Meet Mike Taveira, the rising queer heartthrob willing to ‘Cut Velvet’

Jon Ali is In The Know’s music contributor. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram for more.

Mike Taveira is a rising queer talent cut out to be your next favorite pop star.

Since jump-starting his music career in 2019 with his debut single “Heart,” Mike has quickly become a voice to watch in the queer pop space — all thanks to his consistent string of compelling pop releases like 2020’s “Karma” and last year’s “Switch,” which was featured in our 2021 round-up of 15 Gems By Queer Artists You May Have Missed.

And while yes, technically Mike has only been at it for a few years now, he’s been performing for more than half of his life already: Going from spontaneous street performances in Portugal when he was a child to pursuing acting as a young adult during his time living in New York City.

“It all started in Portugal when I was a little kid,” Mike told In The Know. “I’d spend all my summers in Arcos de Valdevez, and in the evenings, I’d go out and sing and dance to the local street musicians playing fado music. Sometimes a crowd would surround me for like 30 minutes cheering me on. It sounds so bizarre saying that back— but my cousin Jenny has videos that I’m trying to get from her old camcorder! I think the local Portuguese culture impacted how I later would write melodies and how I perform as a singer.”

Mike’s wide-eyed big move from New York City to Los Angeles in 2020 would be the real life change that caused him to pursue his music career more seriously and eventually lead to the inspiration behind his just-released debut EP, Cut Velvet.

Playfully exploring themes of sexual experimentation, polyamory, exploitation and shame with a stadium-ready closing track that mourns the hopelessness of queer love, Mike’s eight-track debut weaves strikingly honest lyricism with universally relatable raw emotion and top-notch, fuzzy synth-pop production and a feature from cult pop star Allie X.

It’s an EP two years in the making. He made most of it in his studio apartment on Santa Monica Boulevard.

“Taking my time on Cut Velvet was important,” Mike told In The Know. “As a concept, Cut Velvet came in the middle of the writing. We had demos for ‘Switch,’ ‘Sex for Breakfast,’ ‘Comedown’ and a few others that didn’t end up making the cut and I realized I wasn’t just writing one-offs about my sex life, but more broadly… it all seemed to be telling a love story that centered around my insecurities. My creative director and I sat in a room one day rattling off concepts and titles until we landed on ‘Cut Velvet,’ and I just knew it was perfect.”

Not just with the help of any creative director, but an all-star creative team that’s worked with the likes of Zayn, HAIM, Enrique Iglesias and Nicki Minaj. 

“To me, ‘Cut Velvet’ means a lot of things… deception, duality, destruction. I think I was really affected with my move to Los Angeles and how immediately I realized the glamor (the velvet) had an ugly underside (the cut). I also saw myself as cut velvet, this sort of f**ked up thing that still has promise – it’s possible to repair cut velvet, but it’s not easy. And even the sonics of the EP; we used a lot of harsh and unconventional synths pinned to really pretty melodies to emphasize the theme.”

Mike certainly isn’t cutting any corners when it comes to his music expression. What you see is what you get, and he makes that very clear in his lyrics throughout in songs like “Just Velvet” and “Amateur,” which paint vivid stories that touch on his queerness and relationships with himself and his family.

“Every song I put out, I know my family, friends, and exes are going to hear it… so it can be mortifying to think about,” Mike said. “On top of that, I do think people tend to write off sex-based music as vapid or throwaway. But years ago, before I even started, I knew that singing about things that weren’t largely ‘relatable’ would make it harder to reach certain audiences. I mean, even in the more uptight pockets of the gay community, I think my fluidity and sexual openness can be a turnoff. But the truth is, if my most honest expression doesn’t resonate with someone, they aren’t meant to be a fan of mine anyways. The music I present to the world is who I am, and my priority as an artist isn’t to be marketable.”

One of the EP’s shining honest expression moments comes in the form of ballad “F**k Everyone,” which speaks to being in an open relationship and the insecurities that can come from it. That’s a common topic tackled in the gay community, but not so much in music.

“That one sort of flowed right out of my heart. I was in L.A., sad as hell because my lover was in NYC, and we were still just figuring out our relationship – which started as friends with benefits – so being open was kind of already a part of it,” Mike revealed to In The Know. “But I never had such strong feelings for someone while being open before, so I was grappling with that the whole session. I couldn’t get the thought of him being on a date or cuddling naked with someone else out of my mind. I actually wrote ‘F**k Everyone’ and ‘Faces’ that same week. I showed him both immediately and he loved them – and now we are official, but still open!”

However, if you ask Mike about his proudest moment on the EP, it’s easily the soaring closing number “Comedown,” a more sparse and atmospheric confessional where he seems to have reached a tragically beautiful moment of clarity and self-awareness.

“I’m so proud of ‘Comedown,’” Mike confessed to In The Know. “From the lyrics to the production, it’s exactly how I feel whenever I meet someone new or get excited about an opportunity that isn’t official yet. I have been constantly let down in my childhood, then by past lovers, and then with my career… It’s ingrained in me to think of the inevitable disappointments instead of enjoying the good moment that’s happening in front of me. I’m slowly working on it, and writing this song was massively therapeutic for me.”

Ultimately this is where the bridge from artist to listener collides and cuts deep. Artists leave themselves raw and bare so their fans can truly connect, and that’s exactly what Mike has done here and throughout Cut Velvet.

“It’s funny; as an artist, I rarely think outside of my own self expression when I’m making music,” Mike explained. “It doesn’t occur to me until after something is released how it might resonate with other people. My original intent with this EP was to share my point of view with anyone who cared to listen and hopefully give people something to dance to while I was singing about my own problems.”

“Since releasing Cut Velvet, I’ve gotten messages everyday from young queer people who’ve heard my music and felt identified with some part of it,” Mike continued. “Whether that’s their experiences of adultery, embracing sub/dom sexuality, heartbreak or insecurity. The most meaningful part of being an artist has actually been creating a small community for people who otherwise didn’t have a pop artist they could connect with on that level. I hope that keeps happening.”

Judging by what we’ve gotten so far in his short time, it’s pretty clear Mike will only continue to cut deeper into his story to provide us with some much-needed pop music medicine. The time to hop on board is now!

What can we expect from Mike Taveira next?

“I absolutely will not rest until I get booked on some tours. I’m a performer through and through, and I think that’s the most important step for my career. Also – you won’t go too long without some new music. I’m very hard at work,” Mike concluded. “That said, I’m trying to be more present in general, so I also want to celebrate the accomplishments: This year, I’ve hit over a million streams. Cut Velvet just hit a million streams in a week!, I sold out my first show, made music in Mark Ronson’s studio and now opening for Xtina and Anitta for L.A. Pride in the park 2022!”

Mike Taveira’s debut EP Cut Velvet is available to stream everywhere now!

If you enjoyed this story, check out Jon Ali’s spotlight on Miki Ratsula’s intimate debut album!

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