For All The Little Lights, Passenger wanted to step outside of the usual comfort zone. Instead of simply sticking to the standard singer-songwriter script, Mike Rosenberg decided to expand his folk sound on album number five—released August 28, 2012 via Nettwerk Records. Of course, the heavenly harmonies and acoustic melodies fans know and love remain intact. Nevertheless, the UK troubadour punctuates the music with everything from orchestral strings to horns, adding even more depth to his lyrical poetry. The result is a record that dynamically echoes every facet of the artist's personal journey.
It certainly has been quite a ride to say the least. As a five-piece band in England, Passenger released its 2007 debut Wicked Man's Rest to widespread critical adoration, winning over tastemakers such as Q and NME. Rosenberg's band members eventually went their separate ways, but he continued to record under the moniker independently releasing Wide Eyes Blind Love , Divers and Submarines , and Flight of the Crow . While receiving praise from the likes of Rolling Stone, he shared the stage with everyone from Jools Holland to Ed Sheeran. He garnered a fervent following in Australia, which has become something of a second home. However, it was important for All The Little Lights to stand out from his previous work.
"I want to try something different every time I make an album," affirms Rosenberg. "I don't want be one of those artists who merely meet expectations. The obvious thing is for me to go in with a guitar, play everything live, and keep the music very acoustic. I'm not against that, and I'll go back to it. Still, I aimed to make new and exciting music. There's a lot going in terms of bigger production, arrangement, and instrumentation. My records tend to be sparse. I'm trying to change the palette here." He certainly accomplished that goal when he entered a Sydney, Australia studio in March 2011. While cutting these twelve songs, Rosenberg tapped directly into his travels for inspiration. In some ways, the movements of the album mirror his road over the past four years. "It feels like I haven't ever stopped touring," he goes on. "These songs all have a transient feel to them because they were written as I was traveling the world."
Similar to the previous three offerings preceding it, Rosenberg actually financed the sessions for All The Little Lights through busking. In between touring, he played in public up close and personal. "After our first record, Wicked Man's Rest, everything has been funded from busking," he smiles. "It's obviously a great way to get money together, but it's also the reason the fan base has grown. There's not some massive machine behind this. I'm a guy playing on the street and funding my art in my own way. In the days of X-Factor, that seems to strike a chord with people. I put all of my head and heart into this album."
That's instantly apparent on the record's first single "The Wrong Direction". Through a sunny melody, Rosenberg examines falling in [and out of] love with a twist. He reveals, "When you're young and you first fall in love, it seems amazing and wonderful like it will last forever. As you get older, you begin to become slightly jaded and more negative. The song is a comical look at thinking twice before you put your heart out there. It doesn't take itself too seriously. I can write sad and sincere songs, but it's important to have a laugh and a joke about life too." On the other end of the spectrum, "Let Her Go" somberly calls out for a lover after it's too late. "That's more traditional," Rosenberg explains. "It's about taking things for granted until they're gone, yet there's a little glimmer of hope." Already released in Australia, the record debuted at #9 on the charts, immediately impacting fans. With Nettwerk releasing it in the United States and a tour with Sheeran on the horizon, he's primed to resonate on an even larger scale.
Ultimately, the album's title encapsulates its daring spirit. "To me, All The Little Lights made sense with the sound of the record. There are all kinds of sparkly glockenspiel and bits of percussion. It represents that side of the music shining." At the same time, his lyrics equally shine, and that's one of many reasons why audiences will be able to grasp onto them.
"You never know how people are going to respond or specifically feel," he concludes. "It's about the connection between the words and each individual. That makes this exciting and wonderful for me. One of the best things about playing to people is you get to see whether or not they feel it." There's no doubt they'll feel All The Little Lights.