Spotlight on Philip Marino

After releasing the impressive Self Made Man (EP, 2014) and Nothing and Everything (Album, 2015), there was a lot of expectation when Philip Marino announced he was working on a new EP. This was due to his story telling qualities and his own style of Americana that together deliver an irresistible charm.

Philip wanted to create songs that would take his music to a new level and to do so he had to go for a different approach. He raised the funds to head on out to New York’s Catskills Mountains to record his new EP and in doing so was able to work with one of his idols, Simon Felice, who produced the EP. Philip learned a lot from Simon during the recording process which helped him to assemble the 5 track EP Days like These’.

Philip was kind enough to chat with us at Appetizer Radio about his world of music which included his work on the new EP and a little more. This is what he had to say.

Who or what was it that inspired you to become a musician?

I’m not sure I have a specific answer to that. Growing up, my parents had a pretty wide-ranging collection of music in our home. So at a very young age I was exposed regularly to Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, many Motown artists, Simon and Garfunkel, Elton John, Elvis Presley, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, Jackson Browne, Chicago… Many more that I can’t even think of. I have basically no memory of listening to music meant for children, but some of my earliest memories are of holding – and staring at – the album covers of ‘Blood on the Tracks’ or ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ while listening to those records… At some level, I have to believe that this early exposure to music like this played a major role in my desire to be part of making music. My first attempt was as a drummer in a typical high school garage rock-and-roll band. We played covers, of course… Everything from Led Zeppelin to Iron Maiden. It wasn’t until many years later, in 2000, when I decided to learn how to play guitar that I started thinking about singing and writing, but even that (especially the writing) took many more years to develop.

After your journey into the world of music began, which musicians have been the biggest influence on you and your sound?

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again… The biggest influence on me and on my music is John Mellencamp. I started listening to John when I was in high school, growing up in the corn fields of the Midwestern state of Illinois. Here was this singer-songwriter on the radio (and on MTV) from the neighbouring state of Indiana, singing songs about growing up in the Midwest, often filming his videos near farms and corn fields, much like where I lived. I connected immediately to his music. To his lyrics. There was an honesty and an authenticity to what he was doing that was quite unusual during that time (the 80’s) when synth music, and glam looks were pretty much everywhere on MTV. Here was a guy with an acoustic guitar (and eventually a fiddle player and an accordion player) making music that was breaking through to the top of the charts. Over the years, I’ve seen Mellencamp 10 times in concert, and have tried to emulate his approach to music and songwriting as much as I can, while also trying to maintain my own sense of ‘self’ in the process. More modern influences include artists such as Jason Isbell, First Aid Kit, The Felice Brothers, The Avett Brothers, Horse Feathers, and Ryan Bingham.

After your two impressive releases, what were your goals when you began tackling these new collection of songs?

Thanks for “impressive”… That’s kind of you to say. With these new songs, I was looking for a sound that was coherent with the previous CDs, but that also added something new to the mix. My first CD (‘Self-Made Man’ from 2014) was very low-key. Mainly me on acoustic guitar with just a couple of embellishments added to each song. My second CD (‘Nothing and Everything’ from 2015) took the arrangements up a notch, with my good friends Chris Ozzard, Thom Aston, and David Atkins playing lead guitar on various songs… We also added a fair bit of light percussion on that album and we worked quite hard on backing vocals and harmonies to really provide a lift to the songs. With this new set of songs, I wanted to take that approach to the next level. I was looking for a bigger sound, but I also wanted to find those moments that required space and air, and make sure we handled those moments well. There are a couple of songs on this new CD that are fairly exposed in the sense of the lyrics and the original arrangements, and it was important to me that we stayed true to those original intentions. At the same time, there are some songs that I knew going into the studio needed to be big… At least compared to what I had done in the past, and I wanted to make sure that we hit that mark, too. In all things I do, I wanted a sense of authenticity to come across. Not big production tricks for the sake of doing them. I hope/think we accomplished that.

I see this EP was produced by Simone Felice. What was it like to work with this critically acclaimed singer-songwriter?

It was really great. I was listening to Simone’s music before I wrote my first song, so to be working with him one-on-one on my music was at times quite surreal. Back in 2008 I discovered The Felice Brothers (the albums ‘Tonight At The Arizona’ and ‘The Felice Brothers’) and immediately was drawn to their raw Americana/folk-rock sound. As I told Simone, it was one of his songs (“Your Belly In My Arms” from ‘Tonight At The Arizona’) that really drew me in and made me start thinking about writing songs that are straight from the gut. From the heart. I’d seen the Felice Brothers twice in concert here in the UK, but unfortunately that was after Simone had already left to pursue his solo career. I kept up with his music when he started his next band ‘The Duke and the King’ and eventually when he went ‘fully solo’. So, yeah… Working with him on MY music was mad. He had this great sense of what I was looking to get from the songs and he knew how to help make that happen. He brought in his brother James Felice, and that was incredible, too. James is on every one of the songs in one way or another… Wurlitzer, synth, accordion, harmonium, backing vocals… You name it. He’s a true pro. I was probably a bit tight on day one, working on my songs with Simone, but he has a real low-key, “all is cool” vibe about him and that translated into the space we were in. We would burn some Palo Santo wood sticks to get a real nice atmosphere in the room, something I carry with me even today when I want to calm down and find a nice even keel. With Simone, James, and Pete Hanlon (the engineer who often works with Simone), the process felt natural and yet at the same time quite focused. We accomplished a great deal in a relatively short period of time and Simone really helped make my vision for the CD come to life.

From these songs, which one is your favourite and why?

Probably the CD’s first track, ‘Everybody Knows’. It’s a very gentle tune that is about as honest a song as I’ve ever written dealing with the end of my long-term marriage. As I recall, when I was recording the song for the CD I did only two vocal takes and was nearly in tears by the end of the second one. When I asked the folks in the room if I they were ready for another take, Simone said to me something along the lines of “Why? You just channelled Townes Van Zandt… I think we’re done here”. That was something I won’t ever forget. Plus, the song has some lovely backing vocals from my dear friend Anna Sauchuk who came down from Canada to share the experience with me, and I just love listening to her sing. It was actually Simone’s idea to make the song the CD’s opening track. My instinct would have been to start off with something more up-tempo and bury the softer one somewhere in the middle. I trusted his opinion and I think it’s a really strong way to open the CD.

If there were to be a film about your life with music. Who would you choose to play the part of you and why?

This is an interesting question and quite difficult to answer. I guess Jeff Bridges. He’s the dude… and I love him in the film ‘Crazy Heart’. 🙂

What are your future goals for your music?

As always, my goals are to keep moving forward. I have some new songs that I’m starting to really nail down with my band, which will be part of the next CD. I have no immediate plans for recording that next CD, but I do know that my latest CD will not be my last… At least to the extent that I’m around to make that decision! I’m playing more with my band, which is great fun. Playing solo (or even as a duo) is cool, but there’s something really special about taking the stage with a fuller sound and really bringing those big songs to life. Obviously, my goals include playing better venues to bigger audiences… But of course, there’s only so much you can do to control that sort of thing. At the end of the day, I want to continue to grow as a musician, as a songwriter, and I would love for my music to reach a wider audience. Not for the sake of sales or attention, but because there’s something special that happens when your music touches people and they respond to it. Music is meant to be heard and shared and experienced. The energy created in that process feeds back to me and inspires me to keep going. That’s what I’m after.

‘Days Like These’ is a captivating journey with the focus on the storyteller and his guitar. Philip has a vocal presence which you would expect from the old time legends of the Americana world. What this means is that he shares his well-crafted stories in a way that has an authentic soul and subtly grabs your attention. The additional vocals from Anna Sauchuk, James Felice, and Simone Felice help to give this EP extra depth which makes it stand out even more.

Philip Marino has always demonstrated a wonderful way with words and has always delivered songs to a high calibre. But listening to the outstanding Everybody Knows and Hand Grenade, he has shown that he has, even more, to offer by creating gems like these. The detail in the lyrics which are supported with such a wonderful warm but emotional tone, is something special and shows why this EP needs to be heard. Head over to Philip’s Bandcamp page to listen to ‘Days Like These’ in full and appreciate the talent that is on show.

If you want to learn more about this talented musician then take a trip to his website at PhilipMarino.com. From here you can find information about where to buy his music (ITunes or Bandcamp) and upcoming gigs. You will also find links to his social media sites at Facebook and Twitter.

Remember, if you like what you hear then don’t forget to support the artist and spread the word about Philip Marino TODAY!

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