Hey Bobby, thanks for chatting with me today. I love your album…it’s very unique. Kind of reminds me of Dave Mathews a bit…When you first hear the highly crafted, radio-friendly songwriting of Bobby Fingeroth, it’s obvious that he has a natural talent for writing contemporary, soulful rock. While his influences, such as Dave Matthews Band and Pete Yorn can be detected in his music, it’s his honest, hopeful, and personal lyrics that really draw you in. Growing up in New York City, he was surrounded by music from an early age, but it surprises most to find out that Bobby actually didn’t begin his musical and songwriting career until much later. While attending college in the mid-1990’s he began to recognize his aptitude for the nuances of writing the type of music that people wanted to hear. Upon graduating from college, he learned to play guitar, began writing songs and surrounded himself with high caliber veterans of the music industry like Kenny White (Sean Colvin), Tony Salvatore (Perry Farrell), Riley McMahon (Spottiswoode & His Enemies) and Bruce Martin (Tom Tom Club) before releasing his debut album Dilettante in 2004 to rave reviews. Dilettante quickly received airplay throughout the US and Canada. Critics admired his sound and in turn his voice has frequently been compared with the likes of Live's Ed Kowalczyk, Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas and Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows. Further, Dilettante was selected by Starbucks-owned Hear Music to be sold in its retail locations in California, as well as over 50 Starbucks locations in Seattle and Austin. Bobby has performed at top clubs and music venues throughout the Northeast as well as Colleges, Corporations and Charities. He is currently performing locally in New York, while he develops new material for his sophomore release. Read more: http://www.myspace.com/bobbyfingeroth#ixzz0rSRmSWrc
Thank you for interviewing me and for the compliments. I really appreciate it. The Dave Matthews Band are pretty much my musical heroes.
You’ve said you were kind of a ‘late bloomer’ well, that’s my word actually…what I’m saying is, I read in a recent review that you’ve only been doing this for a few years. Am I right about that?
Yes, especially in terms of the kind of music I make now...folk/rock/pop (as opposed to classical). For elementary school, I went to Allen-Stevenson, which has a very strong music program and almost everyone played in the orchestra (and we were actually very good for our age). I first played clarinet and then switched to trumpet. My grandfather was also a singer so there’s a genetic component there. So I had somewhat of a musical background, but I didn’t pick-up an instrument again from around 5th or 6th grade until after college. I had also never played guitar, written songs, played in a rock band or considered pursuing music as a career until then either. I think most people who do those things in any serious way start much earlier.
What are some of your regular venues you play?
Most recently, it’s been The Local 269, where I’ll be performing on Friday, June 25th @ 9PM. I’ve had long runs at Arlene’s Grocery and The Baggot Inn (when it was around.) I’ve also played at The Mercury Lounge and Fez (again when it was around) a couple of times.
Last we spoke you said that your life isn’t just, “Music, music, music.” Does that mean that although you really love and appreciate it, you do other things?
Yes, that’s a nice way of putting it.
You’re also taking graphic art classes…I’ve always wanted to take courses at SVA. A brilliant artist, Bill Armstrong who I had the pleasure of interviewing over a year ago actually teaches there. Tell me what that experience as been like for you.
I recently finished a class at SVA. I haven’t heard of Bill Armstrong, but I’ll look him up. I really enjoyed the experience. I’m very into designing logos and creating campaigns around them. The class I just finished was in typography, but it focused on doing real life projects like you would get working for a design agency. And they were for “clients” (not in real life just for class) that a lot of graphic designers would dream of working for. I got to design an identity system for Del Posto (the Mario Batali restaurant), a poster for the US Open and a wine label for Ecco Domani to name a few.
Tell me of your journey that takes place when you write a song?
Great question. Generally speaking, there’s always some “gift” (a chord progression, guitar riff, melody, lyric or some combination of them) I get as long as I focus on music in some way. In terms of the order of getting the inspiration, it’s changed a little over time. When I first started and wasn’t open to doing it any other way, I always had the music on guitar first and would then come-up with a lyrical hook based on something I was dealing with at the time. Then I would write the lyrics to fit with the existing music and the lyrical hook. It’s mostly still like that, but at some point -I think because I took a break from writing consistently for awhile and wasn’t as attached- I started to occasionally hear a melody in my head or even a melody with a lyric that’s the start of something and then I can write the guitar part and rest of the lyrics to go with it. I’m glad it’s happened because it keeps it interesting. Regardless of the order, the music usually comes pretty easily and the lyrics are the work.
Do you ever collaborate with other people in the songwriter process?
So far, not really. A few times people I’ve worked with have added a little part or made an arrangement change that can enhance or at least be a nice variation on the original version. But I usually don’t play songs for other people until I’m confident they're finished. I’m more open to collaborating than I used to be and will probably try it more formally at some point to see if I like it. I’m sure it can be fun to experience the camaraderie and the magic that can happen similar to when people jam together and the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. But I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to have something that’s just yours. And then other people can add their stamp to it with the parts they play as opposed to co-writing the original composition.
Is there a particular singer or group that inspires you? I’m not a songwriter but I get very inspired to write whenever I listen to Fiona Apple’s recent album, or Rachael Yamagata, um, I also love ‘old-school’ Sinead O’ Connor….
Well, as I mentioned, Dave Matthews Band are huge for me. Pearl Jam and The Counting Crows are second and third, but I really love them too. Those are the three that consistently do it for me, but there are some others that are aren’t too far behind, like Pete Yorn, Matchbox Twenty (I used to hate on them but I’ve come to really admire Rob Thomas as a singer and songwriter, both with Matchbox 20 and his solo stuff), Train, David Gray and Nick Drake. There are tons of others where it might just be one song that gets me excited. There’s a really good up and coming band called My Brightest Diamond. The front woman has a very cool and unique guitar playing style I’d like to integrate into mine.
So you grew up in New York City I gather, what’s a typical day like for you here? Are you into all the great sites the city has to offer? Are you a regular museum or gallery visitor?
I did grow-up in New York City. Right now, I’m studying graphic and web design as well as freelancing. (You can see some of my work at http://www.bfcreative.net/, but check back again soon because it's going to be updated with much newer stuff.) That’s how I’ve been spending most of my time. I also spend a fair amount of time doing different things for music such as practicing, performing, recording, writing, submitting songs to record labels, TV and film opportunities, and reaching-out to and following-up with other people in the business. Yoga has become a big part of my life and I try to do it at least two to three times a week.
It’s funny, someone once told me I am a terrible native New Yorker and for awhile I thought they were right. I rarely go to Broadway shows or museums unless someone else suggests it (although at least I do go...and I do go to concerts, cool stores, good restaurants and bars.) I’m not saying I couldn’t take advantage of more (and would like to), but I recently realized that’s kind of like my going to someone’s house who lives on the beach and accusing them of being a terrible beach resident because they don’t swim in the ocean very often but enjoy living by it. In addition to most of my family and friends being here, the appeal of living in New York City for me is more about the overall energy and knowing you have incredible options of the best of everything when you want it, and selectively using what you want. I also think when you are from here it’s completely different than when you move here from somewhere else. You can’t help but not take it for granted a little.
When are you playing next?
Friday, June 25th at 9 PM at The Local 269 (http://www.thelocal269.com/.); A great guitarist named Tony Salvatore (http://www.myspace.com/tony.salvatore) will be sitting in with me for a few songs. His playing style compliments my music really well. To get a preview, he co-produced and performed almost all the instruments on a demo of my song "Unknown Caller." You can download it from my MySpace page (http://www.myspace.com/bobbyfingeroth.) After my set, I'll be sitting-in with him and his band Pleasuredog to sing and play rhythm guitar on "Turn The Page" by Bob Seger.
Does your culture or heritage influence you in any way with your music or your other inspirations? Both my parents are from Ireland and I am proud of my heritage…the Irish struggle...I am proud of what my parents and their family members had to do to get out here. They were all so driven and have become extremely successful…they all put me to shame! (laughing).
Yes. My Jewish background has influenced two songs with references to Moses and there’s another on the way with a reference to Exodus and the Bible. I wrote “BSF” for my grandmother for her 85th birthday. I also have two LLC’s. One for music and one for design. They are each named for the business owned by the grandfather who I think I got that particular gene from. As I mentioned, one grandfather was a singer. The other was a great visual artist, but neither of them had the opportunity to fully explore their creative talents...so it’s a partly a tribute to them, but they’re also cool names.
As you know, I have a musician blog where I’ve interviewed a lot of musicians, mostly living here in the city. A typical thing they have all said to me is that writing music becomes an easier process for them when it involves the topic of heartache. On the flip side of that, love songs…especially by the more ‘serious’ artists get written and produced much less. What about you…you write more anti-love songs too? And if so, can you give me your explanation for it?
I’ve definitely written my share of heartache songs in the past. I think pain is an easier emotion for most people to access because it’s most people’s nature –especially songwriters- to focus on what’s wrong rather than what’s right in their life. And we all get a thrill out of knowing a song will resonate with people, even if it’s a little depressing. Although that’s changing for me.
What would have to happen to you for you to write a happy song or a song about love?
I think I’ve written some relatively happy songs. On Dilettante, “Dilettante" and “BSF” are pretty upbeat and even when any of my songs are dark there is always hope or a fighting spirit in them. In terms of more recent material, I have a song called “Against The Grain” that’s pretty positive and two new songs called “Movie” and “Plasticity” that are very positive. And I have written hopeful songs about love like “White Picket Fence” and “Unknown Caller.”
I cannot pronounce the title of you latest album…how do you say it?
Dill (as in the herb) + uh (like uh huh) + tante (as in détente).
What does that mean?
It means a dabbler, particularly in the arts.
So where can people hear and buy your music?
Great question. :) The best place to go is http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/fingeroth because you can download individual songs, the entire album or buy hard copies of Dilettante all in one place. You can download it on major downloading sites like iTunes, Rhapsody and Amazon (where you can also buy hard copies of the CD.) There are tons of other sites where you can download Dilettante that I’ve never even heard of until recently like Nokia and MediaNet.
The album was also selected by Starbucks/Hear Music to be sold as a hard copy CD in the Featured Emerging Artist section in their retail locations in Santa Monica and Berkeley, CA (where they also have these cool digital download stations so it can be downloaded there too). They also have the download stations at 50 Starbucks locations in Seattle and Austin.
Another musician question…you got any groupies (laughing)?
I don’t have any groupies...yet. :)
Do you think that era still exists…I’m a huge fan of Pamela De Bares…her book was great. That concept is a little outdated now I guess. Would you agree with that?
I really can’t say with much certainty because I’ve never hung around any artists/bands big enough where it could be a part of their world. But yeah, I get the sense the era you’re referring to (when it was notorious with bands like the Stones, Led Zeppelin or as recent as Motley Crue) is over for now.
Well, thank you sooo much for all this insight. Oh, and one more thing I forgot to mention. I had a few friends of mine listen to your album and they said by the second time they played it...they were already singing along. Was that your intention to make it catchy like that?
Wow. Thanks for passing that along. That actually makes my day. That was definitely my intention and I worked very hard to accomplish it. And again, thanks very much for interviewing me. I really appreciate it. It was fun to answer such great questions.