You probably know him as the bassist of multi-Platinum selling Vancouver pop-rock band Marianas Trench. This time, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist MIKEH (Mike Ayley) is stepping into the spotlight of his solo career with a shimmering debut EP, Golden Hour: First Things First.
Mike explains that much of his musical inspiration comes from the creative world Marianas Trench exists in. Everything from Josh Ramsay's distinct and wicked vocals to the band's ability to push the envelope with each record. However, his musical career was put on hold when the pandemic struck.
This brings us to MIKEH's debut solo EP, Golden Hour: First Things First. Co-produced by Pedro Dzelma, the new project celebrates the daily victories we overlook far too often. It examines how Ayley often felt contemplative during his favorite times of day throughout the pandemic. So, he was only right to help us celebrate the little moments with this new EP.
The project's introductory track, "Walking Hill," gives listeners a perfect sneak peek of what they're in for throughout the entire project. The warm acoustic guitar strumming alongside MIKEH's lush and fluid vocals floats through the speakers alongside soft percussion that leads us to the glimmering hook.
MIKEH's soothing and gentle vocals effortlessly send chills up the spine, especially as he expresses not giving up on the hope that a brighter day will soon come. The freeing and hazy electric guitar solo on the bridge blend rock with modern pop perfectly, all while MIKEH sends us to the outro of this sonically-delicious song with a bounty of hope that we will soon live at peace once again.
Do yourself a favor and allow MIKEH to be your source of inspiration to seize the day with his recent hit, "Walking Hill," from his debut solo EP, Golden Hour: First Things First. Find the project on all digital streaming platforms.
Welcome to BuzzMusic, MIKEH. Congratulations on releasing your highly anticipated debut solo EP, Golden Hour: First Things First. What inspired you to head down the path of a solo career?
Speaking of First Things First, I want to clarify that Marianas Trench is my priority number. The guys in the band and our crew are my family. The band will always be a part of my life! That said, I just started making music during the “forced detention” we all went through in 2020 and 2021. At first, it was making a Christmas song with my wife to have fun and keep busy. However, the inevitable was no stopping once I had the tools to make music at home. Songs just started coming to me. I had no choice but to grab hold of them before they moved on to the next waiting person. I think it was Noel Gallagher who referred to songwriting as going fishing. "I call it going fishing. I sit by the river with the guitar, and if I get a catch, great...And we're all fishing from the same river."
Making the music stimulated me so much, learning to record everything technically, coming up with all parts of the music on my own, and thinking about words and melody. In MT, I just “supervise” the bass part and make sure I like what I play, and if I have any ideas, I make sure they are auditioned. With the Golden Hour project, I got to play around with all sorts of creative options. I wrote words while taking long hikes in the woods, then threw them out and started over again many times. I wrote melodies over and over again, too, until they felt they were the best I could do. It was a fun challenge worth every hour invested and every hoop I jumped through to get from A to Z.
What pandemic experiences led you to create your debut EP, Golden Hour: First Things First?
When the lockdown started, I thought we’d be home for eight weeks and back to life as usual. My first order of business was to spend as much time on the Playstation since I had this rare break. Once I realized we would be in for a much longer haul, I decided to start changing my mind and perspective with the day-to-day attitude and the big picture. I started reading a lot. Every morning I would spend an hour or so drinking coffee and taking in ideas from books that inspired me to think in a new way, be a better person, and even help take away the pressure of working on my music. How To Win Friends and Influence People is a great book everyone should read. It’s been around for generations, but the basic message is about being a good person. Black Box Thinking is a more technical read, and the most basic summary is to take things one step at a time, one attempt at a time, and instead of seeking perfection, just aspire for improvement. Man, that one helped me approach my early recordings with productive and healthy judgment rather than stifling comparisons to some of the best work out there. A good friend gave me a book called Tribe Of Mentors. It's cool too. These are just short chapters with insight from accomplished people in many fields.
Why did you choose to place "Walking Hill" as the introductory track to your debut EP? How does this song set the tone for the project?
That was less about me and more about the label. I enjoy all the songs. They all have a very personal meaning to me. I think I was too inside the music to have a trustworthy judgment for that choice. That song is the one that seemed to get the most “votes” when we circulated the tracks around the 604 Records office. My most preferred track is Kaleidoscope. It's the last one we put out. I think that is the closest I’ve come to the original vision with the final product so far. It was the last one we recorded, so that’s not a surprise. You learn a little more with every attempt.
How do you hope listeners interpret the EP? How do you want this project to impact your audience?
You know, it’s hard to even suggest how people could or should take in and process music. It’s such a personal thing. Sometimes we don’t even hear the correct words, and that misinterpretation makes the song connect even more to a listener. Haha! I want people to give it a chance and let it soak in. I suspect the songs' messages will all hit home in one way or another with each person. I did my best to make songs about things less frequently heard in pop music these days. There isn’t one song about being dumped, how I feel about my self-image, or going out to the bar and getting drunk. I dug a little deeper with these ones.