An Interview With The Rising Singer-Songwriter MICHAEL MAYO On His Just Released Personal Debut Album ‘Bones’, His Inspirations and More!
Meet the NYC-based rising vocalist, songwriter and instrumentalist Michael Mayo who TODAY released his genre-defying, highly personal debut solo album Bones via Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Records. The collection is about embracing his truth of being bisexual.
Though classically trained, Mayo’s original music is a seamless blend of alternative and neo-soul elements, as evidenced on the album’s introductory singles “The Way” and “You and You,” released in 2020, and recently released single “20/20”. Each of the songs on Bones represents a learning experience for Mayo, the building blocks (“Bones”) that made him the person he is today. In many ways, the collection serves as a letter to himself after years of lying to others about who he truly was and felt. Bones affirms you can live authentically, and not be afraid to express it. Having no black bisexual role models growing up, Michael hopes he can be that person for someone now and that one day we won’t have to “come out” but coexist with our differences.
A diehard New Yorker for the past five years, Mayo was born and raised in Los Angeles surrounded by music, and love, as the son of “first-call” session and touring musicians. His father, Scott Mayo, currently the musical director for Sergio Mendes, was a saxophonist for Earth, Wind & Fire, while his mother, Valerie Pinkston, now a back-up vocalist for Diana Ross, has also sang with Beyonce, Luther Vandross, Ray Charles, Whitney Houston and Morrissey. The final track on Bones, “Hold On,” features his mom, who wrote the lyrics, singing on the first half and his dad providing background vocals, bringing Michael’s life full circle. In addition to his influential parents, Michael also studied at the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music and the Thelonious Monk Institute — now named after Herbie Hancock, who mentored Mayo, helping him discover the link between sound and technology through a looper pedal, while showcasing him as a featured vocalist on a tour of South America in 2018.
Check out Michael’s Recent Music Videos Here:
“You and You:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQ7k4J5KnV8
“The Way:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoXmXbaFR8w
Connect With Michael Mayo Online Here: WEBSITE
Learn more about Michael Mayo in the following All Access interview:
So what has this past year been like for you and your music? How are/did you get through the pandemic? Are things opening up now where you are? How do you feel about that? Did you get vaccinated yet?
I am vaccinated! That’s definitely been a huge relief. This past year was definitely gnarly to say the least, but I was able to stay sane by writing, teaching, and starting to stream on Twitch. It’s such a great community of people and I enjoyed getting to know it from the streamer side. As things here in New York are opening up little by little, I’m honestly excited to see what shape the scene takes moving forward.
Let’s talk about your newest autobiographical single and music video for “20/20”. What was the inspiration for this track? How creatively involved were you with the making of the video?
20/20 is a song I wrote in a hotel room in Armenia. I didn’t have a keyboard or any instruments, just a mic and my laptop. The song’s about learning from the past, and I think being so far from home really clarified that for me. As far as the video goes, it’s just my band and I playing the song live together in a cool warehouse. The concept was fairly straightforward, and the band knocked it out right away.
How would you say that “20/20” prepares listeners for your upcoming debut solo album, “Bones,” coming out next month? What was it like making this collection? Did anything surprise you about the overall process? Were there any unexpected challenges?
The process of making this album was really organic from the start. Eli (the producer) and I were on the same page from start to finish, and the band got right into the vibe from the first rehearsal. I think I was expecting it to be a lot more difficult than it was. It definitely wasn’t a walk in the park though. We all worked really well together, but it was still work to create this final product. I’m really proud of how it turned out.
I’d love to know more about how this is an incredibly personal album and how each song represents a learning experience for you? And I love that your parents worked on the final song of the collection with you! What was that like?
Each of these songs holds a different memory or experience in it. I didn’t necessarily set out with that intention, I tried to be really open with myself in terms of the direction this album was gonna take. After writing a few songs I noticed that they each related to a particular time in my life, and I kinda just went with it. And for the last song, I knew from the get go that I wanted to have my parents on my album in some capacity. My mom wrote the lyrics and my dad added and mixed some cool vocals. All in all, it feels like a great bookend for the project.
What was it like having Grammy-winning producer Eli Wolf work on your album knowing the kinds of musicians that he has worked with before?
Eli is such a pro. We worked together really well. We met over coffee and talked through production thoughts, bouncing ideas off of each other. He really helped bring the songs alive from the demos that I originally brought in. Together with him and Teddy Tuthill our engineer, the production and mixing process was really smooth and organic.
What are some upcoming live performances that you are looking forward to now that concerts are slowly coming back? Where would you love to perform at?
Shows are starting to trickle back in the more people are getting vaccinated. I’m playing a show at Kean University’s Kean Stage on July 24 in New Jersey. There are some other unconfirmed things, but I’m just excited to get out there again. I’d love to play Bowery Ballroom or the Bandshell in Prospect Park someday soon.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be a musician? Of course while growing up, music must have always been important in your life. So how did your parents’ major musical careers influence your drive to be an artist as well?
What’s funny is I never had any question about it. I always knew that I was a singer, and I always knew that that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t necessarily have specific goals of like, playing particular festivals, or writing music of a specific genre, but I knew I’d be traveling the world singing in some capacity. My parents had a lot to do with that. I witnessed them singing and playing with some of the world’s biggest artists, going on national and worldwide tours, and it always seemed like a dream job to me.
What do you think motivates you day in and day out?
I think it changes from day to day, but in general I’d say I’m motivated by the desire to learn more about the world, about people, and about the limits of my own mind and creativity. I’ve always been a really curious person, so asking thoughtful questions and actually exploring for answers is one of the most gratifying experiences for me.
If you weren’t an artist today, could you see yourself doing anything else? What is something else interesting/funny you are good at?
Well, the other two things that come to mind are languages and video games. I always thought it’d be cool to be an interpreter at the UN or something. I’ve always been into language learning, and I’d love to do something that involves translating. I also would love to be a video game reviewer or beta tester. I’ve been a gamer my whole life and I’m always looking for ways to bring my passions together.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
I’ve honestly been surprised by how gradual the transition was from student musician to professional. I think coming up, you assume that there’s gonna be this defining moment where you say, “Now, I am officially a professional.” But for me a large part of the past decade has been understanding that in order to do well, you’re always navigating both the professional and the student mind. They’re both vital for growth in my opinion.
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
This album is really personal to me, but one of my favorite parts of being a songwriter is to see how lyrics I’ve written interact with someone else’s life and can resonate for them in a way completely different to how it does for me. So I hope that people just listen with an open ear and let it hit them however it’s gonna hit them. I hope they get some enjoyment out of it!