Mike Mangione is one of the few Catholic artists who does music full time. He is known for collaborating with Christopher West with his Theology of the Body conferences and has released three albums, “There and Back”, “Tenebrae” and “Offerings”, which have been well received by critics. I had a chance to interview Mike at a recent concert.
Dave; Can you tell me how you got started in music, and how you became
involved in Catholic music, particularly with Christopher West?
Mike; I started playing at an early age because my mother didn’t want her kids fighting. I started playing drums and my older brother, Thomas, started with guitar. Our eldest brother Pete decided to opt out. Over time, Thomas and I started playing together eventually forming a band.
Christopher West started listening to our music back in 2005 and began to really rest in it. He loved the ache in the writing and performance….it was pretty raw stuff when he started listening and it spoke to him. He and I stayed in touch and would get together pondering the idea of working together and one day we did.
Dave: Your music is difficult to categorize as it is a blend of acoustic and electric instruments, as well as a blend between folk and rock. What
are your influences and how did you evolve into such a unique sound.
Mike: When I started writing, I wanted to sound like all my favorite artists and I wanted to write about the subject of what it means to be human. We always emulated artists who wrote about things bigger than themselves. John Paul II speaks of entering into the mystery. A lot of artists I loved as a child, like Bob Dylan, U2, Van Morrison, Tom Waits, Peter Gabriel, would write in a way that transported the listener out of their realm and toward the mystery. Over time, I began to develop a taste for a little more soul and movement. I started listening to some blues artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf even some Robert Johnson stuff. My brother got really immersed in the blues and fell in love with Hubert Sumlin and Son House. These artists all wanted to know who they were and where they were going… so these songs resonated with me.
Dave; You have been a performer at the past few World Youth Days. What are the positives of being involved at that level? What have been some of
Mike; The positives are the positive of just being there. It is the Universal Church made visible. It is amazing just to be with people from all over the world and focus on your similarities. It’s beautiful. As an artist, you get to tap into the electricity the crowd gives off. You don’t even need to plug in!
The hardships have been lack of organization and respect towards the artists. It is such a large scale event and the majority are just volunteers so the understanding of event management and performance can be pretty limited. That would be fine and workable but sometimes the tempers get high and that is never what you want when you’re thousands of miles away from home.
Dave; As one of the few full time Catholic musicians, what would you say and advise to those artists who may feel called to do something similar
for a career.
Mike: Search out the Catholicity in the secular and let it inspire you. You will have a bigger pallet to work with and your work will resonate with a broader audience for all the right reasons.
To sample Mike’s music, check out the following videos