Profile – Mike Davies / Alternative Roots

Mike Davies presents Alternative Roots on Brum Radio every Sunday lunchtime between 12noon and 2pm. Each week he brings you the best new roots, folk and Americana releases from emerging and local artists. Mike talks below about his time in music and the show.

Tell us about yourself and how you got into music.

I started at secondary school where I used to post charts based on votes from the classes. I discovered Cohen, The Doors etc and was sold. I’d regularly pick up obscure and new artists from Bev Bevan’s Heavy Head Records. At university I started a music fanzine called Nuggets and subsequently became a local stringer for Melody Maker and Sounds. My first radio job was on Radio Birmingham helping rock DJ Malcolm Jay and being the first in the UK to play Meatloaf! We were on air the night Elvis died.

From there I started doing interviews on Beacon for Mike Baker’s late-night show, meeting Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian and others. Then I became a co-host for the six-hour rock show on Beacon Radio, doing the last three hours, playing an eclectic range of music, running local band sessions in the 80s and writing for International Concert News magazine and Musicians Only.  Then long radio gap and just writing until I joined Brum Radio.

How did the show come about?

Robin Valk approached me to see if I’d like to present a folk-based show. The title came from the road signs for the road works around Birmingham!

You play a great many and varied artists on the show, how do you put a programme together?

I listen to stuff over the week, largely things I’m reviewing for online magazines. I’m looking for lesser-known names generally (though will play known ones) that people wouldn’t normally get to hear. Local artists always get interest from me. I tend to not do instrumentals as I’m a word-based person. I usually work out the show on a Tuesday, working out what tracks go well together, linking themes or titles at times. I always have a featured album with 5 or 6 tracks. Then I record at home on Wednesday, getting tracks to flow seamlessly. Many USA PRs send stuff over as well as artists directly.

Who have you been listening to of late that has got your attention?

New names that have grabbed me will include Lizzzy Hardingham, Broken Branches, Courtney Hale Revia, Angeline Morrison, Laura Mulcahy, Chris Canterbury and Amy Hopwood.

How do you see the British – and Birmingham – folk and roots scene at the moment?

Katherine Priddy has given the local scene and real boost as has Chris Cleverley and Jon Wilks. The problem is that you go to the gigs the audience rarely has anyone under the age of 40. Where are the young folk and roots listeners, why don’t they support live music and who will inherit running these venues?

I think the British folk scene is dynamic at the moment – with both a revival of interest in traditional folk – often daringly reinterpreted – and innovative new artists like Luke Jackson pushing the boundaries of both folk and Americana. We just need more shows willing to support them and local media getting behind local artists.

Listen again to Mike’s Alternative Roots shows here.