Michael Cunningham of Neighbours
Neighbours is one of the many bands playing at the 14th annual WYEP Summer Music Festival at Schenley Plaza on June 28. In light of their upcoming performance, Michael Cunningham stopped by the studio to discuss what it's like being a band in the Pittsburgh music scene, the start of Neighbours, the theatre roots of his singing and his eccentric live performances and much more with Cindy Howes.
Neighbours are a soul rock band from Pittsburgh. Singer/keyboardist Michael Cunningham and guitarist/vocalist Ross Reilly are both University of Pittsburgh graduates. The two first met taking music classes together. After finishing up school both Cunningham and Reilly moved out of Pittsburgh and went their seperate ways. The two started to pass out demos and writing music while living in their respected cities. The similar soulful styles of music Cunningham and Reilly were writing at the time ended up being a stepping stone to the soul rock sound that is Neighbours. "We really just kind of on the same wave length on the stuff we were writing. So eventually we both moved back up here [Pittsburgh] and started the project together." Michael has become known for excentric performance and stage presence during Neighbours' live performances. Michael's outgoing persona on stage is rooted in his experience with the theatre. "I did theatre for a lot of my life from when I was a kid up until my early twenties. So I've always been pretty comfortable on a stage in front of a group of people. So that probably translates subconciously to music as well. But I just enjoy it." Michael also explains that as Neighbours gets more performances underneath their belt they become more comfortable and loose playing live.
Michael Cunningham is not one trick pony. Michael has a great voice to pair with his eccentric live performance. Again rooting back to this days in theatre, Michael modestly explains how singing in choir has aided him and helped him find his voice. "When I was growing up singing and doing choral stuff I was never the person that had the strong solo voice. And to a large degree I still don't think I do. But I always held down the baratone part and was good at blending."
Neighbours roots run deep with the city of Pittsburgh. Although both Michael and Ross left after graduating college, they both ended up returning because of their love for the city of Pittsburgh. Both Michael Cunningham and drummer Andy Mulkerin are natives. Michael explains why he chose to leave his home away from home in Augusta, Georgia, "It's just a great city. Part of the reason Ross and I specifically chose to move back here was because there's such a supportive community and it's very merit based. If you've got something good to offer people are willing to give you an opportunity. Aside from it being relatively inexpensive to live and there not being "poltics" within the music scene, Michael highlights the sense of community within the city of Pittsburgh. "It's hard to leave here because the people here are so great."
You can purchase the 7-inch Neighbours single via Get Hip Recordings. And look out for Neighbours debut full length within the next couple of weeks which will also be released on Get Hip Recordings.