Mike Brindisi & the New York Rock are going places. Brindisi and his band, The New York Rock, are poised on the brink of something great. He has forged his own path in the world, and his ascent to the top is well under way. Brindisi always had a dream. It began when he was a student in Elementary School. On a fieldtrip to the high school, where his class went to see a play put on by the drama club, he had his first brush of enlightenment. "I knew right then and there that I wanted to be on stage," he said. "It seemed I was born to be a performer." And so when he entered seventh grade, he began to participate in the drama program at the high school, and also in the community theater programs during the summers. "Music seemed to be an inevitable choice for me," said Brindisi. "When I was a kid I had pictures of Axl Rose and Slash on the walls of my bedroom, and big dreams in my head." His father was also a musician, and after enough pestering, agreed to teach Brindisi to play the guitar. The only problem is that all of the guitars were right-handers, and Brindisi is left handed. Showing the determination, he taught himself to play right handed. "My dad taught me a few chords, and then after that, I just sort of took off," he said with a laugh. "I think I probably drove my parents crazy." So music became a part of his life, and he played with a few bands throughout high school, while keeping a full schedule of drama performances as well. He has played with several well known local bands "I really loved being a part of those bands, but what I really wanted was to play my own music ... my brain was full of ideas, and I wanted to do so much more than just covers." So working with another member of his band at the time, he wrote and recorded a few songs, got a demo together and began sending it out. Contacted by a company in Nashville, who expressed an interest in his music, he put up the $4,000, got on a plane and headed south. In Nashville, he re-recorded his music with session musicians, and put together his first EP. It went nowhere. "I returned home with a broken heart, empty pockets and another tough lesson learned," he said. Once he was back home in Herkimer, the music got put on hold for a while. Unable to afford to head to such musician meccas like New York City or L.A., he shifted his focus to his other love -- comedy. "I spent my life saying that my two goals were to be on Saturday Night Live, and to sell a million albums," he said. He took a job at the newly opened Fat Cats Comedy Club, sweeping floors in exchange for stage time. There he perfected his comedy routine. "I was always the class clown, much to the distress of my teachers," said Brindisi. He began recording his routines and sending them out. Soon he was booked at Caroline's Comedy Club in New York City, traveling there two times a month to perform. He always took his EP along with him, but comedy was his focus. His exposure at Caroline's led him to achieve the first part of his goal. He landed a role on Saturday Night Live, which aired on May 1, 2004, with Lindsay Lohan hosting and Usher as the musical guest. As he waited for the show to air, he wandered around the studio, poking his head into every doorway. "I have always been curious," he said, "I love meeting new people, and discovering things, because you just never know who you are going to meet and how they are going to change your life. His curiosity paid off. He met "Speedy" the guitar technician for SNL who has been with the show since it's inception in 1975. They shot the breeze, he played Jimmy Fallon's guitar, "It was one of the most amazing moments of my life." Twenty minutes before the show went on the air, Brindisi got a call from his father. Back home in Herkimer, his grandmother had passed away. "It was such a bittersweet moment," he said, "To be going out there to fulfill a dream, and lose somebody that I loved very much." And so he went on stage, and at home, everybody watched as he went out there and did what he loved to do. After the show, he was preparing to rush home to be with his family, when he heard what he called one of the greatest pieces of advice he ever received. Speedy, the guitar tech, called to him as he was exiting the studio. "Mike," he said, "Listen to me. You just finished up your set on SNL, like you wanted. Now go out there and sell me a million albums." "It was at that moment," said Mike, "That I gave up on comedy and returned to music, my first love." Soon after his return home, he moved to Ithaca. "Ithaca is the best town, full of culture and art and music," he said, "I went there to put a band together and get my music going again." It turned out to be not as easy as he thought. "Every musician in town is already playing in, like, five bands," he laughed, "So for a long time, I played acoustic." And he continued to peddle his demo around. And to work three jobs. There was a local radio station, WVBR FM, who gave air time to local musicians, and so Brindisi headed off to hand him his demo, and to plead his case. "I told him to please take a listen, and play the song "Crawl," said Brindisi, "And the DJ laughed, told me it was such a rock-n-roll thing to do, that he would definitely play it." Returning back to his job at the Cornell Laundry, Brindisi was ecstatic to hear himself on the radio. "I danced around the laundry like an idiot shouting 'Hey! That's me.'" The song took off. It was ranked number 22 for the most requested songs of the year at WVBR. Soon, he found four local Ithaca musicians "These guys are amazing," said Brindisi, and Brindisi and The New York Rock came into being. They held their debut show at the Haunt in Ithaca on Feb. 8, 2008, and played to an almost full house. They continued to peddle their demos around, finally contacting NASCAR, seeking for the opportunity to play at Watkins Glen. The NASCAR promoters loved their stuff, and though the venue at Watkins Glen already had a full bill, they were asked if they wanted to open for Gavin DeGraw on July 5, 2008 at another of their sporting events. More recently, they opened for the band REHAB at the Haunt, in Ithaca, playing at last, to a sellout crowd. They entered the studio in October with master engineer Alex Perialas of Pyramid Studios in Ithaca to put their full album together. The finished mixing "Counting Pennies" in February, 2009, and the future looks quite promising for Mike Brindisi and The New York Rock. "I am really living the American rock and roll dream," said Brindisi, "And I love it!" Written by Julie McCaulley.
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