Mike Pinto is a complete beast on the touring circuit! This artist is covering the United States with his super talented long-time work in music and writing. Twenty years as an artist, his love for writing and performing with his smoothness and upbeat guitar style will be imprinted in any music lover for years to come! His reggae/ska/dub style is genuine and authentic as he has written hundreds of songs in his lifetime already. He is determined and very driven as he tours nationally, making his mark with hundreds of loyal fans growing every day. Pinto has toured nationally with bands like Long Beach Dub Allstars, Iration, Tropidelic, Ballyhoo!, Bumpin Uglies, The Aggrolites and more! He’s, also, shared festival stages with Slightly Stoopid, Reel Big Fish, Ben Harper, The Avett Brothers, SOJA, Rebelution, The Flaming Lips among others! His popularity spreads beyond the continental United States, with radio plays in Japan, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, and live performances in Guam, Canada, Mexico and Australia.
Thank you so much Mike for sitting down with Top Shelf Music!
- Mike Pinto: Kristy is awesome at Top Shelf, she always supported me back when I lived in San Diego and she’s such a great photographer.
She is great, isn’t she? Tell us about growing up and how this all started for you!
- Pinto: I grew up outside of Philly, went to college at the University of Delaware. I loved listening to Jack Johnson in college but since the middle of high school, I had a totally unhealthy relationship listening to Sublime. I had their CDs in my car for over a decade. Every time my friends got into the car Sublime was playing. They were like, “Sublime… again? haha.” I wanted to know all about Bradley Nowell, and that band from Long Beach. I recently played a show with Badfish, the Sublime tribute band. Man, I ended up singing “Don’t Push” with them and it transported me back to being a teenager again! They really cared about that music and it reminded me again how much I love Sublime.
What do you love most about playing?
- Pinto: Well, I love being a songwriter and playing acoustic guitar. I like having both for the fans when I’m touring though. I am really excited about bringing this tour around the country with some new guys from the band, The Hip Abduction. There have been so many chapters, and it feels like this is another new one for sure. I have been in New Jersey for five years. I have a little girl now and another on the way!
- Pinto: Thank you, it is the best. It is exactly what I wanted in my life. Now, I’m just trying to keep that balance.
You seem have it so together. You are definitely one of the top dogs in the music scene. I heard you’re a true family man, which is rare in this crazy industry! How is juggling family life and music?
- Pinto: Nothing like kids to light a fire under your ass. In this game, you must be selfish, but having a family motivates me. Gotta keep pushing on through the ups and downs. I love my setup because you don’t know how long any band is going to keep touring. It’s pretty much me with my music and I get to have my friends and other artists join me and see where it goes. When the tour is done, I get my ass home. Luckily, my wife and I are good at balancing our jobs and our child.
I think it is awesome! You can tour your ass off, then play your gigs closer to home whenever you want. Not a lot of people can successfully do that.
- Pinto: I love that every day and every show I meet someone new and having new fans still blows my mind.
When did music first come into your life?
- Pinto: Well, my godmother had a player piano and as a kid the hairs on my arm would stand up every time I walked by it. That piano was so amazing to me! I wish I would have had the chance to dedicate myself to playing the piano but I grew up playing a lot of baseball and other sports. One of my friends played guitar. I was 16 when I asked for a guitar for Christmas. From there, my friends got me into SoCal punk, as well as some other genres. I went to Warped Tour, and that’s when ska came into my life.
Did touring come into your life quickly or did you take a minute to see if you were going to do music full-time?
- Pinto: I tried to and my first tour was in San Diego. I went all the way to Texas. I was supposed to do some festival in Florida, but it got cancelled. It was probably just some guy… it was on MySpace at that time. I had a couple that was like “your music belongs in San Diego”. I went back there and crashed on their couch for a couple weeks then crashed on another friends’ couch for a bit. I didn’t go back to Philly because it was either straight roots reggae or straight punk. I decided to stay in Southern California for 12 years. I miss that sunshine and the fans are so amazing out there!
Tell us about the tour name, “Mischief Night tour”
- Pinto: Well, the term comes is well known around Halloween. Its when kids are getting in trouble, vandalizing neighborhoods– creating mischief. I always thought it was a cool sound with this dark connotation to it.
Cool, I dig it! The Mischief Night tour starts August 30th to October 28th! Let’s talk about your music, I know for one thing that “Full Speed” is super intense and that it really resonates with many of us!
- Pinto: Yes, this song was when I moved to San Diego by myself and I couldn’t find anyone to come out there with me. I didn’t really have a support system so it is more like a pep talk to myself, ya know. Reminded myself that I really had to dig deep and give it my best shot. I just knew that was what I was supposed to be doing. It was my own anthem for myself when I couldn’t find that support.
“I know my day will come out with the last laugh / For those who doubted, too blind to find their own path / They’ll be single-file while I’ll be signing autographs “ I love the sound and the lyrics! It has that true grittiness, super strong vibing! You could tell you were fighting for what you love. Tell us about that song “Come A Long Way.”
- Pinto: This is one of my newer songs and this song is about me having a hard time going through like this weird battle since I moved back to Jersey. I had Adam Topol who plays with Jack Johnson on that song with me along with my friend Derrick Wong. The work of a man is never done! That song felt like the start of this new chapter. I wanted it to be something for everyone and talk about subjects like the inequality of women. I’ve seen those inequalities with my wife as she is an arborist in a male dominated field. It was a real eye opener. Between my new start and my wife going through that, it felt like an appropriate song.
The struggle is so damn real!
- Pinto: It is and it’s all about that human experience. It can be very hard in this biz and it’s important to be a part of a great team! I always wanted that but for some crazy reason it just hasn’t happened.
I agree. It is hard to find a strong team, and I tell you what … You deserve a great team, Mike!
- Pinto: I have seen bands that work their asses off in this industry. I really like The Elovaters and what they do. Also, Bumpin Uglies and Tropidelic, they have always supported my hustle, and I respect theirs. You gotta fight through all these ups and downs in this business. Some people will support you and some won’t.
What was your scariest experience touring or with life?
- Pinto: Oh man, when I was at the beginning of my music life, I was in Australia for school. I had brought my guitar with me to Cairns, Australia and we were doing a weekend excursion. I was a broke ass college student. I was playing for change right on the beach or whatever, so I could eat, and for a personal test of how much I could make, haha. There were a lot of Aboriginals around, and this one man came up to me with blood all over his shirt. It was not his blood. As I was playing my Bob Marley songs, so many people were walking by, this tall dude was hovering over me. He grabbed my guitar, and this loud scream came from his wife I think, and I totally thought I was going to have to fight for my guitar or my life! But whatever she said, he let go of my guitar and left me alone with my heart beating out of my chest.
Is Australia, or any other country, calling you back?
- Pinto: I would love to play in Brazil! I have a lot of fans there. And Europe! I really want to go back to Australia and try New Zealand for the first time while I’m over there too.
Is there a word of inspiration to tell other artists that want to do what they love?
- Mike: Oh man, with the way social media is going, a lot of people go backwards with this. So many are focused on having the most followers, which we all do at times. It is about digging deep, learning different instruments, learning how to record. Finding out who it is you want to be, and how do you express that through music. I think after that, everything else opens itself up. You gotta work at your craft, that is the main thing. Keep writing songs, keep trying to explore who you are. There are so many songwriters that sound like someone else. It is not easy, but you gotta keep trying, and get that connection that moves you.
Any last words for our readers, Mike?
- Pinto: If you are a touring band, if you really believe in it, you cannot stop. You cannot take more than a 6-month break, because there are other bands that are dying to tour and will play. You gotta find a way to stay relevant. It is a privilege to tour. A lot of people invest their time for you, so don’t let off the pedal too much. Try to stay in it.
Mike Pinto’s authentic and special style is gritty, and remarkable. It is truly such a treat for me to witness and write about. He tells us to never give up, and to dig deep within our souls beyond all the media bullshit, we must dig hard. His artistry and passion for what he does makes any writer, or artist want to get out of bed and work on their craft even harder. Upon meeting this amazing artist and human being, it is a reminder to keep our heads in the game and do it because we love it. His words hit you like a brick and hug at the same time. Being accountable and striving to do greatness is what life is about. We owe it to the fans, the world, to ourselves, and to music.