STORY WRITTEN BY CHRIS CAMERON
For Digital First Media
When the British band Mike + The Mechanics was formed in 1985, guitarist and songwriter, Mike Rutherford, had already established himself as a wildly successful musician in another British band, Genesis.
As a founding member of Genesis — along with Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins — Rutherford was looking to fill in the down time when he decided to start Mike + The Mechanics.
“I had recorded a few solo albums prior to Mike and The Mechanics,” Rutherford said, speaking over the phone from his home in Surrey, England. “I didn’t want to do that again and I knew that I wanted to release more songs than I was doing with Genesis. I write a good song, but I’m not a good singer and I wanted to collaborate with other musicians again.”
Little did he know that his side band would go on to find huge success with a string of hit songs, beginning with “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground),” followed by “All I Need is a Miracle,” “Word of Mouth,” and “The Living Years.” The band has recorded seven studio albums and sold more than 10 million records.
Mike + The Mechanics are touring the U.S. to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their classic album, “The Living Years,” and their own 30th anniversary. This trek is the first U.S. tour that the band has done since the release of “Living Years” in 1989. “Living Years Deluxe Edition” was released earlier this month, an expanded version of their biggest album.
Rutherford formed the band with two vocalists, Paul Carrack and Paul Young, who shared lead vocal duties. Carrack became the band’s sole vocalist after Young’s passing in 2000. The group went on to record another album, 2004’s “Rewired,” before Rutherford and Carrack disbanded the group in 2007.
“After Paul Young left, Paul Carrack and I felt that it was the end of an era,” Rutherford said. “We did one more album, but it didn’t feel good.”
In 2010, Rutherford started writing Mike + The Mechanics-style songs again and wanted to try them on audiences. These new songs led to a second incarnation of Mike + The Mechanics, featuring vocalists, Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar. The new group released the album “The Road” in 2011.
“We’ve been touring Europe and I’ve been impressed with how well the new songs have gone over,” he said. “It’s been like the early days, where we evolved into a band through touring.”
For the band’s upcoming tour, they will perform their best-known songs, as well as a selection of Genesis hits.
“We have some new songs that I plan to test on the road, but it’s mainly going to be the classics,” Rutherford said.
The deluxe edition of “The Living Years” album features a reworked version of the title track with Andrew Roachford on vocals and the South African Isango Choir. The song reflects on the relationships with fathers, dealing with unresolved conflict. When fans approach Rutherford, they still cite that song as one of their favorites.
“A lot of people have had a similar experience with a parent,” he said. “It touches a moment in people’s lives.”
While Rutherford said that Genesis does not have any plans to collaborate in the future, he is open to the possibility and his book,
“The Living Years: The First Genesis Memoir” spans the band’s entire history. It is a story about musical stardom and the relationship between father and son.
Born into a naval family, Rutherford seemed destined to follow in his father’s footsteps, serving in the student cadet corps in one of England’s top public schools, before discovering rock music. Rutherford said that his family supported his decision to pursue a career in music, but had no idea how far his music would take him.
“When you’re 17 or 18, your career seems to be about two years into the future,” he said. “You can’t really see beyond that. In those days there really were no long-term careers in music; so for them to say, ‘Give it a go,’ was kind of brave.”
After more than 40 years as a professional musician, Rutherford is still pursuing the music that he loves. He enjoys the balance of living in the English countryside and going on the road to connect with fans.
“Being on the road gets crazy for a few months and then life quiets down again,” he said. “I enjoy it.”
IF YOU GO: Mike + The Mechanics perform at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center on Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $35-$75. Visit sandseventcenter.com.