Interview with Michael RoeMany of you will know Michael Roe as the hard working lead singer/songwriter of the 77's. Many years of rock-n-roll excellence have led the 77's to be called Christian music's greatest rock band by just about every critic in the biz. Now, some critics are dropping the Christian and just calling them "one of the worlds greatest rock-n-roll bands." Currently, besides working with the Sevens, Michael Roe is busy as one fourth of the critically acclaimed Lost Dogs and is nurturing a rapidly growing solo career. In addition, he is undertaking his first effort at a totally independent release - a live Sevens album called Echoes of Faith and playfully sub-titled Played Naked. Recently, Michael Case spoke with Mike Roe, currently on tour with The Lost Dogs, about his many new projects...
CASE: Tell us a little bit about your live album, Echoes Of Faith.
ROE: It was recorded around Thanksgiving 92, the year Aaron Smith was touring with Michael Card and other people like that so we were forced to go out unplugged and hone our vocal harmonies and acoustic guitar skills. We had to learn to play our acoustic guitars real well.
CASE: You're putting this one out yourself, right?
ROE: Yes, Its a limited edition, its so rough we felt it would be best to release it on our own, we've never tried to sell one on our own. Some of our peers have - they say in most cases you can make more money off it than with a label.
CASE: What can we expect to hear?
ROE: It reads like a greatest hit of 77's, the sappy pop version of the 77's that is, pretty well representative - it covers the whole span - at least through Pray Naked.
CASE: So you're out with the Lost Dogs right now?
ROE: We're in route to Atlanta Georgia, its fun and funny to travel with these guys, the traveling part is not that great we're short on personal and kinda crammed into a small travel space.
CASE: Did you expect the Lost Dogs to become what it has when you first agreed to work with them?
ROE: I don't no, as long as we all still enjoy it and have fun, I've looked at it as a hobby band - its hard to do that when your a professional musician. We're trying to grab the brass ring this time, we have high hopes for mainstream distribution... We're planning a lot of showcases and have sent out samples to several different major companies...
CASE: You've been the mainstream route before, correct?
ROE: Yes, It was pretty frustrating, our A&M/Island years. There wasn't a great interest in our Christianity or our music for that matter.
CASE: Wasn't that album released about the same time as U2's The Joshua Tree?
ROE: One week before the Joshua Tree, basically U2 kicked our ass, how could you compete that album...
CASE: Do you think the market has changed?
ROE: We're encouraged by what's happening, with success from Jars Of Clay, John Q Public just signed a major deal, etc. It's opened up the record buying public to our kind of music... We've been about five years ahead of our time with the Lost Dogs - we thought we were crazy with the first record - but we were sort of like John the Baptist. I mean that type of music is just really coming back - Country's doing well, groups like Hootie & The Blowfish... I think it's the first time in my musical career I've been way ahead of the times.
CASE: Tell me about your new solo record, Michael Roe - The Boat Ashore.
ROE: I've waited all my life to make an album with that title
CASE: How does it compare to Safe As Milk.
ROE: The previous album is more like a sketch pad - this is a very commercial, very produced album, very competitive but still quirky and artistic like in the way safe as milk was. It marks the first time I worked with a collaborator and co-producer, Bruce Spencer. It was a real good experience.
CASE: Who's releasing this album?
ROE: Innocent Media, Joey Taylor's new label.
CASE: Now that we've covered everything else, what's in store for the Sevens?
ROE: Now that the album (Tom Tom Blues) is exploding off the charts (laughs)... We miss working together, we've been busy doing other things, we've done a jazzy pop thing as a three pieces under the name "Safe As Milk." (not to be confused with Roe's album Safe As Milk) We were able to do a lot of the jazzy pop stuff the 77's could never do - we did a three hour show with what I call the grateful dead method, long songs, lot of jamming, bleeding into one another... I've wanted to be in the grateful dead all my life.... My hope is that the 77s will write together when the dogs tour is over, and prepare another record..
CASE: I guess the success of Tom Tom hasn't really pleased you?
ROE: I was a bit disappointed with the response to Tom Tom blues. It's got the raw sound a lot of bands are going for, its got that crude ambiance - I think we should have gone further with that album.... We started of right but by the end of the album we had drifted back into some sappy pop stuff...
CASE: I'm still amazed at how many copies of you album 7&7 is continue to fly out the door.
ROE: That's been a steady sort of item, its an unofficial bootleg that Randy Layton released to help me get going after the demise of the early group.
CASE: I always thought it was interesting that you worked with Larry Tagg (former of Bourgeois Tagg) a bit on that project.
ROE: Actually, there's a whole album, called The Magnates, that I recorded with Mike Urbano (also from Bourgeois Tagg) and Larry Tagg. We may release that at sometime... I liked working with Larry it was hard for me to sing Larry's stuff, just a different style and all, we phrased things differently.
CASE: Do you still work with him at all?
ROE: We've written some stuff together... we even sent a demo of TATTOO to Billy Idol, thought we'd see if he might want it - we've shopped a couple other things as well.
CASE: Well, thanks and good luck!
ROE: Thank You.