The Musician Spotlight Series shines a light on up-and-coming bands and solo acts creating heartfelt and original work across genres, giving them an opportunity to talk about their music, their collaborators, and why they do what they do.


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“Mike Nagoda is a Canadian bisexual, queer and disabled blues and roots musician and independent recording artist based in Toronto. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Mike struggled to play guitar in the conventional manner until he discovered legendary Toronto Bluesman Brian Cober, who invented the art of Double Slide Guitar in 1971. Nagoda eventually approached Brian to teach him this technique and Mr. Cober became Mike’s close friend and mentor until his passing in 2016. Nagoda is now proudly carrying on Mr. Cober’s legacy to a new generation with his newest independent release, Outside The Box, marking the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of Mr. Cober’s revolutionary invention. Mike Nagoda is the winner of the 2020 Toronto Blues Society Talent Search, as well as receiving an Honourable Mention for the 2019 Amy Louie Grossman’s Music Scholarship.”


When did you know you wanted to be a musician?

When I was recording my first record Parliament in 2012, I’d dropped out of university to give making a record a shot. During recording, I realized that making music was what made me truly happy in life, and that’s when I realized that being a musician was my calling, and that I was all in.


Are you trained? How did you develop your skills?

I’ve been classically trained on piano through the Royal Conservatory of Music (got my Grade 8 Piano and Grade 1 and 2 Rudiments of Music Theory) since age six – that was my Mom’s thing, it wasn’t my thing. I really wanted to play guitar, and found I could play with a slide and set the guitar on my lap – when I was 19, I started taking lessons with a local bluesman named Frank Cosentino, but found traditional lap steel with one slide to be too limiting – I couldn’t get all the chords I wanted to play in an open tuning.


When I finally met my mentor Brian Cober in 2005, everything changed the moment I saw Brian play with two slides on one hand – suddenly I had a way to get all those chords and sounds I heard in my head, and I knew this was my path forward. Brian taught me Double Slide Guitar, his own invention, for almost a decade – he only ever gave me three formal lessons, the rest was the school of hard knocks, live on stage at Grossman’s Tavern at the Sunday Night Jam he hosted – I learned more from him on that stage than in all of my formal training combined! After he passed in 2016, I had to find my own way forward and take the instrument and his art/technique in my own direction – right now, I’m my own teacher, and it’s both scary and exciting to figure something out on your own without anyone there to guide you, and break new ground.


Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

Brian is definitely my biggest influence – without him, I wouldn’t be able to play guitar! Everything I do is based on the foundation he laid down with Double Slide Guitar – he started that in 1971. Now I’m carrying it on over fifty years later!


In addition to Brian, from the Blues and Roots genres I take influence from steel/slide guitarists like Robert Randolph (who is probably my earliest music influence – I took my aggressive sound from him, and that wild, wide vibrato!), Derek Trucks, Sonny Landreth, guys like that. I also love Buddy Guy, BB King, Albert King.


But my biggest musical influence aside from Blues is probably British Hard Rock, Heavy Metal and Progressive Rock – bands from the 70s and 80s like Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, King Crimson, Yes, ELP, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath – have all had a tremendous influence on me. Blues may be part of my sound, and yet prog and metal influenced my outlook and how I write songs because I am always striving to do push forward and do something different! I want to be weird, and I embrace that in my music!


How would you describe your sound?

I can be both loud and aggressive when I’m playing electric guitar – think traditional blues licks and sometimes song structures, but with a heavy, overdriven tone and a bright sound taken from heavy metal – and I can also be sweet, honest and sincere when I’m playing acoustic guitar.


I also don’t just like to do traditional sounding Blues or Roots music – there always has to eb a twist to it, for me – nontraditional song structures or lyrics. That’s where the Prog influence comes from. In my head, I hear a sound that’s equal parts Blues, Prog and Heavy Metal – I still haven’t found a way to marry all those things yet, but I’m getting there. My sound is constantly changing and evolving – I don’t really have one sound or influence so much as I have many sounds and influences that I use to tell stories with. I’m a storyteller first, I think. If you want to find the unifying theme amongst all the different genres I’ve explored through my music (and I’ve explored quite a few!), look through my lyrics and you’ll find me there.


What’s your favourite tune in your repertoire and why?

So far, it’s “O, Maximus!” off my 2022 release Outside The Box – that tune is the closest I’ve come melding my Blues and Prog influences together – when the band and I do it live, we add other sections in different time signatures – it’s never played the same way twice, and that’s what makes it so fun to perform!


Tell us about your band members and how the group came together.

My rhythm section, Jeremy Ronson and Gram Whitty on drums and bass respectively, are the best rhythm section I’ve ever worked with. Jeremy joined in 2015, and Gram about a year later in 2016. We’ve gotten to that level of musicianship where one of us will start an idea, and the other will finish it or play off it instinctually – we’ve got this near psychic form of communication amongst each other that’s really hard to find, and whenever we play together, it’s pure magic.


Our newest addition is Fabio Dwyer on electric guitar, who joined the band mid way through 2022. Fabio is a great player – really dedicated to the Blues, and playing it authentically, in his own way – he can be soft when he needs to be, and absolutely rude and loud when the situation calls for it, and has really fit into the band quite nicely.


There’s a real respect and friendship between the four of us, and that’s really hard to find in a band. I feel like the lineup we have now is our best: everyone wants to bring their best, and comes to the music with an open mind, and an excitement to try new things. I couldn’t ask for better in a band!


Walk us through the writing process for your upcoming album.

I started writing the tunes for what would become Conspiracy! A Satire of Machinations, Tall Tales and the Slightly Lacquered Truth, my third record, sometime before the Pandemic hit. I can’t remember when I started writing them, maybe around 2017, but I just picked up my acoustic guitar one day and these songs fell out of it one after the other!


Sometime in 2023, an opportunity came up to record a new album through a new recording studio in Toronto called the Recording Factory – Caleb Hyde, who runs the studio, is an amazing engineer and human being who is looking to make the studio experience affordable for indie artists like myself. So when the opportunity to record arose, I went for it. The only problem was I was two songs short a record – so I completed the final two songs in a couple weeks, and the band and I had two months arrange and rehearse the tunes before we hit the studio this past July!


It was tight – and I don’t think up until maybe the last rehearsal we were sure if everything was going to come together, if I’m being honest – but once we got in the studio and hit record, we knew we had something really special when we started recording, we could just tell, this record was going to be magic.


I don’t want to give too much else away, other than to say, I’m back to doing what I do best, which is creating weird, Blues influenced concept albums and telling all sorts of wild stories. Expect something different from me than what you’re used to in terms of the sound, that’s all I’ll say for now!


What can audiences expect from one of your live shows?

Lots of originals – the set is usually comprised most of my original material, with a few choice covers thrown in for good measure. I really believe in doing original music, telling stories, taking folks on a journey.


Aside from that, people can expect a high energy show filled with lots of searing, screaming electric slide guitar, expressive vocals, and a tight band that really loves to jam and cut loose! We love playing live, and stretching out, and our shows reflect that!


Where can we find your music?

I really don’t like the streaming model, so I prefer if folks want to hear my music, that they head on over to my Bandcamp page and check it out there and get a copy if they really like it – – please support your local artists!