All Photos: Alan Mercer
Named a “Rising Star” Male Vocalist in Downbeat magazine’s 2009 Critics Poll, Tony DeSare has lived up to the distinction by winning critical and popular acclaim for his concert performances throughout the United States, as well as in Australia, Japan and Hong Kong. From jazz clubs to Carnegie Hall to Las Vegas headlining with Don Rickles, Tony has brought his fresh take on old school class around the globe. Tony has three top ten Billboard jazz albums under his belt and has been featured on the CBS Early Show, NPR, the Today Show and his music was even recently posted by social media celebrity juggernaut, George Takei.
The critics agree. “He is two parts Sinatra to one part Billy Joel, meshed seamlessly…. A Sinatra acolyte in his early 30‘s who sings Prince as well as Johnny Mercer,” raved the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal adds its own flattering comparisons, stating, “He is one third Bobby Darin, one third Bobby Short and one third Bobby Kennedy.” Rounding out the accolades is USA Today, proclaiming “DeSare belongs to a group of neo-traditional upstarts stretching from Harry Connick, Jr., to Michael Bublé and Jamie Cullum. DeSare covers old and newer pop and jazz standards without smothering or over-thinking the material.”
Not withstanding his critically acclaimed turns as a singer/pianist, Tony is also an accomplished award-winning composer. He not only won first place in this year’s USA Songwriting Contest, but Tony has also written the theme song for the motion picture ‘My Date With Drew,’ along with several broadcast commercials. His compositions include a wide-range of romantic, funny and soulful tunes that can be found on his top-selling recordings as well as on his YouTube page, which is frequently updated with recordings not available on his current releases.
His latest achievement includes putting together a brand new live show, ‘My Generation: The Contemporary American Songbook,’ which pays tribute to the traditional genius of Gershwin, Berlin, Porter and Kern, while introducing the many great songwriters who created iconic music over the past half century. These new inductees include Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan and Michael McDonald, as well as ‘adopted’ American songwriters like Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Barry Gibb.
Aside from a busy touring schedule throughout the 2013-14 season, Tony’s other major project last year was the October 1st release of his CD titled, ‘PiANO,’ an ambitious album recorded entirely by multi-tracking an acoustic piano into fully orchestrated arrangements.
Tony performs with infectious joy, wry playfulness, and robust musicality. His sound is romantic, swinging and sensual, but what sets Tony apart is his ability to write original material that sounds fresh and contemporary, yet pays homage to the Great American Songbook. As a result, Tony DeSare can deftly glide from a Gershwin standard, to a Dylan or Paul McCartney classic, to one of his inventive original songs.
Tony and his wife Daisy have a son Christopher Anthony, who was born on September 2, 2013.
AM: Tony how did you even come up with the concept for your magnificent new album ‘PiANO’?
TD: It came about because I have a home studio and my manager gave me an assignment to come up with an arrangement of a Bon Jovi song that John might like. I decided to try ‘You Give Love A Bad Name.’ I had just purchased an acoustic piano so I was experimenting and the synth drums and bass sounded cheesy like a cruise ship review, but the piano sounded cool. Then in one instant I thought the piano sounded so great I wish I could just do the whole song like that. So I thought rather than drums why don’t I just hit the side of the piano and rather than a muted guitar why don’t I just mute the strings. Then I went into a mad scientist mode and emerged three days later with the initial demo.
AM: Has anyone else ever done this before?
TD: There has been experimenting with getting different sounds out of the piano but I think mine is the only one that is a combination of the raw piano sounds with a fair amount of sound design with it and making a pop music album out of it.
AM: You made every last sound on the album, right?
TD: Yes, everything you hear except my voice comes out of an acoustic piano. There are no synthesizers, no drums, it’s 100% piano.
AM: The recording really opens up when the listener knows this. It becomes fascinating to listen to.
TD: Thanks, I just thought since I’m associated with a genre that is so traditional, I would try something different and make some new sounds. I’m sure I’ll still make jazz trio recordings as well.
AM: You are at the forefront of your artistry by bridging the past with the future in a unique way.
TD: Nobody is recording Cole Porter with modern recording techniques either. Some of the songs have 80 tracks.
AM: I love what you did with ‘Autumn Leaves.’ You really woke it up!
TD: What I like about that song is when I introduce it people are kind of “Oh Autumn Leaves...yawn.” (Laughter) I love the element of surprise that is unexpected to the ear. It was one of the first songs I learned how to play on piano. It’s a fun song to perform live and I think it works even better live.
AM: Tony as good as your albums are you are an even better live performer.
TD: Thanks, that’s what I’ve done most of my career. I’ve been performing night after night. I’ve learned slowly but surely. My whole purpose every time I perform is to get just a little bit better.
AM: The record you did before was a concept album as well. Do you like the idea of concept albums?
TD: I hadn’t really thought about it. What happens is I get an idea that I’m passionate about, so with my last record, ‘Radio Show’ I had been listening to the old Frank Sinatra World War 2 era recordings when he had a weekly radio show. It was all live and he would sing songs that were hits at the time. He would do songs that he didn’t record. I realized nobody thinks of music that way anymore since television came along. So I got lit up by this idea.
AM: I’m glad you cover songs that are less likely for you to record.
TD: I just like to do songs that I like.
AM: Is that how you choose what songs to cover?
TD: Yes I have loved the Journey song ‘Faithfully’ since I was eight years old.
AM: You really do that one good but I have to mention how wonderful your original compositions are. You have quite a knack for melody.
TD: Thanks, it’s fun to be able to share these songs. In the context of what I’m doing now, I mix them with these other songs that are classics.
AM: They fit in perfectly.
TD: I hope they do. At first I wondered if I should do a Cole Porter song and then something I just wrote. I let my audience be my teacher so I try it and let them tell me if it works or not. So the audience really encouraged me to keep it up.
AM: Are you liking being an independent artist?
TD: Yes I am liking it a lot. First of all I like owning my own recordings and what I do sell I can make money from. Record deals are constructed where it’s hard to make any money. I feel lucky to have the run that I’ve had.
AM: You’ve got the kind of career that you can be 70 and still going strong.
TD: Yes, I feel like it’s a slow burn. I love doing my music so much I hope I can continue to do it for a long time.
AM: Tony, you are here to stay.
TD: Well, I’m determined to stay.
AM: You’re a family man now so that must make life different.
TD: It sure does. I’ve been on the road a week and a half and I don’t think I’ve ever missed being home more. That’s a different feeling. In the last ten years I’ve been on the road and wherever I was, that was home. Now my wife tells me all the things my son did this past week, so to miss that is not easy, but on the other hand I have to pay the bills and it’s what I do.
To learn more about Tony DeSare visit his web site http://www.tonydesare.com/