Q+A: Stetson alumnus and DeLand-grown Mike the Prophet releases Christmas EP

Stetson alumnus and touring musician Mike Furlong, brainchild of music project Mike the Prophet takes time out his busy schedule to talk about his new Christmas album with The Stetson Reporter.

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Hey Mike! Thanks for agreeing to talk with The Stetson Reporter about your new EP. So why a Christmas album?

As a Stetson Alumnus I’m always happy to talk with the Reporter. I personally love a lot of traditional music, whether hymns, military songs, folk songs, or classical tunes, and the holidays are a time when traditional music is listened to by everyone. So the opportunity was too good to pass up from a personal perspective.

To be a bit reflective, I think the value of a Christmas or Holiday release is in adding to the giant mass of culture that Americans assign the last month of the year. It’s strange and wonderful how our entire country loses its mind in the best and worst ways during the holidays; why not pile on?

Why did you choose these Christmas songs to cover?

Two reasons:

1. I have played a ton of Christmas and holiday gigs in my life, and these songs have become some of mine and my audience’s favorites; from retirement homes to community centers to house parties. Having played them this much, I’ve gotten to know them well enough to put some spin on them, and try to change from the normal feel of a Christmas album.

2. They are public domain, meaning I don’t have to pay royalties on them. That kind of bread can be hard to come by as an independent musician.

Mike the Prophet’s sweet branding. Photo courtesy of MTP Management

Any of these songs have a particular special meaning or memory attached to them?

“Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming”

While I lived in DeLand and went to Stetson, I helped a dear friend build a church called Collective. Shortly after I moved [to North Carolina] last year, a man named Sonny Goff became involved with Collective.

Although I didn’t know him well, he was very well-loved by everyone in the community, and we became acquaintances, speaking a few times while I was in Florida visiting, mostly about the hymns and traditional music I liked to play at Collective. That and the specific peculiarities of Episcopalians.

Through this acquaintance I found out that he was an accomplished musician himself, having performed for many years as a professional, principally as a vocalist.

Last Christmas Eve, Sonny came to the service in good spirit, and we spoke briefly and pleasantly before the service; interactions with this man had a way of awakening positivity.

I played “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” during the service stripped down with just an acoustic guitar.

After the service, Jess (who works at Collective) came up to me as I was packing up and said: “Sonny wanted me to tell you that your rendition of ‘Lo, How A Rose’ brought him to tears this evening. He said it was the most beautiful thing he’s heard in a while. But he had to leave earlier, so he wanted me to make sure you knew.”

I was very moved by that comment. For a compliment like that to come from such an accomplished musician meant so much to me.

That evening was the last time I would ever see Sonny; he would die a couple weeks later before I could thank him for the compliment.

Playing the tune that moved him that Christmas is my way of saying thanks.

One of the tracks, “Outside like Inside”, is a Mike the Prophet original. Tell us a little bit about the song.

“Outside Like Inside” was a song that just wouldn’t come together at first. There was always something missing from it. I worked on it for several months, and then in one session of writing, it hit me that it was supposed to be a Christmas song. It finished itself in about ten minutes after that.
A major deficiency of a lot of Christmas music is that it is all a bit too rosy. Even the sad songs have a kind of wink and nod in them where the sadness floats and never really lands. I set out to address that by writing authentically about the Christmas season and all of the feelings that go with it: anticipation, depression, joy, the weight of expectations, the pressure of materialism, the hope in the Christmas story, the fact that we only get so many Christmases and then we die. I shot for the full spectrum, and I hope I fit as many of the diverse emotions of the season as possible into four minutes.
I want the people who are bummed during the Holidays to listen to “Outside Like Inside” and know that it’s alright to be sad. Sometimes life is terrible and there’s nothing we can do. Try to find someone that loves you, remember all that played-out “peace on earth, good will towards men” stuff applies, and weather the season as best you can. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll buy you a beer and we can talk about anything other than Christmas.

What can we expect from the Mike the Prophet in the coming year?

In the Springtime, I will be touring solo and releasing a new single and music video, to be announced soon. Summer and Fall have more traveling with the band, a live album, and some collaborations in store.
I am always working on my Patreon “Inner Circle,” which I’m attempting to steer into changing the future of music. But that’s a whole other interview, isn’t it?
You can purchase or stream Mike the Prophet’s The Christmas EP today!