Since the release of his debut album Here We Go Again, pop/rock singer and songwriter Michael Nappi has been building a strong and burgeoning following, and he's doing it grassroots-style - winning over fans, peers, and music executives alike - one by one, song by song, show after show.
Nappi first gained industry attention with his single “7:26.” The support of his local New York Triple A radio station, 107.1 The Peak WXPK-FM, led by Program Director Chris Herrmann, set him on his way to becoming a bona fide contender in today’s competitive radio market. Nappi’s live performance of the song was included on the critically-acclaimed Peak Performances Volume 2 CD along with tracks from Rob Thomas, the John Butler Trio, and Eric Hutchinson. Here We Go Again continued to gain momentum with nationwide airplay and music videos for “7:26″ and the fan favorite “Save the Night in a Bottle.”
With guitar in hand, Nappi embarked on multiple regional tours playing radio stations and notable venues from California to Colorado, New York to Nashville, and landing several morning television appearances including NBC Philadelphia, FOX Connecticut, and FOX Atlanta.
Here We Go Again was produced by Steve Buonanotte, mixed by Grammy Award-winning mix engineer Jeff Juliano (John Mayer, Train, Jason Mraz, Dave Matthews Band), and is available on iTunes.
The Making of Here We Go Again
Still, one could argue, there’s a certain irony to naming your debut album Here We Go Again. “I guess,” the New York native acknowledges, smiling. “But, look,” he continues with his trademark candor, “I’ve been doing this my whole life. To me, this album is the culmination of years of the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears. I’ve been writing and performing music in one form or another for as long as I can remember.”
The third of six children, Nappi’s passion for music began at an early age with his introduction to his father’s vintage LPs. The Beatles, along with classic crooners like Johnny Cash and Elvis, captivated the youngster and sparked many an impromptu performance, most often staged on his apartment building’s courtyard benches – and, on one auspicious occasion, on the hood of the superintendent’s green Pontiac, a disastrous foray which ended with the young Nappi snapping the antenna in half and tumbling off the car.
Undeterred, and armed with a trumpet from his fourth-grade music class, Nappi’s budding showmanship continued when he began serenading his neighbors from the family’s front steps with everything from Taps to classic Chicago riffs. “The trumpet was a blast,” he remembers. “But I discovered it’s kinda hard to play it and sing at the same time, so I started sneaking into my older brother’s room to pick at his acoustic guitar and play songs I could sing to. I was hooked.” He later added bass guitar and keyboards to his instrumental repertoire and, by his mid-teens, was an accomplished musician, composing, recording and performing his own music locally.
Nappi spent several years honing his craft in original and cover bands and, in a return to his acoustic roots, in the occasional solo gig. “I love being on stage, and I can’t imagine not performing. Whether it’s been to five people slung over their bar stools or to sold out crowds in 5,000-seat theaters, I’ve always considered it a privilege to work as a musician,” he says. “And, of course, I was always writing.”
Inspired in equal measure by legends like James Taylor, Michael McDonald, and Stevie Wonder, and some of today’s freshest and most inventive artists, including John Mayer, Jason Mraz and Train’s Pat Monahan, Nappi’s passion for songwriting has only deepened. “The craftsmanship, eloquence and intelligence of their songs are unparalleled,” he says. “I’ve listened to James Taylor and thought, ‘Why would I ever write another love song? It’s been done to perfection.’ But, on the other hand, it sure makes me want to try. These artists raise the bar. They are the Shakespeares of our time.”
For the making of Here We Go Again, Nappi teamed up with producer/songwriter Steve Buonanotte. The album is a showcase for his dynamic range as a singer and songwriter. Remarkably versatile and unabashedly honest, he transitions seamlessly from sensitive, acoustic-based ballads to explosive pop/rock anthems, each melody-driven track blending acoustic and electric guitars, live rock drums and soulful groove loops to create a lush foundation for his expressive vocals and thoughtful lyrics. Nappi credits this distinctive sound to the chemistry between himself and Buonanotte.
“I’d already started writing for the album,” Nappi says. “I’d even recorded a few stripped-down acoustic versions in my home studio, but working with Steve really opened up new possibilities. From the first song we collaborated on, I knew we had a similar philosophy and musical sense about us, although we definitely each brought our own sounds and styles to the table. Listening to Steve’s spot-on production values breathe new life into my tunes was really exciting, and having another songwriter lay down a progression I could sing a melody over, and write a lyric to, allowed me to tap into a new creative process. It really was the best of both worlds.”
The album took on a whole new dimension when Grammy Award-winning mix engineer, Jeff Juliano (John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band, Lifehouse), joined the project. “Besides being one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, Jeff has an incredible talent for knowing where to take a song without ever compromising the artist’s integrity,” Nappi says. “His patience, intuitive sense of placement and impeccable ear really define him as a musician’s mix engineer.”
It has long been the artist’s prerogative to chart the map of his life in song, and Here We Go Again is no exception. From exploring the cyclical nature of repeated mistakes (and the failed attempt to escape them) in the album’s title track, to reflecting on a missed opportunity with a lover in “Pretend,” Nappi bravely exposes more than a few of his personal watershed moments in the thirteen-track album. “I was gonna call her/When I got home/Back to the city/Back to alone/I can still see her face/Tears in her eyes/Can’t remember why/I said goodbye,” he sings in “Pretend.”
“Who doesn’t have a story to tell about regret?” he asks. Or one about grief, one might add, which Nappi candidly explores in the intimate ballad “Guardian Angel,” a tender tribute to his late father. “I like to write about the common threads we all share with each other,” he explains. “We all experience those moments where we think nobody else could possibly understand what it is we’re going through – until we realize the human race has been loving and living and losing and learning since the beginning of time. It’s a comfort to me to know that we’re never as alone as we think.”
Both “Pretend” and “Guardian Angel” feature Nappi’s good friend, renowned Spyro Gyra guitarist, Julio Fernandez, who also lent his considerable talent – and a decidedly Latin flair – to the sexually-charged “Disturbed.” “Julio started playing this Flamenco vibe and immediately the whole energy of the track changed,” Nappi reminisces. “It was magical.”
Nappi certainly brings his own brand of magic to Here We Go Again, delivering on both the pop and rock promises of the genre he commands, all with a nod to the blue-eyed soul that runs through his blood. He flirts in the feel-good fun of “Save the Night in a Bottle” and “Limousine” as effortlessly as he breaks your heart in the haunting “7:26,” the album’s first single, his own voice breaking with raw emotion as he sings: “Every drop of rain/Has a story to be told/Before it hits the ground/Giving up and letting go.”
“Love doesn’t always hurt,” Nappi confides. “It’s just easier to write about it when it does.” Like in “Gone,” a hard-hitting rhythmic groove where Nappi unveils the paradox inherent in the self-preservation tactics we employ when we fear losing the one we love. “You know their tricks,” he reveals, “And you’re just preparing yourself for the day when they may leave. The ‘I won’t even miss you when you’re gone’ is such a defensive lie. It’s completely the opposite.”
Interestingly enough, this song was almost never written.
“Steve tossed me a CD of a track one night as I was leaving his studio and said, ‘It’s not my best effort but maybe you can do something with it.’ By the time I had driven home, I had most of the tune written in my head. I called him later to say, ‘Man, if that’s not your best effort, I can’t wait to see what’s to come.’”
In the end, what came was Here We Go Again, a collection of personal stories that finds Nappi coming full circle as he shares his journey through lyrics that resonate, timeless melodies and an unforgettably powerful voice. “Deep inside, I’m still just that little kid singing as loud as I can on the hood of Mr. Hornberger’s car,” he admits. “Here I go again.”