Considering Passenger’s single “Let Her Go” spent a massive 45 weeks at number one in the UK and 28 weeks (and counting) on Billboard’s Hot 100 charts here in the U.S., it’s hard to believe Mike Rosenberg (the man behind the moniker) was considering giving up music all together not that long ago. Here, in an emotional interview, he talks about what kept him going when he hit rock bottom.
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Passenger may be a one-man show now, but originally, it was a full band. When the band broke up in 2009, going solo didn’t even occur to Rosenberg. But he booked some solo gigs anyway while visiting a friend in Australia and says the crowd connected deeper than ever before. “Suddenly, people could hear every word and really understand it,” Rosenberg says. “It was a massive turning point.”
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But that wasn’t the only time Rosenberg considered giving up. While working on his second album “Whispers,” released in 2014, he hit a low point. “I was 27 and had been busking and putting out my own records for four or five years and I just didn’t feel like it was growing at all,” he remembers. Holed up in his hotel room, Rosenberg put all his frustrations down on paper, which later became his song “27.”
He says the very act of feeling his passion overflowing reignited his ambition and reminded him why he wanted to be a musician in the first place. “Obviously every [musician] dreams of playing to thousands of people and having the number one song, but that’s not the reason you do it,” he says. “The reason you do it is because you’re trying to create something that means something to people and to yourself. It’s helpful to remind yourself of that sometimes.”
Taking it to the streets
Despite his massive success, Rosenberg still enjoys busking, something he started doing after the band broke up and he had no money. “Looking back on it, those were some of the best years of my life,” he says. “I still love busking because not everyone can go to a concert. They might not be able to afford it or they might not be old enough. Busking allows everyone to check out what I do.”
Turning pain into poetry
All of the songs Rosenberg writes are deeply personal and often painful, but he says it’s a joy to share them. “When [I] write them, it can be a very painful thing because it’s still fresh. But as time goes on, I still remember the girl or the situation, but it turns into something different,” he says. “Especially with ‘Let Her Go’ since it’s known around the world now. It started off as a really heart-wrenching breakup song, but now, for me, it’s such a treasured thing.”
If you go:
New York City
September 24, 8 p.m.
2124 Broadway, 212-465-6500
September 25, 7:30 p.m.
1 Patriot Pl, Foxborough
September 27, 8 p.m.
291 N Keswick Ave, Glenside
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence