Mike Mangioine’s music might not be appropriate for church but it can definitely take you there. Stylistically, the music is as diverse as the people that made it. One part Mike and Tom Mangione, brothers raised in Chicago, influenced by blues and folk; one part Monique and Chauntee Ross, two classically trained multi-instrumentalist sisters, raised by ministers in a traveling family band; and one part Josh Collazo and Seth Ford Young, both forming the rhythm section for the band, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. The six individuals came together, in the spring of 2015, at the legendary United Recording in Los Angeles with producer Matt Linesch of Edward Sharpe distinction.
For nine years and four albums Mike has been writing what American Songwriter Magazine calls “Orchestral Folk” music. But it was at the beginning of writing for this record that he found himself in a peculiar spot – without a band. Four of the original six members of the Union left to pursue other interests leaving Mike and his brother/guitarist, Tom, behind. Instantly, Mike began trying out new violin and cellists, even touring with a few, but he never fully settled on anyone until he met the Ross sisters.
Monique and Chauntee Ross grew up in Milwaukee with parents Roosevelt and Deborah Ross. The Ross family children, consisting of four girls and a boy, were trained multi-instrumentalists who specialized in classical, gospel, and praise music. The Ross family had three passions: church, music, and family. They combined all three to form JohnRoss Ministries, a traveling family missionary band. Eventually, Monique and Chauntee left the family band to continue their musical education in collage, ultimately forming their own string duo after graduation.
A mutual musical acquaintance introduced the Mangiones to the Ross sisters. The sisters were meant to be substitutes for an upcoming tour that the current fill-in string players couldn’t make. The moment Mike heard the sisters’ voices, combined with their playing, however, he decided he needed them as permanent players. Their harmonies were like a new color being added to the creative pallet, Mike would recollect. The soulful quality of the sisters’ voices were a rich support to the passion in Mangione’s voice, and the vulnerable contemplation in his lyrical content. Mike immediately began writing harmony parts into the new material and swiftly the band’s sound and identity were recreated.
The rhythm section for the band materialized, fortuitously, out of an ongoing conversation Mike was having. Years earlier the Mangione brothers had befriended members of the band Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros at a festival in Milwaukee. Sharpe’s drummer, Josh Collazo, had been helping Mike search for producers for the next project. When Mike found himself without a rhythm section, Josh and bandmate/bass player Seth Ford Young, stepped in to round out the six-piece band. Josh and Seth’s years of history together in Edward Sharpe made them a formidable unit, and as such they provided a solid and tasteful foundation for the sonic layers of Mangioine’s music. In completing his initial conversation with Mike, Josh recommended Sharpe’s engineer/mixing engineer, Matt Linesch as producer for the project and the band began tracking early 2015 at the historic United Recording studios in Hollywood, CA.
The thought of building a band from scratch while writing new material was upsetting for Mike, at times even polarizing. Somehow, through new relationships, new sounds, new songs, and a little faith, three “families” came together in one magical studio and gave life to a new vision. Now, they stand on the other side, eager to share this revelation with the world. When it is all said and done, maybe finding himself without a band, though frightening, was providential and necessary to achieve the best possible end.