Just how tough the last two years have been for musicians was well-documented in a story in last month’s Climate, as opportunities to do live performances vaporized because of Covid-related restrictions. But singer-songwriter Mike Annuzzi today could happily do a cover version of the Gershwin standard “Things Are Looking Up” as his career comes out from hibernation. Pre-Covid, the Redwood City native typically performed 250 nights a year—and then abruptly lost all his gigs. Now he’s back doing four or five restaurant gigs a week. But the best development, Annuzzi wants one and all to know, was the release last month of his first single in two years, a country rock song called “New Boots On”— in an online digital release and in a music video.
Annuzzi had to turn himself into something of a one-man band, not just writing and performing his music but producing the video, putting the whole package together and handling the promotion too. It paid off rather well: The song debuted on the Bay Area rock station 107.7 The Bone, on Soundwaves radio and TV—and he also achieved a lifetime dream of getting air play on country station 95.3 KRTY. He’s hoped to get new fans in the country music world and was ecstatic May 6 when “New Boots On” hit the iTunes Top 100 Country Charts: “As an independent artist, I am completely overwhelmed.”
His Redwood City roots run deep. Father Joe Annuzzi owned a custom cabinet business across from Costco and his mother, Marlene, worked in the Redwood City Manager’s office and then at the Veterans Memorial Senior Center. Their son started playing guitar at St. Pius School and went on to get a college degree in music (and the business end of it) in San Luis Obispo. Though earning a living in the arts is tough, Annuzzi says he was lucky to have totally supportive parents. He started in the industry on the business side but a time came when a name performer needed an opening concert act and nobody could be found. Annuzzi said, “I’ll do it. … That was my first professional career gig and then I realized, wait a second. Maybe I could try to do this for myself.” Now in his late 30s, Annuzzi has been able to sustain a full-time music career for almost 16 years, from teaching guitar to touring on the road. He’s performed in venues such as the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, BottleRock Napa and the place where the “New Boots On” music video was filmed: Club Fox. Post-Covid, he’s glad not to be on the road so much and getting to connect with local audiences.
“This is my hometown so it’s kind of been my hometown stage,” says Annuzzi. “To have some supportive local avenues like this is everything for a musician.” The story line of the song is about a young woman who had a long day and is ready to go out to have fun. She then gets up on stage singing and playing and becomes a star. The message is to “make the most out of every night,” says Annuzzi. Courtney Shirley was the actress, Redwood City native Austin Rausch the videographer and Redwood City resident Charlie Couch assisted from concept to photography.
Though he’s written about 100 songs, Annuzzi does a lot of restaurant gigs (regularly at Terún and Italico in Palo Alto and Delizie and Cuisinett Bistro in San Carlos) and covers popular tunes as well—“from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson. Elvis Presley to Dean Martin.” Annuzzi doesn’t mimic them. “I do not,” he says. “I sing it my way. I do it my way.” At one time, he dreamed that he’d just be a songwriter, “but then there’s kind of a bug that bites you when you perform live that you really can’t find anywhere else so that just kept me going.”