Nov 192010
 

After buying his first guitar in support of his friends’ son, Chris began learning the songs of The Beatles, Elton John, James Taylor, and other childhood favorites. He’d play his kids those songs before they went to bed. “So I’m learning and absorbing these songs that I’d naturally gravitated toward, and everybody thinks it’s great, it’s fun. I’m embracing something I’ve loved my whole life.”

Then, as his son’s 10th birthday approached, his wife suggested he write a song for him. “What?!?! I don’t know how to write a song. I’ve never written a song!” His wife wouldn’t let up, he continues, “So she leaves me there kind of slack-jawed. It was the weekend and I found myself as a dad, with soccer and all…No one was home, so I had a window of time. I grabbed my guitar, sat and meditated, then BOOM, a song about my son’s birth spilled out. I thought, That’s incredible.

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A debut performance of “Splittin’ the Atom” for his son and family followed. “It was emotional, and I thought that was it, a one-time thing. And then our daughter said, ‘Will you write me a song?'” He replied, not as confidently as he would have liked, “Sure, honey!” After repeating the same process that led to his song for his son nothing clicked. “I’d read about this, and I realized it just has to come.” A few weeks later he was having a discussion with a fellow father at the pool where his kids swam and an idle discussion about oil unlocked the idea of “Love Could Run the World.”

From this point he was hooked. Songwriting presented new challenges to Chris’ everyday life. “There was a phase of taking these songs that came out of the blue over a period of about a year of intense, almost psychosis, where I’d be working with clients—I’m a rolfer—where I’d be doing intense cranial work that requires the utmost silence and sensitivity, and all of a sudden I’d hear a complete chorus in my head. I’d think, ‘Whoa, this is trippy.'” On his breaks from work he’d hole up in his office with his guitar and figure out the chords he was hearing.

Amodeo finds himself in for the long haul as a musician, but he’s not “chasing the dream”; he’s living it. He hopes other music lovers will take a chance at making music. “Even people in the music industry ask me, ‘Why do you want to get into this now, don’t you realize it’s dead?’ [I tell them] This is not my intent; my intent was not to get into the Music Business. My intent is not to be a pop star.”

Instead Amodeo is committed to writing about life as he knows it. “Up to this point I’ve spent the last 21 years in this little magic box of therapy,” he says, referring to his rolfing work, “working with other humans on a one-on-one basis, and all of it is about personal transformation.” It’s this notion of personaltransformation that he finds at the root of his lyrics. “I guess I have more say at this point in my life than I would have as a young man,” he adds, “I probably would have talked about cars and women—both awesome subjects, but I probably would have been hamstrung content wise.”

After writing his first batch of songs, Amodeo experienced an “explosion of creativity” while integrating shamanism into his rolfing practice. He explains, “I was going out to the desert and working with Peruvian shamans, then flying out to Utah and then going down to the Amazon.” One night he decided to play some of his songs for his class of 109 students. Then and there one of his students offered to put together financial backing for what would become the Homo Luminous album. (See what I meant about the two Olivers in the introduction, Sacks and Stone?)

Producer/drummer Ray Weston

A 5-month period of learning how to work in a studio with a band followed. Chris and his friends would marvel over this opportunity. “They’d say, ‘Dude, if nothing else ever happens how many people get the opportunity to go in the studio and be given carte blanche to make a record?'” An experienced studio band, led by veteran drummer/producer Ray Weston (Robert Palmer, Tom Jones, Big Audio Dynamite, Bjork, Bill Wyman, Andy Summers et al) walked him through the ropes. Over time he learned to talk to musicians.

The band, which is rounded out by members who’ve worked with Ronnie Spector, The Motels, David Gilmour, The Rolling Stones, and Vanilla Ice, would eventually guide the novice Amodeo from the sobering confines of the studio to the electricity of the stage. A show at The Coach House this past October was his first actual club show following nothing more than a few low-key coffeehouse-type performances. A show at LA’s legendary Whiskey-a-Go-Go is being lined up. When told of this offer the level-headed, late-blooming musician couldn’t help but tap into thoughts of The Doors and “all these teenage fantasies.”

Back to earth, Amodeo has no illusions about “making it,” in the traditional sense, but he’s open to…miracles. “There’s a part of me that’s still wide-eyed, but I just laugh. I’m having fun with it. People tell me, ‘Oh yeah, you’re gonna have to struggle…’ but you know, I have no interest in slogging it out in bars for years. This came about so cosmically. Maybe it won’t happen like that, maybe it will just unfold and there’ll be a certain audience and it will just open up and I won’t have to beat my head against the wall or feel like an abject failure if Wembley doesn’t book my next show. It’s like when I work with clients I’m always open for miracles to happen…then I’m prepared for getting down and doing the work that’s necessary.”

Next…Chris Amodeo faces a round of audio Dugout Chatter!

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  11 Responses to “Chris Amodeo Comes Alive”

  1. Thanks for bringing out this story and giving Chris’ songs a little more attention. I see through the voiceover work that Chris has a bit of performance background, so that could explain his leap into full-on songwriting and recording. The songs included here are quite good and could stand right next to anything on Adult Alternative or World Cafe type broadcasts. Best of luck, Chris – put them out into the marketplace and see where they go.

    Mod’s comment that all music lovers probably have something to express coupled with Chris’ rapid growth from non-musician to accomplished songwriter makes me wonder how Chris got past the plateau that occurs when learning a new skill. I play rudimentary guitar but never got past the basic open/barre chords plus some single note riffs. We were never encouraged to perform so it mostly stays in the bedroom with me.

    And, finally, the comments on Kiss in the Dugout Chatter segment “live theater + horror film + the unconscious delivery of sado-masochistic eroticism” makes me like that band a little more (I still don’t think I’ll listen to any willingly, though) .

    • Yes, it’s crazy the things that can fly out of my mouth during free-associative jags. Perhaps my description of the Gene Simmons Alive display was just an inflated moment of ennui…it was, after all, my first big concert.

  2. BigSteve

    Nice interview. And that Dugout Chatter proves that RTH is really becoming a multimedia empire.

    I liked the song, and the lowkey presentation in the video really worked well. He seems like a good guy, so I think he’ll be able to keep his head when the exposure on this blog turns him into a huge megastar.

    • Is that what it proves, or does it merely prove that I’m finally figuring out how to merge my rudimentary analog recording skills with my available digital technology?

      Actually, I do like getting to hear the voices of our interviewees during Dugout Chatter segments and I’m glad if you do too. At least half of our interviews are done by e-mail, but I’m finding that the phone ones – as terrifying as they can be to conduct – are worth presenting, in part, in audio form. I feel the audio Chatter segments bring out something extra in the artists.

      If I still have it I should post some of the audio from my old interview with Richard Lloyd. If reading his words wasn’t painful enough you should have heard his delivery!

  3. I’m also always fascinated and perplexed by people who are huge music fans but don’t play an instrument.

    I suppose it is presumptuous of me to assume that everyone would be inspired to take a crack at it, but it seems like such a natural progression, especially because, even though it can take some folks longer than others to progress on their chosen instrument, the average person should be able to get some basic results in a reasonable amount of time just by working at it a bit. If you learn three or four cowboy chords on the guitar you can probably play a sizable chunk of the Neil Young songbook.

    I wonder if people are sometimes intimidated by the idea, or think that it’s too late to start. But it really seems like the ideal pastime to me. I take comfort in the fact that I will never master the guitar. There’s always something new to learn, so it doesn’t really matter when you start playing or how quickly you progress. It’s the journey that matters because there is no clear destination.

    Which brings me to a comment by Chris that I found a bit off putting: “People tell me, ‘Oh yeah, you’re gonna have to struggle…’ but you know, I have no interest in slogging it out in bars for years.”

    While I think it’s really cool that he taught himself how to play and assembled a band, etc, not all of us who slogging it out in bars are trying to make it. The likelihood of me “making it” is nonexistent. So what’s in it for me? Maybe it’s the satisfaction of a well executed set, or the problem solving that goes on while recording a song. I’m not particularly self-aware so I’m not really sure. But I do know that although it would always be nice to play to a bigger crowd in a better venue, but that’s not particularly high on my list of reasons why I spend so much time with this obsession.

    • In full context that comment by Chris, cdm, was actually meant to lean on the idea of “making it” through the practice of slogging. I don’t think he meant to suggest that anyone like ourselves is misguidedly “slogging” with intent to make it and are simply misguided for slogging for slogging’s sake. As Chris was responding to what people said to him, I think it was more like, “I’m not going to abandon my day job and family in pursuit of rock stardom, if that’s what you think I have in mind.”

      • In that case I retract my “off putting” comment.

        I think I’m a bit overly sensitive on this topic because I get the sense (accurately or inaccurately) that people sometimes think the end goal of playing original music is necessarily to “make it”, as opposed to being into it just for the sake of “it”.

        It would be like assuming all guys who play golf harbor ambitions to make it to the Masters someday.

        I am probably wrong about this and even if I’m not, why should I care?

        • Well put, cdm, and it’s funny you bring golf into this. When “normal” people have that reaction with me, after finding out that I play in a band, I tell them, “Don’t read too much into us. This is what my friends and I do instead of playing golf or going fishing.”

          • Yeah, my explanation goes “Well, I don’t follow sports of play golf, so…” But why are we explaining it in the first place?

          • BigSteve

            You have to explain because most people’s experience of music is as a consumer. They think music is made by rock gods, because that’s what the media tells them. It’s a holdover from the Romantic view of the artist. I think what we’re saying is it would be nice if more people thought of music making as a social activity.

  4. Cdm….sorry for the lack of contextual specificity. I in no way intended to imply anything pejorative about the act of gigging in clubs. I was, in fact responding to others implying that I needed to “pay my dues” and “slog it out in the trenches” to “make it”, which I wholeheartedly reject as a path for myself. I respect everyone who does it because they’re passionate about it. It sounds like you’re doing exactly what you want to be doing…and I celebrate that.

 
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