Though Anthony D’Amato may be a New Jersey born singer-songwriter, D’Amato’s new project, an EP titled Five Songs From New Orleans, features a collection of music recorded in and inspired by his time spent house-sitting a 19th century Garden District home. All featured musicians on the EP are New Orleans natives, and the instruments are entirely acoustic.
D’Amato’s debut with New West Records–2014’s The Shipwreck from the Shore–garnered critical acclaim, with NPR inviting D’Amato for a Tiny Desk Concert. In 2016, Rolling Stone named D’Amato one of the “10 New Country Artists You Need To Know.”
The forthcoming EP features New Orleans musicians including Esther Rose, the singer-songwriter whose album This Time Last Night gained her widespread recognition; the clarinetist Chloe Feoranzo; Cassidy Holden (who’s played with Tuba Skinny); Matt Rhody; Kayla Jasmine (who’s performed with Tank and the Bangas), and others. Today (October 24), OffBeat.com is premiering “Wrong Shade of Blue,” which features D’Amato (guitar, vocals), Free Feral (viola, vocals), Holden (upright bass) and Robin Rapuzzi (washboard).
“When I arrived in New Orleans, I was coming off a three-month European tour, so I’d spent quite a lot of time in transit and very little at home,” says D’Amato. “New Orleans was brand new to me, as well, so even though I knew I’d be able to stop running around and sleep in the same bed every night, it still felt a little foreign at first, and I think that’s the headspace I was in when I wrote ‘Wrong Shade of Blue.’ As much as I love to travel and see the world and meet new folks, there’s a certain weariness and melancholy that sets in after a while.”
Is there more to the EP’s backstory? What was the thought process that transitioned you from a simple house sitting visit to a recording session?
I had the opportunity to house-sit a beautiful old Garden District home during a break between tours earlier this year, and I brought my guitar and a little home studio setup with me in case I got inspired and wanted to write or record some demos. I fell in love with New Orleans and all the wonderful musicians and artists I met in town, and I ended up surprising myself by writing and recording an entire EP right there in the living room with a bunch of incredibly talented locals like Cassidy Holden, Esther Rose, Free Feral, Robin Rapuzzi, Matt Rhody, Chloe Feoranzo, Sarah Quintana, and Kayla Jasmine.
What was it like working with so many talented New Orleans musicians? Is there a particular story from your time working with them that stands out?
I didn’t know anybody when I landed in New Orleans, but I was lucky enough to get hooked up with Cassidy Holden, who’s an incredible bassist. He came over to the place I was house-sitting one afternoon and laid down some parts on the tunes I’d been writing, which at the time still seemed like they might just be demos. Cassidy introduced me to a bunch of talented artists, who in turn introduced me to a bunch of other talented artists, and then, like a game of musical telephone, the songs started to get fleshed out and take shape in some really unexpected ways. Free Feral came by and played beautiful viola and sang harmonies on this one, and Robin Rapuzzi from Tuba Skinny brought his washboard and brushes over for percussion. I was blown away by how warm and welcoming and collaborative the scene was.
For me, the most exciting aspect of recording in New Orleans was the chance to work with artists who come from completely different musical backgrounds than I do. I had some general ideas of how I wanted songs to sound, but for the most part, my goal was to record my guitar and vocals and then get out of the way. It was fun to let folks just run wild with the music and see where everything ended up. In some cases, the songs turned out exactly how I imagined, but in other cases, they evolved into something totally different than I could have ever anticipated.
Five Songs From New Orleans will be released on Nov. 15 on Elk Records. For more information about D’Amato and his relationship to New Orleans, visit his website, here.