Photography Lauren Desberg
Put yourself in rising artist Michael Mayo‘s shoes for a minute: not only did he grew up in such a musical and artistic family, he was also mentored and featured on tour by legend Herbie Hancock.
Sounds incredible, right? That’s simply Micheal’s story, though. And it’s quite an inspiring one, we might add.
His new record ‘Bones’ reflects it perfectly.
Each of the songs on Bones represents a learning experience for Michael, the building blocks (“Bones”) that made him the person he is today such as publicly owning his own bisexuality. In many ways, the collection serves as a letter to himself after years of lying to others about who he truly was and felt.
The message behind this body of work is crystal clear: be who you are and be it loud and unapologetically.
With such a fervent melting pot of musical and artistic influences, Micheal’s creative persona could only sprout as a volcano made of neo-soul elements, jazz, R&B and pop music. Catchy and direct yet sophisticated and profound.
You can easily tell this record is meant to give Michael’s extraordinary voice a guiding role. Like any vocalist worth their salt, Michael sees his voice as the powerful instrument it is. His vocal tone and style perfectly bridges apparently distant worlds such as accessible pop melodies and more intricate phrasing more typical of neo-soul and R&B.
“I like connecting all these different genres. Why not mix them all together and see what happens?” admits Michael.
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.
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.
Not to mention his incredible experience with his now mentor Herbie Hancock who showcased him as a featured vocalist on a tour of South America in 2018.
Here is what Michael had to say about it.
Tell us about how this record came about
I made the decision to make this album after getting off a tour I did with Herbie Hancock in South America. That experience was such an insane whirlwind dream I think coming back to New York I saw a path to my album clearer than it had ever been. I started writing right away and the rest is history! I’ve been working on my craft and building my career for the last decade or so, and this album is an important step that I’m excited to finally be taking.
What is your favorite part of being an artist ?
I’d say the imagination phase is usually my favorite. My brain likes to go in a lot of different directions at the same time, so brainstorming and improvising ideas usually revs my creative engine.
Who are your all time musical icons?
Oh there’s so many! To name a few, Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby McFerrin, Brandy, Luther Vandross, and Donny Hathaway come to mind.
Tell us how you approach one of your songs
It definitely varies from song to song, but I’d say I tend to lead with rhythm, harmony, and melody. Lyrics tend to come towards the end of the process. I like to really get into the universe of a song and then let the lyrics come from the sounds.
What is the achievement or moment in your career you are the most proud of?
Going on tour with Herbie is definitely very high up there on the list! Some other things that come to mind are playing the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl in 2019. That was one of the craziest shows I’ve ever played, definitely a dream come true moment.