Interview ~ Mike Craig of Farewell To Fear

How often do you find yourself needing music that can help you release negative energy while still providing a tuff edge? It’s the kind of music that gets the blood rushing, and makes you feel like you can accomplish anything. Fortunately, Farewell to Fear has given us just that and so much more. With a recently released album Voices, produced by Damien Starkey of Puddle of Mudd and Burn Season, we have heard nothing but greatness as each song puts us in different feels, while still staying true to what the band is all about. We were lucky enough to sit down with Farewell to Fear lead singer Mike Craig and discuss all the ups of the music business, the way they found their sound, and so much more. F2F has worked with legendary artists like Shinedown, Alice in Chains, and more, and has even received the notice of Howard Stern. So, sit back and enjoy our conversation with Mike Craig.

You guys just released an album in May, sounds awesome by the way, what can you tell me about it?

Mike Craig/Farewell To Fear: The title of the album is Voices, its actually our 2nd full length album produced by Damien Starkey‎ of Puddle of Mudd and Burn Season. He’s a great producer which is actually a new producer for us, as our last album was of Brett Hestla from Creed and Dark New Day. So, it was a different kind of evolution for us moving into the heavier side of things, which caused us a little more flexibility and freedom to do some things that we didn’t delve into in the past. So, there’s ten songs on the album and its extremely diverse. The album, I think it’s got a little bit of something for everybody, down to the very melodic songs to the heavy hard-hitting songs, to the anthem-based songs people can sing to. So, I think it’s going to definitely put us in a direction where I think we’re going to see the future of the band, what album is coming after this, they’re going to definitely go down that path a bit deeper, so I’m very excited about releasing that one.

So, how long did it take you guys to write that album?

It was right at probably 9 or 10 months. Something like that. Yeah so, some songs came real quick real fast, and some didn’t. But I would say probably 80 percent of the album was very fluent and very quick, and I think we probably spent 10-20 percent of the songs, you know they were just a lot harder and we got a little more road blocks. I think all in all, the process itself was super smooth and we’re just really happy with how it came out.

Do you have a favorite on the album?

It’s hard. It’s like picking your favorites of kids you know. There’s some songs that have different moods to them, although there’s kind of a dark over line theme to the album. But there’s some songs, like I would say my favorite heavy song would be “Broken Wings” probably, it’s just fun to play, it’s really catchy. But one of the most emotional songs on there would be “Take Me Home,” which is a total different feeling from every other song on the album because it’s all acoustic. So, there just some different dynamics to the album.

Yeah, so just kind of different moods. You guys are not on tour now right, or you start up your tour for Voices in July?

Yeah, we did a few dates last month. We did a couple festivals, we hit Rocklahoma, Medal In The Mountains, and we did a few spot dates just to flex the material and see how that was going to go live, which it went great. And then we’ve got a short run coming up mid-July. And we’ll probably really start adding more dates on now. So, from the end of July 4th, you’ll start seeing more dates.

I was trying to figure out what all the dates were, and I saw some and that you were still kind of adding them here and there. And you’re going to be playing with Hinder as well, and in the past, you played with a couple of bands like Marcy Playground, what were some of the most exciting bands you got to play with?

We’ve been fortunate because we’ve played some festival style shows which led us the opportunity to play with some really great bands; all the way from Alice in Chains and Shinedown, just some really big iconic bands. And that was a lot of fun. But then we played a handful of shows with Sevendust and Pop Evil, which was a great time and was great exposure for us as well. But the Hinder show should be really fun. We’re doing a show with then out in Houston, and it should be a great show because we tend to be a little heavier than Hinder, but I think we’ll still relate to the crowd. Yeah so, it’s fun, and we play with bands a little heavier than us, and we’re still able to hold our own with their audience. And then vice versa, we can play with bands that aren’t quite as heavy as us but we can still hold our own with their crowd. So, it’s kind of a nice little six pack.

Yeah and it’s good to stand out too. What are some ways you try to stand out from others and differentiate from the stigma of, “oh you sound like this”, or “you sound like them”?

It’s hard to do nowadays. It’s like, whatever’s been done has been done. It’s really hard to hear bands that people say “we’re so unique and so different than any other band out there”. It’s almost impossible. Because out of all the years people have been playing music, to be totally authentic and totally do something that’s never been done before is impossible. But I think that as a band and as a whole, we differentiate ourselves in a couple different ways. One- the message to our music is inspired by more positive things and empowering for the audience, and should hopefully leave them with something they can feel really good about when they listen to the music, as opposed to being depressed or angry. The other thing is just aesthetics when it comes to the show, and the energy that we put out. You know obviously there’s a lot of great bands that leave it all out on the stage, and we do the best that we possibly can to put on a show to the point where, I know as a fan growing up, it didn’t just want to just go to a concert and listen to music I can just listen to at home. I really wanted to see something, I wanted to be entertained. I think we make a big point of making that happen, and I think the other thing is we’re extremely approachable. So, when it comes to communicating, whether its reaching out, whether its hanging out with the band, whether is communicating via social. There’s no egos in the band at all. So, we’re just a bunch of guys who like having a good time playing music and want to share that with the world. So, when you go out and see us live, we’ll be out there hanging out with you as well. No closed-door kind of one, you know, the band kind of show up on stage and they disappear afterwards, or whatever the case may be. I think it’s important because like I said, growing up, listening to some of the bands I used to listen to and going to see them live, they were so untouchable. There was just no way that you be able to get up close and personal with any of these people. We’re just not like that.

You guys of course did a cover of “Diamonds,” which I feel like that helps bring some attention because that’s a completely opposite genre, which I really appreciate. I like hearing different versions of songs.

Cool.

Yeah, and I kind of want to know a little bit about your band also. You guys joined forces in 2010, can you tell me how all that happened? I know some of you had been friends, and I know you were all in bands before Farewell to Fear. What made you come together and join forces?

I think everyone was kind of doing their own thing. I had been friends with some guys in a mutual business of ours, that travel a lot together. You know, I think when you start traveling and start connecting with certain people, you find out what your common interests are. In this case the common interest was music and growing up and hearing the same genre and having the same likes and things that you like about music. And you then find out like “oh my gosh, you play? Ok great,” well then you just got to go from there. And that mutual relationship just kind of fostered into meeting other people. Like I met a buddy of mine in New Orleans, which happened to have a couple of other guys we used to play with in New Orleans, we we’re just like, “let’s get together and play,” and we’re just like “Ok!”. And it just kind of happened. And once we did, we’re just like ok, let’s do something with this, as opposed to just something fun on the side. And then it just kind of turned and evolved into what’s Farewell to Fear today. It was kind of a unique situation how we all came together. Maybe not quite as unique nowadays, you know people live in different bands and different towns all the time. But still, we all still live in different towns. So, when we get together, we’ll go rehearse for a couple days and we’ll go in tour. And it just kind of works for us.

So, how do you guys incorporate all your different personalities into your music and kind of create it as one?

Well I think the good thing is that everybody in the band is super flexible and workable. Thank god there’s no major egos in the band, although we try to divvy out writing duties and what not, it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes it’s just a couple of us that do the majority of the writing, and then we solicit feedback from the other guys to participate. You know so, sometimes it’s easier to do it that way and sometimes, this last album we did the majority of the writing with our producer just because we wanted an outside influence. We wanted someone to maybe dig something out of us that we didn’t hear. It’s healthy to do that, because if not, a lot of times your music will start to sound the same all the time. What we didn’t want to happen with this album was you listen to one song, and you listen to the second song, and you barely make it through the third song before you say, “alright I think I’ve heard enough”. And not that it wasn’t great, but it all sounds the same. So, it was important for us to make sure that from start to finish with this album, the goal was people could listen to it from front to back and then continuously listen from front to back, and say “you know I don’t see a weak song here”. They all belong on the same album, but you don’t get bored listening to it. So that’s a hard thing to do, but that’s kind of the goal in the presence we set for ourselves. When I was growing up, I didn’t buy just a song. I bought an album, or I bought a CD. I didn’t want just one good song, I wanted to be able to listen to that whole thing and be blown away. And that’s kind of how we set ourselves up for writing.

Yeah, I think you guys did a great job with making them sound different.

Awesome, thank you.

You’re welcome. What are some of your pre-ritutal, before your gig things you guys do to prepare yourselves?

Haha, arrive to the show safely.

That’s good, let’s hope!

No, a lot of times we like to not be in the rush of trying to get ready for a show. It’s always good to have a good 20 minutes or so just to be alone without anybody around, just to kind of get your thought together or any warming up or any exercises that need to happen before you go on stage. And I think to some degree, I don’t want to just say mediation necessarily, it’s not just written down to say “kumbaya”, but it is good to kind of clear your mind a little bit and just be focused on what your goals are. When you’re going to play, what’s that going to look like, and what’s your plan, what’s your strategy? Because you don’t want to go out there and just wing it, you want to go out there and give the best show you possibly can. So, it takes some time so think about too, so you don’t just go out there and wing it. Yeah, but like I said we’re all close, we’re all very good friends. We’re all about positive energy and making sure that when we go out on stage, that people can feel that from us as well. And if there’s any drama or any crap going on, we usually get rid of that prior to the show. So that we when we do go out on stage and play, that’s all gone. Which I think is important.

Yeah, you don’t want people to sense the tension.

Yeah, exactly.

What is one of your most memorable moments?

Well I think that, one of the most memorable moments, and we’ve had a lot of them, and one of the biggest ones for us, and it would usually be a live moment, but in this particular scenario, I think one of the most memorable moments was when we found out that Howard Stern actually played one of our tunes on the show. It was such a big deal and it was so surreal. You know, it was just ones of those things you’ll never forget. Most bands will never have that opportunity and it was unsolicited, we didn’t plan it. We actually had a friend of ours call us, it was like 10:00 in the morning, and they said “you wouldn’t believe what just happened, I was on the way to work and I just heard Howard Stern play your song all the way through, and he’s never done that before”. And I was just like “whatever” you know, “that didn’t happen”. And sure enough, we get a call from the Howard Stern show, they say “this is very uncommon, Howard wants to do an interview with you guys, are you up for it?”. And we’re just like, “oh shit, are you kidding me? Of course!”. Yeah it was cool. So, I would say that was one of the most memorable moments that actually had a lot of impact thereafter.

Another thing I’d like to know is when did it click that this was something serious and you can actually do something with this?

I think there’s certain time where you have those defining moments where you’re just like “ok, there’s something happening here and we need to act upon.” So, when I look as those clicking moments, and I think one them was obviously with Howard Stern, but then the other thing was a few years ago, when we made the decision after we released our last EP Legacy. When we released that, our thought was, “you know what, we need to go out and do this bigger and better than before”. So that’s what led us to write Voices. So that was the first moment it clicked, but I think there’s multiple times in your career where things just align properly and that causes things to happen, and that was definitely it for us.

And what are some things you’re listening to right now?

Oh man, I like so much. Mostly it’s of the heavier stuff. I just went to a show up in Carolina with a bunch of old friends of mine, and we went and saw Slayer and Lamb of God, Anthrax and Testament. And it was just an amazing show. So I’ve been listening to that a bit, and kind of listening to some of the older stuff. I think that some of the more current stuff that I’m really into is stuff like, oh gosh the list could go on and on. Like, Killswitch Engage to, well now you put me on the spot. Bullet For My Valentine, some of that stuff that I just get inspired because it’s so good, and it kind of just makes me want to become better as well.

I’ve already read about all your influences and people are always asking you guys those questions, so I know that for sure. What would be one your dream gigs along with the rest of the band?

I think one of the things that we really want to do that is on our list and the thing we want to accomplish, probably sooner than later, is that we do want to secure some second tier headliner positions at some major festivals. It’s just kind of that itch we really want to enjoy and experience itself. And we’d like to do some of that stuff internationally as well. There’s some great touring opportunities with some amazing bands and a lot of them happen to be in Europe, or maybe Japan. So, there’s a lot of opportunities, so if you asked all of us individually we’d all come really close to having the same answer on that. Because that’s where the majority of the stuff happens. And festivals have become such a big deal over the past ten years or so, it’s kind of the thing everyone’s doing.

Oh yeah it definitely is, it would be awesome so see you guys at one of those. Besides doing shows, what are some things you like to do on your down time? Do you guys get together and just hangout and just pretend like you’re not a band anymore?

Right, and I think that happens multiple times when we’re out playing, because we don’t play every single night. But if we’re out and have a couple days off, of whatever the case may be, we just go goof off. We were up in West Virginia and went down to the river and rented a boat and just hung out. A couple of the guys the other day, hung out and went white water rafting. Just living life, I think is the most important thing. Take every opportunity you possibly can. Sometimes you get so close when you’re playing, and everything’s about music, everything’s about being on stage and at the top of your game. Sometimes you don’t want to get too wrapped up in that, because at the end of the day, there’s more to life than that. So, don’t take yourself too seriously, have fun, enjoy the company. But when we’re off-off, we’re back home. Everyone kind of splits up and goes back to their families and do whatever they do back at home. So, everyone in the bands got family, everyone’s got kids. They go back and do what normal families do. There’s definitely some normalcy and that’s important because I think that’s what keeps them grounded as well.

With everyone’s families, do they try to go out and see as many shows as they can, or tour with you guys, or do they just kind of catch the area ones?

They usually catch the area ones but I think that may change over time based on the opportunities that come up. And when they are, ideally it would be awesome to take the families on board with us on a string of shows. Go see some really great parts of the country, or parts of Europe, which I think would be a blast. It’s not necessarily feasible to take your entire family on the road with you all the time, but if you do have opportunity to do that I think it would be a fun neat experience.

I’ll wrap up the interview with is one. What would be one thing someone would be surprised to know about you?

Uhh…

Or I mean, you can rat out one of your band mates too if you want.

Yeah, no kidding right. I think there’s things about all of us that are a little bit, like “wow I didn’t know that”. Oh, I’ll tell you a good one about one of the band mates. It’s always more fun to talk about my guitar player, Mojo. He used to be a stand-up comedic hypnotist.

Really?

Yeah so, that one’s kind of a fun thing to talk about. When I tell people that, they’re like “what?”. I’m like yeah, he’s legit. He would travel and tour around and get up on stage at comedy clubs and get people to come up on stage and he would literally hypnotize them. It’s crazy, and actually a lot of fun seeing him in his element. So that’s a good little tidbit for somebody out there.

Wow that’s awesome. I would have him entertain me on the road.

Exactly, oh he’s hilarious. He’s funny, he’s definitely a blast that’s for sure.

By Contributing Writer for I’m Music Magazine Molly Manuszewski

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