Singer/songwriter Mike Morello
may be a modern guy, but his heart is in an era of music that was over before
he was born.
Not that Morello's breezy, acoustic-driven songs
wouldn't please those raised on Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews, but for
anybody whose musical knowledge reaches back a bit, the early 70s loom large
over his songs. And not so much the Springsteens
and Dylanses you might imagine, but rather the
soulful sounds of artists like Stevie Wonder and
jazz-guitar legend George Benson, whose records Morello's
mom constantly spun when he was a kid.
artists were allowed to put down on vinyl what they really wanted to put
down," says Morello. "A lot of the
recordings were pretty much live in the studio and improvised, and that
allows for a whole lot of energy and creativity. Audience members, even if
it's subconsciously, can tell when music is fake."
Tapping into that spirit, the East Haven-based vocalist and guitarist has
spent the last few years writing, recording, and endlessly playing live both
in-state and beyond, making himself a fixture on local singer/songwriter
bills and at open-mic venues. Morello's
first album, Leisure, came out last summer, and new songs pop up on his
website (www.mikemorello.net) at a fairly regular clip.
He admits, though, that it took more than a decade to realize that music was
something he really wanted to do - "I played guitar for a long time,
probably about 15 years or so, but I never really thought about
songwriting." He composed his first song, Blank, on a whim while living
in London a few years back; while that one was good enough to eventually make
the cut for his album, though, his earliest work was mostly of the
trial-and-error variety. "I wrote about 10 songs that honestly I would
probably never play live now, and it allowed me to get all that crap out of
my system, kind of," he says. But soon, "I broke into this little
period when I wrote three or four songs where I said to myself, 'If I heard
these on the radio, I would maybe go out and buy these.'"
Morello says audiences were very receptive when he
tested those tunes in the live setting, and that was the final push he
needed. Locally-based producer Joe Carrano gave him
the opportunity to cut a demo EP, but the project ended up snowballing into
the fully fledged Leisure album. Its songs weave rich, R&B-esque vocal melodies with warm acoustic strumming and
lively, percolating rhythms. Sprightlier and less soporific than the average
sensitive-guy-with-an-acoustic-guitar routine, Morello's
compositions have an easy groove and a buoyant, summer-afternoon kind of feel
- the kind that's more likely found on the oldies station than anywhere else
That upbeat quality carries over into the lyrics, too. "My music is
almost always positive," Morello says. "I
have very little negative music because that wouldn't match my demeanor
onstage - I'm not trying to make it a downer, I'm trying to entertain
Even his troubled relationship songs, a staple of the genre, are infused with
a sardonic sense of humor - as displayed on the catchy chorus of Wound Up, on
which he grudgingly confesses, "You dumb up my life / It's just the way
we're wound up." Despite his songs' easygoing charm, though, Morello prides himself on delivering intense live
performances rather than just sitting and playing. "I want to be
exhausted by the end of a show. If I'm not totally soaking wet, sweating, and
wanting to collapse by the end of the set then I didn't do my job." He's
even working on developing a full-band live act featuring some of the
musicians that played on Leisure - though he'll be going it alone for his
show this week at The Space.
And actually, Morello says being a solo
singer/songwriter is what suits him best, especially since in the currnet musical landscape, the alternately celebrated and
maligned one-man acoustic guitar act is perhaps more respectable - and
profitable - than ever. "I think the singer/songwriters recently have
really made a nice push into pop," he says. "If you did this 10 years ago - pre-John Mayer, pre-Jack Johnson - you
would have been lumped in with the singing troubadours, playing restaurants
and happy hours."
As listeners have grown more receptive to the style, he believes, the music
itself has stepped up, too - with artists needing a much tighter sense of
musicianship and a more diverse set of musical influences to stand out (hell,
even John Mayer is playing with a blues band these days). That works
particularly well for Morello, because he came into
the singer/songwriter world from a much more jazz- and R&B-oriented
background. His more recent song Next To You shows definite stylistic growth,
almost a full-on romantic slow jam with a soft electronic beat and lyrics
that wouldn't be out of place on a Teddy Pendergrass disc.
"I really fell in love with that sound, it's sort of a recent
thing," Morello explains. "And once I
started experimenting with it, I really embraced it - it felt natural with
So, those checking out his live show can expect some combination of
old-school soul and jazz with a little recent R&B, all layered on top of
a traditional singer/songwriter guitarist sound and shot through with a
70s-era songwriting sensibility.
got a better way of describing it - "As long as it all sounds like Mike Morello at the end, I'm cool with it."
Hear It Live
w/ Echoing August, Sucka Brown and Honeycreeper
Friday, March 31
295 Treadwell St., Hamden
For future dates or to sample Mike Morello's songs,
Big year for musician Mike Morello
with second album, first tour coming
By KENNETH HOFFMANStartford Star – MARCH 30, 2006
Local songwriter and musician Mike Morello is moving fast.His second album and first tour are due this summer, and he’s hoping
they will propel him to the big leagues.
Café crowds may already recognize his
distinctive sound.He plays regularly at
the Huntington Street
Café in Shelton and
the Acoustic Café in Bridgeport,
but he has appeared in many venues around the state.
native, Morello wrote his first song with a friend in
London in 2001 and
said, “I haven’t stopped writing since.”
He cites jazz and blues greats such as
George Benson and B. B. King as influences, as well as rock legends Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eddie Vedder.
“I’m really trying to open myself up,
challenge myself,” Morello said about his next album,
tentatively titles “Up to Something.”
“Either I embrace all the different styles
that have influenced me or I ignore them and just work on my sound.I combined the two options,” he said.
He got into R & B, some jazz, and
loosened up for some acoustic rock tracks.He said listeners will see three or four different faces on this album,
but he is confident that everything has the unique Morello
producer, Joe Carrano, owner of Stratford-based Star
Pin Publishing, first heard him at Huntington
Street Café two years ago.
“He stood out as exceptional,” Carrano said. “He has a strong hold on song craft and is a
goal is to get Morello placed with a major label
within a year. “He’s a relentless, tireless worker with his music,” Carrano said.
wants to get signed not for money or fame, he said, “but to get my music heard
by as many people as I can.”
The team is trying to get Morello’s songs placed in film and television soundtracks
as part of their promotion strategy.“That
placement will give him something to attract major label interest,” Carrano said.
When he’s not making music, Morello teaches high school English at WilburCrossHigh
School in New
Haven.Before Wilbur Cross, he taught for three years at BunnellHigh
School in Stratford,
his alma mater.
“I love teaching,” he said.“If I couldn’t do music, I’d be proud to
teach for the rest of my life.”
often combines his two loves, using music to teach poetry and writing. “Music
is a text also to be studied,” he said.“Lyrics
said Morello is admired by the youth in Stratford, “They
look up to him; he’s a good influence.”
gave a lot of credit to his “street team,” a group of fans that help promote
his music.“They are really devoted to
me,” Morello said.“They are a great group of people that have really helped me out.”
He expects the team will be integral to
the promotion of the next album in an even bigger way.
and Carrano have been working hard to get the music
out for fans to find.In addition to
playing gigs at Daniel Street
in Milford, Corner
Pocket in Orange, The Space in Hamden
and several New York
clubs, he is looking to expand to the college scene.
He has played at Sacred Heart and Southern
and is looking to do more shows at colleges throughout the state.
tour will cover 10 to 12 cities this summer, and he plans to debut many of the
songs from the new album.
has submitted songs to KC101 and WEBE locally.His first album, “Leisure,” is available on the Napster, Amazon,
Borders, and Barnes and Noble websites, to name just a few.
For more information about Morello and his music, visit his website at mikemorello.net.
website at carranomusic.com, has information about Morello and his other producing projects.