By Jordan Reisman
Photo courtesy of Neal Casal.
Sometimes you have to do what’s right for the kids. At least this is the mantra that Woodstock, NY-based Marco Benevento is living by now that he’s had a few youngsters running around.
The “piano rock” musician did his time in the city, having called Brooklyn his home some time ago, but traded that in for a quieter, less distracting life in the town that definitely did not hold America’s most seminal rock festival. However, he’ll tell you not that much has changed with his music career since his move. After all, though Woodstock does not have Brooklyn’s “allure” of a struggling artist life, it still has plenty going for it, musically speaking, between world-famous studios, more tie-dye rock posters than you can shake a stick at, and the legendary “Midnight Rambles” that the late Levon Helm hosted in his barn which Benevento was able to lend his talents to a few times.
With his record TigerFace behind him in 2012 and a new one set to hit stores in October, Benevento has a lot to keep him occupied up there while he’s doing the dad thing. BTR was able to speak with him while he was between tours and enjoying some time at home.
The catalyst to moving from Brooklyn to Woodstock was not just having two children, it was having “way more keyboards than I ever imagined.” Benevento is originally from the New Jersey suburbs of the New York metropolitan area but says he didn’t think “I’d want to do that again with my own kids, I wanted to try something different.”
Since he’s been rocking the 845 area code, he says he’s recorded with Levon Helm, Natalie Merchant, John Medeski, Jerry Marotta, and “all sorts of people that are up here just staying busy when they’re off the road.” Benevento describes the experience of playing with the late legendary drummer of the Band and fellow beloved Woodstock resident as “heaven on Earth.”
“You walk over to the barn and you sit down. About 200 people maybe could fit in this place. It sounds amazing and the songs are timeless and incredible. They’re so good. They have guests that sit in like Phil Lesh. They’re really welcoming and if they know you’re a musician and know you’re around and came to the Ramble then you’ll definitely sit in. They really want to include everybody that they recognize there. I actually played with Levon once before he passed away at the barn and then played there two or three times, we did New Year’s Eve there with my old band,” says Benevento.
Becoming both a musician and a father also changed Benevento’s life fundamentally but at the same time, not really. Or at least not in the way that occurs all at once. The biggest transition for Benevento came in the amount that he wants to tour, as he is a self-described “road dog” who played 140 shows last year alone. He still has the drive needed to succeed as a musician but with a desire to “be around to help out and also just to watch [his kids] grow.” This lifestyle stood somewhat in opposition to his life in Brooklyn where he was “doing a lot of gigs and feeling that competition in the beginning but then you just get over it and then you do gigs and touring around doing a million things.”
On the subject of change or rather, lack thereof, Benevento’s pleasures of making music are the same as they were when he was just getting into it in high school. He was of the class of suburban teens that actually didn’t mind the life that came with it and gladly found ways to occupy his time.
“One of the really big things that I liked was sitting in my room in middle school and high school. I had two keyboards, a four-track recorder, a drum machine, headphones, and I would just record with synths and drum machines into my four-track tape recorder. I really liked doing that. That was a big part of getting into it. I liked putting the headphones on and making sounds. Of course I liked just playing the piano, that was always something that I did but I was very interested in the recording side of things,” says Benevento on his high school activities.
As with so many seasoned musicians, little has changed for Benevento’s musical output since high school, as much of it still consists of the instrumental variety. He says about writing lyrics, “I never got too into that,” as jazz tended to dominate his transition from adolesence into adulthood. This habit has changed in the last two years as the first two songs from TigerFace include the accompaniment of Kalmia Traver of Rubblebucket.
“I think that when you share your song with someone else and you actually give them a big part in the song, it’s nice to hear that marriage in a way; that bond and really what the two personalities create as one is what I like to hear. It’s you but it’s a little bit more than you or a little bit different or there’s someone else that is representing another side of you that you might not be able to get out there on your own so it’s nice to see how that works. It’s kind of like when, in the obviously larger scale, Danger Mouse collaborated with Portugal. The Man. They make a whole different record compared to the stuff that they’ve done. It’s them, but it’s a little bit more than them,” says Benevento on his collaboration with the fellow indie-jam figurehead.
The tide seems to be changing for Marco Benevento; he’s getting used to living in new atmospheres, balancing his work with his family life, and bringing a new voice to his musical landscape. Though all of these changes seemed to occur at the right moment for him, at the most natural pace. Who’s to say what the future holds for him though? The keyboards might pile up once again and perhaps yet another subtle shift will take hold.
Let the changes happen with Marco Benevento by clicking here.
Check out Marco Benevento’s music and interview on the latest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.