When Logan Mize released his Pawn Shop Guitar EP earlier this year, it marked an important step forward for the singer: his first major label project. He’s put out two albums independently, but the goal was always to end up in the big leagues. “Being an independent artist, I was able to learn a lot of things, get hands on experience and figure out how things worked a little bit,” he tells Rolling Stone Country of releasing the first music of his catalog via his publishing company, Big Yellow Dog Music. “I was always looking to be on a major label though, to take the pressure off myself.”
His first set of tunes for Arista Nashville, Pawn Shop Guitar opens with vigor, as if a weight has indeed been lifted from the singer’s shoulders. “Thank God For You,” the EP’s lead track, is as close as country gets to power pop, with guitars chugging in stacked formations. Mize sounds like he could be studying Paul Westerberg’s solo work (especially 2002’s Mono), resulting in a riff-fueled, raggedly catchy tune. “El Camino” is even more carefree, as the singer-songwriter incorporates a self-assured sneer and fills the track with barely-veiled innuendos. Mize’s take on the tune is humble. . . and a bit surprising.
“I’m not afraid to write a stupid song,” he freely admits. “That’s just totally stupid, and so is ‘Can’t Get Away From a Good Time,’ — I put two of them on the same EP. I’ll go anywhere if there’s a story to tell or an interesting way to say something. Even if it’s making up a word, I’ll do it.”
He wasn’t always this confident. Mize is critical of his self-titled debut, which he released when he was 23. “I wasn’t a good singer yet,” he admits. “And I’m not saying I am now, but [my] songwriting was still developing.” Nobody in Nashville, which arrived three years later, “was really raw. A lot of analog, no vocal tuning or anything like that.”
For Pawn Shop Guitar and the full-length album that will eventually follow it, Mize is polishing things up. “This one’s a little bit more slick,” he explains. “We use a little bit more synth, a little fancier equipment.”
The slickness suits him, especially considering that one of his top three all-time favorite singers is Elton John — not an artist frequently name-checked by up-and-comers in Nashville. (The other two are more common: Alan Jackson and Tom Petty, the latter of whom Mize has been covering during recent performances.)
“[Elton John] was who got me into music as a kid,” Mize remembers. “That was all my dad listened to. He had Madman Across The Water on tape, Tumbleweed Connection, all that stuff. Going to school every day, all we had to listen to was the tape deck in his jeep.”
Though John had a hit single under his belt by his second album, Mize stresses that he doesn’t want to rush things at the expense of constructing a sturdy foundation for a long career. “I just try to stay busy, get out and play the shows and not worry too much about getting the big break,” he says. “I enjoy taking it slow and building it up to something rather than having a big breakthrough — and then falling off the map.”