When you talk about musical talent, what do you look for? Songwriting? Vocal range? Ability to play an instrument? Probably yes to all and much more. Well my good high school friend Mike Tedesco has all of it. He is a singer/songwriter/pianist from the good ol’ 860 and he’s been gracious enough to give me an exclusive interview upon the release of his brand new EP, “Put to Rest” (which is embedded above for your listening pleasure while you read this interview). I could say a lot about this guy, but I think our interview will do all that for me. So without further ado, let me introduce you to the extremely talented, down-to-Earth, and funny: Mike Tedesco (whose answers are in bold).
-Introduce yourself to the world.
My name is Mike Tedesco, I’m a 23 year old pianist/singer-songwriter born and raised in Torrington, Connecticut, attended Hofstra University on Long Island for jazz piano, and am currently residing on my buddy’s couch in Brooklyn, New York. It’s a very comfy couch. More comfortable than most beds I’ve slept on. I was actually thinking about this the other day but I really wish I had more hobbies outside of music. Music is my life and there’s nothing more that I love than to write and play, but I wish I could spread myself out a bit more sometimes. I mean I do have other interests and I do TRY other things, but so much of my time is spent thinking about music or listening to music or playing music that it’s hard for me to get into anything else. I love to read but am easily distracted…although Paulo Coelho and John Steinbeck are two of my favorite writers. I’d like to cook if what I cooked tasted as good as someone else cooking…although if I could only figure out how to make my own sushi I would be set for life. I enjoy working out when I decide to work out…although I only decide to do so a few times a year. I love hanging with friends and I enjoy drinking whisky very much…and now this is just starting to sound like an odd Tinder bio. I played baseball basically my whole life until I was about 18 and would love to play again. Not just have a catch with someone, I’ve done that and it’s a great time, but I want to play a full on game. 9 innings of intensity, which let’s face it, it’s baseball so it doesn’t get THAT intense. Semi-lumpy dirt and dry grass. Blood and sweat! Those tight pants that are weirdly comfortable to wear. Getting the whole team to invert their hats and pretend like we believe that’ll actually help us win. All that fun stuff. I could do without wearing a cup though, although fun to play with, it’s quite uncomfortable.
-When did you start making music?
Well I’ve always been surrounded by music since I was just a baby. My family is very musical and I was lucky enough to grow up in a home where there was always music playing, both through the stereo and live in my living room (my dad plays piano and sings and was always playing for my brother and I. I have such fond memories of those times.) I didn’t start “formally” playing until I was 9 and began taking piano lessons. And then when I was 16 I began to sing and also started writing and gigging. That’s when I really became obsessed with the idea of becoming the best I could be at my craft. I just wanted to be the best pianist and songwriter that I could possibly be and constantly wanted to develop my skills. That was a huge turning point in my life because I knew at 16 years old exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
-The first time I realized you had talent was when you a Capella’d the entire Kanye song “Gold Digger” on the bus back from one of our baseball games. When was the first time you felt like this was something you were good at and could see yourself pursuing as a career?
Hahahah. I love this. This really cracked me up. We had some great times on those trips. So many things that I feel like should not ever be announced to the public…I actually think that was the peak of my rapping career. Every once in a while “Gold Digger” will pop into my head and I’ll just start spitting the first few lines no problem…and then I crumble. And then I get depressed that I’ll never have a career as a rapper or as a Kanye West impersonator. Oh well. But I digress. To answer your question, I’ve always had that mindset that I could do anything and be anything that I wanted to be. I’m sure I have my parents and grandparents to thank for that. They instilled the idea in me that I could do anything that I put my mind to, but that it always takes hard work, working SMART, and nothing just happens without putting time and heart into it (and a bit of luck). So when I was 16 and just started to sing I won this local singing competition for Northwestern Connecticut called Northwest Idol. After I won I think it gave me the confidence to believe I really could make a career out of this. It’s always nice to have some reassurance that you’re doing well. But once I caught the writing bug and fell in love with the “trifecta” of piano, singing, and songwriting, I knew that I wanted to do it forever. And I believed that I was good at it. I always knew I wanted to get better. I always believed one could only get better with work. I always wanted to constantly grow and develop, and even in the early stages when I didn’t have much confidence I still knew that I wanted to do this forever. It just felt right. Nothing had ever felt so right. But I was very anxious and wanted to be good “now” even when I really wasn’t great. I’ve always been that way, but I think it’s helped me to constantly push my abilities further and further.
-Who are your inspirations, both musically and otherwise?
I tend to find inspiration in many places and am very easily inspired. Someone who is extremely passionate about what they do, no matter what it is, inspires me greatly. People who take their craft seriously inspire me. People who understand the depths of what it is to be human, with all of our complex emotions and who can express that idea through their own creative outlet inspire me. My family inspires me. The potential of what we’re capable of as humans inspires me. Great writing inspires me. Love inspires me.
-Favorite artist to listen to (all time and newer)?
My favorite artist to listen to would have to be Ray Charles. There is something about his voice that just smacks you right in the soul. Or rather, caresses your soul. He really pulls at my heart and I really don’t know why. I mean, you try listening to his version of “You Don’t Know Me” or “Drown In My Own Tears” and NOT feel something…I think it’s impossible. You can’t be a human if he doesn’t make you feel SOMETHING. There are times when I can’t help but cry when I hear him. An artist that is on the scene now that I really love listening to is Brandi Carlile. I’ve been hooked on her lately. She’s an incredible songwriter and has such a distinct voice, so sweet and beautiful, while also mixed with this extremely raw, intense, sound that I really dig. I saw her open up for Dave Matthews one year and just absolutely fell in love with her sound and her energy.
-Who is your dream collaborater?
Oh man good question. I don’t think I could pick just one. I mean to collaborate with any of my idols would be a dream come true. I mean just to be in the same room as guys like Billy Joel, Sting, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen…that’d be enough for me. I’d love to collab with John Mayer. I think he’s probably the best songwriter of this generation. Hands down the best musician. I don’t think he gets NEARLY enough credit for what he’s capable of. The guy is so much more than “Your Body Is A Wonderland” and I hate to think that some people can’t see past that song and look deeper into his songbook. He is so eclectic in his writing, which I love about the artists I look up to, and I strive to be the same in my own writing. To work with him would be a huge honor.
-What is your creative process like?
I don’t really have a structured process. Maybe that’s my problem haha. I mean whenever I write the music always comes first. I’ll always come up with a musical idea first, and then the words will stem from that small idea, which leads to the larger idea of what the song will be about, and then if I like the idea I work from there. I’m trying to get more structured with my writing rather than just wait for inspiration. A “perspiration over inspiration” sort of thing. But I mean right now I’m not under any stress of needing to be putting out more music as part of a contract, so I like the idea of letting the songs come when they come. Although, I still do put pressure on myself always for not writing as much as I’d like; for having all these ideas and not finishing them fast enough for people to hear them. It’s a bit of a catch-22. In a nutshell: the music always comes first for me and that brings about the lyrical idea.
-Do you produce your own music? If so, have you ever or would you consider producing for other artists?
I wouldn’t call myself a producer but I always make sure to be in the room and 100% a part of the production process. There are some incredible producers out there who I could learn so much from and who pull songs into directions I never would’ve thought of, so I love working with producers since I think it’s always important to have another set of ears to work with, especially someone who’s more knowledgeable at it than I am. I mean most great albums have the producers to thank for the final result. Billy Joel’s “The Stranger” for instance: if Phil Ramone wasn’t the producer who knows if the album would’ve been such a hit. He helped develop so many of the songs off that album that the world knows and loves today. That’s what an ideal producer does. They’re basically your partner and help develop the songs. So to work with an incredible producer would be a dream. But I always make sure I am right there when the tracks are being mixed and worked on. I would never want anything to be done to one of my songs without having a say in it. It’d be like giving away my own child if I just let someone take it and do what they want with it. I’d want to at least have a say in who the parents are and the environment they’ll be living in and the toys they get to play with…that only seems fair.
-We know you sing, write songs, and play the piano. Are the other instruments in your songs a live band, pre-recorded loops, samples, or a combination of sorts?
I never use pre-recorded loops and have yet to work with samples (although I wouldn’t be opposed to working with samples). Live musicians are always the way to go in my opinion. I mean there is nothing like a live performance by someone. Also, I LOVE hearing the little mistakes in the recordings. Actually, they’re not even mistakes, it’s just the HUMANNESS of it. The voice when it cracks; a flubbed note on the piano or guitar; the drummer pushing the tempo a bit. I never understand why people auto-tune their voice, correct pitches, or use drum loops that basically act as a metronome. It’s not human! We are not perfect. I love hearing this rawness in recordings because it’s always humanized these artists for me. They’re not perfect, and it always helped me to believe that I could do what they do BECAUSE of this humanness factor. I want people to hear me for everything that I am. I don’t ever want to come off artificial and the only way I can assure that this will never happen is by being as true to myself when recording as possible. That means giving it my best shot and sticking with it, not feeling the need to correct my voice, because this IS my voice and this is how I sound, and why would I want to change that? If I need to correct my pitch because I’m not singing the correct notes than I need to go back and work out those notes. It’s such an easy way out and I hate that. Greatness comes from failing a bunch of times and then figuring out why it is you failed, learn from that, and adjust. Also there’s nothing like playing with other people. The energy that develops when playing music with others is incredible. Right now I mostly play solo shows, but one day I’d love to have a band and create music with other people, because there truly is nothing like it.
-Have you worked with a lot of other artists?
I’ve met a bunch of great local musicians through gigs and through going to school that I’ve been lucky enough to work with. That’s the beautiful part about the music scene, at least the New York scene that I’ve been a part of: everyone wants to work with each other and help each other out. Everyone wants what’s best for the music, and if you meet someone you really connect with and love what they do musically, then you talk to them, and if you hit it off you make sweet music together…kind of like dating.
-Do you like playing live shows or recording better?
There’s nothing like the feeling of performing live for people. I don’t love recording because you’re stuck inside, normally in a very tight space, and I always feel like there’s this unspoken pressure to play perfectly, which is just impossible. If there was a bunch of people piled into the recording studio and we got rid of all the headphones and electronic gear then I would love it…but then I guess that would just be considered a recording of a live performance.
-What’s your favorite song 1) you’ve recorded, 2) to play live, and 3) off your new EP?
My favorite song that I’ve written happens to be on my EP and is entitled “Man Of The House”. Every song I’ve written is close to me in someway, but this one has a special place in my heart for a few reasons. One is because I wrote it from the perspective of another person. I wrote about what I thought that person must have been going through at the time and how he dealt with it. I got to dive into someone else’s mind, which I found to be a lot of fun and very fascinating…but also very difficult. Most of my songs normally have to do with me and things I’ve personally gone through, but this one was through the eyes of another…at least it’s my interpretation of what they went through. Also, it’s the most fun to play live.
-You blend many different genres in your music. What genre do you consider yourself (if any one genre can define you)?
I honestly don’t think I could define myself as one specific thing, mostly because I don’t ever want to fit into just one category. Every songwriter I look up to is so eclectic in his or her writing. That’s exactly the kind of writer I want to be. I can’t help but be inspired by a variety of different genres. If I listen to a Thelonious Monk album, I want to take that inspiration and use it in my writing. If I listen to some Chopin nocturnes, I want to take that inspiration and use it in my writing. If I’m listening to Queen, I can’t help but use that inspiration in my writing. So it’s really a mesh of all the different music I’m into, and to try to pick just one is insane to me, because I feel like every artist is made up of a combination of their inspirations. I don’t want to ever be cornered by one thing…I want to be as many different things musically as I can be. As human’s we all experience different types of emotions, we like different types of food, we surround ourselves with all types of people…why wouldn’t I want to write all types of music?
-I have a ticket to a Mike Tedesco show. What can I expect?
Glitter. Lots and lots of glitter…No. I wish. I would hope anybody who hears me play leaves feeling something…anything. I just want to make people FEEL something through these songs. Make them think. Make them feel connected. Make them feel like they’re not alone. I would hope when people hear me play they are moved in some way. When that happens then I’ve accomplished something. A very intimate experience. I want to make it feel like I’m singing and playing for you, and only you. I haven’t really answered this question properly so you’ll just have to come to a show to find out for yourself….
-Where have you performed so far?
Most of my gigs up to this point have taken place in New York. I’ve gigged pretty heavily around Long Island as well as Brooklyn and Manhattan. I’ve also gotten to play some shows in Connecticut and even had the chance to perform once in Nashville. But so far my journey has taken me around the big apple. It’s been really incredible and I’ve met so many amazing individuals, but who knows where I’ll be next. I’m a pretty restless and anxious individual. Once I’ve been somewhere for a certain amount of time I always feel like I need to go somewhere else. So I don’t know where I’ll be in a few months. Maybe it’ll still be New York, maybe somewhere else. We’ll see.
-Other than yourself, who is the first person to hear a completed version of one of your songs?
Normally it’s my Dad. I can’t help but want to know what he thinks about everything I do. I hold his opinion higher than anyone’s and I respect him so much as an individual and as a father. Also, he’s my Dad, he’s never gonna say I suck so that’s nice too. But I also tend to show any friend I’m with a new song of mine. So if there’s a piano around and we’re hanging out and I’ve got a new song I’m working on, I’m bound to sit down and play it and get your opinion on it. So it’s not always one person in particular, I just want everyone’s opinion that I’m close with.
-What is your ultimate goal with music? What do you wish to achieve?
My goal is to make people feel something through these songs. I just want people to feel. If I can do that, than I’ve succeeded. I want to take these songs as far as they can go and play them for as many people as I can play them for. The goal is to make people feel connected. I couldn’t be more connected and more passionate about these songs that I’m writing, and my hope is that anyone who listens can feel somewhat the same. I know that answer needs a bit more clarification, because to just “feel something” is pretty non-specific, but I guess what I want is to make people feel the way I feel when I listen to my favorite music. It’s inexplainable the way our favorite artists make us feel. I’m talking about those artists that just really sing to our soul and just get everything about us. That’s exactly what I want to be to someone. I want to be an artist that can be relatable to everything someone feels emotionally. I want my music to bring people to another place. I want people to feel like we understand each other through these songs. That is the ultimate goal.
-Where can we find your music?
I’ll tell you where my music CAN’T be found. It can’t be found at your local Target. But that’s the dream isn’t it? To have your album sold at a local Target. Shooting for the stars baby. Right now the album can be downloaded on Bandcamp, streamed via Soundcloud, and will soon be available on Spotify, Itunes, and Pandora. I’ve also got physical copies of the EP to give out at live shows. I actually ended up doing this thing where I ordered a bunch of cardboard CD sleeves and asked for everyone and anyone to design the cover of the EP. So now every single CD that I give out at shows is unique in its own way. Every album artwork is different and they are all so unbelievably cool. I love it. I met SO many incredibly talented individuals this year. Poets, painters, dancers, musicians, and so many people who are pursuing careers outside the arts but had a deep passion for creating. So to me, there really is no better way to do something than to work with people you love and respect. I wanted to get as many people involved as possible, so I asked everyone to design some covers and it seemed to be taken by them really well. I ended up getting a lot back from so many people and each one is incredible and very uniqe. This way anybody who takes home an EP is not only getting a piece of my creation, but they’ll also be getting a piece of the artists creation.
As you can see, Mike is a really cool guy with a dream to inspire people with great music. You can get his new EP and all of his other music now at the places he stated above as well as his Soundcloud page. Thanks for getting to know the incredible Mike Tedesco with me. Now go out and let the people know you found this really great artist on this really great site!