A MAN AND HIS MUSIC
English playwright William Congreve once wrote that, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast.” It most certainly does … and a good deal more too. The weaving together of melodies, lyrics, instruments — mingled with the composition of voices joined in harmony — can lift hearts, dampen them, inspire moments of achievement (even greatness) and give cause to reconsider life itself.
Or it can simply bring to us a bundle of joy we can shake at our leisure and just laugh.
For Mike Zito of Montville, a musician of close to 30 years, it is definitely the latter.
“You do what you love, and making music is what I love to do,” the sturdy, middle-aged singer-lyricist-composer said during a recent interview at the Washington Street Coffee House in New London — a cozy place of refuge for many a local artist.
“I take the craft of composing and performing songs very seriously, though I don’t take myself all that seriously,” he added with a smile. “My songs are all about folks having a good time while listening to them.”
Zito’s more informal approach to sharing his music with the public is evident in some of his promotional leaflets. Fabricated commentary from the likes of “Rolling Stoned Magazine” (‘I almost liked it.’); “TV Glide” (‘One of the most exciting things to happen to music since the invention of the kazoo’); and “New Yuck Times” (‘A new landmark in mediocrity’), shows his own brand of charm and wit.
Though self-deprecating in reflecting on his works, Mike Zito simply wants to convey a lighter air of music that gives us all cause to feel a good deal better from experiencing it.
And why not?
If music can indeed heal and bring on a spell of happiness —maybe even lift one’s spirits out from a doldrum state — perhaps there are times when it need not serve as anything more.
“I never get political, and I don’t do sad love songs either,” said Zito. “My music is meant to be pure fun. I’m not trying to change anything in society.”
A lifelong resident of Montville and a graduate of Montville High School some years ago, Mike Zito began his foray into the realm of making music at age 15 by teaching himself how to play the guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, and the mandolin — seeing himself as more a composer of songs than a musician or a singer.
He formed a band, the Grand Junction, in 1991, releasing two albums of original songs. They played throughout New London County until 2004. Zito’s solo works began in 1994. He released two dozen albums of predominantly original material, with two more forthcoming in 2023.
“I’m not interested in publicly performing the works of known artists … just my own,” he added. “The studio is where I find the work most fulfilling. It’s where the creative experience is most gratifying … assembling a piece, basking in that ‘aha moment,’ and knowing you’ve found it!”
As for live performances, Zito enjoys a different level of fulfillment that also makes the demanding creative process entirely worth it.
“You know when you’ve reached your audience and that, in a sense, you’ve ‘got them,’ just from their faces showing a definite interest in what your songs are saying.”
He recalls one of his most gratifying moments as a performer, explaining that a great source of inspiration for him was the legendary ballad singer, the late great Harry Chapin. “I’ve always admired Harry Chapin and especially the way he often spoke to his audiences as a lead-in to certain songs.”
In that same vein, Zito likes making a practice of including such intros to his own songs. And he was able to hear firsthand, the result of that.
“During an intermission at one of my shows, while just outside the scope of vision of some nearby audience members, I overheard one of them actually quoting the lyrics from one of my songs. So I knew I had definitely reached him!” beamed Zito. “These people had no idea I was standing close by and hearing their conversation. At times like that you know you’ve hit the nail on the head.”
It might be fair to say that the music of Mike Zito can be regarded as a cozy jaunt through the twists and turns of life … and with no expectations for lending an ear to it, other than to come along and enjoy a stroll through his songs.
“I’d like to gift some of my CDs to anyone interested in hearing what my music might have to offer them,” said Zito. (Those interested in taking a musical stroll through some of Mike’s perky delights may e-mail him at MikeZito@Mail.com. You can also catch him on the radio, Sunday mornings on WICH AM and on 94.5 FM.
Meantime, when not composing or performing, or on the radio, Mike Zito is busy delving into sports, reading up on philosophy and theology, and putting in time working at a local law firm.
A man like this certainly has something worth saying in the marvelous language of music.
Nick Checker is an author, playwright and screenwriter who lives in New London.