Made In Manhattan
Derick Evans, The Musician's Exchange, July 1996
They were the best of times, they were the worst of times. You get it all with Michael Massimo on his self-released CD Live In NYC. Personally, I don't like his need to be excessively dramatic. His voice is certainly up to the challenge, but the lyrics leave no room for interpretation, so how can one be drawn in except out of admiration for his skill? Another interesting conundrum is that the only accompaniment on the disc is Massimo strumming his acoustic guitar, yet the sound is rich and full. He knew what he was doing on that score.
The disc would be easy to dismiss as the product of a musician who had so much God-given talent that he stalled along the way creatively were it not for snippets of melody that rank with the best ever played on radio. Yet snippets they are, and you have to go looking for them. The lyrics do show flashes of insight too, but there's no ambiguity to balance the bold pronouncements.
Michael Massimo: Live and Personal
Eric Harabadian, The Renegade, November 1997
In todayıs world, dominated by hip-hop syncopations, industrial machinations, and hardcore bombast, the
term ³singer-songwriter² tends to evoke thoughts of music past. One looks to the seventies, in particular, when
emerging talents like Carole King, Carly Simon, James Taylor and Jim Croce were coming into their own. Well,
for twenty-something Michael Massimo, these are just some of the essential people who helped shape his own
The New Jersey native began guitar at age seven and has never looked back since. ³Iım pretty much the
maverick, black sheep in my family,² says Michael. ³Some family members may have taken up some instrument
in school but not to the degree that Iıve taken it to.² Since recently being laid off as an employee at a New York
advertising agency, Massimo seized the opportunity to pursue his dream, going full time with music. He has
subsequently been keeping quite busy as a solo performer, working various coffeehouses , bookstores,
nightclubs, colleges and record stores throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
Michael has also released two recordings. A promotional cassette called Perspective and a new CD
entitled Live In N.Y.C. As the title suggests, it features the vocalist/guitarist in fine form, pouring his singular
heart out over very personal and insightful material. ³Iıve been trying to change my writing style in recent
months,² says Massimo. ³Initially, songwriting was like therapy. My forte is love songs and philosophical
songs, but they were always coming out too personal. Sometimes you just get tired of talking about yourself for
so long. I'm now trying to narrow my focus, writing more story songs with fully developed characters. I also
want to write more about the broader world around me.²
His self-described ³contemporary acoustic² style is self assured and dynamic, as evidenced by his live
CD. Michael employs sophisticated technique on his Martin acoustic, juxtaposing rich tonal variations, bell-like
harmonies, and delicate arpeggios with ecstatic chordal explorations and passionate singing. Currently, Massimo
is wrapping up performance commitments before taking a few months off to record in Florida.
³The engineer who recorded the live album is a college buddy of mine.² explains the singer. ³He moved
down to Florida and opened a recording studio. I told him I was planning a new album, and he invited me down.
He knows my music, and I wanted to record in a different location so it seemed like the thing to do. ³ The new
album, slated for a February ı98 release, will be more rock oriented, targeted at both AOR and AAA radio
markets. Heıs also putting together a back-up band in January with plans to spend the next year touring extensively
throughout New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Washington D.C. and Maryland.
³Basically, I see music as a spiritual kind of thing.² confesses Massimo. ³It makes me feel better and is
Guitarist Has No Time To Fret
Elias Holtzman, The Home News & Tribune, January 9, 1997
Meet Michael Massimo of Edison, singer-songwriter.
Heıs the kid from down the block.
Only heıs not a kid anymore
Michael is 27, quiet, well-spoken, likable and darkly handsome with a Prince Valiant haircut that seems
to be no impediment to his day job in an advertising agency in New York.
For now, heıs holding onto his day job.
Michael is in one of the toughest games goinggetting promoters to schedule him into their clubs. But
it is a job he does with relish. One thing he is not short on is persistence and an ability to sell himself and his
songs. which is a quality necessary in making it.
And Michael plans to make it.
He thinks about it all his waking hours.
His motto seems to bein his own words³Have guitar, will travel.²
His guitar is an acoustic Martin, which he uses in conjunction with his Guild 12-string at his
performances. Michael performs at bookstores, coffeehouses and clubs in New Jersey and surrounding states.
He is one of two children of Alfred and Elizabeth ³Liz² Massimo, transplanted New Yorkers from
Brooklyn. Michaelıs dad is a tool and mold maker in Cranford, and his mom assistant to the chief operating
officer of a company in Edison. Together, they have proudly watched the growth of their son and his drive
towards performing and perfection.
Michael is a 1987 graduate of Bishop Ahr High School, Edison, and graduated in 1991from Wagner
College in Staten Island, N.Y., as a finance major. His first job after graduation was on Wall Street with a bond
trading company, and he was doing well, he says, except, that ³the songs were going out of my head.² He
lasted six months.
He knew that big money in the future or not, Wall Street was not his street. His was the ³Street of
A ³headhunter² suggested advertising, and thatıs what Michael has been doing the past four years. Every
weekday morning, Michael gets on the 8:47 a.m. train at the Metuchen station and head into New Yorkıs Penn
Many days, especially if the weather is good, he will walk to his office at Angotti, Thomas, Hedge Inc.
at 42nd and Park, talking to himself all the while, and perhaps dreaming up some new lyrics for another song.
³I work in print traffic and deal with all the little details of making a print ad,² he says. ³I baby-sit an ad
from beginning to end.²
Working in the print media is very helpful to advancing his career, Michael says. It allows him the
convenience of printing up schedules of his next appearances, which he does with a professional panache. Heıs
also applied his advertising savvy to his promotional material, listing an 800 number where his album can be
ordered(800) 641-8995and also listing radio stations in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania
that can be called to request his songs.
A lot of the business aspect in his finance education has come in handy. ³Music is a business, too,² he
says. ³Essentially, what Iım trying to do is sell myself as an artist.²
Selling himself is essentially a one-person operation: ³I do the sound. I write the music. I perform. I do
the management, the booking, the promotion.²
Helping as a publicist is Justine Bevan of South Plainfield, a former writer for Hit Parader, a rock
³I believe thereıs a place for people like Michael,² she says. ³Itıs a win-win situation. Music like his
never goes out of style.²
What is music like his? Massimo admits to not being a traditionalist. Nor does he write songs with a
story line, such as the folkies do. His songs are mostly about his own feelings. His influences, he says, are
singer-songwriters of the 70s such as James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, Carole King and Carly Simon.
His persistenceand the fact that he was localpaid off in a booking this past Saturday night, when he
played the Mine Street Coffeehouse in New Brunswick, normally a folk showcase.
Originally turned down by Mine Street manager-promoter Bob Yahn because he did not fit the standards
of a traditional folk singer, Michael was penciled in by Yahn as weather insurance. Yahn felt it might be too
chancy to begin the New Year having to cancel because a folkie from a distance could not make it in because of
the weather. After the performance,Yahn likened his first impression of Michaelıs performance and lyrics to that
of pop-rock star Billy Joel.
³Iıll take it,² says Michael.
About his songs, Michael says: ³I think the idea is to be as genuine as possible, so people can believe
what Iım telling them.²
³A lot of my writing is what I need to hear myself. I write about truth, love, exploring, desire,
Some of his titles: ³Restless Ones², ³Free², ³Everything², ³My Own Reality² and ³Come Back New².
All of these are on a cassette, Perspective, which can be regarded as promotional, since it also has printed on it:
³For bookings and info call: (908) 548-4324.²
The confidence and presentation a singer-songwriter exudes may make all the difference in the world,
according to Stephanie P. Ledgin, editor and publisher of Traditional MusicLine, a comprehensive monthly
calendar publication that lists concerts, festivals and dance in various types of traditional and contemporary folk
music in all of the Northeast.
Ledgin, who knows her music, is a faculty member at Rutgers Universityıs Douglass College, where she
is the director and technical advisor of the New Jersey Folk Festival and teaches the technical side of how to run
a festival. She also is the personal manager of Beppe Gambetta, a phenomenal Italian acoustic guitarist and
singer, whose innate talent is bolstered by a supreme confidence bordering on chutzpah. Beppe, shortly after his
first arrival in the States from Genoa, Italy, where he still lives, called up well-known artists and persuaded them
to allow him to record with them. He tours here three or four times a year.
³Look at Beppe², Stephanie says. ³He barely spoke English when I met him. But he was talented and
mastered the art of the all-encompassing picture. Thatıs what you have to learn when youıre out there as an artist
trying to make it.²
³It is tough,² Michael concedes. ³But itıs a business of relationships you make with people. Itıs all in
how you deal with people.² Massimo has played a number of other venuescoffeehouses and bookstores and
folk placessuch as the Bitter End in the Village, Downtime on 30th St. and Eighth Avenue and the Lounge on
72nd Street and Columbus Avenue.
Michael started playing when he was 7 years old, using a guitar which was a hand-me-down from a
cousin who had given up on his lessons. He used to strum the guitar and entertain his sister, Elise Marie, now a
physical therapist in Albany, N.Y., who also was musically inclined.
At Wagner College, he took lessons in classical guitar, which helps him in his finger picking, although
his playing includes a combination of subtle finger picking and dynamic strumming.
Greg Stier of Metuchen, a singer-songwriter himself who writes songs in the ³story² line, has chosen a
life in music that still allows him a chance to be with his family of a wife and two young children.
Stier is a manager at the Sam Ash music store on Lincoln Highway in Edison and has a clientele of at
least a dozen young singer-songwriters daily.
Greg has played the coffeehouses and clubs and knows how tough a road it can be. But there are
compensations, he notes.
Stier quotes poet Donald Hall: ³when I was 20, I wrote poetry because I was 20. Now, at 40, I write
poetry because I am poet.² Stier, who is 42, is a musician. He plays and performs because he is a musician.
³Itıs a harder hustle these days,² says Stier. ³Itıs a very courageous thing (Massimo) is doing. If he
believes heıs good, I hope he scores big time.²
Michael also has appeared on Mark Corsoıs ³Homemade Music Show², now beginning its ninth year on
the Rutgers radio station WRSU-FM (88.7), every Sunday morning from 10 to noon. Mark, who has seen his
share of singer-songwriters, likes to give young people a chance to show off their capabilities. He remembers
³He has a big voice,² Mark says, stressing the word ³big². ³He really projects well. He seems
comfortable and self-assured.²
Corso points out that singer-songwriters sing for a very selective audience.
³Theyıre saying things that need to be heard, need to be said, coming from the heart. I like to say, it is
cerebral, not visceral, music of the head, not of the gut.²
Massimo has a new CD, produced last year, called ³Live In N.Y.C.² It includes 11 of his songs and come
in a professional-looking jacket with pictures of Michael in the city on the front and the back. Michael wrote
the songs, sang them and planned and designed the CD jacket. ³I lean more toward the introspective stuff,² he
says. ³Lately Iıve been trying to broaden my focus to include more topics. Iım trying to grow as an artist.²
³Heıs asked me what kind of car I want when he makes it,² says his dad. ³Heıs a good boy.²
Michael asked his mom the same question. ³I told him I wanted a Mercedes coupe,² his mother says.
³Itıs yours,² Michael responded.
Geoff Wilbur, The Renegade, February 1997
Live In NYC is a studio-quality live recording of the singer/songwriter/acoustic guitarist. His insistent, emotional vocals are of the caliber of the defining acoustic artists from a generation earlier. At home in a coffee shop, at an outdoor festival, or performing for a black tie crowd at a classical venue, Michael's talent is real and his songs are convincingly heartfelt.
Chris Jordan, The Home News & Tribune, February 8, 1997
³Live In N.Y.C.ı illustrates his clear robust style of playing and hints at influences such
as Dan Fogelberg and James Taylor. The Journey Is Divineı is brisk and exuberant
and Massimo shows fantastic control of his vocal range on the pretty and melodic Love
Francis Bell, The Music Paper, October 1996
Just as the title indicates, this collection was recorded live at a few New York City clubs. Massimo is an energetic performer. He accompanies himself with only an acoustic guitar, yet he manages to fill the air with great percussive playing. Massimo's material is quite good, with some fine chord changes and interesting melodies. The guitar work on the track "Love Is" is as beautiful as the song. Massimo has a real future as a performing artist and songwriter. ****
Jennifer Shields, The Musician's Exchange, June 1996
Folk rock. Sort of like a contemporary Dan Fogelberg, which is not a bad thing. Excellent live recording, acoustic guitar and vox. Very good package, includes lyrics.