“I think we live in a world where it’s so hard just to be yourself. If I have to explain what these songs are about, then I haven’t done my job.”
Soulful and raw, Mikhail Laxton’s debut collection Too Easy serves as a powerful introduction to an artist poised to join the ranks of Canada’s great singer-songwriters. Drawing inspiration primarily from the power of love, Laxton delivers his message through his unforgettable voice and funky acoustic melodicism. It is indeed too easy to defy genres when your music is a reflection of exactly who you are.
Laxton, who now calls Ottawa home, relocated to Canada’s capital from his native Australia three years ago upon marrying his wife Leah. The move also proved to be a boost to his creative life, as most of the songs on the recordcame out of the emotional whirlwind he experienced during that period. By opening himself up through his music, Laxton quickly saw the positive impact it had on his audiences.
Of course, it took an extended period of growth to reach that point. Born in the small town of Mossman on Australia’s northeastern coast, he discovered classic rock at age 10 and started out playing drums before switching to guitar. By his early twenties he was busking at the farmer’s market in Brisbane, and playing regularly at a café thererun by his future wife. This soon led him to become a mentor to young local singer/songwriters, a natural extension of Laxton’s outgoing personality.
In 2015, Laxton auditioned for Australia’s version of the immensely popular television show The Voice, where he advanced to the “Super Battle” round that season. Although the rules of the show stipulated that contestants sing songs by other artists, Laxton was encouraged by celebrity coach Jessie J to keep developing his original material. That turned out to be a huge turning point, he admits, which sethim on the path that ultimately brought him to Canada.
“Being on The Voice definitely gave me more confidence as an artist than I’d ever had up until then, and that’s what I’m most grateful for,” he says. “Along with that, I was deeply in love, and this dream I’d had when I was 18 about moving to Canada was about to come true. It was a very heady time, and I knew my music needed to convey that.”
It didn’t take long for Laxton to draw the attention of the Canadian music industry upon his arrival. In fact, he almost immediately found a writing partner in Maia Davies, known for co-writing with Jill Barber, Serena Ryder and many others, on top of making music on her own and with her former band Ladies Of The Canyon. Davies, in turn, introduced Laxton to her producer/business partner Gavin Brown (Billy Talent, Barenaked Ladies) who, upon hearing the new songs, pushed to get Laxton into the studio as soon as possible.
“It all happened so quickly, I’m still having trouble processing it,” Laxton says. “What was so remarkable was that everyone I’d met in Canada was doing everything for me basically on blind faith. Here I was, a guy from Australia who no one really knew anything about, yet we all had this musical connection that just felt really magical. One of the great things Maia taught me was that songs shouldn’t be about the writer, but about the listener. That’s why when I write about love and relationships I try not to sound sappy, but to show that you can come through the bad times a better person.”
Recording sessions were held in Morin Heights, Quebec, anisolated location that suited Laxton’s memories of growing up in his rainforest hometown of Mossman. There, his basic tracks were fleshed out in arrangements that blur the lines between folk and R&B, without ever taking the focus off Laxton’s effortless vocal ability.
His fondness for vintage soul is most evident on “Hold On” and “Cheater,” songs that approach love from two different perspectives while illustrating how quickly it can be torn apart by suspicion and doubt. With choruses punctuated by gospel-infused backing vocals, these two tracks clearly show Laxton is ready to command large stages.
However, the other half of the story is his troubadour roots, which shine through brilliantly on the ballads “Wasting Our Time” and “Stay The Night.” These glimpses into a blossoming relationship seem almost too intimate at times, a testament to how effective Laxton is at setting a scenewe’ve all been in where the reward outweighs the risk, if we have the courage to take it.
That’s been the pattern in Laxton’s life to this point, and partially the reason why he chose to title the record Too Easy. The meaning is tongue-in-cheek of course, but in another way it proves the old adage that we create our own luck by putting in the requisite time and effort.
That attitude is ingrained within Mikhail Laxton and is sure to serve him well as his fan base grows across Canada and around the world. “I love travelling and seeing new places, but I feel so lucky to be in Canada—Canadians are so friendly, it’s annoying,” he jokes. “They’re also really receptive to hearing new music, which I totally wasn’t expecting. The genuine interactions with people I’ve had at shows has truly touched my heart, and validated my belief that I don’t write songs for me, I write them for whoever is listening.”