Logan Mize is a slow burner. Working his way up the music career ladder for a few years, he’s the kind of artist who’s willing to pay his dues and is grateful for everything good that comes his way. Born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, he was 21 when he found out his uncle is Billy Mize, a key figure of the Bakersfield sound and a co-founder of the Academy of Country Music. Fast forward to 2012 and we see the release of ‘Nobody In Nashville’, a musical education for Logan and one that began to really build his fanbase. Now he has released ‘Used Up’, his brand new single and the lead off his upcoming project. Logan may be happy with the limited airplay he has received, but I have a feeling things are about to kick off anyway. I talked to him recently about his upcoming record, what he learned from his past one, the discovery of his uncle, his appearance on Hart of Dixie and his life and career. Read on for more!
- You recently released the single ‘Used Up’, about dealing with the end of a relationship. Did that come from personal experience? Why did you choose that song to lead off the new album?
Yeah it’s a really personal song. I was on the road a lot and coming home tired. My wife would be home the whole time alone with our son who was 1 or so at the time. As you might figure that’s a recipe for disaster. I’m sure I was throwing my laundry in the floor and sleeping 12 hours the second I hit the door instead of helping out around the house. I’ve since learned my lesson but I think at the time we were fed up with all of it and each other. So of course I ran downstairs one night like Taylor Swift to write a song about her (laughs). I’m happy we came out of that in one piece. The song is really accurate as far as details go… right down to the Roger Miller record and all. And to my wife’s credit “used up” was actually her hook idea. I can’t remember what it was at first.
- Speaking of the new album, have you finished recording it? What can we expect from it? More of the same or a different sound?
We’re almost done with it. I think we have a few more days in the studio next month for some overdubs and mixing. It’s a really simple sounding album. I wanted the songs to carry all the weight and just put a rootsy uncluttered backdrop to it. It was all self-produced which gave me a chance to get some hands on experience leading the sessions and playing the songs however they felt most natural. I think it’s the first real Logan Mize record.
- Do you have a release date for it? A title?
Release date is in the works… late summer or early fall 2014. Still searching for a title.
- Your last album, ‘Nobody In Nashville’, was described as heartland country rock. How do you describe your music? Do you think you fit on mainstream country radio or is there another scene you’re leaning towards?
I think that’s a pretty accurate classification. I’m not afraid to explore elsewhere but that sort of big open chorus with a rustic type of lyric is always going to feel most natural. I know it’s not the kind of music that’s being played currently on mainstream country radio but I think it can find a home there. I listen to so many different types of music that sometimes I forget what format I actually fit into, but at heart I’ll always be a small town Midwestern kid in dirty jeans and work boots that couldn’t wait for the next Tim McGraw record to come out.
- What did you learn from the writing, recording and promoting of that album?
I learned half of what I know from recording ‘Nobody In Nashville’. Until then I was a wide eyed kid trying to figure myself out. Daniel Tashian of The Silver Seas produced it but he spent a lot of time shoving instruments in my hand and making me play them. The first time I ever played mandolin was the day we cut “I Give In”. He’d say, “I’m gonna go get lunch, here’s the record button. Get a few good passes on this and we’ll check it out when I get back.” I learned so much from him. He taught me a lot about writing too. I’ve always over-edited a lyric, but he encouraged a stream of conscious style of writing I really enjoyed. You can hear that on songs like “High and Dry” and “State of Your Heart”.
- So speaking of sound and influence, you only found out in your 20s that you are related to Billy Mize, a pioneer in the Bakersfield sound. Did that have a profound impact on you and how you approached making music? Did you get a good chance to reconnect with him?
Yeah talk about feeling stupid. Haha. Being 21 years old and finding out my own relative was a pioneer of the Bakersfield sound. I got to play one of his hits “Who’ll Buy The Wine” at his 80th birthday party at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace in front of him and Merle Haggard. I was 23 and more nervous than you can imagine. Needless to say I dove in and started doing a little more homework.
- He co-founded the Academy of Country Music. Were you at the Awards this year?
I’ve yet to go… we were probably playing a club somewhere that night grinding it out.
- I remember you saying once during a show that whenever you have writer’s block you write another instalment about a small fictional town called Prairieville. Have you written any new ones recently, and will they be on the new record?
Wow! Great memory. Yes I write about a fictional town called Prairieville to keep writers block from settling in. It’s a great exercise to keep me sharp and imaginative. It’s a fictitious town on the North American Great Plains that’s in decline. Lately I’ve been trying to save the town with some inspiring characters but we’ll see what happens. I’d love to keep it an ongoing story that I can eventually release in volumes but that’s down the road. I’m contemplating introducing it with a song called “Welcome To Prairieville” on the new album.
- When I saw you play, you were playing acoustically, but your studio tracks are always with a full band. How do those two aspects of performing compare for you?
I usually tour the states with a full band and it’s a pretty raucous event, but playing a song in its raw form is always the true test of a song. I enjoy storytelling so the acoustic shows are always a more intimate vibe and I get to know an audience better that way, but I like a healthy balance of both.
10. Are you intending to return to play the UK/Europe any time soon?
Yes! I can’t wait to come back. We’ll probably plan a UK club tour once the new record is out.
11. Another cool thing that you did last year was appear in Hart of Dixie. You didn’t have any lines, but you played with your band. Is that something that you would do again, whether in that show or a different one? Maybe ABC’s Nashville?
I really enjoyed television, other than the lag time between takes. I’d love to do it again but next time I’ll be sure to bring a good book.
12. You come from Wichita, Kansas. Would you consider yourself part of the south there and do you think the focus on the idea of the south in country music is sad considering how many country people live further out?
I definitely don’t consider myself a southerner. Kansas is the original Free State, the civil war started there. When I moved to Tennessee the idea of people still sporting a confederate flag was really odd to me. I understand now it’s a heritage thing but I’m not going to be releasing any songs about the south anytime soon. I do enjoy living down here but yeah, I’ll admit it’s annoying that every other song on country radio seems to be aimed at the south-eastern US.
13. So, I’m interested to learn more about the more independent artists or those on smaller labels – what is it like compared to maybe what people might expect? Is it hard work to get airplay etc?
I don’t know any different so it’s hard to say. When we pull into a venue to open for someone who’s in a bus on label tour support for their first year ever of touring it’s tough to unload the van and trailer on 3 hours of sleep with a friendly smile, but I’m always grateful for opportunities and I’m thankful that my career has taken this path. I enjoy all the hard work and years of minimal to no radio airplay. It really makes the small victories that much sweeter. John Marks at Sirius/XM The Highway has been so gracious to us in giving us good airplay so I’ll never complain about what we don’t have. I’m thankful we have someone supporting us in him, and the fans that don’t care about any of that and come to the shows singing every word.
14. You’ve had praise from plenty of artists and people in the industry, and one of those was Little Big Town. Would you like to collaborate with them in the future, and is there anybody else you would love to work with?
Oh Lord if I could get those 4 to come sing on a record with me I’d be in heaven. I’ve always wanted to write something for Mary Chapin Carpenter to sing on with me. She’s one of my favorites. My wife, Jill Martin, is a spectacular artist and I’m still trying to find a song we could sing together. I’m a fan of so many artists. I love the idea of collaborating with those I admire. It’s an open invitation.