This Saturday, February 6th, The Bacon Brothers (Kevin and Michael) will take to the Schimmel Center to play their unique fusion of blues, rock and soul. Today, we talk to Paul Guzzone who is the bass player for the band as well as a professor here at Pace University.
MT: Can you describe your musical upbringing to me? What led to your love of music?
PG: Well believe it or not I can trace my fascination with music all the way back to when I was a child. I suppose I was 5 or 6 and watching Casper The Friendly Ghost. There was an episode about Shubert’s “Unfinished Symphony.” Casper runs into the ghost Franz Shubert at a museum of musical instruments. He’s trying to finish his symphony and Casper somehow helps him. I remember that his music just gave me chills. What was that?! Later when I was a little bit older my parents got a stereo and bought a copy of the score to Gone With The Wind and I had a similar experience I didn’t understand it at the time but the harmony, melody and orchestrations were affecting my nervous system even though I did not have an understanding of the music. Amazing, right? The first chance I got to play an instrument I jumped on it. I took violin lessons for three years starting when I was 8. Then I heard the Beatles and switched to guitar.
MT:You are an instrumentalist, songwriter, music producer, music educator and recording artist? Which hat do you enjoy wearing the most?
PG: People always ask me that and it’s a tough one, because they all have their delights and their headaches. But if I had to pick one it would be performing my songs live to an audience.
MT: You’ve played everything from folk music to “hook-laden pop-rock” to “bluesy jazz-inflected funk.” How does one become such a well-rounded musician?
PG: Part of that has to do with when I came of age as a musician in the late 60’s and early 70’s when the music I heard in NYC on the radio and live was just so diverse. In the mid-sixties before the development of FM radio the top 40 charts had everything from Broadway show tunes to James Brown, Louis Armstrong to Peter, Paul and Mary and the entire British Invasion! Then came FM and the classic rock era when eclecticism was celebrated. My first record deal was when I was in a NYC band called Revival. Our sound was a mix of folk-rock and country. Then, when I landed a job at a music production “house” (as they were called) in the late 1980’s we were expected to dig into all kinds of music.
MT: What would be your advice to a young musician who wants to work in the music industry one day?
PG: First off the music business has become a media business. More about that in a second… If you want to actually play music then of course you must train to do so. You don’t necessarily need to go to a conservatory but that would really give you a serious boost out of the gate. But at the very least learn music theory and be able to get around on the piano even if that is not your main instrument. Once you’ve attained a certain amount of performance skill then start playing with other musicians. That’s when the real learning starts. Be a diverse musician. Specialize in one instrument but know how to play other instruments in the same category. If you play guitar make sure you have an acoustic and an electric, learn the mandolin, the ukulele and the banjo. If you play sax then learn the other reeds. That makes you valuable. By all means know how to use music software on your computer: Ableton, ProTools, Steinberg for composition and recording and Sibelius or Finale for notation. There are many but these are all industry standards.
Back to the music business as media business thing… nearly all recorded music is experienced in the context of the greater media business. Record Companies see themselves as media companies so every musician must be savvy that way. Producing music is very cool but to market yourself you need to understand how to maximize the use of media like YouTube, iTunes, Spotify and the rest. There’s really so much more to answering this question. Way more than we have time for here. But there is one thing I can’t emphasize enough. By all means love what you do but be prepared to work. Nobody will make you a success except you. Period.
MT:How were you introduced to the Bacon Brothers? How did the band come about?
PG:Michael Bacon was the opening act for the legendary folk-rock Tom Rush and I was in his band singing and playing bass. Unbeknownst to me at the time he took notice. He liked my style and how I played. Years later we connected when he moved to NYC from Nashville. When he and Kevin decided to play out I got a call from him saying they were forming a band and I was the bass player.
MT: What word best describes a concert with the Bacon Brothers? What can our audience expect walking in?
PG: One word? Joy. I would have said “fun” but that seems too trite. People always come up to us after a show and tell us how much fun it was but there’s this delight in their eyes that tells me we hit them a little deeper.
What should people expect? I used the word eclectic earlier and that’s a good word to describe what we do. Our first CD/Album was called FoRoSoCo, which stands for “folk-rock-soul-country.” Kevin holds down the rock and soul part and Michael is a folk singer at heart who spent many years writing and recording in Nashville. Everyone in the band contributes to the mix with an array of instruments: cello, accordion, piano, percussion, Hammond organ, sax, bass ukulele and lots of singing. Soundmen HATE us! In our last tour we performed live to one of our music videos! And just to totally blow your mind… Michael who is an accomplished “legit” composer with many film scores to his credit will be debuting a bit of his Suite for Cello and Orchestra. The entire suite will be performed on March 18 with the Kickerbocker Chamber Orchestra at Schimmel but Michael will have a string quartet and computer on stage the night of our show and will perform a 5-6 minute version.
MT:Do you have a favorite song that you play with the Bacon Brothers?
PG:For most of us the newest song is always the most fun. But having said that, it changes from tour to tour. Only A Good Woman, 36 Cents, Paris, Baby Steps, Grace have all been on my list at times but at the moment it’s Live With A Lie which is a song from our first CD that we brought back last summer and rearranged as an encore.
THE BACON BROTHERS; Saturday, February 6 at 7:30p; Ticket Prices $65 | $49 | $39 ; Schimmel Center at Pace University; 3 Spruce St, New York, NY 10038; (212) 346-1715; Tickets at https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/949266