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Pushin’ & Pullin' With Frank Viele: Keep Your Name in the Hat

While it seems like I start every one of my blog posts with an apology for not posting sooner, I assure you my delay in posting is due solely to the lack of hours in the day associated with the unbelievable musical journey I’ve been on the last half of the year.

After performing at the New England Music awards in March, opening for Adam Ezra at The Stone Church in April, bringing the full band out for a performance at The Cambridge Mayfair Festival in May and the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Steel Stacks in June and opening for Foreigner in July, the truth is I’m not really sure which crazy story to share with you today.

However, as I sit in a Starbucks in Baltimore, killing time before load-in on the last leg of my November acoustic run, the story that comes to mind is the story of my acoustic performance at Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on June 28 with Nemes and Ashley Jordan. While the show was five months ago, the story of that evening began in 2004.

As a freshman in college, unsure as to where my life was heading but having a strong love for music, I walked onto campus a few towns outside of Boston with a killer record collection and listening to a lot of music my dorm mates had never really heard of before. One of my favorite artists at the time (still is) was a singer/songwriter named Ari Hest. A girl I was dating the summer before college had gotten me into him, and the CD she burned for me before leaving of her favorite Ari tracks was never far from my car stereo.

About three months into college, a sophomore who lived across the hall from me knocked on my door and said, “Hey, this singer/songwriter I like is playing with that singer/songwriter you like at this little club in Cambridge called Club Passim. You have a car, right?” The answer was yes, and we opted to head out an hour later toward Cambridge.

Performing at Club Passim that night in a “singer/songwriter in the round” scenario sat the three songwriters who would own my iPod for years to come. On stage left was Ari Hest. Dead center sat female singer/songwriter Mieka Pauley. On stage right was Stephen Kellogg.

While I went there to see Ari, I quickly became enthralled with Mieka’s version of Sting’s “Fields of Gold” followed by always the entertaining Stephen Kellogg’s version of Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thrown." Their own songs got me hooked, and tracks like Mieka’s “Run” and Stephen’s “Anthem of Our Discovery” would join the ranks of Ari Hest’s “Holding On” at the top of my college playlist. I left their performance that night saying to myself that someday I’ll play Club Passim.

Fast forward a little less than a year later. I had transferred colleges to a school in Poughkeepsie, New York, and knew very few people on campus upon my arrival except for a few musical buddies from high school. Within three weeks of the first semester, I was delighted to find that Stephen Kellogg was performing at the campus auditorium of my new college, and the school was looking for an opener. Less than a year after seeing him play live at Club Passim, I had the opportunity to perform in front of him and his band, Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers, playing lead guitar for an old high school friend and band mate.

Stephen and the band treated us like family the entire time, letting us participate in their pre-show routine, hang out back stage, and even join them on stage for their final song, which was a rendition of The Band’s “The Weight." I would stay in touch with Stephen via email after the performance for a little while, and he gave me the motivation and courage to pursue music as a singer/songwriter myself.

Years pass, bands come and go, and 2010 finds me gigging all over the Northeast with my band, Frank Viele & The Manhattan Project, supporting our first album, Neon Lights. Via Sonicbids we get a rare opportunity to play a festival in Newport, Rhode Island, and we are co-headlining the event with a band out of the Boston area, Air Traffic Controller. Due to this opportunity, I meet a big supporter of theirs and a troubadour of the Cambridge/Boston Music scene, Joe G. from WMBR Radio. Joe becomes an invaluable supporter and friend of me and my music, having me on his show on numerous occasions and helping me cement myself in the Massachusetts music scene.

Now, with a growing crowd in the Cambridge area, Joe G. helps me land my first slot at Club Passim supporting two other talented Massachusetts acts that had also graced the stage on his radio show.

The performance had a magical feeling, as it truly was one of the rare moments in life when things seem to run full circle and decisions I had made in the past that maybe didn’t make sense at the time finally seemed justified.

So why am I thinking about it now, six months after the gig?

Well, that random performance with three amazing singer/songwriters that I experienced as a teenager in Cambridge came to the forefront of my thoughts on Wednesday when I performed at my first singer/songwriter in the round scenario in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. En route to gigs in DC and Maryland, I stopped at Milkboy in Ardmore and was asked to perform as part of The 9 Singer/Songwriter Series. This is a phenomenal collection of musicians led by a DC-based singer/songwriter Justin Trawick, where nine different songwriters perform two sets, totaling three songs each, get to tell stories about their tunes and truly offer crowds in markets across the East Coast the unique opportunity to see nine great performers for the price of one.

Aside from what the opportunity offers crowds, it gives musicians like me the rare opportunity to see and meet other performers in different markets who are walking the same streets, playing the same venues and pursuing the same goals. In the world of Facebook, it’s amazing to see the amount of “mutual friends” that exist among us all that night performing with “The 9." It is a true testament to how small this industry actually is and to what a good friend of mine always told me about the music industry, "KEEP YOUR NAME IN THE HAT," because you never know what opportunities lie in front of you, who is going to find an attraction to the music you create and how one opportunity will lead into the other.

In closing, check out the videos below of some of my favorite Ari Hest, Mieka Pauley and Stephen Kellogg tunes, and check out Justin Trawick and The 9 Singer Songwriter Series when they roll through your area.

And as I’m supposed to give advice for other artists out there, my message of the day is simply, KEEP YOUR NAME IN THE HAT! And be thankful for the wonderful experiences and people you get to meet along the way!

I’ll be posting again real soon!

Frank Viele started playing at the age of 3. His infectious style of guitar-playing and soulful rock voice are key elements to the success of his band Frank Viele & The Manhattan Project. But his solo shows bring the same raw energy and crowd-stirring excitement to audiences across the country. His sound has been compared to John Fogerty, Otis Redding, and even Dave Matthews but it’s the authenticity people hear most. A soulful stew of rock, pop, blues, and jazz are ever present. Being so well versed in so many styles means that Viele can deliver an incredible performance to any audience. “I started out doing the acoustic singer-songwriter thing, so this is really my first love. Having such great bandmates, I’m lucky to bring a few along sometimes to add another level of energy and funk to the shows,” Viele explains. Performing solo allows him to give his songs a different spin. “When you’re in a band, your songs take on a different life sometimes. It’s great to be able to revisit them. It allows the tunes to really stand and speak on their own,” he elaborates.