Mike Elrington is luckily a talented recording artist. Fortunate because one day many years ago in South Central Los Angeles, a bunch of his own CDs probably saved his life. But more on that later.
For the man known for his blistering guitar work, gut-wrenching pipes and inventive word-smithery, the 30-year-old’s love for music, like many of his generation, Elrington’s love of music began with 80s hitmakers Dire Straits.
“I first got involved in music as a three year-old kid when I heard ‘Money For Nothing’,“ Elrington remembers. “I loved the sound of a guitar so much I begged my folks to turn my make-believe guitar, a squash racquet, into a real guitar. “Unfortunately I didn’t get that real guitar until I was 11 and then got some lessons in my last year of primary school in Adelaide. “Music became my main focus in life after realising I couldn’t play NBA basketball or be an Olympic level rower for Australia. “It also felt much better being a musician as opposed an athlete.”
The decision to replace the racquet with a guitar bore fruit years later when he won the High School Battle of the Bands competition in 1999, at Marryatville High School in Adelaide, before graduating to Adelaide’s premier live music venue, The Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, where he supported many a local and interstate blues and roots acts.
A year later he moved to Melbourne, and recorded his debut solo album Too Good to be True, a mix of Blues, Rock and Pop, overseen by ARIA award winning producer, Peter “Reggie” Bowman. It’s a partnership that has endured, and opened the door for Elrington to establish himself in the Australian independent blues scene. “Reggie has been an absolute dream to work with over the last eight years,” Elrington says. “Every time I work with him I feel like he makes me just that little bit better at what I do as an artist. “He has an astute ability to get to the heart of what the artist is trying to say and then captures it all so honestly in terms of his production presentation. “He is one of few producers out there that has total faith, confidence and commitment to all the artists he works with, no matter what genre or personality. “He just ‘gets’ it.”
Elrington went on to complete his first tour of the US in 2005, headlining a sold-out show at the award winning Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco, while San Francisco’s Blues Revue Magazine lavished the praise, saying he was one of the most exciting acts to come out of Australia in years. “I have toured the US three times now and have learnt more and more each time I go,” Elrington says. “I guess because the nature of touring over there is quite intense and arduous, it really taught me how to work extra hard on the road without the comforts of being at home. “In a country like the states you really have to think on your feet and adapt quickly… like when you run out of gas in Compton, South Central Los Angeles, and have to give away CDs to armed gangsters. “True story I kid you not!”
Safely back home in Australia, Elrington has become a familiar face around Bendigo’s music haunts. “I am a regular visitor to Bendigo and probably play there one or two times each month,” he says. “I enjoy the laid back nature of it and especially love the Basement Bar, that place is like a home away from home for me.”
Elrington was also a festival favourite at the inaugural Bendigo Blues & Roots Music Festival in November last year. “It’s great to see regional towns getting behind blues/roots music and putting festivals on for it,” he said.
Mike Elrington plays the Rifle Brigade for the Bendigo Blues & Roots Music Festival showcase on April 14.