Bringin’ It Backwards: Interview with Passenger

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Together with American Songwriter and Sean Ulbs of The Eiffels, we had the pleasure of interviewing Passenger over Zoom video! 

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Mike Rosenberg, better known as Passenger, is a multi-award winning, platinum-selling singer-songwriter from Brighton, England. Although still known for his busking, he long ago made the journey from street corners to stadiums – most notably with “Let Her Go,” which reached number 1 in 19 countries and has now notched up close to three billion plays on YouTube. Yet “Let Her Go” is just one song from a remarkable back catalogue that extends across multiple albums – including Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea, which topped the charts in the UK and elsewhere. The consistency of his output, coupled with his authenticity both on and off stage, has won Rosenberg a global fanbase and given him the chance to headline some of the world’s most famous stages.

Rosenberg’s latest album, Songs for the Drunk and Broken Hearted, is his thirteenth to date. He thought it was ready to go in early 2020, but then the Covid-19 pandemic turned the world upside down. The scheduled release date in May came and went. Eventually he decided that the album wasn’t quite finished after all. Three songs no longer seemed to fit. They came off. More importantly, three new songs were added, including album opener “Sword from the Stone.” 

The majority of the album had been written when Rosenberg was newly single. “Coming out of a break-up creates such a fragile window,” he reflects. “You’re incredibly vulnerable for a few months. You’re so used to the safety of being with somebody and suddenly you’re out in the world on your own. And you get pissed and probably make some bad decisions. In some ways, you make it worse for yourself. But it’s a heady moment, losing love and being drunk. And it’s universal. Everyone goes through it at some stage.”

The album is populated by drunk and broken-hearted characters. “‘Remember to Forget’ is about this guy who is always in the pub on his own,” says Rosenberg. “Everybody knows this guy. He tries to befriend everyone, and he pisses everybody off. But really all he’s trying to do is have a good time. The title track is set in a bar too. And ‘Suzanne’ is the story of a woman who was seduced by nightlife as a beautiful young girl. It’s about her looking back on that as an older woman. So, the album is about heartbreak across the board.”

The big addition is the lead track, “Sword from the Stone,” one of the songs Rosenberg wrote during lockdown. An acoustic version has already been released, but this new version realizes more of the song’s epic potential. “I’m so excited about this one,” says Rosenberg. “I wrote loads during lockdown, but I think this is the pick of the bunch. It’s that cliché that you make your most poignant work when you’re having a bit of a hard time. I have played it to friends and family, to people in the industry, to other musicians, and it seems to resonate across the board. I genuinely think it’s had the best reaction of any song I’ve ever written.”

While plans to tour Songs for the Drunk and Broken Hearted have been repeatedly disrupted by the pandemic, then, the album itself has only benefitted from the enforced pause. “I usually make records very quickly,” says Rosenberg. “I write songs and rush to record them. I always give myself too little time. This time, because we couldn’t make videos or go busking or anything, we took the decision not to release the album when originally planned. And I think the record has improved substantially as a result.”

Due to a partnership with Ecologi and the Eden Reforestation Project, a tree will be planted for every physical copy of Songs for the Drunk and Broken Hearted sold via the Passenger store. All physical packaging is made from 100% recycled material.

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