A Cocktail Convo with Barry Zito of The Masked Singer

Three masked musicians remain — only one shall lift the Golden Mask during tonight’s finale of season three of The Masked Singer (8PM ET on FOX). The Night Angel, Frog, and Turtle are ready to sing off. With amphibian-based performers outnumbering the angel 2-1, does she even stand a chance? I talked with Rhino, aka Barry Zito about all things Masked, and he has a bold prediction.

Who Ya Got?

“I gotta say Turtle has really impressed me week in and week out. Frog just gets the crowd fired up and the audience votes. So I gotta say Frog’s gonna take the whole thing.” After getting the boot last week, Barry hung out and gave me his backstage insight for season three.

Like most people, I know of him from his days pitching in the Bay Area. I had no idea he was a musician at heart. Barry thought that would throw the judges for a curveball. But Jenny McCarthy had a clue.  “She’s like Beautiful Mind, in the bathrobe and the chalkboard. Jenny threw out she was putting some clues together.” Barry was the one thrown off his game. “There was one clue with the state of Missouri with a crown on it. So Jenny stood up one day and was ‘I think it’s Barry Zito. I’m a baseball fan, he married Miss Missouri.’ She’s putting all that together and I’m sitting there in the mask thinking you gotta be kidding me, how’s she doing this right now?”

Now the judges aren’t supposed to research the clues on their own. But Jenny is sooo very good at identifying the masked participants, I’m sure she (or her assistant) is doing some digging. Barry doesn’t disagree. “Google can be a good resource, I can imagine. I think they gotta play fair but I’m not sure. You know Jenny was pretty on top of it.”

Exhausting Exercise

As a recently retired (2015) professional athlete, you’d figure Barry would be up for the physical toll of singing and dancing in a heavy costume. “People ask ‘are you really singing?’ I’m like absolutely. You put the microphone up and you’re doing it. So for me, navigating the stage when you can’t see anything but the ground and then also singing and singing well, oh man, and dancing on top of that, my brain was woking overtime for sure.”

On top of that, there was an added element that wore him out. His wife was due to have their third kid when taping was set to finish. But the kid didn’t get the memo. “Our baby came five weeks early. Between one of the shows I flew back to Nashville, we had our baby and then I flew back to Nashville for my last song. The end there was a bit of a whirlwind for me.”

Also, keeping secrets is exhausting. Barry’s been quarantining since before it was fashionable. “Huge secrets. Being out in LA shooting the show and not being able to tell any of my friends out there, I lived in LA for a long time, not tell anybody I was hanging out or working there.  I stayed quarantined in my hotel before the quarantine started. Even keeping it from my closest family and friends, it was really hard. I was exhausted. And after it was all said and done I came right in to having another baby. So I’ve been exhausted.”

And Wednesday was his 42nd birthday. His present? America seeing him get the boot. And while he knew it was coming, he says the producers threw him a curve ball by changing the schedule. “That was probably a month ago. I think they inserted one more episode, I think it was an episode where nobody got unmasked. It was gonna be May 6th but then it became my birthday, and I was like oh man.”

Tune In

Though more profitable, baseball wasn’t Barry’s first love.. music was. “I grew up in a musical family. My father was Nat King Cole’s road conductor in the sixties and my mom sang for Nat, so I think that was kind of my first love actually. I went into baseball. I always played guitar and tried to write songs to keep my mind off the game.”

After playing in the majors for most of his career, he finished as a player on the double-A Nashville team. The location was fortuitous. “I ended up retiring here in Nashville in 2015. Hit the ground, started writing songs every day, finally built out my studio here. Now I’m able to just do music. I released an EP a couple years ago, I’ve got more new music on the way. We just released a song last week called The Greatest, which is an take on an old Kenny Rogers song, a kid playing baseball.”

He’s been getting his Nashville groove on for awhile, but his new music is getting a new feel. “I’m gonna take a little bit of a turn from my country stuff but I’m having a great time being creative.”

After we’re allowed to get within six feet of each other again, Barry hopes to play some different venues. “Hopefully some club dates. I’ve only ever played theaters. I think the music now may be a little more energetic, so people could be standing around, having a couple drinks and take the show in.”

The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation

Barry’s picking Frog to win, but I’m picking Turtle — and a cocktail sure to make you come out of your shell is the Tipsy Turtle. With rum and a melon liqueur, it’s sweet for everyone bitter that we’re still sitting at home.

Cheers!

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