Indie Source: Hi John! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions. You're an extremely busy guy! How do you find the time to balance between?your professional and personal life?
John Vento: Well, It is a very tough balancing act, and I’m sure my ex wife would say I don’t do it very well. I try my best to schedule things and make time for my personal life, especially my children. But truth be told, music takes so much time and has created pain on many levels.
IS: Your current single, "I Hope I Don't Fall in Love with You" is a Tom Waits cover song. How did you select that particular song to record? What other covers have you recorded, and how do you know which ones to select?
JV: I actually tripped over that one on YouTube and just thought it was perfect for the concept of our album. We were about half way into the project and that one just spoke to me. Plus It worked well with my vocal style.
I’ve recorded a bunch of covers through the years, mostly with my band, The Nied’s Hotel Band. I frankly just picked songs that I always wanted to sing, like Be My Lover – Alice Cooper, Ain't No Sunshine – Bill Withers, Betty Lou – Bob Seger, and Taxi – Harry Chapin, to name a few.
IS: I love the video. Black and white. Very classic. Tell us about the shoot. Any funny stories from filming?
JV: Actually the video was one of the quickest and simplest ones I’ve ever been involved with. The producer, David Oleniacz, set one camera on auto zoom, which created the camera periscope effect. It was a very relaxed and fun experience.
IS: Who did you listen to as a kid? How did these artists influence you as an artist?
JV: Music is in my genes, it's in my blood... professional musicians date back to the early 1900s on my Mother's side of the family, so music has surrounded me from the day I was conceived. It's what comes naturally, it's what lifts me up and heals my heart, and it's what helps me to help others in many ways as well.
I listened to a lot of Motown as a kid. The music has such an incredible groove! I was always blown away by the lyrics, especially Temptation songs like “My Girl,” “Ball of Confusion,” and “I Wish It Would Rain.” As an artist, I like to make music with a groove that makes people move, and sing lyrics that move people to feel or think deeply sometimes, and other times, embrace a more light-hearted perspective. Because of the impact music had on me, I realize how much of an impact I can have on people who listen to me sing. I don't take that job lightly.
Besides my family and Motown, my biggest early influence, who still is today, is Harry Chapin. In June of 1981 I was a very young project manager for Westinghouse ASD (systems office furniture division) out of Grand Rapids, MI. At the time I spent a great deal of time working in NYC, flying in and out of the city quite regularly. On one of those flights I sat next to one of my true musical and humanitarian heroes, Harry Chapin (younger folks can look him up on WikipediA). Actually it wasn't until halfway into the flight that I even realized who I was sitting next to. After nearly 45 minutes of very nice conversation I said to him, "Has anyone ever told you that you look just like Harry Chapin"? His reply was classic Harry, he said, "Yes,I get that all of the time, because that's my name." Yikes, I was stunned and taken back a bit. Besides his great music and huge hit, (Cats In The Cradle) I knew him best because of his many performances (in the 1970's) on the annual KDKA Bill Burns Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh fundraising telethons. Which explains why the only thing he really wanted to talk about was his obligation as a successful musician to give back to others, especially when it came to ending world hunger. We were only about 25 minutes from landing when the plane hit some horrible turbulence, needless to say I was white as a ghost. Harry however was not bothered one bit, as a matter of fact he put his hand on my knee and calmly reminded me that "We are much safer up here than we are down there." Almost one month later on July 16, 1981 Harry Chapin was killed in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway. He may be gone but his legacy of giving to others less fortunate, will live on for many generations to come. What an honor it is to have my friends and great musicians join me in performing my favorite Harry Chapin song, Taxi. The video we made at Steamworks Creative can be found on my YouTube Channel, John Vento Music.
IS: What is one song that your fans would be surprised to know that you secretly like?
JV: “Calendar Girl” by Neil Sedaka
IS: Let's talk about your most recent album release, "Love, Lust & Other Wreckage." Tell us about the overall concept of the record?
JV: “Love, Lust & Other Wreckage” is a raw and dynamic depiction of the story of my struggles in my love life and how it has ben affected by my love for the stage. I spent many hours sharing my story with my long time songwriter friend Bert Lauble. I decided it was time to share an autobiographical rendition of my life. I was so successful in making my story interesting that playwright Amy Hartman wrote a script for a stage play under the same title. “Love, Lust & Other Wreckage” will be performed on September 13th & 14th at The Oaks Theater in Oakmont, PA. It’s a collaborative multi-genre effort written by playwright Amy Hartman and directed by Robin Walsh, featuring music from my CD, that “tells the story of one man’s struggle to trace back the fracture his life has become. He bounces inside the crooked journey of heartbreak, his own cruelty and lust for his insatiable compulsion to create music. After losing all, he must climb out from beneath the wreckage he created. This struggle leads him into a dark world of chaos, love and discovery. But only for the high price of forgiveness. And it’s mostly all true!”
IS: What is your favorite show that you've ever performed at?
JV: The greatest concert I've ever performed was opening for Three Dog Night at the Three Rivers Regatta.
IS: What can fans expect from John Vento in 2020?
JV: A 2nd “Love, Lust & Other Wreckage” Stage Play... I produced a multi-media stage play written by renowned playwright Amy Hartman, inspired by the songs of my LLOW CD. When we ran the production in September 2019, I learned a LOT about theater production. The actors were really great and so was everyone involved. I learned that I need to be more personally involved next time around. We're making some changes in the script, adding more music from the album, and we'll have musicians in the pit for some live music as well. In 2020, we'll do a 2nd run of the LLOW Stage Play at the Oaks Theater. After that, Broadway, here we come!!!
IS: Thanks for taking the time, John. Any parting words for your fans and our readers?
JV: I mentioned Steamworks Creative when I talked about where we recorded the video for Harry Chapin's “Taxi”. Well I'd like to talk about my favorite music “listening room” in the Pittsburgh region, which I founded and manage with a fantastic team. Too often, talented musicians and singers perform in loud bars or restaurants where they are simply “background noise”. Also, many music venues don’t have enough seating to accommodate their guests (or worse yet there are no seats at all), the food & booze is way too expensive, parking is terrible (if you can even find a spot), and the shows start and end too late. With all of this in mind, Steamworks Creative was launched as a collaborative venture between a group of performers and dedicated live music lovers.
Steamworks Creative is an intimate space (max seating 50) tailored to solo, duo, and small band performances, a true “listening room”. Additionally we encourage and welcome young people and even those on the autism spectrum to perform and participate to the best of their ability.
Steamworks is a BYOB venue (except when noted for all ages events), and folks can also bring in food. It’s quite common to see our guests with fine wine and cheese trays or their favorite craft beer! We also sell coffee, soft drinks, and snacks, and parking is free. We typically charge a cover at the door though many events including open stages are voluntary donation only. Advanced online ticketing is used for some shows.
This venue is dedicated to the performer and as a result is designed to be free of distractions and unwanted noises. I mentioned that we encourage those on the autism spectrum to perform and participate to the best of their ability. Well we host an autism friendly open stage at Steamworks on Sundays which is sponsored by “Band Together Pittsburgh.”
The founders of Band Together Pittsburgh, Ron Esser and I, have decades of experience in the music scene and in the non profit youth development world. Ronny “Moondog” Esser, proprietor of Moondog's, a well known music venue that's been successful for many decades, has a son that's on the spectrum, and my nephew and god child are on the spectrum as well. That knowledge coupled with a science based approach provides us with a solid foundation to provide programming.
A message to my fans, friends and family... Thank you for believing in me and for supporting all I do. It takes a big team to accomplish big things. Thanks for being a part of my team!