by Gargs Allard

Critically acclaimed musician Marco Benevento is set to perform at the High Dive in Gainesville, Fla. this Friday night at 9 pm (January 14, 2016). The show will feature Dave from Ween on bass and will be opened up by The Groove Orient. Just recently, I got a chance to converse with Marco about the evolution of his music.

Gargs: What makes you such an eclectic musician besides obviously having many different interests?

Marco: There are so many elements of music that are by themselves professions. For example, engineering, songwriting, producing and performing could all be their own professions, and as a musician you wind up diving into all of those elements. I am totally fascinated by recording, i.e. microphones, the amps they run into, tube amps and how to capture different drum machine sounds with different effects etc. It seems like a pretty natural evolution of sound for musicians – to want to know how to record their own music. So, I dive into that element of music frequently.

Music really turns you onto so many levels of things related to music, especially the instrument you play the most. I got totally infatuated with James Booker after going to so many JazzFests down in New Orleans. So, I learned some of his tunes on the piano and now every year I go down there and do a Booker set with James Singleton and Johnny Vidacovich.

I fell in love with the Hammond organ in high school and played all over New York City with various musicians and eventually started an organ and drum duo with Joe Russo and that led me into touring heavily and meeting so many musicians at festivals and in various cities.  I think just meeting people and touring so much leads to so many different musical situations and that you are sort of forced to be eclectic and learn about all the different elements of music.

Oh, and I forgot one big one – being a good DJ. That’s an important one: knowing some good vinyl. Yeah, that’s where it’s at. That’s an important element of music too.

Gargs: You have put out five solo albums. The first three were instrumentals that received good public and critical reception. Then you started laying vocals on your last two albums. Tigerface featured Anakalmia Traver and then you were the vocalist on your last album Swift. Now, I love all your prior work but Swift is my favorite. Why did it take you so long to start singing and were you surprised at the all the kudos and accolades thrown your way for it?

Marco: I guess I never really felt like it [singing]. No one really asked me to. I was definitely playing smaller rooms. Some were jazz clubs, even though our music was not traditional jazz or even a version of modern jazz. We’d play those rooms because they had pianos and our audience was more of a sit down audience and our show was more of an instrumental show. I guess over time, playing in different projects, led me to singing. We did a recreation of “The Last Waltz” and I did the Dr John part, and that was an eye opener.  But I guess the biggest eye opener for me was hearing Kal sing my tune “This Is How It Goes,” back in 2011.  I wrote the words and melody but felt like the voice should be a girls voice. . . yeah, hearing that really made me want to write more tunes with lyrics.  So, after our record Tigerface, we made Swift, and I just decided to sing the songs myself.  I felt like it was time. I wanted to.  I mean, I sang a lot back in high school in all of the bands that I was in. I sang “Love Her Madly” with my sweet 16 band back in the day, I also sang in the men’s chorus at Ramapo High School in New Jersey, and most importantly, my family, aunts, uncles and cousins would have sing-alongs all the time at the Benevento household, sometimes with a lot wine and a lot of pasta.  So I knew how to sing, I guess, I just needed to have it come on out again and give it another try.  It feels right, I like to do it . . .but yes, a new instrument it is indeed, been learning a lot about it on the road.

Gargs: Could you tell us something about what to expect from your new album due out in April, The Story of Fred Short.

Marco: The new record, The Story Of Fred Short, has a lot of singing on it. Actually, all the songs do. It’s definitely an evolution of Swift and even has a little story about Fred Short in there. It might even be considered a concept record, I guess. Well, side B of the record definitely is. I recorded the whole record in my studio in the Catskills in upstate New York.  I took my time making it and did all of the engineering at my studio with the help of my friend Kenny Seigal from Old Soul, another amazing studio upstate.  There most definitely is a party element to this record. Picture lots of dancing, and a mixture of 1980’s casio drum beats and synths with a Harry Nilsson vibe in there somewhere.

Gargs: Who are your biggest musical influences and why?

Marco: A lot of my influence now has to do with my friends bands – Rubblebucket – because Kal and Alex know how to write a great tune and throw a friggin’ great party. As does Stu Bogie from Superhuman Happiness. Been diggin on The Arcs a bunch now. Richard Swift is in that band and I dig a lot of his tunes and tasteful playing. I like Dan Auerbach’s choice of sounds and his songwriting a bunch too. Dr. John is a big influence as well. He’s just the man, that’s all I got to say about him.

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