INTERVIEW: Frank Migliorelli & The Dirt Nappers

Hi Frank, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Really good- BUSY- the new album has been out a few weeks, and we’re trying to get it out there to as many folks as possible. That’s a good chunk of work – between pushing the radio, and establishing a presence on as many media channels as possible, it gets overwhelming. Plus, we’re trying to put as many gigs on the books as possible, and once in a while, I do need to pick up my guitar and play… I already have ideas and new songs, and I’m thinking about the next project, so my head is racing all over the place…

Can you talk to us more about your song “It All Falls Down On Me”?

It’s actually my personal fave on the record. I love the way it came together. I originally thought it should have been more of a rock tune- Tony Tino, the bass player, originally was playing a nice driving bassline that took it into “Elvis Costello Land” – but right before we started recording this album, I was messing around with it, and more of a country feel  fell out- We went with it, and it stuck. Once we recorded the basic tracks, I started hearing more and more potential for vocals on this tune. I also was playing a 12 string Rickenbacker on this song, and the steel player, Mike “Booker” Heaphy played brilliantly off my initial ideas. It really came together as a nice part and arrangement- I’m really happy with the way it turned out… someone said “Eagles” –when they heard it. I’ll take that as a nice complement.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Not a particular event- but I did hear a weather report talking about “black ice” – which gave me the opening line. I wanted to write something about a nearly unattainable relationship- something that you just have to struggle for- and the idea of being so much In a position of begging – where you feel like the desire you have is so damn heavy that it all just falls down around you and you can’t do a damn thing about it sounded like a great idea for a song. Being overwhelmed by, smitten by, and totally paralyzed by love is kind of a cool feeling…. in a frustrating way.

Any plans to release a video for the track?

I hadn’t planned on this one. The next video- which we are shooting in the next few weeks is for a new tune – A song where I picked up an honorable mention from American Songwriter magazine in their lyric contest. I’m pulling that together now. It involves me getting into a clown costume…

The single comes off your new album Bass, Drums, Guitars and Organs – what’s the story behind the title?

Simplicity. I wanted to just record a record with basic instruments. Not go crazy with a lot of overdubs, sounds, and textures. It was our production mantra- just keep it to bass, drums, guitars, and organs. We did end up slipping a few strings and a piano in there, but it all was kept to minimal overdubs. The bottom line was I write simple songs. They aren’t complex, and I don’t want them cluttered up with too much texture. The guys who played on this record are great listeners- and stunning musicians. Tony Tino (bass) and Phil Cimino (drums) really nailed the rhythm tracks- from there, we couldn’t go wrong. But each person who put something down really stuck to that mantra- they only laid down one or two parts, in one or two takes, and we went with it. Even the vocals were first or second takes.

How was the recording and writing process?

All the basic tracks were cut live- me on acoustic guitar with Tony and Phil- we wanted to make sure the skeleton of the tune was there. We would’ve loved to had done it live, but scheduling great musicians is tough. I’ve worked with Mike Heaphy before- he’s great at waltzing in and nailing great steel parts. Jeremy Baum is a monster on the B3- but he knows when to pepper and when to roar- so he and I really hashed through the tunes and decided what was the right “keyboard sauce” for each track. We ended up not putting keys on everything because we didn’t feel it was right. Eric Puente has a great ear for percussion- I LOVE his playing on Rafferty Train- between Duncan Cleary’s simple guitar and organ parts, his accents totally drive the tune. Andy Stack played guitar on a bunch of tracks with me- check out his band Buffalo Stack- he’s a great all around player- switching styles and adding ideas- “Baby Put a Dress On” would be a completely different tune if it wasn’t for him. And any time I record a record, Sheryl Marshall is going to be on at least one tune. She’s a perfectionist. She even helps a non-singer like me sound almost good.

You are known for blending different genres together – does one tends to shine out the most depending on the lyrics’ theme?

I’ve always listened to everything from blues, soul, country, pop, broadway….I grew up on 60s AM radio and the beginnings of FM rock radio. I was a radio junkie, kinda still am, so mashing up styles is just in my ear. I know I should probably try to stick to more of a formula, but maybe not…..

When I used to write kids music for a living, we would write anything- big band, reggae, jazz, blues, rock… the only thing we never wrote was opera…

I guess some song lyrics drive the style- they help shape it in my head. I just finished a tune called “Every bar tender in this town knows my name” – guess what? It’s a country tune. I don’t think that would be a hip-hop tune.

What classic bands get to influence the writing on this record?

If I say The Monkees, is the interview over? (laugh)- I love the stuff Boyce and Hart wrote for them- along with Nesmeth, and tons of other people who wrote tunes for them. Great stuff.

Influenced by the Beatles, but was really a Stones and Doors fan growing up, along with Motown. But I really got into how guys like Paul Weller, Difford and Tilbook, VanZandt, and T-Bone Burnette wrote. Huge Nick Lowe fan, and obviously, there’s a bunch of Tom Petty on this record. I just like good songwriters…

What role does NYC plays in your music?

I love the fact that you can hear everything and anything in NY. The Latin music that comes out of NYC is amazing- I love listening to Salsa-makes me really study a different rhythm structure than basic rock and roll. You can listen to a chamber music in Lincoln Center, get in a cab and head to Melba’s on 114th street for their funk-ass open mic, then go see Garland Jeffreys at the Hammerstein Ballroom all in one night.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Life. And I make stuff up. I think of stories, I see what other people are going through. I hear a phrase, I hear a melody, and I’m able to run with it and turn it into a song. I’m very fortunate in that sense. When a song comes, It comes. I don’t try to sit down and write every day, but I’m thinking about it constantly. I keep a running set of clips, snippets and ideas on my phone. Some of them end up as tunes, some are just piled up, and some suck.  Kind of like shucking oysters.

Any plans to hit the road?

That’s a real open ended question –LOL.  I’m trying to figure out how to best do live shows without the financial drain of a band- It’s hard- I LOVE playing with a band, but realistically, on the singer songwriter circuit it is hard, so I’m working on the solo shows and honing the band down to a trio. We just played a trio gig the other night and it was a blast…

I’m primarily in the Northeast this summer – talking to some folks about a swing through PA-Michigan this fall. Also in some preliminary feelers for a UK visit, which would be fun.

What else is happening next in Frank Migliorelli & The Dirt Nappers’ world?

I have a really fun kids project I’ve back burnered for a long time- it is a bunch of songs I’ve written about a number of kid’s books- it really is good- and I’m working with an animator to crank out a bunch of “music-kideos” – It’s my new years resolution to get that project out.

Plus I have a single which is being recorded now… so I’m busy, busy busy…

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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