Mike Grigoni: Falling into place
Mike Grigoni is a busy man. He works at Logos Bible Software, is a father of two, has scored a film about the American Bison, and has worked with many musicians in Bellingham because he plays an instrument that is rare in these parts: lap steel. While he has an extensive history with Bellingham, both as a Western student and a musician, he has only recently become more active, with the launch of his website, a new moniker, and a debut album.
His musical background started innocently enough. “I grew up with the standard piano lessons,” Grigoni said. “I moved on to the acoustic guitar in high school and then I bought a Dobro in college so I could jam with my friends who were playing bluegrass.” Grigoni wound up playing with Korby Lenker and Bruce Shaw, who would later form the Bellingham-based bluegrass group Barbed Wire Cutters. “I really loved playing the Dobro so I learned more about lap steel and pedal steel,” Grigoni added. “Then I realized that no one else in town really played.”
His lap steel work helped him land gigs with the likes of Robert Blake, Jenni Potts, and other artists. “Playing lap steel really helped me get on records and helped me learn more about the recording process,” Grigoni added.
He went on to create a home-based basic recording studio, using an Mbox, ProTools, and a few microphones. “I felt like I had the ultimate creative freedom,” he said.
Grigoni cites Greg Leisz as the main inspiration behind his growth as a musician. “He was a session player in Los Angeles but he’s the kind of musician I would love to become,” said Grigoni. “He’s played on everyone’s records and he has this incredible touch to his music.” He also admires jazz guitarist Bill Frizell, who wrote Americana-influenced music, and noted his interest in artists like Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver. “I really admire more DIY singer-songwriters who record and mix their own music,” he added. “Seeing what they’ve created in a non-professional studio is really inspiring to me.”
Although Grigoni does session recordings under his own name, he has started using Line of Sky to label his solo projects. Until recently, Grigoni had only officially released one track on his own, which was part of a compilation. His latest album, Heloise, is the product of a long, transitional period of his life. “I’ve actually been working on that record for about four years,” he said. “I wanted to finish it around the time I got married but we had our first kid and then I was accepted to graduate school.”
After relocating to Massachusetts to attend Harvard Divinity School, Grigoni tried to record his music but ultimately felt confined by student housing and the weight of new responsibilities. Following graduation, he and his family moved back to Bellingham, which provided more freedom to record the album in his own way. Grigoni wanted to craft the songs to have a reverent tone, stemming from his emotions after losing his grandparents and becoming a new father. “I tried to do a lot of layering to bring stuff together like Greg Leisz, where I could write music with vocals,” he said. “I wanted the record to have a prayerful feeling that was meditative and reflective.”
Grigoni would like to perform in Bellingham and eventually Seattle, and has already spoken to a few musicians in order to assemble a band. “I can’t pull off touring much more than that,” he said. “But I would love to perform in Bellingham with a live band.”
In addition, his second album is in the works. “It’s completely instrumental and will be heavily focused on lap steel.” A possible third album may have an emphasis on songwriting and singing. “I just love to perform live so it feels great to have so much new material on the way.”
“I really love writing music,” he added. “I’m hoping that this is the first of many albums.”