September 24, 2021 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Michael Mayo Finds Freedom on Debut Album “Bones”

Bisexual rising vocalist, songwriter and instrumentalist Michael Mayo will be debuting his newest album. 

Mayo’s genre-defying, highly personal debut solo album entitled Bones will be available on June 4th via Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Records about embracing his truth.

Though classically trained, Mayo’s original music is a seamless blend of alternative and neo-soul elements, as evidenced on the album’s introductory singles “The Way” and “You and You,” released in 2020, and recently released single “20/20”.

All 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 and were produced by veteran Grammy-winning producer Eli Wolf [Al Green, Norah Jones, The Roots].

Each of the songs on Bones represents a learning experience for Mayo, the building blocks (“Bones”) that made him the person he is today. Part of the process of making Bones involved Mayo 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. Bones affirms you can live authentically, and not be afraid to express it.

Having no black bisexual role models growing up, Mayo hopes he can be that person for someone now and that one day we won’t have to “come out” but coexist with our differences.

“I think it’s so important for us to see ourselves reflected in people that are successful, be it in art, entertainment, finance, whatever.” Mayo states. “I know the feeling of not having any bisexual black male role models growing up, and remembering the solitude of that really pushes me to just be visible and vocal. I’ve been sitting on this project for a long time and the whole journey of writing for the album to now finally releasing it has been an emotional roller-coaster. Up until 2019 I was out to some close friends and family but publicly closeted. And when I asked myself what I wanted my first album to look like, a clarity sparked in me. I saw clearer than ever before that in order to make an album that felt real and authentically me, I had to be out and living authentically. So my decision to make the album is intimately linked to the decision to come out. And that makes this album really special to me.”

There are several notable dualities in Mayo’s latest album Bones: the juxtaposition of a cappella vocals and electronic effects, the “You and You” of bisexuality, the interplay of words and sounds, the tug between R&B, neo-soul and jazz, the spontaneity of improvisation set against the dictates of classical structure.

Michael Mayo

Mayo was born and raised in Los Angeles but he now lives in New York. Growing up he was surrounded by music, and love, as the son of “first-call” session and touring musicians.

When asked how Los Angeles inspired his music Mayo said, “I grew up in LA with two musician parents. I went with them to rehearsals and sessions, and saw them playing with legends and just generally being successful. I think that had a huge impact on me, firstly because I never doubted that a fruitful career in music was possible, and secondly because I was just hearing amazing music from a really young age. I remember when I’d watch my mom from backstage as she was singing with Luther Vandross or Whitney Houston. I would hear the crisp vocal arrangements and tight band grooves and just soak it in. I didn’t realize at the time how special that was, because when you’re a kid, it just feels normal, you know? But that’s what inspired me to do a lot of what I’m doing. And LA has such a vibrant scene and a deep history of art and music, you can’t help but be around the business in one way or another. Even though I’m not living there at the moment, I’m lucky to call it home.”

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.

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.

In addition to his influential parents, Michael also studied at the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music and the Thelonious Monk Institute — now named after Herbie Hancock, who mentored Mayo, helping him discover the link between sound and technology through a looper pedal, while showcasing him as a featured vocalist on a tour of South America in 2018.

Like Bobby McFerrin, one of his major influences, Mayo approaches his voice as a musical instrument, but in often unexpected ways. 

“I listened to Pet Sounds a lot in college,” Mayo admits, also pointing to Brandy as an early favorite. “But I also grew up on A Tribe Called Quest, the Fugees, Busta Rhymes, Biggie Smalls and J Dilla.  I love his beats so much.  It feels like home.  They all seem inherently connected. I like connecting all these different genres. Why not mix them all together and see what happens?”

With Bones, Michael Mayo turns the ideas in his head into a full-fledged sonic universe that reflects an upbringing surrounded by music, and the freedom he has fought so hard to achieve in his work and life.

To check out Mayo’s music video for his most recent single “20/20” visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9U36Z-gHJHA

For the album pre-save link click HERE.

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