San Gabriel Valley Tribune profiles MR8

By Michelle Mills, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Mick Rhodes & the Hard Eight will be touring L.A. in support of its country-pop effort, “Paradise City,” out Jan. 23. Photo by Mark Maryanovich.

Claremont resident Mick Rhodes took on L.A.’s punk scene in 1980 when he formed Human Therapy. The band seemed to be on the outside looking in because of its diversity within its chosen genre.

Such it is with Rhodes’ next take, Mick Rhodes & the Hard Eight.

Formed in 2007, the group’s songs run the gamut of country, pop, rock, blues and surf — and even a little of the old punk edge seeps in.

MR8 released its debut effort, “‘Til I Am Dust,” in 2010. Beset by setbacks during the recording process, lineup changes and other issues, the follow-up, “Paradise City” (Hot Tramp Records), was six years in the making and will be officially out Jan. 23. It features vocalist and guitarist Rhodes and his band, Wyman Reese on keys and guitars, bassist John Sleeger and drummer and percussionist Brian Wells, along with guest musicians, Rick Shea (Rick Shea & the Losin’ End, Dave AlvinWanda Jackson), Danny Ott (Dave Alvin, Chris Gaffney), John McKnight(Fishbone), Solid Ray Woods(Jayhawks) and Roger “King” Ehruman (Stan West Band).

Rhodes had 16 songs under consideration for inclusion on “Paradise City,” which contains 10 tracks.

“It wasn’t that I wanted to showcase what we could do, it was more the 10 top songs that clung together the best,” Rhodes said. “I didn’t want to dump all those (16) songs on one record because I like to keep things clean. All killer, no filler.”


Rhodes writes when creativity hits, starting with a snippet of a chorus, a guitar lick or simply a song title and building from there. His inspiration is “just life.”

“I’m a middle-aged man who’s divorced with small children, and I’m a writer and I’m a student. Everything that’s happening around me pretty much falls into my songs. A lot of my stuff is real personal and specific,” Rhodes said. “If there is a theme (running through ‘Paradise City’) it’s more of what happens when your life changes. When you are expecting life to go one way and it takes another turn. And the pain and joy from change in your life.”


The guest artists on the album are all friends of Rhodes, most of whom have played with him at some point through his career. Covina musician Rick Shea played guitar for Rhodes on a previous unreleased recording. This time around he is spotlighted on pedal steel guitar.

“I showed up and played what I thought might work with the songs,” Shea said of recording “Paradise City.”

“Usually I’ll play a few parts, a few ideas, and everybody will talk about them, and maybe if they want to hear something else I’ll try something else in a different range, a different sort of phrasing or different parts. There’s usually some back and forth and input from everybody.”

Shea has only heard his tracks on the completed effort, as he has been busy producing for other bands, such as the Good Intentions and Osborne Jones, and playing on other albums. He is also writing for a new album of his own, which he hopes to release this year.

“I like the fact that Mick is from the Inland Empire, the Claremont area, and a lot of his songs and a lot of what he is writing from seems like he tries to stay true to that,” Shea said. “He tries to incorporate that in his writing, a whole point of view from the Inland Empire, and be proud of where he’s from.”


Part of Rhodes’ staying true includes flitting between music genres. Even during his Human Therapy stint he strived to be different.

“I was concerned with not getting pigeonholed into one sound and one style, and it’s carried over into my later years even though my writing has changed and my tastes have changed,” Rhodes said. “Even though it’s career suicide to jump all over the place, I can’t be in a slot. I need to have new things to try and to jump around a little bit.”

Rhodes is undaunted by his genre sliding. He admits it may limit his fan base, but feels it works fine with the music business’ current focus on recording and touring. MR8 ends up on bills with both country and pop bands and occasionally with rock acts.

“The advantage of getting on these different bills is you get to see people you haven’t seen before which is the goal for this thing,” Rhodes said.


MR8 is almost finished with its next album, but plans to keep the release on hold for six to eight months until it finishes touring for “Paradise City.”

“We’re going to promote this record the best we can with us being on the low rung of the ladder and try to get as many gigs around L.A. as we can and spread the word. After that and a couple of trips out of state, we’re going to work on our next record,” Rhodes said. “Making money selling records is a hard business. We’re hoping that we can at least make back the money that we put into it because we’re an independent operation; there’s nobody paying for us. The goal has always been to go forward and have each step get us somewhere new rather than standing in the same place.”


When: 10 p.m. Jan. 22

Where: The Press, 129 N. Harvard Ave., Claremont.

Tickets: No cover, all ages.

Information: 909-625-4808,

When: 9 p.m. Jan. 23.

Where: The Cinema Bar, 3967 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City.

Tickets: No cover.

Information: 310-390-1328,

When: 2 p.m. Jan. 24.

Where: Mother’s Tavern, 16701 Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Beach.

Tickets: No cover.

Information: 562-592-2111,

When: 9 p.m. Jan. 27.

Where: Old Towne Pub, 22 E. Holly St., Pasadena.

Tickets: No cover.

Information: 626-577-6583,