New Age World
Burlington Free Press
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Publication: Seven Days Vermont
Vermont Composer and Grammy Nominee Al Conti Conjures New Music About Ancient Tales
By Pamela Polston [02.01.12]
Northern Seas begins with the sound of crashing waves — a storm on the ocean, perhaps. A foreboding synth sustain kicks in, then an ancient-sounding, minor-key melody, and then a haunting female voice. The layered effect is dense and spine-tingling and soothing all at once, a seemingly impossible feat. And that’s just the first track on this CD by Essex, Vt.-based composer Al Conti . Ten more follow, for a total listening time of 49 minutes. With all its sweeping drama and intimate, emotional moments, this could be the soundtrack to a film filled with heroic — if not always victorious — adventures. Say, of Thor, Odin, Loki and Baldur.
Yes, Northern Seas is inspired by Norse legends, which Conti says he researched extensively before creating this often achingly melancholic work. It’s the fourth disc on his Shadowside Music label, and his first to be nominated for a Grammy — for Best New Age Album. Conti, 44, plans to travel to Los Angeles for the February 12 ceremonies, where he may run into his competitors for the award: jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, for What’s It All About — a solo acoustic album of classic covers that seems miscategorized — and more traditional new-age artists Michael Brant DeMaria, for Gaia; Peter Kater, for Wind, Rock, Sea & Flame; and Zamora, for Instrumental Oasis, Vol. 6.
Conti, born in Argentina, has lived in the U.S. for 28 years and Vermont for 14. When he came here to visit a friend about 15 years ago, it was love at first sight — for the place. “I just felt the energy here and I knew this was home,” Conti says. So homey, in fact, that he convinced his parents to move here, too. “They live two doors down,” he notes. “They clearly felt the same.”
Conti has always been surrounded by creative types — his mother was a ballerina, his father an architect and poet, his grandfather a concert pianist. So perhaps it’s no wonder that, at the age of 3, Conti announced to his parents he was going to be an actor. And he did just that, carving out a career that included television, stage, film and radio gigs in both Argentina and the U.S.
“I always felt alive when I was acting,” Conti says, “understanding how someone else thought and felt — psychology was my second passion.”
But a love for music was always there, too, and eventually it won out. "When music sort of took over, I realized I could not do both,” says Conti, who left behind acting — and the constant traveling — about eight years ago. He says he approaches music “as an actor,” and, indeed, his compositions seem filled with invisible characters, their stories shaping the arc and rhythms of his songs. The tales that most resonate with him are not the stuff of TV dramas, however, but of myth, legend, fantasy.
“When I’m composing an album, I focus for the whole time on working with ancient tales,” Conti says. “I can feel that energy — it’s almost ancestral. It’s really hard to explain.” Someday, he says, he’ll explore the Argentinian folk tales of his former homeland.
Conti’s sensitivity to timeless “energy” does explain why he gravitates toward the new-age genre. “It’s always called to me,” says the composer. “At age 20 I was listening to Enya. [The genre] also lends itself to what I like: books, stories — it’s like a movie with music.”
Conti released his first album, Shadows, in 2006. The following year brought Poeta, a song for which he won a “best-of” award from Mystic Soundscapes Radio. With 2008’s Scheherazade, Conti dived into Middle Eastern legend, and began to crest on the charts: The exotic album was No. 1 for several months on the Zone Music Reporter and won a Best World Album award from that industry arbiter. A Grammy nomination for Northern Seas brings Conti broader recognition, whether or not he wins the prize.
And if he does, it’s an award that Conti will happily share with his local crew. Andre Maquera of West Street Digital in Fairfield was guitarist and engineer for the album. “He’s amazing — talented and personable, funny, just a delight,” enthuses Conti. He also credits Maquera with helping to find other Vermont musicians, including whistle player Timothy Cummings of Monkton and young fiddler Hannah Beth Crary, a student at the University of Vermont. “She was just 17 years old when we did the album,” Conti marvels. “She’s incredibly gifted.”
The presence of acoustic, old-timey instruments humanizes Conti’s compositions and helps tell their wordless tales; his is not an ethereal, synthetic sound but one that is grounded in… let’s call it earth energy. “Some new-age artists like listeners to get lost in the music,” Conti acknowledges. “I would like them to embark on a certain kind of journey.”
Looks like Al Conti is on a journey of his own — and not just to L.A.
NEW AGE WORLD INTERVIEW
with John Olsen
(You can find the original interview also here)
John Olsen: Thank you for consenting to my interview, Al. First I would like to congratulate you on your GRAMMY® nomination for Northern Seas! This is great news. It always pleases me when I hear an outstanding artist and their work are given the recognition they deserve. Northern Seas has many fine qualities, many of which were pointed out by a number of positive reviews at your site, AlConti.net. I was glad to be among those to contribute an album review, and I hope to have conveyed the award-winning potential, and some of the finer aspects of your work in the album review I wrote earlier.
Aside from the fact Northern Seas is in the category for Best New Age Album, I feel Northern Seas is to some extent the most progressive of the five GRAMMY® nominated albums by a variety of instrumental qualities. Do you agree, and if so, do you feel having a nominated album that varies instrumentally from the rest will work to your advantage?
Al Conti: Hello John, it is my pleasure to be here with you! Many reviewers have commented before on how my work is rather different than much of the New Age music available these days. Some have called my work ‘cutting edge.’ Personally, I feel that New Age music is very rich in its diversity, and my work is a part of that spectrum. Whether my music’s edge works to my advantage or not, I am not sure.
During the nomination process, I have indeed heard from many peers, mostly from other genres, how they found my music to be so different. I guess it has, in the end, worked to my advantage. The ironic thing is I never strive to compose music that is different, per se, but just to be true to myself as an artist and simply create what comes from within me. The rest is all excruciating work!
John: On Northern Seas you pair old-world instruments of kantele, harp, hurdy gurdy, pump organ, accordion and tribal drums with modern instrumentation of piano, violin, cello, acoustic and electric guitar. I am familiar with the majority of songs on your earlier albums Scheherazade, Poeta & Shadows, but I would like to know, if this blend of ancient and modern instruments is consistent throughout every one of your four releases?
Al Conti: Since my album Scheherazade, I’ve been drawn consistently to rediscovering ancient instrumentation, and this also blends very well with the mystical landscapes I like to explore. People have responded very well to the use of these instruments. There is also something beautiful to me in bringing instruments and sounds into a modern content. It feels like I am in some way honoring the past by bringing these instruments into a more contemporary setting. I am never quite sure what will come out of me musically and I am always challenging myself as an artist with each release.
John: Would you tell us about the outstanding artists who performed instrumentals with you on your GRAMMY® nominated release?
Al Conti: I have been blessed to have worked with some amazing people, and continue to do so. For Northern Seas I wanted to work mostly with local talent, and except for Francesca Genco (vocals), all are Vermont artists. Among the contributing talent in Northern Seas there is the immensely-talented violinist Hannah Beth Crary, who was truly magnificent to work with and my trusted guitarist and engineer André Maquera.
John: You also have a team of music professionals you depend on for technical details and final production. Would you like to mention the people who helped you finalize Northern Seas?
Al Conti: While I do a big part of an album’s mixing myself as I compose, I depend heavily on André Maquera, of West Street Digital, in Vermont, for the final mixing and mastering on my projects. I have worked with him since my first release, Shadows, and feel he understands my approach so well at this point as to know how to work with whatever I bring his way. Mastering is also a very arduous process and my hearing can only handle so much. Aside from the actual music engineering and recording, I work with a fantastic team of people that help oversee the other aspects of my career, without whom I could not do what I do.
John: What do you feel are the most positive attributes of Northern Seas?
Al Conti: I think Northern Seas went in a different direction than my previous album Scheherazade. I feel it showcases my versatility as a musician and composer. My audience can hear a more classically-oriented side of me in my album Poeta, a more exotic and sensual one with Scheherazade and a more aggressive and brooding, yet also fun and hopeful side with Northern Seas.
John: In addition to your GRAMMY® nomination, Northern Seas made the Amazon Top 10 list for Best New Age Albums of 2010, and many of your earlier releases were also awarded “best of the year”, “top 10 charts”, and other “best album lists and top 100 charts.” What do you believe has been the most important influence that has led to your overall successes as an award-winning composer, arranger, producer and multi-instrumentalist?
Al Conti: I compose what comes through me, and this changes depending on the project I am working on at any given time. I tend to go to a certain emotional place when I compose and the right material flows through me. When a project is finished, it is as if someone has turned the creative faucet off, and nothing else comes through, so I know I am done. I believe that the key to anyone’s success, especially in this business, is made up of various elements such as what I mentioned above, coupled with hard work, perseverance, gut feeling, luck, timing and fate.
I also believe it is important to follow one’s own path and not be overly influenced by what other artists do. While there may be a music trend we all follow and music that influences our style, it is good to do what really comes from the heart and not try to imitate someone else. I simply do what I do, surround myself with a magnificent team and we all pull forward in our own way, but in the same direction.
John: Every one of your new age albums is based a theme or legend and portrays a story. What is the story based representation or theme behind Northern Seas, and how did you arrive at the concept for Northern Seas?
Al Conti: Northern Seas is based on Norse mythology. While my previous album, Scheherazade, was based on the teller of the fantastic Arabian tales, Northern Seas was a little more complicated to nail down as a concept. I did a tremendous amount of research when the idea for this project first came to me. I could have based the album on a particular Norse myth, but I felt that there were many important ones that would have been left out. The album as a concept takes many of the Norse myths and weaves them into one cohesive narrative.
John: How do you transpose an inspirational or story-based theme into a musical arrangement?
Al Conti: This is also something that is very hard to describe, because I do not have a specific formula that I follow. Each project is based on a particular myth or tale. This already sets the parameters I will work within because each part of the world and its respective culture has a definite music style, which I then follow. Scheherazade was Middle Eastern; Northern Seas is Nordic, Celtic and Germanic. But I also do not want to compose an album that is fully regimented by a culture’s musical style and mood, thus I tend to modernize the music to make it more appealing to a Western audience. As such, I end up with the music I compose, which is peppered with world cultural influences, yet remains primarily New Age. I do believe my past as an actor also thoroughly influences my approach to my music compositions because I innately tend to approach my music composition as a film.
John: At your music blog – alconti.blogspot.com – you detail how producing music has changed for you since the earliest years when you first began producing music. What are some of the changes you have made over the years, and the challenges you face while producing music today?
Al Conti: Many of the changes are dictated to me by the music industry that I am a part of. I feel one of the biggest mistakes artists can make is to not accept the fact that the music business is, first and foremost, a business. Since I came from an acting background, well versed in the complex workings of that business, I simply translated acting to music and brought along with me the same work ethics I had from that part of my life. I also feel each project I undertake lays the groundwork for the direction of my career. Because I am also a perfectionist, nothing I compose is ever good enough for me and I always strive to better myself.
John: Has having your own Shadowside Music label been a major influence with the manner you produce and market your music?
Al Conti: Absolutely. I can decide what I want to create without having to answer to someone else’s idea of what I should be creating. I also have full control over every aspect of my career and creative output. Because I happen to also be the producer and arranger of my own albums, I can truly follow my gut instinct and move forward from there. Of course, I knew that the path I chose was plagued with risks and I did not know if these would pay off until they did.
Much like an actor producing and directing his or her own film, producing one’s own album can either make or break you. For me, luckily, it was the former, not the latter. It was a great risk, but I took it head on. I am at a point now in my career where I can honestly say that the path I chose has indeed paid off and I can continue forward knowing I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and that it is working out well. As people now ask me for advice, I find myself saying, “Hey, my path and how I walked it to this point has worked for me, but it may not work for you at all.” Thinking of many successful artists, I venture to say you’ll find each got there in very different ways.
John: Early in life you were determined at a very young age to become an actor. You appeared in commercials and were an actor in the acclaimed As The World Turns American television series. By all accounts Al, you had achieved the acting career you envisioned for yourself. What was the turning point where you decided to change direction to pursue a music career, and how did this change to a new career transpire over the years?
Al Conti: I do not think any artist will ever say, “Yes, I achieved what I artistically set out to achieve,” because we’re always looking forward to the next creative project. As an actor, I do not think I ever fulfilled that which I strived to achieve since I was a child, and I believe music has allowed me to express artistically in ways acting did not. I also came to a place in my life where I did not have the need to play someone else to express myself. With music, regardless of the project, I am always expressing my truest self through my work, yet I can be an actor at the same time because my projects are pretty much like a film that is being played out musically.
John: I read you were born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Your grandfather was a concert pianist, and your mother was a classical ballerina. What are your thoughts – do you believe talents in the arts, in fields like theatre or music, are heredity, or, do you feel non-genetic factors play more of a role with inclinations toward an individual’s profession?
Al Conti: I cannot honestly say. I know I was born an artist, which as a child created nothing but problems for me in school. But because my parents and grandparents (and even beyond that to my extended family) were and are artists in their own way, I was lucky in that they completely encouraged me. I do, however, believe that we are born with the talents we will hopefully hone throughout our lives, whether you are an artist, teacher, lawyer, social worker or whatever. I tried being other things than an artist and failed miserably.
It was clear to me that I could only work in the arts. This is why I cringe when parents force their kids to play the piano or do anything else artistic if the child really has little inclination in that direction. It would have been the same for me if, say, my parents had forced me to be right handed while my inclination was to be left handed. As an actor, I saw some sad things happening with parents who would bring their children into auditions. Not pleasant!
John: While living in Argentina, you grew up listening to ethnic music from many parts of the world, plus you have extensively traveled the globe. Would it be fair to say your music is a vehicle that describes many of your life experiences and international travels?
Al Conti: I think as artists we take everything we have gathered throughout our lifetime and put it into our work, because what we do comes from the deepest fibers of our beings. Because I was raised in different cultures, this broadened my horizons culturally. I innately know how one culture can function differently from another. When I compose music, based on a certain culture, the way that culture expresses itself deeply affects how I compose.
John: You have led a diverse life compared to many people. You now reside in the state of Vermont in the United States. What is it about the state of Vermont you adore?
Al Conti: I have always felt at home in Vermont. It is a state with deep French Canadian roots, which in many ways resembles the culture in which I was raised. Those cultural roots can still be felt in Vermont. While I have lived in a few different states in the U.S., Vermont is definitely the only one I have ever felt like calling my home.
John: I read at – alconti.net – you are currently working on your fifth album. I would love to release some Al Conti news for your fans and our readers today if possible. Can you release any information about your newest, fifth album project?
Al Conti: I usually tend to be very private about what project I am currently working on. I blame my past as a superstitious actor for this! I never want to jinx the project. There are also the legal ramifications of my talking about it at such an early stage. What I can say is that the album’s progress is half way, and I am excited that there are some very well-known guest New Age artists that will be participating in the project.
I can also say that the album will be more on the lines of my previous work Scheherazade, and I think people will be very happy about that, even though it is far from that album’s Middle Eastern theme. As an artist, I never want to repeat myself musically, so I strive to keep moving forward. While I know that many people loved Scheherazade, and it would be easy for me to fall back into another Middle Eastern theme, I refuse to do so. My current project is based on yet another beautiful legend and I will let my audience discover it as the time approaches. It is tentatively scheduled for release in September 2012.
John: During your work with humanitarian organizations, you teamed up with television celebrities Kevin Bacon, Jessica Alba, and Shelly Morrison for a charitable benefit. Can you tell us about your contributions with humanitarian organizations over the years?
Al Conti: As an artist with a certain level of success, I always feel I need to give back. Because I have been touched by many situations in my life, I feel like those are the ways I can give back. Unfortunately, we live in a world that has many, many causes we could rally for, but eventually, one can only do so much. I have chosen carefully the charities I align myself with. AIDS, Leukemia and Alzheimer’s, as well as breast cancer, have all affected people I care about. In my own way, I try to raise awareness about these illnesses. I find that when people like what you do they are more apt to listen and take notice. When recently asked by a dear friend and fellow New Age artist about how I felt regarding my GRAMMY® nomination, I replied that I feel like this now allows my heart to give more. I truly mean that.
John: I read you are also involved in a wellness organization called The Spa Buzz, an organization that helps spread the message of wellness through activities like their awareness-raising bus tour. Would you like to tell us about your contributions with The Spa Buzz organization?
Al Conti: Yes, I was involved with this event as they toured the country promoting a message of health and wellbeing. This is something my team initially brought to my attention and I agreed to take part in it by lending my music to the project and attending events on the East Coast, because I truly believe people can be healthier, pay more attention to and be in tune with their bodies. The Spa Buzz did a great job for health awareness, and promoted the way music can contribute to wellness along the way.
John: You have enjoyed a remarkable career as a musician, Al. What do you find most rewarding as a professional musician?
Al Conti: I think, as I mentioned before, the more success I find as a musician, the more I am able to give back to others. Once I heard a saying that went: “When you get to the top floor, make sure to send the elevator back down for somebody else.” I never forgot that. While I do not think I am anywhere close to the top floor, I do believe that with a certain amount of success, there comes a responsibility to give back, and the universe sends our way those who can benefit from what we have to give, and vice-versa.
John: Thank you again for taking time out for our interview. I wish the best for you in the 54th Annual GRAMMY® Awards scheduled for Sunday Feb. 12, 2012. In closing for now, is there anything you want to bring up, or express to your fans and the people who have supported you over the years?
Al Conti: There are always a few things, for sure. One is something I always speak of when able to, and that is the sad state of music piracy. Since I have been involved in the music industry, I have become increasingly aware of the ravages that the illegal download of music is doing to artists worldwide. Many people do not even realize that they are actually stealing music. While some do indeed believe that we, as artists, should work for free, most simply do not realize the impact they have on the economy with even just one song illegally downloaded. Independent musicians now form a large part of the music industry and they do not make millions, far from it. Many can barely survive on the income they receive from their music work. I would hope the right amount of respect be given to their efforts by actually purchasing their work rather than downloading it illegally.
A fellow artist, Loreena McKennitt, is a big spokesperson for this, and she has actually had to lay off people from her company because the illegal downloads of her work have made it impossible for her to maintain their employment. This is extremely sad for me to see. No one would ever accept to work for free, why should artists?
Thanks so much for this time, John, and for the work you do for New Age music!
John: I get to know many artists personally, and I feel the same way too about the music piracy issue of illegal downloads. I am pleased to be in a position to help get the message across. I look forward to writing more about you soon Al.
Publication: BURLINGTON FREE PRESS
'Being different' earns Essex musician a Grammy nomination'
by Brent Hallenbeck
Burlington Free Press
Al Conti began his career as a performer not as a musician but as an actor in theatrical productions, commercials and a one-week stint on the soap opera “As the World Turns.” He began composing about 20 years ago, mostly to entertain himself. Gradually, one discipline gave way to the other.
“When music took over,” Conti said, “I kind of left acting behind.” Acting is difficult, he said, because to perform you have to get through “gatekeepers” who may or may not hire you for a job; it’s frustrating to be unemployed, he said, when you just want to express yourself as an artist. Music allows him to express himself on his own terms.
It’s hard to say if he could have won an Emmy or a Tony had he stuck with acting, but that move to music has definitely paid off. Conti, 44, is competing for a Grammy Award this weekend in the category of Best New Age Album against renowned jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. Conti will find out in the pre-telecast award ceremony Sunday whether his first Grammy nomination, for his 2010 album “Northern Seas,” will allow him to take one of those miniature golden gramophones home with him to Essex. “I think the nomination for me was a win. It’s huge,” Conti said last week during a conversation at Dobra Tea in Burlington. “I’m doing what I love. It’s telling me I’m on the right track.”
Always around music
Conti is uncomfortable being the center of attention — he said he’s an introvert who relates well to people one-on-one — yet knows he has to promote himself to keep his career thriving. He’s always been on the shy side, starting as a youth growing up in Argentina. He said he was in therapy as a child because he wasn’t social; at recess in school he’d stand by himself along a wall to be alone.
But as someone who sometimes has to listen to other people’s music to drown out the music he’s constantly creating in his head, Conti knows those moments alone with his thoughts shaped the person he is today. He said people tell him that, like new-age artists such as Yanni and Loreena McKennitt, he has a sound all his own. “I think it’s who I am as a person. I’ve always been different,” Conti said. “Sometimes being different is really a blessing.”
Conti’s family — his mother was a professional ballerina and his father is an architect and poet — fled political turmoil in Argentina when he was 12. “By 1980,” he said, “my parents had really had enough.” They bounced between Argentina, Italy and Florida before Conti settled permanently in the United States when he was 18. He moved to Vermont 14 years ago after visiting a friend and falling in love with the state. His parents followed him to Vermont, and live two doors down from him in Essex.
The creative nature of his family (his grandfather was a concert pianist) followed Conti practically from birth. “Since I was 3,” he said, “I told my parents I wanted to be a dramatic actor.”
Music was always there. When Conti was 2 or 3 years old his parents would say “Swan Lake” or “The Carpenters” and he’d find the corresponding album and put it on the record player. When he was 4 or 5, he remembers playing the 45-rpm single of B.J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” over and over and over again.
His professional music experiences started with three albums in quick succession — “Shadows” in 2006, “Poeta” in 2007 and “Scheherazade” in 2008. The latter, inspired by the Tales of the Arabian Nights, topped the new-age charts. He was happy with the success, but also stressed by it. He said to himself, “I don’t know how I did it, and how do I top this?”
Getting to work
Conti’s Grammy-nominated effort, “Northern Seas,” features many of the benchmarks of new-age music — a wistful, instrumental-only quality evoking a mystical place, in this case the Norse mythology of Odin, Thor and Loki. Conti composed and arranged the songs and played many of the instruments.
He recorded “Northern Seas” for his own label, Shadowside Music, at West Street Digital in Fairfield, a studio run by Andre Maquera, best known as the guitarist for big-in-the-‘80s Vermont rockers 8084. Conti said Maquera is so connected with his work that he’ll use his ideas 90 percent of the time, even if new-age music is not Maquera’s natural forte. “The results are amazing,” according to Conti. “New age is probably the most extreme (form of music) for him, and he does really well.”
Maquera doesn’t dispute Conti’s point about new-age music not being his thing. He noted that people have been known to dismiss Yanni and John Tesh for creating what some consider lightweight music. “When I set out to play guitar as a kid,” Maquera said, “I didn’t expect to work on a new-age album.” But his exposure to the variety of music that comes through his Franklin County studio, from country performers such as Keeghan Nolan to heavy-metal bands, has helped train his ear.
“I listen to so many things now,” Maquera said. “You start listening to music almost in a clinical way.” New-age music can be synthesized, ethereal and inorganic, Maquera said, but he set out to tether those sounds to real instruments and bring out the darker mythology that Conti’s Norse-influenced album aimed to reflect. “My whole credo has always been ‘serve the song,’” Maquera said. “Every song tells you what it wants.”
He served Conti well enough to help him earn a Grammy nomination. Conti was stunned when he heard about the nomination. “I think for about 30 seconds I felt nothing, I was numb,” Conti said. “Then it was like, ‘Got to get to work.’” He, his manager and publicist set out to spread the word on his website, Facebook and Twitter. The campaign for the Grammy Award was on.
“It’s almost like a high-school class-president thing,” Conti said, “and you really have to connect with people.” He’s a business-conscious musician who’s aware he needs to sell his image and his music and making sure the business and creative ends work in concert — an ironic term, as Conti is strictly a studio musician who does not perform in concert. “It’s very draining,” he said of touring. “It’s not the healthiest thing. There’s no money in it.”
Conti realizes his work requires a mix of music and business. “You’re a product. You cease to be a person,” he said. He tries to balance making the music that excites him with making music that he thinks will reach audiences. “You have to support yourself as an artist so you have to write what sells.” He knows all the business acumen in the world doesn’t help if he doesn’t connect with listeners. “I happen to compose something that works for the audience,” Conti said.
One and done
He has already started work on his next album. “Scheherazade had feminine traits," he said, "Northern Seas was more masculine and the next one, which could come out this fall, will return to a calm, feminine tone. “Northern Seas,” he said, highlighted his flexibility as an artist. “It really showcases what I can do,” according to Conti.
So much, in fact, that it led to his first Grammy nomination, and his life hasn’t been the same. “It’s been a landslide since then,” Conti said; “very overwhelming.” He attended an East Coast Grammy-nominee reception in New York City and met music luminaries such as jazz singer Kurt Elling and R&B impresario Jimmy Jam. He’ll be doing a few interviews in Los Angeles before the Grammy Awards, and more after if he wins. He’ll arrive at the broadcast ceremony in a limousine after receiving a spray tanning to make him look L.A. ready (“Who thinks of this?” he wondered). He’d rather be in front of his TV watching a DVD, he said.
Conti said he hasn’t really had the chance to think about how big it is to be nominated for a Grammy and rub elbows with musical giants. “I think I shut down,” he said. “I’ll think about it afterwards.” He’s not sure what his chances are of winning for Best New Age Album. “Based on the support I have — pretty good. But it can also be political.”
Maquera, who played guitar on “Northern Seas,” knows Conti faces a stiff challenge from the multiple-Grammy-winning jazz guitarist who’s entered in the new-age category. “The hardest thing is he’s up against Metheny,” Maquera said.
If he wins Sunday, Conti said he might consider not seeking any more Grammy nominations, to give other new-age musicians a chance at music’s biggest prize.
“My coffee table can only fit one,” he said. “And you have to dust them...”
Zzaj INTERVIEW with Al Conti
I’ve been reviewing Al’s splendid and adventurous music for a long time now, and felt it was time to get a bit more insight into “who he really is” for all of our readers. While he doesn’t play “straight-ahead jazz”, his compositions are full of high-energy talent that just doesn’t stop. Thanks, Al, for taking the time to do this interview for IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION readers.
Zzaj: The bio I read on your site shows that you’re originally from Argentina and have traveled ‘round the world quite a bit… please give us a brief “rewrite” that tells us how you grew into the fantastic music you’ve been able to create… feel free to go all the way from your first musical experience all the way to today; in fact, “cap it” by telling us where you live right now, & what made you settle there, if the muse strikes you so… our readers WILL be interested, I have NO DOUBT!
AC: Hello Zzaj, good to be with you! Growing up with artistic parents helped quite a bit, particularly having a ballerina for a mother. Music was always part of my life as a child. I was always – and still am – quite a loner, so I spent countless hours alone, listening to music. I devoured books as I devoured music, which may be why I seem to intermingle both now in my work. However, I knew from the start that I was going to be an actor. So much so that at age 3, I stated to my parents this was what I was going to be. While I did end up working as an actor, music never left me. To this day I wake up in the morning with music in my head, either mine or someone else’s. Because of the harrowing times Argentina was going through during the 70’s, I left with my family in 1980, first to the United States and then to Europe, where I also have family. It almost feels like the von Trapp family! (Ironically, they reside in Vermont as I do and the children record in the same studio as I do). While I lived in different places of the United States, Vermont felt like home from my very first visit here. The energy of this place is very creative and peaceful, which explains why so many artists live here.
Zzaj: The CD’s I’ve reviewed from you seem to embrace a kind of “theme” each time, making them truly epic… do the themes usually come from something you’ve read, or something you’ve experienced in real life?
AC: I am never quite sure. I think probably both. I read quite a bit as a child and was always fascinated by stories from lands I found mysterious and magical. Growing up traveling probably cemented this in me even further, because the world truly became very small to me. Living amidst various cultures throughout my life has clearly had an effect on what I now create.
Zzaj: What inspired you to be an actor, as well as a musician? Are you ever able to “merge” those two talents in your ventures? If so, give us an example… if not, tell us why they’ve stayed separate?
AC: I do not think anything inspired me to become an actor, because I wanted to be one since I was born. There was absolutely nothing else I wanted to be, even remotely. Everyone that has known me since I was a child knew I’d be an actor. Because music was also in every fiber of my being that eventually both would merge was inevitable. So, while business-wise they both remain very separate (I no longer act, at least for now), they are still tied together in the work I compose. The music becomes a story that is acted not by people, but by instruments. I never really planned on this, but I seem to approach my work with the music from an actor’s perspective.
Zzaj: What is your primary instrument, or do you play (& prefer) to play many?
AC: Piano and guitar are my main instruments, but I feel I need to know how other instruments ‘behave’ in order to know how they will fit into whichever song I am working on. I also like to work with other artists and let them bring into my music their own energies.
Zzaj: What is your feeling about the ability of music to heal the world’s ills? Is that only “wishful thinking” on my part, or can it be/become a reality in our everyday lives?
AC: I think it already has, for as long as music has existed. You can see humanity always turning to the arts for healing in times of tragedy, joy and celebration. I am a firm believer in sound toning, and truly feel that sound can heal, as light has been found to do. There is much turmoil in the world right now and people are hit by it from every direction. I think music now plays a bigger part than it ever has in ‘taming the beast,’ so to speak.
Zzaj: If you had the chance to play with one player (that you haven’t played with already), alive or gone – who would it be (& why)?
AC: That is a hard question to answer, because I admire many musicians from just about every genre. If you think that my iPOD has over 18,000 songs, this alone gives you an idea! Another well-known New Age artist and I have entertained the idea of collaborating on a project together, but because of our schedules, it has not yet panned out.
Zzaj: What kind of gear do you use for your recordings, or do you let others take care of the technical aspects? Are the INSTRUMENTS more important to a successful recording, or the talents of the players?
AC: Hmmm…does a chef ever really reveal the secrets of his or her recipes? Gear has become more and more computerized these days, but I can say one of my favorites is a Yamaha SY-77 keyboard that I have had for almost 20 years. The poor thing, I am afraid, is now relegated to be more a controller keyboard rather than lending me its beautiful sounds like it used to.
I do a lot of the recording in my home studio and additional recording is later done at West Street Digital, in Vermont. Even when tracks have been recorded in other studios or countries, as it happened with my second album POETA, which had tracks recorded in a studio in Germany, I still return to West Street to finalize a project. I trust my engineer implicitly and he is well attuned to my work by now. I become like a family with those I work with and once that level of comfort is created for me, this is where I feel safe.
As far as software, we use many between my studio engineer and I, the staples being WaveLab, Nuendo and REASON. The final mixing and mastering of my work I trust to my studio engineer André Maquera. While I work sitting next to him for the arduous process that can easily take weeks, Andre is much better at figuring out the maze that different software can create. Having someone else to work on this part of the process is what I consider mandatory for anyone wishing to release a professional album. A great recording can be easily be destroyed by bad mixing and mastering.
As far as instruments being more or less important to the talents of the player, I believe that both are equally so. What instruments I choose to use in each song is of course key to the final sound the audience hears. And while I love using new instruments with unique sounds, if only one instrument is out of place, the whole song can go down in flames. Another important factor is the guest artists I work with. Many musicians express their innermost soul through their instrument. The artist’s energy and emotion comes through their instrument and adds an incredible amount to the song.
Zzaj: One thing I’ve especially loved about the music you create is that (though in a “sort of” New Age zone) it avoids genre labeling… usually because you infuse each and every section with a wide variety of musical influences and heavy energies… that’s not just flattery, either, because I’ve reviewed a LOT OF MUSIC, and yours comes across with much broader scope than many who are playing similar music… how do you do that? What inspires you to pick a particular instrument for a particular section or passage? And how do you accomplish what you’ve set out to do? (I know this seems, in some ways at least, like a very hard-to-answer question, but please take a stab at it anyway)…
AC: You know, as a person, I have always felt that I could be challenging to others. Years ago, I was tested using the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, it turned out that I am an INFJ (less than 2% of the American population falls into this personality type). This describes me as an individual who is very private, highly sensitive, very complex, introverted, and abstract in the way I communicate. That was an ‘aha!’ moment for me. I also have a learning disability, which made things more complicated for me. Being understood was always an enormous task for me as a child. I always fear the same will happen with my work, and that others will not be able to understand what my music is trying to say. I put myself through a very hard time to maintain a balance between what is commercial within the genres I compose and what will keep me true to myself as an artist without losing my audience. And I am never quite sure if I have succeeded until people start writing in, telling me how they feel about my work. I encourage people to let me know, because I never know myself how well I did in their ears and hearts until they tell me. And then in a moment all my work can be validated when I hear from someone, like the therapist who wrote to me letting me know that she devised a whole program using my music to work with military personnel returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress. She wanted me to know what I have done for our troops. I was in tears reading her e-mail. I will never forget that email.
I think all of this comes through in my work because it is the way I am wired. In fact, my manager reminds me often to that a different way to look at my learning disability is to think of it as a gift that allows me to see the world differently and compose beautiful music. So, in a way, my so-called challenges are a blessing. But because of this I am also never able to actually pinpoint a formula or the ‘how’ behind what I compose. Somehow, in my mind, I know what a song needs to sound like. I hear it before it is composed and then go through the harrowing process of bringing that into reality. My ears will then let me know what is right for the song and what is not. I do not read or write music, so I rely entirely on what is in my head and what my ears tell me. If something just does not sound right, it is not. The same with the instruments, they have to fit the sound that was originally in my head.
Zzaj: I’ve read (again, in your bio) that you are able to speak many different languages… again, a strange question, but do you think (perhaps) those language abilities have influenced your music to the point where IT also speaks in many different dialects?
AC: Absolutely. I learned languages as I did music: by ear. I was forced to learn languages because I moved to different countries during my childhood. I was a disaster in grammar, but I could speak the languages flawlessly. And because of being so different (2%, remember?), I worked very hard to understand how the rest of the world functions and how I should function to live in it, all without losing myself in the process. Rather than demand others conform to me, I chose to figure out a way to ‘catch up,’ yet take time to be alone to regroup. If I could not have been an artist, I was going to be a Psychologist because I was always interested in why I do the things I do and why others function the way they do. I think that this has made me extremely sensitive to what is going on with people around me. Because of this I think that I compose music in a way that it can speak to everyone.
Zzaj: What is the most important thing you would tell a musician? In other words, if you felt they HAD some talent, how would you tell them to pursue a career in music? Or WOULD you tell them that? Is music as a career really worth the study and hard work it takes to achieve success?
AC: Far be it for me to advise anyone! However, since you asked, I guess I would approach it the same way I did when people asked me about acting. I will say this: if music (or any form of art) is everything to you, what you breathe, eat, smell and hear, then do it. Like many people, I believe I was born an artist and, frankly, am a bit useless doing anything else. Still, I do feel I should warn anyone entertaining this kind of life. It is a difficult path and even more so in this day and age of digital piracy and illegal downloads. There are not set formulas either. You could study all your life and get nowhere, or be like some extremely successful musicians who had no professional training and make it quite nicely in the business. I think that there are many factors involved in this line of work, fate being also a big part of it. In any case, perseverance is imperative. You have to keep going forward no matter what. It can be a discouraging career and if you are not driven, you get stuck in the first snow bank you bump into and never come out. I am an extremely driven individual, and perhaps this is why I am still in the business. I do recognize that not everyone has that kind of drive. I created my own record label and the publishing company that holds the rights to my work, I am in charge of both these entities and everyone that works with them. It takes a lot of unwavering dedication – you have to believe. That said, no one who wants to create should be deterred. I encourage people to be creative in their lives, no matter how they choose to express it. If, as a musician, you choose to get into this crazy business, my advice is to get informed. Know what you are doing and, above all, realize that the music business is indeed a business. ~
Mainly Piano Interview
by Kathy Parsons
I first became acquainted with Al Conti’s music when I received his 2008 release Sheherezade for review. To put it mildly, it blew me away and became one of my favorites for the year. Conti recently released Northern Seas, which is based on Norse mythology. This one, too, ended up on my favorites list for 2010, so it seemed like a great time to find out some more about Al Conti and his life. I knew from our correspondence that he was an incredibly nice and very interesting person, and I think this interview really underscores both. Enjoy!
KP: Hi Al, Happy New Year! How is everything with you?
Al Conti: Hello Kathy and Happy New Year to you as well! Things are great on my end and very busy with my work.
KP: I just saw that Amazon has named Northern Seas as one of Top 10 Best New Age CDs for 2010. Congratulations! I would imagine that the album will be showing up on a lot of Best Of 2010 lists!
AC: Thank you! This was quite amazing to me. As with most artists, we never imagine this when we are working on a project. It is truly quite humbling when it happens. I have been extremely lucky that people have thus far accepted my work so enthusiastically.
KP: Northern Seas is your fourth album, following the very successful Scheherazade (2008). Both of these albums are concept albums that reach back into literature and cultural traditions. You say that the concepts find you, but you must have to do a lot of preparation and studying to make these concepts work so well. Let’s talk about that.
AC: I think some of the preparation comes from all the reading I have done since I was a child. I have always loved books and found that they provided me with a window onto unknown worlds. Once a concept “chooses me,” I put all my focus on researching not only the concept, but also the music styles and instruments native to that part of the world. Family, friends and collaborators who know of a project early on often buy me books and CDs that relate to a particular project. I have piles of books about the myths of the Norse and the Arabian Nights around the house! I do tend to immerse myself completely in the literature and music that I am interested in – it really is an adventure and a discovery. I will sometimes stop in the middle of working on a piece and pull out a relevant book to read a few pages.
KP: That’s really interesting! Is this music that can be performed in concert? Have you played any of it live?
AC: Although my work can be performed in concert, I do not currently perform live. I did much of that when I was an actor, but what I always preferred was television and film acting, in which the audience is very real, but not necessarily there. Also, my music is very complex and to perform it I need a troupe of at least 12 musicians, not to mention a large crew. As many artists will tell you, touring is exhausting. I tend to be an extremely private person and need much time alone for the creative process, which one does not get when touring. I traveled a lot in my life, often feeling like a bohemian, and one of the things I treasure most these days is being in the familiar environment of home and feeling connected to a community – online communities also provide access to people who enjoy my music – I always feel connected.
KP: Do you know what your next project is going to be?
AC: I am pretty sure of what my next project will be. The concept is there, but the timing is not yet right to begin. Still, I guess as most superstitious actors will say, I rather not speak yet of what my next project will be so as not to jinx it! Of course if I mention it to friends, I may end up with more piles of books and CDs!
KP: From what I’ve read, you have had a really interesting and colorful life. Let’s talk a little bit about your early life - where you grew up and what your family life was like.
AC: The funny thing is that the one who has a colorful life doesn’t necessarily see it that way. I have had people tell me how envious they were knowing I traveled a lot in my life, living in different countries and cultures. I often say that I am the one who is envious since I cannot imagine the comfort of living in one place for most of one’s life. In Argentina, it is not uncommon for friendships to feel more like family – for example, I have friends today whose grandparents were friends of my grandparents and that continues right down to this day. I miss that continuity and shared experience even though we stay in touch. Living in Vermont, I have dear friends who were born and raised here and have friends and family in one place. That is wonderful to me. Luckily, my parents now live just a few minutes away from me.
Regarding my early family life, it was a bit difficult, although I have amazing parents and siblings. I was somewhat of a difficult child. In part, I have a learning disability, which was not identified until I was having a horrendous time in college. I was also identified as what is called a ‘Highly Sensitive Person’ and MBTI (the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator) places me in a group with less than 2% of the U.S. population. It took many years for me to understand why I functioned as I did, and how the world functioned the way it did, and find ways to reconcile both. The fact that I had a very safe and loving family environment helped tremendously. And perhaps that is why I find the warmth of family and friends so comforting.
KP: How did you become interested in music?
AC: My mother was a classical ballerina and her father a concert pianist, so very early in my life I was exposed to quite a bit of music. The bio that we put out talks about how my parents used to play a game with me when I was about 4, asking me to put a specific record on their record player and I’d go directly to it, pop it on without seemingly even thinking about it. Usually it would be something like ‘Swan Lake,’ ‘Giselle’ or some other ballet. I also grew up surrounded by music from around the world, as Argentina was and still is deeply steeped in world culture and the arts.
KP: Did you take music lessons or training or are you self-taught?
AC: I tried formal learning but failed miserably, perhaps because I learn differently than the average person. As I mentioned, I have a learning disability, so learning to read and write music was almost out of the question for me. What I do is pretty much self-taught. This used to be very difficult for me, as I lacked the self-esteem to feel that I was any good because I did not possess any structured training. One day, a very successful classically trained musician I know told me that I was actually blessed, because many who are formally trained do not have such freedom to compose; that they often feel constrained by structure and form. I think that was a turning point for me.
KP: When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
AC: I was three years old when I told my parents I was going to be a ‘dramatic actor.’ You may imagine they got a chuckle or two out of it, but as I grew older it was clear that I was serious.
KP: How did you get started in the acting field?
AC: My poor parents had enough of my begging, so when I was about 8 or 9 they enrolled me in acting classes. After that, I started performing in theater at first, then television and film, which was ultimately my goal. I was 4 or 5 and would stand in front of the television and tell my parents I was going to be ‘in’ there. There was never any question in my mind that this was why I had been born – to act.
KP: Is that what brought you to the US? What year was that?
AC: Actually what brought me to the US was my family. The situation in Argentina in the 70’s was awful and at some point in 1980 my parents had enough. There were several times in my childhood when my family escaped torture and death only because they knew someone in the right place. It finally got to where my parents felt they needed to escape the pressure and stress, so we moved to the U.S. because we had friends here. Not long after that, we moved to Northern Italy where some of my mother’s family still reside. We moved back and forth a few times, but I finally returned to stay in the U.S. when I was 17. That was 1985. I finished the last six months of High School in the U.S.
KP: What are some of the movies, television programs, and commercials you appeared in?
AC: I don’t often talk about my acting life, since music is my full time career now. There are several plays that made it into my public bios and other credits such as ‘As The World Turns.’ There are also a few commercials that aired for longer periods of time. And a while back some reviewer confused me with another Al Conti and wrote that I had appeared in some mini-series back in 1980 playing some detective (not very believable, since I was only 12 at the time!). To avoid more confusion, I just stick with speaking about the music now.
KP: That’s funny! Did you gradually gravitate into music or was it more of a sudden decision?
AC: Music came gradually and completely unintentionally. I have been composing since I was about 20, but mostly for myself. There has always been a lot of music inside me and it just needed to be channeled out somehow. I never set out to make music my career. That was a total surprise to me.
KP: When did you write your first piece of music?
AC: I would say probably when I was about 6. In my head I composed a whole new version of a popular children’s song. My mind was already geared that way. But seriously, my real composing began when I was about 20. In fact, ‘Scheherazade’ and ‘Northern Seas’ both contain one song each that I composed many years ago and with the right adaptation fit into the concepts. Still, throughout my life listening to music, studying how composers did what they did and trying in my head different arrangements was something that I did consistently. I could be a very active listener.
KP: I haven’t heard your first two CDs. Were they also concept albums or more “normal” compilations of pieces?
AC: My first album ‘Shadows,’ which I later chose to remove from the catalog for personal artistic reasons (although it is still out there as a download), was a compilation of material I had composed over several years, not really intended for release. My second album, ‘Poeta,’ was composed loosely as a concept album. However, my album ‘Scheherazade’ would change the way I compose and mark a turning point in my musical career.
KP: Which instruments do you play?
AC: Mostly piano and guitar, both of which I use to compose and feature in my music. However, my work features many instruments, both played live by myself and others or sampled. I make it a point to learn as much as I can about every instrument that is featured in my work, because I have to compose using these instruments and ensure that they can be played realistically if sampled, or to not make life too difficult for a guest artist when recorded in studio.
KP: I’ve read that you’ve been a world traveler for most of your life and have lived in a variety of places. Tell us about that.
AC: Well, some I mentioned already. By the time I was 14 I had already lived in various cultures and spoke three different languages. While this may seem somewhat glamorous to some, I feel it actually did some damage to me. Moving from culture to culture and all over the map at very critical ages created some issues that I spent many years in therapy trying to resolve! In fact, psychology was going to be my second career had school not been such a harrowing experience for me. I was always fascinated by how I and others function. Needless to say, this was the main element that aided me in my acting work.
KP: Are there places you still haven’t seen that you’d like to visit? Any favorites?
AC: Yes, a few. I would love to visit Japan and have always felt a connection to that culture. I also visited the North of France for the first time last year and was very moved by both the people and the landscape.
KP: It sounds like you do a lot of charitable work. What are some of the charities that you work with?
AC: Yes, I try to. I currently sponsor The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Until There’s A Cure Foundation, and The Alzheimer’s Association. My life has been touched deeply by all three diseases and I felt the need to be involved in some way to continue to bring attention to them. It is only recently that I have spoken publicly about my 23-year-old nephew passing away from Leukemia shortly after ‘Scheherazade’ was released. I was not there when he passed away, but was told that my music was playing for him all that night until he left in the early morning hours. This was extremely moving for me. Also, having been in the entertainment world for most of my life I had many dear friends who have left us because of AIDS and this has always been a very important cause to me. Alzheimer’s is also something that has touched me deeply through people who are very dear to me.
KP: It’s so great to be able to make a difference in these important causes! Who and what are some of your musical influences?
AC: I have been asked this before and quite frankly cannot name just a few. Music has been a part of me since I can remember and I have absorbed everything like a sponge. I think I am the product of everything that is musically out there. I mentioned recently in an interview that my iPOD has over 18,000 songs, so that pretty much says it all. Originally I’d like to say that classical music and film scores impressed on me what I now create, but there are very few genres of music that I don’t like. For the most part, I find the beauty in most of what I hear.
KP: Who are your favorite composers?
AC: There are many, many composers out there that I respect and admire, but it would take a whole interview on just this question. I can say Chopin is my favorite classical composer and I can remember his piano concerto No.1 and Prelude No.4 haunting me when I was about 5 years old. They played in my head constantly. I think that right now there are many amazing artists out there and I have been extremely privileged to be in their company on charts and ‘Best of’ lists.
KP: Who are some of your favorite performers?
AC: Again, many, but I do not have just one favorite. When it comes to singers, I have always been partial to very clear, crisp voices. I have also always loved harmony. Karen Carpenter is a voice I love. The ABBA lead singers have also been at the top of my list for incredible harmony and range.
KP: What has been your most exciting musical moment or experience so far?
AC: I think that the most exciting moments in my career are the ones in which someone reaches out to me and tells me just how much my music has helped them through a hard time in their life. I recall a specific e-mail I received from a psychotherapist. She wrote to tell me that she had developed a program using my music to help soldiers returning from Iraq. She wanted to tell me just how much I had done for our troops. Things like that are awe inspiring to me and touch me deeply.
KP: Wow! I guess so! If you could have any three wishes, what would they be?
AC: Oh, the million dollar question! I would say health for my loved ones, a world in which everyone allows everyone to follow their path without judgment and, if this last one works, give me unlimited wishes!
KP: What’s up next for you?
AC: We are currently in talks over several licensing agreements, so that may be my most present work right now and, of course, getting a new project off the runway.
KP: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
AC: In fact there is. There is an issue that I have remained very silent about until recently, that of pirated and illegally downloaded music. In one way, I feel that we are extremely disrespected as artists when people assume that we should be doing our work for free. I have seen fellow artists having to lay off staff because they cannot afford to pay them anymore due to the loss of income from piracy and it is extremely sad for me to see this. Some people do not seem to realize that as artists, we are responsible sometimes for the jobs of many others such as guest artists, engineers, photographers, designers, accountants, and the list goes on. When someone steals the music we are putting out there, they are hurting a lot of people. There is also the assumption that artists are a product of a major label, which they consider to be a ‘fat cat corporation.’ This is very inaccurate, as a large percentage of artists in the industry right now are independent and living on what they make from their work. Still, even the so-called ‘fat cat corporations’ employ thousands of people who ultimately make a living from music sales and this does not excuse people from stealing. It is estimated that illegal downloads of music are costing the entertainment industry billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S. alone, at a time when the economy and people are suffering deeply.
On the other side of the coin, many people simply do not realize the harm they do when they download music illegally as many do not even realize they are doing it. There are many websites out there that claim to be legitimate, yet are not. This is also a growing concern to me, because many in my audience may think they are buying my music from a reputable site, yet they are being scammed. Many of these illegal download sites are run from countries where no copyright enforcement exists. These sites take people’s financial information and then run with it. Most of us artists can opt out through our distributors from being in countries that are so lax, but our music still ends up there. Most of us try and make sure that our websites have links to reputable, safe sites that protect our rights. We work hard for what we do and most of us struggle in this business.
KP: Very well said!
AC: Thank you so much – these were great questions! I really enjoyed answering them. And thank you also for everything you do for independent artists.
with Jorge Sergio
Al Conti’s story is that of someone who found his vocation early in life and was influenced by the diverse cultures to which he was exposed. Al has four albums already to his credit. He was very kind to grant this interview to Articmist about his latest project Northern Seas.
AM: Although you now reside in Vermont, you grew up in Argentina. Tell us about your artistic beginnings there? Did you grow up in an artistic family? How is your music influenced by those years?
AC: Hello Jorge Sergio, I am very happy to be with you. Yes, I was born and raised in Argentina and lived there until I was eighteen years old. I also lived in Italy, where I have family. My artistic beginnings came very early in life. When I was three years old, I announced to my parents that I was going to be a ‘dramatic actor.’ My parents always supported me. My mother had been a classical ballerina, my grandfather a concert pianist and my father a writer whose poems have won awards in several countries including Spain. My favorite toys as a child were records of all kinds of music. Those records were either my own, my parents’ or my sister’s which, much to her dismay, I listened to without her permission. Still, acting was what called me. I never imagined music would end up being my career.
AM: Do you find the label ‘New Age’ is adequate to describe your style?
AC: A little yes, a little no. Sometimes I feel like the label ‘New Age’ limits me in some ways and maybe this is why my work has shifted and is probably better described now as ‘World.’ My music reaches a much larger audience I think now.
AM: Scheherazade, your previous project, includes Middle Eastern references and uses instruments such as the sitar, and Northern Seas has been inspired by Scandinavian mythology. Do you travel much and does this help you focus on what projects to compose, or does your work influence your travel?
AC: Currently, my greatest wish seems to be to stay at home, since I have traveled from the time I was young. The truth is that I am not sure what it is that inspires me to compose. Sometimes I feel like I relive my past lives with each album I compose! As a child I used to love the stories and exotic legends from parts of the world I found very magical.
AM: What inspires you to compose?
AC: I know that when a concept takes me over, it will not go away. This is how it was with Scheherazade and Northern Seas. Ultimately, my goal is to compose an album that satisfies me as an artist, without diverging from the original concept.
AM: Your latest project Northern Seas has received great reviews. As a multi-instrumentalist, are you completely responsible for your sound, which is uniquely yours, or up to what point (or not) is it important to you knowing how to play each instrument?
AC: Well, I always want to know how each instrument works so I can know how it will make its place within each composition. And, of course, depending on the theme of an album I remain within the spectrum of the ethnic instruments without limiting myself. It is thus that I can define which are the instruments that I will use myself, and which will be played by guest artists. What I love about working with other musicians is that each brings with them their own unique talent and energy, something very important to me. Collaboration is always a very positive thing for me; as I often like to say, an artist does not work alone.
AM: This will probably be a very predictable question, still I cannot help myself but to ask you if the Argentine Tangos form part of your musical past, at least as a listener.
AC: Growing up in Buenos Aires and not being surrounded by Tangos is like living in Switzerland and not bumping into the Alps. As a child I was very influenced not only by Tangos and other Argentinean folkloric music, but also by world music, especially European, since my family’s background is Spanish, French, Italian and German. The Argentina in which I grew up (in modern times it has changed much due to Americanization) was very influenced by European culture.
AM: Thank you, Al. You have been very kind.
AC: Thank you, Jorge, and the work you do in support of music.
Entrevista de Al Conti en Articmist
Entrevistado por: Jorge Sergio
La de Al Conti es la historia de un artista de temprana vocación que ha absorbido las influencias de diversos países, en los que ha vivido o que ha visitado. Con un total de cuatro Cds ya publicados, amablemente contestó a esta entrevista para articmist, con motivo de su nuevo trabajo, Northern Seas.
Aunque ahora resides en Vermont, creciste en Argentina. ¿Cómo fueron tus comienzos artísticos allí, creciste en una familia musical? ¿Esos años marcaron tu forma de entender la música?
Hola Jorge Sergio, estoy encantado de hablar contigo. Nací en la Argentina y viví ahí hasta los dieciocho años de edad. También viví en Italia donde tengo familia. Mis comienzos artísticos fueron a temprana edad, ya que a los tres años, les dije a mis padres que quería ser “actor dramático.” Mis padres siempre me apoyaron. Mi madre fue bailarina clásica , mi abuelo era concertista de piano y mi padre es escritor y poeta con varias de sus poesías premiadas en España.
Mis juguetes preferidos cuando niño eran discos de música de todo tipo, propios, de mis padres y de mi hermana, los cuales escuchaba sin permiso de ella para su disgusto. Sin embargo la actuación era lo que más me atraía. Nunca pensé que la música terminaría siendo mi carrera.
Con respecto a tu carrera artística, ¿siempre se centró en componer música, o has desarrollado otras actividades?
Como te comentaba, mi comienzo artístico fue la actuación, hasta que la música, que fue siempre mi pasión, se transformó en mi carrera actual. Si bien actué mucho en teatro y televisión, finalmente sería la música la que me conquistaría.
¿Te parece adecuada la etiqueta “New Age” para describir tu estilo?
Un poco si, un poco no. A veces siento que la etiqueta “New Age” me limita un poco y es tal vez por eso que mi trabajo a pasado en parte al estilo “World”. Debido a ésto, mi música abarca una audiencia mucho más amplia.
Scheherazade, tu anterior trabajo incluye cierta influencia oriental, bien acompañada con instrumentos como el sitar, y Northern Seas ha sido inspirado en parte por la mitología Escandinavia. ¿Viajas mucho y ello te ayuda a enfocar tus discos o más bien tu forma de viajar es precisamente mediante las influencias que incluyes en tus trabajos?
Actualmente mi mayor deseo es permanecer en mi casa, ya que he viajado intensamente desde pequeño. La verdad, no se lo que me inspira componer este tipo de música. A veces creo que con cada disco que compongo estoy reviviendo mis vidas pasadas. De muy niño me encantaban los cuentos, las leyendas exóticas y lugares del mundo que a mí me parecían mágicos.
¿Qué te inspira a la hora de componer?
Como te decía recién, no estoy seguro que es lo que me inspira, pero sé que cuando una idea me atrapa, no me deja huir. Así fue con Scheherazade y Northern Seas. Mi meta es llegar a componer un disco que me satisfaga como artista sin desviarme de la idea original.
Con respecto a Northern Seas, tu último trabajo, a recibido muy buenas críticas. Como multi-intrumentista, eres totalmente responsable de tu sonido, propio y particular. ¿Hasta qué punto(o no) es importante para tí saber tocar varios instrumentos y no delegar en otros músicos?
Bueno, siempre quiero conocer como trabaja cada instrumento para así saber como pueden formar parte de cada composición. Y, por supuesto, de acuerdo al tema de cada disco me mantengo dentro de los instrumentos autóctonos, pero sin limitarme a éstos. Así puedo definir cuales son los instrumentos que usaré yo y cuales los instrumentos tocados por los otros músicos. Lo que más me gusta de trabajar con otros músicos es que me brindan su talento, cosa también muy importante para mí. La colaboración es siempre muy positiva. Y como siempre digo, un artista nunca trabaja solo.
Probablemente es una pregunta demasiado previsible, pero no me resisto a preguntarte si los tangos argentinos forman parte de tu pasado musical, al menos como oyente.
Crecer en Buenos Aires y no estar rodeado de tangos, es como vivir en Suiza y no toparse con los Alpes. De pequeño estuve muy influenciado, no solo por el tango y otras músicas folclóricas argentinas, sino también por música del mundo, especialmente europea, ya que mi familia es de descendencia española, francesa, italiana y alemana. La Argentina en la que crecí(en tiempos modernos ha cambiado mucho a causa de la americanización), estaba muy influenciada por la cultura europea.
Gracias, Al, has sido muy amable.
Muchas gracias a “vos” Jorge, y al trabajo que haces para apoyar la música.
Between Sets with Al Conti
Interview by Karl Stober of JazzTrenzz
In the deepest of canals within the undercrust of music’s landscape, global lore is unearthed with the romantic direction of the conductor’s notes and imagination. Whether it’s the memories of past influences, or the fantasies one lives as a child, the stories of our youth address one's most cherished experiences.
Composer Al Conti took his experiences in time and expressed them within music sheets. Sounds which mirror the fantasy of the tales unearthed by the Middle Eastern storyteller and temptress, Scheherazade, unveil themselves. The music and arrangements of Conti capture one's inner moods as much as Scheherazade did herself, with her beauty and lore.
Conti was an actor with numerous marques to his credit, including noted soap drama, As the World Turns. In the early nineties, he received an epiphany, which vaulted his life into a passionate love affair with composing. In 2006, his debut project Shadows hit the shelves and the year after, sophomore effort Poeta, which then brought us to 2008 and Scheherazade. It is a journey that may have taken Conti full circle emotionally, however, he is far from finished with this trek; music flows through his veins with great vengeance, in synch with his imagination.
Conti’s third musical exploration, Scheherazade, involves the age old story of a seductive and ingenuous storyteller, Scheherazade, whom like Hans Christian Anderson, framed her survival by making fantasy come to life through words. Conti interestingly enough captures not only the life, but emotions of this woman, in ways only the music he arranged could unfold to us. The listener is treated to a hypnotic free-fall into her life. This is the best of both worlds.
This composition, along with the scope of intelligence Conti posses, has cured this fable woman’s experiences. Moments that brought great sadness and fear, yet times that brushed away those memories with the exhilaration of virgin innovation. This innovation bleeds pure Conti development and manipulation. His world music/fusion outlook dresses down the strict rules of music theory and allows a rewrite, as composition goes.
I think of Al Conti as an artist-entrepreneur. The tools he allows himself are centralized deep into improvisation, as well as culturally induced with a visionary palette. The enjoyment of his music is deeply rooted and intensely personal. This is an artist whom more than most, showcases his existance within his talent.
As Scheherazade went into the night with stories of endless complexities, you, the reader, go between sets with the music and conceptual brilliance of composer Al Conti...rejuvenating the Persian queen of the night!
JazzReview: Composer/actor/arrranger/multi-facetted musician, on and on it goes. What satisfies you the most out of all these labels stamped on yourself?
Conti: Basically, to me, all the aforementioned fall under the label ‘artist.’ As an artist, I need to feel fulfilled in what I am working on. Each of the labels you mentioned has made me feel fulfilled in one way or another at different stages in my life. I do feel that all intermingle to bring out the kind of music that I create.
JazzReview: As a well-traveled man, you (as well as your new release subject Scheherazade), have so many stories to tell. Can you tell our readers one that profoundly shaped your destiny?
Conti: I think, above all, my family’s story. I am honored to have been born into a family of such cultured background, artistic and strong individuals whom have faced adversity yet continue to be loving... and giving.
JazzReview: Your life at one time was in jeopardy, which changed the shape of things to come for you. Please tell us about that time, the emotions and the force that made you conquer that time.
Conti: I think that when one is near death, nothing else matters. We shed so much in such a short time. It changes us. I know it changed me profoundly. I think that, subconsciously, it completely envelops the music I create.
JazzReview: You state that as an actor you used sound for pulling emotions out for a scene. Music is such an emotional experience, which exhumes memories of the past or a certain time. Now as a musician/composer, what takes you to the place you need to be?
Conti: I get lost in the story, which probably comes from my innate ability to act. Furthermore, I feel like the music takes me and leads me where it wants me to go. To quote an exquisite ABBA lyric: “I let the music speak, leading gently, urging me like a lover.” The moments I spend composing are a mixture of magic, self-therapy, passion, neurosis, all rolled into one. Yet, after it is all finished, I hardly remember what was going on during the actual work or how I got to a specific emotional place.
JazzReview: Scheherazade is far different that any of your other two projects. It takes the listener out of their realistic space and into a fantasy. You can even picture yourself sitting by Scheherazade’s side, listening to her tales under the desert sun. Talk about the birth and catalyst of this piece.
Conti: I truly love the way you just put this. For a moment, you took me into that fantasy world just with your words. Scheherazade was a concept that took me over before I knew it had happened. I had made a conscious decision to break away from my more classical sound and into uncharted territories. Before I knew it, the whole album’s concept was very clear to me and I could not look back. Artistically, I knew I was in for a challenge, but that has never stopped me. The fiery eyes behind the veil watched over me through the whole journey. The result: Scheherazade.
JazzReview: How did you approach the arrangement of project?
Conti: Very carefully, and open to anything and everything. I usually immerse myself into every aspect of what my album will be about. I surround myself with music of the genre, books, movies, food and so on. I try to maintain that focus for the journey of the album’s creation. What happens next is usually a surprise for me. I know instinctively what works musically for me and what does not. I set extremely high standards for myself, and work very hard to reach them.
JazzReview: You comment that Scheherazade was an “arduous experience.” Why? How would the process compare to the 2006 release of Shadows or the 2007 spin Poeta?
Conti: In part, as I was just mentioning, I am my worst enemy and set standards for myself that are sometimes really high. There is the music that is in my head and then the arduous experience of bringing it down to this reality. I also think something was happening within me during the creation of Poeta, which was showing me that a shift was coming in my creativity. I always feel Poeta was a stepping-stone to Scheherazade and what is coming next. Part of my insatiable drive comes from never wanting to go backwards artistically. While it is always amazing to me when someone else loves my work, I am the one who has to live with it first. I am my worst critic.
JazzReview: “Seven Veils to Midnight” has that signature, sultry feel to its flow. This cut signifies Scheherazade’s acknowledgment and admittance of her plan to ward off her death. The arrangement acuitly generates that story. Describe the path you took on this piece from instrumentation to structure.
Conti: This song, which amazingly has become the favorite of many, became a transition period in Scheherazade’s story. This is the perfect example of how the music will tell me what it wants and I dare not argue. The intensity and passion of the song surrenders to a calm and introspective energy that I had not anticipated early on. Before I knew it, the song had transformed itself like a butterfly and became the basis for another song (Palace Gardens) that follows later in the album. In some ways, I feel we see inside her soul through that second half of the cut.
JazzReview: Of course, the success of Scheherazade’s plan unfolds in the exit cut “Heart Triumphant,” for she captures her would-be executioner’s (the king’s) heart. When you laid out this final chapter of the story on the music sheet, was the final score what you envisioned it to be?
Conti: Interestingly, I do not read or write music, so there is not really a music sheet before me other than the one ingrained in my head. This song in particular was composed before all the others and expresses much love for me. The song never worked out for Poeta and I shelved it, virtually undone. I knew, however, that it was meant for this album. It cloaked itself in a completely different disguise and became what you hear now. In some ways, I never quite envision what the album or a particular song will turn out to be because, as I mentioned before, the music will take me wherever it feels it wants to go.
JazzReview: Introduce us to those who helped sculpt this story.
Conti: Then I should go back to my childhood and the magical worlds I used to create for myself. My parents encouraged my artistry. My passion was acting, music and animation. Storytellers of all kinds captured my imagination deeply. I grew up in Argentina during a very dark and difficult time in that country’s history. I am sure being bombarded by this harsh energy only helped me escape further into a magical world of my own. Today, I feel this comes through in my work.
JazzReview: Is there something, whether it is an instrument or additional cuts, which you would have liked to add to this project?
Conti: No. When a new album is ready to be created, it is as if someone has turned on the creative faucet. When the last piece is finished, nothing else comes. No matter how hard I try, the well of creativity goes dry. The music tells me my work is done just as it tells me a new album is to begin.
JazzReview: Now that you listen to the final version, what emotions do you feel are the strongest that come from the piece? What emotions or feeling could have been more prominent?
Conti: I tend to separate myself from my past work, which probably comes from my experience as an actor. We move on rather quickly to the next project. I am very proud of what I have achieved with Scheherazade, but as I started work on my next album, my focus has now shifted to that new adventure. However, I find myself haunted by the album’s amazing success. I know I do not want to repeat myself artistically on the new album, but I feel a lot worked on Scheherazade that I want to hold on to. The emotions and feelings represented in Scheherazade feel perfect for me. What I can say is, expect to find a very similar energy, magic and intensity on my upcoming project as you found in Scheherazade.
JazzReview: What part of the project caused you the most issues and why?
Conti: I think the entire project was heart wrenching for me. I traveled uncharted territories I was not sure I was going to conquer. There was also a release date set for the album before the music was even composed, which added to the stress. I found, however, that I work marvelously under stress and I can conquer whatever uncharted territory I set out to discover. I owe Scheherazade that. I battle many inner issues as I work on a project and fight hard to find a middle ground between what is publicly appealing and my own artistic integrity. With Scheherazade I feel I have achieved that peaceful balance.
JazzReview: Is there a Scheherazade in your life or past?
Conti: I could say there have been several, but hating to disappoint any reader who might imagine something more torrid, I’d have to say my maternal grandmother, who used to tell me many stories as I went to sleep at night.
JazzReview: Let’s get into your off-stage self.
President Obama means to me…
Conti: You know, as an artist I have always held very closely to my belief that my music should speak for me and not the other way around. My political, religious or any other personal views are probably too boring for anyone to read about, so I rather they find that excitement in my work. That said I feel that with each new president there is always a promise of possibilities. In such uncertain times, I try and do my bit by offering people a little escape for 50 plus minutes.
Magic Lamp, One wish…name it!
Conti: Give me unlimited wishes.
Your epiphany …
Conti: I have not yet composed it.
A role you would drop what you’re doing to perform....
Conti: Any role that could help changes someone’s life for the better. Music, however, takes every ounce of energy I have. I could not imagine acting right now.
I stress greatly over…
Conti: Humanity and the path we have undertaken.
Then cool down by…
Conti: Being alone! I need a lot of alone time to recharge and have since I was a child. ~
Publication: EmmeK Magazine (Italy)
Interviewed by Cinzia Blanket for New Age and New Sounds Magazine
He has left television studios and theatre stages to dedicate himself to music. After composing two albums filled with poetic and intimate sound landscapes, this versatile artist born in Buenos Aires creates a new work, completely inspired by the story of Scheherazade.
Sensitive, generous, altruistic, fascinating, actor and musician. Al Conti seems to incarnate that blue prince (knight in shining armor) described in so many fables, so desired by idealists, both young and old, who still believe in idillic love. Even in a world dominated by pragmatism over fantasy we can still find, when we least expect it, characters that seem born from a fairy tale who love to enchant by reaching to ancestral stories, lost in the night of time.
Conti enters into this category. He is a romantic artist, very introspective, who loves to speak of poetry and fantastic tales, of events that speak of love and which are timeless, such as the One Thousand and One Nights on which he was inspired to compose his last album Scheherazade and which quickly rose to top the New Age Reporter charts.
Born in Buenos Aires, but for many years living in Vermont, Al is an actor full of talent who has interpreted diverse dramatic roles, be those on television productions (such as CBS' 'As The World Turns') or theatrical (such as Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Andre's Mother and Poor Richard). Music, however, has always accompanied him thanks in part due to a classical bellerina for a mother and an architect and poet for a father. The desire to compose something of his own has pushed him to leave for a while stages and television studios to retell, through sounds, rhythm and melodies, stories of today and of times past. Nowadays, after composing three albums, he feels he has matured to a new musical approach, as he tells us.
Al: "I do not have a precise scientific method when I compose. I am very intuitive. I start from a very spontaneous idea and slowly begin to mold it. When I have the right direction, I begin the selection of the instruments to create the atmosphere I have in mind. The choice greatly depends on the album in which the music will be showcased. In Scheherazade's case, being a project with Middle Eastern inspiration I developed sounds that expressed an ambiance of mystery and sensuality stemming from that part of the world. I began composing this album right after finishing my previous album Poeta. The concept came to me from one day to the next and began first in my mind. As such, the writing and recording process became simple after that. Scheherazade's story has always fascinated me and I looked to create harmonies and arrangements to tell its emotional language."
Cinzia: Your previous albums, particularly Shadows, seem more intimate and meditative than Scheherazade. Has your work style changed since?
Al: "Yes, very much so. Shadows was an album that compiles songs composed at various times in my life. They speak of memories and songs created at particular moments. I wrote these songs mostly for myself, never imagining that years later they'd form part of an album. Poeta was a more coherent work in the sense that it follows a more structured form and expresses emotions, images and experiences in amore cohesive way as it was composed in a brief, year's time. To date, Scheherazade is my more structured work, conceived on a precise work of literature."
Cinzia: "Do you feel that there are profound differences in the emotional plane and personal research between being an actor and a musician?
Al: "I have worked as an actor since I was very young. It was what I always wanted to be. Music has always accompanied me, but I never expected it would become my career. When I needed to enter a certain role I would allow my emotional states become influenced by music. For example, to interpret a role in which I needed to find melancholy and further break down into tears, I'd find Albinoni's Adagio playing in my mind, which would transport me into that emotional dimension I needed to recreate as an actor. Since working with music full time I have realized that I express my essence in a more profound way. Through the sounds that I choose I can express the various facets of my soul. It is a much more diverse way of communication between me and my listener."
Cinzia:"You support the Until There's A Cure foundation. Can you tell us about it?
Al: "Until There's A Cure is a foundation that promotes research and the raising of funds for those affected by HIV/AIDS. I also support two other charities which work with Alzheimer's and Leukemia. These tree illnesses I am quite familiar with because they have touched people I love. I think that, as an artist, in my own little way I can bring to people's attention the wonderful work of these people who help others with such humanity."
Cinzia:"You were born in Argentina, but for many years have lived in the United States. Which elements related to your Latin roots do you feel stronger within you?
Al: "I believe that my Argentinean origins have influenced the way I write music. I also have been greatly influenced by the Italian culture thanks to my mother who originates from your country. At home we always listened to the music of Italian artists such as Mina, Adriano Celentano, Peppino Di Capri and Nico Fidenco. We also listened to music from other parts of the world, but the Italian sound has been one has always colored sounds I love to compose. Naturally, my taste is also quite broad and, as is demonstrated in my last album, I like to travel into the ethic sounds territory." ~
Intrevista di Cinzia Blanket - New Age And New Sounds Magazine
Cinzia Blanket for New Age and New Sounds Magazine
Ha abbandonato set televisivi e palcoscenici teatrali per dedicarsi alla musica. Dopo aver relizzato due album pervasi da paessagi sonori poetici e intimisti, il versatile artista nato a Buenos Aires firma un nuovo laboro, interamente ispirato alla storia di Scheherazade.
Sensible, generoso, altruista, affascinante, attore e musicista. Al Conti sembra incarnare quel principe azzuro descritto in molte favole, tanto desiderato da piú o meno giovani idealiste, che credono ancora nell' amore idilliaco. Anche in un mondo dove domina il pragmatismo anziché la fantasia, capita d'incontrare, quando meno uno se lo aspetta, personaggi che sembrano uscitti da un racconto fiabesco, forse perché questi personaggi amano incantare, attingendo da vecchie storie, che si perdono nella notte dei tempi.
Conti rientra in questa categoria. É un artista romantico, molto introspettivo, a cui piace parlare di poesia e di narrazioni fantastiche, di avvenimenti che parlano d'amore e che sono senza tempo, come le Mille e una notte, a cui si é ispirato per comporre il suo ultimo album, Scheherazade, che a raggiunto subito la vetta della classifica di "New Age Reporter."
Nato a Buenos Aires, ma da anni trasferitossi nel Vermont, Al é un attore pieno di talento, che ha interpretato diversi ruoli drammatici, sia per produzioni televisive (come "As the world Turns" della CBS), sia per lavori teatrali (tra cui, Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Andre's Mother and Poor Richard). La musica, peró, lo ha sempre accompagnato, grazie a una madre balleria classica, e a un padre, architetto e scrittore, appassionato di vari generi. Il desiderio di comporre qualcosa di suo, lo ha spinto ad abbandonare per un pó palcoscenici e set televisivi, per raccontare , attraverso suoni, ritmi e melodie, storie di oggi e di epoche passate. In questi anni, dopo aver realizzato tre album, sente di aver maturato un nuovo approccio musicale, come lui stesso ci spiega.
Al: "Non ho un metodo specifico quando compongo. Sono molto istintivo. Parto da un'idea che si manifesta in modo del tutto spontaneo e pian piano inizio a plasmarla. Quando ho individuato la giusta direzione, procedo alla selezione degli istrumenti adati per creare le atmosfere che ho in mente. Le scelta dipende molto dai contenuti del brano e, piu in generale, dell'album in cui viene inserito.
Nel caso di Scheherazade, essendo un progetto che trae ispirazione dal Medio Oriente, ho sviluppato suoni che esprimessero i climi fiabeschi, misteriosi, sensuali di quelle terre. Ho iniziato a comporlo appena terminato il mio album precedente Poeta. Le varie tracce sono nate di getto. Per effetto dell'imaginazione musicale, delle melodie e le notte le evevo concepite prima nella mia mente. Cosí, il processo di scrittura, e poi di registrazione, è stato davvero semplice. La storia di Scheherazade me ha sempre affascinato e ho cercato di creare armonie e arrangiamenti che racontassero il suo linguaggio emotivo."
Cinzia: I suoi dischi precedenti, in particolar modo Shadows, per certi aspetti sono molto più meditativi e intimisti rispetto a Scheherazade. Il suo approccio creativo è cambiato in questi anni?
Al: "Si, è cambiato molto. Shadows è un album che racchiude canzoni composte in vari periodi della mia vita. Parlano dei miei ricordi e delle sensazioni provate in momenti particolare. Le avevo scritte per me, senza immaginare che anni doppo sarebbero confluite in un disco. Poeta è un laboro più coerente, nel senso che segue un preciso percorso ed esprime in maniera più coesa emozioni, immagini ed esperienze legate a un lasso di tempo più breve e ben circoscritto. Scheherazade è sino a oggi quello più strutturato, poichè concepito secondo una precisa chiave di lettura."
Cinzia: Sente che ci sono profonde differenze sul piano emotivo e di ricerca personale tra essere attore e musicista?
Al: "Ho laboratto como attore sin da giovanissimo. Era ciò che desideravo essere. La musica mi ha sempre accompagnato, ma non mi sarei mai aspettato che sarebbe diventata acnh'essa un lavoro. Quando dovevo calarmi in una determinata parte, lasciavo che miei stati d'animo venissero influenzati dalla musica. Per esempio, per interpretare un ruolo in cui dovevo provare malinconia, per poi scoppiare in lacrime, fascevo risuonare nella mia mente l'Adagio di Albinoni, che riusciva a transportarmi proprio in quella dimensione emozionale che dovevo ricreare como attore. Da quando mi sono avvicinato seriamente alla musica, mi rendo conto di riuscire a esprimere la mia essenza in modo molto più profondo. Attraverso le sonorità che scelgo posso rapressentare le varie sfumature della mia anima. È un diverso tipo di comunicazione, che avviene tra me e chi ascolta la mia musica."
Cinzia: Lei sostiene la fondazione Until There's A Cure. Puo parlarcene?
Al: "Until There's A Cure è una fondazione che si occopa di ricerca e di raccolta fondi per sostenere chi è affeto da hiv/aids. Sostengo anche altre associazioni, che si occupano di Alzheimer e di leucemia. Queste tre patologie le conosco bene, perchè hanno toccato persone che amo. Penso che come artista, nel mio piccolo, posso sensibilizzare la gente verso determinati problemi, fascendo conoscere loro splendide realtà, in cui lavorano persone che aiutano con profonda umanità gli altri."
Cinzia: È nato in Argentina, ma ormai da svariatti anni vive negli Stati Uniti. Quali elementi legati alle sue radici latine sente maggiormente dentro di sè?
Al: "Credo che le mie origini argentine abbiano influenzato il mio modo di scrivere musica. In realtà, sono stato suggestionato anche dalla cultura italiana, grazie a mia mamma, nata nel vostro Paese. In casa mia si sentivano le melodie di Mina, Adriano Celentano, Peppino Di Capri e Nico Fidenco. Ascoltavamo musica proveniente dai diversi angoli del pianeta, ma i motivi italiani sono quelli che più hanno dato un'impronta ai suoni che amo comporre, molto melodici. Poi naturalmente il mio gusto va oltre questi schemi e, come dimostra il mio ultimo album, mi piace entrare anche nei territori sonori etnici."
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