By: Chelsea Wright
We got a chance to sit down with Marco Benevento at Wanderlust Stratton in VT last month to discuss his music, influences and life in general. Check it out!
Hey Marco, happy to be able to chat with you. How are you doing this evening?
Hey there, same here. I’m great!
Let’s just jump right in. How did you start playing music?
I took piano lessons when I was a kid, ya know the kinda thing your parents make you do when you’re a kid. The rest is history, I got really into synthesizers and being in my room with headphones on…playing synthesizers and recording, that’s when it took off for me in my mind. And then of course in high school playing in bands, and then going to college and playing in bands.
Which jazz artist has been most influential on your music?
Let’s see…what can I say, there’s so many. Two people stand out to me the most. Jazz has been around for so long, it’s such a wide genre now…it’s not just Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, the older guys…there’s a lot of other contemporary jazz musicians that have influenced me more. The modern guys would be Brad Mehldau, he has a record called Largo. That record is a big one for me. On the more traditional side of things, it would be Herbie Hancock for me. Herbie’s the man in the jazz department.
What is your biggest inspiration?
Casio drum machines. And of course, ya know…other things that are bigger than my own life…I have two kids, and that’s pretty inspiring.
What led to the creation of Fred Short Studio, and why the name?
Fred Short is the name of the street I live on, and we bought a house here in Woodstock that has a little side studio and it’s close to the road.
What do you enjoy more, producing or playing music?
Come on…playing music. I would like to be recording more than I am touring…in that way, I have a serious passion for it and I like being home and I like testing out all my synths, my keyboards and my amps…I like it a lot, I mean a lot of people know that The Beatles had the same sort of feeling about the road, like “The road? I don’t want to go on the road, I just want to make records and stuff, and write music,” and everybody wants to do that…it’s the best thing ever, and it’s so rewarding in the end…but what’s making everything work for me, and the majority of the money I make is from touring…so I sort of have to fess up to the facts on that one and just hit the road, and come home with the cash. And then I make a little more money here on the side doing the studio thing…actually a lot more than I ever did because I have a studio now…and I would love to do it more, but still…ya know, playing for people and doing shows is where it’s at. That’s how you connect, it’s the essence of music. Music wasn’t born in the studio, it was born out there.
What are your favorite festivals, that you’ve played?
Pick-a-thon is a great one…it’s outside of Portland, Oregon and last year we played there. Feist and Andrew Bird were the headliners and a lot of awesome music. A lot of contemporary rock bands that I liked, it wasn’t so jammy. Sometimes we play some hippy jam festivals that are very one-sided, and Pick-a-thon had a lot of different things happening. It had a good variety and good songwriting. I also have playe Bonnaroo a couple times…that’s a good one because it’s massive. I played there with Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon from Phish, it was incredible.
I read that you’ve learned some from Medeski. I’m wondering what that’s done for you in terms of your growth as a musician?
John and I know each other now, we’ve played with each other a bunch…he lives close to where I live. We’re friends and we’ve played at Levon Helm’s barn together before, and we’ve done various things around here. But when I was 18, I heard Medeski, Martin & Wood and I really liked it, and it felt like it was a new wave of contemporary funk with some weirdness to it, right along the lines of that Lou Donaldson stuff. I really connected with their music when I first heard them, I really liked it a lot. I actually did a lot of touring on the hammond organ a bunch before I started touring around playing piano, so we had that in common. We were both in bands that had a heavy organ-driven sound. I connected with this crazy sound, the Wurlitzer. It was traditional instruments, but with different sounds. It was an altered take on it all. He went to the New England Conservatory in Boston, and I went to Berkeley. He’s been on the scene for a while. He’s a monster, so talented and tasteful. It’s an honor to be able to play with him.
What’s coming up for you in the world of music?
I have a new record coming out in September, and we recorded it with Richard Swift. He has done so many amazing things…currently he’s in The Black Keys, he’s playing keyboard in The Shins, and he has a lot of solo stuff out there that’s incredible. He’s done tours with Wilco, and he has made some incredible records. He’s an engineer, producer, songwriter, singer, drummer….ya know, an everything guy. And one of the most important facts about him is that he’s a DJ. He has an incredible vinyl collection and makes incredible mixes online. You can listen to him at richardswift.us, his mixes are just so eclectic. I guarantee there would be maybe one or two songs that you’d recognize in his mixes, but the rest will be songs you want to know. They’re just really cool 45’s. But yeah, we made a record with him in Oregon, and I’m singing on 8 out of the 9 tracks. It’s all original music, it’s my first sort of pop record I guess.
Well, I appreciate you taking the time to share a bit about yourself. I’m excited to see you play at Wanderlust, it’s going to be a good time.
Absolutely, psyched. I’ll see you there.