WIB Interview: Mike Zito

The Man from MARZ

An interview with Mike Zito

Words: Vincent Abbate / Photos: Marcella auf der Heide

Meet producer Mike Zito. Oh, I know: We all love to watch Mike get onstage and tear down the house with one of his reliably staggering performances. A charming dude who is only underrated as a guitarist and singer because his songwriting is so good – what’s not to like?

But for the past decade or so, the St. Louis native and 2018 BMA-winner as Rock Blues Artist of the Year has been moonlighting at the mixing desk. When the head of the Germany-based Ruf Records label, Thomas Ruf, asked him to come to Berlin and supervise a trio of young, fairly inexperienced female artists during the making of an album called Girls With Guitars, Zito jumped at the chance. He followed that up by producing one of those three axe-toting ladies, Samantha Fish, on her first two solo records for the same label. Fish has since become one of the blues’ hottest properties. Knowing that he had a hand in getting that particular ball rolling, Zito can look back with a certain fatherly pride.

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WoW #7: Mike Zito (with Anders Osborne) – “I Was Drunk”

Mike Zito (with Anders Osborne) – “I Was Drunk”

Mike Zito excels through honesty. Instead of trotting out worn clichés, with each new song he opens a window to his soul and allows us a glimpse of what’s going on inside. In his 46 years, Zito has been there and done that, and he wants to let us know what the experience was like, whether it was good, bad or ugly.

He’s been uniquely candid about the addiction issues that sabotaged his early efforts to make it professionally. In the past ten years, hopeful songs such as “Keep Coming Back” and “One Step At A Time” have appeared like signposts to mark his way along the recovery journey.

“I Was Drunk,” written together with Anders Osborne – a man who has dealt with similar problems – takes a darker tack in exploring the misery and self-destructiveness of alcoholism.

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