Mick Sterling

All About Mick Sterling

by ItsAboutMusic.com artist and record producer – Kevin Bowe

All I can say is…. if you think you know what Mick Sterling is all about because you’ve spent a lot of Sunday nights watching him sing with the Stud Brothers; trust me, you don’t know the half of it. The curse of success is being pigeonholed into the narrow slot that you got successful in, regardless of any talents you may have in other areas. When Mick and I started working together in the Rolling Blunder Revue I quickly realized that this guy did not actually come of age listening to Tower Of Power records over and over again. The artistic make-up he revealed in that band was more of a John Hiatt/Bruce Springsteen/Rockpile kind of guy; a writer and performer with a darker side, a funnier side, sometimes clowning around onstage and other times sinking down into the deepest part of the blues, snarling and moaning like a dog with his paw caught in a trap.

As the idea for this album came together (by accident really, same as the Blunders) we began getting together every week or so to write songs for it. Since both of us are such huge fans of bloated progressive rock “concept albums” such as those by Rick Wakeman and Genesis…… oops that’s right, I forgot, we hate that shit. But- we still thought it would be cool to discipline our writing to one admittedly broad topic- sin and salvation and what lies in between. Songs about how cool God is, and about how stupid people sometimes act in His name. Songs about hipster priests hearing confessions from soccer moms, about clinging to faith when you don’t have anything left to hold onto, about getting lucky at bible camp- you know, the typical run of the mill stuff. I guess you can already tell it ain’t “Leave Your Hat On”. Speaking of getting lucky, we got lucky every step of the way with this record. The writing, the tracking, the vocals, the mix, everything… and let me tell you that is not always the case.

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Without mentioning any names let’s just say I’ve produced other records that were about as fun as getting a boil implant. This one was easy; just might spoil me for working with other less talented and more “difficult” artists. One thing that strikes me about working with Mick is that he really undervalues himself as a songwriter. So many artists I’ve worked with think they’re great songwriters because they can play the guitar (wrong) sing (wrong) or dance and look cute (wrong, wrong). Writing is a very strange thing and good writing…. well it’s like the Supreme Court’s definition of pornography…. “I can’t describe it to you but I know it when I see it” and I rarely see it like I do in Mick.

The song “You Don’t Know What Dirty Is” came out of an onstage crack at a Blunders gig where I was talking about my house needing cleaning. Mick responded with the instant song title and all we had to do was come up with the character behind it (Father Jack Kerouac). He also came up with the best title on the album “Who Died And Made You King” which extends an eloquent middle finger to those recent converts who zealously believe in, and confuse themselves with the G-man. “Heavy Lifting” was another one of Mick’s ideas that was so cool it wrote itself. I mean how could you possibly write a shitty song with that title?

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The crowning touch was when he showed up and sang 6 of these lead vocals IN ONE DAY!!!!!!!!! ONE DAY!!!!!!!! I’ve been at this a long time and never seen a display like that. This was after he got up at 6 in the morning! Then the bastard trots off and does 3 sets in a bar that night! The musicians on the album all played their hearts out, every single one. Donnie LaMarca’s piano on “Maggie’s Rosary”, Billy’s drums throughout, Andy Dee and Paul Mayasich blasting out the slide guitars, Stephen Morgan’s guitar nastiness on “Long Time”, and check out Cynthia Johnson and George Pettus on the gospel vocals! That was one of the funniest things to do for this record. Anyway, I think heathens as well as the righteous will dig it, and if my experience tells me anything, both parties will assume we were speaking only to them.