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Interview: Andrew Tufano

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Andrew Tufano was probably voted “most likely to succeed” in high school. And if not, he probably should have been. He has fire in his eyes and passion in his heart, and that alone could get you far in the music industry. But it’s the talent that’ll shoot him straight to the top. Last summer he came off of a  self-booked country-wide tour and released some new music, and this spring, Andrew’s going to get to touring again. But not before doubling the amount of songs he’s written so far in his career. I sat down with Andrew at a Nashville coffee shop called Eighth and Roast last month. Here’s what he had to say:

MusicDash: What are your favorite things about Nashville?

Andrew Tufano: Coffee’s up there. Eighth and Roast is up there. The things that keep me here are the people. That’s really what it is. Everybody’s here: there’s so many musicians and so much talent here. It’s very hospitable. There’s a lot of friendly people. Pretty much everybody I’ve ever asked to get coffee with and pick their brain, no matter how busy they are, they make time. You can’t do that in New York. People would just be like “no, talk to my assistant.” So I really love that aspect. It really makes up for the amount of gigs that don’t pay you. Cause if that weren’t here, I’d be out of here in a heartbeat but that keeps me here. Everybody’s here and I love it.

MusicDash: How did you get your start in music?

Andrew Tufano: My parents kind of forced me to play piano for a couple of years. That was where it started. I think I was in second grade when I got a little Casio keyboard for Christmas. They had me take a lessons for two years and I was like “okay, whatever.” They bought a full sized keyboard because the teacher was like “alright, he’s got to the point where this isn’t going to work.” Shortly after that I really wanted to quit but they were like “no, we just bought this full-sized keyboard. You’re going to keep taking lessons for at least another year.” And sometime during that I started playing a lot of Billy Joel and a lot of other stuff I really liked. Because when you’re first starting out you can’t play those types of songs. I got to a certain level where I started enjoying it and I just got hooked. I did instrumental songwriting a lot. I did a lot of electronic composition. I had Scorewriter and I entered this competition and they flew me out to Dallas to give me Sibelius. I was in that whole sphere and then I completely switched over in eighth grade to guitarist singer/songwriter. I’ve been doing that seriously since high school.

MusicDash: What’s your writing process like?

Andrew Tufano: The writing process is just ridiculous. I’m doing this project this winter where I’m writing 100 songs in 100 days. I’ve been writing a lot because of that. I’ve been writing the songs two weeks in advance so that I can sit with them for a little while before we record them. They’re going to be written within a hundred days but released within a hundred days two weeks later. There’s lyrics all over my room and it’s insanity. The biggest struggle for me is just organization. Mostly my writing process is a logistical nightmare. I’m trying to streamline that. It’s just me spewing out ideas, ferreting at first (either musically or lyrically). Usually I have a melody and chords in my head and I get those down. And then just taking that and editing it. It’s not even creative at that point. It just feels like I’m putting together a puzzle. So in a nutshell, its insanity.

MusicDash: Who would you say that some of your influences are?

Andrew Tufano: I’ll kind of take an artist and listen to them nonstop for a couple of weeks and then I’ll completely drop them. Right now, I’m on Ray LaMontagne. This morning I listened to that 2004 album he had four times in a row all the way through. And then I’ll kind of borrow some of his ideas. That’s kind of what I’ve done, so as far as inspiration goes, there’s this weird collection of artists that I’ll get really into and take some of their ideas or stylistic things and then move on. If I had to name one, it would be Billy Joel. In my childhood that was all I would listen to. I played like his entire discography. Since then it’s just such a collection that it’s hard for me to name a handful of artists.

MusicDash: I know this is tough, but what has been one of your favorite performances in Nashville?

Andrew Tufano: Honestly, one of my favorite performances that I’ve had here happened a few days ago in Puckett’s downtown. Usually when I play there in the winter, there’s not a lot of people there. It just happened to be packed, line out the door and I just lucked out. The people were just having such a good time and it was a good response after every song. I was making jokes with people and there was a lot of communication from the stage as opposed to just a one way “this is my stuff, you listen,” people were interacting and calling out songs. It was a really good time. There have been a lot of different types of shows here. I’ve played some house shows here and a lot of writer’s rounds, and some charities and hospitals. A big variety, so it’s hard to compare.

MusicDash: You went on a pretty long tour of the US last summer. Tell us a little about that. Where were some of your favorite places to play? How did you go about booking it?

Andrew Tufano: Let’s see. I played the Bluebird twice on the tour. Once with a trio, once solo. It was a really long tour! I just love playing there. They have an MC that goes up and says “guys, be quiet. No cell phones, listen.” It’s not a big room but everybody’s staring at you and listening to every word. Even at listening room shows, everybody’s not going to hear every word. There’s going to be people talking. There’s a little bit of pressure and you start second-guess like “I’ve never really thought about this lyric before. Everybody’s listening to it!” Usually I just sing and people forget once I get to the chorus.

My favorite city was probably Seattle. There’s no mosquitos there, everybody’s really chill. I’ve never really spent too much time on the west coast until this summer. There really is a west coast/east coast thing. There’s a different culture. The west coast has this sort of chill/hippy, a lot of tech people there. There’s a lot of art. I really like that aspect of that, so I really liked Seattle a lot. The west coast though, I didn’t have a lot booked. I had a house show in Seattle, but it wasn’t that big. The east coast was more of a tour – we had a show almost every day. The west coast was more of a vacation. We had like seven shows on the whole coast and we were there for about three weeks. It was a show every three days or so. The other days we were just kind of hanging out in the city and exploring and spending all of the money that we made on the east coast. It was such a good experience.

On the tour we played about 35ish and I booked them all myself. The reason that the east coast was so busy was because I was doing independent booking. I honestly just bit off a little more than I could chew. I booked it chronologically, so the further we got into the tour, the less we had booked. The first two weeks it was like every night we had a show. It was great! Then we just kind of slowed down and by the time we got to LA, it was like “alright.” I think there was a five day period with no shows so we were just driving around in Arizona.

MusicDash: So you had your EP that was released in September. Tell us a little bit about it. What was the process like for you?

Andrew Tufano: This was the first professional thing that I put out that wasn’t recorded in a studio. I have two other EPs that were recorded in a studio in Virginia. This one, I did in two different house studios with the Rhett Walker Band. They essentially made the album. They all played on it: the guitarist, the bassist, and the drummer. The drummer was the producer and most of the songs were recorded and mixed in the drummer’s house. Some of the parts were recorded in the guitarist’s house.

That’s something that honestly ten years ago I think wouldn’t have even been practical. Just the way that technology has improved. You can get such good sound out of somebody’s house. So I’m really excited about how it turned out. So I’m really satisfied with how it turned out. That helped save money too. I didn’t have to book studio time and the guys were so cool. Kenny Davis was the producer. He’s just an awesome guy. A really talented guy. He’s the first producer that I’ve worked with that isn’t in the same vein of instrumentalists as I am. I play the guitar and piano, so I’ve always worked with guitarists and pianists. We’d have similar ideas, which I hadn’t even realized until working with him. He’s a drummer and he’s be like “oh, we should do a half-time groove in the chorus.” He thought about things a little differently so it was great working with him.

That was all recorded February through April. I printed the CDs in May and I had them exclusively on the tour. So the songs have been done since May, but the digital release wasn’t until September 1st. There was a release show in D.C and the last leg of the tour was the release, but I actually had it the whole time on tour. It was kind of a little fun thing to give people.

MusicDash: Tell us a little bit about the Amplify Entertainment 100 songs in 100 days project!

Andrew Tufano: How do I put this? It’s going to be the death of me! It’s going to drive me to insanity and back. So I had this idea for a project near the end of my tour. I was trying to figure out what to do next and I have a tour booked February 20th to March 20th. I have another tour in the works from April until May but I had this whole block of time in the winter. I wanted to do something cool and something interesting and I wanted to challenge myself and push myself. I kind of played around with the idea of 100 songs in 100 days. I had done weeks called ‘7 in 7′ — 7 songs in 7 days and that was kind of challenging. So I don’t know why I thought that this would be okay. Like I’m going to go home after this and write a song.

So far it’s been good! I’m just surprised that Amplify Entertainment was on board with this. They’re really talented guys. So we have Forrest producing it, Joey and Mitchell are the Audio and Visual guys. I’m surprised that they’re on board. They all are for whatever reason. I think that the release is December 8th. We have 7 videos recorded already, We’re doing 5 or 6 videos on Sunday. We’re going to try to stay 10 videos ahead because there will be times that one of us goes out of town. So we need to be 10 videos ahead or the project will fail. There’s no other way.

So yeah, that’s the project. I really want to test the relationship between creativity and productivity. I think that’s what it is. I’ve had a lot of people tell me “oh, you’re right brained. You’re really creative, so you’re probably not good at organization or the business side” and I don’t think that being good at one thing inhibits you from being good at another. I don’t think that’s related. I don’t think that that’s very scientific either. You can have two halves of one brain. Like I was talking about with writing is that you have to sit down and write it all and then you have to make it all work. It feels different. I do think that a lot of people will limit themselves. That’s kind of a limiting belief to say “I’m a creative person, so I can’t do this. I need to find a manager. I need to find someone else to do it.” That’s just kind of selling yourself short. So, I kind of want to challenge that.

All of the videos will be finished by February 20th but the last video won’t come out until March 7th or 14th. And I’m giving a Ted X talk about how everything went. I don’t know what I’m going to talk about yet, but it’s the culmination of the whole project just to kind of be like “this is what I learned, this is what I had problems with, this is how it went.” I’ll play a few of the songs. And then we’re hopefully going to do a documentary about the whole experience.

MusicDash: What else is coming up for you in 2016?

Andrew Tufano: I just sat down with a booking agent about my schedule for next year. She’s like “give me all the dates you have booked, where you want to book, where you want to tour.” I have the tour in February and March going down to Florida cause it’s warmer down there. I have a tour in April and May with a band in the southeast. And then after that, I didn’t have much planned. I’m probably just going to move out of my apartment and tour around. I’m never there and I feel like “why am I paying for rent?”

I literally wrote an email saying “I don’t know what I’m doing after May.” I literally told her that I’m down for whatever. I want to go to the west coast again. A friend and I are trying to tour the Rockies. I have a fiddle player and we’re going to tour from Nashville to Boston on these dates, but I don’t care where we go in between. We can hit the east coast, we can go up the midwest. Things are just so up in the air. After I write 100 songs, things will look different. My entire show will be different because I’ll have new songs. I think my style will be different.

Hopefully this will gather a little bit of a following. I don’t have a big YouTube following right now, so hopefully this will get me a little more in the YouTube scene. I think it’s just a matter of adjusting on the fly and seeing where things go. I’ve always been comfortable with that. That’s why I freelance and why I don’t have a job right now. I would prefer to just take things as they go. If I have too much planned, I feel trapped.

Every time I’m interviewed and I’m asked this question, I say the same thing and that frightens me. It’s like “well I have the next few months planned, but after that, we’ll see.” I’ll let you know.

You can find Andrew Tufano at:

Web: www.andrewtufano.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/andrewtufanomusic

YouTube: Andrew Tufano

Instagram: www.instagram.com/andrewtufano

Twitter: www.twitter.com/andrewtufano

You can check out Amplify Entertainment at:

Web: www.amplifyentertainmentgroup.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/amplifyentertainmentgroup

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