Pittston songwriter ‘MiZ’ discusses upcoming record, Thanksgiving Eve show
For local guitarist and songwriter Mike “MiZ” Mizwinski, stepping away from the music industry for a short stint was just what he needed to find his groove again.
“I basically took all of last fall and winter off and recharged my batteries in many different ways,” Mizwinski said in a recent interview. “I started slowly by playing a local coffee shop in Honesdale, and now I’m coming back to this new chapter of life I’m in now.”
That new chapter includes a recently released single and video, a local album release scheduled for January, and a live performance on Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 22, at Downtown Arts on Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre, where Mizwinski will perform songs from his solo catalog and be accompanied by special guest Paul Martin.
Compounding the artist’s renewed enthusiasm for making music is news that he’s been signed by indie record label BAMF (Brooklyn Arts & Music Foundation) in Brooklyn, N.Y., and will be working with longtime Grateful Dead publicist Dennis McNally.
“We’re super excited to have Dennis McNally on board,” Mizwinski said. “He’s a super gracious guy. Every time I speak to him, there’s so much to learn.”
His return to the NEPA and regional music scenes has been a welcome homecoming to fans and friends of the Pittston musician, but for Mizwinski, a replenished gigging schedule is the fortunate byproduct of a personal change of perspective.
A few years ago, Mizwinski said, he had “a lot of steam” behind him, and he was living his dreams, but the combination of an overwhelming schedule and a bout with an ongoing medical issue spawned poor decisions.
“I got wayward in life,” he said. “When I took the last winter off, I had about four months where I wasn’t playing. I was on a spiritual retreat, and I had a long, hard, honest look at myself, and I realized that as I was making my way through my life, I wasn’t coming from a place of love. I felt my ego was getting slightly out of control, and I would have been the only one around me who wouldn’t have noticed.”
“I Ain’t A Kid” is an intimate, self-reflective lament that Mizwinski said is one of the best songs he’s ever written. He released the tune and accompanying music video in the beginning of October, and it received over 12,000 views in two days.
“There were a lot of people I should have apologized to,” Mizwinski said. “I did a lot of not showing up for gigs and other things I’m really sorry for. Writing music is a way I deal with life. (The song) was a way of apologizing and addressing that. I don’t think I’ll ever write another song like that, but it helped clear the way to write new songs about all sorts of different subjects.”
The full LP, which will be be released locally on Jan. 26 at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains Township, was written over the course of two months and has been recorded throughout the last year, a slow process Mizwinski said was worth it to get the album right.
“The new record is a really good culmination of everything I’ve done so far,” he said. “I’ve refined what I’ve done into 12 songs.”
The large-scale release and subsequent tour schedule will be announced soon.
On Nov. 22, Mizwinski plans to give a Downtown Arts audience a taste of each era of his catalog.
“What I plan to do is give people an overview of what I’ve been doing to this point,” he said. “Early tunes, recent tunes and new tunes that haven’t gone on an album yet. I’m going to touch all the bases.”
The songwriter expressed gratitude that his friend, Martin, will be joining him.
“He’s helped me through some of my darkest times,” Mizwinski said. “He’s been a great friend and someone I really look up to. He’s going to do an opening set of his songs; then I’m going to do a set of my stuff, and we’ll probably do a few songs together to cap off the night.”
Mizwinski also noted he’s honored to play at Downtown Arts on the 10th anniversary of the venue’s grand opening.
“I feel like that place has been a great outlet for the community for arts and plays and music,” Mizwinski said. “Being able to play acoustic music in a church of that size is really a joy.
“My whole outlook for that night is I wanted to do something that’s all ages, family oriented and scheduled earlier in the night. I wanted to give people that option to come and see a show with their kids and get home early or maybe get to their local bar and see another band or see their friends.”
As for the artist himself, he’s hitting his stride.
“I’m feeling healthier than ever. I feel like I’m writing better than ever,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m working harder than I ever have. I’m working smarter. I’m trying to stay as humble as I can.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO
What: MiZ solo acoustic with special guest Paul Martin
Where: Downtown Arts, 47 N. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre
When: 7 to 10 p.m. Nov. 22
Additional information: Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $5 and are available at the door the evening of the event.