Coming up at Laketown Hotel in Saltcoats this Friday is a night of acoustic folk, rock and blues by Mike Oakley.
Originally from Ontario Oakley’s family moved around quite a bit when he was younger finally settling down in the small town of Rossburn, MB. Along the way he came to love music.
“My family has always been musical,” he told Yorkton This Week. “My father was a professional musician playing in and around the Toronto area.”
And from there it was natural for the younger Oakley’s to become involved. He said his three sisters, his brother and himself “would always sing and harmonize with each other on road trips! No DVDs or iPads back then, scenery or sing!
“Later in high school I was involved in a gospel choir, which helped even more with vocals and harmonies. My older brother basically got me started on drums when I was 12 and later on taught me some chords on guitar.
“Because we moved around when I was younger, I was never in any formal training. Life got busy and I never disciplined myself to read music, so basically I play everything by ear.”
From there it was natural to become involved in bands.
“I played in various little groups and a gospel group for a while, but started playing drums professionally in 1991 with a five piece band called Border Crossing and then with a couple of guys from that group we formed a group called The Accelerators,” he said.
But he would end up working alone too.
“A few years back I started doing a solo guitar and vocal and have really been enjoying it,” said Oakley.
In terms of his music Oakley said his influences are many and diverse.
“Wow, so many! Like I said, my older brother was a big influence and he listened to Neil Young a lot, so Neil Young, but I really like the stylings on Clapton’s unplugged CD,” he began. “I like John Hiatt quite a bit, Bruce Cockburn, various different rock groups, Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits, Blue Rodeo, Canadian folk legend Stan Rogers, like I said so many! “I just like a good song it doesn’t matter what genre, if it tells a good story and it is well put together I will probably be influenced by it.”
Oakley’s style is something of a blend too.
“For my style, I personally use a lot of finger picking combined with strumming and sometimes I get a bit percussive on the guitar,” he said. “Currently I use a stomp box to help fill up the bottom end of the music and a mouth organ in some songs.
“My stylings lean a bit more toward folk, folk rock and the odd time a bit of a bluesy sound.”
So far Oakley is carving out a musical niche locally.
“To date I have basically been playing in lounges and little pubs in south western Manitoba,” he said. “I’m tied to my other job for a few more years! The job is two weekends on and two weekends off, so I haven’t tried to set up any big road trips just yet.
“As for the highlights to date, this solo thing is just fairly new for me and I can honestly say they are all highlights, it doesn’t matter the size of the venue, I enjoy entertaining people, for the most part I have had positive responses and for me that is a highlight.
“I always say I’m happy when I have played a gig, got paid and nobody has thrown anything at me, like in the Blues Brothers.”
Oakley said of course there are some shows that have stood out.
“I guess a few things that stand out would be playing New Year’s Eve at Arbuckles Fine Eatery in Binscarth, MB, in the town we call home,” he said. “They have had me back a few years in a row! It’s a great place for a meal and Bob and Brenda get some really good shows through there. They have always been very supportive of me.
“I had a chance to play at a really neat little coffee shop, Whippletree Coffee, in Esterhazy one time! I don’t normally play for tips, but because of its size and hoping to get a bit of exposure in the area I thought I would give it a try! Wow, the folks in Esterhazy were really generous that night! That was a good feeling knowing people appreciated what you have to offer!
“Oh and I can’t forget Pyotts West Music Fest! A small festival at Pyotts Point on Lake Of The Prairies. I had the pleasure of being the opening act this past year! That was a blast, check them out on Facebook, looks like it is going to be an annual event, looking forward to going back in 2019.”