By Kelly Baughman
With a voice as smooth and laid back as his demeanor, and a style that’s as spicy as his world famous crawfish, Tommy Mazzullo embodies the kind of talent that makes you feel each song with the raw emotion that inspired it. A combination of all types of rock, country, and Americana, with a touch of New Orleans thrown in, Mazzullo’s journey from musical hobbyist to popular singer/songwriter has been one filled with tragedy and triumph.
Born in Washington D.C., Mazzullo spent most of his early years growing up in Maryland. At 16, his family moved to New Orleans, and it was then that Mazzullo’s passion for music ignited. “I figured out pretty quickly that New Orleans was all about music. It was all around you. It was then that I picked up a guitar and learned to play the drums. I wanted to be a part of it,” Mazzullo said.
While perfecting his craft, Mazzullo made a living managing several rock music clubs where he learned the ropes of not only how to be a working musician, but how to be behind the scenes. In the years that followed, he opened music venues of his own in New Orleans and submersed his life in music culture. But when the time came for Mazzullo to raise a family, he took a break from the music scene to play the full time roll of dad.
After the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill occurred on the Gulf Coast, Mazzullo was called to the Pensacola area for work the in cleanup efforts. Sadly, Mazzullo was facing a bigger tragedy at home as his then, six year old son Zack, had just been diagnosed with leukemia. The news hit Mazzullo hard, and he once again turned to music to channel his emotions.
“I was working long 12 hour days, seven days a week, away from home. What little downtime I did have to myself, I spent with my guitar for I guess what you could call a therapeutic distraction,” Mazzullo said. “Music and my now wife, Jan, who I met during that time, kept me grounded.”
Mazzullo also credits the community of Perdido Key and Orange Beach for getting him through those dark days. “This area is saturated with songwriters, who look out for one another. It is such a supportive family atmosphere, and no matter what you are going through, this community pulls together to help one another,” he said.
Sadly, Mazzullo’s son lost his battle with leukemia at just 11 years old, and the community wept with him.
“In hindsight, I can see now that I poured my emotions into my songwriting. It helped me vent my struggle by dealing with the situation that could not be dealt with,” Mazzullo said.
Having now been in the area for years, Mazzullo has made a name for himself in the music scene, playing with other local favorites like Rick Whaley, Dave Caluger, and John Joiner, just to name a few. He has continued writing and channeling his ups and downs into original music, and has participated numerous times in the prestigious Frank Brown International Songwriter’s Festival among others.
Mazzullo said the music he writes is influenced by artist like Tom Wait, Steve Earle, Towns Van Zandt, James Taylor, and Lou Reed, but his sound mostly comes from the raw pain, perseverance, and resilience he has found throughout his life’s journey. His smooth voice oozes emotion, and his words can both cut like a knife and make you smile.
A touching songwriter, talented musician with a voice that has to be heard, phenomenal chef (he was the owner of the deliciously popular food truck Craw Daddy’s), loving husband, and respected friend and philanthropist in the community, Mazzullo has been a positive addition not only to the music scene, but also to the close knit people who call Perdido Key and Orange Beach home as well.
As for what’s next for Mazzullo, he said, “I have enough originals stacked up for about 3 albums, and I look forward to getting in the studio this spring to start recording. It’s been a long road gaining the experiences that allow me to put pen to paper in a way that connects with other people. In the end, we’re all in this together, whether it’s a celebration or grief. I guess what I’m trying to do in my music is to touch the facets of life that we all experience in a way that convey things I feel inside, all while telling my own story.”
To see Tommy Mazzullo, check out his music schedule on PK Live, his Tommy Mazzullo Facebook page, or the Purple Parrot, Hub Stacey’s at the Point, and the Treehouse.