Q&A With Singer- Songwriter Mike Benedetto
Singer-songwriter Mike Benedetto can now add “record producer” to his list of credits, with the release of The BEasy Band’s new Spring EP—the first of four to be released as part of the group’s forthcoming album, Seasoned.
According to Benedetto, the project features a variety of local musicians performing original Rockaway folk songs, with a subtle twist.
“The Spring EP leans toward Motown and Blues folk, whereas others may lean more toward Dixieland jazz or experimental pop folk,” Benedetto told The Wave in a recent interview.
The Wave: The BEasy Band, is this a side-project from your work with local band Rattrap Bumpkin?
Benedetto: We developed right after Sandy. We’ve had a few gigs, including two shows at the MoMa Dome. It was right around then, when we got together. Tom Swafford plays violin. We met in Brooklyn. Hopefully he’ll be back for our next gig at Caracas, right before the Poseidon Parade. Right now he is out in Yellowstone.
The Wave: What would you say is the most fulfilling part about performing live in Rockaway?
Benedetto: I guess when we play in Rockaway, we know everyone. It’s more like a communal affair. It’s playing with the neighborhood. Everything is a party and it never ends. It’s fun mostly. It’s a fun neighborhood. Everyone knows how to have a good time.
The Wave: Tell me more about how you came up with the idea of recording with different artists in Rockaway Beach?
Benedetto: I think, personally, just from performing in Rockaway since I was younger and going to multiple open mics. That’s just how it is. I love playing with other musicians. From there, I really just invited people that I knew were good. We started with a mandolin player, bass, violin of course, saxophone, clarinet and piano. So, a lot of stuff, a lot of people.
The Wave: What made you decide to do four EPs?
Benedetto: I just had so much to share. I was in a place where I wanted to do music. So, I set up in a studio to do production and dedicated time to writing. It’s what I do. It’s my form of art.
The Wave: Why do the albums revolve around the seasons? Is this a way of paying homage to classical musicians, such as Vivaldi, who would compose music in parts?
Benedetto: I am very into concept albums. I like conceptualizing the whole piece of work, like you were to listen from start to finish. When I got to writing, it ended up that I had about 20 songs. They all had their own transition and I grouped them together in a certain way, which I thought, [best represented] each season.
The Wave: Let’s talk some more about some of the local artists featured on your album.
Benedetto: John Simonelli, of Walker and the Brotherhood of the Grape, plays on a few bass tracks. We met at an open mic at the RAA a long time ago.
Brad Baker used to run The Power Station recording studio. He sat down with me and charted out the whole intro.
I did not want to go out that night. I was feeling like I wanted to stay in. But somehow I got wrangled over to Thai Rock, where I met Brad Baker, who played sax on the first album.
He agreed to have us come out to the city and set up in his studio. He’s great. He transposed the violin track.
Baker, who also plays saxophone with Cool Hand Lou & the Downtown Daddy-O’s and Bette Stuy & the Brooklynites, said Benedetto brought his tracks to his home studio where he added in a layer of saxophone to the song.
Baker: He had tracks, I had a home studio.
I have very, very good ears. After I listened to his tracks, and figured outthe feel, I was able to road map [the violin parts] and we overdubbed the sax.
You want energy. You want an exciting feel…an atmospheric feeling. Something sexy, bluesy and sweet. Mike had a good idea of where he wanted to go with it.
Benedetto: This is my best production work to date. It’s taken me over a year to get this project underway.
The Spring EP has been out for more than a week, and Benedetto says the Summer EP is on its way.
“I’m encouraging a lot of business [Caracas, Low Tide Bar, Whit’s End, Thai Rock] to download and play them when they come out,” Benedetto said.
“A bunch of people have asked for [physical CD] copies, which are also available at Zingara Vintage on Beach 91st Street.”
Check out the first installment of Seasoned, the forthcoming album from Benedetto and The BEasy Band, at Beasyband.bandcamp.com, and be sure to keep reading The Wave for updates on the second installment.