Tell us about the genesis of your project. How did you get to where you are now?
I have lived enough to know that within love there is darkness, tension, pain and suffering mixed with beauty, elation, hope, inspiration and admiration – and all of those dimensions are present in my new single Crystal Light.
Make no mistake: It’s a love song, narratively speaking, but it’s a psychological and emotional drama or thriller as well, just expressed through music.
To understand how I came to be who and what I am today, I started my life as an orphan in a foreign country. I was so fortunate to be adopted overseas to a family in New York where I grew up predominantly Italian-American. Eventually I also became a French citizen.
Having lived on three different continents and seeing how life-changing and important music was to every single human being I’ve ever met, my passion for music – something I began training in year-round starting at age 7 – blossomed.
My interest and my drive in music are exciting to feel 24/7, and that’s been the fire within me since the beginning when I hit the drums for the first time at age 7. My songwriting just appeared in me one day, unannounced.
More specifically, at age 15 I was able to synthesize my skills on drums, piano and guitars with the various styles I had been exposed to on the radio or in the collection of 50s, 60s and 70s albums I found in my parents’ house – enough to fuse ideas, technique and emotions together into original song compositions. By age 25, I think I had 23 copyrights to my name already. I’ve written well over 100 songs and 20 of those were written during the Covid period alone.
I got into a professional school of music in New York but went for more of a liberal arts education (with a prestigious graduate school of music on campus) but I’m pretty much self-taught in songwriting. It just comes to me like a daydream whenever I get into the songwriting “mood.”
How would you describe the highs and lows of being an artist?
I think the highs are pretty easy to guess. It’s validation in a bunch of ways that make us feel like we’re on Cloud 9. It’s the joy or the cathartic celebration, the look of nostalgia on someone’s face as you strum an earthy, soulful ballad, or the feeling of being moved to tears even. That’s power. It’s power in a soft sense, though, and one that connects people, breaks down our usual differences and boundaries, and makes us universalists as people – the performers and the audience – instead of divided. That, to me, is beautiful.
The lows are hard because it’s a lack of self-confidence and self-worth that you feel when you have trouble creating yet feel pain or great torment inside. I find it’s only when permission from my music arrives (in its own time) to release me from my prison that I find solace, relief and acceptance – ultimately bringing me back to a state of calm and, I hope, peace. Then I can write again.
It’s a dual modality, being an artist, but I’d say net, net it’s undeniably worth it.
What are some sources of inspiration for you?
I find that my songs tend to fall into three categories, each of which comes with its own brand of inspiration.
The first batch are love songs which are my musical journals, in effect, chronicling and preserving my emotional and personal life through the ups and downs of relationships. Some are homages and tributes – deeply sincere, true love letters – to another person; others are about the way a special person makes me feel.
The second group of songs are get-up-and-dance songs – pop, rock, electronica, and even R&B/soul. They’re driving songs, in other words.
The third category consists of ambient, psychologically deep songs. Crystal Light, my new release, is an iconic representation of this particular songwriting style and genre. Mood, vibe, the soundscape – all of these are prominent features in my dramatic works. My good friend, Suzanne Cook, out of London sings a song of mine called Take Me To Jupiter which is another example of this sort of vibey music.
Who is an artist that you look up to more than others today?
Daryl Hall is a true hero of mine. The guy continues to this day to spread the love of music, and I am thrilled to have known his former bassist/guitarist and music director, T-Bone Wolk, while he was still alive. (He passed away some years ago.)
The whole band – but Daryl in particular – is a marvel to me. His versatility, his impeccable taste, his soulfulness, and his delivery are all amazingly well-developed and just honed like virtually no other artist can claim.
Daryl obviously works long and hard at his craft each and every day, and those are the types of people in the industry – the doers, the people who live according to their art, who eat, sleep, dream, cherish and speak through their music – that I love to see out there, spreading the word that music is the answer to much of the human condition.
Tell us about your latest release and how it came about
My latest release, Crystal Light, could almost be a soundtrack to a psychological thriller in which a somewhat scary, ominous love is ensconced. It’s about mood – like dark ocean tides – that take the listener on the journey of wading deeper and deeper into a love affair with no visibility as to the ultimate destination or what the costs will be in terms of emotional wear and tear.
But it’s a song about the protagonist’s strength of conviction too, in forging ahead into the great unknown and his resolve in the face of who-knows-what-awaits.
It builds up to the point where it becomes a full-throated declaration of love infused with the singer’s determination to prevail over circumstances – to become the master of his own destiny. I love this song for its depth and richness. Plus, the soundscape and production came out well.
What are some things you do to deal with anxiety and creative blocks?
Anxiety and creative blocks can’t be taken personally by the artist or else you’ll end up putting yourself down, which causes even greater problems. You have to accept that things will ebb and flow in your mind, that inspiration can’t always be summoned – it has to visit the artist in its own time.
I think you should try to occupy and sharpen your mind in any way possible – journaling, drawing, purposeful physical exercise, and even mentally challenging games – can be helpful. I do all of these things, sort of in rotation.
But most importantly, you need to stay connected to others. Reach out and feel sympathetically the waves and energy of the universe through osmosis. Believe it or not, that prompts interactions, it leads to growth of friendships and love relationships, and it provides a greater-than-self awareness of the many things we could conceivably feel and write about it.
What’s the future looking like for you?
I’m positive about the future but never make firm predictions.
That said, just because you can’t predict doesn’t mean you can’t prepare, and I try to lay the bed, the foundation and the groundwork for great interactions to happen in my life – now and in the future – which by definition can lead to a productive, fruitful and rewarding existence.
That means being open to new connections with lots of warm-hearted, interesting people. If you stick with the right people in your life, magic will naturally happen.
Most often the fact of having a great circle of friends leads to collaborations that bring together great friends from different circles and walks of life, expanding our collective knowledge and giving us common goals and therefore common pride upon completion of projects together. It just gets stronger over time, this love for the right people.
Maintaining an alignment with talented people with good hearts is more important than the specifics about what you may ultimately accomplish together. The future events are unpredictable, but the power and activated potential of bringing great people together so they can figure out myriad ways to accomplish great things is really a constant for me, now and looking forward. For that reason, the future is bright but as-yet undefined in specific details.
What inspires your visuals, videos, looks etc?
It’s kind of varied where I get my inspiration from.
I have an eye for the aesthetic and a reasonably good ear too, both of which are like antennae everywhere I go, taking in influences.
I have been to so many parts of the world it could make one’s head spin. So I’ve picked up a lot in terms of looks, different artistic expressions from different cultures, and even mannerisms down to the way I present myself and speak.
The cosmos and love are two things that inspire me perennially.
I’m a lover of all that exists in this universe. It is the most powerful, awe-inspiring place I could ever imagine, if you take in the whole and not just humans or nature or the earth in isolation. It’s so much more than that, this possibly infinite space in which we reside. Take Me To Jupiter is about love in this ethereal, sort of meta reality that co-exists in overlapping fashion with the tangible, physical world.
My looks express my attitude in general. I’m humble but confident. I’m a drummer and feel physically strong, which helps with self-confidence, and I feel a little tough inside because of the martial arts and self-defense training, so I’m definitely a bit of a typical stereotypical man that way. But I’m also sweet inside and soft and very vulnerable, and that arguably facilitates my relationships with friends who are also sensitive, many of whom happen to be women friends in my case.
What is the most embarrassing memory and the proudest moment of your career so far?
I don’t know if this is the most embarrassing thing, because thankfully most of my performances have been pretty solid (luckily), but I did on more than one occasion end up playing a song of mine in a band in the wrong bloody key. And it was not a key that was somehow compatible with the correct key of the song – it was on a guitar with a capo on the first fret, meaning a half-step difference. That is the absolute worst sound to my ear.
But the monitors weren’t working so I couldn’t hear what I was playing. People were kind enough to applause but watching video footage afterwards I just had to cringe…
The proudest moment of my career was when one of my favorite original ballads (My Path To You) hit the airwaves and was covered on video by a beautiful, super talented singer and friend named Sonya. It was a dream come true for me because the sentiment in that song is so pure, in a young, innocent and sincere love kind of way.
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
The best advice is really that “Work is fun and fun is excellence.”
I love working hard at my craft and set my standards quite high.
I feel that the rewards and milestones of progress I’ve achieved are not only things that were earned but that the character of hard work and high standards are hugely beneficial to success in life, in general.
So I just say, work hard – but make sure you love what you do.
Where do you think the music and entertainment industry is headed after this past year?
There are inexorable forces of change in the industry that have been accelerated by this past year’s extraordinary circumstances. The transition worldwide to digital media has put everything in limbo. How things reconfigure is anyone’s guess, but I trust there will be an on-going tension and tug-of-war between the artists, studios and the distribution platforms.
My personal contention is that musicians are not paid their fair keep given the enhancement to people’s quality of life, their way of life or lifestyle, their outlook, their mental health, their memories and so forth that musicians bring to our lives. Music makes us feel alive. It is a resonating mirror that expresses what we feel inside but don’t always have the vocabulary to share or let out.
Tell me honestly, what is a dialogue with our soul worth? I just think the scale we use to pay good musicians is mis-calibrated relative to what musicians contribute to people’s lives.
So back to today’s industry: You have to be open-minded, perceptive and smart in how you go about the business side. It all begins with what you can offer, what you can contribute to the existing body of good music already out there. Focus on what makes you an exceptional artist in your soul and share that part of you. Work with a team including a great producer. Delegate and be willing to invest time and money in intelligent promotion.
Win, lose or draw, though, the experience of living life as an artist is a wonderful privilege in my mind. And, whether we like it or not, it is not a choice: We create because that’s just who we are and what we do, so from that standpoint the music scene – the people, the bonds formed along the way, the passion we channel, the emotions we evoke… – all of those things remain very much intact and I hope that never changes.