British music act Passenger misses busking days

British singer- songwriter Michael Rosenberg, 32, penned his own songs from the age of 14.
British singer-songwriter Michael Rosenberg, 32, penned his own songs from the age of 14.PHOTO: LAMC

Singer Michael Rosenberg, aka Passenger, enjoys playing to crowds in the streets

British singer-songwriter Passenger had a massive global hit with his 2012 tune, Let Her Go, and has sold out concert venues all over world.

Yet the 32-year-old, whose real name is Michael Rosenberg, has absolutely no problem with going back to his busking roots, occasionally playing to street crowds around Britain and Europe.

"I did that for years, then obviously things changed when Let Her Go got big," he says in a telephone interview from his home in Brighton.

"I stopped busking to play at festivals and TV shows and do tours. It's strange to say, but I started to miss that feeling of playing in the street and playing to people."

His success has not waned since his 2012 hit. Last year, his seventh album, Young As The Morning, Old As The Sea, went to No. 1 in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland. He plays his first show in Singapore at The Star Theatre on Jan 13.

  • BOOK IT / PASSENGER - LIVE IN SINGAPORE

  • WHERE: The Star Theatre, 04-01, 1 Vista Exchange Green

    WHEN: Jan 13, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $88 to $148 from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

Lately, he has started to return to his performance roots, which is in the streets. Typically, he would announce his busking stints on social media and hardcore followers turn up to catch him.

Hitting the streets again is a great way of making new fans, he says.

"The wonderful thing about busking is that there will be people walking past, who maybe only knew one or two songs, and they end up staying half an hour or 40 minutes and hopefully become new fans and buy tickets to the concert or buy an album."

Passenger fans in Singapore might be in luck. Besides his Star Theatre concert, Rosenberg says he is also considering performing in the streets here.

"We'll see if there is time, maybe I'll get out and do some busking."

Born and raised in Brighton, he learnt to play the classical guitar as a child and wrote his own songs from the age of 14.

In 2003, he formed a band, Passenger, with songwriting partner Andrew Phillips. The band released one album, Wicked Man's Rest, in 2007, but broke up two years later. Rosenberg decided to continue using the Passenger moniker as a solo act.

He released his debut album, Wide Eyes Blind Love, in 2009 and started to build up an audience in Australia by busking as well as playing at festivals and concerts there.

In 2012, he released his album, All The Little Lights, which contained the breakthrough single Let Her Go. Around the same time, he toured as a supporting act to massively popular fellow British singer Ed Sheeran, a long-time friend, in Britain and North America.

Let Her Go went on to hit No. 1 in more than 20 charts worldwide. In 2014, the song was nominated for British Single of the Year at the Brit Awards and picked up the British Academy's Ivor Novello Award for Most Performed Work.

He says: "I don't think I'll ever get used to the fact that that song has done so well. From my very humble beginning when I used to play as a busker to 50 people in a pub some nights, it's unimaginable that I would have such a big hit."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2017, with the headline 'Return to busking roots'. Print Edition | Subscribe