We spoke to legendary musician Eddie Brigati, of The Rascals, about what his rock songs mean now he’s in a “balladeer” era, his thoughts on the music industry and his shows at The Cutting Room where he performs beloved songs from his catalogue and Broadway showtunes.
You’ve said before that you think of yourself as “a balladeer” and thinking about the music you did with The Rascals it was an interesting insight. Can you elaborate on that?
Our sound was rock and roll, but if you take it apart you can find ballads. My brother and I were singers, my favorite singer was Johnny Mathis, and what it all comes down to is being a storyteller and what kind of stories you tell. At the heart of my stories you find my mother, my grandmother, my shows now for instance are about telling soothing stories. In a sense the ballad is a soft approach for communication, you’re talking to a loved one or someone you’re having a conversation with.
Younger people sometimes think of Broadway being the anti-rock and roll in a way. You started making music immediately after high school, and I wonder what your thoughts were on Broadway music back then.
Broadway is more sophisticated, they’re usually more trained and develop. We came from a raw, organic, self-sustaining approach. Like The Beatles we created our own messages drawing from various genres, music is a melting pot. You want to emulate people who create harmonies and that comes from church and the inclusive nature of that society. All music is good, it depends on what fulfills you.
What advice would you give to young artists these days?
I’m affiliated to The Rockit Foundation which has 8-18 year olds, and it’s wonderful because the people need to be nurtured, I repeat certain points over and over: you have it, you need to nurture it. I also tell them to study law and accounting, the former is description, the latter is a measurement of that. Music is pure mathematics, I wish I knew that when I first started.
I’ve heard people talk about music and numbers, I find it fascinating cause I suck at math. I’d love to hear more about that.
It’s a thing where everybody is valid in percentages and degrees, even the president, in percentages everybody is valid, in Native Americans it’s the mother, and everyone’s welcome to participate in that circle. You have a common perception of cooperating, once people pass their validity, numbers measure who cares, who matters, who’s cooperating.
How do you reconfigure numbers to make sure you’re part of that circle.
Momentum. Native Americans do it through dance within the circle, this dance continues in your heart even when you’re sleeping. With momentum you don’t get cornered, you slow down and in your head keep that dance.
Do you ever need to turn your brain off from all the beats and music in the world?
Yes, breathing, meditation and gentle moving. Air is your life force, so just by concentrating on that you remove tension, fear, anxiety, taxes, the government, the bullshit.
I’d love you to talk about your relationship to songs by The Rascals, singing them now do you go back and think about what you were thinking when you wrote them all those years ago? Do they give you nostalgia, transport you to that time?
All of the above, I was 19 years old when I wrote “How Can I Be Sure?” and it ends with “how can I be sure? I'll be sure with you,” so you hand them the hand grenade. That song tells a story I’ve been saying for 50 years, how can I be sure of anything?
When you threw that question out into the world did you expect to get an answer?
I still don’t have one. I stopped writing that song and my brother came to write some pieces, he never got credit for it, that particularly song we recorded one piece at a time, we didn’t have the melody ready at one point. Some songs are born in 10 minutes, others come from 10 years of experience. Some songs come naturally, some you have to work with.
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