When you decide it’s time to make a new single, is that more exciting or stressful?
It’s always exciting to create something new and share it with the world. The only real stress is making sure it’s not cliched or boring. I write when I feel inspired to write. Almost like challenging some higher calling. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be creative so the only other real stress is finding the money to record and release the music. It’s harder and harder to make a living playing music, so that adds a level of stress. But creating the music is joyful and exciting.
You write all of your own music; where do you draw inspiration from when you write songs and what’s your favorite part about the process?
I draw my inspiration from day to day occurrences and interactions with people, places and things. Living in New York is very intense, but it is very inspiring. People from all walks of life living on top of each other. One can’t help but draw inspiration from the crush of humanity at your doorstep. If you’ve ever been smushed inside a packed subway car, you simply haven’t lived. There’s a song concept right there!
What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In your neighborhood or town?
I was always into music. When I was about 4 years old, my neighbors gave me my very first turntable with a stack of 45s, mostly kiddie music, but once I got into AM and FM radio, all bets were off. I was consumed by music — listening to it, buying it, playing it. If you saw my home you’d know that it is huge part of my life’s journey. Many of my fondest memories are triggered by the music that was playing in the background. Growing up in Akron in the late ’70s was quite magical. There was an explosion of music — DEVO, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, Tin Huey, The Waitresses, Chi Pig, The Numbers Band, Hammer Damage Band, so many cool bands. When I moved to NYC in the ’80s, it was a whole new set of bands and to cast an even wider net. Plus I was able to add more musical genres like jazz, R&B, world beat, performance art. In hindsight, New York was my musical destiny. I could write for days about NY music and my memories. I’ve seen so many bands, played in so many cool bands. It never gets old.
How do you balance your music with other obligations in life? How does it get effected if so?
My father always stressed that an artist should have a fallback position. I actually had quite a decent job when I first moved to New York. I was working at the William Morris talent agency. It wasn’t until about 5 years into that gig that I really started pursuing my own musical career. But I needed that job to set the tone for me. I’ve been blessed to have found freelance work in the entertainment business to keep me going, and that in turn has afforded me the opportunity to keep my music going as well.
What is your favorite song to sing live?
Probably “Ghosts” from my very first album. A song inspired by the death of my grandmother. Got me thinking about energy and what happens to our life force, our chi, our souls, our consciousness, after our bodies give out on us. That song remains very poignant to me. Were does our energy go? I do believe that some energy can get trapped in this world and is left behind. I have had my own ghost experience right before I wrote the song, too. I was in London and it was quite profound. And my recently departed brother David’s ghost seems to be playing tricks in his office in Ohio. I’ve had two different people in that office tell me that he’s still making his presence felt — knocking pictures and awards off the walls; he was even seen by one of his partners.
Do you have any events coming up or recording going on right now aside from the newest record release?
I have a new album out entitled Caterwauling Towards the Light. One side is dedicated to my brother and the other to my father. It’s not all doom and gloom, but rather a celebration of life and life’s crazy rollercoaster ride. I’ve recently wrote a new song entitled “Pardon My Love,” a mournful ballad about domestic violence. Me and the guys in my live band GIANTfingers — cellist Matt Goeke and lead guitarist Jonathan K. Bendis — recorded a live version for NPR’s Tiny Desk video contest. I’m currently working on batch of new tracks for my next album Gliding Towards Oblivion that I’d like to release before the end of this year. Also looking to get out a play some new shows. Next live gig is at the end of March at the Parkside Lounge in NYC.
At what age did you start singing and what inspired you?
I started playing guitar when I was arrived 12-years old, even before I started singing, even though my younger brother and I would stage shows in our garage and lip sync the lyrics to our favorite rock songs. We charged admission, too. But I really became inspired to start a band when I moved to New York after college and felt the excitement of all the original bands playing in clubs like CBGB’s, Dancetaria, Limelight, Rodeo Bar, Mercury Lounge, Brownie’s, Wetlands, Lonestar. I use to hang out at this tiny little East Village club called Sin-é and see Jeff Buckley play solo and devastate the entire room. If you were musically inclined you couldn’t help but feel inspired by the whole scene.
How easily do songs tend to come to you?
Songs can come easy or they can be impossible to create or they can languish for a few years waiting for something else to complete them. The process really begins the moment I pick up a guitar and start on a chord progression or open up a book of lyrics and try to find a vocal melody for said words. I suspect that the songs that were created without too much effort have remained my favorite to perform. They were probably captured in the ethos and channeled through me at the perfect moment. These past two years I’ve been writing like crazy and the songs are flowing through me in various states of readiness.
If you had a soundtrack to your life what song/songs would have to be on it?
Great question and on any given day I’d probably change my mind on what songs would be included, but I’d say these two songs are my favorite songs ever and would have to be included on any soundtrack, they are non-negotiables — “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys and “Rhapsody in Blue” by Gershwin… and probably a Beatles’ song. Today I’d say it’s “I Am The Walrus” but tomorrow is could be “Yellow Submarine” just because Ringo sang it. Moreover, today I’m feeling like I’d want to add “No More Shall We Part” by Nick Cave, “Bertha” by the Grateful Dead, “Shaking Through” by R.E.M., “Long Black Veil” by The Band, “Vicious” by Lou Reed, “Willin'” by Little Feat, “Carmelita” by Warren Zevon, “Man From Mars” by Joni Mitchell, “Life on Mars” by Bowie, and about a thousand more. In a likelihood, it would be a never-ending soundtrack!
For our readers who have never heard your music, explain your sound in 5 words?
Metaphysical Cinematic Americana Folk-Rock.