schermer / Photo by Johnny Medina)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Be kind and gracious to everyone you meet. You have no idea what they are going through or what their life is like. It may not always get you what you want at that exact moment, or how you feel at that exact moment, but you can at least feel good that you conducted yourself in the right way. You can never have too many friends, but one enemy is too many.

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