Fortunate son

Human jukebox Nick Mitchell releases new album

By Kyle Melton

Photo: [l to r] Marty Romie, Jay Scott, Scot Givens and Nick Mitchell of the Skeptical Cats; photo: Pam Mitchell
For musicians, the idea of making a living by playing music is the dream. Many musicians work hard at their craft and struggle to find an audience for their original music. Other musicians make the decision to play regularly in cover bands in the region. Either way, most only get to perform on a semi-regular basis without leaving their hometowns. In the case of Nick Mitchell, however, 300 dates a year for the past 10 years is standard operating procedure.Throughout the 1980s and 1990s with local outfit The Mirrors, which evolved into Skeptical Cats, Mitchell performed the local club circuit and found, like many other local musicians, a relatively indifferent Dayton audience for the band’s idiosyncratic Anglophile pop. As is often the case, familial duties called, and Mitchell and his wife Pam raised two children in Kettering. Mitchell worked as an instructor at the International College of Broadcasting, and later as a computer tech at a local start-up. However, by 2005, the daily grind had taken its toll.“Before I actually quit, I was already doing the weekly gigs at Franco’s, Norton’s and at Dublin Pub,” Mitchell explained. “The reason I’ve been able to do 300 shows a year for almost a decade in this town is because Pam and I have basically been accepted as part of the family at the establishments I’ve been playing each week. Mike and Renee Haley at Harrigans, Steve Tieber and family at Dublin Pub, Dave and Lori Camplin at Chappys, Brian Tyra and all of the members at Walnut Grove and Chad Macek and family at Wings have all supported what I’m doing over the years. I am very grateful to all of them for taking the chance early on, and allowing these shows to evolve into ‘institutions’ in their weekly schedules.”

Although Mitchell has earned a living for his family with steady weekly gigs around town, serving as what he called “the musical wallpaper of Dayton” over the past decade, he recently issued a new album of original material, Prayers from the Petri Dish. Recorded and performed by Mitchell in his home studio, the album runs the gamut from straightforward Anglophilic pop to driving blues and funk to esoteric prog rock. Mitchell delivers a compelling concept album, examining the nature of life through his own experiences, but rendering it to achieve a universal message.

“It’s about a middle-aged man looking at life in the world around him,” Mitchell explained. “The first two songs are very modern-day, very ‘here we are right now’; technological isolationism – not all negative stuff, but here’s the world we’re in. … At the end of the album, that song ‘A Reason to Sing’ comes back and it’s more self-realization there’s only so much we can control in this world, all these big questions everyone’s been asking their whole lives like ‘Why are we here?’ ‘Is there a god?’ and ‘What are we supposed to do?’ In the end, really all you can do is shrug your shoulders, cross your fingers and live by the Golden Rule and love everyone and try to get along.”

With a new solo album out, Mitchell and his band Skeptical Cats – featuring Jay Scott (drums), Marty Romie (bass) and Scot Givens (keys) – are also finishing up a new album, which should be out in time for their Aug. 17 return to Fraze Pavilion. Additionally, Mitchell was recently invited to record with another local musical icon, Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices, on an upcoming Pollard solo album.

“We obviously have a lot of the same influences and interests,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t know it was gonna be, ‘Hey, I want you to come play most of the instruments on a solo album with me.’ I was blown away. I knew we were going to do something, but I didn’t know if he would just want me to come play guitar on a track at some point or what. ”

Over the past 10 years, Mitchell’s ability to create an engaging musical atmosphere and entertain audiences throughout the region stems from what he calls his “White Album mentality.” With the endless support of his wife Pam, who accompanies him at every gig, Mitchell’s encyclopedic playlist of over 1,000 songs – which continues to grow – offers Dayton audiences an opportunity to hear a unique live performance by a musician who is willing to take listeners on a journey through some of the greatest songs of the modern era.

“From the musical side of making this work for so long, obviously playing this many shows at the same places each week requires me to keep things fresh and entertaining for listeners and myself,” Mitchell said. “I try to approach each night of the week differently: Wednesdays at Harrigan’s, Gary Busch joins me on keyboards. He’s got a great ear and is fearless, so we take lots of chances. Thursdays at Dublin Pub is a true one-man-band-type of thing … Weekends at Chappys is a bit more laid back – I just take requests and try to blend in and provide a nice musical backdrop in a busy restaurant atmosphere. Every second Saturday at Dublin Pub, Jason Short and Marty Romie join me for what has evolved into a jam-band type of thing where we are taking a classic song and just seeing where it goes.”

For a complete listing of Nick Mitchell performances and to purchase his new album Prayers from the Petri Dish, please visit


Reach DCP music editor Kyle Melton at

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