Michael Mirabella makes merry music

by Cathleen Cusachs / Beacon Staff • February 25, 2015

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Last weekend, junior Michael Mirabella put his schoolwork on hold—at least for a few days—to travel to New York City and finish the production of his new album.

Despite his passion for songwriting, the writing, literature, and publishing said he prefers to fit his feel-good music at Emerson, instead of a music school, because he felt it was a better fit.  He said he feared he would ruin his love for music by studying it in school and turning it into work. The WLP program seemed to fit him, he said; it gives him another creative outlet and keeps him inspired.

“What I like about [writing] is that whether it’s a writing workshop class or a lit class, you’re constantly surrounded by these creative ideas,” Mirabella said. “I call it like a second language, creatively. I don’t necessarily speak it fluently like music, but it’s fun to try stuff I’ve never done.”

Mirabella said he formed his first band when he was 14 years old, a punk group called The Big Tuna, inspired by a nickname given to the character Jim in The Office. After writing and performing his first song with this band, he realized this was what he wanted to do. Now he is a solo folk-rock artist, but recruits friends to play alongside him often.

Performing live is Mirabella’s favorite part of being a musician.

“I just love to get in front of people and jump around singing—I’m a loud person,” Mirabella said. “The idea of working at it hard enough to make people care about the stuff that I write, that seems like the best thing in the world to me...I think it’s fun to go play music that hopefully makes everyone in the room feel better.”

Mirabella’s current album in the works, Now Is Enough, was inspired by a book he started reading this summer. The book, The Power of Now, is about living in the present, an idea that Mirabella found he was already embracing. He said his usual process for writing songs begins when something momentous happens in his life, and ends with him quickly, but thoughtfully, writing a song.

He also likes to put a positive twist in his music to encourage his listeners to make conscious decisions to be happy.

“The songs are all kind of happy in nature, so they have a very folky feel when they’re played acoustically,” Mirabella said. “Obviously, sometimes, life throws stuff at you and you have to do your best, but for the most part, day in and day out, I’ve just tried to actively think about being a happier person. It’s just started to kind of come out a little more in my writing.”

Now Is Enough was self-produced and recorded using one of Emerson’s recording studios in the Ansin Building. Although the album is Mirabella’s, it features bass played by junior Harry Brownstein, drums by sophomore Jack Naylor, and other guest vocalists and musicians. 

One special appearance is from the Emerson a cappella group Achoired Taste, whose performance on the record moved Mirabella to tears, he said. He said he expects the album to be completed in late April or early May, and is planning for a possible two-week summer tour.

“When we have project meetings, or when we’re rehearsing, we’re having a really good time,” said Brownstein, a visual and media arts major, “but he’s all about getting stuff done.”

Brownstein and Mirabella shared a suite as freshmen, and they quickly realized they shared a mutual love of music. After many sessions of lighthearted playing, Mirabella asked him to play bass for his songs, Brownstein said. Brownstein said Mirabella is one of the most motivated people he has ever met.

Mirabella uses this motivation to handle his classwork and his music. Although he doesn’t get perfect grades, Mirabella says he is an average student. He said also works two jobs while spending between 20 and 40 hours a week on his music. This year it’s been especially challenging because of the production of Now Is Enough, he said, which has been planned since May 2014.

“[Mirabella’s] music is taking more precedence because it’s just a better outlet for him to express himself than writing, literature, and publishing,” Brownstein said. “If you want to find out how good of a writer he is, you’d listen to the album. All the songs on the album come from his mind, his heart, and soul.”