Interview: Catching Up With Mike Bauer and Adam Berg + Watch “Sweet Sunday”

The LA-based, independent singer-songwriter Mike Bauer has released his official music video single “Sweet Sunday,” a downright groovy, feel-good anthem – that bursts with sunny instrumentation, R&B tinged vocals and a seriously-smooth sax solo. The emerging songwriter, who also serves as a Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney by day, has been dropping well-produced, visually-stunning music videos often, and each release has been met with great acclaim.

The soulful “Sweet Sunday” so far has surpassed 44k YouTube views, and Bauer’s other recent single “Mother of Exiles,” his powerful response to the current political climate, has already garnered over 221k views. Both releases, co-written by Bauer and the Grammy-nominated producer Adam Berg, preview Bauer’s full LP, Financial Aid, Volume 3, the final in a three-part series.

We caught up with Mike Bauer and Adam Berg, to learn what we can expect to hear (and see) next from the musical duo.

Hey Mike and Adam! Can you tell us about your background and how you first started making music?

Mike here… and since Adam broke his clavicle and just had surgery, I get the pleasure of writing on behalf of him and myself. Right now, he is sitting on a couch under the influence of painkillers and when I asked him this first question, he began rambling incoherently and staring at his iPhone. When I clarified this first question he said, “I don’t know, pull up my bio on the Music Sales website.”

Adam really is musically based in two hemispheres. He has a Balinese influence due to his cultural roots and family but also loves American pop and soul. He was extensively trained in piano and Gamelan music. Eventually, he became a button tinker champion, with the motivation to infuse his love for live instrumentation and interesting horn arrangements with technology. Through Adam’s work with The Decoders, he became close friends with the legendary Richard “Dick” Rudolph. That relationship led to a publishing deal with Music Sales.
As for me (Mike), I grew up surrounded by music in Colorado Springs, Colorado. My grandfather (Larry Dean) tap danced and sang on the “Laurence Welk Show,” my father was a big band singer, my sister is a professional cellist, my uncle was an awesome DJ (Red Noize) who did Freedom Rock commercials with Tommy Chong in the ‘80s in his free time. I didn’t have a choice… I was outnumbered. Eventually, I came to California and wandered into Adam’s studio.

How did you two initially meet and start collaborating?
I literally walked into Adam’s studio, completely uninvited. At the time, I was recording my first LP entitled Financial Aid, Vol. 2 at Konscious Studios in Santa Monica. Adam had the door to his studio open and there was some pretty dope music I overheard. I followed the sounds and waltzed straight into Adam’s studio (Manifest Music), complimented him, and introduced myself. After a few awkward moments, I left. Apparently, it’s bad form to walk into someone’s creative space uninvited. Lesson learned.

Years later, I got a call from Kat McDowell who asked me to sing a duet with her. Lo and behold, she was recording at the studio I had trespassed upon a couple years earlier, only I didn’t remember. I sang my parts and added some background harmonies, and Adam who was engineering the session asked “Wait, did you wander into my studio a couple years ago…” Both of us… “HOLY S%#*.” We had a good laugh, drank some whiskey, and promptly started writing songs intended for a sex playlist. True story.
What is your songwriting process like? 

Whiskey is usually involved. Also, a whole lot of arguing until one of us gets our way. That’s pretty much it.
How did “Sweet Sunday” come to be?

Whiskey + Me and Adam arguing + Wanting to make a song suitable for a sex playlist + Me and Adam both being in long distance relationships where Sunday is usually the day we say goodbye to our counterparts + wanting to make those goodbyes less dreadful = Sweet Sunday.
We wanted to write a song where we focused on the levity of enjoying our time with our significant others, even in the face of goodbyes and the obligations of Monday looming.

Can you walk us through the creation of the “Mother of Exiles” music video? Did you anticipate the powerful reaction from viewers?

Among our musical debates, we found a common ground in our mutual disdain for the present administration, especially the terrible immigration policies. Adam’s close family are immigrants. Every single person in the video is an immigrant. The director of the video is an immigrant. And then there’s me… who looks like your prototypical alt-right white fascist…

We wanted to do something because this administration was making us and those we love, feel small and vulnerable. I don’t think either of us expected a powerful reaction, but we certainly wanted to craft a powerful message.
While the lyrics are clear in their intent and purpose, my absolute favorite part of the video is the subtle subtext. All of my frames are in black and white, with everyone else in the video being in color and it ends with me turning off the camera. Meaning, our tradition of immigrants and the welcoming of all is what has led us to the unique culture in the United States – that is influenced and inclusive of all elements of the world, not the boring blandness of one white majority race. That is what I hoped the contrast of myself being in black and white vs. everyone else being in color evoked.
Oh and yeah, that turning off of the camera at the end… that symbolizes the end of the white majority in the United States. Take that, Nazis…
What can we expect from Financial Aid, Volume 3? How does it feel to release the final LP of the series?

13-15 brand new songs, live instruments with real musicians on each of those songs, and hopefully an intelligent record with a cohesive theme.
Finishing it… man. I started this project back in 2012 with no idea what I was doing. All I wanted to do was write honest music. Five years later, I still have no idea what I am doing, but at least I have Adam to make fun of me in the process.
What lies next after Vol. 3?

Assuming Adam hasn’t killed me yet – more writing, more recording, more working with and writing for other artists. Both of us envision building a community of artistic contributors, which is exactly what we have been doing.

Where can we follow you and where can our readers catch you live next?

If you live in the Los Angeles area or will be in Los Angeles on October 19, 2017, come see us arguing and making music live at The Mint. We will be closing out the evening with a band of phenomenal musicians, a bunch of unreleased music, and some of my older tunes. Hope to see you there!!!

Any parting thoughts? Open platform!

We both want to thank GroundSounds, not only for taking an interest in our work but more importantly for all the work you do to give independent artists a platform to be heard. We love you guys and thank you so very much for letting us be a part of what you do!

Also, Adam is asleep and drooling all over his sling… I am tempted to take a picture and include it here but I am pretty sure he might seek retribution.

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