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Michael Mayo Opens Up About 'Bones,' a Sterling Debut and a Radiant Song of Himself

Michael Mayo by Raj Naik.jpg
Raj Naik
Michael Mayo, whose album 'Bones' is a highly personal debut.

Earlier this month, Michael Mayo finally took the leap as a solo recording artist — with Bones, his auspicious Mack Avenue debut. But before he did that, this talented singer and composer had something to get off his chest.

At 29, Mayo had already joined some of our favorite artists on tour and in the studio: Kneebody, Jacob Collier, even Herbie Hancock. Still, something had made him wait before making the first full statement under his own name.

"After I got off tour with Herbie, I had simultaneous realizations — one of which is 'I want to make an album finally,' and the other is, 'I need to be out,'" Mayo reflects on The Checkout. "I don't want my first album to be me not living authentically. An artist expressing themselves authentically is one of the greatest acts of service we can do."

From one angle, I'm glad Michael Mayo waited while cutting his teeth with some of the finest in music, including fulfilling his "college nerd jazz boy dream" on Ben Wendel's High Heart, featuring Shai Maestro, Gerald Clayton, Joe Sanders and Nate Wood.

The music on Bones is polished, fully realized and mature — an enriching experience with some unexpected turns along the way. "Stolen Moments," which layers 250 tracks deep, is as intricate as they come, while "The Way" could be programmed for pop radio — in a good way, by which I mean it has hooks for days.

Michael Mayo - The Way (Official Music Video)

As our podcast progresses, Mayo recounts the occasional uneasiness around coming out to his parents and his fans, and what it means to be a bisexual Black man singing jazz today. "There are all these things that have their own social dynamics and micro-dynamics," he says. "Coming out isn't like one thing; you do it several times in many different situations, which sucks that it has to be that way right now."

Michael Mayo performs at Rockwood Music Hall on Tuesday, June 29. Bones is available now from Mack Avenue.

For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.