Monday, March 14, 2022

You can't keep it unless you give it away

    I am currently drinking coffee and enjoying the silence of the house. 
It won't be silent for long. Wind chimes on the back patio are really active this morning.
This is my favorite part of the day, the calm before the storm.
This is spring break week here in Nederland, Tx. The girls and Laura are off of school and I have managed to be home and not working to spend the week with them. The Nederland Heritage Festival is this week, which is a big deal around here. Lots of rides, food and festivities - it's a good time in a small town.

    Really this week is the calm before the storm.
We head out next week on the first "Blood Brothers Tour" with Albert Castiglia and his band. It's a massive 3 and a half week tour of the midwest to the northeast of the US. 21 shows on the first leg of the tour, 10 days off and another 19 shows. 40 shows in total between next week and the end of May.
It's the first ever Gulf Coast Records event tour. We had this idea right away in 2019 but the pandemic of course stopped us in our tracks. It's exciting and will be a lot of work for us all. Two bands on the road together, it will be eventful I assume. So this week is my last week of time home and off to just hang out, go to bed early or stay up late playing games with the girls. 

     Our mantra for this tour (and really every tour) is to "Bring the Joy".
We are out there to be of service to the fans and our friends. Play our hearts out all with the hopes that people leave the show feeling better than when they got there. That is always the plan when doing a show. If the audience has a great time, we have a great time. Most often the audience lifts us up. We get tired and cranky from traveling and miss home but the fans show up and give us strength and hope and bring us the joy. In return we can do the same for them. It's a beautiful thing that we are all addicted to, the constant sharing of joy and happiness to be alive and make music. It all sounds a little corny, but it's true. Every musician I know will agree with me. The audience lifts us up, we give back and lift up the audience. It's a bond that can never be replaced by technology - it has to be felt in human contact together.  It is the transfer of energy. The transfer must happen, it can't stop without a return address. When one party is always giving and the other is always taking, the flow will end. 

    There is an old saying in recovery "You can't keep it unless you give it away".
It's one of those sayings that seem contradictory. Like "You have to surrender to win". They don't always make sense to a selfish person. It takes time to wear that selfishness off and learn to become selfless. Thats a lifetime challenge. Take it from me, I was the most selfish person there ever was. For over 30 years all I gave a shit about was me and what I wanted and needed and deserved. I did not give at all, I took. I took and stole and cried and pitched a fit when I did not get what I wanted. It's taken years to change that pattern of thinking and living. There is a reason a selfish person is always unhappy, because the energy stops with them. They do not give it away, they only take it from others. The joy is not passing through them and the true benefit of joy is to pass it on. I have learned over the years that if I want my dreams to come true I have to help others achieve their dreams first. When I help enough people achieve their dreams unbelievably my dreams just happen. Because my dreams become helping others. In return I get whatever I want, and mostly I want others to be happy. When I lower my personal expectations it's much easier to be happy with any outcome. I don't worry about things today, I assume they will work out and they always work out. 

    So, I'm and going to make a dream come true for myself now and have another cup of coffee. This house will get loud soon and the silence will be gone until tomorrow at this time. I need the caffeine to cope with the loud noises :)

Peace, Love, Zito

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Fat Face

 So let me be perfectly clear here........I am NOT writing this blog for all of you to coddle me and tell me how beautiful I am and pat me on the back and say it's ok.....LOL. I am writing this blog because I think most people relate and might get something from my experience and maybe a few laughs.

                                       Me, circa 1989, balloon tits and all. Photo credit Kurt Reese :)

Hi, my name is Mike and I have a fat face.

Yes, yes I do. I always have and probably always will. I am a 51 year old man who has a beautiful wife and family and none of this should really matter in the big picture of life. BUT.....it bothers me, always. My mother was short and beautiful and a little chubby let's say, not obese at all. My father was usually in pretty good shape his whole life being in the military and working all of the time. They were both short people. My mother's face was very round.....my face is round as well. We lived in a 5 room apartment in a 4 family flat and were not wealthy to say the least. My parents were much older than me and they grew up more poor than we ever imagined, especially my mother. My mother was raised in Ashland, Missouri and they had a dirt floor. They had cardboard on the ground or old linoleum but underneath was dirt....they were dirt poor. The most important thing to my parents was that we had food and that we ate everyday, that is literally all that mattered. We ate the worst everyday 70's style food there was - processed white bread, soda, ice cream, miracle whip, sugar, bologna, hot dogs, headcheese, potato chips....all the good shit! Of course my mother cooked and we had good meals in the evenings and on the weekends she would make a big Italian dinner with spaghetti and.....meatballs, neck bones, pigs feet - any meat would do. Pigs feet and spaghetti was my absolute favorite meal when I was a kid, I loved it! 

My mother constantly fed me - peanut butter and sugar sandwiches, miracle whip sandwiches, salami and cheese on wonderbread.....it tasted great, but not the most nutritious of foods. My dad would always take me to the Italian Import store on Saturdays and we would get olives, Volpi salami, pepperoni, cheese and really good Italian bakery bread.......this was and still is my all time favorite foods. My parents were older and I was like a grandchild with grandparents. We ate ALL the time. It's no surprise that I was a big kid. I was born 10 pounds and never stopped growing. I was bigger than most of the kids in the neighborhood and in school. I went to Catholic school my entire life and from 1st to 8th grade I had to wear a uniform. The uniform was a light blue button down short sleeve shirt and dark blue trousers. They sold these uniforms at Sears on Grand ave in south St. Louis. I was too big to fit into the normal size uniforms. SO...Sears had a lovely section in the boys department called "HUSKY"......thats where I got my school uniform. I had to wear HUSKY for 8 years straight. When I was a kid I didn't really care at first until I started getting called "Fat" and "Chubby" and "Big Boy" and "Tubby"......then I realized that the Sears section "HUSKY" was just another word for FAT Boys LOL!!!

Look, I won't bore you with all of the details of my fairly boring Catholic Italian South St. Louis life, let's just say I ate WAY too much, I ate a lot of SHIT food, and I was always the Fat Funny kid in school. It took me years into my 20's to develop an exercise routine and learn to eat better foods. Getting out of the house and around others made a big difference. But no matter what I did or how hard I worked at it, I always had a FAT Face. A big round, chubby cheeked, Dago Fat Face. 

Throughout the years I have developed what I would call a fairly normal eating disorder. I eat whatever I want until I hate myself so much that I will do something about it, then I don't eat anything for a period of time and lose some weight....enough weight to get to the point where I feel like I can eat anything I want and put all the weight back on again in a few months. Sound familiar? I know this is true, so over the years I have really tried hard to break this cycle. I have really learned to just eat moderately and stay away from most shit food when I can, it works and it's less of a roller coaster. Into my 40's and now 50's I am much more stable in my diet and exercise and really kind of stay in a ballpark weight range. But as I continue to get older, losing 5 or 10 pounds is NOT easy at all. It requires more and more exercise and eating less and less food. Most people don't really notice 5 pounds on me, my wife can never tell....but I can. It's in my BIG FAT FACE! I have made my way into a musical career which is awesome, but in the 21st century everyone and their brother LOVES to take pictures and videos of everything we do onstage - (which is awesome btw) but also a bit of a nightmare the next day when all of the pics are posted online. My first reaction is always "JESUS....that is a fucking fat face". I try and make it a joke and laugh or just let it go and realize it's nothing important........but I would be lying if I told you that it didn't bother me. It does bother me. It gets under my skin. I get this underlying feeling of dread and disgust. I see those pictures and think "thats not what I feel like inside" - I feel good inside and strong and excited, but seeing those pictures start to take that feeling away. I start to feel miserable and dull and not happy. Yuck. Why would anyone pay to come see that fat face play music? Disgusting!! (said in a Silvio Dante accent).

Obviously, I do my best to get over myself and be grateful I am healthy and very very blessed. I remind myself that the camera adds 50 pounds and the angle of the photographs are from 20 feet below and thats why I have 4 chins. But sometimes I get a little bummed about it all. So I tell my wife and she reassures me I look fine and I should give myself a break. So I do. I start to watch what I eat a little more and work harder in the gym. But the bottom line is - I think I look fat when I weigh 175 pounds and I think I look fat when I weigh 200 pounds. I think Sears might have traumatized me in the HUSKY section. 

so, to recap - PLEASE do NOT write comments telling me I am NOT fat and that I should love myself and how wonderful I am - That is NOT what I am looking for here. I wanted to share with you how I feel sometimes and I am pretty sure a lot of my friends and maybe fellow entertainers understand.  It's a touchy subject and I think I need to remind myself that how I feel inside is the most important feeling. I have to say, most of the time I feel real good inside. Maybe, I need to stop looking at all of the pictures and videos of myself and lose some of the narcissism. That's probably the best thing we could all do. I also need to just accept the fact that I have a FAT FACE.....always have, always will. It's the face God made for Italian Aunts to grab both cheeks and squeeze the bejeezus out of!

I hope you had a good laugh and maybe you'll feel better today about yourself, we're all in this together.


Peace, Love...Zito


Friday, February 25, 2022

Getting Older

 I know it's been a minute since I have made a post, but I promise I am trying hard to get back into a groove of posting thoughts and sharing stories. The blog is on my mind as I tour because so many people from all around the globe tell me how much they enjoy it and want more. Sometimes I just don't know what to write, but I think I just need to start writing again and it will start pouring out.

We have all been through so much the past few years. Stuck inside or cutoff from family and friends and so many people have passed away from Covid. It's been hard on us all. We have lost dear family and friends, but not all to Coronavirus. Many were getting older and had health issues, some were sick for long periods of time with other health issues. I think having so much time to spend contemplating has given me an opportunity to realize how fragile life really is in this world. When we are always on the go, you just keep going. But with all the time we have had to ourselves, there was more time for grieving....which I believe is good. When my parents passed away, I was always in the middle of work and raising my own kids and I don't think I had the time to really process the loss. It came back to haunt me in other ways down the road. I was angry for no reason, depressed and sometimes just didn't give a shit about much. But with this gift of time to grieve the losses and the setbacks, I think the anger and resentment is put aside. A lot of the time I will hear my wife, Laura, say "So and so died.....it's so sad, it's like everyone we know is dying". I tell her it's not "like" everyone is dying, everyone IS dying. WE are getting older and the older we get, the more people we know will be passing away, unless we go first. It's only going to continue to happen more and more if we are given the gift for another day above ground. Thats life.

My father was almost 50 years older than me. When I was 13 years old he retired and was in his sixties. I remember he spent most of his retirement going to funerals and wakes of all of his buddies that passed away. They would go and get drunk and celebrate their friend's life. That was mostly his social life that I can remember for all of my life. He was always happy to be the one still standing and drinking with his other friends. He missed the ones that moved on, but he was grateful it wasn't him. I think that is a good lesson. I remember my father always saying to me "Michael, you worry too much". That means so much to me now. My father survived WWII, saw a lot of action and was telling me that life is short and I should try and enjoy it while it lasted. 

I genuinely try and live by those words today. I try not to worry about much that is out of my control. I do my best to make sure my family is taken care of, that I try and stay healthy so I can continue to be a good father and husband and provide for my loved ones. I try to my best with my work and make it all count. But at the end of the day I think about what I could've done better and I give myself a break, I'll try harder tomorrow. Of course I get concerned with world events and Covid and everything the world is throwing at us, but at a some point I have to let it all go and leave it up to God. I cannot change the world events, but I can change my attitude toward life and bring some joy to my family and friends. I have faith that life will work itself out. I have not been let down yet. 

When I lose a loved one or a good friend, it hurts and it makes me sad, like anyone else. But ultimately I realize that I am getting older and thats what happens when people get older, they die. People get sick and leave us too young, it's tragic and painful. Life hurts. But I am still here for some reason and I have to continue to live. Those that have passed on would want it that way. My father would be telling me to stop worrying and live your life, it's short. 

I am getting older, we all are. I can age gracefully or fight it. I think I will try to be as graceful as possible. I am thankful for another day above ground and I will make sure to not worry so much and try and bring some joy to those around me.


Peace, Love, Zito

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Give it what you got

 I know it's been a while since I have written a new entry. It seems I am always on the go and don't have as much time to get to my thoughts and feelings down on this imaginary paper. But I do take time everyday to be quiet and pray and get my head clear for the day ahead. 

We are out on the road right now and so happy to be working again. The band sounds fantastic and everyone is in a good mood. People are beginning to get back out and enjoy live music and it's really a wonderful feeling. After so much time apart, we are finally together again and the energy is electric. A lot of people come up to me and tell me "Man, you are on fire tonight! I haven't seen this side of you in a long time!" I try to explain to them that we are just excited to be playing music, which is true.....

But, I have had a lot of time to reflect over the past few years of Covid, I assume we all have. I had many days when I asked myself what the hell I was doing with my life. What does this all mean? I might have decided to stay home with my family for good and just make music a hobby. I was unsure that the world would ever get back to normal again. Then the 2021 Blues Music Awards came along and I was nominated for two major categories, and then I won both. I was with my family and friends celebrating my wife's birthday and we all watched the awards together. It was exciting and the pride in my wife's face and the joy in my daughters was overwhelming. I have been gone most of my life and they have all learned to live with me not there all of the time. These awards meant more to my family than to myself. I am not a proud man, I feel like I get lucky and most certainly all of the artists nominated are equally deserving. But this proved to me that what I do means something and the acknowledgement of my work made my family very proud. It means I am not just gone working to them, it means more. 

I also turned 51 this year and realized I am no longer just "50"....I am IN my 50s! So what am I doing? There is no time to mess around anymore, this is it. Sometimes I feel like I am an observer. I watch the band play with the audience and I critique myself harshly while doing so. That has to stop, now! Life is happening before my eyes and I need to take part in it every moment. I finally began letting go and playing what I felt in the moment, and I feel excited. I believe my energy level is at a new high and I am not backing down. This is it, it's now or never. Life is for the living and I am not going to watch my life go by anymore. 

Sorry it has taken a minute t get back to blogging, but I spoke with a few friends this tour and they encouraged me to continue writing and sharing, I will try my best to keep up!

Peace, Love, Zito

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Too much is never enough




 

So.....lots going on, always.

We are in the middle of a huge record label campaign for our Tito Jackson release "Under Your Spell". It comes out tomorrow August 6th on Gulf Coast Records here in the USA. It's a BIG deal for sure. The Jackson 5 was one of my main musical inspirations when I was just a youngster. We have a video thats hitting today for his single "Love One Another" that is just way over the top. We have pulled out all of the stops on this one for sure. The video features Tito singing and playing guitar with his band and cameos from all of the Jackson family: Marlon, Jackie, Germaine, Janet, Latoya, Kim Kardashian, Chloe Kardashian, Magic Johnson, Chris Tucker, and so many other wonderful people sharing the message to stop the hate and "Love One Another". Who would've thought this is what we would be doing when I was 50 years old? Not me!

During this past year I have had ample time to make changes and work on myself. I assume we all have :) One of the things I noticed was that I had WAY too much shit. Like too many clothes, too many guitars, too many guitar amps, too much of everything. I was hoarding more or less because I could. When I began touring hard with RSB I began a process of buying guitars with my pal Devon Allman. We were always on the road and always getting paid and always wanting something new to show off. We would almost try to outdo each other and see what we could show up with next. Then we would get bored and buy each others guitars. It was fun and exciting. I also began to give guitars away, a lesson I learned from Anders Osborne. He told me we need to keep buying guitars and then give guitars away to people who need them. In return more guitars seem to keep pouring in from all directions. I love to give away gear. People think you are such a wonderful person when you give stuff to other people, but to me I am the one that is gifted the most with the opportunity to see someone happy. The Universe continues to put stuff in my path so long as I give it away. 

Well, with an entire year off, I had a chance to reevaluate my hoarding. Sophie and I counted guitars last March and the number was 57. I had 57 guitars.That is ridiculous. I can barely play one! So I began selling them and trading them and giving them away. I started to get this feeling I was not playing as well as I could and I needed to be learning more and studying and practicing rather than buying and hoarding. There was plenty of time in my life when I was lucky to own ONE guitar. I never stopped playing that one guitar. I held it night and day, it was everything to me. But that feeling had changed. I never knew what guitar to play or which one I liked. I just messed around all the time and never really got anything done. Since I was out of work for most of the year, those guitars I had hoarded came in extremely helpful. I would sell two or three a month and that would help pay the bills. I began letting go of what I did not need and deciding what I could never part with. I played the guitars that meant the most to me and a lot of the time they were not the most expensive. They had a story, they were from Laura or a friend. Maybe one of them was a guitar I used on an album or a tour that I remembered fondly. 

As of yesterday I have 15 guitars. I like almost everyone of them, most I love. I will still buy a new one here or there or mess around, cause that is fun, but I have decided if I don't play it and it does not serve a purpose, it has to go. The same with clothes and shoes and STUFF. This is all part of a pattern that goes back to my childhood. I grew up poor and we never had anything. In the end I realize that none of this stuff matters. It's the music that matters, the love. My family and friends matter and you matter. I will almost certainly continue to enjoy a new guitar now and then, that way I have something to keep giving away to anyone who needs a guitar. The difference is I don't need anything, or not as much as I did a year ago. It's a lesson I have truly enjoyed learning, getting back to basics. I see that maybe I have another 20-30 years on this planet and I don't want to waste my time consuming, I want to give and enjoy. I try to give everyday whenever I can. I don't care if others don't, I don't judge anyone. I save my money for my family to give my children and grandchildren (maybe someday) when I leave this place. I am not chasing anything anymore, I have all that I could ever want or need. I want to expand my music and my growth, but that doesn't require a lot of stuff.

Tomorrow "Under Your Spell" is released by Tito Jackson on Gulf Coast Records. Please order a copy, download digitally or listen to it on a streaming service. It's a wonderful record!

Peace, Love, Zito

Monday, June 7, 2021

VERY THANKFUL

 I get a lot of requests for a new blog and I think the reason I have been so slow is mostly because I am lazy these days :)

Maybe not....I think I got turned off for a minute when I shared some recovery last summer and one fan got mad at me and thought it was political in nature. That made me think you really can't share much anymore without someone being an asshole. But I should not let one asshole ruin it for the rest of us. I am thankful I have folks that want to hear from me. 

So....it was quite a weekend. Laura celebrated her birthday with 3 nights of parties, which was really fun. She had a blast and that makes me super happy. We had friends over for the first time since the start of the pandemic yesterday to play dominoes and watch the Blues Music Awards. It was sheer delight to win with a house full of my closest peeps. They all cheered when I won and I was of course over the moon. Laura was just beaming all day. Like I always say, I do not make music to win awards. It's very nice to be recognized, but there is always someone else that is just or more deserving. These contests are based on popularity and I am thankful people like me and my music. I am mostly happy for Laura and my family. They are the real winners of these accolades. They have to deal with me being gone all the time, consumed with the work of booking, selling, writing, and having to share me with the world. 
They miss me, but always support me. I believe winning a prestigious award like the BMA is for my family. They get a chance to share in the pride and know that all of the work we do and the time we spend on this music is worth more than money.

I am most thankful to my band members who work very hard to make the music feel and sound so good. They are the unsung heroes. They have to deal with me and my demanding ways, and for some reason they keep chugging along. Not all of them, but the ones that have stuck around :)  a HUGE thanks to the superstar roster we had on this album!!! I had a long list of people I wanted to perform on this album and most of them said yes and came through in spades. Some passed on the offer and some just never got back to me. It's a process to corral 21 guitar players to turn in guitar parts and vocals for an album on time. Nevertheless, our guests are the best in the biz and they made this album such a treat. 

HUGE THANKS to my friend Charles Berry and his super talented son, Charlie Berry and the Berry family. Charles gave me his blessing to run with this project and Charlie stepped up and really delivered on the opening track "St. Louis Blues". To have Charlie playing with me and both of us playing tribute to his grandfather and to our hometown will go down in the books for me. Thanks to Rip Kastaris for making the album cover so beautiful - it's the icing on the cake for sure.

Finally - this album would be absolutely NOTHING without the timeless music of the KING of Rock n Roll, Chuck Berry!!!!!!  HE is the one that wrote all of these amazing songs and lyrics. HE is the one who played all of these super guitar licks that we are all trying to copy. This album is a TRIBUTE to Chuck Berry - not Mike Zito. I am just the lucky sob that gets to play his songs and work with all of these great folks.

Thanks to all of the fans and friends who voted for me this year. Congratulations to ALL of the nominees who are all SUPER badasses. I voted for Tinsley Ellis! 

I am a VERY lucky man who gets to do what he loves....and drink kickass coffee everyday!


Peace, Love, Zito

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Everyday I have the blues....


 "Everyday, everyday I have the blues.  If you see me worrying woman, it's you I hate to lose."  Poetry from the great B.B. King. 

I turned 50 years old last week, something I am damn proud of.  I was certain I would not live this long.  I made terrible choices and lived life like there was no tomorrow.  I was selfish, self-centered and insecure.  I often dreamed of dying "high" so I would not have to deal with the mess I had made of my life.  But...that never happened. God had a plan. (Insert whatever God you like.)  It may sound a little corny, but it's true.  I was not meant to die at 32 years old, strung out on the streets.  I tried, I just wouldn't die.  I finally sobered up accepting the idea that I would not play music again.  To me, music needed suffering in order to have any substance. Soon I found out sobriety made me a real songwriter, a true artist.  I hadn't really been feeling much before that, I was just drunk and high.  In sobriety I had to deal with my feelings head on. Now I was truly suffering :)  What I mean to say is that after 17 years of recovery and sobriety from drugs and alcohol I realize now more than ever that we are all suffering.  Life is suffering. Our bodies are deteriorating every second of every day that we walk this planet. We can take good care of ourselves, but we are dying nonetheless.  We are all suffering the same - from the rich to the poor - top to the bottom.....no one makes it out alive.  Of course, some suffer immeasurably more due to circumstances of poverty, abuse, mental health, physical health....but everyone is suffering the human experience.  I really do not need to add anymore suffering to this life, it is painful at best.  I get joy from my family, my loved ones, my friends.  I get joy from food, sex, music, art, and so on - like everyone else.  The huge difference that has taken place in my years of sobriety is peace of mind.  My spiritual life has taken hold and now leads the way.  I pray everyday, all day.  My day is one continual prayer of gratitude.  I am thankful for my blessings and I am thankful for my suffering.  It sounds crazy, but when I am thankful for "everything" in my day - including the painful parts, the stress, the drama - I understand it is part of a bigger picture and when I turn it over to trust my spirit and trust in my Higher Power I realize I am not alone.  This isn't happening to "Me" - it's happening to all of us, all of the time.  We are connected and we suffer together.  This moment of time we are sharing is ours.  When you consider how long this planet has been here, how long humans have existed and how long they will continue to exist - our time here is minute.  It is nothing.....but it is ours.  That is why we believe the world revolves around us, because we are here right now.  Those that came before us felt the same way and those that will be here after we are long gone.....will feel the same way as well.  This is our time.  Our time to suffer, our time to be thankful.  Life will end and everyone we know will die.  But we are here right now together and that is incredible.  We can cover this experience with drugs and alcohol and hate and anger or we can be open to the experience and live again like there is no tomorrow.  My life now is one continual prayer of gratitude.  My spirit is leading the way and I am along for the ride.

Life is joyful when I am thankful.  Everyday I have the blues, and I am loving every minute of It.

Happy Thanksgiving - Peace, Love, Zito