“I want to turn what’s good about the Midwest into something that’s artistically valuable. I don’t want Indiana to be left behind. I want to be a part of it and try to make it better.” - Mike Adams
Born in Claypool and based in Bloomington, Mike Adams has lived in Indiana his entire life. He is a dear friend and became a Driftless contributor in Issue 2 with a nostalgic story about his favorite Christmas tradition, bowling on Christmas Eve with his family.
Adams played pop music in Bloomington for years before beginning his solo career in 2011. When he isn’t writing and recording music or touring while making his podcast, Adams hosts his own television show, The Mike Adams Show. It's filmed with a live audience and features local talent. He has kindly asked Driftless to be on the show (details below!) and we were excited to talk with him about it.
How has growing up and living in the Midwest influenced your music and songwriting?
The Midwest (specifically, Indiana) is the only place I've ever lived. So, the answer to this question probably runs a lot deeper than I care to admit, haha. Things around here tend to be very distinct. It's obvious what is a cornfield and what is a strip mall. All four seasons are really clear, and we're known for being polite. I think, musically, this really comes through in my work. The tunes tend to be clear, accessible and easy to understand. On the other hand, I think the contrast and my rebellious push against that notion comes through lyrically. With imagery and words I really like ambiguity, double entendre, trying to be clever, and all that sort of thing. Saying what I feel without spelling it out or being too on the nail. That combination feels like a really midwestern philosophy to me. It's the only life I know.
Different from your two previous records, Casino Drone lends itself to the calmness of everyday life. Why do you choose Bloomington, Indiana? What keeps you coming back after visiting so many other cities on tour?
Bloomington is an easy place to live and work. It's affordable, beautiful, diverse, comfortable, and very, very small. I like feeling close to people, so living in a small town makes that almost a given. I sort of think living here feels like living in a year-round summer camp. I'm also allowed the openness here to be as creatively ambitious as I want to be, while maintaing the security that my family is well taken care of. I like traveling and meeting new people, and visiting exciting places, but at heart I'm a homebody and the pace of life here really suits me. Also, Bloomington is very centrally located, so it's super easy and convenient to get just about anywhere I want to go east of the Mississippi.
What made you start The Mike Adams Show and how has it evolved from your original vision?
It was really Jared Cheek's idea to start the show. I think he was influenced by a lot of things, including Cowboy Jack Clement, Cosmo Kramer's Merv Griffin living room, Charles Kuralt, the internet, DIY attitude, his empty garage at the time...and he knew that I'd go along with just about any idea that he ever has! He proposed we start a local, internet-based talk show in his garage, I said "ok", and it has grown from there. We've never really had much of a vision for it, other than it should be as fun as possible. It began as a way to kill time and have some laughs, and as it's grown into this strange live event, it's gotten bigger and we've invited more people in, but that's still very much the guiding principal. Pure fun.
What all goes into to the taping of an episode? How many people are involved? Is there much script planning or do you work better on the spot?
There are about seven of us intimately involved in the production of each episode, excluding the TV crew. There's always a general outline of who-is-coming-on-when, and when we're taking a commercial break, but there's no script. 90-percent of what we're doing on stage is ad libbed and just a reaction to each other, the crowd, or the guest. Lately we've been trying to come up with opening bits, or at least jumping off points for conversation or jokes we'd like to steer the show towards. I think my wife, who's been doing our set design, and Jared, who does all the scheduling, are the people doing the most actual work. The rest of us know our roles and we just try to push our confines as far as we can while maintaing the recognizable format. We typically have one "production meeting" at a restaurant a few days before each show, just to get us all on the same page. It's a fly-by-night operation and we're all snake oil salesmen who actually believe in the powers of snake oil.
Do you intend to keep the focus on local celebrities or would you like to see it grow beyond that?
I'm happy to ride this thing wherever it takes us. We never, ever, imagined that it would become this live event with an audience that actually wants to be there and is as excited as we are about it, so anything beyond what we have now is just icing on the cake. I love picking the brains of anyone who's doing something interesting, whether local or famous or whomever. Being great and being popular are not mutually exclusive, so as long as we have unique folks to chat with, I'm happy to take advantage of any opportunities this weird thing affords us.
We invite you to join us for the live taping of The Mike Adams Show on Saturday, June 4th. This event is part of the annual Limestone Comedy Festival, so admissions is included with an event badge. Tickets will also be available at the door.
The Mike Adams Show
Saturday, June 4th
John Waldron Arts Center
122 South Walnut Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47404