It doesn’t take Mike Rosenberg, aka Passenger, too long to mention the one song that defines him.
Before the release of ‘Let Her Go’ in 2012, Passenger was a largely unknown singer-songwriter.
After it he was a ubiquitous presence, topping multiple charts and amassing a staggering one billion YouTube views.
Up to that point he had recorded three solo albums and since the release of the album that spawned it he has recorded three more.
Having produced so much material, Rosenberg is happy to view ‘Let Her Go’ as a calling card rather than the trump card. As he winds his way through the summer festival circuit he sees it as a hook to draw the undecided in.
“I see that as a real opportunity to win people over and to sort of show them there’s a bit more to it than just the one song,” he declares, adding: “I’m not really one of those guys that doesn’t play the hit single.
I think it’s great when so many people connect with one of your songs, to not play it seems slightly counterproductive. I still really love the song and it’s a great moment wherever we are in the world. It’s always met with real warmth.”
Talking about songs that mean a lot to Rosenberg, he has just released a playlist of cover songs that he and his band have recorded over the past year.
Titled the Sunday Night Sessions, it was devised as a series of postcards to be released to his fans every Sunday night featuring songs recorded in different locations throughout the world.
“So we did a forest in Finland; we played on a World War II bunker roof in Hamburg; we found a deserted old town in California. Really bizarre and beautiful locations all over the place,” he explains.
“I think it just allowed people to follow the journey whilst also getting a new song every week. It seemed to go down really well. We just put it all up on Spotify so people can check it out.”
Apart from obvious offerings from Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Young, and The Eagles there are also some less expected covers of standards by Joy Division and The Smiths.
Perhaps it can only be a matter of time before he tackles a track by an Irish artist other than Van Morrison, in particular Damien Rice.
“I’ve always been a massive Damian Rice fan,” he enthuses.
“I’m sure every singer songwriter around my age would say the same thing. O was a really life changing record for all of us I think and set a really high benchmark.”
Glen Hansard, Lisa Hannigan, Gavin James, and Kodaline also draw praise, but it was Rice’s 2002 debut that was a turning point for the young Rosenberg, affirming him in his choice to become a musician. He paints a picture that was widely familiar at the turn of the century.
“At the time I was just starting to record and get into music and it was really difficult to get a gig,” he says. “It was the age of Fatboy Slim and big beat. Pubs and bars just weren’t interested in a guy with a guitar; they just wanted a DJ. And it was difficult.”
Rosenberg would endure many lean years before success came calling. Remarkably for someone who had to wait so long for this to happen he maintains a refreshingly equanimous outlook.
“I’m never gong to make a perfect album,” he says cheerfully. “There are always going to be people who don’t necessarily like it. Actually all you can do as an actor, as a musician, as an artist, is create a piece of work and put it out into the world and hope for the best. And let the people who love it love it; let the people who don’t find something else. You can’t overthink these things.”