Opportunity knocks for Mishka

  • Very cool: Mishka records vocals with the harmonies of veteran musicians, The Stylistics (Photograph supplied)

After more than 20 years in the music industry, Mishka is looking back.

A remake of his 1999 track Give You All the Love came out on Valentine’s Day; he partnered on the single with 1970s soul group The Stylistics.

Now the Hawaii resident is working on his next album, a return to his acoustic beginnings.

The singer-songwriter said collaborating with The Stylistics happened “on a whim”.

An attorney who had done some legal work for the veteran group suggested the song was “right in their style and would fit with their vocals”.

“I only knew them from a couple of their big hits back in the Seventies and Eighties,” Mishka said. “They were on the radio all the time in Bermuda. I said, ‘Yeah, of course’. They’re legendary.”

He re-recorded the song from his eponymous first album, with their harmonies, at Phil Nicolo’s studio in Philadelphia.

“[He’s] a pretty big producer from back in the day,” Mishka explained. “Phil and Joe Nicolo are known as The Butcher Bros. He engineered the recording of the vocals.”

Mishka took the track back to Maui to finish production work with Grammy-winning engineer Eric Helmkamp.

He said recording with the group — famous for hits Betcha by Golly, Wow and You Make Me Feel Brand New — was very cool.

“They’re in their seventies and been in the music industry for 50 years, so they’re very confident and very relaxed, cool people,” he said.

“They’ve been doing it for ever so the studio is like home for them. They’re just really natural and easygoing.

“It was a really fun experience. It’s not every day you get to work with people that are as established. It was really a lot of laughs.”

The studio and the collaboration were a coup for the artist, who said that he had not recorded with similarly notable musicians.

“Definitely not of that maturity and that stature,” he said.

“I don’t think those opportunities come that often.”

Mishka moved to Hawaii eight years ago and lives in Maui with his wife and three teenage sons.

He recorded his 2015 album, Roots Fidelity, while living in the area and is working on his latest unnamed project now.

“It’s kind of a reflection of my first album,” he said. “It’s quite stripped down as far as the arrangements.

“It’s a little bit more upbeat than the first, but it’s still quite acoustic guitar and vocal-based — more of a singer-songwriter album and not so much of a reggae album like the last one was.”

While it does carry some roots and reggae elements, he said he’s going back to his early style.

“Just keeping the songs in their most original form, which is the vocals and the guitar,” he explained.

“There are still some arrangements, some drum and bass in it, but it’s far more in the singer-songwriter category.”

The 43-year-old plans to tour the East Coast of the US in May and June.

He’ll fit in a trip to Bermuda before he prepares for Europe and Australia later this year.

He plays around the Hawaiian islands a few times a year, but performs regularly with Maui-based band the Freeradikals. He joined four years ago as a vocalist.

“It’s sort of a labour of love,” he said. “We’re a different genre from anything else I’ve ever done.

“It’s like funk, punk rock, so pretty upbeat and progressive.

“We’re a four-piece band: drums, bass, guitar and myself just singing.

“We’re pretty well known in the Maui surfer-beach community.”

However, the new album is his main focus.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” he said. “It’s a little bit upbeat but also kind of melancholy; it’s different than my last albums but has elements of a lot of them.

“It reflects my life, it reflects the world, the political climate. There’s some social commentary, there’s some personal stuff, family relationships, children — all of that comes into it.

“But mostly it’s reflecting my love of how I like to play. I like to play acoustic.

“I’ve created a lot of music in the past that requires a big band to back it up and that’s not always easy logistically, even though it’s a lot of fun and I love it.

“This one is kind of reflective of what I end up doing on the road — a lot of acoustic, two or three-piece band, stripped down and simple.”