New York-based indie pop singer/songwriter Michael Buono looks back wistfully on the agony of modern dating on his new song “TV.” Written before the crushing mass isolation of the Covid era, Buono sets up various scenarios of single life and the ensuing frustrations of disconnection. The song pivots from acoustically-inflected hopeful verses to boisterously contrarian choruses that crash sarcastically with tongue firmly in cheek. Overall, “TV” effectively triggers a nostalgic longing for the good old days of singledom and the supreme value of hanging with friends. Co-produced by Buono and Louis Benedetti at Thompson Studios in NYC, the song features Buono on vocals and all instruments (including ukulele), as well as Chris Meehan and Michael Temple on backup vocals.
Hi Michael, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’ve been good! Good enough as one can be during this crazy time, I suppose. I’ve been staying busy with putting the finishing touches on this album, and I just can’t wait to show the world what I’ve been working on for the last year and a half. Hopefully it can bring joy or peace to people in these uncertain times, and at the very least, it’s something to take your mind off things.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “TV”?
TV is one of my favorites on this album. Lost has a lot of songs that are about struggle, but this is one of the bright spots. It’s a fun, sarcastic jab at the idea of love at first sight, and it specifically highlights the difference between what we expect out of first dates versus the reality (especially in New York!). The song is very lighthearted, and out of all the tracks I recorded, it was one of the most fun to make for sure. The verses are super stripped down, just vocals and ukulele, but then you get to the chorus and it absolutely hits you in the face. I really leaned into that contrast as a nod to the difference between the reality of first dates vs. what they’re talked up to be, and I think the music really echoes the message of the lyrics. I’ll never forget the afternoon that I came up with the chorus for TV; I was just dancing around my tiny New York apartment like a crazy person. I knew in that moment that I had found something special.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
That is a great question! The answer is actually, absolutely. I was inspired to write this song after a night that I ventured on a first date while my friends all went out together (I didn’t know they were doing this at the time). The next day, my friends were all texting me about how awesome a time they had, and I was left recapping my pretty mediocre/terrible first date. In that moment all I felt was, “Why do I do this so much? First dates are horrible, and it’s always a safer and more fun bet to just hang out with friends!” At the same time though, I knew from the start that this was not going to be a song that took itself too seriously. The thing was, I was more laughing at myself the day after that date, as opposed to being legitimately upset. I was so aware of how desperate I was to find love, but also how hilariously bad most first dates are. I wrote most of the song in San Francisco, and then my buddy Chris Meehan (who also ended up recording some background vocals on the track) and I did a road trip from SF to NYC when I moved to New York, and we bought ukes in Chicago and wrote the rest of the track while driving. It was so. much. fun.
Any plans to release any sort of video for the single?
Yes! I hired this awesome animator, Brian Shutters, to work on a lyric video for this track (which should be out on release date if all goes well!) I actually had planned a really big music video for this song, but given the current situation, shooting anywhere was impossible and downright irresponsible. So a lyric video seemed like the right move, and so far it’s looking really good. Brian is incredible, and has worked with some killer artists (such as a recent video for Ben Rector, one of my absolute favorite musicians).
The single comes off your forthcoming new album Lost – what’s the story behind the title?
Lost is all about not knowing what you’re doing in life, and it talks a lot about coming to terms with the mistakes you’ve made. I’m really excited about the fact that it came out as a true album, and it listens best when played from top to bottom. It really tells a story, and by the end, it feels like you’ve started in a place and ended up somewhere else. I wrote a lot of this while I was still living in San Francisco, and the album touches on everything from relationships to internal struggles and self doubt. TV is a fun breath of fresh air on this album, as it lightens the mood a bit. It’s sort of an indication that things are ok, even though everything is not perfect. Because even when times are tough, I feel that it’s important to laugh at yourself every once in a while. Otherwise, you start taking yourself too seriously, and that’s never good.
How was the recording and writing process?
The recording process was just the best. This song came together faster than any other song on the album. I put the chorus parts together at home in my apartment, came to the studio, and we barely changed it at all. EXCEPT that last chorus felt like it was missing something. So in February of 2019 I threw a birthday party / show at Piano’s in the Lower East, and I handed out mini posters of some of the lyrics to TV. When I got to the point in the set where I was gonna play TV, I told everyone I was looking for a little extra sauce on this track, and asked if people wanted to be on it. I got the whole crowd to sing the chorus of the song with no music, and I recorded every take we did. Then the next day I went into the studio with my buddies Chris Meehan and Mikey Temple to record the verses, and I brought the audio from the night before for the last chorus. Once we put that into the session, I was ecstatic; it made the whole track feel different, and it was so cool to have all my friends on the song with me. Plus, that day Chris and Mikey and I recorded the vocals for the verses together, and it was so exciting for me that two of my best buddies (and high school bandmates!) got to be on that song.
What role does NYC play in your music?
I love New York. Just being here makes me write more, I’m sure of it. There are so many little experiences, so many interactions that are inspiring. Everyone here is here because they love something, and that something is not always music. It’s one of the only cities in the world that can support so many different passions. Plus, it’s so alive and everyone’s so packed in close together that it’s impossible to not have a few crazy experiences every once in a while. I love it here.
How has our current times influenced the writing on the album?
Not a ton, since the album was fully written by the time that this all hit, but it has influenced the next album a bit. For this album, the focus is on coping with your past and figuring out where you fit in the world. The next album has a slightly different message, but I’m super pumped to start working on that too.
Does being in pretty much the center of the epidemic in the states “help you”?
Nope. This is definitely a tough time for everyone. From a music standpoint, it’s really tough to not be able to get back in the studio, because that would have made finishing this album a little quicker. Also, I’ve got a ton of tracks I’m ready to start recording for the next album, and I’m already chomping at the bit to get that done! For now, I’m mostly producing at home, experimenting with different things, and enjoying the fact that this album is so freaking close to being out.
Did you have to change the source of inspiration as we were entering this new era or you had something in mind when you jump into recording this album?
Not really? I don’t really mess with inspiration sources, I just write what I feel. Sometimes that means I don’t write for a few months, and other times, it means I write five songs in a week. For me, that just keeps everything fun, and it allows me to always stay in love with writing and recording. And at the same time, I never want to write something because I feel like I have to. I write because I want to share the things I have a hard time saying out loud sometimes, and if I started writing as a job almost, I feel like I would risk losing that creative outlet.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
I was really inspired by one of my favorite bands, AJR, for the chorus parts. I love how they are able to generate this huge wall of sound, and I started this song with the hopes of achieving something similar. It was such a fun experience as I played around on my computer and discovered some really cool sounds, learning on the fly and understanding how to do certain things. They also started in New York, and the amount of time and dedication they have to the craft of production is deeply inspiring. I really strive to achieve the same level of detail in my songs, and to make people dance around to tracks that still resonate with them lyrically and emotionally.
Any plans to hit the road in the future?
We’ll see! I’d love to go back to playing live again, but it’s looking like that won’t happen for a while. I really enjoy playing at Piano’s in the Lower East, but eventually I’d love to start opening for some bands at bigger venues like Webster Hall and Terminal 5. Someday!
What else is happening next in Michael Buono’s world?
I can’t wait for Lost to drop! All the songs are done, just a matter of picking a release date. In other news, I’m really excited to open my online store soon; I’m gonna be selling T-shirts, CDs, laptop stickers, posters, you name it! I’m also pumped to start recording this next album, which I think is going to be a great next step from Lost. I’ve learned so much in this recording process, and I’m just chomping at the bit to keep putting that knowledge to work and write more. In terms of non-music things, I’m really excited for sports to come back. I’m a huge basketball and baseball fan, and I honestly can’t remember a time in which there wasn’t some sporting event I was looking forward to in a week. Luckily, The Last Dance kept me going for a second there, but now that I’m done with that I’m gonna have to find some other outlet.
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