Mike Zito

Mike Zito

Mike Zito is an award-winning bluesman, record producer, songwriter and one of the most exciting artists working in the genre today. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Mike is co-owner of the Texas-based Gulf Coast Record Company which has birthed a number of critically celebrated blues & rock albums since opening its doors in 2018. He’s also a founding member of the supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood, featuring Cyril Neville, Devon Allman, Charlie Wooton, and Yonrico Scott. As a solo artist, Mike is signed to Gulf Coast Records, with whom he’s released several acclaimed albums.


PRS: Your most recent album, Life is Hard, was just released in February, what have been your favorite tunes to play live since it dropped?

Mike: We are playing about 7 songs off the new album, which is more than usual. I have 22 studio albums, so we have to play a lot of fan favorites in the shows. I love all of the new material but my most favorite is “Forever My Love”. I wrote the song about losing my wife last summer to Pancreatic Cancer. It’s a very Gary Moore-drenched blues ballad that I get to shred on.

PRS: Last year you released two collaborative records with Albert Castiglia, Blood Brothers and Live in Canada. Can we expect further releases from this partnership?

Mike: The Blood Brothers project was a long time in the making. Albert and I have been close friends for over a decade and we always like playing music together. The studio and live album we made last year is only the beginning, we plan on doing this as long as possible.

PRS: Both of these projects were produced by Joe Bonamassa, how did the opportunity to work with him on these records come about?

Mike: Joe and I have been friends for years, he’s a sweetheart of a guy. He’s gotten into producing over the past years and I thought bringing him in, along with his partner Josh Smith, was the best idea to help Albert and I wrangle our guitar parts together rather than just jam. Josh is an excellent arranger. Joe is always pushing for the best, good is not good enough. They were both excited to work with us when I made the call. We had such a good experience making the Blood Brothers album, that it only made sense to make the Life is Hard album as well. I needed that drive and push from Joe, and I needed the musical direction from Josh. We make a great team for sure. Joe made sure I played and sang to the best of my ability.


PRS: You’ve amassed an admirable collection of PRS Guitars over the years, but you seem to be favoring your "Red Tiger" McCarty 594 Singlecut as of late. What inspires you to choose it over your other instruments?

Mike: There is something very special about that guitar. It’s not the lightest 594 I have, but it has this tone that really sings. The neck is perfect, not too fat, or thin, it has a little chunk to it. It’s probably the best guitar I have ever owned, and I have owned way too many guitars. The “Red Tiger” was used for the Life is Hard artwork and promotion of the new album. It just seems to fit what I am doing musically. The pickups sound vintage and warm but with enough bite to rock. I use the coil splits to clean up the tone. It does everything I need to do onstage each night.

PRS: What do you love the most about your PRS guitars in general?

Mike: They absolutely inspire me to play. I always want to pick them up and practice, write, and learn. I never want to be one of those old guys who only plays when it’s showtime. I love all the different model PRS guitars I have in my stable, but the McCarty 594 Singlecut is my favorite. I have five of them! They look classic and beautiful, stay in tune, and play so easy. I have played so many different guitars over the years and I have finally found my guitar in the 594.


Listen to tracks from Life Is Hard below:


Photo: Norma Touchette