One thing became very clear when we had our chat with The Voice alumni Mike Schiavo: Our words don’t compare to the way he tells his story. So, we got out of the way, sat back, and listened.
It All Began with Elvis
“But before that dawn / Yes before that dawn and before that dawn / Oo-oo, oo-oo, oo-oo, oo-oo, oo-oo / Such a night”
– Elvis Presley, “Such A Night”
“I had to do a school report in fifth grade on a random famous person, and I just picked up a book about Elvis in the library blindly, I didn’t know anything about him. And I just read it, and I listened to his music, and there was no stopping me from there, because I would not stop listening to him. I asked my parents to buy me a guitar, so they got me a really cheap starter guitar, because I wanted to be like him. I started singing—at that point in my life I really only listened to Elvis. My dad was a giant Beatles fan so I listened to The Beatles, I listened to Motown stuff, like The Temptations, Four Tops, and that was all I really listened to.
I didn’t listen to any of what my friends were listening to. And then, I received Songs About Jane at a birthday party that I went to—it was like a party favor, a mom there worked for the label or something. That would be the first album I listened to that was not before my time, I guess. And it was fresh—I think it had just come out that year, so it was really the first thing I listened to that was modern at the time and newer pop music—they were a little more rock back then—but it was definitely an album that changed my perspective on the kind of music I liked. Because then I started listening to more singer-songwriter stuff, like Jason Mraz, all these bands, and then it grew because then I started getting into the Warped Tour scene. I started finding bands like Mayday Parade, because I was just looking for more; I wasn’t looking for music that was only in Elvis’ time.
So I really got into a lot of that stuff, like Maroon 5, and then Mayday Parade became my favorite band of all time as well. I just listen to so much music now that it’s—I would keep you here all day, listening to the people I’ve been influenced by.”
Inspiration Leads to Goals
“I had that moment in spurts [realizing I wanted to be a singer]; I feel like almost part of me, even if I didn’t fully know it, got that when I listened to Elvis, but I was so young that it didn’t register that that was what I wanted to do because I hadn’t started doing it yet; if that makes sense. But I really do feel like that moment came to me in a couple different spurts until it was fully there, it sounds cheesy, but like, I think that my whole direction and everything changed when I found Elvis. Up until then I played baseball and stuff; it was a complete 180 when I found that. But I feel like my other bigger moments…I had always performed with a band and stuff and then when I started performing solo, I opened for The Cab—now it’s been five years—that was probably the biggest show I did, and I feel like, onstage there too was the moment. I was still in high school, mid-senior year I wanna say, and at that point I’d already decided I wasn’t going to college because I wanted to pursue music. That was one of the bigger shows I did, that was one of the more legitimate ones I did. It just kind of validated that [music] was exactly what I wanted to do.”
The Other Things that Make an Artist an Artist
“I’m a huge movie and TV show nerd… I’m the guy who watches movies and I have the IMDB.com app on my phone, and I’m on it while watching movies and looking at the actors and other movies they’ve been in. And all my friends are like, ‘how do you know all the names of all these actors’.
I’m a Harry Potter nerd to the extreme. [Director] David Yates did a few of the Harry Potter films, and I think he’s really awesome. His work is some of my favorite ones. James Mangold who did Walk The Line and Wolverine—I love Wolverine a lot. Wolverine is my favorite Marvel character of all time.
I love Walk The Line. [Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash], I feel like he did such a good job of showing how hard of a time he was having. I feel like it really put into perspective all the crap he went through.
If I was gonna act, if there was people I’d wanna work with—anybody who knows me personally, knows I’m like madly, madly in love with Emma Watson. That’s probably the number one. She’s also really talented but I’m also really infatuated by her… I’m not there yet [as far as acting] because I don’t think I’m very good at it, but that’s one of the things that I think, as my confidence builds hopefully more over the years, that’s something I would love to kinda sidetrack in.”
“The real work starts as soon as you’re eliminated from that show. You’re no longer being promoted by the show, it’s all you once you end there. And it’s completely what you make of it.” –
Before and After The Voice
“As hard as you work on the show, as special as it is, the real work starts as soon as you’re eliminated from that show. You’re no longer being promoted by the show, it’s all you once you end there. And it’s completely what you make of it. Going into the show before I even did my audition, I told myself, to make sure that in my mind I knew that no matter how far I made it on the show, that I needed to hustle after it, whether I didn’t get a chair turn around, whether I didn’t make it to the end. But coming off of it, it’s where you have to really work hard—you’re marketing yourself, you’re promoting yourself, you’re getting yourself ready to do everything.
So as soon as I could, I hit the studio, I put out a single recently, and I started recording and writing and I’m going to be putting out an EP too. It’s such a weird situation to be on a show like that and then leave, because there’s so many other people on the show, so the fans you gain from it are amazing, but sometimes it’s tough to keep their attention when there’s so much else happening with other people they listen to. So I knew I wanted to tour as soon as I could; I’m just finishing that up now, I did three weeks. But the game plan for after that—I’m just gonna keep hustling. I wanna do another tour in the fall, which is in the very beginning stages of being planned out. At that point I’ll have a 5 song EP out. But now’s the really hard work, because it’s all on me.”
Inspirations Lead to Goals,
Goals Kickstart Careers
“The goal is just to be able to live off of this. The goal is to not have to go work retail again like I was when I first moved to LA. I wanna continue working. I write all my stuff lyrically and melody-wise, and I write all the guitar stuff, but I work with a guy named Alex Marshall who was in The Cab a few years ago. I wanna keep working with him and doing my songs with him. We have a really creative relationship where he helps me with my production and I co-write with him on his original stuff, and that’s like a really great relationship because it’s something that’s gonna last a really long time and keep me creative. I wanna be touring and releasing music, and I want to be doing it independently for as long as I can, which makes it even harder, but I feel like it’s where I can stay the most openly creative. I’m just gonna be grinding until I can’t anymore I guess.
“I wanna be touring and releasing music, and I want to be doing it independently for as long as I can, which makes it even harder, but I feel like it’s where I can stay the most openly creative.”
The toughest part about being independent is the more you’re—in any industry not just music—you realize how important funding is, and that’s why people think you need a label all the time. It definitely helps on the economic side of funding a project, but the way I see it, if you can do it independently until you’re at the point where a label needs you and not the other way around, then that’s the way to do it, because that’s when you’re capitalising on everything you can.”
The EP, The Fam, and Gingers Unite
“I feel like [my upcoming EP] is a really well-balanced culmination of the genres that I’m into. I was kinda nervous to put [the first single] “Without You” out, because I wasn’t sure what people were gonna hear in it. The other four songs that are on [the EP], I think kinda dwell even more into some of the stuff I listen to.
I think my favorite song that’s going to be on it is more of a piano ballad, and that’s my favorite thing to write. It leaves room for the most emotion and you can do so much vocally with [ballads] and it can still be cool. I’m all about lyrics and emotion-music. That’s why the ballad’s my favorite because it’s easy to relate to, because you can just focus on melody and lyric and just enjoy it.
Anything that I personally put out has a direct correlation with my life.” It’s kind of like with Ed Sheeran. “I love Ed Sheeran to death but I try not to state him as an influence, even though he is one of my favorite artists, just because of the redhead connection. I always tell people, ‘I wish I didn’t like him so much’, because everyone compares us and you’re trying to be different, but he’s just so good that it’s a compliment, I can’t even take it any other way. Ed Sheeran’s “The Man”, the whole song is about a relationship that he was in, that could have been something big but it would have completely changed his life. Like he wouldn’t be on the path he was if he went through with it…
“I’m all about lyrics and emotion-music.”
‘The irony is if my career and music didn’t exist in 6 years, yeah, you’d probably be my wife with a kid’. It’s really a heavy line when you think about it. I was in a similar relationship about two years ago before I moved to California, where it wasn’t a healthy relationship for me especially as a musician. It’s a career, where if somebody’s not supporting you, they’re holding you back. It’s such a hard industry to be in even with support, so when you take away people that are close to you supporting you in an industry like that, it’s really hard. It’s really hard to give it your all when people you want to be supporting you aren’t supporting you. I feel like that line captures that feeling perfectly, because it shows if you choose the person who’s not supporting you, then realistically you’re not gonna reach your goal and what you want artistically. That’s a real line.
I’m lucky with my family because they’re very supportive. They were definitely nervous at first about it, which was a little conflicting because when I said I didn’t wanna go to college, they thought it was a joke, until they realized I was actually being serious. You’re splitting, like, not wanting to make them miserable, but you also wanna be working on your stuff, so. The Voice put a lot of it into perspective for my family I think. Being able to see me on a platform like that really is what clicked. They were pretty close to being 100% supportive before that, but that experience definitely clicked for them. They saw me on the biggest platform you can be, they saw me interacting with Adam and people that are A-list celebrities. It’s definitely hard to split time with something like that, because music takes so much time. I know that it’s gonna take time [and] that’s comforting to know that [my family] realize that, so I don’t feel like I’m on a time crunch to hit it big or something.”
It All Begins with Mike Schiavo
“[There’s] a song that I wrote a couple years ago, it’s called Gold, and it was a song I wrote after I had writers’ block for a year. I hadn’t written a full song in a long time, and I was really upset about it, and the song is about that.”
“Every dawn breaks when the darkness fades” – Mike Schiavo, “Gold”