“Never Give Up, Never Give Up, Never Give Up!” – Michael Lydon
What’s your band’s name? Where’d the name come from?
My band name for this gig is my name—Michael Lydon—because I’m playing solo, but I often play with a quintet my partner Ellen Mandel and I put together, the Mandel & Lydon band. I guess we don’t want a nutty name!
The Yellow Collar Collective is all about the daily grind musicians go through to perfect their craft, what has been your biggest struggle and accomplishment as a musician?
The biggest struggle for me, besides working to improve my playing, singing, and writing, is to build an audience. Audience building takes constant networking, FaceBook, email, Twitter, keeping a smiling game face on even when discouraged. But when strangers say they know my music, I’m thrilled!
What other instruments can you and your fellow band members play?
I play guitar and sing. For years I played harmonica, but now I whistle—which people like—it’s offbeat but intimate.
Why’d you start making music and why specifically did you choose your genre?
I studied piano and clarinet in high school but gave up because I thought I’d never be good enough to play in Duke Ellington’s orchestra. But when the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Rolling Stones hit big, I thought, “Hey, I can do that!” At first I played three chord folk songs, but as I improved I started to play the jazz songs I’d loved as a teenager.
Do you have any memorable musical experiences that have shaped who you guys are?
Opening for Muddy Waters at the Paradise, Boston’s top club, was a huge thrill, and Muddy said to us, with a big smile, “Hey, you two are good!”
Have you ever released any albums or are working on any now?
Love at First Sight is my first shrink-wrapped CD, but I’ve made up many albums at home from songs I’ve recorded. Now, of course, I put up song videos on YouTube, Sound Cloud, and similar outlets. It’s a whole new world for marketing songs today!
Any special projects?
My biggest special project is launching Passion in Pigskin, an opera Ellen and I wrote about football—we’re doing it for January 24 and 25 at the Cornelia St café right before the Super Bowl. I love this tragic-comic opera!
Do you collaborate with other artists? Inside and outside your genre?
Ellen Mandel is my biggest collaborator—she’s a superb pianist, composer, and singer. Mostly I play in my pop-jazz genre, but right now I’m collaborating with a Nashville songwriter. I love playing with new musicians—I learn from every jam session.
What venues and events have you performed at in the past five years? Which has been your favorite?
I’ve played dozens of clubs, pubs, churches, schools, street fairs, you name it, in the East and West Village going back a few decades. My favorite club may be the Cornelia Street Café—I’ve been playing there in many groups since the 90s. It’s homey and varied, and my following like it there. I hope the clubs Turnstyle works with become new favorites.
How do you acquire shows and promote yourself? Do you have any recommendations for other artists?
I network, network, network. I play open mikes, I keep up a FaceBook presence. I tweet (a bit). I invite every guitar player I meet to jam. I make YouTube videos. I go out to hear pals and strangers. I keep a smile on my face. I say “Thank you.” Fortunately I’m an extrovert, I like to meet new people, so networking comes naturally to me. I recommend all artists to do the same in whatever way works for them.
Do you have any mottos?
Never give up, Never give up, never give up!!!
What artists inspire you?
Dozens and dozens of great artists going back centuries—Vivakdi, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc, then great Americans, Scott Joplin, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillspie, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, the Beatles, Stones, and Dylan, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Barry White, and that’s only the beginning!!
What’s next for your band?
I’m hoping that I start up Turnstyle’s staircase, hoping I can get my first song recorded in Nashville, producing Passion in Pigskin in January, and continuing to practice and study.
What do you do when you’re not listening to or making music?
Ellen and I stroll though Tompkins Square Park, see our daughter and her guy in Bushwick. I read books, good old books like The Iliad and Tom Jones. I write prose essays about writing and self-publish them. I thank God for my happy life.
What’s your favorite song(s) right now?
We listen to music mostly in the morning as we get up, and at the top of our current charts are CDs of great women jazz singer—Ella, Julie London, Sarah Vaughn—and Portuguese fado singers (fado is sort of Portuguese blues).
Thank you Michael for taking time to do this interview for all of us!
Check out more of Michael Lydon and his music through the links below!