Busy mandolinist Mike Compton to perform at Cooper's Glen Music Festival

Feb 14, 2013

Musicians David Grier (left) and Mike Compton (right)

Mandolinist Mike Compton will travel from Nashville, Tennessee to perform Saturday evening at the Cooper's Glen Music Festival. The festival takes place February 15 and 16 at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in downtown Kalamazoo and is put on by the Great Lakes Acoustic Music Association.

Mike Compton may be one of the busiest musicians you’ve never heard of. After making music for over 40 years, he’s in a new group, the Helen Highwater Stingband, which kicked off 2013 with a gig at the world-famous Station Inn in Nashville. Compton also plays duet concerts, and solo shows, as well as being a member of the Nashville Bluegrass Band. He teaches mandolin, and leads workshops, and performs at festivals around the world.

He may be best known for his duet work with guitarist David Grier, who will play with Compton Saturday evening at Kalamazoo’s Cooper’s Glen Music Festival. The duo recorded a CD called Climbing the Walls.”

Compton says there is something about performing music for people that just feels right to him.

“I think whenever there’s communication between the audience and what’s happening on stage, that’s very rewarding," he says. "When there’s a back and forth, you can feel the energy coming back and forth, that’s great. Frankly, I just like the sound of it. You know and it feels good under my fingers, to feel my fingers on the strings. I don’t know what it is about it, but it just feels good to make the moves.”

Even though the violin was his first choice as a boy, Compton has since fallen in love with the mandolin.

“People seem to be able to play any kind of music on a mandolin,” he says. “There are people from all over the world playing the indigenous music of their country and there seems to be no limit to what you can do on a mandolin.”

Compton has a new solo recording out titled Rotten Tators. It was recorded last summer in Australia, where the musician found himself with a few days off between performances. While days off are a rarity for him, he says sometimes he just has to leave the mandolin un-played for a day.

“Sometimes, when I’m doing it so much, there are days I’d rather do anything else," says Compton. "Normally, I’ll play all during the day. If I’m teaching, I’m in front of the computer with the mandolin in my lap. During the days when I’m working festivals or playing at concerts, I’ve got it in my hands several hours a day, with warming up and then doing the show. But, yeah, there are times when I just don’t open the case.”

Not that Compton is complaining. He knows how lucky he is to make music for a living.

“If it’s not fun then there’s no point in me doing it," he says. "It serves many functions I guess. You know, celebration and also for therapy. Historically, it’s been one of the few places where men can get on stage and fret about things, where it is acceptable to sing a heartbreak song, and it’s OK.”

Mandolinist Mike Compton will play with guitarist David Grier on the evening of February 16 at the Kalamazoo Radisson Plaza Hotel during the 2013 Cooper’s Glen Music Festival.