The Covid Chronicles… Mike Plume
The rootsy Albertan troubadour is not able to tour new album Lonesome Stretch Of Highway yet, but is staying creative in quarantine. Here he reflects upon that, the record, fatherhood, and his storytelling videos.
By Jason Schneider
Mike Plume was feeling a sense of rebirth last year while making his new album Lonesome Stretch Of Highway. The Edmonton-based singer/songwriter had just signed a new deal with Alberta roots label Royalty Records and was back in the studio with producer Marek David for the first time since they’d made Plume’s 2001 album Fools For The Radio.
That optimism was evident in the new material as well, with songs like Younger Than We Are Today recalling Plume’s early days during the alt-country insurgency of the 1990s, and songs like Perfume & Gasoline offering a poignant glimpse into Plume’s life now as a father to a teenage daughter.
But that all seems like the distant past. Ironically, the one song that clearly stands out now on Lonesome Stretch Of Highway is the ballad In God’s Hands Now, a sentiment that surely resonates with all of us on some level as we look ahead to the next couple of years.
For Plume that means not being able to support a new album with his usual international touring regimen for the first time in his life. It’s become a big part of his identity as well, having spent time on the road with the likes of Steve Earle, the Mavericks and John Hiatt, securing his place as one of Canada’s distinct heartland voices, alongside fellow Albertan Corb Lund and Saskatchewan’s Colter Wall.
So until Plume can get back on that lonesome stretch of highway, he and his fans can take heart in the fact that he’s added another great collection of songs to his body of work. We spoke with Plume about how he’s adapting to the new reality. To find out more go to mikeplume.com.
How are you coping with self-isolation personally?
I’m doing well, thanks for asking. As far as self-isolation goes, the only thing I like as much as travelling from town to town is staying home. I’m equal parts wandering musician and homebody; I quite enjoy puttering around the house and doing yard work, walking the dogs around the neighbourhood or working on songs. To me, that’s pretty much a perfect day. On the other hand, I can’t say that I’m not more than a little concerned with what the future holds, and what the world will look like as we start coming out the other side.
Your new album Lonesome Stretch Of Highway was finished at the start of this year, which seems like a lifetime ago. Do you have a different perspective on any of the songs now?
Yeah man, we finished the record in December of last year; that is certainly a lifetime ago. I’m not sure my perspective on any of the songs has changed at all, but there are songs whose “message” pack a bit more of punch for me now. A song like In God’s Hands Now would be the prime example. Other songs like Perfume & Gasoline and The Sweet Passing of Time also deal head-on with the idea of time slipping away. Looking back with a tear in your eye and a lump in your throat… It seems about a week ago I had a bouncing baby girl, and now, somehow, she’s about to turn 16. How’d that happen?
What sorts of things are you doing to engage with your audience at the moment?
It took me a while to find my way through the fog. I wasn’t sure how to move forward. I didn’t want to come across like I wasn’t aware of what’s going on in the world. Slowly but surely, I figured it out.
I started recording little videos of me telling stories—“Gather ‘round, kids, it’s storytime again…” They’re the stories behind a given song and about funny things that happened while on the road, stuff like that. I also started writing stories about when I first picked up a guitar back in 1985. I’ve truly enjoyed telling those stories. It feels, somehow, healing and therapeutic. It felt like I was time travelling. I posted one story and people really seemed to react to it. So I posted another one and then another one. I think it’s provided a bit of distraction in these most interesting of times.
How has the inability to play live affected you overall?
Other than financially, it hasn’t really affected me. I mean, it has and it hasn’t. I love rolling down the road to another town and playing a show that night—God I love that! But as I said, it’s only rivaled by my love of staying home and doing nothing. But I enjoy playing music probably more than anything else and I don’t need an audience for that. I’m quite happy to sit in my music room with a cup of coffee and play my guitar. I’ll play for a couple of hours every day, minimum, either just for myself or my family or my dogs. I’ll work on something new or I’ll learn a song that I like, take it apart and figure out how it works. All that being said, I can’t wait to hit the road again, even though I know full well it may not be before 2021.
What do you believe the longterm effects of the pandemic will be on the music industry?
Man, I have no idea. Right now all of my shows have been cancelled until October. Will I be surprised if those shows, along with the remaining shows of 2020, are cancelled as well? No. Do I think we will get back to going to shows in clubs, arenas and stadiums again? Yes. Will it be this year? I’m not so sure about that.