RAWartists.org's 2013 RAW artist of the year for the state of Oklahoma in Music
His posture shifts into a pose that is at once, relaxed, yet menacing. “Pffff, don’t ask me that! I hate these. I thought you wanted to talk music. Isn’t that why you’re here? You’ve met me now, why don’t you tell me a little bit more about me!?” Clearly, Mikey Ohlin does not like talking about Mikey Ohlin.
“Have you even listened to the record?” He finishes lighting a cigarette and picks up a mandolin. His bohemian mess of dark wavy hair, stubble and pair of oversized sunglasses effectively shut out the world as he begins tuning. “I like to connect with people. All I want the listener to do - is to go there...To bask in that shit together.”
He pulls a quick drag from the cigarette. “It feels good to let go, ya know? That’s the moment I want to surrender to, shared by me and a room full of strangers in hopes that for a few minutes, they will get to see through different eyes, goggles, whatever. Different shoes to walk in.” He raises one boot up and drops it on the porch again as if to illustrate.
Mikey’s career is taking off like a steam locomotive; slow and deliberate, but once in motion, unstoppable. Born and raised in Texas, you get a sense that the years of big sky, and dust blown plains of the Southwest have lent some of Mikey’s songs their sunburned grit and lonesome voice. Unapologetically eccentric, his interests at home vary from poetry to punk rock, motorcycles to The Crocodile Hunter. For his craft, he counts among the tools of his trade an old acoustic guitar with a crack across its top; a turn of the century saloon piano; a small collection of harmonicas; a banjo that appears to have been a victim of vandalism and more. For weird measure, he employs hammers, a bucket of heavy chains, lumber, some hand built oddities and a beer bottle full of coins. “For now, I play the part of the band, but it's cool, as I’m still bonding with the process and with the instruments. Sometimes, you have to play them as they were meant, and sometimes, you just want to hear them break.” With as many roles that he’s cast himself for, Mikey is a hatter gone mad.
When asked to describe his style of music, he is quick to fire back, “Experimental.” And while his first ever full length album, Gypsy Witch Jeweler, was just officially released Oct. 22nd to the public as a “Folk/Rock” record, you hear his distinct experimental style throughout the album’s 9 tracks. In the stone-crushing, chaingang opener, “Crushed: Buried Between The Pages”, Mikey wastes no time introducing you to his brand of storytelling. Lumbering along the line, he shackles you to his side as he curses his maker (who is, again, Mikey) for seemingly taking a certain pleasure in penning his character’s precarious role. If honkytonk is your bag, grab a stool and belly up to the bar in “Empty Hearts”, a cheeky ride through a night of drinking with your future ex girlfriend. There are whiskey soaked, sun cooked tales like “Old Mexico”, sexy blues rockers like “Wrapped Around Her Finger”, and even a few stripped down tracks like “Now That You’re Lost”, leaving you feeling like he has just treated your heart like a washcloth, wringing out every last drop.
Off-stage he is somewhat reclusive, with only his eyes piercing through his hair. Onstage, the intensity only resonates further as he fixes his gaze upon the crowd. A smirk appears as he plucks at his guitar, and at the first reedy notes of the harmonica, a veil of silence descends on the crowd. There’s a quiet creaking of chairs and barstools as the patrons at the bar find themselves leaning in with curiosity. Sixteen counts into the song and you feel yourself dropping into the moment with him. It’s then that he changes before your eyes, somehow becoming both a lion and a lamb.
He scans the crowd and takes his time, allowing both the song and the audience moments to collectively breathe. Expertly alternating the melodies of trembling, vulnerable verses with vehement choruses that swell into a howl, he breaks to drop and fade into the outro with a crumbling falsetto. It is as effortless as it is blatantly on display for all to bear witness - the violence of his conviction that you will not soon forget.
- Gypsy Witch Jeweler is available on iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, and all other major online outlets.