How would you classify your music?

 There are so many classifications anymore. I seem to be put into the “Adult Contemporary” classification but I see my music as a combination of Folk Rock,Americana and Soft Rock. No matter the designation, the greater classification is that it is music with a lyrical quality.

Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?

I have an anxiety about influence and as a result do not listen to a lot of music. Subconsciously I may copy something I’ve heard.  I am not an expert on music. Leonard Cohen, Tom Petty,Dylan of course, because of the way in which they remove all the verbal nonsense and create an emotional response. I am probably more influenced by Cohen’s poetry and certain confessional poets like Anne Sexton because when I write music I always start with the lyric.

What do you want fans to take from your music?

I want to touch them. I recall several years ago a woman posting on my Facebook page that she was listening to a song (I can’t remember which one)  and she said it was exactly what she needed at that moment. That’s a validation that can sustain a writer for quite some time. I think of others listening to the music, perhaps during a personal rough spot in the middle of the night, and having a song speak to them.

How’s the music scene in your locale?

In this upside-down year, the music scene is locked down But many great artists have come from the Hampton Roads area: Timbaland, Missy Elliott ,Pharrell Williams, Juice Newton, Clarence Clemons, Charlie Byrd. I think Wayne Newton grew up here. Because these artists were native to this area you get permeated with a certain confidence that all things are possible. This area has a diverse population. You are walking on ground that generates rich creative energy.

Tell us about “Traveler Tales”.

The latest album is a collection of fourteen songs, fourteen travelers on a common journey, each relating their situation through song. It’s an idea very loosely taken from Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” . It’s a mechanism that allows me to do fourteen first-person narratives in various styles. Just as each of us are unique, we each have a different story to tell. Two of the songs are performed by Ava Hart. I wrote those specifically with her in mind to bring in the feminine point of  view. It is by far my best production. There are a lot of talented people involved with this project.

What is the best concert you have been to? What do you like most about playing live?

Much of what I create now is accomplished by sharing digital files. Guitarist Tobias Wilson is in the UK,  Tyra Juliette is on the West Coast. A song evolves with each person emailing their artistry digitally. A whole industry is being built around that concept. What is missing is the spontaneity of a live performance and the mutual adrenaline rush with the audience. When you play live great things can happen. When Ava Hart came in to record “Mother’s Day-The Mother’s Tale” I thought the arrangement was set. She blew me away with her vocal and as a result I went back and built a better arrangement around her track. The emotion of her live performance taught me what the song was really about.

Is there a song on your latest CD release here that stands out as your personal favorite, and why? 

It would have to be “Not Amused-The Wanderer’s Tale”. I recorded three different versions. It may be hard to believe but it began as a waltz. I was never happy with it and was frustrated with the cost of studio time. Then one morning I sat down at the piano and started channelling a Dylan rock version. Everything fell into place. It is the one song people seem to like immediately. I reached out to William Murray, a filmmaker in Brooklyn, with an idea for a video. He came up with a small masterpiece that ended up winning awards at several Film Festivals. When you write you seldom hit the mark. I felt this one came close.

How have you evolved as an artist over the last year?

As an independent artist, over the past nine years I now have written over thirty songs, produced a dozen music videos. I have experienced ecstatic moments of having songs played on radio. I’ve come to a place where I am more relaxed ,confident and  more authentic in my songwriting. When I do a session I bring my convictions with me. My idea is clear on what I would like to achieve. If  anything has evolved, it is the self-deception that all of this is true (laughs). What does not evolve is the constant panic that you must make it better.

If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, have a drink with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be? 

I was older than most when I came to writing music. I was fortunate to have shared some time at the Dakota with John Lennon, one-on-one for about an hour. As you might expect,It was a nervous experience for me but it was transformative. He was very kind to me.

If I could have raised a glass with anyone it would have been Cohen.I have a lot of questions for  him about how he digs down through the layers and manipulates the evidence.

What’s next for you? 

I am working on a new album of acoustic songs with a simpler production. The working title is “Alone in Seven Pieces”. These are songs written this year in isolation during the pandemic and the style is much more intimate.


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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