List your band members and the instruments that they play:
So there is a little bit of an explanation behind this answer. I made this new album by myself. I’ve never done that before. Every instrument and vocal track on the album was done by me. Now, since the album has been released I’ve started forming a group to play the music out live. So far I have David “Teaspoon” Hulett on drums, Anthony Dyal on bass and Saxophone and one more member on the way. As far as the instruments, I play accordion, mandolin, whistle, bagpipes, guitar, piano and synth. On the new album I played guitar, piano, synth and did the vocals.
I produced, engineered and distributed the album on my own.
How did the name of the band come about? When did it form?
I wanted to call it Johnny Hart and the “something”, and while I was making the album I remember working on a track that was just a mess. And I thought to myself, that would be a pretty cool name. I suppose “the Mess” also refers to my whole creative process and the album I made. It’s all over the board as far as the different sounds go. There are dancy pop songs, there are heavy rock songs, and there are sad bastard piano ballads. It’s all over the spectrum.
As far as how I met the guys to perform the music live, it was kind of an accident. Teaspoon was filling in on drums at a St. Patrick’s Day themed gig at the Hop Inn. I knew the guys playing and they asked me to do a couple tunes while they took a break. While I was playing, Teaspoon snuck back up and played a few songs with me. The rest is history. We stayed in touch, played a bunch of shows together to get comfortable and now we’re playing together on a consistent basis.
I hope those guys aren’t mad at me for stealing their drummer! Recently he introduced me to Anthony and I couldn’t be happier to have him on board. Even though there is no sax on my album, we’re incorporating that into the live shows. I’m a big fan of the sax.
I started the process of making this album about two years ago, but it was released this year and the band is being formed this year. So I guess it’s a 2013 baby.
Where are you from originally? If not from Buffalo, why are you here?
I grew up in South Buffalo,went to Canisius for high school, went to college right outside of Cleveland, lived/studied a bit in Ireland, and I’ve been back in Buffalo since 2010. I love Buffalo. I always have and I always will. It’s the best kept secret out there!
What’s it like to perform in front of a crowd? Give me three words.
Living. Breathing. Electric.
When and why did you start playing?
I started taking piano lessons with my grandmother when I was 4. I took lessons for about 8 years and got sick of that. After all that time, I couldn’t read sheet music to save my life. It’s a foreign language to me. Everything I do is by ear.
As I got older I was exposed to a band called Jackdaw when I was a teenager. That pretty much changed my life and started my music career. I started picking up instruments I didn’t know anything about. I would tilt my keyboard sideways and try to play it like an accordion. Once I mastered the sideways keyboard playing, I searched the thrifties for ads (because Craigslist didn’t exist) and found an old cat in Kaisertown with an awful yellow accordion with bright orange sparkly buttons. My father and I made the trip over there and I walked out a proud new accordion owner for $60. I figured, it would probably be easier for me to learn things like the accordion, mandolin and whistle rather than trying to track down a teenager in the area who played those instruments. Believe it or not, but it was hard to find an accordion player my age back then, now they’re all trendy.
What was the first tune that you remember “really” playing well, when you knew that you would be a musician?
As i was growing up I always thought I wanted to be a musician and there were high points in my performance career. But I never really looked at it as a reality until college. I was kind of thrown in last minute to perform alone at a fundraiser. I had never really performed completely alone. After multiple drinks of courage I played and saw the crowd reacting to just me and my guitar. After that night I thought to myself, well this changes everything. I might be able to do something with this.
My previous bands Stage Crew and Southside had some great shows including a Thursday and the Square opening slot for Fitz and the Tantrums and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals a couple years ago. That was amazing and really opened my eyes to the national music scene. My first “wow” moment would be the first time I went on stage and played with Jackdaw. That was probably the first time I thought maybe I could do this. But my confidence was not reassured until later in life like I mentioned, once I started playing alone in college and becoming more comfortable with myself.
I think when people see me, then they hear me sing they are caught off guard. I don’t think I particularly look like someone who can hit high notes, and I really didn’t know I could. That was again on accident. As I started playing solo more and more I stretched my vocal abilities as far as I could.
After a show one night I had played my last song, and the riff was along the lines of “Your Love” by the Outfield. In a stupor from playing all night, I started belting out the opening vocal line to that song as a joke. The majority of the crowd thought the jukebox came on. Ever since, I’ve explored that higher range vocally and I’m constantly working to improve that range. To this day I still play that song for fun out live, but I really don’t know any of the words except the opening line. I’m a really good mumbler.
As far as my playing goes, I mostly play guitar these days. I think my style is a blend of sounds I grew up on. Classics like Neil Young, The Who, Led Zeppelin up to more modern sounds like The White Stripes, Alabama Shakes and the Tragically Hip. My keys playing is heavily influenced by bands like Talking Heads, and newer bands like The Killers, Passion Pit and Two Door Cinema Club. But my core background comes from the Irish rock world, bands like the Pogues, Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys and Jackdaw. Those bands really opened me up musically and I think their influences can still be heard in my music.
How would you describe your music style? Influences?
Well I’m double dipping a bit between this one and the last question. I would describe my music style as Alt-Rock. My influences are all over the board but I guess I fit that category the closest. Some of my greatest influences are Jack White, Neil Young, Talking Heads, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash and definitely the Beatles, I grew up on the Beatles. I also love the classic entertainers like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett. But without bands like the Pogues, Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys and Jackdaw, I probably wouldn’t be talking to you today about music.
I think music did come naturally to me. Which is weird because I do not come from a musical family. I don’t think anyone on either side of my family really plays an instrument. So I don’t know where I came from. It was just something I really connected with from an early age. It’s always fascinated me, in every aspect. The live performance, the set up for shows, the promoting, listening to an album, it’s always captivated my full attention.
Are you schooled in music? From where?
My schooling came from a Sony CD player in my basement, and going to as many Jackdaw shows as I could to try to figure out what the hell David Moore was doing.
Which famous musician(s) do you admire?
See influences above. Also, David Moore of Jackdaw really had an impact on my career growing up. Not only is he incredibly talented, but he’s down to earth and just great human being. I miss seeing him around town and out at shows. He was a mentor for me growing up. A musical idol if you will.
Where is your favorite place to play/sing in Buffalo? Where would you most like to play/sing in Buffalo?
I loved the Mohawk Place. Everything about that place screamed awesome. Playing the very last Thursday at the Square actually in the square was something I’ll never forget. There’s also a mysterious energy/vibe that comes from the Hop Inn on Hopkins Street in South Buffalo. I love playing there, people who frequent that place understand and appreciate music. Anywhere that has genuine people and cold beer is an ideal venue for me to perform. I love connecting with people of all types. My goal would be to either play the Inner Harbor for another Buffalo Place event, or the Outer Harbor for one of their shows. Both venues are excellent and I hope just they are just a preview of what’s to come for our waterfront. Donny Kutzbach is the man. He and his team are evolving Buffalo back into the music scene it once was.
What’s your day job?
I work at Ingram Micro
Last show I caught was The Tragically Hip with Flogging Molly and Lowest of the Low at the Outer Harbor. The best show I ever caught, that’s a tough one, Flogging Molly at the Sphere in like 2003? (now Town Ballroom) after they got the boot from Thursday at the Square was an electric show. That building was shaking with emotion and the crowd was incredible. Mumford and Sons at Coachella in 2011 when they were just getting big is a show I will never forget. They said at the time that was the biggest crowd they ever played for, and it showed in their performance. They went wild. The shows I never got to see would be: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin (with Bonham), Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra and the Allman Brothers (with Duane Allman).
Do you play/sing covers or all originals? Ar a combination of both?
Growing up my bands played predominantly orignal music with some covers worked into the mix. In between projects I’ve been doing mostly covers to keep playing out and staying fresh. Now with my new album we’ll be doing mostly orignal music with some covers worked into the sets as well.
If you could play/sing for one famous person (alive or dead), who would that be?
Although I’m not sure I would be able to compose myself well enough to perform, I would love to play for Paul McCartney. Or just the Beatles in general.
If you could play/sing with one famous band (any time in history), what would that band be?
Sharing the stage with Jack White or Jimmy Page would be pretty surreal. They’re the type of musicians I could watch for hours just trying to figure out what the hell they are doing.
What are your strengths?
Hmm, let’s go with I’m multi-talented as far as playing different instruments goes. Which allows me to fully understand the total structure of a song.
What are your weaknesses?
I’m extremely self critical. To the point where at times it hurts my outlook on things. But I don’t think that’s out of the ordinary for any kind of artist.
No label, I’m independent. I recorded my new album out of my home recording studio I’ve built over the years. The new album is titled “Makes No Sense” and can be bought in person at shows, or found on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and Rhapsody.
Where and when is your next gig(s) in the city?
South Buffalo Irish Feis and Expo. 9/7/13 at Caz Park with Black 47, Barleyjuice, McCarthyizm, Crikwater and many more. Free event for all ages. More info at www.southbuffaloirishfestival.com. That same night, I’ll be playing an after party at the Hop Inn – 317 Hopkins Street, Buffalo, NY 14220. 11 PM start.
I’m working on a film/documentary observing two different musical perspectives and approaches to the music industry this fall. I’ll be working with another musician who just released an album with his new record label. So check back for updates on that.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zap33ejRplU – Song off the album “Back and Forth”
Lead photo credit: Brian Battenfeld – Other photos: Facebook