City Winery NYC
May 4, 2012
Interview for City Winery by Sofia Pasternack
You started out as a radio DJ in Tampa, FL at the age of seven, garnering the nickname “The Littlest DJ.” Tell us about that experience. What was it like being such a small fish?
It was an awesome learning experience to sort through the Top 40 records of the moment and pick ones to play on the air. It made me focus on what makes a record a hit…what makes it interesting to me but, more importantly for radio, what makes it interesting to a large audience. I didn’t feel much like a “small fish” at all, actually. I just knew I had a job to do! The fact that I was seven years old didn’t really factor into it for me. That was more for the public and the radio station to find entertaining or amusing. For me, I just had a blast playing records and talking on the air!
Over the course of your career you’ve collaborated with artists in many musical genres, namely Liza Minnelli, Moby, Lou Reed, and Pete Seeger. Do you have any good stories from your time with them?
The stories of working with great artists, of which you’ve named just a few, are far too numerous to recount here. Starting with Tiny Tim, I’ve been fortunate and honored to work with some of the greatest personalities of our pop culture. That was one of the driving factors in writing my first book “Frontman: Surviving the Rock Star Myth,” to gather some of these experiences in one place and share them with interested readers. Each of the artists you mention has left a lasting impression on my heart and mind, and those impressions inspire and influence what I do onstage and in the studio.
This is the 25th anniversary of the release of your first solo album, Cool Blue Halo.How have you changed and grown as a musician since?
Ha! Well, I can only hope I’ve grown at least slightly in the past 25 years! I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually stopped to analyze in what ways I’ve changed, because like everyone else I am a work in progress. Change happens every second. But, in general, musically, I suppose I can safely say I have learned more and more the value of listening while performing, in the way that an actor must truly listen to his acting partners on stage, so reactions (musical and theatrical) are real. This is something I teach in my Stage Presence class at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. I try to bring something musically new to the table at every performance, and a lot of it has to do with the musicians I choose to work with, and the chemistry between us.
And what would you say has stayed the same (performance style, writing style, etc.)?
No matter how lost into the music I get (and I do get lost in the music), I try to be aware of the audience, and how what I am doing is affecting and engaging them. I’m not up there just for myself. The essence of a performance is a shared experience. That aspect of going on stage has never changed for me.
You currently live here in the Village, correct? What is your favorite place to go in the neighborhood?
Silly question: City Winery, of course (although I believe technically it is in SoHo). I find myself there often, whether performing in yet another amazing event or benefit concert, or watching one of my favorite artists who play there. It’s a perfect venue.
Do you have a favorite wine?
At the moment, my favorite wine, obviously, is Richard Barone “Cool Blue Halo” 25th Anniversary wine. And, you know where to get it!