It's 3 p.m. on a Sunday, and Mike Errico is at Penn Station in New York City waiting for the train home. It's Mike Senior -- his father's -- birthday, and the family is gathering to celebrate. His phone is almost out of batteries. He has completely forgotten his interview with Street, but he's a sweet, humble man and Street is an agreeable magazine.
An hour and a half later at his parents' home, a female relative of his, in all the excitement of Mike Senior's birthday, explains to a questioning Mike Junior that she has no idea who is on the phone for him, but assures him that Street is "lovely," a word that can easily be used to describe both Mike Errico and his music.
Errico is a typical Manhattan musician. As a singer-songwriter with three studio albums and one live album under his belt, he feels that the city of New York has a lot to do with who he is today, explaining that it's "that environment" that inspires him. In a place where there are venues for every occasion, Errico chose the lower Manhattan venue The Mercury Lounge (where bands like The Strokes made their name) as his home space, because he says, "I thought it was the best fit for my music. It's a great room. It's a rock room, but it's a very versatile rock room."
Errico is the living version of a versatile rock room. His life consists of various opposites and a wide variety of activities that somehow make complete sense together. His new album Skimming is funny yet sensitive. It's folky in its story telling, yet it's a rock record. It's sweet and romantic, yet intelligent. He has spent time touring with a wide variety of artists, from rap group Run-DMC, to pop treasure Dido, to college rock favorite Guster.
Fittingly, Errico's influences range about as much as his touring partners. His dream band consists of Stevie Wonder, Ani DiFranco and [Led Zeppelin drummer] John Bonham. "It's like if those three people had a band, I would say that would be it. That would be the bottom line," he explains. It's a connection most wouldn't make, but Errico is not just a music maker, he's a music fan. When questioned about his current favorites, he comments, "I like the emo bands that aren't really that popular, like Cursive. I love Rival Schools." At mention of joining his dream band, he excitedly exclaims, "Oh my god. How great would that be?"
It's no wonder Errico has been compared to Ani DiFranco (which he explains is a conscious effort, because he has "a lot of respect for her, her work, her business and her ethic"), as well as Dave Matthews and Dashboard Confessional. These comparisons are due in part to his quality as a songwriter, but it's also evident the comparisons are due to his honesty as a musician and his love for his work. He recorded Skimming without a record contract, gathering money from touring so that he could record on his own terms -- and later signed a deal. In a time when record companies are struggling, Errico explains that this way it is a "sweet deal for everyone involved, and the result is better art. That's the bottom line." With standout tracks on Skimming like "Grace" getting airplay, he is making his mark as a great songwriter, and the variety and love of music that he treasures and exudes in his life are not lost.
In the end, the art is the bottom line. Errico is a man of many trades. Diversity is not something he talks about -- it's something he lives. He not only makes his own music, he plays on other records, he writes for music magazines and he's a photographer. He even took the pictures on his album cover and, oddly enough, they are pictures of him. As a music fan, he agrees that the iPod is "pretty much the greatest thing that ever happened," and as a musician he was once kicked off of a tour by the headliner for being "too good." Mike Senior may have been celebrating a birthday, but Mike Junior is on his way to the big time, and the whole thing really is just "lovely."
Catch Mike Errico at The Point (880 W. Lancaster Avenue), on Feb. 7. $10. More info at www.errico.com