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Guitarist of the Year: Mike Sivilli

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"They're making fun of me because I'm talking to you for this win," says Dangermuffin guitarist Mike Sivilli. "Plus I won guitar player of the year as well. I'll go sit outside on the porch, even though it's not sunny, so you can hear me."

The band can take a few moments to joke around during practice, as the strides they've made locally have, for many, placed them as the next great act to break out of the region. Songs for the Universe shows the band evolving and growing into a headier arena of tunes. If fans believe that the album works beautifully as a companion piece to their earlier critical success Olly Oxen Free, Sivilli admits that there is an easy answer for why that is.

"We actually wanted to release those two albums [Sounds and Olly] as a double-album," the guitarist explains. "That was the original idea, since we had so many songs to work with, so we were kind of viewing it as a concept album. We found these songs were a little more universal, which is where the title came from. Putting 17 songs on an album is pretty much unheard of in this day and age, so that's why it was split up. I originally conceived it as one album spanning multiple discs."

The songs on Songs have quickly become staples of the band's live performances, and many fans have taken the opportunity to let Sivilli know that the words have touched them deeply. The musician, while grateful, sees this as just another example of the years of playing professionally beginning to pay off.

"The average song length on this album is three-and-a-half minutes long, and they are pretty much just little folk songs focused on one idea. We're about four or five albums into our career now, so I think we may be honing in on writing more efficiently."

Too many bands release new material quickly in order to have one more piece of merchandise on the table for sale at their shows. These recordings are riddled with mistakes that even a civilian can easily identify within moments of listening to one of these albums, let alone someone who views music as their livelihood. Sivilli has been listening to these amateur slipshod productions for most of his adult life, and he takes the mistakes to heart.

"The most important thing to us was to just have a really good vibe. We just wanted a really comfortable environment where everybody that we are working with are friends of ours and are 100 percent into what we are doing. We wanted a situation where it felt like we were sitting in our living rooms, just playing music for each other. I don't know what process the other bands around this area adopt when it comes to recording, but maybe that's the real answer to a successful record anyway: Don't even try to find out what other bands are doing, and just do what feels good for you."

Almost a decade removed from their debut album, Dangermuffin no longer has to hustle for weekend gigs as they did all those years ago. With another local award to their credit, and a reputation for being a solid venue filler, it would be easy to take the humble words of Sivilli as empty platitudes. Spend a few minutes talking to the guitarist, however, and it becomes clear that he is almost as stunned today by the band's success as he was to book that first gig.

"It's such a blessing to do all of the traveling that we do and see how people respond to our music. We hear stories about how much our songs mean to people, and it's one of the most amazing things that we get from the experience," he says. "Then when we come home to Charleston, we get so much support from this town it just feels like a bunch of our friends and family making it a magical part of our lives."

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