Original. Honest. Personal. These are just some of the words that describe the independent release, Stirred Not Shaken, by singer-songwriter Mike Rickard. The 11-song collection displays Mikeâ€™s sensitivity and humor in dealing with the big issues of life: things like fear, loss, and loneliness, to finding happiness and love. Indeed, the album title comes from the irreverent, unapologetic line, “So hereâ€™s to all the therapy I guess I should have taken/If I had to sum it up, Iâ€™ve been stirred, but Iâ€™m not shaken” taken from the gospel rock song “Who I Am.”
The release of Stirred Not Shaken brings Mikeâ€™s return to music after a several year absence. “All of my life, I sang other peopleâ€™s music, other peopleâ€™s thoughts. But I ended up questioning everything I believed, everything that I had ever sung about. So I thought that music was over for me. But the last several years brought about the right mix of experiences and feelings that make up the songs on the record. I realized that I definitely had something to say and wanted to say it in my own way.”
Although Stirred Not Shaken is a pop album with plenty of hooks, Mikeâ€™s eclectic musical influences (ranging from Duncan Sheik, John Mayer, Jason Mraz, and George Michael to Madonna, Sade and Sarah McLachlan, just to name a few) come together to create a unique, yet cohesive record. Itâ€™s all brought together by a voice that can go from wail to whisper, sometimes in the same song. But when asked about a songâ€™s most important element, Mike says, “I always start with the lyrics, what it is I want to say. Everyone writes songs differently; but for me, the story tells me how the song should sound. The sound serves the story.”
Stirred Not Shaken takes the listener on a musical and emotional journey, starting with the upbeat “Lucky,” a song that combines electronica elements with acoustic guitar. The light, jazzy sound of “Do You Know?” provides a contrast to sad but hopeful lyrics about an absent father: “Itâ€™s funny and itâ€™s sad/Sometimes I miss what I never had in a different long ago/Itâ€™s strange but itâ€™s me to still believe in what could be/So I thought that you should know.” On the country-tinged “Forgot to Forget,” Mike sings, “I saw that old movie on the late, late show last night/The one that used to make me laugh because it made you cry.” “Forgot to Forget” received a semifinalist award in the 2003 All Genres Songwriting competition, sponsored by the Georgia Music Industry Association (GMIA).
The team of Smith & Huston shared production duties on the disc. Jan Smith (vocal coach for Usher, Rob Thomas, and many of todays other top artists) handled vocal production responsibilities, while Huston Singletary (Whitney Houston, Monica) produced the instrumental tracks, although both of them were involved with all aspects of the project. Of the duo, Mike says, “Theyâ€™re a great team. They took my original songs and helped steer them in a direction beyond what I conceived, while keeping to what I was trying to do. Jan pulled out some vocal performances that Iâ€™m very proud of; she got me to do some things I didnâ€™t initially have the confidence to do. The end result is that when I listen to my record, it doesnâ€™t sound like anybody elseâ€™s. It sounds like Mike Rickard and I think thatâ€™s a great thing.”