Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pheaturing Danny Nova

Hello, phriends, and welcome to another entry of the Phile. I cannot believe it's April already. March came in like a lion and went out like a raging wolverine. Are you guys excited it's baseball season? I'm not. I don't like baseball, even though I pretend to like the Yankees and hate the Red Sox. Baseball is America’s favorite pastime, second only to “Angry Birds.” Last year, Chewbacca threw out the first pitch for opening day. He was “Wookiee of the Year. Apparently, Katie Couric will leave CBS. There’s no word on her replacement yet, though I think I’d fit nicely into her chair. I already fit nicely into her outfits. President Obama announced his re-election campaign, though it’s not really a surprise. He did all the things that make it official: He filed the paperwork, redesigned his website, and printed another fake birth certificate. As far as I’m concerned, the election starts with the first attack ad, which should appear in about 20 minutes. I think elections should be quick. If I have an election that lasts longer than four hours, I call the doctor. Charlie Sheen is not on tour, did you guys know that? Sheen’s live show bombed so badly in Detroit that President Obama gave him a $4 billion bailout. People who saw the show said it was disjointed, confusing, and largely nonsensical, which may have something to do with the fact that Charlie Sheen hosted it. I mentioned the President is gonna run for President in 2012 again, and he already put out a poster that I think is aimed at action movie fans. I think... Anyway, check it out.

And now for some sad news...

Larry Finch
February 16, 1951 - April 2, 2011
This makes the eighth variety of finch that is now extinct.

From the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is this week's...

Top Ten Things You Don't Want To Hear From Your Air Traffic Controller
10. "I'm thinking of a runway between one and ten..."
9. "This is just 'til I can go full time at the toll booth."
8. "Say, that's the flight my ex-wife is on."
7. "I just had the craziest dream."
6. "That's strange -- are you in one plane or two?"
5. "Duh! Winning!"
4. "Can I land, can I land -- is that all you people care about?"
3. "I'll give you your landing instructions in a minute, but first: are you familiar with Amway?"
2. "Your landing is important to us. Please continue circling and the next available air traffic controller will be with you shortly."
And the number one thing you don't want to hear from your air traffic controller is...
1. "You are now entering Libyan air space."

Today's guest is an American songwriter and singer whose latest album "Crushing the Stone" is available on iTunes. He will be playing at The Black River Barn in Randolph, New Jersey and he was the first guest I have had on the Phile to have played at Carnegie Hall I believe. Anyway, please welcome music legend... Danny Nova.

Me: Hi there, Danny. Welcome to the Phile. You have a great stage name. How did you come up with it?

Danny: It's not a stage name, it's a name a walk around with all the time. LOL. Actually I was 18 years old and my birth name was way too difficult for anyone to ever spell or pronounce correctly... only one person was ever able to spell it correctly the first time out of the box. Anyway, I was in a band called Empire and we were touring around the USA at the time. The guitar player in the band Ron Harkins who I admired as a big brother said to me one day, "Danny your last name isn't cutting it, how about Nova?" He continued, "I think of u as being this bursting star and I think that Nova fits your personality." Well with that flattery from someone I looked up to, how could I say no? Thus Danny Nova entered the earths atmosphere from outer space, LOL. I go back home frequently.

Me: I have to say congratulations, sir. I believe you are the first guest I ever had on the Phile who has played at Carnegie Hall. How was that experience?

Danny: It was a walk in the park for me. Really was. The day of the show, my bus was parked outside the stage door and I stayed on my bus in my bedroom laying on the bed with my laptop and wrote out the lighting design and blocking for the show. Everyone left me to my own devices and I didn't leave the bedroom except for hitting the lavatory a few times. I was like a mad scientist tapping away to get 20 or so songs blocked out for the light and stage crew. They must have thought I was nuts for waiting till the day of the show to do it but I just thought of it as spontaneous and fun. Anyway, I get the call on the two way radio for a sound check from our production manager Wil Barker and he is frazzled because he is left with all the responsibility on his shoulders to see that the show goes off without a hitch and here I am calm as a jay bird nestled on his perch looking into the warm sun. But Wil, as is in his nature to be, is so mild mannered and professional that he doesn't really show it at all to the many crew and onlookers. Looking back, I have to say that if it weren't for him, Anthony Davino, Chris McCabe, Debbie DeStefano, Terry Camp, Ron Alexenburg, Robin Burt that there is no way the show would have come off great as it was. Understanding that this is Carnegie Hall, the same place where the Beatles and the biggest of the big have made their claim to fame, I took it serious but I wasn't going to let it scare me. I just treated it like any other gig, big or small and had the same attitude when I walked in the venue to do a sound check. I smiled at everyone that came across my path as if they were a supporter and a friend. During sound check we kept it low key and professional and did our check and off the stage we went to let the rest of the crew continue with what they had to do to button it up. Then back to the bus I went and didn't reappear till it was close to show time. When I did appear, I went to the Maestro Suite, which is another word for Stars Dressing Room and I sat there all alone for a few minutes. I sat at the grand piano and played it for a bit, thinking that this is a piano that the greats put their hands on top of the keys and now its my turn to do the same. Its my night to headline Carnegie Hall and nothing is going to take that away from me, short of an earthquake. To be a small part of history that will be read in Carnegie Hall journals and in archive press documents till the end of musical history as we know it. To me that was the thrill of all time. No other venue, not even Madison Square Garden could make me feel the way I was feeling. Then as I was there all alone, thinking that my 9 band members were downstairs in their smaller dressing rooms waiting for curtain call, I went to the double doors of the Maestro Suite and looked for a way to keep them open. The security guard Hose, who was stationed outside my door, was looking at me while I was eyeing up the sides of the doors. He was confused as to what I was doing. He figured it out, and said "Are you actually going to keep these doors open?" I said yep, and I am inviting my band and crew to stay with me here ... he then smiled and said "No one in my 20 years of standing here has ever done that before." I said well there's a first time for everything and let me be the first. He was soo happy because he saw that I was not shutting out the world around me and the people who are in with me. I went downstairs and knocked on dressing room doors and personally invited everyone upstairs to the suite. As they piled in shortly before showtime, it felt great to be there with them at that magical moment. There were pictures taken and you can see our drummer Liberty Devitto sitting there, calm as can be on that day as he was with Billy Joel 30 years earlier. It was surreal to a point and I was taking it all in. Then we got the curtain call and the band headed downstairs onto the stage. I stayed back and went down after hitting the lavatory. The band was on stage doing a percussion thing as Joey Reynolds from WOR Radio took center stage and the mic. He did a little stand up thing to loosen up the crowd and introduced me. I came out, gave him a hug, took the mic and the band kicked it in. I looked at the crowd, waved and the roar was what let me know they were ready to rock Carnegie Hall. Looking out over that beautiful stage and into the balconies was a site to remember. It was warm and inviting and I knew then that it was time to just myself and get into what I was there to do. To entertain the audience the way I have grown to do by feeling their vibes and to have fun. To wing it a bit and to stay within range for my band as to not confuse them for much more than a moment! There is so much more to tell, but this is an interview and not an autobiography so I will cut it here. But I will say this, that the best part of the whole show was when we took a bow together. The feeling of comradory that cant be felt any other way.

Me: How did you manage to get booked there, Danny?

Danny: It's a big and long process. Pete Bennett, the promoter for the Beatles, Stones, Elvis, Sinatra, The Who, Queen, Kid Rock etc. who I had know since I was 20 years old said to me in a conversation that he felt I was ready for Carnegie Hall even though I didn't have huge commercial success yet. He said that the booking staff would enjoy what I do musically because it's not the kind of music that will break the walls apart so to speak. It's pretty much all acoustic rock and it dawned on me that he was probably right. He said he would make the call but that I would have to make a submission of the music I intended to play and be true to what I say I am going to do if I get the approval. He did make the call, so I submitted the material that was needed to check me out. I got a call within 3 weeks telling me that the booking department and the listening board loved what they heard and that they thought my music was perfect for the venue and the times. They said they would get back in touch with me for a following year booking. Well, that was late spring. I got a call 9 months later to come to Carnegie Hall to discuss the show in more detail. They had to make sure I was going to do what I said I was going to do and not blow them out of the water with a heavy rock sound. They just don't do that there because the room is not meant for it acoustically and would be a disaster. It was December, and in the meeting they told me that a famous platinum selling adult rock band fooled them and it turned out to be a mess. The band was barred from Carnegie Hall. I can't say the name of the band, but you know them without a doubt. Moving on, they told me that my gig was a one shot deal and not to expect to be invited back because they get 5200 submissions a year and that they only allow a small amount of contemporary music to be performed inside the walls of Carnegie Hall. They said that they would see if they could put me on the calendar for the fall of the following year but wouldn't know for sure until March. In March I got the call and was told that they gave me a Saturday night on November 15th. It was perfect! Two weeks after Halloween parties and almost two weeks before Thanksgiving. The rest was history. And by the way, we did get invited back. It's up to us to say when we are ready to return.

Me: What was backstage like there? I bet the Maestro Suite was fancy.

Danny: Well the Maestro Suite which is in the most upper part of the facility has a shower, a sitting room for makeup and wardrobe, and a larger room with a black grand piano off to the side with seating around the perimeter of the room. The art work on the walls are works of musical eras going back into the 1800's. There are sculptures as well. Then on the floor below, there are 6 other smaller dressing rooms for the band. And one for the press. There is also a large community area that the dressing rooms let out to. The back stage area is small and is not really for hanging out. Your on and your off to the community area.

Me: Let's talk about your last album "Crushing the Stone" which I purchased off from iTunes by the way. It came out a few years ago, right? Are you working on a new album now?

Danny: Yes, "Crushing the Stone" was released a in Sept 2008. We are in the midst of putting a concept together for the next album called "After The Rainfall" I actually have too many songs and have to cut it down before going into the studio. Its hard to make a choice between which song goes on and which goes on the next album, if at all. But it has to be done and I procrastinate with things like that. I am also procrastinating because it takes a lot of energy to do a new album and to get it to market. I am having way too much fun and enjoying what I am doing now to stop and get serious about marketing and the business end of it. I just want to play live shows for now and have fun while we are still emerging and not being sought after to a point where we have to have a serious face on, much of the time. I hear that many artists wish they hadn't gotten famous because then it becomes all business and the artistic pleasures and fun go by the way side. I can understand how that happens, but I am determined to not let that happen to me. Bet me on it and we'll see who wins!

Me: It's actually your third album I believe, is that right?

Danny: Yes, I recorded two other albums that I never put out to market because I didn't feel they would make a splash. I am sorta a perfectionist in some ways and if I don't believe in something very strongly, how can I expect others to get behind it. I just didn't want to waste the time of people who would get behind something that I wasn't behind. Also, there might be a point in time where I could use the tracks of the other two albums and rework them till I felt strong about them. Its possible to do if I get into the right space in my head. I just fear playing songs night after night, that I might not like to play after a while. Think about the story of Barry Manilow for instance. He has to play "Mandy" which was a song that he hated and didn't want to record let alone release as a single in the first place. I won't go into the details that I am privy to about why he finally recorded it, but its a scary thing to have to do something you don't want to do because of business and because your music enthusiasts almost demand it of you. Not going to happen here. Well at least I don't think it will if I keep an eye on it and don't make rash decisions or allow other people to convince me to make them.

Me: You played all the instruments on the album, except a few, right? How many instruments do you play?

Danny: Well, the technical answer to that is 10 instruments but I am a hacker on most of them because once you play with world class musicians, you start to see how much further you have to travel to call yourself proficient on any of them. I sing better than anything else I do. But I do play a mean acoustic guitar... now forget about my fret work with my left hand, that's average at best but with my right hand strum going on, I would go up against any guitar player in the world on a strum off, LOL... haven't met a guitar player that has the right hand going on in the way I do and that's because I play percussion and the right hand on acoustic guitar is all about percussion. Pete Townsend of The Who has a mean right hand and I would love to sit with him and do a friendly duel. I think I would surprise him. Hehe... Also Richie Zambora has got the right hand down and has grown into a killer left hand for his genre. Richie was always good but he is now up there with guitar elites because of his finesse and tastiness over the pure technical performance.

Me: Do you have a band you play live with?

Danny: Yes, I play with different world class players and then some good locals, lookin' for a good time on the town. I can't call Liberty Devitto to play drums on a small local venue gig. He wouldn't want to do it because he would spend most of his breaks answering questions about his 30 year stay with Billy Joel. It would be detrimental to my relationship with him to ask him to do that. Or how about Kevin Jenkins or Deni Bonet who was with Cindy Lauper and for many years. But those are my heavy hitters for heavy play dates. Kenny Aaronson is another one who would go bonkers during breaks being questioned about his stay with Dylan, Jett, Squire, Bowie etc. Kenny has been tied up with John Eddie anyway so that would be only when John is idle. All in all, I call the team in that fits the venue which actually all are very good.

Me: Where did the title "Crushing the Stone" come from, Danny?

Danny: Very simple... the heart turns to stone over years of tuff relationships and peopleships, right? Well, there is a saying "Once Bitten Twice Shy" that even a song is named after that saying. It means life takes its tolls on you and when we get hurt, we shy away from things that hurt us. Getting back to "Crushing the Stone", I was going through a transition in my life where I realized it was time to get back in touch with my heart and not be so distant from life's treasures and relationships. I found that I needed to Crush The Stone in order to achieve my goal of freeing myself from the past in order to move into the future with a happy and productive perspective on life. Thus "Crushing The Stone" or maybe better put, soften up so you can feel the movement and beat of my heart.

Me: Where are you based? I wanna say New York or New Jersey, or Boston. You are very Steven Tyler sounding.

Danny: Well, I wanna say yes to two out of three of them... I grew up in NJ and NY but traveled and lived in different states since I was 17 years old. Colorado, California, Wisconsin, Florida is where I had some sort of actual residences for short periods of time. Mostly with band houses or whatever. I kinda feel that I am a citizen of the world in many respects although I haven't seen much of it yet outside the USA, Canada, Caribbean, Mexico, England... I plan on getting to know Asia, South America, and Europe over the next few years. But even so, I have a kindred heart for many places I have never been to before. Odd as it may seem, I feel I have been there before.

Me: You have played some shows with some very cool people, Danny. Leon Russell, The Cars and even Randy Jackson. Did you get to spend time with these people, talking to them?

Danny: Well, I want to say yes but most of the time headliners don't associate with the supporting acts at the scene of the event. They have their own agenda and stick to it. They should knock on our dressing room door if you ask me but most don't. Hmm... Bo Bice actually did. He is an awesome down to earth guy. Randy Jackson and I co-headlined a bill and we hung out. Same for Dave Mason, we co-headlined a show and he wasn't so talkative at first. But later on, about a year later to be precise, he came on my bus when I was on the road. He borrowed two of my guitars after his equipment van was broken into. Nice guy I am huh?

Me: Is there anybody you would love to open for or be on the bill with?

Danny: I don't idolize them but Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam, Rascal Flatts, Five For Fighting, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Steve Perry, Journey, Rod Stewart, James Blunt, U2, Eagles, and John Mellencamp would in some way all fit for me to be on the same bill. I would make it fit. Hehe.

Me: You are a very talented musician, sir. How long have you been writing, singing and playing instruments?

Danny: Oh well, I started playing guitar at around 6 or 7 years old. I started singing at 9 with the church choir for a few years and busted out of that at 12 singing rock and whatever contemporary thing of the time. I think I had an interest in writing songs around that time but didn't have the clarity to actually write a song that was worth publishing till I was about 19 or 20. It was a song called "My Hearts On Fire" and I started the song on my own but then it needed some help. So Steve Coronel of Wicked Lester (ancestor to KISS) put his two cents in and then it was complete. After that, I saw that I could actually write songs and continued to develop in that area. I was a published songwriter and it gave me confidence.

Me: What is the first instrument you learned to play?

Danny: Guitar, then piano.

Me: Do you play the kazoo?

Danny: That's not something that I have ever tried but have heard about from a high school friend who was in a school kazoo band. Apparently when they run out of breath, the school gives them free oxygen.

Me: I have to ask you about your mission to promote the Vegan lifestyle. At first when I read your bio I thought it said promote the VEGas lifestyle. A Vegan lifestyle is pretty different. LOL. How do you promote something like that?

Danny: What, the Vegas lifestyle? Well that's easy, just play roulette red or black and double down when you lose on one till you win it back, LOL. Actually I do like Vegas because it's a town that evolves around entertainment. Been there about 4 times and it's a blast if you dont lose your shirt. I am not a big gambler, I know how but I don't want to take the money from them so easily. I usually win a few hundred and walk away. Getting back to the Vegan lifestyle. Promote is the key word, not push or shove it onto someone. Vegans, historically have been the leaders on the planet. Vegetarians for a better understanding. Most religious leaders such as... ugh... all of them, most music leaders such as Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Prince, blah blah blah, most scientists/inventors such as Thomas Edison, Davincci, Newton, Einstein and it goes on... I think being vegan/vegetarian is not only good for the soul and spiritual development it's also good for the health and energy levels of a person, especially the sick. There is a list of famous vegetarians that I am proudly on along side many others names you would recognize and be pleasantly surprised are on it. Its not a secret society or anything like that but Google it and see for yourself.

Me: For the reader that doesn't know what a Vegan lifestyle is... and I am sure there's one or two out there, can you explain it?

Danny: A Vegan is a person who does not consume animals, birds, fish, reptiles or any product that has any of those life forms in it. In other words, Vegans are Vegetarians that don't eat cheese or eggs, ice cream.

Me: And congrats on signing to endorse EKO Guitars. That means we'll be seeing you in different EKO ads I am guessing. Do you get anything free now that you are an official endorser?

Danny: Thanks for the kudos on that. And yes, EKO Guitars gives me anything I want. I am not greedy so I have accepted an acoustic twelve string, an acoustic six string, an acoustic bass, an electric bass and they are building me my own signature mahogany guitar that has a patented breakaway neck. That means that the guitar neck comes right off for travel and storage with a click of a tool. Its going to be for sale worldwide and I will receive a royalty for each guitar sold. That's not going to happen overnight because it takes time for production to tool up and all that goes with the marketing of it. It's a nice thing to have EKO Guitars in my future because I whole heartedly believe in their products and their business practices. They are also planning to back my recordings and releases but that's something that still has to be worked out.

Me: Danny, thanks for being on the Phile, sir. Your album is really cool, and I recommend it to anyone who likes Acoustic, Americana, roots music. Go ahead and plug your website and anything else you would love to plug. You work with a shit load of charities, right?

Danny: I work with many charities... sometime soon I will make a list and publish it on my sites. I just never thought of making an actual list because I am just into focusing on what's on the upcoming agenda for the charities and benefits.

Me: Again, thanks for being here, and when your next album comes out, you are welcome to come back onto the Phile. Take care.

Danny: You're welcome... my pleasure... good questions and enjoyed answering them... best of luck to you...

There! That's how you do an interview. I think that was one of the best ones I have ever did. Thanks to Danny for doing an amazing job. The Phile will be back on... tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow, with a special Thursday entry where the guest will be Phile Alumni Id Guinness. And then starting next week the Phile will be be posted on Friday... or as I like to call it Phriday, with Staci Butler, lead singer for the Texas based band Staci's Edge. So, until then, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

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