Interview: Marco Benevento Kicks Off Northeast Tour, talks Duo, Fred Short and his new Instrument

Marco Benevento kicked off tour last night in Syracuse and performs tonight at Buffalo Iron Works. The Woodstock resident took time to talk with NYS Music about his recording studio in Woodstock, performances with JRAD and The Duo, as well as his forthcoming album Woodstock Sessions, due out this Friday, February 17. Catch him at The Rongo in Ithaca on February 1, Brooklyn Bowl on February 2 and at The Hollow in Albany with Maybird and Band of Ghosts on February 3.

Ben Landsman: You just played the first Duo shows with Joe Russo in years. What was it like reviving the Duo sound?

Marco Benevento: It was so much fun. It was bit of work because we hadn’t done the music in a while and had to have a couple of rehearsals. I hadn’t done foot basslines on the Hammond in a while, but it was really well received.

BL: Has performing in Joe Russo’s Almost Dead change your chemistry at all?

MB: It did in a way. We play the part when we do the Grateful Dead stuff and go into character, even through we’re doing our own twist on it. We’re doing a very improvisational take on it. Maybe we’ve spent a lot of time playing together and the classic rock stuff, maybe it carries over from the complex nature of the Duo music. We’re good at reading each other’s minds, knowing when to move onto the next section. We have as pretty dialed in musical relationship.

BL: You started singing within the last few years. How has that changed your sound, given that your piano lines/melodies can sound like lead vocals.

MB: Singing is a new instrument for me, and now when I sit down I write lyrics before melodies at times. Coming up with lyrics on the spot and intuitively singing right from the start as far as the song-writing process goes, quite honestly im hooked. I love the new instrument, the new process that I have. I still don’t like the sound of my own voice, but after we do shows I get a lot of positive feedback from the audience, which I need because I’m still a beginner at it. I do love the process of lyric writing and the act of just singing with people live. It’s more of a connection with the audience than ever before. I’m currently working on my seventh record and have about 15 songs and they all have words and vocal melodies, so I can’t stop now.

BL: You are the founder and recording engineer of the Upstate NY recording studio. Fred Short. What artists have recorded there and how has the studio changed you as a musician?

MB: I have a lot more time to create. My studio is right next to my house, so then the kids and wife go to bed, I can get pretty busy out there pretty quickly. It’s all wired up so 1 or 2 on switches and we’re rolling. I’ve been super busy, I can’t believe I’ve been without it for so long. It’s so great to have a recording space that I know so well. I’ve had my friends come and record, a bunch of stuff for other people. A.C. Newman, the keyboardist for The New Pornographers did all the keyboard stuff for his album in my studio. I’ve done some stuff with Mike Gordon from Phish, he came up and we had a nice session with his band there. I did some new stuff with my friend who does the music for Bob’s Burgers and did some music for some of those episodes. Mainly I’ve been working on my own stuff and had Kalmia Traver from Rubblebucket come up to record “Limbs of a Pine” off my album TigerFace. A friend of mine calls it ‘Inspiration Station,’ a small room with tons of keyboards, some drums, bass amp and guitar amp.

BL: Are you still using circuit bent electronics/toys/instruments? If so, which ones?

MB: I’m not using it as much as I used to. For a while I went through a phase where I could use a toy help me write a song. There’s something about those toys – I call them ear candy – that sort of give me fun sounds to get started. Over the last couple years I haven’t been using them a lot, and did it so much. They’re battery operated pieces of plastic and sometimes they break on the road, which is part of why I don’t use them anymore. Casio drum machines I will use here and there and random Japanese kids toys too. I love them to death but haven’t been using them lately.

BL: What have you been listening to lately?

MB: Tons of vinyl, I have a pretty serious vinyl addiction. I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff off this record label Light in the Attic; they put out a Native American compilation that’s pretty dope. This band called Relatively Clean Rivers. I’m a big fan of the keyboardist from The Arcs, Leon Michels, he has some pretty cool stuff out there. I subbed for him this past May and really got a chance to hang out with those guys and check out some real vinyl and got pretty inspired by them. We made a record with Richard Swift from The Arcs, so whatever Richard, Dan or Leon does, I really dig.

BL: What other musical ventures do you have planned this year?

MB: We have Northeast tour right now, then off to the West coast via Colorado, then we have a 3 week West coast tour coming up at the end of March into April from Washington State down to L.A., promoting the new live album we have coming out called Woodstock Sessions, and touring around that for the next few months to promote the new live record.

Full tour dates can be found here.