Mike O’Phee on His New Album
and What Inspires Him
Story by Ryan Percy
Photography by Jessica Tanchioni Photography
It takes plenty of skill to become an artist, hours upon hours of dedication and practice. For many they focus on one thing, finding a niche to become proficient and an expert in. But sometimes you are pulled in many directions at once and find yourself having a great breadth of experience.
While many musicians find themselves sticking to just one singular genre, having found a singular specific voice they are most comfortable with, there are others who have multiple paths they enjoy. Mike O’Phee is one such, multi-genre artist.
With a new album on the way shortly, Colors Two, it felt right to listen to the first one.
Colors, released in 2015, is an album of a man finding his voices across genres while being able to tell the stories most important to him. It also found its funding through one of the humblest means.
“I used to drive pizza delivery for Arcata,” Mike says with a laugh, “I funded Colors and my second album, Clairvoyance, with pizza delivery tips.”
Listening to Colors is almost the experience of flicking through the radio station to station and yet somehow finding a strand of a story and voice flowing through it all.
Sometimes the genre shift is jarring, the somber almost Christian rock vibe of Believe leading into hardcore biker americana of Anarchy’s Son then into a R&B country rock mashup Hard Time. But this works to Mike’s advantage, able to show the breadth of his ability to perform and flow to whatever genre the message of the melody pulls him.
“For me, music is life,” Mike says as to what a song is. “In Colors every song is a different colour. Songs are moods, they’re feelings or stories. They’re undeniable and something a person made because they had to get it out. It’s like an artist with painting, sometimes you just start brushing and something emerges.”
What this leads to is O’Phee finding his music inspiration in any moment. While some artists may only use music as a catharsis tool to sing of sadness or a way to be upbeat and joyful, he finds a full experience is necessary to get his voice across.
“It’s really all over the place at times,” Mike says with a smile, “Moments of inspiration can come from anything. Experiences I go through or sometimes I even get inspired by talks I have with people and what they were going through.”
But while Colors might have been Mike’s first solo album it was not the first musical act he was a part of.
MicLordz & Sauce Funky was a hardcore band with a tone of rock meets rap meets punk, almost a mix of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine. They had been nearing the top of their own little corner of the world with tracks like Ready for War even being used in Hollywood films. But then it all started slowly unravelling due to circumstances out of their control.
“We hit a roadblock when a couple of the members in the band’s families started getting sick.” Mike sighs as he pulls up old memories. “One member had to move home, another had to go take care of their family. We had to put it all on pause and that pause kind of became permanent but we never actually broke up.”
It led to Mike nearly walking away from the mic for good.
“I had given absolutely everything to the band and I was just done,” Mike says. “I couldn’t put myself through that again. The heartbreak of getting so far and then just stopping.”
Thankfully around 2009 he met someone, a girl who his heart would open up to and who would help him find his voice again.
“We dated six years and broke up for two years right between Colors and Clairvoyance,” Mike laughs. “We got back together and in late 2021 she was the one who pushed me to pursue this all. Next thing you know I’m working on an album.”
Colors Two is a sequel of sorts to the original, another set of colours and moods given form through song to tell the stories Mike has had since the original.
“It’s an open book,” Mike says of what he wants people to take away from the new album, “Nothing on there is something I haven’t lived, experienced or felt strongly about. I hope somewhere on this album something grabs them and they understand there are people out there that care about you. Don’t take them for granted and appreciate every day.”
Several tracks are also sequels to tracks on the first album. Anarchy’s Son, a clear homage to the Sons of Anarchy show which even became Ring of Honor’s wrestler Michael Elgin’s theme song, is followed up in the second album with Anarchy’s Son 2. The new track now tells the story of a character in a different setting, inspiration shifting from biker gangs to the dramatic lives of ranchers from Yellowstone.
Some of the tracks are not as blatant as follow ups.
The first track of Colors, I Wanna Live, is a chilling, piano heavy cry for help. It sounds as if Mike is pleading on his knees after stumbling into a church in the black of night to try and make sense of it all. Then Better, Colors Two’s first single, throws the doors open in raucous joy and tells the listener that while you are down in the dumps from everything you can hit rock bottom and turn everything around for the better.
“It was just that feeling you get when something is real,” Mike says of how being a musician changed him for the better. “I was inspired. I was motivated. It’s 26 years on and I’m still chasing that dragon.”
Colors Two became available for streaming and purchase on September 5. To get your copy head over to mikeophee.com for more information.