The last year or so has certainly been a wild and wonderful ride for Mike Rosenberg, aka Passenger: from years dedicated to busking the streets of towns and cities across the globe, to sudden worldwide recognition with his international hit “Let Her Go.”
Long before Passenger’s unmistakable voice unexpectedly found a home on mainstream radio waves around the world, thanks in large part to his breakthrough track “Let Her Go” (a #1 chart-topper in 16 countries), Rosenberg was committed to taking his music to the people literally one street at a time.
When the Brighton UK-born artist’s band broke up in 2007, Rosenberg inadvertently set about forging his own musical path as a genuine troubadour. He held onto the band’s name, Passenger, and began travelling from town to town, across countries and continents, armed with only his guitar and his voice and a swag of unique songs. He played them to whoever would listen, wherever, and for whatever loose change they might be willing to spare.
“I’ve basically funded my last four records from busking,” says Mike. “The busking pays for everything really. It’s an amazing thing to have stumbled upon because the dilemma for every musician is – how do I put a hundred per cent of myself into my music whilst keeping myself together? It’s not a new problem – it’s always been the case – but with busking I found I could make a bit of money and at the same time spread the word and grow a fan base. Honestly, the more I do it, the more I enjoy it. It’s great that it’s getting bigger for me. I feel very lucky to be able to play some really big gigs and festivals now but I still love playing in the street and want to carry on doing so for as long as it’s possible. It has become a way of life and I really start to miss it if I don’t do it for a while.”
Passenger’s fortunes began to rise in late 2009 when he decided to take a working summer holiday to Sydney, Australia – and immediately fell in with a crowd of likeminded souls. Mike was warmly embraced by the local independent music community, and was soon sharing bills with some of the scene’s leading singer/songwriters. At the same time his busking sessions in various Australian cities had a genuine groundswell effect, laying the foundation of a solid national fanbase.
In late 2010, Passenger released what would be his third post-band album, Flight Of The Crow, a collaboration with many of those new Australian music mates guesting in the studio. The record helped establish Passenger as one of the most popular new acts on the Australian live circuit and started to regularly sell out rooms and theatres of 500-plus across the country.
Trips back home to the UK, through Europe and over to North America – busking and playing shows – provided the groundwork for what followed. Back in Australia, Passenger set to work on what would become his defining work so far, All The Little Lights, released early in 2012. The album proved itself to be a slow burner. It debuted at #9 on the national Australian charts, but it wasn’t until the release of its second single, “Let Her Go,” that the rest of the world began to tune in.
In the meantime, Passenger hit the road again, personally taking his music to the people. He hooked up with an old friend along the way, a fellow travelling musician on his own upward trajectory, British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran. “We used to play in rooms of six people,” Ed has joked of their brothers-in-arms friendship, adding in all seriousness: “Mike has made four of my favourite CDs.”
Undoubtedly, Sheeran has played a great part in helping introduce Passenger to the international mainstream – the pair played dozens of shows together across Europe, Australia and North America. As a result, All The Little Lights has now achieved Top 10 chart status in over a dozen countries, while “Let Her Go” has topped the 2.5 million mark in global sales, as well as over 78 million YouTube hits so far.
It’s certainly been a remarkable trip for Rosenberg of late, yet you feel this is only the start of the journey. 2013 will see him make countless European festival appearances, as well as more touring across Europe, North America and Australia.
Of course, you can still catch Passenger busking in almost every city he visits – only nowadays, it’s pretty much standing-room only!