Rahway, NJ- LeAnn Rimes, the youngest Grammy winner of all time with over 44 million albums sold, will be performing on the Union County Performing Arts Center’s Main Stage on April 30. Her opening entertainment has appeared on season 10 of The Voice, with the video of his audition and subsequent duet with Adam Levine (Maroon 5) amassing a whopping 8 million views on YouTube. His own YouTube channel has half a million views by itself, and his first EP debuted in the Top 50 Pop Albums on iTunes. Representing for New Jersey and his hometown of Colonia is none other than 23 year old Mike Schiavo, who amidst his extraordinary achievements at such a young age is still incredibly humble and eager to continue honing his craft. I interviewed Mike to learn more about his beginnings, his influences and where he’s headed next.
Q: You started performing in 2010. What was your very first live performance experience?
A: My very first real performance experience was with my first band. I had an alternative rock band that, at the time, I sang and played drums for. We weren't the best, but it was everyone’s first band, and it definitely sparked my love for performing regardless. From there I started writing music on my own as a solo artist and just continued to fall more and more in love with it.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your journey leading to performing on The Voice and all your successes afterwards.
A: I know I'm still young, but the journey up to now felt like a lifetime. You wait for an experience or opportunity like that for so long, and I was working really hard. I moved to LA at 21 to push myself, and The Voice came up within my first few months out here. It was an extremely validating moment for me to know that I made the right choice to drop everything and pursue music. Since the show, I’ve been able to tour the country as well as release my first EP, which crazily ended up in the Top 50 Pop Albums on iTunes for that week.
Q: Your influences run from the classics like Elvis Presley and The Beatles, all the way up to today's idols, such as Ed Sheeran and Justin Timberlake. Where would you say your own music falls?
A: This is such a tough one to answer, because my music does fall more into the pop/RnB feel, but I am genuinely influenced by so many different types of music. Elvis is the reason I started singing, and my dad played The Beatles constantly while I grew up, but I can't say my sound leans towards either of them. I'm trying to occupy my own little area in pop. I want to have the mainstream feel, but I also want people to have trouble comparing me to somebody else. I feel that is the ultimate goal to be successful.
Q: On The Voice, you were able to jump right into Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved," with Adam Levine telling you the chords on the spot. What does it take to get to that level of confidence performing?
A: I wouldn't say it FELT like confidence, hahaha. It was nerve-wracking, but also in a moment like that, I couldn't NOT be my best. That's such a crazy experience: to be able to say I sang one of my favorite songs with the actual artist who wrote and performed it. That song was a big one for me once I started to gravitate towards modern pop, so I just went on auto pilot and let it happen.
Q: What would you say is the greatest challenge about what you do? The greatest reward?
A: My self confidence is the biggest hurdle in my life. I've always been one to put myself down and not let myself fully feel accomplished with anything. In a way I don't mind it, because it really pushes me to be my best. But, it does make things hard. The industry is a tough place to not be confident. It is extremely rewarding, however, to be able to look back and be happy with something I release. My EP features songs I'm extremely proud of, so listening to it and knowing I wrote those songs with everything in me (despite tearing them apart in the process) is the greatest reward.
Q: Where do you want your path to lead you next?
A: There is so much more I want to accomplish. I feel good about where I’ve brought myself, but I'm not naive enough to think I don't have a long way to go. I want to tour this country and eventually the world. I want to let my songwriting grow not only for myself, but to be able to lend hands in writing with other artists that I listen to. The goal is to be as big as I possibly can while making music that matters to me. Who knows what is going to happen but I am excited to see.
Mike’s set begins at 6 PM on April 30. Be sure to order tickets to see him and LeAnn Rimes online at ucpac.org, over the phone by calling (732) 499-8226 or in person at the box office. Box office hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 AM- 5 PM, with extended hours of 11 AM- 8 PM on Thursdays. The Union County Performing Arts Center is located in downtown Rahway at 1601 Irving Street and is easily accessible to major roads and public transportation.