Isaac Mingo’s main claim to fame in Louisville right now is probably from his role in helping establish the monthly Thursday singer-songwriter showcase at Uncle Pleasant’s. But Mingo also is a musician. One listen to a selection of his songs reveals that his biggest influence is Ryan Adams, specifically the acoustic guitar-and-vocals Adams of Suicide Handbook fame, although Mingo does have one Love Is Hell-esque piano ballad, “Solitude.” In no way does this influence come through in a negative way. Musicians can’t help but borrow and steal from their idols. The trick is just to pick the best influences and steal the best parts of their work. In this, Mingo is a success. In one of his strongest numbers, “Dallas,” Mingo explores the place-as-a-person motif that Adams and many artists before him have employed, and Mingo uses it just as brilliantly as Adams does with “Oh My Sweet Carolina” or “Dear Chicago.” And although the influence is fairly clear and unlikely to be denied, Mingo’s music is hardly derivative. He simply finds himself a part of a large body of young singer-songwriters paying tribute to the greats, while working to find a unique perspective, and — slowly but surely — he is succeeding.
LEO: If you were Mayor, what would you do to help promote people like you in this city?
Isaac Mingo: Well, Louisville has a great music scene, but there’s an astounding amount of talent in areas of music that aren’t in the mainstream, and therefore there’s a limited fan base. I want to help these songwriters get their names out there, whether it be through more (and different) local music on the radio, or more focus on smaller acts in Louisville’s newspapers. I want to get to the point that the average folk music fan will come to a show simply because they recognize the names on the flyers.
LEO: Which Louisville musician needs to get more attention?
IM: Some of my favorite local artists are Jamie Barnes, Scott Kirkpatrick, Warren Ray and Joel Henderson. These guys are seriously good. And they’re always out there playing shows, but like I said, the fan base is hard to find.
LEO: If music were food, what kind would yours be?
IM: Something that’s down-home, but could appeal to a wide variety of people. Something like fried chicken, I’d think.
LEO: Tell me about one of your favorite works of art aside from your medium.
IM: My favorite novel is “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. It’s kind of a reality-fiction story about the Vietnam War (in which the author actually fought). The imagery he uses really inspired me and helped me develop as a writer. The whole novel has an underlying feeling of hopeless insanity, the kind of feeling I’d imagine nips at any soldier’s heels during a war. I read it in a day.
LEO: What do you want to say that you know you shouldn’t?
IM: I used to be in an *NSYNC-style boy band. Eek. It’s all part of growing as a musician, I suppose.