Your trilogy of Swinging Guitar Sounds of Young America has so many different styles. Was it meant to sell your skills as a studio musician to others?
VZ: Not really. Being a studio musician was something I kind of fell into. I never sold myself as a session player. It was never my intention to do that kind of work. I had some medical difficulties and it was a way of making a living without being on the road.
Unlike most studio players I never studied music in college or anything. I am largely self taught. Also I have always related to many different kinds of music. When I started SGSOYA#1 it was strictly done as a way of bouncing back from the grief of losing of 3 close family members in a short period of time. I found that by going back to the styles of music that made me want to play music in the first place I could start getting out of the grief. There was absolutely no ulterior motive to that album. Just a way of enjoying myself. To tell you the truth, the album pretty much wrote itself. Easiest thing I have ever done. I always say that that album wrote itself.
Do you still work with Joe Jackson?
VZ: I am on his latest album which is a tribute to Duke Ellington, but there are no plans to do any further work with him.
Who else have you played with recently (in the studio or on stage)? Any favorites?
VZ: I’ve played on albums by Roger Daltrey, Shawn Colvin, Paul Carrack, Art Garfunkle, Robert Lamm, etc…. and most recently I played on a Mark Hudson track and there is talk of some more. That track was fun.
Mark is an amazing talent & I dug adding my thing to his music. A very comfortable fit for me, but my favorite thing to do is write and record my own albums. We are also doing a video for “Play Paul McCartney” and “George Harrison” from the new album. The basic scenes have been shot. Time Summers from Apology None will be animating the video. I can’t wait to see what he does! I am a huge Apology None fan.
Who taught you the most about playing guitar? (or who was your guitar mentor?)
VZ: Hmm….Don’t really have one. I am largely self taught though I briefly studied with Barry Galbraith, Peter Prisco, and had a couple of lessons with John Scofield, but all in all I teach myself and practice about 4 to 5 hours a day everyday. I also do not listen to any guitarists. I know it seems odd but, I am not really a fan of the instrument in terms of what I choose to listen to. Growing up my influences were Georger Harrison, Chet Atkins, Zal Yanovsky, Eric Clapton, Hendrix, Charlie Christian, Django Rhinehardt, John Scofield, Alan Holdsworth, BB King, Albert King, Jeff Beck, John Lennon, Pat Martino, Randy California, and many more.”
Tell me about the story of one of my favorite tunes on Vol.3 “Heartless” – how did that song come about?
VZ: That song is about someone very specific. The song was written as a reaction to something that was done to me in business from an old friend that was done …well ….heartlessly. I am not one to connect music to emotion in any overt way but in this case something was done to me and I wrote about it. That is not something I usually do. I usually have very little to do with my songs. I basically hear in my head and then write them down without touching an instrument. I just write every arrangement idea and the notes, lyrics, and chords I hear. This song was also kind of a loose homage to Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth” as well.
You have a great ear for the Beatlesque, is it something you occasionally need to get out of your system?
VZ: Very kind of you to say. I just really miss getting new Beatle music and though it may be egotistical of me, I just write new Beatle music for myself to hear. Well… my verison of it anyway – I write it largely to amuse myself. The Fabs are such a large part of my life and the very reason I play music.
What is the hardest style to emulate correctly?
VZ: Nothing stands out. I find that time to time various songs will give me a hard time (mainly lyrics or lead vocals) but it has nothing to do with genre at all. My whole life I have always ripped apart and dissected every piece of music I ever heard to see what makes it tick so it’s now second nature to me to emulate the synergy between rythm section players.
Who has been in the music business longer, you or your wife Janice?
VZ: Probably me. I have been doing it since birth… literally. It’s always been an obsession, 24/7 my whole life. Janice is a bit more normal and more balanced than I am. Though she is an amazing songwriter and can write a song much quicker than I can. And you know how amazing her voice is! She is capable of doing many things, with me it’s pretty much the one thing — music.
These albums are pretty amazing, what’s next for Vinnie Zummo?
VZ: Thanks for the kind words Aaron! Well, I have released 3 albums in the last 6 months(SGSOYA#3, Jazz Album, & Retro Cool Bossa Nova Christmas Volume 2) so I am taking a break for a while, but I am always working on my jazz, playing all day long and doing a lot of TV writing. I am also looking for a movie to score. This is something I really want to do. Oh yeah…I have a new obsession with the mandolin so I will be working on improving my mandolin playing as well.
Cool. Maybe we’ll get to hear a Beatles type tune on mandolin soon! Thanks Vinnie!