Brad Mormino - 2002 Interview

In The Spotlight - Brad Mormino
Interview with Brad Mormino
Written by: Luigi Cisaria (March 2002)

singer-songwriter Brad Mormino's album 'Love Hurts Anyway' took Glory Daze by pleasant surprise. In between driving a snow plow and a salt truck Brad has opened his heart and mind up to Luigi Cisaria for this in depth and revealing interview that looks at both his personal and musical background. (March 2002)

You had a childhood full of music. Your dads a Mario Lanza fan, your mum into anything from Manillow to Kenny Loggins?
Yeah, a lot of that diversity in the music I heard growing up was because of my mother. My parents divorced when I was three, and me being the baby of the family, I spent more time with my Ma. So we listened to her music-a lot. And looking back on that time, I feel I now know why we did that. My ma was pretty unhappy and music was and has always been her outlet, her 'safe place.'

You know, we all have a place we go either physically or mentally to heal our wounds, to find a place of happiness, to get a 'pick-me-up,' so to speak. Anyway, music has always been this for her, and from watching her when I was a child, it also became mine. She also played piano, but it was rare. Too bad, because she was really good too. But when she did play, my two older brothers and I would just hang out on the couch or on the floor nearby and listen. We dug it.

But you know thinking about it, it's weird, I know now I hung out because I could tell she was somewhere else, trying to find peace, trying to soothe the hurt within her. Of course, I didn't really understand this at the time. All I knew was that I wanted to help her. But I remember seeing that the music got her through those tough times. And if she wasn't playing her piano, man did she crank her records, 8-tracks or the radio.

Which, who's the genius that created the 8-track tape?! God, I hated those damn things. They were such a pain in the ass. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that my Ma listened to certain music, certain songs and certain songwriters because it helped her, well, at times us, cope with what was going on. You know, my parents divorce and all.

But man, she was passionate about this stuff. When she heard 'Her Song,' which she meant was her current favourite song, WOW! Dude, you knew it. She would just blast it and totally put herself into it. She'd feel it. I mean really feel it and know what the writer meant by it. She still does that.


That's the only way I can listen to music. That's the way I perform it. But you threw out Barry Manilow. Yup, Ma and I listened to a lot of Barry. I got one of his greatest hits CD's for Christmas last year and, I really like it. Barry's good, man. If you really listen to his songs and dissect them a bit you'll see he's damn good and damn talented. He's really got a great voice too.

You know, Luigi, out of that period of my life, which looking back on it now as an adult, I guess I'll call myself that, but looking back on it the music my Ma played was very influential as to how I write and sing. I mean as well as Barry, I heard lots and lots of Neil Diamond, Bee Gees, Frank Sinatra, my Ma loves Frank, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole, Kenny Loggins, more Disco than I would have liked.

NeIl Sedaka, who, Oh my GOD! is still an AMAZING singer, and just tons and tons of commercial mainstream pop. And you know much of that music still endures. It made me ask why. So I listen to a lot of that stuff. My feeling is that to really know the craft of songwriting, then as part of training should be to look at and study the music that has worked and still being listened to and in some cases still a hot ticket to see live.

There are lessons to be learned in that music, and I want to know what they are so I can add them to my toolbox, my palette. I mean, shit man, there's just so much to learn from those writers.

Anyway, in my teens my brothers introduced me to hard rock kind of the way my Ma introduced me to her music. It was just everywhere in the house, I couldn't get away from it. Morning, noon and night I heard Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Rainbow, REO, Journey, UFO, Lynyrd Skynyrd, AC/DC, Triumph and on and on.

Once I took notice of it I was hooked. Led Zep reigned supreme to me. But again, we listened to that stuff a lot. We were pissed off dudes. At this time in my brother's and my life we lived with our old man. He had divorced wife #2 a couple years earlier and, that time just sucked. Again, we were three angry guys and we jammed our tunes loud whenever and wherever we got the chance.

However, in high school, I was living in Arizona at the time, the glam scene or glam bands started making noise and my attention went there. I just thought that whole image was cool, very rebellious, very fun, very aggressive, lots of hair, and lots of doing shit you weren't supposed to. It was great stuff and what I really needed at the time.

On top of that, I finally found something on my own that I identified with. This wasn't my Ma's music or my brother's. This was mine. Bon Jovi, Great White, The Scorpions, Ratt, Poison, Warrant, Dokken, Dangerous Toys, Motley Crue and just tons of others. This music, to me, just rocked.

But what stood out even more, especially now looking back as a songwriter, were the melodies of these bands from this period. Bands now have little regard for really good, really hooky, tight melodies. On top of that, today's popular bands have far less talent in the way of musicianship.

They're really not that schooled in their music, and most of them just really suck. Personally, that's why I don't like much new stuff. Train is about the only band out right now, that, to me, is in a class all by themselves. I've seen them three times and have both of their commercial releases.

Why?--because they write great songs. Their singer has an amazing voice which he knows how to use. His technique is great and his voice is 'his' -not some ridiculous, fucked up imitation of what's the 'flava' right now. And the band?--They fucking rock! Their musicianship is great, they know how to solo, they know how to perform. They are the package. Anyway, I'm rambling.

You know, I grew up on what is basically adult contemporary pop and Top-40-mainstream music. I've never stopped liking that stuff. In fact, I love it. I just love pop music, be it hard, metal, r and b, AC, whatever, as long as there's a great hook I'm there, I'm into it completely.

You started out as a drummer, playing across Wisconsin. You eventually became a frontman. How did that come about?
At that time I was playing in this cover band called Rated-X. And like you said, I was pretty much just drumming then and doing some haphazard back-up vocals here and there. I was terrible. But anyway, we were together only several months and then our lead singer quit. Well, we kept on practicing, but playing tunes without vocals got old quick.

So, out of impatience and frustration I grabbed a mic and put it on a mic stand next to my drums. And what happened next, wow, I remember this vividly now, we ran down Zep's 'Rock 'n' Roll'. It went really well and surprised the shit out of the band and me. I mean it wasn't great, but it was pretty damn good considering I had never really sung before, and especially for never having sung while playing drums. Anyone who sings and plays drums knows what I am talking about.

See this was really a turning point for me because I always wanted to sing in a band. I wanted to be 'the' man. The guy up front everyone was watching. It was one of those things I just knew in my heart I could do, and do well. But man, self-esteem was always something I totally lacked growing up. I had no self-confidence.

And at that point I only had the nerve to sing in my car. But back on that day in June it was just that setting, that time, the comfort with my friends in the band and confidence in my drumming that I just said, 'Fuck it.' to myself and I grabbed the mic. From there on I was the lead singer and the drummer.

Well, that lasted about a year. Because, well first of all for one reason: singing and drumming hard rock is frickin' hard work! I would be completely dead after those gigs--totally fried. And my arms felt like they were dragging on the floor, plus it usually took me until about 3 or 4 in the afternoon to get up the energy to get out of bed the next day.

I never made it to class on days after a gig. Anyway, the other reason it only lasted a year was because the band broke up. The vibe we had going on at the time was getting' old and stale. Besides that, the guitarist and I were kind of sick of each other. We always had this love/hate relationship between us.

However, fast-forward about six months later. At that time I was singing and playing in another band. It was pretty much just about making cash and just boring. One afternoon my roommate, the bass player from Rated-X, was telling me about his then present band's frustration with their singer being unreliable and never showing up for rehearsal.

The guitarist from Rated-X was also in this new band. Anyway, I got this 'great' idea. You see, by this time I really, really wanted to try lead singing. I mean true lead singing--just me and a mic and no drums to get in my way.


So, I offered to help my buddies out by sitting in on vocals so they could do a rehearsal and work on their tunes. Well man, they were all over it, because they were dyin' to finally do a full rehearsal. OK, so the wheels are really turning in my head, and I start mapping out this little plan.

See I knew I was a lot better than the singer they had, and the more I thought about sitting in on this rehearsal I thought maybe I could, no, actually I knew I could impress everyone enough to take their singer's job away from him. But the more I thought about it I concluded that that was uncool and would really piss me off to no end if someone did that to me. What can I say, I'm a nice guy.

So I really try and chase these thoughts out of my head and just look at it as helping out my friends. 'That's it, Brad,' I kept telling myself. 'No more, no less. You're just helping out your buddies.' Yeah, whatever, I knew what I wanted. But I tried hard to stay in that mindset and just have fun with the situation and expect nothing from it. Those that really know me know this is an almost impossible thing for me to do.

And it was, but I actually did OK keeping myself there in that mindset the whole time. So anyway, we do the rehearsal and it just totally jams. I mean it rocks and it's a blast and these guys are lovin' it. And dude, me? Shit man, I'm way lovin' it! But again I'm doing my damnedest to keep that from overflowing out of me.

I do the rehearsal, we all say it was cool, everyone thanks me and I leave. The next day my friend, the guitarist, calls up. He says the band had a big discussion after I left and immediately everyone except their rhythm guitarist was in favor of axing their singer. The end result: they axed the singer and the rhythm dude. And now he asks if I want to put Rated-X back together with me fronting.

I was giddy! I couldn't believe it. It was the opportunity I totally wanted, in a position I really wanted, and with some good friends! That was another big turning point for me. It was huge, because from that point on I was and always have been a frontman.

Apart from doing the band thing, you've also done scoring work for a local television soap opera?
That was one of those gigs that come about because of who you know. The executive producer of this show knew my family well and at the time was also becoming a fan of my demos. So I run into her one day, and she asked me if I was interested in writing music for this local soap opera she was working on. I thought about it for, like two seconds, and said 'Yes.', because it would be an opportunity to have my music heard on TV.

I knew I would need some help if I got this gig, so I hooked up with one of my writing partners, Peter Manning. His reaction was the same as mine when I asked him-he blurted out a 'Yes.' before I finished my question. Granted, it was just cable access TV, but still, you know, it was TV. But it was also about more than getting my music on TV.

You see, I write songs, not background music, and I felt this would be a challenge to write in a way that was very different from what I was accustomed. I mean I like, or am used to, me and my music out front, being heard and taken in. However, the gig here was to blend in, just be texture to move the scene.

Now this is tough stuff for me, but I wanted see what this experience was about and what I could learn. Also, and this is what made it very appealing, they wanted a theme song for the show. Again, another challenge to deliver music that had to be specific and approved.

So anyway, she tells me to come down to the studio to talk to the decision-makers for the show, which I do. She alerts me that there was all this political bull-shit going on there as far as who was going to be, or who should be doing the music for the show, just lots of egos and power trips clashing and nobody coming forward to figure out who should do it.

Her feeling was that if I was suddenly there in their face saying, 'Hey, man I'll do it', that they would just go with me because they didn't want to deal with all the shit anymore. And that's what happened. In hindsight this experience was really great for what we learned. Invaluable stuff, really. But probably best of all, was that Petey and I wrote 'If This Wasn't My Town' for the theme song.

Your songwriting is the standout feature of the album, which isn't surprising seeing that you did music theory, classical vocal, wind ensemble and jazz at college.
Many of my peers and professors in college viewed me as just 'some drummer' who 'screamed' in metal bands on the week ends. Shit, I laugh at that stuff, because I only minored in music and made more money singing in bands in college than the music majors.

Basically, the general vibe that was always thrown my way was that I just didn't, nor would I ever measure up to the talent level of my peers around me in the music department.

In hindsight, I just look back and say, 'Whatever.' That's the arrogant academic way of looking at musicians. At least that was my experience. But anyway, I'm getting off track, you mentioned a bunch of the music classes I took.

Yeah man, they were really great. See, up to that point I didn't really understand music or respect it. I didn't get how complex and truly awesome it is. I was just a hack! I was a rock drummer who bashed his set without regard for much or anyone else for that matter.

'Your part, what about it? So what, just shut up and play.' Well, those perspectives quickly became humbled in all the music classes I took. I quickly saw or was shown that there was just so much more to my part, other parts, techniques, the music itself.


Pretty quickly I just shut up and listened, and took as many music performance, technique and general knowledge classes as my schedule would allow. Really, I'd say these classes and experiences made me see more of the 'big picture' in a musical setting. Now everything is important!

When I am working on a tune I pay great attention, or try my best, to really work it all the way through. Whatever the song needs or seems to need I try and give it that. And one rather large way I do that is through collaboration with another songwriter. Actually, when I started working on my own tunes I found I needed another writer because I don't play a melodic instrument like piano or guitar.

Well, I know how to plunk my way around a keyboard, which is where I always start, but actually playing with any skill? No. I've got the theory, but just not the chops, patience or attention span to learn one of those instruments. And at first this really bothered me because I wanted to be able to do it all. I wanted my songs to totally be me. But I could see pretty damn quickly that that wasn't gonna happen.

However, my melodic instrument limitation soon proved to be a blessing in disguise, because it opened my eyes to the beauty of collaboration. Man, this way of songwriting is just so cool because I never know how my original idea is going to end up, they may take completely abrupt left turns or be the last little ingredient that suddenly gives a tune new life or just what was needed to finish it.

I mean, I dig collaboration so much that it's now part of my regular course of writing. And usually how I work is to develop an idea to a point, be it a lyric, music or both and then get together with whom ever I feel would bring the right vibe and perspective to a tune. It totally works for me. Hell, man on my album I co-wrote with five other writers.

What is Brad Mormino's formula for writing? Do you start with a lyric, vocal melody, guitar riff's?
I wouldn't say that I have a formula, per se, that I follow. From a creative standpoint, I find formulaic writing, if we want to call it that, to be too restrictive to the flow of my ideas. Furthermore, it puts unnecessary rules in the process where, in my opinion, they don't need to be.

I always start with what 'speaks' to me first or what I am really feeling. Be it a lyric, melody or some instrumental idea, if that's what I'm hearing and feeling the most then I'll go with it. Usually, though, it's a lyrical idea.

I'm surprised that, after doing a search, I found only a couple of reviews for 'Love Hurts Anyway'. Where are you at with promoting the album?
Well, in addition to Heart of the Rock, the album has been reviewed, and I am very glad to say, well-received on European and Scandinavian web-sites like (Sweden), Slam (Italy) and Strutter (The Netherlands and England) (whew!!!). Actually, there's two guys from Strutter with whom I'm in contact. One wants to review it for their site, and the other for their magazine, and possibly an interview. Too cool to me.

Also, I was recently contacted by an Italian radio DJ named Federico Martinelli from Radio Antenna 2 in Northern Italy. Pretty wild, huh? But Federico does a show he calls 'Rock Invasion' where he spins new music. He should have a copy of my disc in, hopefully about another week, and then we'll see if Northern Italy has anything to say about me. To me that's pretty exciting stuff!

However, and I don't know if I should feel bad or good about this, or (said in my best TV Evangelist voice) take it as a sign from GOD!!!, but the most feedback and most positive of it has come from everywhere but the country where I live.

However, here at home I am always trying to get the album out wherever and to whomever I can. It's on an Internet radio site, 440, in Chicago. Plus, I give it out as a promo copy to those I feel that will actually listen to it, and I sell them when and where I can.

You know, with so much music available to download and free everywhere, people are pretty stingy and choosy with what music gets their bread, which I don't fault and totally agree with. I mean I sure as hell won't shell out $10-15 for a disc if I don't know if it's any good or not.

So by handing them out as promo, I've gotten a lot more response and feedback from people. My hope is that over time I can start a grass-roots thing. And then presently, I'm working on several packages for some local reviews.


You've got the album available for sale through Is that your main source of sales, or is 'Love Hurts Anyway' available in local and national music stores?
Right now you can get my album from my site,, which is set up with PayPal, or off which, I must say, CDBaby is a great site for the exposure it gives us independent artists. But anyway, at the moment, that's where I've made it available.

And as for traditional record stores, where I could sell it on consignment? nah. From my observations and conversations with many friends and fellow musicians who have gone that route, it's more hassle than it is worth with little or no sales.

The album,

On the album there are a couple of tracks that have definite radio hit potential. Bleed and True Love in particular. Have you had any response/success from radio play?
To answer your question straight up.. no. An acquaintance who does a one hour weekly show in Italian on Sundays played the Italian version of 'Bleed' once. Hopefully, Federico from Radio Antenna 2 in northern Italy gives my tunes some healthy airtime when he receives his copy of my album.

Oh, and like I said before,, that Internet radio station here in Chicago, gives me some spins every once in a while. But for the most part, that's where my relationship presently stands with radio.

I've spoken with several 'radio people' in Chicago and a few of them really like my music, but the politics of corporate radio don't allow them to take chances and play independents like myself. And it really bums me out too, because I feel my stuff is very 'radio friendly'. In fact, most people that listen to the record say that radio is where they'd expect to hear most of my material.

Also, funny you mention 'Bleed' and 'True Love' as having hit potential, because those are usually some of the tunes people pick as their favourites on the album, especially 'Bleed'. People just really dig that tune, which on one hand is just so very cool, and on the other hand makes it even more frustrating because radio is so uninterested in unsigned, independents like me.

Why? Well, that's a whole other subject. Basically, it comes down to money. Radio is really only looking to push those artists who are backed with big cash, big lines of distribution, and those artists who the radio consultants say they should play. It's such a load of shit and horribly difficult to compete with unless one's connections are financially strong, well liked and well-respected or all of the above.

I could go on and on, but, Anyway, radio is 'arghhhhh!!.' Let's just say I have a love/hate relationship with it.

You recorded a couple of the tracks in the Italian language as well, which sounded great. Any plans to record a full Italian language album? Perhaps attack the Italian pop/rock market?
A full length Italian album? Hmm, You know I really haven't thought of that. It'd be way fun and challenging, that's for sure. But it's also an endeavor that I would have to gauge upon how well the Italian versions of 'Bleed' and 'True Love' do.

I mean right now, for my next album I can see most likely doing what I did on my current record. That being, taking about two of the songs I feel are the strongest and redoing them in Italian. Any more than that we'll just have to see. And as for 'attacking' the Italian pop/rock market, dude I'm all for it!

Like I said before, that station from northern Italy, Radio Antenna 2, is pretty eager to get their hands on a copy of 'Love Hurts Anyway' , and Moreno Lissoni of Slam, an Italian rock web-site, was all over the record. He loved it. So Italy on a larger scale? We'll see. I mean I'm all for it, but I just want to make sure of the market's viability.

What's happening on the live front for you and the Chicago music scene in general?
The Chicago music scene is pretty boring right now, a lot of generic crap and just 'safe' stuff. It's a static scene--ho hum, yawn, and lots of just bad bands that really can't play or write or both.

Cover bands, Tribute bands, Jam bands, folk-rock, alt-country, and alternative bands dominate a good portion of what's going on around here, and unfortunately it's been going on for quite a while. And again, so much of it is just so bad. Oh yeah, Blues, which will always be a part of Chicago, is also very alive and well.

And me, well, right now I'm not as active a live artist as I'd like to be on account of no band. Yeah, it's just me. I had a group together for a while this past year in support of my album. We did a few shows, but, one too many conflicts of ideas, thoughts and opinions eventually just drove it apart.

However, in retrospect, for me, it was not bad that it happened. What do I mean? Well, honestly Luigi, I just hit the wall and crashed. No it wasn't drugs or shit like that. I've already hit that scene. It's not necessary to recount all the gory details, but right now I'm at the point where I have just picked myself up off the ground, dusted off and am seeing where I stand.

Right now it's kind of like being at ground zero or at a new starting point, it's a bit confusing, a bit odd, and sometimes just really fucked up. But clarity is finally seeming to come out of it all.

One thing is for sure, and that is that I know I'll be playing live again soon. In Chicago? Maybe. Who knows? Maybe Italy.

Brad is currently in the process of shifting his Website around. You can get to it via

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