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The Lovely Few: Balancing a Life of Fatherhood, Teaching, and Music

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Mike Mewborne of The Lovely Few

On their 2011 album The Perseids The Lovely Few began their journey into what’s become a trilogy of releases titled The Meteor Series where frontman Mike Mewborne started writing space themed songs, metaphorically weaving in those themes with his own personal life. Married in 2008, Mewborne is joined in The Lovely Few by his wife Kate, and multi instrumentalist Alan Davis. The Perseids not only started off The Meteor Series, but was the start of a relationship with blossoming Charleston record label Hearts & Plugs and founder Dan McCurry. The two met around 2007 at The Watershed, a now defunct coffee shop and venue in Lexington, South Carolina that played a large role in the early development of many musicians active in the South Carolina music scene today. McCurry was on tour with his band Run Dan Run when they met. The years following that meeting brought a lot of change for both parties, McCurry rebooting his then small collective Hearts & Plugs in 2012 and Mewborne rediscovering his songwriting form.

“I remember The Lovely Few put out The Perseids in 2011 and I was really impressed with it” said McCurry. “I had always kept up with Mike’s releases and this one just seemed to possess more depth to the songwriting and more expansive musical exploration. I think initially the album received very little attention and so re-releasing it on Hearts & Plugs was our opportunity to make more noise and give it the sort of attention that I thought it truly deserved.”

For Mewborne The Meteor Series started by accident in the studio, and opened up a fresh and more comfortable songwriting territory for Mewborne who was looking for his lyrical voice after the release of The Limited Abilities of Man.

“We recorded Long Division with Taylor (Bray) and after that first song “Apartment”, we did this experimental instrumental thing in the studio and Taylor’s clicking on different things, and one of us said that sounds like a meteor shower.” says Mewborne. “That concept was very exciting, that something can sound like a meteor shower. Lyrically the idea was, we did Limited Abilities of Man, which I’m still very proud of. Then I got married. I think two things happen when you get married, first you’re happy, and no one wants to hear songs that are like “Oh I’m content and that’s it”… that’s the end of the song. But I’ve also realized that the stakes get much higher. As a single man writing these pop love songs, you’re not connected to anyone else on the same level as you are when you’re married. These songs they should be reflecting some deep emotional thought, turmoil doesn’t go away. But if I say these things, if I dive in and really try to purge these emotions out, I’m going to have this awkward conversation with my wife. I don’t think I was ready to sing about life at that point. I was still learning how to communicate with Kate. So I needed this sort of metaphorical territory to go into and space gave me that opportunity to do that. And Dan (McCurry) was a part of that process and he would say just keep writing, do whatever it takes to keep writing. So that turned into more research on mythology on the different astrological names or NASA space missions and that gave me the freedom to dig within myself and find the metaphors for what I was feeling and thinking.”

These days Mewborne sees The Meteor Series coming to an end and he has a vision for its close. The series served its purpose, giving Mewborne a focus on writing and space to develop music in the midst of a changing life becoming a father, writing in a marriage, and balancing a career in education— Mewborne teaches Social Studies at Chapin High School. Finding that balance in life is something Mewborne is comfortable with. The next EP is in its early stages, planned now to be four or five songs weaving Hamlet into an outer planets EP. Mewborne views this concept as a way to finish out the space theme while also being its own thing.

“We went to see the Benedict Cumberbatch Hamlet at Midlands Tech Theatre, and I’ve had this outer planets thing in my head for a while and I was sort of connecting the characters and all that stuff and thought this would totally work, I can totally do this.” reminisces Mewborne. “And even administering the SAT one day I actually wrote out forms for each song, and made some connections and wrote out some lines I’d want to use.”

Balancing time as a father, husband, and educator is something Mewborne’s had to adapt to, relying on advice from fellow musicians to find his way.

“Teaching is very hard for me, because my personality is such a rule follower, and so many other personalities are not that, that when you do something like administer an SAT, it’s like 5 or 6 hours, you read from a script, you make sure they’re not cheating, you check their ID a million times, but there’s a lot of it’s like, alright, just making notes as I go and trying to relax a little while I’m at work, because I’m so wound up while I’m in front of a classroom. When I started teaching I talked to Patrick Funk and Albert Knuckley (members of Magnetic Flowers), and I asked them how do you guys still do music and teach because this is super overwhelming.”

They both told him the same thing, that it would make him a better teacher because of it and Mewborne’s found that to be true.

When Mike Mewborne started college at the University of South Carolina in 2002 he was already in a band. Playing drums in Tigerbot Hesh, Mewborne was joined on guitar and vocals by Nate Boykin, who later formed Baumer, and Dawson Huss on bass. Tigerbot Hesh found local success, and helped develop relationships that would eventually help Mewborne when he branched out on his own.  For a time Mewborne played drums with Erich Skelton, opening shows with his own band Mikey Mew and The Lovely Few, Mewborne found strength in advice from a friend before a show in Athens, Georgia with the towns most iconic music figure in the crowd.

“We were playing two dates with Erich Skelton, everyone was sick after the Spartanburg show, and I’m just angry, and I notice that this guy is sitting at this table.” says Mewborne. “I know I know this guy, that I’ve seen him before, he’s a bald guy thick rim glasses, sort of hasn’t shaved in a little while. Who is this guy? He’s watching us soundcheck, I’ve lost my voice, and everything is just about to fall apart, and I realize it’s Michael Stipe. I sort of ask around if it’s possible and found out that he owns the restaurant. That’s definitely him. And I, I don’t even remember why, but I called Ben (Walker), and he was like here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna go to the bar and you’re gonna order a Hot Toddy, just do it. Then you’re going to get up and you’re going to sing, and you’re not going to apologize for anything. Don’t apologize for having a sore throat, or tell them you had a rough night last night. You’re not going to apologize for anything you’re just going to play your songs. It absolutely should have fallen apart, and I don’t remember how it went, it probably wasn’t our best or our worst performance, but I remember that connection with Ben and that feeling with your music that you have to get there at some point, I don’t need to apologize for this, you asked me to play here, this is it, this is what you got. Don’t spend the time groveling, just enjoy it, and I think that lesson has taken a long time to really sink in. I still get nervous before every performance, but I’ve learned to let that be. It’s like a roller coaster. It’s a very personal roller coaster. If you do it wrong you’ll really end up hating the people you’re doing it with, but if you do it right you’ll develop some very deep relationships.”

That’s one of the thrills of music, when you’re on stage and anything can go wrong, it’s live, you’re relying on others in the band, everything could be on the verge of falling apart, unraveling, but it doesn’t. Small mistakes turn into magical moments and things just work out. The crowd is there for you.

These days Mewborne is content with where the band is. They’ve got long-term goals of releasing a split 7 inch with Sandcastles, with their focus now on two shows coined as “A Night at the Planetarium” partnering with local creative group Fort Psych on lighting. They’ll also be releasing a split cassette with Infinitikiss at these shows featuring the band’s 2012 EP Orionids including one unreleased instrumental track.

“And many ways we’re exactly where I want to be as a band, meaning we play a half-dozen shows a year, on bills that we want to be on, to rooms that are not completely empty, and it doesn’t suck.” says Mewborne. 

It seems he’s close to striking the balance with life and being in a band.

Watch Mike Mewborne cover David Bowie’s Space Oddity Live at Papa Jazz