Premiere: Mike Viola, ‘Drug Rug’

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Mike Viola has been a lot of things: A Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter who’s worked with the likes of Jenny Lewis, J.S. Ondara, Andrew McMahon, Ryan Adams, Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy and Jonathan Rice. Frontman of the band Candy Butchers. Author of memorable songs for films such as “That Thing You Do!,” “Get Him To The Greek,” and “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.”

Notably, Viola was also a close friend of the beloved songwriter Adam Schlesinger, who died April 1 from complications of COVID-19. In the ’90s, it was Viola who sang the Oscar-nominated song “That Thing You Do!,” which was penned by Schlesinger.

The shadow of his friend hangs over Viola’s new album “Godmuffin” (out Dec. 11), though not in morbid way. Viola channels his preternatural gift for directness and warmth into a celebration of youth — his own and, as the father of teenagers, what he divines. He does so as a musician “who’s spent a lifetime doing windmills on Big Star guitars, slick with Todd Rundgren syrup hand-drawn from the tree.” Which is to say the album, the follow-up to 2018’s “American Egypt,” sounds like classic stuff.

On the album’s new single, “Drug Rug,” Viola recalls the days before he switched coasts, the memory coming with a frosting of Big Apple grit and a whopper of a lyrical couplet: “Only the dead get to heaven / Here on earth we just get lost.”

He calls the song “a look back at my icy days in NYC, when the drug of choice was recreational psychedelics and narcotics. Get blasted, then run around the city having FUN. Points to losing my friend in the line, ‘only the dead get to heaven, here on earth we just get lost.’ This is an ode to my beloved classic rock, as well.”

The song follows the teaser track “Creeper,” a tune that Viola wrote “the morning I got the news my close friend died,” he says. “He was my age. Now he can’t make music. I still can. I can still spend my time looking for the secret cause, the next new song, even when it feels too late, ’cause I still have time.”

“Drug Rug” is officially out on Friday.

||| Stream: “Drug Rug”

||| Also: Stream “Creeper”

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