Music legend Billy Joel was an international baller long before he took up a monthly gig in Madison Square Garden. Gone are the tight jeans and leather-jacketed uniform of his early career, but the genius still plays center-stage at every performance. Banging-out the soundtrack of back-seat fantasies the guy from LI has rocked every house he’s played for nearly fifty years.
Telling syncopated stories with swagger ‘The Piano Man’ shares his global spotlight with a tight band of multi-talented musicians. One of those performers is Mike DelGuidice.
Mike recently made time for an interview ‘ToDiFor’. He was hysterical, provocative and thoughtful.
Days after playing in his boss’ band at London’s Wembley Stadium and hours before playing a New York gig with his own band we sandwiched in a chat about his latest single, Mona Lisa. He began by telling an unlikely story of his road to the big league and bright lights through family-fights, friendships and faith.
As a little guy from a family with significant financial and health struggles Mike said he’d use the nozzle of his mom Josie’s vacuum cleaner as a microphone, pots and pans as a drum set and a plastic toy guitar to make up his band of one. Believing as an all-star pitcher on his high school baseball team he could ‘figure-shit-out’ when the pressure was on, he convinced his principal and parish priest similarly he could play ‘what-ever’ at school shows and church festivals. Garage bands followed and the money that poured in by the ten’s of dollars confirmed in Mike’s mind his destiny was to be a musician.
Not interested in college, DelGuidice put together a few cover bands and hustled between low-paying gigs to pay his bills. In 2000 the self-taught musician organized ‘Big Shot’ a Billy Joel tribute band he named in honor of the man who would miraculously, fifteen years later, become his boss.
A bad-ass work ethic helped to establish Mike’s reputation as a genuine talent. Serendipitously, in 2011 two of Billy’s band-mates, Tommy Byrnes and Chuck Burgi, heard the ‘Big Shot’. They agreed to join the cover band between tour dates with the legend.
Two years later Billy Joel decided to hear his boys play with the guy who ‘sounded just like him’. Soon Joel asked Mike to be his designated hitter for pre-concert sound-checks. “I sh-t my pants when Billy asked if I’d be interested in joining the band permanently.” “Are you f—in kidding me? Of course I’d love to play in the band.”
Since then DelGuidice’s ability to play rhythm guitar, piano, and sing everything from pop to opera with Billy Joel has lead him to meet people and opened doors he never dreamed of. Humbled and awestruck by his success, Mike credits God’s hand for this hot-streak of professional opportunities and personal satisfaction.
DelGuidice met comedic actor Kevin James at Billy Joel’s house. Although different in practice, the two share a deep spiritual connection that bonds them as friends. When James was looking for a theme song for the premier of his 2016 television series ‘Kevin Can Wait’ it was DelGuidice who delivered the perfect pitch with his song ‘Ordinary Guy’.
This year the friends have collaborated on another project. Coupling DelGuidice’s musical gifts with James’ passion for acting the two guys from LI updated the story behind Mona Lisa’s smile. In a romanticized music video their tale rocks the icon in a sexy fantasy that includes a big-league nod to baseball.
The song Mona Lisa was originally written by Mike as a love letter to his soulmate Christina. For them the lyrics chronicle the lost and found of their passions. DelGuidice said it’s become easy for him to sing the soundtrack to other people’s love lives to a crowd of eighty thousand, but to share his own feelings is a different story. “It’s a huge challenge.” To stay open, be honest and keep his heart vulnerable he asks God for faith and daily strength. Then he added, “at least that’s the game plan, of course I fuck that shit up a lot.”
Much like DaVinci’s canvas classic, DelGuidice says he’s happy his lyrical Mona Lisa is emotionally ambiguous. The updated version, like the original, leaves room for personal interpretation.
Mike said when Kevin James heard the song he instantly imagined it as a music video playing out the fantasies of every ordinary guy’s life. Turning it into a collaborative project James called on Director,Chuck Kinnane, Grammy-winning producer, Ben Wisch, Emmy winning, Steve Cohen for lighting and Dancing With the Stars coach Tony Dovolani for production assistance.
The music video begins on a snowy night with Kevin James looking cold and love-sick walking by a cafè where a hot woman sits with a subtle smile. Soul-filled lyrics say this Mona had once been a sanctuary. The imagery glides with pounding percussions that swerve into the curve of sensuous moves. The in’s-and-out’s of the couple’s relationship are as ‘comforting as an old religion’. As the tempo builds towards a breathless euphoria, the modern-day Romeo begs to drink-in his muse’s poison slow-oooh, oooh, oh!
Spliced throughout dream sequences James near-misses and near-kisses his idealized woman. After a romantic climax the music and the imagery simultaneously dissolve into a reflective scene of wintery solitude. Mona Lisa is gone. In the end, as it was in the beginning, Kevin James walks alone.
Echoing the erotic theme of Billy Joel’s ” Sometimes a Fantasy” Mike DelGuidice and Kevin James bang-out an old story in a new way. This Mona Lisa is bound to be a timeless classic. Catch it on iTunes, or at the next ‘Big Shot’ concert ~ it’s ToDiFor!
Diane Kilgore is a journalist in the Greater Boston Area. She is a Cultural Contributor for NewBostonPost and creator of the lifestyle blog ‘To Di For.’