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INTERVIEW: Michael Marcagi

Michael Marcagi is headed to Bogart’s on Saturday, June 8th!

Some artists resonate with you immediately. When you hear their songs for the first time, it pulls out a nostalgic good feeling. The first time I heard Michael, I knew he was bound for something big. I had the chance to catch up with my old friend before the show!

Aaron Cordell: Hey Michael. How are you doing, sir?

Michael Marcagi: Dude, I'm doing so good. How are you?

AC: I'm doing good. And it makes me feel even better that you are doing so good yourself, man.

MM: Oh, man. I miss you, dude. I haven't seen you in a while.

AC: I know. I miss you too, man. I'd love to squeeze you and Good job! Your uncle Aaron's proud!

MM: Hey, I appreciate that.

AC: I have so many questions. Where are you in town? Yeah. Oh, let's start with that. Are you in town?

MM: I'm not in town. We just played Detroit last night. And then will be in Cincinnati in a couple days.

AC: You're all across the US, Texas, then you're heading back to Europe, then back here, back to Europe, and it sounds amazing.

MM: Getting to see so many places that I genuinely never thought I'd even go on vacation, so it's pretty cool.

AC: Yeah. Awesome! So man, you had a vision when I first saw you, it just seemed like you already knew what you wanted, like when you were starting. What got you into music? I don't think I ever knew that. I just saw you playing music.

MM: I'm the youngest in my family. My older sister and my older brother were going off to college when I was still in middle school. So my parents got me a guitar for Christmas when I was probably 12 years old. And I remember just falling in love with playing guitar in my bedroom. My mom has really good taste in music. She liked the singer-songwriter kind of folk music, like John Prine and Jim Croce and that kind of stuff. So I liked simple acoustic guitar songs and, you know, I just kind of fell in love with that kind of stuff. And eventually, I was brave enough to try with the whole band thing once I got into college and stuff. But yeah, lately in this project too, it's been really fun. It's like, seems like it's a, a closer step back to like what I kind of grew up wanting to do, which is storytelling folk kind of songs and like, a little bit simpler of an arrangement and stuff like that.

AC: I've seen you with several iterations, The Midwesterners, The Heavy Hours, and now we go to Michael Marcagi. Is that weird? Going from a band to the frontman, it's not that you weren't the frontman before, but it's you, you know?

MM: It is super weird. It's definitely strange. I still feel odd when after a show I'm signing like a T-shirt with my name on it or something like that. It's just like, because I've always been in bands and, and I've never done the whole solo thing. So it's definitely strange getting used to it. And I'm one of those guys who isn't like, I'm not like, oh, the stage is my home. I feel most comfortable in the spotlight. Like, I'm a little bit shy. So it's definitely taking some getting used to seeing my actual name on shit.

AC: So, this is a homecoming show for you. When was the last time you played Cincy?

MM: I don't even remember. I was trying to think of the last time. I think it would have to have been at The Southgate House Revival.

AC: You played a lot of shows there, you were very good to The Southgate House Revival. Have you played Bogart's before?

MM: I have played Bogart's. We played with The Heavy Hours. We played a Christmas show with Motherfolk, which was awesome. They were great to us. And then a long time ago we opened up for a band in the front where the bar is. We opened for Susto and you were playing with Calumet, that was one of the first times we met!

AC: I have an amazing picture of you and AJ (Yorio) and AJ is in a cast!

MM: It’s all coming back, I remember! So, yes - I've played Bogart's a few times. It’s a rite of passage to play Bogart’s!

AC: So, I said you've been with different bands, but AJ has been your right-hand man. And he's been touring with you in Europe. That's very cool.

MM: He's been the dude that helped me, and pushed me into being brave enough to get on stage and stuff like that. He wrote songs with me and I've known him since I was literally 12 years old. So to go to Europe and then even come back and play like this hometown show where we've played so many shows in the past in Cincinnati, and to finally have people coming out for it. It's really cool to share it with someone that you've been doing it with so long.

AC: That's cool. Super cool. Speaking of Cincinnati, man, I know personally you are a big Cincinnati fan. I saw some videos in Europe. People were shouting “Who Dey” to you?

MM: Dude, I definitely get shout-outs every time I'm on.

AC: Nice. Dude, you're everywhere. I can't get in my car without turning on Sirius and I hear you played several times a day. It's pretty wild to hear Michael playing in my car several times a day. Have you had that moment where you are out and about and you hear your song playing in the wild? Have you gotten that yet?

MM: Yeah, I've gotten it a few times and it's super strange. Like, the weirdest one was I was at, I think a coffee shop in Nashville, ordering a latte or something. And I didn't even notice it because maybe I'm just so used to hearing the songs I play all the time, but, I ordered my latte, was sitting down and the song ended. And I was like, oh shit, that was me. It didn't even compute in my head. Wow. There's been a couple times and it's been fun like having my friends and family send me videos and pictures and popping up on Satellite or Sirius and stuff like that. So it's been cool. It's definitely really wild to see a song kind of like go so far into the wild into different places and stuff like that. So I’m super grateful for all this exposure it's gotten, but definitely, crazy to see.

AC: When I first met you, you were doing design work, posters and merch with Lightning Horse Industries. Do you have any connection with that now?

MM: Lightning Horse now is AJ's thing and AJ's still designing a lot of the merch and he made some sweet posters that he hand-printed, which are really, really cool. But yeah, we're definitely going through a lot more merch than we did in the past, so we're outsourcing the printing to, to other people now, which is a good thing.

AC: That's good. So you're not printing your own shirts anymore, is what you're saying?

MM: No, we still design most of 'em. But, the printing in the long hours in AJ's basement of me and him listening to music till 4:00 AM is no longer sustainable.

AC: But such good times. You have worked with a bunch of really cool people. Is there anybody that stands out that you're like, man, I'm really glad I got to work with this person?

MM: Yeah, we've had so many cool opportunities to work with super talented people and even in The Heavy Hours we got to do a couple co-writes which would end up being really fun. But yeah, David Baron, I wanna shout him out and give him all of the credit on all this stuff just 'cause he's been so instrumental in the sound the new solo project and he just really understands it and he's so talented and I really, really like where the songs ended up and they were kind of like hard for me too. 'cause, I kind of had different versions of “Scared To Start.” He is the kind of person that encouraged me, and told me, “Dude, these are well-written songs, let's just strip things back and do what you kind of always wanted to do and let the lyrics and the storytelling take center stage.” And so it was really fun to produce them, but in a really simple way where “Scared To Start” isn't really that many tracks. It's a guitar, piano, a drum and an organ. So it's really, really cool to have someone like that where you can just give them full trust in the studio. I would trust him to lead me in any direction.

AC: Right. I hear the piano, the basic piano parts and it seems it almost reaches back to those simpler times from when you played with The Midwesterns, and as someone who listened to that first album over and over, it reminds me when your songs were just not simple, but stripped down, if you will.

MM: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, no, that's kind of what I've always wanted to do too. So it's been super fun and rewarding to play those songs.

AC: Last I checked you have 17.6 million monthly listeners on Spotify and "Scared To Start" had 271 million plays, and you're the 432nd verified artist in the world. Michael, did you think you'd be here several years ago?

MM: No, I mean, it's all been really hard to describe and I think like, you know, you're from Cincinnati, Midwest guy, and you just kind of grow up thinking that stuffs never gonna happen. So it's really, really crazy. It feels like a weird dream, but again, I feel like I'm being pranked, but it's just so cool.

AC: It's a good prank, right?

MM: Yeah, it's a great prank, but I'm just so thankful for everything.

AC: Last thing I want to touch on. I've heard you say the word organic before and I really like that. I feel like the world comes to you easier when you stop fighting it and be organic if you will. Do you have any thoughts on the organic feel?

MM: Yeah, I like that, that's even what David said in the studio, for one of the songs to have that organic feel, kind of a live feel and to be authentic as to who me and AJ are. To convey that a little bit through the music. And I think it's been working well and I think that's what people are latching onto a little bit, it feels real and not so produced and stuff like that. So I'm glad people are seeing what me and David look like in the studio. It's cool to see if it translates.

AC: Heck yeah, man. Thank you so much, Michael.

MM: Dude, yeah, thank you. I'm so glad that this was with you.

AC: I'll definitely be there Saturday. So, I'll come say Hi. Congratulations man. It couldn't be for more of a deserved person than you. And, tell AJ I love him too. Have good shows, have fun, and high-five!




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The Heavy Hours Stop at The Southgate House Revival 

 The Heavy Hours return to the road, with a hometown stop at The Southgate House Revival on Saturday, May 21st!