I’ve been really fortunate over the last year or so to get to know some talented artists and musicians here in New Jersey. One musician you’ll want to keep an eye on (and an ear out for) is Hamilton, NJ resident, Don Guerrazzi. Guerrazzi is a singer-songwriter who plays piano and guitar and reminds me of a little of John Mayer and Jack Johnson. His lyrics are beautifully introspective, but playful at the same time – with an occasional hint, here and there, of his great appreciation for hip hop and rap.
Guerrazzi has had a pretty eventful year himself. In the spring of 2010, he completed his MBA from Lehigh University and celebrated the release of his first CD, I Got Your Back, at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. Guerrazzi and I recently had a chance to sit down and chat (lucky me!), and I got the story behind the Stone Pony show, the CD, and some of the other things he’s working on.
The Stone Pony Show
Of all the NJ venues that Guerrazzi could choose from, he selected the Stone Pony for his CD release party in April. He ‘s seen many shows there over the years and recognizes that, “It’s one of the more well-known venues on the Jersey Shore line.” Once he decided on the Stone Pony as the venue for his CD release party, Guerrazzi had to make sure that he had a band to perform with him. He contacted friends and the members of his college band, The Greater Kudu, and without any hesitation, the guys were eager to be a part of the show.
Performing with Guerrazzi at the Stone Pony that night were John Andreach – Lead/Rhythm Guitar, Danny Bauman – Lead/Rhythm Guitar, Bryan Shoff – Bass Guitar, Nick Speach – Drums, and John Larson – Saxophone. Guerrazzi is grateful that his band mates from college were all there to back him up. Due to hectic schedules, they only had a day and a half of rehearsal (but no one in the audience would have been able to know that – they sounded great). In addition to The Greater Kudu members, Mike Naselli from Hoboken, NJ played his congas and made his debut with the band, and Arty Skye from New York and Nick Ditri from Red Bank, NJ made guest appearances on guitar and piano.
I’ve Got Your Back
The CD’s thirteen tracks are all written by Guerrazzi, and I’ve Got Your Back is a collection of songs that span his musical journey so far. Some of the songs have been in the works for a while and were written back when he was 18, and others were written as recently as this year (he’s 24 now). He explains that the variety among the songs represents his evolution through the writing process, and says, “I’ve always had a passion for music. And I’ve always known that you’re not going to be taken seriously at first. I can only really write as seriously as I’m being taken.” As Guerrazzi’s audience grew and he saw that his fans were taking him more seriously, he began to write what he referrs to as more serious songs. Though he may be serious about his music, he still has a lot of fun with it, and the CD has a little something for everyone. Many songs on the CD have moved up to the top of my personal playlist (especially “She Said” and the title track, “I’ve Got Your Back”).
Of course, I had to find out what his opinions of New Jersey are, and what he thinks about all of the “Jersey” shows out there right now. Like many other New Jerseayns, Guerrazzi wishes that the attention New Jersey was getting in the media was a little more accurate and portrayed the many facets of the state. “For my Stone Pony show, some of my Buffalo friends from St. Bonnaventure came down and it was the first time they were in Jersey. They said, I can’t believe how nice it is here.” Guerrazzi took his friends to areas of New Jersey including Rumson and Asbury, Red Bank, and Shrewsbury. “We did our part and showed them around. I love New Jersey.”
Guerrazzi is just at the beginning of a very promising musical career, and it is keeping him busy. He and conga player, Mike Naselli, were recently featured on BalconyTV, and that episode, and plenty of other videos of his live performances, can be found on YouTube. Between shows, he continues to write songs, for himself and for other artists, and spends his time recording in the studio.
Performing is what he loves best, however, both when he’s on stage with just his guitar or with the full band behind him. Guerrazzi has numerous shows planned in New Jersey and New York in the coming months.
“For now, it’s going to be a lot of singer-songwriter nights,” Guerrazzi says of his upcoming schedule. In fact, on September 13th, Guerrazzi will be performing in a special showcase with other singer-songwriters at The Bitter End in New York City.
Trust me, you won’t want to miss it.
The Jersey Girl