~ by suzan
a dream interview; fulfilled. A late introduction to his music, two
years after it was released, still managed to take my senses by storm.
His music effected me like a tornado, turned around upside down, spinning
and inside out. The effect was so powerful I had to document it and
so I drafted a music review and homed it at a friends site. Short
time later, I ran into him unplanned in the Twin Cities and was beyond
amazed. There was no option but to go back the next day to see him
in concert and verify he was for real. Not really having meet him,
just a quick hi, did not stop me from launching his first Unofficial Fan
Site before the end of the next week. After researching him for that
web site, and having exhausted the internet on information, I followed
up on the momentum the next week by sending a request for an interview.
Called it my dream interview, and didn't really expect him to address it.
The attraction people have to Mitch is in the way he uses his music to help people grow in their faith. The Gospel is planted in his music for them to seek and explore and strengthen their walk with God. The way Mitch reflects God's light, is by rubbing shoulders with people, communicating his love of God with his music, ministry and walk of life. He clearly conveys that Jesus Christ is the one who is making a difference in his life, and can make a difference in ours. Securing an interview with him was a dream.
Not having heard from Mitch directly, was not a problem, I just keep plugging away when I had time to work on the site. Decided to try and get an interview from Brad. Well, that one came back and sent chills into my bones. I really enjoyed reading the insight Brad shared, and was thrilled to share it with others. Drafted an interview for Joe when he joined them in June, and again received some awesome responses back. Brad and Joe are not just gifted musicians, they also have humor, a quality I value in life. God wants his children to laugh.
The Pictures above are from a small town concert in Osceola, WI where I really got to meet them both. Mitch and Brad were very gracious, and Mitch indicated yeah, he would somehow find time to get the interview done. It probably would have helped if I hadn't given him a novel of questions.
On his last concert before his trip to Thailand, I saw them both and this time with the percussion sounds of Joe Curet. Mitch said the interview was done, and sent to his mom to type! What a guy, enjoy his insight and candor.
Mitch: My mom's name is Wendee and my dad is Doug. I have one sister named Andrea and now have a brother-in-law named David. I had very much a mid-America upbringing. Both of my parents taught school and are still teachers. I was introverted and focused. Some called me a hermit. My relationship with my family was great. Everyone was supportive of me, whatever I was doing. I grew up in a very loving atmosphere. My relationship with my sister is great. We must be close, because she knows all the dirt on me.
~ What do you most admire about your parents?
Mitch: I admire my mom's attention to detail (which I wish I had) and how she loses herself in loving another. I admire how my dad can make anyone feel at home around him, has never met a stranger, and how he has a knack of finding the good in situations.
~ Any serious girlfriends in high school or college ~ you don't have to name them..(laugh).
Mitch: I didn't date. I was too shy. I had a serious girlfriend during my senior year and a serious girlfriend in college.
~ So do you have marriage plans in the works soon with Shelli?
Mitch: No, Shelli and I are not together anymore.
~ Did you ever believe you had a chance of playing pro basketball?
Mitch: At one time, yes. That's why I was able to do anything good in basketball at all. I honestly believed I could from 8th grade through my first couple of years in college. Folks told me I could play in a foreign pro league, if I pursued it.
~ What role did music play in your childhood?
My mom is an elementary music teacher; so music was always around.
I sang in a talent show when I was 2, when my mom made me. Then I
was in a talent show every year until I was out of jr. high. I also
sang in church, often, as I was growing up. I participated
in school vocal music groups, too. My parents gave me guitar
lessons for several years, starting when I was eleven.
~ How did you choose Friends University?
Mitch: Friends University recruited me to play basketball and I ended up really liking the people there, especially those in the religion department. I really liked Jim Smith. So--I decided to play (basketball) there.
~ I read you had to "choose a degree" so picked religion and philosophy, did you consider any other fields?
Mitch: Not really. I just really looked forward to studying that. And I figured I would use it someway, somehow.
~ When you knew basketball was basically over as a time consumer in your life, what avenues were you going to pursue?..
Mitch: Had no idea. I just figured something would come up. I didn't want to clutter up my future by actually making real plans.
~ I personally don't believe in coincidences so your meeting Rich was meant to be and probably him asking you to "come along" was also Spirit driven. How did the two of you discuss it? Your previous interviews make it sound like it was such a last minute decision on his part.
Mitch: We were both graduating in May. I didn't have anything going on; so, in March, Rich asked me if I wanted to work with him. I knew I was going to say "yes" right then and there, but I told him I would think about it for a week. So, I faked like I was doing that, went back, and told him, "ok."
~ What did your folks think of your after college plans?
Mitch: I think they were more worried and apprehensive than they let on. I knew no details of what I would be doing and everything was up in the air, but they were very supportive.
~ How would you describe your guitar playing abilities before college/to after?
Mitch: I got a lot better in my last few months of college. But, that doesn't mean I was any good. I had a lot of room for improvement. (I'm still in the same place.)
~ When did you pick up playing the harmonica?
Mitch: After playing and working with Rich for about a year, I started messing with it.
~ Were any of your songs on your first album written in college? or is that all after?
Mitch: I wrote "Freedom" in college. Rhythmically, I really like it; but, lyrically, I think you can tell it is my youngest song. The rest came along later.
~ Very exciting project you guys undertook. What was it like writing this? And how did you mesh your ideas together?
Mitch: We used the movie, "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" as a basis to draw from. We just locked ourselves in Beaker's house for two weeks and hammered out the script. We had a general idea in our heads of how everything would fit together, but we each focused on different sections of the story and then blended away.
~ Has anyone approached you yet to consider doing "Canticle of the Plains" as a Christian video? And if not would you consider it?
Mitch: I've heard talk of it in passing over the past five years. Some people were more serious than others. Nothing has happened. I would consider it. I just know it would be a tremendous amount of work. Plus, I'm not in charge of it at all.
~ Do you have a favorite song from Canticle of the Plains?
Mitch: "Heaven Is Waiting" and "There You Are" are special to me, because they were the first songs Rich and I wrote. I think they are truly beautiful; and I remember the time, place, and situation when we were writing them. I also think, "You Are All" is terribly powerful. I have thought that since the moment we were done with it. "Love's As Strong" also really speaks to me. What a great song. I really didn't write much on it.
~ Tell us a bit about what you guys were doing down there. Describe a typical day or a very unusual one.
Mitch: We were basically getting acclimated to the people, the area, the culture. So, we were just living, nothing fancy. We helped out where we could and really tried to get involved. We flew out on weekends to do Rich's concerts.
I didn't really want to talk about the car accident in this interview, but I had a few questions I wanted answered off line. So I wrote Mitch: Yeah, Mitch I'm not printing any of answers on this section, so feel free to ignore it. He responded that he wanted this section included. My questions a bit bizarre. I asked about the heart stop because I had a family member who's heart stopped a couple of times, but was revived. I found this more devastating than the actual death years later.
~ Did they tell you if your heart ever stop? Besides all the internal serious injuries, what bones were broken?
Mitch: I don't think my heart stopped, but I'm not sure. I only broke vertebrae, my shoulder, and bones in my face, and some teeth. I had a fractured skull and a severe closed head injury. It's pretty surprising that nothing more was broken.
~ When people ask, were you wearing a seat belt? Or ask you to what do you want to say?
Mitch: People that think that their request that I wear a seat belt is going to make me go, "Well...ok, I'll buckle up" must think that I have no understanding or comprehension of what I went through--like I've never given it any thought. I wear a seat belt like I wear underwear. I don't do either to be a role model. But, because it's good to do and I can't imagine going with out.
~ So who pushed to finally get the ball rolling on recording it. Rich produced it, but did he have to push you into the studio or were you just both ready.
Mitch: I wanted to do it (recording of my first album); but Rich pushed, got the ball rolling, and made it happen. When I saw his enthusiasm, that made mine grow all the more.
~ How many songs did you have ready to consider cutting for the first album.. I've heard you say you now have 50 for the second to choose from.
Mitch: I really only had 12 or 13 that I gave serious consideration.
~ I personally consider this album a present to me and others from God. Oh how He loves his children.. so I'm a bit biased on it along with your fans. I believe you are happy with this first album however if you could do anything different would you?
Mitch: I might have given more thought to the arrangements. But, I really don't know enough about the whole process to have any reason to critique it. I just know I was, and I still am; very, very pleased with it.
I've sent a separate request for some questions on the Chasing The Horizon album. So to make this article less of a book, they will hopefully be covered in a future article.
~ Trivial questions, was it intentional that the color of the EP is Lemonade?
Mitch: No. Just a coincidence. I gave no thought to the color. I just wanted it out. Someone else picked it (the color), because it was eye catching.
~ Trust me your voice is incredible!. But are you happy with it yet?
Mitch: I am happy with my voice. It's not what it used to be physically, but I think it has more character than before. So, I'm thankful.
~ I've received a very sharing interview back from him, so background is covered on Brad Layher.. My questions for you on him are: what were your first impressions.. and now some since sharing a zillion miles, and hours together.
Mitch: He first impressed me with the care he took in preparing and performing songs; and, also, with his work ethic. Now, I appreciate his kindness and the way he goes with the flow. Also, the tenacity and perseverance he has toward music. Oh yeah, he also has a very detailed and analytical mind that blows me away. I call Brad "the most laid back, anal guy I know".
~ Traveling the roads with Brad can you share a few inside funny stories.
Mitch: Brad is a master at packing the van. We have too much equipment; but somehow, it always fits--with ease. It must be his engineering mindset coming through. He's great with directions. One time, we were lost in Washington, D.C. and he was driving. I told him to pull over so I could get behind the wheel. Not that I'm a better driver, but rather he is a better navigator. The safest place for me, in that situation, was behind the wheel and as far from the navigator/passenger seat as I could get. After being lost for an hour, we were back on the right track (after Brad had looked at the map for a few minutes).
~ Exciting news your upcoming trip to Thailand. Can you tell us how it came about.
Mitch: I'm going to Thailand because I will be getting exposed to the work Compassion is doing over there. I asked them if I could see what they are doing internationally, since I will be talking about it on the fall tour. I have only presented Compassion's USA programs, and I wanted to know what I was talking about. So, they sent me on this trip.
~ Also tell us about the exciting Compassion International touring event with a tour goal of finding 1,000 sponsors for impoverished children this fall.
Mitch: I have become friends with the band, "Clear", this year. They approached me about doing a tour with them in the fall. The tour also includes "Satellite Soul". All three acts will be saying something about Compassion International over the course of the night. We're trying to get a bunch of kids sponsored-- that's one of the major goals of the tour. One thousand kids is a steep goal, but it is an round number. I think it's a great reason to do a tour. I'm looking forward to hanging out with "Clear" and getting to know "Satellite Soul".
~ How many guitars do you tour with and do you own more? What kind are they and how long have you had them? Same questions on the harmonicas?
Mitch: I travel with two guitars; a martin that I have had for a year and a tayler that I have had for four years. I have one more at home that is broken and I need to get fixed.
I travel with probably about five or six harmonicas. They wear out easily and I use four different keys, d,e,g,a. So I have probably used around fifty over the last three or four years and they are all laying around somewhere.
~ How tall are you
~ Favorite soda
Mitch: Diet Dr. Pepper
~ A favorite fast food meal
Mitch: It's a tie: Arby's Roast Chicken Club and Schlotzky's Original
~ Favorite mom cooked meal
Mitch: Most anything
~ Where do you like to shop
Mitch: Coffee shops, bookstores, and CD stores
~ Favorite Ice cream flavor
Mitch: Ice cream is drifting further and further from my mind, but it's a three way tie: Turtle Tracks, Cappuccino Chunky Chocolate, and Pistachio.
~ Favorite sport teams
Mitch: Nebraska Cornhuskers football, Phoenix Suns basketball, Atlanta Braves baseball
~ Besides this bizarre list, what crazy things do the fans ask?
Mitch: "How can I get started in Christian music?"
Would you explain it to me like I'm a 4 year old what these verses mean? I get the meaning of the song.. but some insight on this verse would help.
ask for no lengthy explanation
times, we can't put our finger on the truth. We try to attach words
to it and base it on experience and our mental faculties; but all we really
know is--it is beyond us and very big and great---and is unceasingly beckoning
~ Also, I'm missing an important part of this song.. what are you saying in this verse from the song Freedom?
you ever let me see too much
I based that song on a poem by Emily Dickinson, "1129". The poem
and that line are simply saying, "if we saw the truth all at once, it would
be too much for us." I was writing as if freedom and truth were synonymous.
~ Can you give any background on these lines in the song Only Love Will:
"So now I'm hopin' that the spirit
Mitch: I have never really known what those lines are about. But maybe they are talking about how I go round and round in circles and in the end I just end up all wet. So maybe I could find some rest and dry off a little if God hung me out to dry.
This last question bugged me from day one when I saw the Copyright logo: White Plastic Bag Music. I asked him practically at the end of any e-mail I sent him PLEASE, PLEASE, explain why you came up with White PLastic Bag.. I don't know why, but I wanted to know.
Mitch: A few months after the accident, (when my eyes were still really whacked out), I was looking out the window and I said to Shelli (back when we were still together), "Look at that little white bunny." She said "that's a plastic bag." I said, "I know what it looks like, but it's a bunny. I saw it move." She said, "No, it's a white plastic bag." And, lo and behold, it was. She was always right.
~ What would you tell someone if they ask you why you have faith?
Mitch: I would tell them I have faith because it will not let go of me. I'm so very grateful that faith, personified in the person of Jesus, is concerned with me. I have faith because it has been given.
~ Is there something you would like to tell your fans that you haven't already?
Mitch: Thank you for your prayers. I don't know how prayer works, but I know it makes a difference. It's a blessing, and I wouldn't be where I am; apart from it.
Look inside these songs with Mitch:
A few added questions Mitch answered on Chasing The Horizon
~ You made the decision in September to release this project independent. Any comments to share on that?
Mitch: I decided to go independent because I grew tired of record companies waiting to see if I was legitimate. And I became increasingly aware that I might be able to do things almost as good as them. And I would have more control. It would be more rewarding. I just wanted something to happen. It's been sitting around too long. Call it impatience. Call it pride. Or, call it faith. My guess is it is all three rolled up into one.
~ How and or why did you come up with "Out Of The Box" as your record label?
Mitch: Everyone I talked to about doing this record on my own but kind of really going all out with it was for it. They told me if I was looking to get different results than I had to go about things differently. I had to think outside the box, and not go about things as they had typically been approached. So it my approach that this whole endeavor in coming out of the box.
~ On the artwork, with the girl in the field? Who's idea was that?
Mitch: I just wanted to juxtapose child likeness with the whole horizon image. That is my manager Donna's daughter, Hannah Grace.
~ A few
more quick questions for you now on the artwork. Where is that awesome
~ Also the outside picture where you are by the door.
Mitch: The door was the concession stand at a drive-in movie theatre.
Did you guys really put up a roadside board for the song titles.. or did you just find one and used it as background.
The roadside sign is actually a really crappy drive-in screen. The
titles were superimposed. I had the idea to use a drive-in screen,
but it was so crappy it looks like a billboard. Crappy has
nothing to do with the quality of the artwork or photos. I am really
happy with it. The screen is crappy. No way around that.
And that makes it more endearing to me.
obtained from mitch for sound/picture files used