Mike Plume’s new album, Born by the Radio, sounds a bit like Steve Earle joined Blue Rodeo. There’s folk quaintness and storytelling, alt-country hooks and actualized pleas for attention.
Now more than 25 years into his career, he’s feeling like this, his 12th studio album, is the one he’s gotten “something intrinsically right with.” But it was a long time coming. One of its songs, “Western Wind,” was nothing more than a title for the better part of 12 years.
“The song title came from when we were rehearsing at Levon Helm’s place in Woodstock, NY back in May of 2000. One day while on a break, I was outside smoking a cigarette and Levon came out of his house and sat down beside me and said, ‘I sure can hear that western wind in y’all’s music…’ I almost fell over. I should have put that on a poster somewhere.”
Plume made his mark on Canada’s musical landscape in the 90s and 2000s, by routinely playing more than 200 shows a year for the better part of two decades. The hectic touring schedule landed him on stages with kin names like Blue Rodeo, Corb Lund, Steve Earle, John Hiatt, and most recently with Lindi Ortega.
Plume enjoyed a new wave of media attention in the wake of Stompin’ Tom Connors’ death in 2013. Plume’s heartfelt, and somewhat impromptu tribute to the legendary songwriter, “So Long Stompin’ Tom,” went viral, and Plume was invited to perform the song at Stompin’ Tom’s memorial in Peterborough, Ontario.
And as a recent, local connection, Pluime released an album titled 8:30 Newfoundland, which spawned the Top 20 hit of the same name, and received heavy airplay during the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver, B.C.
But “So Long Stompin’ Tom” had, somewhat unwittingly, returned Plume to the national spotlight, and he didn’t quite feel compelled to revel in the moment like he could have.
“Leading up to 2013, I had been laying relatively low,” Plume says. “But the release of Red and White Blues and the holiday album were intended to be low key. The big thrust behind those releases was because I wanted to have something current to sell at shows. I didn’t hire a publicist or worry about a radio tracker, primarily because I wasn’t interested in playing the game anymore.”
This begs the question of what switch flipped in the singer-songwriter to convince him to go whole hog into the release of Born By The Radio. It turns out there was a confluence of factors at work.
“I’ve maintained a steady roster of shows after all these years, and I was fine with that, but last summer, after seeing me somewhat flounder at various jobs I intended to land to stay close to home, my wife and daughter flat out told me, ‘You need to be on the road. It’s what you’re good at, and you can’t do anything else,’” Plume says with a laugh.
“It was their nudging and urging that ultimately convinced me to take another kick at it.”
Catch Mike tonight at The Ship. Sorry, there’s zero indication anywhere as to what time, but here’s the opener off his new album: