RR LogoLA's Bryan Senatore is Three Days From Anywhere and the Music Keeps Getting Better

Bryan Senatore photo oneIn 1994 when composer, singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Bryan Senatore left Pittsburgh where he had grown up and drove across America in his soft top Jeep Wrangler, to finally arrive in Los Angeles, one has to wonder if there were times when he wondered if he was three days from anywhere. Years later the affable Senatore would wake up in his home in Los Angeles turn on Netflix and during the Charlie Chaplin film Gold Rush “They had these title cards between the scenes to express dialogue. One of the title cards came up and it said, “Our last explorer is still three days from anywhere..,” and I thought wow, that’s a fantastic idea for a song. It was unique in the sense that I got the title first, but what usually happens is I will sit down at the piano or with a guitar and I will noodle around for a minute or two. Suddenly, I will like a couple of things that I have done and I will string it together. As that happens, the melody becomes apparent on its own. At that point, it has its own personality and flavor and in my mind I can bridge the two worlds where the sound of the melody dictates to me, what it might sound like if it was expressed in words. Then the lyrics come and then come fairly easily and quickly. That’s how it works for me,” he says.

Senatore whose music has a R&B, Soul, Neo-Soul feel to it showcases silky smooth vocals on “Three Days From Anywhere,” as he accompanies himself on guitar with this pretty down-tempo song that is more philosophical than meandering, as his lyrics speak to the need to be forward looking and building something more lasting, “Don’t you come at me / With no custom built brand insanity / Your house of cards that never stood / One gust of wind, there goes your neighborhood.

Numerous musicians who self-produce and then play most of the instruments on their albums fail to inspire the listener, because there are often not any layers or many layers of creativity to peel back and artist the producer often is not capable of pulling out of the artist the singer or the artist the musician that performance that goes to the next level. That does not however seem to be an issue for Bryan Senatore. He plays guitar, piano, cello, harmonica, bass and as he says, “The only thing I am pretty well not articulate on is drums. I have pretty much given up on ever trying to do that, which I am fine with.  If you put a set of bongos or congas in front of me and I can wail away all day long, but there is something about putting the sticks in in my hands and having to do the foot thing and all of that stuff, I just cannot get it together. If you didn’t know me from before, and just saw me sitting at the drums, you would think that this guy has no musical aptitude whatsoever (he laughs). Every part that you hear on all of my songs, except for any drum tracks, is all me,” he says.

Recalling his childhood in Pittsburgh, Bryan Senatore cues this writer for insights into how his interest in music first took hold and then flourished. “My dad played the guitar and he still does. He plays sort of in the Chet Atkins style, Chicken Pickin’ Country Western, which ironically, is the one style that I don’t play that well at all or even try to play. He played the guitar a lot, but he never really showed me anything. I remember he would be playing his guitar and I would be trying to talk to him and he would just look like he was off in a trance and he was ignoring me. I didn’t put one and one together until later, that it takes concentration to play guitar, which is why you can’t have a conversation at the same time. He was playing guitar and that was the first thing that set me off. When he played the Chicken Pickin’ style, it is like a Country form of Classical. There is a beat to it, a melody and then there are chords behind it and it is all done by one person. To me it just looked like magic. (I thought) how is he playing the melody and the accompaniment all by himself? That sparked me into doing it. My sister is a really good Opera singer and she works at Northwestern School for Music. She sang with Pavarotti, but she never had a desire to pursue that. Even though that was in my house and it rubbed off on me there was never any formal music education on my part and nobody was really there to encourage me or to move me along or to get me lessons. It was just something that I did naturally. It was something I always sort of knew how to do. Pittsburgh is not exactly the hotbed for culture or creativity and I didn’t live around any kids my own age, so I was left to my own devices most of the time. I just remember looking out my window wondering if there was any other city where I could do this for a living. It is not exactly encouraged, as it is a blue collar town. If you are a creative individual and you are growing up there you are forced to solidify your creativity, dig your heels in and to decide, ‘this is what I want to do.’ It’s good in the sense that it hardens your resolve to do what you want to do.”

Senatore says that music helped him through his childhood years. “My father was a lovely man and I love him to death and we are very close. I have two younger sisters and I am very close to them, but my mother was and she still is, a really sick woman who is psychopathic and she was really physically and sexually abusive to me. That was another reason for me to go inside and to be introverted. I swear to you, music was the guiding force of truth in my life and it always has been. Music to me is religion. Whatever you give to it, it gives right back to you. It never puts you down. The more that I try to follow down the path of what’s right and the more that I try to be true to things, the better the music is for me. It really helped me along like that. It is never the beating that is the worst. It is the anticipation of the beating. That was the terror of growing up. Once the beating is over, it’s over.”

When asked if that was one of the reasons why he chose to become involved with children’s charity Safety Harbor Kids he says, “That is precisely why. Life is this beautiful string of what appear to be coincidences, but they actually aren’t. If you are staying true to your path or at least in my case this has been the truth, doors open up and things happen in a way that you could never, ever anticipate. Funny enough, I was at David Paul’s beautiful house in Topanga, the guy whose film I just scored (Faith Street Corner Tavern) and he had some musicians there. He loves my music, so I went up and played. There was a woman there, Petrie Alexandra Williams who is the president of the charity. She approached me that night and (explained) that she had this charity and asked if I would be a part of it.  I said sure and that is how that got started. They are kids from the inner city who are either orphaned or who are in foster care. We expose them to the arts and we take them to places like Paradise Cove and we show them things that they wouldn’t normally see. We also take them to places like Geoffrey’s in Malibu, which is a really nice restaurant and the owner talks to the kids. We have keynote speakers. At one event it was the voice of Winnie The Pooh. These are things to inspire these kids and to let them know that whatever their dreams are and whatever their hopes are they are achievable to some degree. The kids span the whole age bracket, from maybe nine or ten and up to seventeen. When a lot of these kids leave foster care, they don’t have anywhere to go. There is not a program that helps them or assists them. They are just sort of released out into the world.

(We recorded) the Safety Harbor Kids Holiday Collection album two years ago. John (Wiliams) and Petrie had this idea about putting out a Christmas album. They came up with the idea at the end of September and at the time I was the music director. We mulled around the idea a bit, but nobody really said anything or did anything about it, so I decided to take it upon myself to start the album. I started writing it and arranging it and it took off from there. I spent all of October and all of November just literally living in my studio chair. I would write the tracks, arrange them the way that I wanted them and then send them off to the studios to have the stars redo them the correct way. I would go into the studios with them and to help produce it. It was a lot of work. I gained a lot of weight. I ate really unhealthily, but in the end it was definitely worth it. We had a nice CD release party at East West Studios on Sunset, which is a famous studio. It was a real good thing for everybody and we sold a lot of copies of it. I am sure it did a lot of good,” he says, noting that Petrie’s father Fred Tackett, from the band Little Feat is also involved with Safety Harbor Kids.  Bryan Senatore photo 2

The Safety Harbor Kids Holiday Collection album has Bryan Senatore performing “Sleigh Ride,” Sheila E. doing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Jackson Browne and Inara George singing “Silver and Gold,” Peabo Bryson and Paige O’Hare with “Through A Child’s Eyes,” and numerous other artists such as Jimmy Webb, Valerie Davis, Billy Idol, Andy Vargas, Amilia K. Spicer, Bird York and Teresa James.

Bryan Senatore will be releasing a unique album in November. “It is a concept and I wrangled with the idea, because I write songs all of the time and I just sort of throw them up (on the internet) and I think I have sixty up now for people to listen to. You mull over the album title and you mull over what songs that you want on the album, because it can be flavored one hundred different ways. I came up with this concept and I am not sure how original it is, but I am going to let the people decide what songs they want on the album and there will be a tailor made CD for each customer. That way everybody gets what they want and everybody has their own unique CD. All of the albums will have the same title, but I thought that might be an interesting concept to try and do, because whenever I bought an album I liked three or four songs and I was stuck with seven or eight that I really couldn’t stand, so I figured I would try to avoid that.  (A discussion ensues about the old days with 45s and how one side was an A side and one side was a B side and seldom were both good songs).

When I was younger, we had cassette tapes and you would make your own tapes with songs off of the radio and of all the songs that you wanted, so I thought why not do that for people. Everything is customized now for society anyway. Everything is personalized, so why not go ahead and try it that way. Now your digital 45s are the equivalent of a MP3 release, a single, and you just pay for what you want.”

There seems to be no end the projects that Bryan Senatore has on the go these days. He just finished scoring the film Faith Street Corner Tavern for longtime friend David Paul and his brother Peter Paul. Over the years, Senatore had added music to some of David Paul’s lyrics and he produced the songs for the filmmaker.

“A lot of the songs that I produced for him along the way, he ended up putting into the film and then he asked me to score the rest of it to fill it up.

The whole premise of the film is there are these different people with issues in their lives and they go to these old barns where they find these old radios and somehow if they tune these old radios to the correct frequency, they get to hear the voice of God. God gives them whatever they need wish wise. I am pretty sure that is the premise of the film,” he says.

Senatore says, “There are two ways to go about (scoring a film), usually, when I get the raw video, there isn’t any sound on it or just natural sound. The filmmaker will have an idea of what they want and they will give me some reference point (such as) they want it to sound like this or they want it to have this sound, so that makes it a little easier to get the creative ball rolling. There are other times when they don’t have any notes and they just say do whatever you want to do, so I will watch the scene, and see how it makes me feel, see the flavor of the film and the flavor of the project to try to make it in line with that. That is about it. I will usually work a few chords and I will find a melody in there. It depends on what instrumentation they want and that will help dictate (the direction) as well.”

Bryan Senatore has also been asked to participate in a very exciting television project. “Maurice McCoy from Groove Town Records called me ten minutes before you did. I do work for his record label at Huntington Beach (California). They are tapping into the market that is the reality show and a la American Idol. The show is going to be called The Harmony Process and there are going to be two groups. One is going to be a teenage Latina girl group and the other is going to be a Korean teenage girl group. There is a style of music that right now is intensely popular and it is called K-Pop (Korean Pop Music). It is a big deal now and they wanted to get in on that. I think Groove Town or Maurice found me on Facebook and they asked me if I wanted to be a part of it and if I wanted to come down to be one of the judges and to also help write the tunes. That is what we are in the process of doing right now. We have been going through the auditions, which is a harrowing process. Eventually, they are going to have five girls in each group and they are going to be forced to live with each other and to learn to work together and learn to perform together. The whole thing is going to be filmed in Vegas. I do have to go to Vegas, but I don’t think I am going to stay down there the whole time. Once the girls groups are formed, I am no longer going to be needed to be on camera, as one of the judges. My responsibilities at that point will be coaching the girls and writing the songs for them.

This is an exciting year for Bryan Senatore. You can listen to his music on his Reverbnation website.            Return to Our Front Page

Interviewed by Joe Montague

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