I remember the first time I heard Michael Mazola sing. It was a little over ten years ago on a crowded weekend night at a popular nightclub in Peabody named Capone’s. The place was packed and the band was playing a mix of old classic 70’s rock tunes. I headed out onto the dance floor with a few of my friends and minutes later, I heard one of my favorite songs, Foreplay/Long Time by the group Boston, beginning to fill the room. While the intro played, the dance floor exploded with people. I didn’t know it then, but I was about to hear an unforgettable voice come out of nowhere and crush one of rock’s most iconic songs.
There it was, that surprising voice . . . smooth, sexy, full of power and the perfect amount of rasp and grit . . . the talent of a seasoned vocalist, but where was that rich sound coming from? I scanned the members of the band lined along the front of the stage, but those gritty lead vocals were coming from somewhere else. Desperately needing to match this powerful voice to a face, I pushed my way around the crowd to get a better look at the group. Much to my surprise, the amazing sound I was hearing was coming from the very back of the stage, not the front. As I focused in on the drummer seated behind his band mates, I realized he was the one belting out the song. It was his voice pouring from the speakers, drawing people in, mesmerizing them with his Pied Piper magic.
That was my first impression of the multi-talented Michael Mazola. Ten years later, I can still say, he is loved and admired by people everywhere. Not only for his impeccable musical abilities, (drums, 12 string guitar, and vocals) but for his genuine personality and the way he makes himself accessible to his fans. When you have a conversation with Mike, whether you’re a friend, fellow musician, or you’ve just met him for the first time, he speaks with you and pays attention to you as if you’re the only person in the room. When he’s on stage, he exudes professionalism, a talent he gleaned from his dad, Richard Mazola, when Mike was a young boy living in Lynn, MA. Mike’s dad played drums in a country music band for years and even recorded a 45, Here’s to the Girl’s, which was played on mainstream radio. Although Mike is a very private person, he shared his story with me of how he learned to play drums as a teenager using his dad’s drum set. “When I was growing up, my dad had a rule, ‘Never touch my drums.’ I remember one specific day, I was seventeen years old. My dad left the house for work and I did what I had done so many times before, I set up his drums and started playing around. I set them up right in front of the living room window, and while I was playing, I saw my dad unexpectedly pulling into the driveway. He had come home early from work. I’ll, never forget the feeling I had at that very moment; I thought he was going to kill me. When my dad walked into the living room and saw me sitting there, the first thing he said was, ‘You like the drums?’ Then he said, ‘If you take lessons, you can have them.’ I took two lessons and quit! Instead, I sat in my room, every day, with my headphones on playing my new set of drums against my favorite records.’”
When asked just what those favorite records were, Mike was quick to say, “Songs that had energy. I loved listening to Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. The energy and passion that Springsteen brings to one of my favorite songs, Born to Run, speaks to me. It influenced me back then when I was a kid and I knew I wanted to make a living playing music. I didn’t want to copy anyone; I just wanted to bring my own energy and passion to the music I played. There’s a feeling you get, that thing you feel when you’re driving down the road and it makes you want to go a hundred miles an hour . . . that’s the feeling I’m talking about. It wasn’t the way those guys dressed or anything else superficial about them, it was what I heard coming out of their instruments and their vocals. That’s what moved me back then, and still does.”
Since 1979, Mike Mazola has been singing and playing music with some of the finest musicians on the Northshore. In his first band, Ryder, Mike played drums and sang lead. “We named ourselves after a moving company and we all wore yellow shirts,” he laughed. These days, Mike is working on a new project . . . his own material. “There’s playing in cover bands and then there’s being creative. I love to sing and play covers as I have for the past 35 years, especially when I’m playing the 12-string guitar, which is one of my greatest passions. But I’m more of a musician than that, which is something I want to address this year. I’m at a point now where there’s a part of me that’s empty. I’m not as fulfilled as I used to be and I feel that this year is going to be a new beginning for me and the songs that are inside of me.”
After our interview, I listened to some of Mike’s original music and wasn’t surprised to hear and feel that passion he previously talked about . . . lots of rhythm, some edgy guitar riffs, and that raw, old school, 70’s groove pouring through his songs. I couldn’t help but be amazed, not only by the amount of pure musical talent Mike possesses, but also by how genuine and humble he is as a man. He stays true to his musical roots and when performing, strives to deliver that same depth of talent and passion he experienced and felt drawn to as a kid when he first heard songs like Band on the Run, American Girl, and his personal favorite, Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4. “Today’s music doesn’t have that same soul that made music so special back in the 70’s,” he said. “It’s all pieced together, auto tuned, and more about what someone’s wearing instead of that raw band sound.” Maybe Mike’s right. Today, we live in an age of digital music and homogeneous sounds, an age where talent isn’t always as important as marketability. Still, I can’t help but wonder if music is like fashion . . . everything coming back around, and if so, will 2015 be the year Michael Mazola brings back the sounds of 70’s classic rock with the debut of his own original music? Let’s hope so.
For now, you can check out Mike’s website at www.michaelmazola.com to find out more about the man and his music. And while you're there, take a look at his schedule to find out where he’ll be playing next.