Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Mar 8th 2010 5:00PM by Holly Quinn
How would you describe your sound?
The last full-length I put out is called "Collapsible Plans." We were kind of kicking around the idea of a California sound, especially with some of the guests we had like Jackson Browne on the record... we felt like it was kind of a modern-day '70s sound. The new EP is called "Fit to Screen." The last album was produced by Ben Harper. Really cool sensibilities, with him being in the studio, and it had a certain sound. The latest EP is self-produced and it's got... I'm so bad at describing my own sound, but there's some cool elements in the new EP. I'm pretty excited about it.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
A lot of jazz - Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Wes Montgomery. Then, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. Heavy doses of Joni Mitchell and Led Zeppelin.
How did you start out?
I really started playing out around '94. I started out in New York City, playing a lot of jazz, playing upright bass for a jazz group. I played guitar simultaneously, but I found I got so much work as a bass player... and even some Off Broadway theater stuff where I was like, playing bass and guitar and acting. It always seemed to benefit me to have multiple instruments and be able to do a little singing and acting and stuff. I've played everything from straight-up jazz to stuff I write... it gets a little funkier with the upright bass, a little more folky with the guitar, but I've never seen the barriers of those different kinds of music.
You also played with The Silos.
Yeah, right out of college I played electric bass with The Silos. It was a great indie cult kind of band, and there was a lot of touring. It kind of broke me into the world of travel. A lot of Europe and a lot of US travel. That was right around 1994, '95, '96.
Then, right around '96, I really focused on my own material. There was a Mercury Records label called Red Ant. They picked me up around '97, I guess, and in '98 I made my record, "North American Long Weekend." It was a really cool record. We got the jazz organ great Jimmy Smith on there, and there was the upright focus on there. Everyone was really happy with it. Then it was the classic, like, one month on the road promoting the record, and all of a sudden we call home to the label, and there's no one there. Somehow it mismanaged 40 million dollars, and the label just went under. It was just the classic story you'd heard about. So that was a bummer. After that, I became very indie. Stuff like that happens, I just drop everything. I just went a very indie route after that.
You've done well with Indie/DIY, too.
Yeah, it's been cool. It's not an easy road, but it's been gratifying. I've been hoping to join a label in the US, but nothing really came along that felt right. In Europe and Japan I did some label deals with the "Collapsible Plan" record. And Australia, too. Which is good, because it enabled me to do some festivals over there. Last year was really good festival year for me, I got to play Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, in Australia, the Byron Bay Blues & Roots Festival, in Europe some Americana festivals. It was a good travel year for me.
What's been your favorite place to play live?
I really found the people of Australia and Japan to be great listeners. People will be familiar with your old records... people actually like to be the audience. In New York and LA, sometimes the audience feels farther away. It's the appreciation level. Switzerland and the Netherlands, too. The coolest festival last year was the Bali Spirit Festival. It was incredible. The idea was music, yoga, dance.
You also have a Children's project called the Hug Trees. How did that come about?
Yes - I'm glad you checked that out! I have a six year old daughter... it kind of evolved. I'd be singing her songs, and taking notes on the computer. Eventually, I was like "boy, I got a lot of ideas here, I guess I gotta make a kid's record!" At that point I hooked up with Brett Dennen, one of my favorite singers, I got him to contribute a song... my friend Abra Moore from Boston, and Victoria Williams. I wanted it to feel like a family record. Whoever's around at the time can do it. I don't see much separation between different styles of music, so if you believe in your kid's record and it feels right and it's coming from a real place, I think it's cool in the same day to do a kid's set and an adult's set. A big part of the Bali festival was a Hug Trees concert.
You've played SXSW before, right?
Many times! I think I've only missed four since '94.
Will you be playing the upright at SXSW?
Definitely. But I mix it up, I play guitar, and switch back and forth between guitar, upright, and piano. Sometimes mandolins too, or ukeleles. I kind of jump around a bunch.
The band I'm with for SXSW is a backup singer, a regular with me, named Cece White; there's a bass player named Bruce Hughes, he's currently out with Jason Mraz; Chris Masterson on guitar, drummer Conrad Meisner, and Elanor Whitmore, who does violin and backing vocals. That's a pretty big band for me.
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