Mitch Malloy has done it all, from solo success, to fronting Great White, and even a brief flirtation with Van Halen. He is about to release his new solo record The Last Song and took some time to talk about the record and his career.
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Mitch Malloy –
On creating a record entirely on his own – It takes a village. I’m the village. I learned over the years that I was becoming pretty proficient, I’ve been in the studio for 47 years, I’ve had a studio, I’ve had a studio in my house for 47 years, I don’t know how that’s possible, because I’m only 27. I’ve had every instrument at some point in my career, and I’ve played them, and I was learning that I was pretty good with this and I was pretty good with that, and I never considered myself to really be a musician, I consider it myself to be a singer, and a producer always. As a young lad, I would have the challenge of hearing something, the production in my head, but I couldn’t quite put it into my hands, and that’s what producers do. They pick various musicians, players to come in and provide what they can’t do. Then as the years go by, I realized that I’m getting so I can take it from (head) and (heart) to (hands), and I’m like, “Awesome”. For you young guys out there who are thinking like that, you hear these things in your head, but you can’t necessarily get them to tape or get them recorded. Keep working on it. You can get there. I did it.
So yeah, it’s a really gratifying thing and really fun, and I have to say the Making Noise record, which I made before this, I made that almost by mistake by myself. I had a tour and I didn’t know that I had to have a record for the tour, and I’d just been producing all these bands producing, producing, and while I’m producing these bands on playing parts on their record, I’m doing stuff on the record that they’re not there. I’m like, “Oh, it would be great if it went (like this), let me do that”. I play it for them and I’m like, “What do you think?” They’re like, “That’s great”. “Alright, let’s keep it”. So I get it to the point where I’m getting really proficient and I’m confident. So when the Making Noise record was upon me, I was like, “How am I gonna do this? I don’t have time to even book the guys that would bring in”, because I always have guys in mind as a producer. I’ll just do it by myself. So once I realized that I could do that, I thought, “Well, I guess I could do it again, and I’m not sure if I ever will”. Honestly, I didn’t know that I was gonna do this record by myself until I started doing it, I don’t think, and then I just felt good doing it, so I just kept it. I just kept doing it. 1:02
On if he is comfortable enough as a producer to edit himself – I think that’s actually one of my talents, I’m able to be that other person. I can somehow not be that guy that sang, or not be the guy that played that horrible guitar riff that didn’t last the day. I thought that was cool yesterday, what was I thinking? I’m going through that right now, actually. I played a solo yesterday that I thought was good, today I listened to it and I went, “No, I’ll be making that better”. I don’t get attached. I think when you don’t put a lot of ego into the music, because the music is way more important than you are, that’s how I always looked at it. The music is, for me, the king, I just bow to the music, I just try to make the music better, the music is my boss kind of thing. I’m able to separate myself a go, “That sucked. That needs to be better. That bass part sucks, I need to make that better”. 4:26
On the record’s positive lyrical themes and the power of music – “Using This Song” I wrote for my wife. I couldn’t believe it, actually. I wrote that song in 15 minutes or something. It’s just one of those that just went (quickly). It was probably 3:00 am, playing one of my 36 guitars, I don’t know which one I was playing, I have too many guitars, and you can relate. I also build guitars. I also buy the ones that don’t build though, that’s the problem, if I just had the ones I built, that’d be manageable. But anyway, yeah, I just started playing that and I got that melody and I thought, “Oh God, I love this melody”, and then the words just plop out. Sometimes the word, the perfect words just come out with the melody. “The Last Song” that happened as well. I literally had eight songs pretty much finished. I was like, “Okay, in two more songs”. “One of a Kind” was number nine, and I was like, “Oh, oh, this is dirty and nasty, this is awesome. I think this will be the first single.” Then after I was done with that, “Okay, I need one last song”, and I’m writing it and I’m like, “I have no idea what the song’s gonna be, but I kinda like the vibe. Maybe I should just call it “The Last Song”. How do I do that? That’s kind of a negative title”, I thought, “I know, I’m living my life like it’s the last song! Yeah, perfect! I’m a genius”. 6:14
On if he has a theme in mind when he creates a record – It happens all different ways. I would say though primarily, the songs come from the guitar. The guitar is my oldest and my dearest friend in the world. It never lets me down. It’s my pal, it’s always by my side. That’s why I have so many of them. You pick it up and you just start almost subconsciously playing and something pops out that didn’t come out yesterday or that you didn’t notice before or whatever. You just kind of chase that a little bit. For me, song structure is very fast. I always hear what the next section should be when I’m playing the first section. It just happens very naturally, “It’ll go here and then it’ll go here, and then the chorus would be like this, the melody will be like this”, and it happens very fast. It’s a very natural process for me.
Then what happens is the melody usually comes with the chords, those are the first things that come. Then I find that most melodies have a lyric already built into them, you just have to figure out what it is. So what does this melody sound like? Oh, it almost sounds like I should be singing. So I don’t know, hopefully, people, when they hear my music, they notice, hopefully, they notice that. Hopefully, they notice that the lyrics that I’m singing happen to really fall nicely with the melody. I hope that people notice that people probably don’t think that, but maybe subconsciously, they notice it because actually, that’s what happens, the melody helped me write the lyric. So that’s how that works. 8:37
On if it was a conscious decision to write a positive, uplifting record – As conscious of a decision is possible to make in the organic process that I do. The process is the process. You can’t really force it. I think that’s sort of contrived, and so I try to stay away from that, I just try to let the process be the process. I was noticing people were talking about what’s happening, and for me, if I wanna watch the news, I watch the news. But if I don’t wanna watch the news, I don’t wanna watch the news. Don’t put the news in what I wanna watch, other than the news. Make it about something else. So that is how I think. So I want my music to take people to someplace that makes them feel good and not remind them of the shit that’s going on in the world, so that’s my intention, and I’m happy to hear that I succeeded that with you at least. 11:12
On the decision to release the record on the SING platform – So I was initially contacted by a label that wanted the record, I didn’t end up going with that label, although I was very flattered by their offer and will always be it. I decided I wanted to keep it on my own imprint, as I’ve been doing, I just like having the control over my heart, and I’m lucky enough to be able to do that. So I decided to do that. But Cargo has a label and a distribution company in London, and they had imported my debut CD on RCA into London, and I’d remember that. So I contacted John and he was like, “Oh, I’m in”. I said, “I have a new record. You interested?” He’s like, “Yeah, let’s go”. So I started planning things with him. So it’s on Cargo, Europe, and Asia, and that’s coming out July 7th, so the official release date is July 7th. So then later in the day, SING came in and said, “Do you wanna do vinyl?” And I’m like, “I don’t know, do I?” The answer is yes and no. I’ve always wanted a vinyl, because I’ve never had it. In my career, I’ve never had a vinyl. We had a 45 of “Anything At All” for radio, but that was it. I’m such a young man.
I was so intrigued by the whole vinyl thing, and Harry Hess approached me about it, and I love Harry. We go way back and I totally trust him. He’s like, “Well, you know, here’s what we have”, and I was like, “Wow, that sounds like something I can’t refuse”. So it’s set things back to do it and Cargo was totally good with that and everything, because this was supposed to be out like a month ago. So we pushed it back to July 7th, so that’s the official release date. The SING package, to make vinyl is very expensive, so they had this idea, “Well, why don’t we make it a package and make it really appealing, put a ton of stuff like live acoustic versions of some of the songs that only the people that buy the bundle get, do a live concert and do a golden ticket, that people that win the golden ticket, they get a live concert with you, and they’re the only ones that get that. Give them the signed CD, signed LP, make it color, it’s white vinyl, throw in picks, do a signed poster for all the people who get the bundle”. They had all these suggestions, and I said yes to all of them, because I’m insane. I’m like, “Yeah, let’s just do everything”. If you’re gonna charge that much money, it’s gotta be appealing, so we just stack the deck and the package is vast. That’s in pre-sale now, so people can actually buy all that right now if they go to singmarket.com or if they go to MitchMalloy.com, and that has a link to do it as well. if you buy the bundle, the bundle, you get the CD as well, and you get immediate downloads. So you get the record as soon as you put your credit card in there, boom, you can go get the record and download it. So there are some people who have the record now. 12:43
On if there was internal chaos during his time with Great White – Yeah, that’s one word for it. Chaotic, exhausting. Exhausting chaos. I don’t wanna pile on those guys. The easiest thing in the world is to talk shit, it’s so easy, you can do it about your kid, that you love. So why go there? There’s no point. People have the perception that they have. Some people love that band, and let’s let them love that band. I’m not gonna offer any insights of dirt into what that band is or how they operate or anything like that. I’m appreciative for the time, the four years, the fans were amazing, mostly. 17:03
On looking back on his time with Van Halen – I’m not a “woulda, shoulda, coulda” kind of guy. So when I think about it, it’s just kind of like, “Well, that happened”. You know what I mean? There’s nothing I can do about it. It happened the way it happened, because of how it happened, or whatever. People are like, “Yeah, but don’t you think you could have?” No, I don’t, because what happened happened and it’s in the past, and now it’s gone. So we have what we have, I have those memories. I have my time with Ed, nobody can take it away from me and I take that to my grave. I got to write with him, we have proof of that. It’s out there. It’s an amazing thing that I never thought would happen to me, I never thought in a million years that Eddie Van Halen would call me on the phone and fly me into Van Halen, literally. 18:56
On if there was any other band he wishes he sang for – So there’s one that I can talk about because it never really…there’s a bunch that I was never offered, but it was almost offered. One thing that I don’t think I’ve ever really talked about, and I think he would be okay with me saying this, but I had met Steve Lukather before I started recording my debut album. He was playing at the Baked Potato one night in LA, and Arthur (Payson) took me, my producer, took me, he goes, “Hey, let’s go to the Baked Potato, Steve Lukather is playing”, I’m like, “Oh my God, I love Steve Lukather”. So we went and I got to meet him, I just shook his hand, he was standing on stage with his guitar on, and it was very casual, that place, and he knew Arthur because Arthur is a producer in LA, and so I got to meet him. I think he remembered that, and plus I think a lot of his friends or whatever we’re playing on my record, so maybe he paid attention to it. Maybe he saw me on Leno, I’m not sure. But I was pretty convinced years later that he had no idea who I was, I would think there was no way he remembered me.
So I wrote to him on, I think it was MySpace and a private message if you could even do that. It might have been Facebook, I’m not sure. But anyway, I said, “I always wish I was the singer of Toto”. Toto had been gone now forever, there was no Toto. I said, “I always wish I was the singer in Toto”. He replied in like 20 seconds, “I also wished you were the singer in Toto”. That was his reply. I literally jumped out of my chair, I was like, “Yeah”. So I thought at the very least, I’m gonna be pals with Steve Lukather, and that’s what happened. We’re pals. So that never materialized, it never happened, but we talked about it, and then he went back to his singer, which made total sense. I thought he made the right decision there. He said, “We’re gonna be concentrating mostly on Europe and our record with him did really well in Europe”, and that’s really what Toto did. If you noticed, they were touring in Europe and not here. I was like, “Why don’t they tour here?” But anyway, it was never offered to me, just for the record, Steve Lukather never said, “Congratulations, you’re in Toto”, never happened. Only Ed said that. But there have been a couple like that that are just sort of casual, friendly banter, but that’s one of them where I’d be like, “Oh my God, I would love to be in that band”. There are a few like that. 20:14
On if he has touring plans – Yes, we have plans to do some shows. There’s no tour per se because that’s a whole other level of commitments that I’m not sure, I can really swing. But we’ll be doing some shows. Actually, some really cool ones that I can’t say yet, but, yes, plans to do that. I have sort of like a collection of musicians that are fantastic that I love, that I stay in touch with, that are busy, and so for me to get them, I have to book them pretty far out. So yeah, I always have six guitar players and bass players and drummers, and fantastic musicians that I’m lucky to know. 24:03
On future plans – I have a couple of things, and I think it’s probably okay to talk about things that might happen. It might not happen. I guess it’s okay, right, as long as you qualify it with, “It might not happen”. I was approached, and this is the first time me saying this in public, by a Hollywood producer to move about my life. So that is being planned now, so that’s in the works. I thought it would be cool for me to have my singles that did the best from my debut, and to own those. I can’t own those because Sony owns them. So 10 years ago, when Bryan Adams was on tour, I begged Mickey Curry, and I’d been begging him 20 years prior to that, to come to my studio in Nashville and record drums on a couple of my singles. So I have had those drum tracks for 10 years. I just thought for the movie, I should probably re-record those. I feel like I finally have good enough sounding gear and guitars and whatnot to represent it properly. I feel good. I live in Florida, I physically feel way better than I ever did in Nashville, it’s one of the reasons I left Nashville because it was like making me sick because I was so allergic there. That’s kind of what’s happening. So there’s a lot happening actually, there’s a lot kind of bubbling up and I’m recording and it’s almost done “Anything At All”, the new version of “Anything At All”, the first single, and “Our Love Will Never Die”, which I’m working on now. That was the solo that sucked yesterday. 25:30