Interview: Mike Mangione & the Union

Full disclosure:  I’ve been listening to Mike Mangione & the Union’s new album Offering a LOT lately.  I’d been a fan since the inception of the Chicago Roots Collective, first seeing them play live at Chicago’s Double Door at the first CRC showcase, but it hit the next level after a few afternoons of Offering keeping me company.

Each song is an expert lesson on arrangement – every instrument supporting Mangione’s dynamic vocals, cello, violin, and lead guitar creating lush soundscapes without ever getting in each others’ way.  It’s been one of those records where I have a new favorite song every few days.  Whether it’s the down and dirty blues number “Somewhere Between” or the moody, slow building “At Your Gate,” this band has a great sense of scale that has developed since their 2008 release Tenebrae.  Satisfying crescendos expand outward while smaller moments remain tender and honest. Give them a listen on my Mid by Northwest Radio to hear what I mean.

But enough of my gushing…  I sat down with the band a few days ago to talk about music communities in Chicago, Milwaukee, and on the road – plus some other fun topics.  Here are a couple of my favorite excerpts, and then most of the interview in mp3 format chunks:

“I think in the touring community you find the community that puts all the bullshit aside.  When you tour you either play with road dogs like you, or you play with people trying to work their market – they’re from there, they haven’t played out.  The difference is the people who haven’t played out are, I think, so finicky and protective… It’s the road dogs, those are the guys who will help you out because they understand it’s not a zero sum game.” – Mike Mangione & John Collins

“Know what you’re bringing to that market.  Know who you are, develop that first, and then don’t settle on finding other people who agree with it if you’re getting a band together.  Start there, as opposed to going in somewhere and trying to tech onto something that’s just not natural to you.  Make it very natural.” – Mike Mangione

MH:  “What is the origin story for your band?”

[audio:|titles=Mangione Interview: Origin Story]

MH:  “How was the Milwaukee music scene when you landed there?”

[audio:|titles=Mangione Interview: Milwaukee Music Scene]

MH:  “How has Music community changed for you in Milwaukee and Chicago?”

[audio:|titles=Mangione Interview: Scene Changes]

On the Chicago Roots Collective and being on the road:

[audio:|titles=Mangione Interview:  CRC and the Road]

MH:  “What kind of community do you find on the road – abstract or concrete?”

[audio:|titles=Mangione Interview:  Building Community on the Road]

Talking smack on Indianapolis and embracing regional fast food delicacies (such as Cozy Corner in Memphis, TN):

[audio:|titles=Mangione Interview: Down with Indy and Cozy Corner Plug]

MH: “What are some inhibitors that you see to building true community around music?”

[audio:|titles=Mangione Interview:  Inhibitors to Community]

MH: “What are some encouraging things you see around local or touring music community?”

[audio:|titles=Mangione Interview:  Encouraging Changes in Community Building]

MH:  “What advice would you give to someone who is moving to a new place to do music?”

[audio:|titles=Mangione Interview: Nuggets of Advice]

Nez, John, Patrick, Mike, Tina, and Tom

Mike Mangione & the Union are:

Nez – drums
John Collins – bass
Patrick Hoctor – cello
Mike Mangione – vocals & guitar
Tina Priceman – violin
Tom Mangione – guitar

Be sure to visit the Mike Mangione & the Union Official Website, for the latest news and tour dates, and to follow them on your social network of choice!