Michael David Rosenberg, aka Passenger, has played a few folk fests here and there in Canada before. But this summer, he swept across the country playing festivals in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Calgary. CKUA’s Meg Wilcox caught up with the English singer-songwriter at the Calgary Folk Music Festival. He told her that he had been wanting to make his way back here for a while, partially because of the “listening culture” that Canadian festival audiences have. “There’s something really special that I think I’ve really only found in Canada where there are audiences here that want stories, want lyrics,” he said. “There’s something that’s deeply woven into the culture here that allows an audience to sit quietly here — even an audience of ten or twelve thousand people — and you can hear a pin drop. And that’s really spectacular.”
While he has just finished his tenth album, Runaway, most audiences are probably most familiar with his 2013 hit, “Let Her Go”. The song brought him international attention, won numerous awards and now has just shy of two billion views on YouTube. While he said he’s grateful for all the doors the song has opened for him, he’s not chasing the next hit single.
“I think sometimes you get external pressure to write another one. I think after I did “Let Her Go”, everybody expected me to have 10 more hit singles and turn into Elton John. And that didn’t really happen. And that’s fine — I never really intended to have one, to be honest,” Rosenberg said.
“When I wrote “Let Her Go”, I didn’t really do it differently to any of my other songs — so, to then suddenly change doesn’t make sense, I don’t think.”
Still, he admits that Runaway is a bit more radio-friendly than some of his other releases with a bigger sound — something that seemed right after he discovered the strong current of Americana that flowed through the songs he was writing.
“When we went in to record it, we didn’t hold back on the mandolins and the banjos and the lap steel — it does really have that American country swagger to it.”
Rosenberg talks more about the record, including how he recorded a video for each song, and more in the interview. Have a listen!