By Nicholas Jason Lopez
For vocalist/songwriter/instrumentalist Michael Mayo, his debut solo album ‘Bones’ was more than just a regular album – it allowed him to publicly own his bisexuality.
A true artist on the rise, Mayo’s latest release via Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Records affirms that one can live authentically and be unafraid to show it, as evidenced by his widely praised autobiographical singles “You And You,” “The Way” and “20/20.”
Although trained classically, his own music leans towards a mix of neo-soul and elements of alternative. All the tracks for ‘Bones’ were cut live with Mayo’s band – keyboardist Andrew Freedman, bassist Nick Campbell and drummer Robin Baytas – at Figure8 Recordings in Brooklyn, N.Y.. It was produced by veteran Grammy-winning producer Eli Wolf (Al Green, Norah Jones, The Roots).
The Music Bugle had the opportunity to talk with Mayo about ‘Bones’ and more.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your debut album ‘Bones’?
Michael Mayo – The process of making this album was a dream. I was very intimidated at the notion of creating my own album from the ground up, but the band, producer and engineer made it so fun and painless. I really feel like we all got into a groove really early in the process and the album is a reflection of that, I think.
Music Bugle – What would you say is the biggest challenge in being an up-and-coming artist right now?
Michael Mayo – I think since Covid hit, we have a unique set of challenges that compound upon those we already had. I think if you had asked me that question in 2019, I would’ve said that the hardest part is navigating writing, shows, growing an audience, social media, touring, etc., but since Covid, I think there’s a lot of people asking themselves why they’re making music in the first place and how to make something artistically engaging amidst the bleak nature of the situation. It’s definitely possible, I just think a mental shift is necessary.
Music Bugle – Which of your new songs were the hardest to write?
Michael Mayo – I think the title track ‘Bones’ might have been the hardest. It took me some time to really craft the lyrical concept, because even though the lyrics are somewhat abstract, I still wanted to be deliberate about what I wrote and then, figuring out how to make the music and lyrics reflect each other was another challenge.
Music Bugle – Did the music video for “20/20” come out the way you hoped?
Michael Mayo – And then some! I wanted to make a live video that really captured the feeling of the music and I think it does just that. That whole day of filming was smooth and painless and I think the final product reflects how comfortable we all are playing with each other.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Michael Mayo – I’m a sucker for an interesting chord progression with a surprising groove. I really love to explore the limits of the different elements in music, so if that means starting with a simple soulful groove, then putting it in 5/4 and adding some weird vocal texture, then that’s what it’s gonna be. I will say though, that I try to not do this stuff just for the sake of doing it, but rather to ask myself how it makes me feel and if it sparks something, then I keep it. If it doesn’t, I don’t.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Michael Mayo – I’ve been listening to a lot of Brandy, Aca Seca Trio, Becca Stevens, Moonchild and Emily King lately. Love each and every one of their aesthetics.
Music Bugle – What makes you the most proud about where you come from?
Michael Mayo – I’m so proud that I come from such a musical family. My parents have always been a huge source of inspiration for me. Watching them at gigs, sessions and on tour laid the groundwork for the future I saw for myself growing up.
Music Bugle – What has been your proudest accomplishment?
Michael Mayo – This is a hard question! I’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of really awesome opportunities come my way. One thing that immediately comes to mind is going on tour with Herbie Hancock in 2018. It was a literal dream come true and I kind of still can’t believe it happened.
Music Bugle – What do you hope for from the rest of 2021?
Michael Mayo – I’m excited to see performance opportunities start to reappear. They’re definitely trickling in and it really gives me hope for the future. I’m also excited to start collaborating in person again.
Music Bugle – How else would you say you were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Michael Mayo – The pandemic definitely presented a unique set of challenges for me. I found myself questioning why I choose to make music in the first place. I also had some really interesting musical moments. I started streaming on Twitch and that really kickstarted a new phase of inspiration for me. All in all, it’s definitely been a mixed bag, but I’m lucky to have come out on the other side relatively alright, so I’m thankful.
*Photo Credit – Lauren Desberg*