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Interview: We caught up with Passenger ahead of his Dubai performance

The Let Her Go hit-maker will take the stage in Dubai next month…

English musician and singer-songwriter, Michael Rosenberg aka Passenger, is returning to Dubai next month to perform at Dubai Opera. The Let Her Go hit-maker will take to the stage on December 4, for two exciting performances.

Ahead of his Dubai show, What’s On caught up with the busker-turned-megastar to see what he’s been up to.

What’s On: So Mike, how’s this year been for you?
Passenger: It’s been up and down like most people probably, it’s had a positive knock-on effect creatively I think, I’ve written a lot and I’ve been recording a lot and I’ve been able to focus on stuff that I might not have done without taking the time from touring so if there’s a silver lining, it’s that I suppose.

WO: Have you had a chance to travel this year at all?
P: Nothing, in fact the last tour I went on was this time last year and it started in Dubai. It’s been the longest gap between travel and gigs and everything that I think I’ve ever had.

WO: So, you must be really looking forward to coming to Dubai…
P: Man, I really am. When the offer came through for these gigs, I just jumped at it. The idea of just playing a normal gig in front of real humans is quite a special one.

WO: How does it feel to be returning to the stage after such a long time?
P: Good question, I don’t know to be honest. I think I’ll probably be quite nervous leading up to it. I think more than that I’m just really excited. Having such a long break from it allows you to really miss it. I think usually I just play so much I don’t ever give myself a chance to miss it but now I certainly do.

WO: Do you have any memories of your last Dubai Opera performance?
P: I loved it, I’d never played in Dubai before, I had no idea what to expect and it was a brilliant show from memory. I love the venue, I think it’s spectacular, and it was just super vibey. I remember it being amazing from a multicultural point of view, it felt like there was two of every nationality there.

WO: Are you going to have much time to go out and explore Dubai while you’re here?
P: Yeah I’ve booked a few extra days, just because you never usually get to do that when you go on tour. You’re there for a day or two and then you’re off, so I thought why not? Obviously the weather is beautiful over there and by the sounds of it there’s so much to explore within Dubai so yes I’m having a few little holiday days attached.

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Passenger to perform at Dubai Opera in December

WO: Is there anything you’re really excited to see or do? Or are you just going to wing it?
P: Yeah, just eat some nice food and sit in the sun like a lizard probably for a few days.

WO: What would you say your favourite song is to perform live?
P: I think favourite songs change, quite often it’s the newer songs that are really exciting to play just because they’re fresher and whatever they’re about is probably a little bit more relevant to where I’m at, you know? Having said that, I mean like, the big one [Let Her Go] is always pretty special as well. Just being anywhere in the world and starting that song and getting an amazing reaction never gets boring, so I kind of have to say that one as well.

WO: That’s really nice, and of course you were a busker for many years, do you ever miss those days?
P: I really miss it, and you know what we were going to go busking this year. I usually go out every couple of years and do some busking just because I think it’s such an intrinsic part of what Passenger is and how it all came about and how I grew everything and I just feel as though I need to touch base with that every couple of years and remembering the core of that, which is playing songs to people who want to listen. It sounds really cheesy and a bit simple probably but that’s how it all started so as much as I love playing these beautiful venues, and festivals, and everything I’m lucky enough to do, there’s something special and unique about busking that I really love embracing still.

WO: You’ve already released a lot of new music this year, have you been working on more material lately?
P: Yeah, I released a lockdown album called Patchwork which is a bunch of songs I wrote during lockdown and it just felt like a really lovely productive thing to do in the midst of such an unproductive time. We worked with a food bank charity here in the UK so all the profits for that record went to them. I think the UK, like so many other countries, are going to be in a pretty dreadful state after this is all done so it felt good to be creative and also help in a small way. Other than that, I have a bigger, newer album coming out in January so there’s been a lot of work going on behind the scenes for that as well.

WO: So we’ll be hearing a few of those songs next week as well?
P: You will, I shall be forcing them on everyone…

Passenger at Dubai Opera, Downtown Dubai, 2pm or 8pm onwards, Friday December 4, from Dhs295. Tel: (04) 440 8888. dubaiopera.com

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