Sal Piamonte may not make his living in my backyard (he comes to us from Ottawa, Canada), but boy, does he tell a familiar tale concerning the real problem facing emerging artists today (and he tells it well!). He says, “The struggle of a professional musician is completely about communication. The reality is that in order for you to push your art/music with the MOST efficiency and impact, people have to see you LIVE and in the flesh. I’ve always found that a kick-ass performance in front of an intimate crowd (15-50 people) has always been more effective in impacting and growing a real audience of dedicated followers. A great performance to a small crowd seems to get people ‘doing’ and ‘actively promoting’ rather than just passively acknowledging their approval.”
Preach on brother Sal! A great band or artist isn’t defined by their skills in a studio or by a plethora of followers on twitter… The real worth of an artist is found in the live, in your face, show! I won’t name them here, but more than a couple acts lost favor with the PEV clan following a live experience (you’ll have to ask me offline).
If Sal’s live show is anything like his new record, “Lives in Devil City”, we’re looking forward to getting blown away. He describes it best: “Fans can expect a hard-hitting rock record that they’ll hopefully want to blast in their car stereos, house parties, or during their workouts. This record hits hard from start to finish, with high energy and up-tempo songs to get your blood pumping and heart singing, reflective yet optimistic themes of moving on and dealing with love lost, and just enough ‘fuck you’ bravado to make you feel legit in raising up your devil horns. The album is meant to be edgy, sexy, and full of hooks for those who love their Rock n’ Roll with a side of naughtiness.” Check out “Lives in Devil City” ASAP and keep an eye out for the new single, “Take Me Home” while you’re at it. Big things coming from Mr. Piamonte. There’s a lot more to get into, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ’s.
PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound?
Sal Piamonte (SP): A bastard rock child conceived in an orgy of Hendrix love and Led Zeppelin haze, accompanied by Kid Rock and Foo Fighter-like passion and fire, sprinkled with harmonies and soul from the Almond brothers to Coldplay.
PEV: Born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, what kind of music where you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?
SP: I grew up surrounded by the sounds of Top 40, Motown, and Rhythm & Blues music. My mom used to blast Bob Seger, and when I was really young, we shared a flight with Chubby Checker and his band on a flight to Australia…he was totally hitting on her too, go figure. Michael Jackson was the only artist I truly idolized growing up. I learned how to moonwalk because of him, and the infectiously catchy songs he wrote and performed are what really opened my eyes to the beauty of songwriting and strong melodic hooks…not to mention the power of performing with his magnetic and monstrous stage presence. Growing up in a very conservative, safe, and sheltered government town (our nation’s capital) actually didn’t create any type of ambivalent emotion or anything that made me want to lash out in true rock n’ roll fervor.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I started to truly gravitate to the sounds of Rock n’ Roll, appreciating and learning about all the greats that came before…discovering my love for old school Rock n’ Roll, Southern Rock, and soul. I feel that the chronology of my musical education and exposure is the reason that I have developed my own style of Rock n’ Roll, which is edgy and energetic, yet very pop sensible and accessible to a wide audience.
PEV: Tell us about your first ever live performance.
SP: My first ever show “happened” when I was 7 years old. I was just learning to play the guitar and one day I was at my grandmother’s house, and there were workers paving the street out in front. These were all Italian men who barely spoke any English, and who all took a seat on the front steps of the house to eat during their lunch break. Suddenly, my grandmother told me to grab my guitar and to bring it outside on the front steps. Shy and nervous, I did as she asked, and began playing old Italian folk songs to the stunned workers who from that day forward, referred to me as “the little boy with the big guitar.”
PEV: What was it like for you when you first started out and making the transition to professional musician?
SP: That transition is a constant process…one that is always growing and evolving as quickly as the technologies for social media are changing and making communication easier than ever. Communication and social media have completely oversaturated the musical landscape so much that the old adage of never “over-exposing” yourself has basically done a complete 180. Now, if you don’t overexpose yourself and make yourself heard, people will easily move on to the next tidbit of info that catches their attention….social media has turned everyone into ADD affected people who have become quick to judge, quick to intrigue, yet just as quick to distract. The struggle of a professional musician is completely about communication.
The reality is that in order for you to push your art/music with the MOST efficiency and impact, people have to see you LIVE and in the flesh. I’ve always found that a kick-ass performance in front of an intimate crowd (15-50 people) has always been more effective in impacting and growing a real audience of dedicated followers. A great performance to a small crowd seems to get people “doing” and “actively promoting” rather than just passively acknowledging their approval. If people are able to feel that connection, the 6 degrees of separation goes from a few people loving your music, to many. And all this translates to bigger audiences, more money, more opportunities, and ultimately, MORE music being able to be created. Being a professional musician on the cusp is a real struggle because one has to be their own record label, so to speak, and has to wear all the hats.
The key is to know how to build your team, and who to build it with as your reputation and star grows. In this crazy music world, there is no time for rest…change happens fast, and momentum gained over months and years of blood, sweat, and tears can disappear in the blink of an eye if you’re not at the top of your game….ALL facets of your game. If you don’t push it, no one else will.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
SP: “How many hearts can I win over and how hard can I rock this audience tonight”…other random thoughts include: “are those girls single,” “do the people close to the stage know how much I sweat,”… “I hope I don’t split the crotch in my jeans again,” …and “what can I do to make sure the next time I play in this city that this audience is double in size?”
PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?
SP: Inspiration for me comes from many directions, but like many other artists, it is mostly rooted in “the struggle,” and the real-life experiences of human beings sharing this journey with us. I am mostly inspired by my family and how hard they have worked to make a life for us. I am inspired by stories of people who overcome difficult odds and overcome in the face of adversity, and I am inspired by the strength of the human spirit. I believe in dreams, and I believe that love conquers all. My songs are always written from a subconscious style of writing. Honing that style requires an openness of mind, heart, and spirit in order to connect with the honesty in ones mind and soul. Unless I am writing for other artists or projects for a specific theme or mood, the writing on my own records is never premeditated or planned.
I generally begin with random chord progressions and melodies that I’ll hum nonsensically in the form of gibberish and random words overtop of the music…because I’ve learned over the years to recognize when a strong melody is worth developing, I’ll take it one step further and will develop the music, melodic hooks, and slowly let subconscious words slip into the music. At that point, I’ll focus on the lyrics, building on whatever the themes are that seem to be appearing in my uninhibited ramblings. Almost always, there is a positive message in my songs, even the dark ones, because I am a believer that every beginning has an end, but that every end has a new beginning…I’ve always felt that if you approach a song openly and honestly, then it will tell you where it needs and wants to go-mood, lyrical content, structure, and vibe…
PEV: Tell us about your latest release, “Lives in Devil City”. What can fans expect from this work?
SP: Fans can expect a hard-hitting rock record that they’ll hopefully want to blast in their car stereos, house parties, or during their workouts. This record hits hard from start to finish, with high energy and up-tempo songs to get your blood pumping and heart singing, reflective yet optimistic themes of moving on and dealing with love lost, and just enough “fuck you” bravado to make you feel legit in raising up your devil horns. The album is meant to be edgy, sexy, and full of hooks for those who love their Rock n’ Roll with a side of naughtiness.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Sal Piamonte?
SP: That I’ve held human brains in my hands.
PEV: What one word best describes Sal Piamonte?
SP: Life on the road is awesome. I love being on the road because it makes me feel inspired, passionate, and excited for what the future holds. I dream and think best when I’m cruising on a highway, moving into new towns, new adventures, and discovering something new about the world and myself. I especially enjoy the camaraderie with the boys in my band-the bad jokes, the ribbing, and sharing of stories. There is a brotherhood and love that extends far beyond the loud amps and sweaty stage show. To list the worst place I’ve played would be a slight to an experience that I took and learned from….BUT, I once played a gig in an empty tin curling rink for a charity event in a small town in eastern Ontario, Canada.
It was crazy…the sound was bouncing everywhere to the point that the band was almost playing off time, there was a mosh pit of young kids crashing into the pa system, a cow with a bell running around and losing it’s shit at one end of the rink, and an open bingo crowd of older folks at the other end who were so pissed with all the ruckus that they literally looked like they were going to stage a physical intervention. The best parts I’ve played have been numerous and many. The city of Toronto has been particularly kind to my musical career as I’ve been fortunate enough to play some of the most legendary venues there like the fabled Massey Hall, The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, and many, many more. Sudbury, Ontario, home of the Big Nickel and my old college stomping ground has also been the backdrop to many incredible gigs and shows that I still talk about to this day. Touring Canada in the winter though is never a great idea, but at least you know that when people make the effort to come out to your shows, they REALLY must want to be there…and when they come, they come to ROCK, which makes for awesome live shows.
PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
SP: Definitely the southern U.S. and Europe. I am a huge fan of southern styled Rock n’ Roll music, and many of my fans hail from the U.S., especially down south. The sooner I get there, the better as I feel that I owe them shows for all of their amazing support! Europe…namely the UK is also tops on my list. Aside from the beautiful women and irresistible accents, the UK is home to some of my favorite all time bands, not to mention that I have some huge supporters and fans down there that are pushing hard to get me over. And lets face it, who wouldn’t want to play for music and rock loving audiences, beer drinking partiers and beautiful women… AND…getting to tour haunted castles?!?!… That would be the ULTIMATE!
PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
SP: You will find me playing hockey as much as possible. Before I realized that I could make this music dream a reality, I spent the early part of my life aspiring to be an NHL hockey player. I got recruited to play hockey for many college schools, and after college, had offers to play pro hockey in Europe…all that being said, I just love to transfer that competitive edge and fire onto the ice still, and get even more enjoyment out of teaching my 2 year old nephew how to play. Aside from hockey, I like to write, to be creative, and to spend time with my family and the people that are close to me. I would say that psychologically profiling people is also another past-time of mine, but that might just be a byproduct of watching too much Criminal Minds and CSI..
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
SP: There are so many great artists out there that I couldn’t just pick one. If I could use this platform to promote anyone, I’d like to give a shout-out to the Ottawa music scene, the city where I’m from. There is so much talent there but not enough support for local artists other than a few streams. All of these artists deserve attention and this sleepy city would benefit from paying more attention to the talent that lies within.
PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think you would be doing as your career?
SP: You mean there’s actually another choice???…I think not.