Mike Love is reeling off the ages of the four of his eight kids who contributed vocals to his new holiday album, “Reason For The Season,” and he seems to be struggling a lot less with pinpointing the numbers than most fathers who have to keep track of several adult children.
“Ambha’s 22 — she’s my youngest. Brian’s 30. Christian’s 50. His sister Hayleigh’s up against 52. I think it’s 51 and 11/12ths,” he says, laughing. “She was born in late December.”
Then the 77-year-old Beach Boys co-founder is interrupted by someone wanting to know how it feels to have children who are over 50.
“You know, I called my dad (years ago),” says Love, whose father, Edward, died in 2013. “I said, ‘Dad, it’s pretty messed up’ — and actually, I used the F-word, but — I was basically saying how messed up it is to be 60. He says, ‘Yeah? How messed up do you think it is to have a kid who’s 60?’ ... But the neat thing about my situation is I’m still healthy enough and have a good time singing, and we attract crowds, and people love what we do.”
What he’s doing these days is leading (with Bruce Johnston) the Beach Boys’ slightly-more-than-a-month-long holiday tour; it stops at Charlotte’s Ovens Auditorium on Saturday, Dec. 15, and will feature songs from Love’s new album and from 1964’s “The Beach Boys Christmas Album,” as well as a handful of the band’s classic non-holiday cuts.
Only one of his children — Christian — is among the touring performers, but give Mike Love an inch to crow about his kids’ talents (on display in renditions of five traditional songs credited to “All Love” on “Reason For The Season”) and he’ll take a mile.
Love called the Observer this month to gush about Ambha, Brian, Christian and Hayleigh, to reveal the secret to his longevity in the music business, and to explain the obstacles to an official reunion with his most-famous family member: cousin Brian Wilson, with whom he co-founded the Beach Boys. (Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)
Q. I should start by saying: You’ve got some pretty talented kids.
No kidding! Isn’t that true? My daughter Ambha, she did “O, Holy Night” unbelievably well. ... I was really, really impacted emotionally by listening to my daughter sing that spiritual a song that beautifully and that powerfully. ...
And then Hayleigh did “Bring a Torch,” which is from the 1600s in France. In fact, my son Brian, he’s pretty fluent in French, and he and Hayleigh sang the first part a little bit in French. That was awesome. And Christian tours with us. He’ll do “God Only Knows” and get standing ovations — he does it so beautifully. ...
By the way, Brian took the photo of the album cover of the LP on an island off of Norway in February, early this year. He wanted to get the Northern Lights, which he did — the Aurora Borealis. And it’s a beautiful photo. He does some great photography.
Q. What was your motivation for putting out “Reason For The Season”?
Well, the idea of the title song is a gentle reminder that Christmas is great for a lot of reasons, but fundamentally it’s a celebration of the birth of Jesus — and that Jesus preached love. Truly what the world needs now is more love, right? With all the animosity, acrimony and hatred, and just disgusting behavior in the world. I mean, really, love is so needed. That’s the main reason I wanted to do this album. ...
But then I also wanted to do the Christmas carols that I did as a young person growing up in the household I grew up in, which had a grand piano, an organ and a harp. In fact, one of my sisters — Maureen Love — is a professional harpist, and she played on this recording, as well as on “In My Room” and “Catch a Wave” in the early days. Then my daughter Hayleigh, my son Christian, my son Brian and daughter Ambha, we all sang together these Christmas carols that I did as a child and as a young person growing up in my household, with my cousins — some of them being Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson. And, of course, we started the group the Beach Boys. So this is kind of like a reincarnation of that whole family vibe. ...
I mean, we’re very blessed to have been able to take a family hobby that started out during the holidays — singing Christmas carols together — and due to the fact my cousin Brian and I wrote some great songs together, that people still love to hear today, we took that family hobby and it morphed into a long-lasting profession.
Q. Speaking of your cousin Brian, in the news release announcing “Reason for the Season,” you said: “Music is something that always brought my family together, especially around Christmastime.” And I was wondering — like I’m sure lots of Beach Boys fans often do — whether there was any chance of music bringing you and Brian together again anytime soon.
Well, Brian is out touring with (Beach Boys co-founder) Alan Jardine, so they’re doing their own thing. And Bruce Johnston and I are doing ours. Bruce took Brian’s place in 1965, after Glen Campbell took Brian’s place — because Brian bowed out of the Beach Boys in terms of the touring part of it and just focused on music for awhile. ...
It’s interesting, because back in 2012, we did a 50th anniversary tour and I was told that we would be able to get together and write music together. But in fact, that was not allowed. I was disappointed very much. I don’t know what to say about that. I would love to get together, just he and I, and do some music. But it doesn’t work that way, because his life and all his efforts are kind of dictated by — well, certainly not by me. (Chuckles.) But as far as how do I feel about Brian? Nothing but love. ...
He’s not in very good shape right now, which is sad. He takes a walker to a wheelchair and, that kind of thing. We did a town hall meeting for Sirius (XM Satellite Radio), which did the Beach Boys channel last summer, and he was not in great shape. But at the end of the Sirius thing, he said, “I love you, Mike,” and I said, “I love you, Brian.” It was like a real love fest. And he said, “I love your rock and roll!” So yeah, if it were just he and I, there’d be no problems, I don’t think.
Q. Going back to the album: Was there any talk of doing the entire record as All Love — as a family band — ?
No, I wanted to just focus on doing the Christmas carols — the five Christmas carols — with them. ...
But there’s talk now — since the record company and people have heard how great we sound together when we’re harmonizing together — there’s talk about doing even more songs during the coming year, so that we’ll be able to maybe do a new-and-improved, or expanded-upon, Christmas offering for next year. And who knows? Maybe it doesn’t have to be just Christmas songs.
Q. What’s your secret to staying healthy into your late 70s, and where do you get your energy from?
Well, I personally meditate every day. Transcendental Meditation, which I learned 51 years ago from Maharishi (Mahesh Yogi) in December of ‘67. ...
With TM — Transcendental Meditation — you can lower your metabolism to a level of rest twice as deep as deep sleep. You get very profound rest and relaxation. So a lot of the tension and fatigue goes away, and you’re left more clear and energetic, and with a positive mental attitude, because you’ve gotten rid of a lot of the tension and stress, and all the adrenaline and all the fatigue that accumulates because of activity or lack of sleep or whatever it is. ...
I mean, it’s like a power nap — plus. And that helps me out. Even if I’m a little tired, I can do a period of meditation and feel a lot better and a lot clearer and more energetic, and I can actually tell the difference in the audience response when I’ve had a chance to do it properly, versus not. ...
It has certainly allowed me to do a lot more touring and activity than I otherwise could, I’m pretty sure. Because it used to be, I’d drink alcohol or maybe smoke something to relax. But when I learned meditation, I said, Well, this is way superior than that, because you don’t have the negative effects of alcohol and/or other things. You’re just clear in a natural way, with a mental technique. It’s completely portable, completely legal and very effective.
Q. So, the touring never wears you out?
Nah. We did 185 performances last year. This year, we’re probably only gonna do about 160. That’s still a lot — but if you divide 160 into 365, you’ve got some days off.
The Beach Boys’ ‘Reason For The Season’ Christmas Tour
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15.
Where: Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.ovensauditorium.com.