I have been a fan of Michael Longoria's since I saw him in the Tony Award winning musical Jersey Boys when he took over the role of "Frankie Valli." The sound I heard come out of Michael's mouth during that show was unbelievable! Michael hits all the right notes! After Jersey Boys, I continued to enjoy Michael's vocal talents as he, and original Jersey Boys cast members Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer formed "The Midtown Men," touring the country singing hits of the 60s.
When I heard Michael was releasing his debut album, Broadway Brick By Brick, I first thought, "It's about time," followed by "I have to talk to him about this milestone." As luck would have it, Michael was more than happy to take me through each layer of brick as well as the cement that holds Broadway Brick By Brick together.
Broadway Brick By Brick is available now at iTunes, Amazon, and Broadway Records. To continue the celebration of his album's release, Michael will be returning to Joe's Pub on Sunday, September 18 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!
1. This past spring you released your debut solo recording, Broadway Brick By Brick, which is an album of Broadway's biggest musical numbers. What made now the right time to release a solo album? It's been a project I've been wanting to do since I was playing "Frankie Valli" in Jersey Boys. An all Broadway album, orchestrated like a musical, telling my story through the Broadway songs that inspired me to pursue a life on stage. I started out as a young Mariachi singer in Los Angeles California, but once I saw West Side Story on television as a boy, I knew my calling was to be in musicals. My album arranger, John McDaniel and co-producer Jeffrey Lesser were both in the same creative mind space that I was, ready to climb the mountain that would become Broadway Brick By Brick.
2. You have really made this album your own by adding a bit of your Latin roots to some of the songs, like "Maria" and "The Sound of Music." How did you decide which songs would work better than others with a bit of Latin flavor in them? They say you can never go home once you leave, and for many, we can't physically go home, but can we go there sonically? Sometimes you can hear an old song and it takes you back to the place where you first heard it. I grew up in the Pomona Valley of Southern California, surrounded by green hills and the music of my Mother who sang in Spanish. I wanted my version of "The Sound Of Music" to be full of that time when I was a boy surrounded by Latin culture and sounds of my Mother's Mariachi music. Since the album is a chronological telling of my journey to the Broadway stage from the world of Latin culture, I wanted the sounds in the orchestrations to tell that journey of cultural development as well.
3. I read in your Metrosource interview that all these songs you have recorded for Broadway Brick By Brick represent life milestones. Some of them were from times you were alone and struggling and some of them gave you strength and helped you get up and try something again. I want you to take us through what every song means, but then we wouldn't have time for any other questions. So, I'm going to choose my favorite songs and ask if you could tell us what was happening in your life at that time of the song and how the song helped you. "Being Alive," "Home," "The Impossible Dream," and "Corner of the Sky."
First of all Sondheim is a genius...this is a song I always felt connected to, but never knew why. But as I matured into an adult I understood the message more. I got some love and heartbreak under my belt and I realized what that song was saying to me: That for years I was afraid to let anyone too close. I came to New York City alone at the age of 17. I had to leave everything behind and never look back. And though being alone is safe and pushing love or people away is the easy way out, that not really living. The experience of being alive means nothing without allowing yourself to experience it with others.
I started the album with this song to represent who I was before I started the journey of recording Broadway Brick By Brick. And end the album with "Over The Rainbow" to show the completion of that journey. I also wanted to paint a connection to the character of "Dorothy" from The Wizard of Oz/The Wiz. A youth lost in a new land after a crazy storm. New York City was a lot like OZ to me when I first got here.
This song represents my first dream which was to go to NYU and study musical theatre. I was accepted to NYU's Tisch Scool of the Arts around the same time that I had came out to my parents. Going to college for musical theatre wasn't something they were ready to accept or understand. The thought of pursuing a life on Broadway became this dream that seemed Impossible. Most of the time our biggest achievements are the ones everyone else deems impossible.
Corner of the Sky:
This song takes me back to my time as a singing waiter in Times Square at the famous Ellen's Stardust Diner. I had just graduated NYU and my survival job was crooning Broadway showtunes and serving "Blue Suede" burgers. This song always got me nice tips and I auditioned to get the job with my rendition of the Pippin classic. I wanted the recording to capture that youth and excitement of starting your life right out of college with a world of possibilities at your fingertips.
4. I'm sure there are so many more songs than these twelve that represent your journey. How do you feel these twelve songs work together to represent this story? The album really is a story...if you read the liner notes before you listen to each tune, you almost forget where these songs come from. I was drawn primarily to the lyrics and story of each song as stand alone pieces. I chose songs that fit into the story I wanted to tell. The primary goal for me as an artist was to connect with people through song and tell my story doing it. I hope people leave with a true sense of who I am after listening to Broadway Brick By Brick.
5. You moved to NYC when you were just 17 years old. What made you, at that age, say, it's time for me to go to NY? What were those first few days like? I had no other choice. I knew I had to board that plane and give it a shot. I was accepted to NYU so I had a bit of a buffer. But it was terrifying non-the-less. I grew up really quickly that year.
6. Now, when you look back on those early days, what do you think about? What are most proud of? What was the hardest part during those first few years? If could do it all again, would you move to NYC at 17 or would you wait? I'm just happy it worked out and I was able to graduate NYU. The hardest part was paying for it. Scholarship and student loans only covered so much. So I had many work study jobs that took up most of my time. It was tough balancing scene rehearsal with work study jobs.
7. It's been over 10 years that you, Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer have been performing together. First, as the stars of Broadway's Jersey Boys, then and still as "The Midtown Men." What are the top three funniest things to happen to you while working together, whether it be on stage or off? The first one happened when I was playing "Pesci"...I had lost my Grandmother during the run of Jersey Boys and I started to lose a lot of weight. My pants started to sag...well on my first entrance I had to run on and I totally did a home run slide to Christian who couldn't keep a straight face to me sliding on my droopy pants. The guys and I are pretty funny individually so together we have a lot of laughs.
One time when I was playing "Frankie Valli"...during the big sit down mafia scene where we are supposed to be really serious...one of the mafia guys played by a musician had really loud gas...and none of us could keep from breaking character and laughing...
The best jokes came from me and Titus Burgess when we would be in the wings.
8. After a sold-out CD release concert this past May, on September 18, you are returning to Joe's Pub, to continue the celebration. What are you looking forward to most about this concert? What does your live show feature that one can not get from just listening to your CD? Well before was really scary because it was my first one man show...but now that I've done it a few times here and in Los Angeles...I know the nature of the show and the arc and I'm going to be more relaxed this time. When you come to the live show, these songs that you know and maybe grew up with (if you are a musical theatre lover), all of a sudden morph into telling my life story. You almost forget where these well known classics come from. You also get the stories behind my choosing them for this piece.
9. For this next question, I'm going to choose a few songs you've recorded and phrase the question around that song title. One song you've recorded on this album is "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." Who is somebody you can't take your eyes off of? Trying to focus my eyes these days on my career. So I'm keeping my eye out for new projects. Trying to find the right agent. Would love to work on a new musical from the ground up again. Those are the best and most memorable experiences.
9a. You also recorded "Being Alive." When do you feel the most alive in your life? I feel most alive when I'm on stage giving life to a song or character. The connection that comes from the relationship you make in one night's performance with strangers in the audience is magic.
9b. Who in your life, would you dedicate "As If We Never Said Goodbye" to? "As If We Never Said Goodbye" is about my return to the stage after becoming an NYU grad and having my singing waiter survival job and booking Hairspray on Broadway. It was an amazing Broadway Debut!
9c. If you went "Over The Rainbow," what do you think you would find? "Over The Rainbow"...I think I'd find me Lucky Charms! But seriously, the song has always been inspirational. Judy Garland taught us all how to sing didn't she? So to have her song on my album makes me feel very connected to her life as a stage performer. And I wanted to have my own take on the song.
10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I want to be more open to new friendships and artistic collaborations. I tend to keep to myself but there are so many great and talented people out there.
Michael Longoria is best known for his star turn on Broadway as "Frankie Valli" in the Tony Award Winning Musical Jersey Boys. Currently starring in The Midtown Men concert tour, and Meet The Midtown Men, a documentary for public television, Michael has been crooning across the world in a 60s rock concert celebrating the era. Michael trained at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, followed by New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where he was a scholarship student, earning a BFA in drama. Michael made his Broadway debut in the smash hit Tony award winning musical Hairspray, later creating the role of "Joey Pesci" in the original Broadway cast of Jersey Boys. He has appeared on television as the lead vocalist for Cirque du Soleil on America's Got Talent: Season 9 Finale, Broadway Under The Stars: A Tribute To Harold Prince, Opening Ceremonies at The U.S. Open, the documentary film One Night Stand, and as an animated character on Dora the Explorer. As a headlining solo concert artist, Michael has appeared at Caesar’s Palace in Atlantic City, co-staring with SNL’s Joe Piscopo in That’s Life!. Internationally Michael appeared in West Side Story at Teatro alla Scala in Milan and A Chorus Line in Munich. As a singer-songwriter, Michael has been performing his original songs at Joe’s Pub, The Cutting Room, CB’s Gallery, and Caroline’s on Broadway.