Singer-songwriter Michael Cialdella knows a thing or two about taking risks. He once gave up his apartment in Los Angeles and used the rent money to independently fund his first album.
Now, he may very well be the world’s only successful law-degree-holding homeless musician.
With his upbeat, piano-driven pop music and a deeply refined voice, the 31-year-old New York native, whose self-titled debut is circling throughout iTunes, has already performed for a variety of crowds, including a gig at the Washington Convention Center for President Bush. And he’s just embarked on the semester-long college tour called the Living Room Tour, an intimate series of storyteller-style shows that was originally slated to kickoff at the University of Miami. The show, hosted by Tri-Delta, was postponed at the last minute, but Cialdella said he hoped to come back at the end of the tour.
“I’m a nomad, [but] I’ve gotten used to being transient that way,” Cialdella said in a phone interview. “It’s nice to have the stability of a place to call your own, but I’m enjoying traveling. It’s a fun adventure.”
His adventure began while growing up in Goshen, New York where at age 7 he wrote his first song on piano. He went through school studying for a job in public service and went off to the University of Virginia to study law. Meanwhile, he took voice lessons at the Peabody Conservatory and joined an acappella group called the AllNighters.
By the end of college he decided to go into entertainment law and moved to L.A. But after realizing the job “drained [his] soul,” Cialdella said he made up his mind to play music for the rest of his life and began writing more songs on his keyboard.
His life changed when he met two-time Grammy-winning producer Chris Brooke, who loved Cialdella’s music and pulled together a team of the best musicians in town, including drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and bassist Lee Sklar, to bring the songs to life.
As the album came to fruition, Cialdella said his inner-lawyer told him to fund the album on his own to avoid the creative compromises of going through major labels. And he pulled it off by giving up his apartment and asking for a lot of favors. He said he lived off credit cards and the “incredible generosity of some incredible friends.”
But it’s paid off. Because of his sacrifices, he admitted that he’s been very fortunate for a first time recording artist.
“The amazing thing was that since I decided to do it on my own, with an amazing co-pilot [Chris Brooke], we were able to get a finished product that remarkably reflects what was in my head from the outset.”
The music from those sessions was a summation of Cialdella’s personal experiences, including his nomadic lifestyle and the death of his mother. Weaving together sugary pop from the styles of classical music and influences like the Beatles, Billy Joel and Carol King, his songs are about “taking an unconventional road and pursuing something you’re passionate about passionately.”
But if there’s a universal message in his music, it’s a simple, yet poignant one: how much love matters.
“I hope that the songs have a sincerity to them,” he said. “I’m a professional optimist [and] I think there’s a joy that connects the songs on the album.”
Rafael Sangiovanni can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.