Australia native Leanne Trevena was just looking for an interesting evening of fun entertainment back in February, 2013 when she saw a write up about blues artist Mike Zito in her local paper, the Colorado Springs Independent.
So, she headed up with her husband, Simon, to check out a new venue she hadn’t tried before.
“It’s this little dive bar up on the highway,” Trevena said. (Our favorite kind of place, right?) “The write-up in the local paper was interesting, and it was a good chance to see the venue, as we had tickets to see another artist there in April.”
“I was standing there waiting for a friend and he [Zito] just walked right past me and went up on the stage and started playing,” she said. It’s one of the great things about experiencing live music at a small roadhouse is that the musicians are literally right there with you.
Trevena decided she liked the music and purchased the namesake Royal Southern Brotherhood CD at that concert – afterwards, doing some further research on the band.
“With more knowledge of the music, it was an even better night,” said Trevena. “I bought a [Royal Southern Brotherhood] t-shirt and promptly made my way around to the band members getting it signed. This lead to getting to chat with the band members and eventually with Mike himself.”
“He was very friendly and we talked about his blog and music. He was so real, so humble and so grateful for his fans and music followers,” she said.
The next time she saw Zito was later in 2013 on a two week road trip to New Orleans. Zito was playing a show at Chickie WahWah’s and, out of just dumb luck, Trevena said, she found out Zito was playing while she and Simon were there to attend a jazz festival. The couple went and Trevena said the crowd was sparse that night, but it didn’t matter.
“Mike Zito got up and he played like the house was full,” she said.
She got a chance to chat with Mike again that night in NOLA – about his blog and his music. She bought two more CDs that night – Greyhound and Pearl River, pointing out she was after a couple of favorite tracks: One Step at a Time & Greyhound (title track)
That night, Zito mentioned a show that would be the following night at the same venue – so Trevena and her husband went back the next night – this time to an overflow crowd and a packed house.
A further conversation after the second night in NOLA led Trevena to follow Zito’s suggestion to check out a memorial in Beaumont, Texas where there was a tribute Blind Willie Johnson. The couple got to visit the memorial on their way back home to Colorado. (Zito covered Johnson’s song Let You Light Shine on Me on his Gone To Texas CD.)
Trevena was finally hooked on Zito and his music as she listened to more and more of his songs and heard his performances and visited Zito’s blog: A Bluesman in Recovery
“His music gets me through a lot of things,” Trevena said. “His blogs are interesting, informative and thought provoking. I love that I have been able to meet him and chat with him many times. I also love sharing his music with family and friends and enjoy being able to give people autographed CDs.”
Trevena said that she found Zito’s openness about his own life experiences a positive influence for her.
“I felt he was saying that he wasn’t perfect and wasn’t claiming to be,” she said. “We’ve all seen headlines of what addiction does to people and cost to society, but I think being able to speak to someone makes it more understandable. I’m not sure I had ever really met anyone that had suffered with addiction – it was a chance for me to learn something, perhaps get rid of ideas that had been planted in my brain by other parties…family, media, etc.”
Trevena said she had suffered depression before in her life, and that, “although the two are not the same, there is so much that Mike talks about with recovery that I can relate to. Mike’s life has obviously given him some very good stories to tell, and he has been able to use that in his music.”
Zito performed recently at Knuckleheads in Kansas City, opening for Tab Benoit on the outdoor stage. After Zito’s performance, a small crowd gathered around to purchase CDs and t-shirts at the end of the stage. She waited quietly in line behind others there to have autographs signed and photos taken with Zito. Zito turned to the final two people waiting in line, nodded towards Trevena and said “She’s a fan AND a friend.”
To Trevena, he smiled: “When you are a friend, you get to wait until everyone is finished to catch up.” And a busy conversation ensued in the remaining break before the next set.
Trevena came away from the encounter a bit breathless but with a wide, girlish smile.
“I felt honored that he would refer to me in that way,” Trevena said. “I think a big part of Mike Zito is that he can make people feel special just by being him. He doesn’t come across as arrogant or superior. I think he’s amazing and he seems to think the same of his fans.”