Local Noise: Michael Strollo

“There haven’t been many places I haven’t played in the last ten years, both with and without my band,” says Michael Strollo, who has recently released a solo CD, about his time performing on his own and with the critically acclaimed band, Exit 105. “Basically wherever would take me. I’ve played the Jersey scene. New York is perfect for what I’m doing now, and so is Europe. I’ve traveled state to state, festivals, colleges, benefits, you name it. Nowadays with the way the technology is pulling the music world, it’s much easier to get your songs out there without even playing a lick out.”

Michael’s new release, Bedroom Eyes, came out this past summer, and in a short time has sold over 2,300 copies via Amazon, iTunes, CDBaby and Facebook. “I couldn’t be happier with how the people are taking to the music,“ he says. “It was worth all the stops I had to make along the way. It’s just me, myself and I at the moment. I was the singer and main songwriter in the rock group Exit 105 from 2001 up until 2008. In April 2008, I was granted a worldwide distribution deal with my solo work. Even on this record I’m playing most of the instruments. I’m currently in search of, and trying out, female violinists and keyboard players for a live trio to support this record, and the start of my third. Maybe with this interview, I’ll find my match!”

The music is much more acoustic-based and roots oriented than his previous work with his other band. “How the acoustic style and sound came about was by going back to the basics,” he relates. “Listening to my heart and listeners. When I wrote for the band, I was taking my acoustic songs and changing them to fit a more rock format. Not realizing this at first, the songs became lost and distorted. I started performing acoustic and audiences took hold with both hands. I was getting more positive feedback from audiences. I had them listening. They could hear my lyrics, feel the music, and understand the connection between themselves and the songs. It just got better from there. I was offered distribution if I made a record. The book Local Heroes, which featured a chapter on me, was available now in the United States, all in support of this now released record. It was hard to leave the band I created, but if I wanted to further my career, it had to be done. The freedom in my writing now took on a whole new direction.”

That direction is a byproduct if Michael’s influences, which range from the old to the new, and the well known to the obscure. “There’s many, but to name a few, I’m a big fan of Roy Orbison, Eddie Vedder and Thom Yorke, when it comes to vocals. For guitar sounds, Nick Drake, Jack Rose and Kaki King. For lyrics, Jackson Brown, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.”

Some of the tracks gaining attention from the CD include “Could Die Young Tonight,” “Rivers Edge,” “Home,” “Regret Me Not,” and the title track, “Bedroom Eyes,” which has a deeper personal meaning for Michael. “It stems from trying to find the hidden connection between you and a woman,” he states. “That place where she makes it hard for you to find.”

The songs come to Michael in a number of different ways. “It varies,” he says. “See, I’m always writing. Sometimes I’m just writing and it’s a week or two before I even pick up the guitar. Whether it’s stories about real life characters, or made up stories to try to explain an emotion or a thought. Sometimes I have music already in my head and I let my fingers play it out. I guess, no matter where the song process starts from, it just evolves into something on its own. It’s also important to be as honest as you can in your writing. You can’t predict what people will like.”

While Michael is very engaging as a performer, and definitely makes a personal connection with his fans, he takes his work very seriously and doesn’t spend too much time on frivolity. “There’s nothing funny about recording,” he says. “It’s tedious and frustrating. What makes it worth it is the finished project. It’s important to find people you work well with and let you explore your ideas. The only thing that tends to happen to me on stage that’s pretty funny is I’ll forget a few words here and there, and just play the fill in the blank game. It happens.”

A highlight of Michael‘s performing career was when he had the chance to perform with one of his idols. “I got the chance to sing and play with Bruce Springsteen on “All Along the Watchtower” for a benefit show,” he recalls. “That got many positive reviews, as you can imagine.”

As far as the future, Michael has set his goals for both the short term and long term to be realistic and artistically oriented. “To stay on this track, and make the best songs I can possibly make for my listeners,” he says. “I feel I have my first successful record in this day and age where record companies are broke, CD’s are not selling in stores, and at over 2,000 records sold for me I couldn’t be happier. I’ve worked very hard for this, and I plan on working even harder. I don’t know many people who have a life outside of their job and maybe some extra curricular activities. It’s nice to have a passion, something that separates you from everyone else, your own identity. Most people never find their own identity. My music and my songs will hopefully live on long after I’m gone.”

For further information on Michael Strollo, and the new CD release, as well as upcoming appearances, check out michaelstrollo.com and facebook.com/michaelstrollomusic.