Rising Singer/Songwriter Michael Marcagi Talks About His Excellent Debut EP, American Romance, And Breakout Song “Scared To Start”

Michael Marcagi
Michael Marcagi

In the past year, folk/rock singer/songwriter Michael Marcagi has emerged as a talented artist to watch. He has built large followings on TikTok and Instagram, and he recently signed with Warner Records. And impressively, he has just released an excellent debut EP called American Romance.

Marcagi (who is from Cincinnati, Ohio) has a strong, soulful singing voice, and he writes songs that are heartfelt and insightful. He’s a storyteller who combines folk, rock and Americana music for an appealing sound. His new EP contains five songs: “Scared To Start,” “The Other Side,” “Savannah,” “American Made” and “In The Light.”

Last year (2023), Marcagi had a breakthrough when he released his song, “Scared To Start,” as an indie artist. Soon after, the song went viral on TikTok and Instagram, and slmost overnight, Marcagi attracted thousands of new fans.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Michael Marcagi, who discusses the making of his new EP, American Romance.


For his EP American Romance, Marcagi went into the studio with top producer & musician David Baron, who is known for his work with the Lumineers, Vance Joy and other artists. In addition, Marcagi co-wrote songs with his lead guitarist and longtime friend, Andrew Yorio.

Marcagi grew up in Cincinnati, where he learned to play guitar and started writing songs. His mother introduced him to the music of classic singer/songwriters like John Prine and Jim Croce, and he connected with folk songs and storytelling.

When he went to collegei, he became friends with other musicians and they formed a band called The Heavy Hours. Notably, the band had regional success, and they released an album called Wildfire and an EP, Gardens. Some of their key songs are “Wildfire,” “Don’t Walk Away” and “You Say My Name.”

However, after several years together, The Heavy Hours broke up, with Marcagi deciding to pursue a career as a solo artist. It was then that he released his single “Scared to Start” and things took off.

Here’s the video of Michael Marcagi’s single, “Scared to Start.”

With the recent release of his EP, American Romance, Marcagi will be embarking on a major new tour, which is his first as a headliner. He will be playing many shows in the U.S., plus shows in the United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and Norway.

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Michael Marcagi. He tells how he wrote his songs “Scared To Start” and “The Other Side,” and discusses the making of his EP.

DK: I read that you’re from Cincinnati. How did you get started with music and writing songs?

Michael Marcagi: I got a guitar for Christmas when I was in 7th or 8th grade. I was the youngest in my family, so my brother and sister went away to college around that time. Back then, it felt like I was an only child, so I started writing songs and got into the guitar. When I was growing up, my mom had real good music tastes…she was always listening to artists like John Prine and Jim Croce. I remember being around her in her car, and connecting with folk songs and storytelling. So I fell in love with it at a young age, but I didn’t think about doing anything with music until much later.

Early on, I wasn’t someone who wanted to be onstage and performing. But in college I lived with some guys that were musicians too, and we wrote songs together Then they wanted to gig and get out in front of people.

DK: Before you started your solo career, you were in a band called The Heavy Hours. Can you talk about being in that band?

Marcagi: Those were the guys that I lived with in college…I’ve been friends with them for a long time. Being in The Heavy Hours was the first real musical project that I was a part of. It was great and a lot of fun, and I learned so much. We were young and flying by the seat of our pants, and we had a lot of fun experiences. We got to open up for some awesome bands and make cool connections in the music industry, and we gained experience playing shows.

Here’s the audio of Michael Marcagi’s song, “The Other Side.”

I’m still friends with those guys…it just fizzled out with people wanting to move on and try other things with their life. So when that started happening, it make me think about what I wanted to do in the music industry and with my own music. And I wanted to get back to playing the type of music that I’ve always been inspired to do, which was more of a simpler, folky style that my heart’s always been in.

DK: How did you develop your solo career? Did you start by putting out songs as an indie artist?

Marcagi: It happened pretty fast. After the band fizzled out, I had a few songs that I’d been saving, so I wanted to record them. I didn’t have much money to record them, so I saved up and finally got the money to do three songs. After I recorded these songs, I started posting on Instagram and TikTok and making teasers. I posted for a month or so, and then I woke up one day after posting “Scared To Start” on TikTok, and it had about 800,000 views! And it kept climbing. So it opened a lot of doors for me and exposed my music to a lot of new faces and new people. And it’s been climbing from there.

DK: When did you sign with Warner Records?

Marcagi: We definitely had some people reaching out; it was around Christmastime (2023). Warner Records was the first Zoom call meeting that we ended up having. It felt like an awesome fit…the team over there is really encouraging. It feels like a family and they said all the right things.

DK: You’ve released your EP, American Romance. Can you talk about the making of your EP?

Marcagi: I had finished three songs—“Scared To Start, “The Other Side” and “Savannah”—so I was teasing them on TikTok. Then after “Scared To Start” happened, we wanted to get a few more songs out, and I had more songs that I wanted to record. So I went back up to upstate New York with producer David Baron. He’s an awesome producer who’s done some really cool records like the Lumineers. Then I finished two more songs with him to round out the EP, and I was happy with how it turned out. He did a good job of stripping everything back. He said, “Let’s just let this song speak for itself, and let’s not have a ton of tracks. Let’s keep things simple and not overcomplicate things,” which was harder for me but I’m glad I had someone to help me out. And I think it turned out better than I could have hoped. It’s one of the few projects that I’ve done, where it was like, “Man, that sounds exactly the way I wanted it to sound.’ I left the studio happy.

Here’s the audio of Michael Marcagi’s song, “Savannah.”

DK: “Scared To Start” is your most popular song so far. Can you talk about writing that song?

Marcagi: “Scared To Start’ was the one that was the oldest. It was a song that I always liked, and I remember a couple years ago sending a demo of it to my manager, and he liked it and thought it would be one of my biggest songs. It was always a song that I hoped would connect with people. “Scared to Start” was like the thesis song of the whole project, and set the tone and mood for the rest of the songs. It all fell in place after that.

DK: For your EP, I noticed that you wrote several songs with guitarist Andrew Yorio. Can you talk about your collaborations with him?

Marcagi: He’s the one member of the old band who is still playing with me in the new project. He’s the lead guitarist and I’ve known him since I was in high school, so we go back a long way. We still write songs together and he’ll be with me on the road for hopefully the rest of my career (laughs).

DK: Now that your EP is out, you’ll be going on tour for the next few months. Can you talk about your live shows and your tour?

Marcagi: I’m so excited…it’s a dream come true. The live show is gonna be awesome. I’m going out with a five-piece band, and play the songs how they sound on the EP. I’m getting to play so many cool places. And it’s a little different mindset for me, because when I was in my old band, we played hundreds of shows but we were always the opener. I got really good playing to people who were half-listening and getting drinks at the bar, and trying to win their attention. So it’s definitely a new mindset, with people who are now there to see you and singing along to your songs. It’s a completely new thing for me.

Here’s the link to Michael Marcagi’s site: https://www.michaelmarcagimusic.com/

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima