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The Funky Blu Roots of Mikal Serafim

I was hanging around with a few of the Hatfield and McCoys of Syracuse’s top guitar slingers one night at an open jam … talking shop, busting a few laughs, and enjoying an off-night brew or two as the room moved in waves of one fun tune after another.

I see a dude with sideburns getting his turn, taking the stage, and rigging-up his guitar. His sideburns made me think of Jersey for some reason. His Hawaiian-ish shirt made me think of Florida.

“Who’s the Dude with the sideburns?,” I asked my pals. And everybody just looked at me the way dogs tilt their heads when they hear something you yourself do not.

“What?” I continued. They looked so serious and curious at the same time.

“You haven’t seen Mikal play?” They offer in a sort of humored disbelief.

“No. I don’t know this guy.”

Shabamba! And he hit it.

Yep. Jaws dropped. And this was truly a ‘wow” introduction to the huge talent of Mikal Serafim for me. Instant fan. In the first song I became aware that what we have in Mikal is one of the very best guitarists that Syracuse is going to lay claim to as one of it’s own culturally prized possessions.

Mikal takes blues, rock, jazz and boogie to a very, very groovy and reachable place. I think it’s “reachable” because he plays from a place where he is beyond prepared. He plays from a place of deep, deep soul and he’s playing it in a way in which you can feel his honesty and truth about what he is doing. One of those musicians that when he closes his eyes he goes far far away while remaining immediately in your presence in the most artistically naked way.

He writes, plays guitar and sings in triple-threat fashion. The ride on which his music takes you is bouncy, ballsy and super fun. But, more importantly Mikal Serafim’s music is authentic.

I think the world and our community needs more of the authentic stuff … not the stuff that’s plastic, pseudo or once-removed via cyber tech. This is a hands-on, heart reaching, feet-in-the-mud, visceral music experience that is real.

So, I interviewed him.

Chuck Schiele: Hey Mikal. Thanks for doing this interview with us here at Sounds of Syracuse. You sure have been busy out there.

Mikal Serafim: Good to see you, Chuck. Yes, things are going pretty good for me.

CS: Okay, well let’s roll this. How did you get into music? When?

MS: I had a plastic guitar and used a vacuum cleaner as a mic stand when I was 5, so it was apparent what I wanted to do. I took piano lessons first, and like most teenagers, I got into the guitar in middle school playing popular rock tunes.

CS: Please elaborate on you music history and growth.

MS: It’s amazing the path we all take. I played in pickup bands, until I saw the University of Miami jazz band perform at my high school and I’ve been hooked ever since.

CS: What brought you to Syracuse?

MS: I got the chance to come up to Syracuse performing a few shows and immediately fell in love with the region and it’s people. I recently made it official and became a full time CNY resident.

CS: What do you think of the music and it’s community, here?

MS: The interesting thing about Central New York is that in addition to the large number of top quality musicians and venues, there is a lot of support for the music and that makes a lot of difference.

CS: Describe your music in your terms:

MS: My main gig is the Funky Blu Roots and that describes exactly what we do: original, jazzy, funky blues rock.

CS: What are your preferred gear choices? .

MS: Musicians are notoriously partisan and I am no different. My preferred guitars and amps are Gibsons, Fenders and Marshalls from 1968 to 1980 and custom shop issued from 1988 to1998.

CS: I think you play bass, as well, yes?

MS: Yes. Some of the areas best guitarists also play bass and I can’t let them have all the fun.

CS: With whom are you working since you arrived to the area?

MS: In addition to the Funky Blu Roots I’ve started working in large scale productions like the Ridge Tribute Series, Home Bound Harmonies and the final Beatlecuse, both produced by Paul Davie as well as guesting in some of the area bands. I got the chance to play guitar this past summer with smooth jazz saxophonist Jackiem Joyner courtesy of musical director Sami Keeiis. I have appeared on recording sessions for albums by Diana Jacobs and George Rossi.

CS: What are some of your better memories regarding your music path?

MS: I have had the opportunity to play the New York State Blues Fest twice along with Chenango, Lilac and Alexandria Bay Blues Fests, but Mont Tremblant holds a special place for me.

CS: Got any funny war stories clean enough to share?

MS: War stories that won’t get me arrested? Ha. When I started gigging out professionally, I had the chance to jam with Prince who was a very gracious, thoughtful guy and a better guitar player than he gets credit for.

CS: What is your advice for budding musicians?

MS: I realized right off that you will need additional income and resources to exist as a musician. Do your research and decide whether a career in music is the right path for you. Learn to play the piano. That will teach you all you need to know about the fundamentals of music, so whatever instrument you decide to play, the learning will be that much faster, the going that much easier.

CS: I know you’re busy. What’s coming down the line for you, musically?

MS: We are putting the finishing touches on the new Funky Blu Roots record “Riding The Razors Edge” to be released in 2020. I was invited to play on the Tom Emmi produced segment “Lest We Forget” featuring George Rossi, along with the new Shuffling Hungarians record co-produced by Jeff Moleski at Moletrax Studio, which is also slated for 2020. I will also be making my debut appearance as part of The Great Salt City Blues Fest, a Greg Spencer production to be held at The Palace Theater on December 27th -In conjunction with The Salt City Blues Fest, I will be deckin’ the halls with a Christmas vibe on Channel 3 during the holidays – so tune in. In between, you can catch me at the 443 Social Club on Burnet Avenue with the Revue Review Songwriter’s Series on December 4th with John Cadley and Anna Troy. December 14th layingdown some guitar with Chuck Schiele Band at Dominick’s with the Funky Blu Roots at Al’s Wine and Whiskey December 18th.

CS: How do we stay in touch with you and your music?

MS: www.facebook.com/TheFunkyBluRoots

CS: Thank you very much for taking a little time for Sounds of Syracuse Mikal. See you out there.

MS: Thank you, Chuck. It’s been a pleasure.

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