Limelight: Mike Kershaw

Mike Kershaw’s CV is unique in rock music. After working in a “very intense job” as a treasury manager for a hotel chain in Leeds for 22 years, he was made redundant in 2007, aged 42, and decided to pursue a solo career in music.

In his press biography he states that he’d “never done anything remotely musical” before then. But surely he could play an instrument?

“No, I’d never played anything,” he asserts.

“Although I’ve books and books of lyrics, which I stopped doing in the mid-90s when work became too intrusive. I thought, ‘I’ll buy a simple music program – I didn’t even have a keyboard – with loops and try to construct some songs.’ Then I bought

a Logic program and a keyboard. The aim is to make sure every song is an improvement on the previous batch and just keep going. It’s been a very steep learning curve.”

Initially Kershaw recorded his music as Relocate To Heathrow, but has since released three albums and two EPs under his own name.

It’s extraordinary for a musical novice to be operating in an area known for its high levels of technique. On first listen, Kershaw’s music has echoes of Genesis and the Strawbs and is sonically similar to progressive rock, but with the fiddly bits taken out. He thinks that sums it up pretty well.

“I like a lot of other music like folk, Tom Waits and Neil Young, but I have a love of progressive rock. Genesis are my favourite group, and I like Yes, Änglagård and The Decemberists. I don’t actually write the music deliberately like that,” he qualifies. “It was just the musical area that has seemed to embrace me.”

With his solo recordings, Kershaw follows a pragmatic – and successful – approach to making music. Firstly, he writes a ‘portfolio’ of lyrics. He might then start with a piano line, or try to fit a lyric to a melody, or layer the music from a simple drum track. Although he admits that “the songs flow relatively easily”, he’s keen to avoid repeating himself, and works assiduously on improving all aspects of the song structure, the playing and the programming.

On Departure, two out of the five tracks feature guest musicians, including the Dutch band Fractal Mirror, and Kershaw is starting work on a completely collaborative album for release in 2016. So far, bassist Leopold Blue-Sky from Unto Us, and Gareth Cole, guitarist on Departure, have been confirmed as appearing. “I’ve been isolated so long just doing everything myself, it’s like I am different band members in my head. You sit and talk to yourself because there’s no one else to bounce ideas off,” he laughs. “Which is why I’m looking forward to having some other people to input ideas.”

So will he play his debut gig before he hits his half-century? “In the current situation it would be karaoke: vocals, keyboards and pre-recorded sounds. I’m not interested in that,” he replies. “But when I’m playing with other musicians, should the opportunity arise, we’ll have a look at it. I wouldn’t dismiss anything.”


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Mike Kershaw (vocals, keyboards, programming), Gareth Cole (guitar), Don Fast (guitar), Leo Koperdraat (guitar), Frank Urbaniak (drums), Ed van Haagen (bass), Charlotte Koperdraat (vocals), Julie Kershaw (vocals), **Wouter van Hal **(vocals)
sounds like
Melodic songs with folky elements and an understated grandeur, with a layered mix of keyboards, samples and real instruments
current release
The self-released Departure EP is available now from
Mike Barnes

Mike Barnes is the author of Captain Beefheart - The Biography (Omnibus Press, 2011) and A New Day Yesterday: UK Progressive Rock & the 1970s (2020). He was a regular contributor to Select magazine and his work regularly appears in Prog, Mojo and Wire. He also plays the drums.