Bluesman Mighty Mike Schermer on Inspiration and Songwriting (Part 2 of 2)

Continued from Part One

Did Albert King’s style of playing inform your approach to the guitar?

Mighty Mike Schermer: Definitely. Albert played really loud, and the band was really cracking. I’d [already] heard some old blues and stuff, and I dug it, but I didn’t really get turned onto it. I think the bridge happened with Albert, because it was loud and powerful. He did it a lot with one note; it said everything that Stevie Ray [Vaughan] said with 300 notes. I’m not knocking Stevie Ray at all; he was a big influence on me too. But that’s what really touched me about Albert Collins. And meeting him later, he said to me, “You can listen to me, but do your own thing.”

Your latest album Just Gettin’ Good was recorded at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studio. I’ve lost count of how many great albums that were created there. What is it about him and that studio that makes it special?

I was just talking to somebody about that this morning! It’s a combination of Kid’s knowledge and expertise. Aside from being a monster musician and incredible guitar player, he’s one of the fastest and best [recording] engineers. And he’s super supportive. He doesn’t try to get anybody to play like Kid Andersen. He wants you to be the best you that you can be.

And at the same time, he’s got a great ear for music. If you want the track to sound like vintage country, he knows how to get that sound. If you want it to sound like an Al Green cut, he knows how to get that sound. And there’s no downtime. You just get to playing music, and you keep playing music the whole time you’re there.

And then, aside from that, the gear is unbelievable! Every guitar is hanging on the wall, every vintage amp is in the closet, every cool keyboard is there. So, any sound you want to get, it’s right there. And if you’re uninspired, grab something else off the wall and try that, and you’ll be inspired.

You’ve written songs on your own a lot, and you also co-write with your wife Kimmy. How does that work?

Well, now that we’re married, everything is a co-write! I run everything by her. She’s really smart, and we have great communication. We’re very much soulmates in that. She’s the first person in my life – in a long series of serial monogamies – who I can really trust to give me an honest opinion without trying to cut me down.

And the best thing about her is she’s super positive. Unless it’s obvious that I’m going for a sad blues thing, she’s always trying to put a positive spin on my lyrics: “Don’t say that; it would be much more positive if you said it this way.” So she has really turned my music into more of a positive kind of thing.

You’ve lived in several different places. Does the specific character of any of those places find its way into your music?

I think so. I got to California in 1984, and then lived there for 25 years after that. Especially early on, there were a ton of public radio stations on my radio dial. They all had a blues show and a reggae show and a jazz show. Santa Cruz was a great spot for touring bands to come through in the mid-week, because it was between L.A. and San Francisco. So I got to hear a lot of live music that way.

Then, when I moved to Austin, that was a whole other thing. There were people performing original music on a daily basis. That was the first time in my life when I really was in a hotbed of songwriters. And I think Austin really kicked me into gear. I had already known this, but that sealed the deal: “I need something else to make me stand out, something I can contribute that’s purely me.” And I realized that was going to be through my songwriting.