By Sonia Schnee | Posted Sunday, March 25, 2018
In November 2017, NJ power-pop band Mike Daly and the Planets released their debut self-titled album on their record label, Pop Goes the World. This coming Saturday, March 31st, they will be performing at the Makin Waves 30th Anniversary Party at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park. Check out our interview with Mike Daly (vocals/guitar), learn about his musical journey, and take in some great words of advice, below:
What's your name, where are you from, and where are you based now?
Tell us about your music. How would you describe your sound? Where do you record? Who are your influences, musically?
We're a loud pop band, and we mostly record in my basement studio. My influences start with the Beatles, but there are bits of the Stones and the Who, angry electric Bob Dylan, Cheap Trick, the Heartbreakers (both the Tom Petty and Johnny Thunders versions), The Jam's earliest music, the Smithereens, even the Eagles... it's a pretty long list. My most recent song was influenced by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, who I saw recently at the Count Basie Theater.
What's the meaning or inspiration behind some of your songs? How do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?
My songs are mostly about relationships -- good, bad, or indifferent. Songwriting is great therapy for me, and my hope is that people find my lyrics relatable. I've had several people tell me that a particular song's lyrics mirror a situation they've experienced. I can't think of a better compliment because that's how I've always felt about the artists whose music I connect with spiritually.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started with music? What's been your personal journey? Are there any artists, bands, or producers who you'd love to collaborate with one day?
I was the youngest of four kids, and my older siblings exposed me to a lot of great music. The Beatles were practically my babysitter. My mom always had the radio on in the car and we listened to the top radio station in the country, WABC, which played pop, rock, R&B -- some of the greatest music ever written. They played only singles, but other than that, there was no real format; the only criterion was that they believed they could make the song a hit. No one would dare try it now. We didn't know how lucky we were at the time.
As a little kid, I would sing with any band that would allow it, mostly at weddings and vacation resorts. Then a friend of mine got a bass guitar as a grade-school graduation present. He also played six-string guitar. He taught me to play "Paranoid" on the bass, and the next thing we knew, I was a bassist and we’d put together a series of cover bands.
In the latter part of high school, I started to write my own material. When I was 20, the band I was in played its first all-original set (all written by me) at a rented hall in Haledon, but during rehearsals, our drummer told us he had sold his kit to buy a dirt bike. Having lost several drummers already, I was fed up, and I took it as a sign that it was time to abandon childish things and work only "regular" jobs. It took me about 8 years to get back into even playing covers again, first solo and then with anyone who would join in.
Shortly thereafter I saw the Smithereens' video for "Blood and Roses" on a Jersey-based video channel called U68, and then picked up a copy of their album, Especially For You. For a lot of years, it seemed like all the singers in successful rock bands had really high voices. But Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens was a baritone, like me, and he wrote about experiences I could relate to, so I started to concentrate on songwriting again.
It was also around this time I got a job as a writer and editor at the East Coast Rocker, which had started (and now continues) life as The Aquarian Weekly. My life became pretty much all music, all the time. I shared some 4-track demos of my latest work with another ECR editor, John Reynolds, who was the guitarist in a duo called The Goatmen. At some point, we were both between bands and decided to put something together. He brought in a college buddy named Rich Stout to play drums, and I recruited my best friend, Jim Van Sickle, to play bass. We were called Every Damn Day, and we spent a good part of the 1990s playing in Hoboken, New Brunswick, Asbury Park, and New York. We recorded a few CDs and developed a nice following over the 15 or so years we were together. We only stopped playing because three of us became parents and decided, rightfully, to be good at it, which meant being there for their kids’ sporting events and dance recitals.
Mike Daly & The Planets sprouted out of another cover band I had gotten in to stay musically active. I saw it originally as a chance to record and perform with a lot of different musicians, which I hadn’t really gotten to do before. I had friends and relatives whose talents I respected and admired, and they agreed to work with me on some of the songs I'd written while I was once again between bands. We made our live debut at a Memorial Day barbecue in Pat DiNizio’s back yard in Scotch Plains, and got a great reception. Plus we got to open for the Smithereens, who played on the same stage later that day!
Ultimately I wound up with a really good set of musicians that I now work with regularly: Jim Smith (from one of my old cover bands) on drums, plus John on guitar and Jim on bass. There's no substitute for having played years upon years with talented people who each bring something special to the table.
Unless Dave Grohl were available. Yeah, that wouldn’t be bad. Although he’s a great singer and apparently can play any instrument he puts his hands on, so why would he need me?!
What words of advice or encouragement would you give to someone who wants to follow a similar passion, or is maybe facing obstacles similar to what you've faced?
The single most important lesson I've learned from all my years of being in bands is that you have to love it to keep doing it. I mean, love it with all your heart and soul. You're going to get ignored and rejected and stiffed out of money. You're going to get double-booked or spend months promoting a great show that will end up being canceled because of a Nor'easter. Friends, relatives, and co-workers are going to roll their eyes at you and get sick of you promoting your music on Facebook. You're going to get disrespected by strangers who probably don't even know the meaning of respect. So you've got to love what you’re doing and record and play out as much as humanly possible. Make friends with other bands and share industry connections with them. Show up on time, act like a professional, and shake hands with the booker. Don't be a dick, even to someone who's being a dick. And keep on going, for as long as you continue to enjoy writing and performing and all the good and bad shit that comes with being in a band. Most of us will never be famous, but at least we have something in our lives that makes us feel sane and happy, and that we can share with other people who appreciate it, which is more than a lot of people can say.
What's next on the horizon for you? Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming performance at the Makin Waves 30th Anniversary show?
We’re excited about the Makin Waves show. I was there at the birth of Bob Makin’s column in the ECR, and it’s great that we’re both still doing what we love three decades later. We’ve kind of come full-circle and it’s been such a joy to reconnect with him and do some fun things together. Plus it’s our first time at Wonder Bar, so we’re really looking forward to it.
Then, the universe willing, we're going to record some stuff that we've been playing out over the past several months. As far as gigs go, we're planning to play a benefit for a local veterans' assistance charity over Memorial Day weekend, a show at Tierney's in Montclair near the end of June, and then hopefully opening for a pretty well-known band in July. Details will be announced soon. Check out www.mikedaly.com for updates!
Finally, how can people find you online?
Twitter and Instagram: @dalyplanets
Apple Music/iTunes: https://apple.co/2FUUPuX