Interview | FFS 5 with Mike Straw, of Doc Straw & the Scarecrows

Rooted in bayou blues, homespun rock, and reflective folk, Doc Straw & the Scarecrows produce blue collar southern rock and Americana that’s as engaging as it is down-to-earth, and as heart-rending as it is thought-inducing. Their latest, ‘Get On By’, is a fine anthem for the times that we’ve come up in, and a firm reminder of the green grass on the other side of the patchy hill.

As Mike Straw, the eponymous ‘Doc’, recalls, “I wrote this song after getting off of a 3-hour long phone conversation with my sister, Jessica, and a lot of our conversation that evening  centered around some of the tougher things in life and how we were dealing with these struggles. If a person lives long enough then at some point they will experience these trying seasons. I’ve learned that it’s important to pay attention during those times because that is when we have some of the best opportunities to grow.”

Straw is the latest to take part in our ongoing ‘FFS 5’ interview series. Within, we are given an exclusive pass to look back on his road traveled so far. Along the way, we garner some compelling tidbits—such as that his usage of the nickname “Doc” is fairly appropriate, given his title as a physical therapist. Otherwise, Straw’s ‘FFS 5’ showcases the artist’s everyman persona as the genuine article as he relates himself to everyday struggles and worries. Ultimately, he states, ‘To quote an old acquaintance, I’m just one beggar telling other beggars where to find some bread.’

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?

Hi Jonathan, thank you so much for this interview! My name is Mike Straw and my music project is a Southern rock / Americana band called Doc Straw & The Scarecrows. I’m from Gainesville, FL which is where Tom Petty is from but I’m all over the place these days because I’m a physical therapist working in travel healthcare (I’ve been in Virginia for a few years but now I’m heading to NY). I’ve been playing music since I was a kid and have had rock bands since I learned to play the drums in middle school. I joined the Army while I was finishing my undergrad at the University of Florida and was a combat engineer deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan during my time in service.

The time in the military was very defining for me creatively because I have always found music to be an exceedingly healing outlet for me. I stopped playing music for many years after my last deployment because I was really struggling with my mental and emotional health and this lack of an outlet was not healthy. I’m so thankful that I’ve come back to music and I’m super excited about this album I’m working on.

As an artist, how do you define success?

The success for me is just creating something that helps me be a better version of myself. I make music that I enjoy and that speaks to me allowing me to feel better and be a good influence on those around me. That personal effect alone I consider to be a success but some of my friends and family are connecting with what I’m doing and the fact that they are experiencing a benefit from what I’m creating is so humbling. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to help myself grow and at the same time help those around me feel less alone and more connection with others. That already feels like success.

What do you find your greatest struggle to be when it comes to the music business?

I’m trying to learn about the PR side of the business which at times makes me question my motives which is good because I want to ensure that I’m doing this for the right reasons. I don’t really enjoy promoting myself but I recognize that it’s almost as important as the creative side of music. Since I feel that this group of songs has been so helpful to me I want to make it available to other people who might have similar struggles. I don’t see myself as some rescuer with a work of art that’s going to save people from themselves. To quote an old acquaintance, I’m just one beggar telling other beggars where to find some bread. I have some helpful music that I want to share and it would be more egotistical to just expect people to find it on their own. Rather, I need to search for that audience, that group of people that connects with what I’m creating. Putting myself out there makes me feel vulnerable which is hard but I think it’s important to be honest.

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist and as a band? What do you hope to achieve?

 My goals are to record regularly and once the end of the world stops ending I’d like to play live and play an extended tour at least once a year. Since I’ve opened myself back up to music I’ve been amazed by the musicians and artists that I’ve been able to work with and just the opportunities that I’ve been afforded.

I’ve already been writing music for an album beyond this record which is exciting. I am still fully immersed in the creation process of the current record but my songwriting has been proliferating and I don’t want to stop because I don’t know when it might go away. Knowing that this is something that I’m going to continue is comforting though and I do have the goal to make more records after this one. I think it’s entirely realistic to release a record about every year and complete at least a small annual tour. I think this will help me maintain a good balance between work and life. If I can continue to make meaningful connections with other people who love music too, I think I’m living the dream already.

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

I love the outdoors: hiking, biking, kayaking, climbing, etc. Getting outside and connecting with nature charges my batteries right up. I’ve really struggled to find peace in my mind, heart, soul; just my life in general. Finding solitude and experiencing the healing effects of nature helps balance my life with the busy, and at times, overwhelming career side of things because healthcare these days is a real shitshow.

I still really enjoy exercise but mainly as a means to allow me to do the active things I want to do, plus I’m a physical therapist so I want to set a good example for my patients. There are things from my past that I still enjoy although they have different meanings now. I still enjoy going shooting because it’s such a familiar and strangely comforting experience for me but I haven’t done it in a while so I’m interested to explore how I feel doing something that has violent overtones for me with a more aware and peaceful mindset.

Exploring that juxtaposition that creates such a weird balance of harmony and conflict seems interesting to me. I think these kinds of experiences and working through what they mean to me now help me write songs that are more honest and meaningful. I think that about brings me full circle so on that note, I really appreciate this interview. It means a lot that you would take the time to listen to my tune and connect with it a little bit. Thanks again.

Words by: Jonathan Frahm