Mike Skalstad is a native of the Pacific Northwest who currently resides in Kennewick, Washington. He was a teacher for many years in Dayton, Washington and was educated at the University of Washington and Eastern Washington University. He is a singer and songwriter who has acquired a growing reputation for not only his original material, but also for the unique way in which he can cover country, rock, and folk standards—pleasurably honoring the old tunes but making them yet new with deft improvisations.
Mike is a frequent and popular performer in such venues as the Three Rivers Folklife Tumbleweed Music Festival in the Tri-Cities and the Spokane Folklore Society’s Fall Folk Festival at Spokane Community College. He is also a popular attraction in the area’s wineries, wine bars, coffee houses, and lounges, and he frequently plays as a courtesy in hospitals and long term care facilities. Mike can be lyrical, but he is also a raconteur who blends country, folk, and rock into stories in the troubadour’s tradition.
Eventually , Mike’s first album, is lyrical. Songs like “Just Along for the Ride” embody the spirit of taking each day with its own gait and appreciating its gifts. The title song “Eventually” tells of a man who spends his life doing what he should until he finally does what he wants. “Electric Blue” is a beguiling metaphor for love’s impact on life. The lyrics from “Electric Blue”: “Sometimes things turn out to be just the way they are,” grace the novella Fudge Day as its introductory epigram.
The song “1966” tells of life during the 60s in Spokane, Washington, when kids “tooled” Riverside, the main drag in downtown Spokane. The album Eventually is clever yet profound—any fan of contemporary folk and folk rock will enjoy it.
The Road Up Ahead, Mike’s second album, is full of stories and includes Mike’s song, “Tribute to Rick Nelson,” about the rock star’s untimely death in an airplane crash. “The Ballad of Sarah Ballou” is based on a Civil War letter from Major Sullivan Ballou written to his wife the night before his death at the Battle of Bull Run. “Annie McCarrick” is a song Mike wrote after seeing an episode of 20/20 about the young American woman’s disappearance and death in Ireland in 1993.
Just Drifting Along With the Wind is Mike’s third album, a mélange of the lyrical and narrative. The album’s title song, “Just Drifting Along With the Wind,” is reminiscent of Mike’s childhood when he would listen to the Sons of the Pioneers on his crystal radio. “What True Love Can Do” was inspired by his niece Shannon’s wedding. “Lonely Sailor” is inspired by the Tim Buckley songs of the 60s. “Carrickfergus” is a traditional Irish song. “I’ll Cary Your Picture” is something a little Peter, Paul, and Marish. “Goin’ Nowhere Fast” and “Winter Blues Again” are pure blues. All the songs on this album inventively delight.
Spokane singer and songwriter Laddie Ray Melvin, the master of ceremonies for the Brick and Mortar Concert Series at the Coffee Social in Spokane in June of 2010, said of Mike’s performance there:
Sunday morning, and the lawn can wait. If you’re lucky it will rain and you can put off cutting the grass. Time is a thread that runs through many of Tri-Cities singer and songwriter Mike Skalstad’s songs. There is clock time and the kind of time, free of clocks, that moves through our lives, and it’s the latter that slides in and out of Mike’s tunes. It appears as sweet summer wind, as reflection on being in love and out of control, or as life lived one day at a time like in the song “Just Along for the Ride” in which we are reminded to enjoy the ride whether confronted by life or illusion. “Just Along for the Ride” from Mike’s first album, Eventually, is one of my favorites and it flat out rocks. In the album Eventually we are reminded that time haunts the dreamer but is a healer as well. Mike opened his set with a love song, “The Road Up Ahead,” which is the title song from his second album. He closed with “Just Because of You” from Eventually, a ballad about love putting us on the true path—an honest, not sappy or sentimental, song that succeeds because it deals with authentic feeling.