Michael Marcagi: ‘It's Cool To See Fans Genuinely Interested In Lyrics & Storytelling’

11 July 2024 | 12:13 pm | Mary Varvaris

Ohio native Michael Marcagi details the risk he’s “willing to take” in developing his artistry beyond TikTok fame ahead of his debut Australian tour.

Michael Marcagi

Michael Marcagi (Source: Supplied)

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Michael Marcagi is the definition of a modern-day success story.

A homegrown star, the Cincinnati, Ohio native’s upbringing consisted of performing in rock bands before eventually going solo. But the lessons Marcagi learned from being in a band and a taste of success in the local rock group The Heavy Hours couldn’t have prepared him for what would come next.

In the spring of 2023, Marcagi amassed a loyal following on TikTok before he’d even released any of his solo music – just his little snippets of himself singing and playing the guitar were enough to win people over. At the time of writing, he’s amassed over 225,000 followers on the platform, as well as 1.6 million likes on his videos.

At the start of the year, one of Marcagi’s songs, Scared To Start, went viral on TikTok and YouTube, amassing millions of views and likes. He catapulted to the spotlight, landing in the Top 20 on the ARIA Singles Chart and signing a record deal with just two songs to his solo career.

Back in February, he released his debut EP, American Romance, a five-song collection of poignant tales draped in the sound of folk-rock and pure Americana – imagine a blend of Zach Bryan’s alt-country songwriting and Noah Kahan’s quirky indie slow songs. For the EP, he worked with producer David Baron (Lana Del Rey, The Lumineers, Shania Twain).

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“There's definitely some overlap [with Zach Bryan] there,” Marcagi says, phoning in via Zoom weeks from his first-ever Australian tour dates. “He definitely leans a bit more country than me, but it's the same thing: acoustic guitars and storytelling about where you're from, your childhood and the things you grew up around.”

Marcagi describes Bryan’s songwriting style as “very intimate”, comparing his concerts to something akin to a “backyard party, but for 60,000 people.”

Michael Marcagi has arrived in music at just the right time, and this month, Australian audiences get to witness his debut performances down under. Heading to Adelaide for Spin Off festival next Friday (19 July), Marcagi is also playing sideshows in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney – an experience he never thought possible.

 “The past couple of months have been extremely fun, and it's not something that I truly, realistically, ever thought was a possibility,” he says.

“I didn’t ever think that getting to headline a tour in the US, let alone going to different countries, was ever in the realm of possibility. I'm very, very grateful for everything that's happened. I've been trying to enjoy every minute of it because I know how unique of an opportunity it is, and so I've been really trying to just be grateful.”

If building a solo music career wasn’t intimidating enough, there’s no way Marcagi could have anticipated becoming the musician whose music blares out of every second person’s phone.

With the overnight success of Scared To Start—and the embrace of American Romance—Marcagi has undoubtedly felt some pressure around what comes next and how to maintain momentum while he’s got it, a sentiment shared by Australian viral country music sensation Bronson Diamond.

Marcagi comments, “I definitely feel a pressure now after writing those five songs, like, I need to keep this up, and I need to write more songs and make sure I don't start putting things out that I don't 100% believe in and make sure that everything that I've released, I feel good about.”

Calling his emotions around releasing music a “different challenge,” as he’s doing something he’s never had to do before, Marcagi adds, “I’ve always continued to write for a goal, and it's an interesting challenge to be like, ‘Oh, I'm writing for to finish this album, and it needs to keep producing solid music’. It's fun pressure, but it's definitely there.

“[There are] some tricks in my head that I'm pulling out to make sure I don't get too hung up on stuff,” Marcagi says of the negative responses to his music on social media – and getting addicted to social media in general. “If you get too hung up on social media and what people say to you, it'll drive you mad.

“I experienced that when Scared To Start first came out. I remember being hung up on the two negative comments as opposed to the 90 positive ones. So, it's easy to get sucked into negative thoughts, but I'm doing my best to stay positive.”

And Marcagi can find positivity when he’s on the road, seeing the fans’ connection to his music before him: genuine, emotional, and enthusiastic.

He recently finished up a tour of the East and West Coast of the US, recalling the exhaustion of “a lot of driving” and performing in many music venues. Despite the exhaustion, he found joy in playing live and witnessing fans respond warmly to his music.

“It was really fun to hear people sing along with the songs and have people come up to me after the show and tell me how much they connected with the song or how it's helped them through a hard event in their life,” Marcagi says with a smile.

“As an artist, the coolest thing you can hear is, ‘Hey, your song helped me through this, or your song means this to me.’ It’s one of those moments where it's hard to believe this is real, like, people are connecting with this in a way that I didn't even think was going to happen.”

With his fans’ undying love for his music inspiring him, Marcagi has started to open up a little more, releasing the new single Tear It All Apart.

One of his favourite songs he’s written to date, the song presents a little more of the singer-songwriter’s past and offers a little sneak peek behind the curtain of his life. Tear It All Apart evokes specific memories, especially driving past a familiar street and experiencing the memory of laughing at his parents’ house years after they’d moved into a new home.

“It's definitely the first time I've done that,” Marcagi admits, revealing that Tear It All Apart marked a significant departure from his usual writing style.

He continues, “It's a bit of a risk, and it’s a different feeling writing about something that people might know exactly what you're writing about or opening up a little bit more, but I think that's a risk I'm willing to take. It’s interesting as a fan: you want to know more about the person that's singing. And I think it's a good songwriting tool, too, to be a little bit more open about who you are.”

This month, Marcagi’s Australian fans will get a taste of who he is as an artist, and if they thought they only knew him from Scared To Start, they’ll quickly discover how much more he has to offer. But first, he has to survive the nightmarishly long flight to Australia.

Marcagi laughs, “I'm so excited. I've heard such great things about Australia as a whole, whether it's from people going there for vacation or fellow bands that have toured there; everyone has said that I'll have the most fun that I'll ever have touring.

“I've never been before, so I'm just excited to see it. The only thing I'm nervous about is that that 20-hour flight to get over there, I don't know how I'm gonna kill that much time on an airplane!”

Set to perform at Spin Off festival in Adelaide as well as a bunch of sideshows, Marcagi promises to play his songs “as close as to the record” as possible. He also notes that every song he’s played thus far has invited a memorable, “genuinely fun, positive, easygoing atmosphere”.

Marcagi feels blessed—not only because he can play shows but also because he can exist as a singer-songwriter writing intimate songs beloved by the public.

“I feel very lucky that it’s a popular genre of music right now,” Marcagi says. “I guess I’m doing it at the right time, which I feel very grateful that that's happening. I think it's cool to see fans genuinely interested in lyrics and storytelling and a simpler style of music.

“It’s a really cool thing to see pop music get a little deeper, if that makes any sense, like, get a bit more substance to it. It's cool to see people want more from artists, and I'm just lucky that people are into that kind of stuff right now.”

Tear It All Apart is out now. Tickets to see Michael Marcagi are available via Spin Off and Frontier Touring.


Monday 15 July 2024 – The Triffid, Brisbane

Wednesday 17 July 2024 – 170 Russell, Melbourne

Friday 19 July 2024 – Spin Off Festival, Adelaide Showground

Sunday 21 July 2024 – Metro Theatre, Sydney