L.A. singer, songwriter and self-confessed folkie Mike Telega released his Forever and a Day EP during the pandemic, and he’ll be bringing those songs and more to the Cinema Bar this weekend. He told the News about what he has in store for Culver…
When did you start playing and performing?
I started playing the guitar when I was 11 or 12 years old, influenced by hearing Metallica records, I locked myself in the basement and learned all their early albums start to finish. I played in an alternative rock band in high school, but it was pretty far from singer-songwriter territory. I played rhythm guitar and came up with most of the musical ideas for the songs but I couldn’t sing or write melodies. Singing, writing and performing my own songs came later, and I performed for the first time in 2015, at Unurban in Santa Monica. It was terrifying. I was terrified to perform in front of people. There I was, me, my guitar and my personal songs.
Describe your sound/style?
I’ve heard others describe my sound as Americana. I like to think of it as folk music.
What are your career highlights so far?
The music community in Los Angeles is pretty special. I never imagined I’d be writing songs and performing them in front of people and I owe so much of that to those I met along the way. It’s like I didn’t even know what I wanted but they opened the door and pushed me through it. Sue Fink was someone I went to for vocal lessons and she was a huge influence on me to start writing my own songs. She was also a huge influence on performing. Today, many of my close friends are people I have met through the music scene and I’m grateful for that. Other big highlights are the opportunity to record and release a debut EP, with producer Lon Miller and to be able to work with so many amazing artists and fellow-musicians who made the album possible.
What recorded music is available — particularly the most recent?
I released a debut EP in 2021 called Forever and a Day, recorded it with producer Lon Miller at his home studio in Canoga Park. Our approach was to try to keep it simple. Lon saw me perform live and he wanted to try to capture something with a slightly more live and organic feel to it. We started recording it just before COVID so not all went as planned but I’m very happy with the result.
Have you performed at the Cinema Bar before?
I started playing gigs at Cinema Bar in 2017 and I’ve organized a few shows there in the past. What I love about the Cinema Bar is that it’s no frills and unpretentious. I’ll never forget the time I discovered Gethen Jenkins there, he was playing as part of a ‘songwriters in the round’. That exact ‘songwriters in the round’, hosted by RJ Bloke, influenced me to start and host my own songwriters in the round that ran monthly at Unurban in Santa Monica for nearly two years.
What can the audience expect from the set this time?
As I continue to refine my own material and play in more venues, I’m becoming increasingly comfortable in my own skin. I struggle with my sound and my voice, especially. I’ve gone through a process of embracing its texture as something that is expressive and helps me connect with my audience, not a flaw to be fixed. Also, the other artists on the bill, like Mackin Carrol are artists I really respect and look up to. I play his debut EP (Damascus) on repeat often – I love it! The Black Heartthrobs singer David Benitez has been a big influence on my songwriting and we’ve been in a songwriting group together for many years that is led by Berton Averre (The Knack). I’m honored to have them playing with me and look forward to a great show.
What else do you have coming up?
I’m putting the finishing touches on my follow-up album, for which I’m again working with producer Lon Miller. This collection of songs is different from the last one in that I didn’t think I had anything quite ready to start recording but Lon pushed me to get started. I brought him a pile of demos and had help from him deciding what songs should get recorded. Some of the songs weren’t completely finished or they didn’t have completed lyrics, so I had to finish things during the recording process. I plan to release that later this year and would love to promote it with, at least, some west coast shows. I’m also actively looking for opportunities to open for artists with audiences similar to mine. Beyond all that, I am looking forward to telling my story through songs and meeting great folks along the way.
Mike Telega performs at 9 p.m. on Friday, May 5 at the Cinema Bar. Go to thecinemabar.com for more information about the show.
Elsewhere this week
The Culver Hotel will be hosting the likes of Sylvia & the Rhythm Boys, and Scotty Bramer. Go to culverhotel.com for more info.
The next show at Boulevard Music is Peppino D’Agostino at 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 13. Visit boulevardmusic.com for more info.
The Kirk Douglas Theatre hosts jazz drummer Willie Jones III on Sunday, May 7. “We are thrilled to present Willie Jones III at the Kirk Douglas Theatre,” said Ruth Price, artistic director of the Jazz Bakery. “This promises to be an unforgettable evening of jazz, and we hope that everyone will come out to support this important cultural institution and celebrate the legacy of Billy Higgins.” Visit jazzbakery.org for more info.