Quick Q and A with Anthony D’Amato

Lean in closely and I’ve got two words for you.  Anthony D’Amato.  Don’t forget them.  Promise me.  This is a musician on the move.  You’ll be hearing those two words quite a lot for many years to come.  Anthony is positioned to be one of the most talked about musicians of this decade.  He’s an amazingly hard worker and he’s got more musical idea than you can shake a stick at.  He’s toured with Mumford & Sons, Band of Heathens, Justin Towns Earle and he’s about to start a tour with Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek.

Take some time to get to learn more about Anthony D’Amato by going to his website.

Here’s a terrific video of “Was a Time.”  Enjoy!

You have accomplished quite a bit since your entry into the music business—experiences that many musicians have spent a lifetime pursuing.  You must feel very blessed and very lucky.  What advice would you give to a talented musicians who have been making music and trying to be heard and seen?

The best advice I was ever given was just to go for it with everything you’ve got. I think we only really get better by doing, whether it’s songwriting or performing or recording, so I always tell people to throw themselves into it 100%. Don’t wait for opportunities to come up, because someone else who wants the same things as you is likely out there making their own opportunities. Play as much as you can, write as much as you can, and don’t get discouraged if it’s slow going or you’re not where you want to be, because every step of the way is important and can teach you something.

NPR describes your music as being “in the tradition of Bruce Springsteen and Josh Ritter.”  What inspiration have you received from these two musicians?

Those two have been hugely influential for me, so it was beyond flattering to read that. No one puts on a live show like Springsteen, and he’s always been so ambitious in his writing and unafraid to evolve and inhabit a variety of characters in his writing. Ritter has a way of writing songs that sound like one thing on the surface, but when you step back you see this much bigger picture. He writes beautiful little short stories and creates whole worlds within his songs.

Speaking of Josh Ritter, your latest CD The Shipwreck from the Shore was produced by Sam Kassirer, someone who’s quite familiar with all things Josh Ritter since he’s produced several albums for him.  What did you learn from working with Sam?

Sam pushed me to step outside of what I was comfortable with in terms of songwriting and arrangement. I spent so much time recording and performing by myself that my musical world was very acoustic guitar-centric, but Sam really helped me push beyond that and arrange for the full band.

Can you tell us a bit about how The Shipwreck from the Shore differs from your previous albums?

I recorded the first two albums with just a single microphone in my bedroom (Down Wires in my dorm in college and Paper Back Bones in my apartment in NYC). They were stripped-down affairs and I was learning how to record and produce and mix as I went along, so you can really hear the progression across the records and now into the new ones where I’m working in studios with producers. I still feel like I learn so much every time I step in front of a microphone, so I think you’ll keep hearing progressions in sound and arrangement with every release.

The video for “There Was a Time” is a pretty spectacular visualization of the song.  Did you come up with the concept?  It looked like a lot of fun to make.  The video was directed by the Kuperman Brothers, also known for their choreography.  How long did it take for all those actors to get it right? It didn’t look like the easiest movements to pull off wearing formal attire!  

The concept was based on an idea from another filmmaker friend of mine, Adam Makarenko, who made the “Ludlow” video and is brilliant behind the camera. The Kupermans brought a lot of their dancer friends onboard for the shoot, which made some of those more physical moves possible. Lots of my friends from school and music filled out the rest of the pews as the wedding guests and made their acting debuts. It was so fun to make something totally absurd like that and to do it with people that we were all close to. It was like one long intense day of acting camp or something. We had to film the whole video synced to the song at double speed so that we could cut the speed in half later for the slow motion effect, so the most challenging thing for me was lip syncing along to an already fast song at twice the speed. The whole thing went by in about 90 seconds.

I understand that you’ve just completed a brand new project with Mike Mogis and some of the people in the Omaha scene from Bright Eyes, Cursive, and The Faint.  As a long-time Conor Oberst fan (gush gush), what can you tell us about working with him?

I’m so ridiculously excited about this album. Mike Mogis has produced some of my all-time favorite records, and he was somebody I always dreamed of working with. He’s one of those rare people who’s a world-class engineer on the technical side of things and a world-class producer on the artistic side of things. I don’t really have enough good things to say about Mike and his studio. He elevates everything he touches and he was absolutely the man for the sound of this record, which I think pushes more into rock and roll territory. The songs are still, at their core, folky ones I wrote by myself on an acoustic guitar, but I think we really pushed the boundaries what those songs could be in the best ways. Getting to meet and become friendly with Conor was an added bonus, considering how highly I regard his songwriting and that those Bright Eyes records were a big reason I wanted to work with Mike. He was so kind and generous and welcoming, as was everyone out in Omaha, and it was a real thrill to have him sing on a couple of my songs.

 You’re about to go on tour with Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek.  Have you played together before?  Seems like a good match!

We never have but I’m really looking forward to this. He’s such a talented player and writer, so it’s one of those tours where I’m looking forward to watching him play his sets just as much as I’m looking forward to playing mine every night!


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