Tues Aug 27
If I were a girl I'd probably want to marry Mike Johnson, the creator and main force behind Reclinerland. I feel sort of shy and nervous as I interview him about his music. I want to ask him about his experiences growing up and get some really private dirt on him. For someone whose songs seem full of exact details, intimate melancholy, and poetic images, he downplays the personal secret sharing that his music displays, but they're the sort of tunes that could be described as classic pop, in the same spirit as the Beatles or Paul Simon.
"When I get mad, I get sappy and sarcastic," says Johnson, explaining the impetus to some of his songs. On his third release, the 34-minute-long EP, Johnson paints genuine scenes of suburban living, the affects of divorce, and unrequited roommate lust. On "If I Was Your Father," he promises simple duties, such as showing up on time to birthday parties, drives to school, and helping with demo tapes. Johnson, who just turned 30, admits the song was intended for his own father, who divorced his mother when he was young. "My older brother experienced two divorces when he was younger, and it still tears him up. That song is mostly for him, like this is what a good father would be like."
There's a line in the song toward the end that says, "Don't you ever die 'cause I've already lost one" and I ask him about that. "That's about our sister who died in a car accident when she was 20," he admits. He says the song "Olive Green," from Reclinerland's first CD, is also about his sister. (It contains the great lyric, "She's done the house up in whites, and I hope it doesn't hide you when you haunt me"). "The most important thing for me is the lyrics," he says. "I think the songs are more reflective than sad I like to make pop as fine art as opposed to commercial."
For someone who was initially rejected for the music program at University of Oregon, Johnson has flourished and plays almost all the instruments on the three Reclinerland CDs. He's even learned to write his music for string quartets, keeping piles of his songs on sheet music for posterity and promising some jazz-influenced music in the future. "A printed page is more timeless than a recording. I like to think of when I'll be 50 or 60 year old and I'll have this big stack of songs." We can only hope.