Sweetland was born and raised in Oakland, and took his earliest musical influences from movie soundtracks like Fantasia, Yellow Submarine and Dr. Zhivago, and the popular music of the 60s, especially Ray Charles and the Doors. The works, in other words. He began making sound collages at the age of nine, got his first bass guitar at age 14, and played in rock and blues bands throughout high school. Upon graduating, Sweetland began working with keyboardist Michael Webster, with whom he expanded his interest in soundscaping and production work. The two musicians worked and recorded prolifically in the local band, Doug, with Sweetland’s compositions featured prominently. Webster would go on to join the avant pop band Negativland. Another early performing/recording partner was drummer Ben Ulrich.
During the 80s, Sweetland studied bass guitar with Joe Satriani, upright bass with jazz bassists Clark Suprynowicz and Neil Heidler and music theory at Hayward State. After a decade exploring blues, funk, rock music, the fusion represented by the great Jaco Pastorius, and avant-garde improvisatory sounds, Sweetland began delving into jazz in the late 80s. In 1988, he moved to Europe. A tenure in Madrid was followed by a year in Hong Kong and two years in London, years filled with intense musical study with gigging and with teaching.
Returning to the U.S. in 1992, Sweetland hooked up once again with Ulrich to form the band Bumptious, for which Sweetland recorded many of the tunes he'd written in London. The band, sporting funky, Southern Fried grooves became a fixture on the Bay Area club and party scene, but broke up in the late 90s following Ulrich’s untimely death. Sweetland went on to record and tour extensively with rock singer Meredith DiMenna. Throughout the last decade, Sweetland has maintained a busy gigging schedule, playing blues, rockabilly and even bluegrass in a wide variety of bands. He played arenas and festival stages with LZ Love and TJ Phoenix, veterans of George Clinton’s P-Funk All Stars.
But Sweetland had also begun playing acoustic jazz dates with guitarists Ken Jacobsen and Nick Koutsoukis, and, eventually, the improvisatory freedom of Noise Floor, Sweetland’s band with Jacobsen, began calling most strongly to Sweetland’s adventurous musical spirit. In 2003, Sweetland began further studies at Berkeley’s JazzSchool. Out of that work grew the band Riff Raff, in 2005. Riff Raff is still working, and so is Sweetland’s newest ensemble, The Mike Sweetland Quartet (formerly Mike Sweetland & A Lot of People), featuring Mike Sweetland, Nick DeRyss (drummer), Casey Mattson (keyboardist), and Lu Salcedo (guitarist).
And now Sweetland is stepping forward under his own name for the first time with this wonderful collection of compositions, reflecting his astoundingly varied background and musical experience.