Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Viola self-released his first EP, 1985's Not the Only One, before teaming up with drummer Todd Foulsham, guitarist Ed Cavallo, and bass player Ward Clifford in the short-lived band Snap! (aka Mike Viola Snap). He and Foulsham then relocated to New York City and formed Candy Butchers, delivering a live EP in 1996. Meanwhile, Viola also played with local indie pop bands including Ivy and They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh's side project Mono Puff.
With Ivy's and Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger acting as songwriter, Viola co-produced and sang the title song to Tom Hanks' 1996 rock & roll comedy That Thing You Do! That same year, Candy Butchers signed to Blue Thumb and issued their debut EP, Live at La Bonbonniere. The duo's self-titled debut LP went unreleased after Blue Thumb went bankrupt, however, and in 1999, Candy Butchers put out a pair of EPs: Let's Get Serious and Let's Get Christmas. Before the year was through, they were picked up by Sony affiliate RPM, which issued the full-length debut Falling Into Place. Viola resurrected Candy Butchers for 2002's Play with Your Head, though it was essentially a solo project by that time. RPM followed up with 2004's Hang on Mike, again credited to Candy Butchers.
Viola went completely independent in 2005, releasing his next album, the live solo collection Just Before Dark, on his own Good Morning Monkey label. Appearing in 2006, Making Up Time contained previously unreleased archival recordings of Candy Butchers from the '90s. The year 2007 brought another archival release, Temple of Static, a collection of songs Viola had recorded in 2001, as well as the original studio album Lurch. That year also saw the release of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, a musical comedy that featured over two dozen songs, many by Viola and singer/songwriter Dan Bern. Marshall Crenshaw and Van Dyke Parks also each contributed a song to the soundtrack. Viola produced and played on albums by John Wesley Harding (Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead) and Mandy Moore (Amanda Leigh) in 2009 before returning to Hollywood for 2010's Get Him to the Greek, composing songs for another fictional rock star, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). The duo album Melon, by Viola and Kelly Jones, also arrived in 2010.
A year later, Viola presented the solo LP Electro de Perfecto. A companion album, 2012's Acousto de Perfecto, featured violinists Eric Summer and Kate Reddish. Original songs by Viola and Tim Adams were featured that year in the movie comedy That's What She Said. Next up for the songwriter was 2013's GHOUL, a limited-edition set of trading cards, each containing a download code for a different song (three covers, 21 originals). During the early part of the decade, he also produced songs for, among others, Matt Nathanson, Fall Out Boy, and Jenny Lewis. A year after releasing the solo EP Stairway to Paradise (2015), Viola was named Vice President of A&R at Verve Records.
Viola returned with more solo material in 2018, including the album The American Egypt, the EP Bitten and Cursed, and a holiday 7", "Here We Go, It's Christmas Time." His next studio album was the analog-recorded Godmuffin, which came out on Good Morning Monkey in late 2020. ~ Marcy Donelson, Rovi
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