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Sudano 360: An Interview with Bruce Sudano

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Tuesday, Sep 28, 2010
From Avenue I to Laurel Avenue, the future holds even more intrigue and excitement for Bruce Sudano than the past.

A Ferris wheel is an appropriate metaphor for the career of Bruce Sudano. Like a passenger car rotating full circle, he’s traveled 360 degrees. The towering palm trees in the video for “A Glass of Red and the Sunset”, which captures the Ferris wheel at Venice Beach, greeted the Brooklyn-born musician when he first moved to the west coast in the early-‘70s to explore the singer-songwriter scene. Now that the Nashville-based Sudano has relocated to Los Angeles to begin writing material for his fourth solo album, palm trees once again shape his surroundings.


In fact, any occasion that brings Bruce Sudano to Los Angeles inevitably serves as a career benchmark. He appeared as one of six faces frolicking in the waves at Malibu on the eponymous debut of Alive ‘N Kickin’ (1969). Years after the New York City-based band landed a Top Ten hit with the Tommy James-penned “Tighter, Tighter”, Sudano moved back to the West Coast and re-emerged as one-third of pop/soul trio Brooklyn Dreams. Following the success of his third solo album, Life and the Romantic (2009), Sudano is once again drawing on the City of Angels for inspiration.


Sudano employs a contemporary jazz sensibility on “Beyond Forever”, the third single off Life and the Romantic.  The whispery sheen of the song is a career best for a songwriter who’s often traversed a chameleonic course over the pop landscape. Exhibiting a fluency in many milieus, his songs have topped both the R&B and dance charts (the rare Michael Jackson and Jermaine Jackson duet, “Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming”) and country (Dolly Parton’s recording of “Starting Over Again”). Of course “Bad Girls”, which he wrote with Donna Summer and his Brooklyn Dreams cohorts, was a cross-over smash that crowned the pop, R&B, and disco charts in 1979. In more recent years, his own solo sides have reached the summit of the Adult Contemporary charts (“It’s Her Wedding Day”) and are even now becoming a presence on smooth jazz radio stations (“A Glass of Red and the Sunset”).
  

Songs like “Beyond Forever” might be light years away from the nights Sudano spent playing until four A.M. on the New York club scene but the songwriter still salutes his Brooklyn roots. From Avenue I to Laurel Avenue, the future holds even more intrigue and excitement than the past.


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When you were in Alive ‘N Kickin’, would you ever have imagined that one day you’d have a song on jazz radio?


I don’t know what I imagined when I was with Alive ‘N Kickin’ (laughs). I think that at that time, I was such a different guy and I was so driven by…I don’t even know what. I was just young and crazy. Things were disposable to me at that point. I was on a mad dash but I didn’t know to where. A lot of people that started out back in the day “got off the train”. A select few of us have managed to hang on the straps with our bare knuckles and survive playing the game. It’s just good to see that people have been able to hang in and carry on and that goes for Joe Bean [Esposito] and Kenny Vance and Genya Raven and all of us. Soul survivors, for sure.


It can get very dispiriting after awhile.


Yeah, but you got to go with your gifts and stay where you’re called to be and what you’re called to do.


Well, I’d like to revisit Flatbush for a minute.


Let’s go.


Where did the gift of music come from?


I started off as an accordion player. My father was a singer. He was always singing around the house and had the radio on. He never pursued any kind of singing career, really, but he had a really good voice. My younger brother Barry had a really good voice and writes songs. It’s never been his career but he’s also musical.


I would say, if there was any musical influence, it came from my father. He opened a discotheque in Brooklyn back in 1969 called Dynamite. It was like the Brooklyn version of the Electric Circus where they had a rubber room and a dancing room and a smoking room. Alive ‘N Kickin’ actually opened the club. This was a big deal in Brooklyn. There were commercials all over the radio: “Dynamite is dynamite”. Alive ‘N Kickin’—and this is before “Tighter, Tighter”—played there for the first week or two. My father also managed Little Anthony and the Imperials. The other big thing is that he managed this band called the Yo Yo’s. The Yo Yo’s were a precursor to Alive ‘N Kickin’ in the neighborhood. The singer’s name was Ray Sabatis. The Yo Yo’s recorded for Decca. They put out a single, an a-side and a b-side. One song was called “The Raven”, a play on Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, and the other side was called “Crack in My Wall”. My father was their manager and co-produced their record. Pepe Cardona (of Alive ‘N Kickin’) was the original singer of the Yo Yo’s before they were “The Yo Yo’s”. This is really a web! Pepe Cardona texted me about a month ago and said that he was doing a fundraiser at the Dynamite Music Center in Brooklyn.


Was the accordion your parents idea?


It was very typical of the day. My grandfather came back from Italy and brought me an accordion. From the ages of four to eight, I took accordion lessons every week and was forced to practice an hour a day while everybody was outside playing. What happened was, when I was 12, my mother gets a call from another mother in the neighborhood. Her son was a guitarist. They had a gig opportunity to play at, I don’t remember if it was a Sweet Sixteen party or a bar mitzvah, but I was 12 and I got that call. I played that gig. It was me on accordion. Tommy Zumba was the guitarist in the Yo Yo’s (he’s the guy Tommy Z. in “On the Corner”). It was me, him, and some long-forgotten trumpet player. I don’t know if that leads us to the trumpet guy on “Beyond Forever” [laughs].


You’ve come 360! And “Beyond Forever” will be played on Radio Free Brooklyn, so we’ve put the period on the whole story. It all goes back to Brooklyn. So what kind of music would be playing in the Sudano household? Pop music of the day? Jazz?



It was Sinatra, Perry Como, Vic Damone, people like that. Jimmy Roselli was played a lot in my house because he was an Italian guy whose family was from Naples, the way my family was from Naples. That’s what my father played around the house. At nine years-old, I went to the Brooklyn Fox. That was really the turning point in my life. When I saw the Impalas, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, and these doo-wop groups at nine years old, that’s when the switch got flicked. That was a defining moment.


Were Italian cultural traditions celebrated in your family?


They were Brooklyn-Italian cultural traditions. I don’t know how “Old World” they were. Every Sunday, you’d go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Sunday dinner. She would make this nine-course Italian meal. Your cousins would be there and the family would congregate there. A lot of that I’ve carried on in my family. A part of me feels that it’s important to make sure that sense of culture and family is carried through.


Were there any other aspirations you had outside of music or was music always the main aspiration?


The only other aspiration I had was acting. I went to St. John’s University. My major there was Theater. I was in numerous school productions. I also studied with Stella Adler. I was on that course so if I had any other aspiration it was that. The whole time I was in college I was studying acting and I always took acting classes in the city. At that time, I was pretty serious about it but I was also playing nightclubs five nights a week. When “Ball of Fire” happened and Alive ‘N Kickin’ happened in 1969, I put theater down.


What did you learn from your theatrical training that you’ve carried with you?


Spontaneity. To be present in the moment. I think that that’s the thing that I carry through. Now that my daughter Brooklyn’s an actress, I talk to her frequently. She’s in Los Angeles with ICM and she’s going out on auditions all the time. First of all, Brooklyn is clean. She’s got no marks. I say, “Brooklyn you’re clean so you got to be a little quirky. When you go in there, you got to twist it up a little bit”. Whenever you go for an audition, you want to give them something—it almost doesn’t matter if they like it or not—it has to be, “I didn’t see it that way and I didn’t expect that”. In doing a scene with somebody, be spontaneous in the moment, even if it’s a thing where you’re reading a line and then all of a sudden you reach over and grab the other person’s hand and they’re not expecting it. It keeps it alive and real. I think that that’s the thing I take most from theater training. Probably the thing I take the least is The Actor Prepares. It’s always a fine line for me to prepare too much. I don’t like to over-prepare because then it takes away from the spontaneity in my mind. I don’t know if that’s actually true but that’s kind of the game I play with myself.


If we were to time travel back to the late-‘60s, and see the culture of New York through your eyes, what would we see?


It was a revolutionary time. Everybody knows that and everybody says it but unless you were there, it just seems like words. Things that are taken for granted now were revolutionary at the time. It was really a generation separating themselves from the generation before. The whole thing of the long hair and the stripes and the polka dots, it was all a statement, We are our own generation. At the time, there was the phrase “The Generation Gap” and that phrase at that time was real. The gap between generations now is much less. In the late-‘60s it was ying and yang. It was polar opposite. Kids were taking the culture to the extreme opposite of what it was.


What was the dynamic like between you and your family at that time? Were they supportive of what you were doing?



I think ultimately they were supportive. When I look back on it now, I think they were very supportive of me. I don’t know that they had much choice [laughs]. I was a lot more extreme than my kids are. At the same time, I think they knew that they had put a core in me that I may go off-base a little bit but hopefully I wouldn’t fall off the edge. There were a lot of people falling off the edge. Fortunately, I had enough of a center in myself to only go so far.


How did you meet Tommy James?



Alive ‘N Kickin’ was playing at a club in Manhattan called the Cheetah. It was on Eighth Avenue and 52nd Street or something like that. Sandy, who was the singer in Alive ‘N Kickin’, her sister-in-law was our pseudo-manager at the time. She was friends with Tommy James’ wife at the time. She got him to come down and hear the band. It wasn’t much of a stretch because he was living on Eighth Avenue, just a couple of blocks away. That’s how I met him. Then I think I called him every day for a week, “Can we write a song?” That’s how I was in those days. I was on it.


What did you learn from him about songwriting?



He taught me a lot. He basically took me under his wing and wrote with me, took me into the studio, and let me do stuff. He involved me in things on a level that up until that point, I hadn’t been privy to. In those days, it was a big deal to get into a recording studio. It was expensive and studios were limited. Alive ‘N Kickin’ would pool our money and try to get a session at four o’clock in the morning at some studio in the city when there was down time. It was those kinds of extreme things that had to happen to try and get into the studio. Tommy, at that point, was king of the world with all the hits that he was having. To this day, he’s a pretty underrated guy but he’s very innovative and had a very good sense of what a hit record sounds like and what a hit song does, and yet at the same time be innovative in the studio and experiment. He taught me a lot and give me big opportunities.


How did writing “Ball of Fire” for Tommy James come to fruition?


You know, I think it just came about of me calling Tommy asking if we could write a song and then he said, “Come on over”. I went over there with Woody Wilson who was the bass player in Alive ‘N Kickin’. Tommy had a little bit of a song and we kind of finished it. It was really that simple. I hung around quite a bit with him at that time and I’m sure that there were other songs that we wrote. I always say that my songwriting in “Ball of Fire” was basically that I wrote “of” [laughs].


I’m sure you did a little more than that!



It gave me the appreciation of something that is always a point of debate in songwriting circles. In co-writing, there’s a chemistry that goes on in a room frequently. If there’s three people writing, there’s one guy that’s not really contributing that much because things take on a life of their own and people get going. Boom, the song is written. You might be the guy that wrote “of”, so then there’s the debate: does that person deserve the same amount as the other two people? I always say yes because of the chemistry that’s in the room at the time.


What led to Alive ‘N Kickin’ being signed to a Roulette Records?



I think Tommy was looking to branch out a little bit. He had never really produced another act. We had become friends. He said I’ll produce your group. I’ll write you a hit song. It was “Crystal Blue Persuasion”, which was on his album Crimson and Clover (1968). He said he’d cut “Crystal Blue Persuasion” with us. We rehearsed it and got it down. Then, at the last minute, Morris Levy said, “That’s Tommy’s next single. You guys aren’t cutting it.” At that point, I’m sure we were freaked out. Tommy said I got another song (“Tighter, Tighter”). Morris said, “Don’t worry I’ll make it a hit”.


And sure enough…


It was a hit. That’s how it was in those days.


That’s the uncomfortable truth, I guess. When you moved out to Los Angeles for the first time, did it take much adjusting, coming from New York?


Things that I remember about moving out to Los Angeles for the first time…It’s kind of a situation where, “Inky man who drove the fastest car” (from “On the Corner”) had a girlfriend. He broke up with his girlfriend and I hooked up with her. She and I drove out to LA in a ‘63 LeMans. It was a three-week jaunt across the country. When I got to LA, she got a job. We got a little place in Silver Lake, which was like $60 a month. It was really nothing. It was in the ‘hood but it was what we could afford. She got a job at a restaurant. Through her job at the restaurant I met a whole bunch of other musicians.


I had been to LA before with Alive ‘N Kickin’. That’s where we shot the album cover. It was on the beach in Malibu. We had gone out there to do American Bandstand. LA at that point in time, to me, was like, why would you want to live in Brooklyn when you can live out here with palm trees and nice weather? I think I had had enough nights of getting out of the club at 4 o’clock in the morning, freezing, trying to get my key into the door of my ‘57 Dodge. LA at that time was also very vibrant with lots of singer-songwriters. It was very inspiring to me at that point.


Did you notice a change in I guess what I’d call the Los Angeles lifestyle, between when you first moved out there in the early-‘70s to the end of the ‘70s? Was there a shift across the decade?


There was a shift. The early-‘70s were more mellow. It was easy, sailing along in a nice, creative, “peace and love” kind of way. By the end of the ‘70s, it was wound up and spun tight. The drug scene in those years played a big part in the lifestyle. I think that the early-‘70s were more about marijuana and by the late-‘70s it evolved into quaaludes and cocaine. By the time you got into the early-‘80s, it all fizzled into something else.


To me it’s fascinating to consider that arc, beginning one place, then peaking, then going down the other side.


Exactly. It’s interesting, now that we’re talking about it. The late-‘70s, for me obviously, were a very exciting time. Things went very fast in those days. I’m sure today, for some people, they’re going that fast but it’s a very different world now.


When you heard the re-release of the first Brooklyn Dreams (1977) album recently, were there any particular revelations upon hearing it?


It was a very interesting phenomena that I experienced and that I saw other people experience. In speaking to Joe [Esposito] and Jimmy Ienner and seeing my mother’s reaction…it was sad, at first. Sad, and then it got a little bit angry. Then, it got to proud that it’s a great piece of work. It was really interesting because I saw the same reaction from different people. Jimmy Ienner left me this message saying, “I don’t even know how to feel about it. I always knew it was a great record. It holds up so magnificently.” At some point after that record, he got maneuvered out of position. Neil Bogart took over and stepped in. Ultimately, it leaves me with the feeling that it’s a really great record. It really holds up. Joe was going on about two of the songs that I sang, “(Baby) You’re the One” and “Hollywood Circles”, because he hadn’t heard them in 30 years. He said, “Bruce, I forgot those songs!” It was bittersweet but at the end of the day, it’s a good piece of work.


To me it’s been interesting to play Brooklyn Dreams for people and get a very honest reaction because they don’t have a reference point. Except for “Music, Harmony and Rhythm”, it’s not like the songs have been repackaged that much in a readily accessible way. So many people are hearing it for the first time and think, “How did this not become bigger?”


I think that’s where the people who were involved have a sadness because it feels like such a big missed opportunity. There’s part of me that feels that way and there’s part of me that doesn’t because maybe I just look at it and think life is what it is. Things work out the way they work out. You can’t go back. It’s all good.


What keeps the bond between you, Eddie, and Joe so strong?


I think part of why Brooklyn Dreams was as good as it was, was that there was a certain understanding that the three of us had. We know very well who we are, the good parts, the bad parts. We love each other and accept each other in spite of all of the flaws. We didn’t let the flaws override the good stuff. It’s the same thing with any relationship. There’s a level of honesty. There’s a level of trust. There’s a level of forgiveness. I think that the three of us have always been able to maintain that. I think it’s things like that that break groups up. We never had that.


Those qualities can’t be overestimated. They really are so important.


There’s a level of respect for each other’s area. I respected Joe’s ability and Eddie’s ability and they respected mine. We encouraged each other in our strengths.


On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, in terms of visibility, “Bad Girls” became very ubiquitous. Has the experience of hearing that over the years changed?


It’s funny because I think the connection to that song is different than with other songs. Maybe it’s because I really view it more as Donna’s song than our song or my song. It’s certainly a song that can get the people going. As soon as it kicks in, it kicks in. Has it changed? I don’t know that it’s changed. It’s pretty much the same. I’m proud of that song, certainly.


When you and Donna started writing together, what did you notice as her songwriting strength?


Her strength as a songwriter, without a doubt, is a hook. That’s probably my weakest area. That’s why I think when we write together, we write really good songs because we are complementary in that way. She can hook you. I would say that is her greatest strength, as well as melody.


How did Dolly Parton come to record “Starting Over Again”?


Dolly Parton recorded “Started Over Again” because she saw Donna sing it on the Johnny Carson show. Donna was singing it on the Johnny Carson show because she thought that if she sang the song on TV and my parents saw it, maybe they wouldn’t get divorced. That was her only reason for singing it. She never recorded it. I guess Dolly saw it and the next day we got a call from her management. Most songwriters get signed to a publishing company and they write for a publishing company. Publishers go out and pitch their songs and they get songs cut. I’ve never had that. I’ve either written with the artist or something happens by accident, like in this situation.


After Brooklyn Dreams disbanded, you recorded Fugitive Kind (1981) on Millennium Records. Had you always envisioned doing a solo album at some point?



Maybe the truth is I did. It’s funny because Eddie always says that to me. He’ll say to me, “You always wanted to be a solo artist”. I’ll say, “No I didn’t”. He’ll say, “Yes you did”. In some ways, he knows me better than I know me, which is kind of funny to say. I think when I did Fugitive Kind, I had a choice of, do I want to do this as a Brooklyn Dreams record or do I want to do this as a solo record. I chose to do it as a solo record. Maybe that’s the “uncomfortable truth”.


In listening to that album, it seems like it could have gone somewhere…


I don’t know. I really don’t have an answer with those things. There’s so many things that happen in a career. All you can do is do your best and keep going. “Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming” (by Jermaine Jackson and Michael Jackson) was supposed to be a single. Michael Jackson’s company prevented it. It was the “most added” song the first week out and then the next week it disappeared. That’s where you learn to trust God. That’s where I had to go with it. I’ll never forget when the Joe, Bruce and Second Avenue (1987) album crashed, I was under the bed. We had gone all the way down the road with that. The video was done. Donna at some point said, “Snap out of it. Enough already.” That taught me a great lesson: when you get hit in the stomach, recover and get back up. You got to take the punch and go. You can’t let it knock you out and that almost knocked me out. It’s precious time that you waste, trying to figure it out. I guess you have to experience that stuff and learn those lessons. I think if I had to do it all over again, I would take the hits a little bit better and respond a little bit quicker and not get thrown so off course for such a long period of time because that set me back for a few years, actually. I didn’t know where to go from there.


You had a major record company (EMI). You had all of the support and then it just evaporates.


Literally, overnight. The thing is, that stuff is more common than it’s not. The ones that break through and have the success are the exceptions to the rule. The rule is, your odds are very slim.


Who even knows what the equation is anymore.


That’s good and bad. It’s good in that anything can happen these days. There almost are no rules. Everybody’s kind of making it up as they go along. You almost don’t have a choice. There used to be a path that you could follow. There were stops along the way and you could gauge what was going on. Now, there is no path. You’re in the forest and it’s dark [laughs].


But there’s a glimmer of gold over there behind the tree…


Woops…not really gold! [laughs].


Well, just to go back to “Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming” for a moment. The Schomburg Center held a two-day symposium about Michael Jackson. The organizer of the event, Lynnee Denise, cited that song as one of her top five Michael Jackson recordings.


That’s amazing, to me.


Truly, Bruce. Then, I played it on the radio station a couple of weeks back and you should have seen the reaction. People were dancing and singing. It’s interesting because it really did hit with the people. It really is part of the fabric of their lives yet I don’t think I know how you came to even write that song.


I was working with Michael Omartian on writing songs for Jermaine. That was one of the songs that we had written. Somehow it evolved, through Jermaine, that it was going to be a duet with Michael. I think Michael liked the song and agreed to do it. It just happened. Michael just went and did it. Michael did not ask permission, let’s say, from the record company. When Jermaine’s record company was putting it out, Michael’s company kind of freaked.


Typically in those days, the companies were always at odds with each other. Jermaine and Michael were not with the same company so when you were mixing and matching, there was typically a trade-off, “We’ll allow this. We won’t release Michael’s single just yet. We’ll give you a period of time to run this record but in return, Barry Manilow’s on your label so we want Barry to do a duet with somebody on our label.” There were those kinds of arrangements that had to be made, if the heads of the companies had a good relationship. Frequently, they didn’t. They were cordial but it was all maneuvering. It was like two politicians positioning themselves. That’s what didn’t go on with that song. Michael just liked the song, went in and did it, and when the company found out, they put the breaks on everything. I wrote maybe three or four songs on that particular Jermaine record and that just happened to be one of them.


Now that we’re at the one-year mark of Michael’s passing, it’s interesting to look back at this past year and see all of the people that have also been lost and one of them, obviously, is Teddy Pendergrass. I know he was a big influence on you. What about him resonated with you in particular?


I think his dignity and his courage in facing the trauma of his life. He was truly “the man”. Yet at the same time, he’s somebody that stayed in Philadelphia, stayed in his home town, had this terrible tragedy happen in his life, and still maintained a sense of dignity and honor and carried on with his life in a good way. You look at people like that and I know I’m amazed at the inner-strength that these people have. You wonder if you were in that position, would I be able to hang with such dignity, force of life, and will to live. Talk about making the best of a bad situation…I think it takes a great depth of soul. Teddy Pendergrass certainly had that.


Going back to the ‘80s, what was the genesis for starting your label, Purple Heart?


I was starting to come back out of the Joe, Bruce and Second Avenue thing. A couple of years had gone by, so I was like, “What do I do?” Maybe I’ll produce people. Maybe I’ll start a label. That’s what I did. I didn’t know what else to do. As a songwriter, the ‘80s were kind of mix and match for me. I was writing for different artists but I really didn’t feel like I was doing my best work. I was kind of chasing it. I was trying to keep up with the trends. I was in scan mode. I didn’t know where I fit. I didn’t know where I belonged. I was just looking for a home and a place that felt comfortable. Then, I started Purple Heart. I found Erin Cruise. I did a few records with her.


Why did you call it Purple Heart? Is there a significance behind the name?


I think at that time, I felt like I was a survivor and that I deserved a medal [laughs], surviving in the music business that long.


What was the catalyst to return to record-making with Rainy Day Soul (2003)? What was the push to get you back in the studio and record your own songs again?


A combination of things. I was going through a rough period in my relationship. I started writing and I had these songs. My kids were out of the house. I did some soul-searching, Who do you want to be and who are you? What’s your legacy? What do you have to say? I never wanted to play the songwriter game of trying to write a song for somebody else and trying to hook up with three guys in a room, five days a week, and knock songs out. I could do it but I didn’t enjoy it. I felt like at that point in my life, I had some things I wanted to say, regardless if anybody was going to hear them or not. It’s not about trying to be a pop star. It’s about being an artist. That’s what I decided.


This morning I had a Bruce Sudano listening party—the three albums. The thing that really strikes me about your songwriting is just how honest it is. “Whether Or Not” and “Where Would I Be” are so honest.


They both are without a doubt. As a songwriter, I think that’s my strength. It’s the honesty and through the honesty it’s getting people to relate to what I’m feeling that they feel and can’t really verbalize. Therein lies my strength. “Whether Or Not”, I really love that song. Nobody ever mentioned it before but it’s real.


I mentioned it because that’s my favorite one on the album.


Really. That’s good. You got it. It’s probably my favorite one as well.


Just the way it’s recorded. It’s always been the one I’ve gravitated towards.


I told my wife yesterday that I’m going to put something together. I’m going to play live. She said, “Well I’ve been hearing that for a long time”. I said, “I’m really formulating something”. She said, “What’s it going to be?” Here it is, I want it to be intimate, entertaining, and musical, and inspiring. Those are the four things. She said, “Those are four things you can certainly attain…so get going!”


What would it take for you to bring the songs to the stage?


I’m kind of moving myself to Los Angeles for a year. I’m going to start rehearsals. I don’t even know who I’m going to rehearse with but I’m gong to start. It’s a process. As with all things, my kids always tease me because one of my phrases is, “You gotta go through it to get to it”. That’s what I have to do. I have to go through the steps. If I don’t start, it doesn’t go anywhere. I’m committed to starting. I’m telling people I’m starting.


In thinking about Life and the Romantic, so many artists are doing digital-only albums and singles. I’m just glad you decided to put that out as a physical release because it is something that should be taken together as a whole. Maybe because it begins with “Morning Song”, I think of it as “a day in the life”.


I think that’s how I kind of set it up to be. I am pleased with these first two [independent] records, Rainy Day Soul and Life and the Romantic. I have the same passion for them as I do listening to the first Brooklyn Dreams record. I started writing some more songs. I just wrote a song called “Cigarette and Smoke” and it’s reflective of all of our lives. It’s noir, black and white. I’m going to make another record and I’m going to be playing live.


JohnnySwim (daughter Amanda Sudano-Ramirez’s band) guests on “Morning Song” with background vocals. What is your favorite JohnnySwim song?


My favorite JohnnySwim song is…well, that’s a tricky question. Amanda wrote this song called “Good News”, which is a song that she wrote not necessarily for me but she wrote it when I was going in for my surgery on my neck. I was a wreck. I never had surgery before. Amanda wrote that particular song, which I never actually heard until she recorded it. I think it’s a great song and that might be my favorite JohnnySwim song but I’m also a big fan of “Bonsoir”. I’m really excited for them. They just moved to Los Angeles. It’s an exciting time when you move and all of these opportunities show up because you’re meeting people that you never met before. It reminds me of when the Brooklyn Dreams went out there. Brooklyn Dreams in New York were, I don’t want to say a typical commodity, but it was a familiar thing. When you transplant that to LA, it became unique. The spotlight got put on it in a way that it deserved whereas in New York, because of the familiarity, it was not getting the shine. I think that JohnnySwim is at an interesting point right now. I don’t know how long they’ll be in LA, but it will be an interesting step in their journey.


Did you film “A Glass of Red and the Sunset” out there?


That was Venice Beach. That was shot by Abner and my other son-in-law Mike. They edited it and did the whole thing. Now I actually have a video for “Beyond Forever”. I wrote that song with Al Kasha and Sebastian Arocha Morton. When we were writing the song, they said let’s do a song like Chet Baker. That’s the root inspiration of “Beyond Forever”. For the video, I took an old video of Chet Baker and I incorporated footage of me singing the song. It was always my choice as a single so I was just preparing the soil in a sense with “A Glass of Red and the Sunset” before it. I wanted “Beyond Forever” to have a decent chance. I didn’t want it to be the introduction to me in that marketplace. I wanted to tend the soil a little bit. There was some groundwork laid and people at the radio stations were somewhat familiar with me. “Beyond Forever” is a little more focused. Part of my time in Los Angeles will be working with Sebastian and doing a few more songs in that vein. I’ve been talking to him a little bit about that.


I wanted to paraphrase a line from the song “Rainy Day Soul” and pose it to you as a question. How would you characterize the journey to discover who you are?


I would say, exciting. I look back and I’m excited by all the twists and turns that have happened. I’m excited by the unknown of what’s to come. When regret of the past and fear of the future rears its head, I step on it and put it out like a cigarette.


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