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 mikO Tolliver website

mikO Tolliver is an electro-pop singer-songwriter and guitar player from California.

Rock Star Guitar Academy

Kittie Perm Publishing & Productions

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mikO TOLLIVER - ELECTRO POP-ROCK - By: Ani Galestanian
  mikO Tolliver is a self taught electro pop singer-songwriter and guitar player from California. Picking up the guitar in high school and performing regularly in college, she is releasing her debut album "Heart is Money," after spending the last 5 years building her brand as a professional musician and songwriter.

mikO has also written and self published a color-coded guitar booklet titled, "Guitar Basics."


How was it working with America's Got Talent Runner's Up "Poplyfe"?
Cute. The boys were really sweet to me and their parents were kind to offer their support to my program.

Where are you from, and how was it growing up there?
I'm originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. I spent my youth in San Leandro, a small city outside of Oakland. A town not known for its art and creativity. I stuck out like a sore thumb as a weirdo with my guitar, poetry and free spirit personality.

Do you come from a musical background? What is the story behind it?
Both of my parents were avid music fans and I was raised to build large collections of CDs and records but I'm the first in my family to play and pursue music. I woke up regularly to the sound of my mother playing music like Anita Baker, George Michael and Terrence Trent D'Arby throughout the house. Everything was done to music, homework, chores, etc.

How long have you been an music instructor and where did you get started?

5 years. I started as a private instructor and developed a system that teachers in the area came to love and they would request for me to teach at their schools. So I purchased 100 guitars, some basses, keyboards and small drum kits so that I could provide the instruments for the children, making it easier for parents to test out the program.

You are apart or an East Bay Children's after school music program called "ROCK STAR GUITAR ACADEMY" that teaches the youth how to play instruments as well as educate them on music. Share that experience with us.
I own that company and it’s something I've very proud of. I financed it and I run it as the Executive Director with a group of instructors underneath me. The biggest goal is for students to get an experience learning music in an easy going environment. We mostly do pop songs so by the end of the class, the kids have formed their own garage band and then we invite the parents in for a concert. We've even been asked to do school assemblies.

How can you sign up for the classes at ROCK STAR GUITAR ACADEMY?
To sign up fro my classes you can go to If the program is at your school, you register through the after school department. If the program is not at your school, contact us and we can find a way to expand the program to your school location. We have even begun to have small private classes at our studio location.

You have a passion for working with the youth, tell us about that passion.
Kids love me. It is probably because they see that even as an adult, I never quite let go of my girlhood charm and I like to keep things fun with games and silliness. Learning doesn't have to be boring. When I was a kid, I hated when teachers didn't try to spice things up. I like to move and be hands on so I apply that to teaching and kids.

How do you feel when you see your students excel to their fullest potential?
When I was growing up, my family didn't have a lot of money so I didn't get to take music lessons. I always wish I could have gotten started in music earlier. When I see the kids excelling, I feel like I'm giving the support I always wanted.

This fall your releasing your debut album "Heart is Money", tell us about it.
Its mind blasting! It's the first of many! In addition to writing all the songs, I recorded all the instrumentation myself. The title "Heart is Money" is very catchy It means to just put everything you have into something, put your heart into it and success will follow. Loving something has great value for both the loved and the lover! I spent 3 years recording it so a lot of my heart and soul is in the project.

How was it working with sound engineer DJ Daris?
OMG, with all the teaching I do, when I go into the studio and work with Daris, I feel like I'm getting my lesson. He's amazing. He attended Berklee School of Music and learned bass from legendary Brothers Johnson bassist, Louis Johnson. He is also the sound engineer for Sony Music Entertainment Recording artist, International Rapper and Pioneer of Desi Hip Hop, Bohemia. DJ Daris is also the former head sound engineer for Virgin Atlanta and has worked with artists like Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Jermaine Dupri and countless others. He's always telling me stories chucked full of advice.

What do you like most about working with him?
How he has prepared me for a professional presentation as a musician. Aside from all his accomplishments, he has taught me a ton about confidence.

What markets do you promote your music in and why?
Indie and Electro-pop markets. That's who I am and that's who I always looked up to. I liked artist like Cibo Matto, Everything but the Girl, Skunk Anansie, Bloc Party. I also love Black rock artist markets. That's the dream to me, to become a big name as a Black Rock and Roll musician. I also promote to women and queer markets. I've been received well by both. In fact, I've been invited to play Palm Springs Gay Pride Festival this year in November.

How important is it for artist to have a good ear for quality music?
What's quality music? That's all a point of view. There's so much music at there. I'm always looking for new music from different genres, countries, etc. I would say, it's extremely important to have your music recorded as well as possible because whether you're good or bad, you want to make sure your audience hears it clearly. If you're great, you want to make sure your name is on it and if you're bad, you want to make sure you can hear what you need to work on.

If you're really committed, it's about the journey and you should always be looking to get better. I've been inspired by things that were ridiculous. Often times, I like to take something that's totally random and use it. Maybe it's an ego thing for me to say I got an idea from something that no one liked and I made into something that everyone adored. One man's musical trash is another man's treasure. You must have an ear and an eye for what will bring out the quality in you.

Who are some of the artist you have worked with?
Legendary Sly and the Family Stone. Bassist Rustee Allen used to jam around a bit in a jazz combo class I was taking once. I was playing drums while he was playing bass. He gave me some great advice and his cute little son loved me. I've worked with Kaitlin McGaw of the Alphabet Rockers whose project is produced by Dawn Robinson of famed and Linda Perry group, 4 Non Blondes.

I also perform off and on with guitarist Ian Hamill, nephew of actor Mark Hamill who is famous for playing Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. Ian actually pushed me to start teaching guitar.

Who is your favorite guitarist of all times?
I would say Jeff Buckley. Out of my collection of songbooks, that is the one I have played out of and been inspired by the most. But I also like Jimi Hendrix - duh! famed Brazilian guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim and John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

You recently wrote a guitar booklet titled "Guitar Basics". What is it about?
Well when I first started giving lessons, I kept writing and drawing out all the basic chords and scales and figured it'd be easier for me if I could just get a little booklet together and sell it to the students so they have something more stable to refer to. It is the curriculum for my guitar program so you can purchase it online at Or you can go to my production site

I have revised it several times to get it just right and we be officially releasing it on with an ISBN number and everything.

Let's talk about your new single "Virgin's Veil" that your releasing.
I produced and performed the entire track. I want the song to feature me as an Indie Rock song writer and guitarist. It's danceable and raw, kind of like The White Stripes. It was actually the first song I recorded for the album and the easiest so I was really motivated when it was done. It features a couple of great guitar licks that really get you. I also expect this track to introduce me to the world.

This track doesn't have a ton of special effects but on the album, I use a lot of avant garde ideas to keep the beat going. Reverse guitar solos, bombs as a back beat, mechanical sounds, electronic dives, a rollercoaster, heartbeats, all kinds of things. It's not just guitar, vox and drums. I actually learned how to play bass from DJ Daris so I could play it on the record. There's even a song where I play the accordion. Totally nerdy I know, but that's what I loved about it. I even tried to imitate the sounds of Car Stereo systems driving through Oakland.

What projects are you working on now?
Right now I am rehearsing and gearing up for some small performance trips I will have in the next few months. I'm gathering ideas for the next album, because I loved recording so much that I have to do it again as soon as possible. There is also the video for Virgin's Veil I'm working on.

You have a very unique way of writing your name mikO, tell us about it.
Well when I was a kid, people would always think they misread my name and address everything to Mike Tolliver. I'm not a boy! So I started writing it with a capital "O" so to make sure it stuck out and they got it right. It just stuck.

What would you like to tell young people who look up to you.
I would advise them to learn how to play an instrument, it could save your life. Be yourself at all times!

Where can we go to find your music?
My website and I will also be releasing soon on iTunes. 

Thank you for taking the time out to interview with us today. We wish you much successs with your career.




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