Nov 192010

A couple times a year I meet someone at a party, a show, or even here here in the Halls of Rock, get into a deep conversation about music, and then get around to asking this music lover what instrument he or she plays. “Oh, I can’t play an instrument,” the person tells me, “I’ve got no rhythm!”

I usually don’t say much, but inside I’m blown away that this person who knows so much about the music he or she loves, maybe even knows some of the music theory behind it, claims to have absolutely no ability to play any instrument, not even poorly. You’ve got hands, I want to say, you’ll find some kind of rhythm! Maybe I shouldn’t be so idealistic, or presumptuous, but I’d like to hear every music lover take a crack a playing an instrument. I’d like to hear ever music lover’s song, or if not actually hear it know that it’s out there. File Under “Freak Flag.”

Earlier this year Townsman sammymaudlin told me about a new design project he was kicking off for a friend’s album cover and website. The story behind the debut album by Chris Amodeo was like something out of a Hollywood adaptation of an Oliver Sacks book: middle-age Master Rolfer (a body-centered form of psychotherapy) and voiceover artist buys his first guitar at a fundraiser for the dying son of his friends, begins playing Beatles songs to his own kids, is encouraged by his wife to write a song for their son, and soon thereafter is flooded with the gift of songwriting. Song ideas invade his activities of daily living. Less than two years after first picking up a guitar Amodeo is playing his songs for friends at some Oliver Stone-worthy shindig, where it is determined he must enter a studio and record an album of his songs. The resulting album, Homo Luminous, is not just an inspiring testament to a middle-age dog learning new tricks but an accomplished, melodic album of songs expressing the spirit and hopes of a grown man.

In anticipation of his November 20th show at The Coach House, in San Juan Capistrano, CA, I spoke to Chris about his latent awakening as a musician and songwriter, the making of the album, and his recent success in turning our mutual friend, The Back Office’s sammymaudlin, onto the elusive charms of Be Bop Deluxe. We concluded our chat with a round of Dugout Chatter and by looking forward to the completion of voiceover work this VH1 Behind the Music veteran is doing in support of a future Rock Town Hall initiative.


  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) .

  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.

  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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.”

  6. 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?

  7. 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.”

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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