My understanding is that if you’re in a heavy band and you’ve made your way through West Chester, Pennsylvania, on an East Coast tour, you’ve probably either stayed at Mike Cummings‘ house or played with his band, Backwoods Payback. As the frontman of the underappreciated and hard-driving foursome, Cummings presents an indomitable personality on stage and off, but is given to backing that up with a thoughtful approach in his lyrics as well as in writings apart from the band. A book of poetry, Confessions of a Lackluster Performer, was published in 2009, and aside from the self-deprecating title, it showed Cummings able to work in textures beyond those of his songcraft, though it seems to be that side of his creativity that most exerts itself. Backwoods Payback made their debut on Small Stone with 2011’s Momantha (review here) and subsequently issued a live EP in 2012 and a studio EP, In the Ditch (streamed here), earlier in 2014.
In addition, Cummings embarked on his first solo acoustic tour last fall (review here), and the release of his full-length solo debut, Get Low, is expected April 19.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Michael Rudolph Cummings
How did you come to do what you do?
I’ve always written in some form or another, since as early as I can remember. Music just seemed to be the next extension of that. It just happened.
Describe your first musical memory.
I had a little portable record player in a blue canvas-colored suitcase. I’m sure there was one in most households with a kid my age (or maybe not, the more I think about it). The movie E.T. had just come out and my mom gave me the Neil Diamond “Heartlight” single. I played that for hours at a time, over and over.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
It changes all the time. Whenever I finish a recording or write a new song, that’s the high I’m always chasing. I just finished my first solo record. Listening back to the tape in the room and forgetting how we even made this thing that was being played back to me…that’s my best memory at the moment.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
Every day something I believe in is tested.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
I can’t even begin to try and imagine where it leads. I just follow it wherever it wants to take me.
How do you define success?
Doing the best I can at whatever it is that I am doing and knowing that I gave it all I had.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
Everything I have seen makes me who I am today. Nothing… Some things are just harder to handle than others.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
I have so much to do still, books to write, songs to sing, pictures to draw. It’s such a strange trip when it happens. I can’t sit and force it. It’s like a wave, and I have to ride it out when it comes.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
Waking up tomorrow.