Phil DaRosa BTD Artist Interview
Written by Matt Zin on October 2, 2020
Hey there Phil, I am looking forward to talking to you during this BTD Interview! Let me intro you to our listeners so they know who you are before we begin. I am talking with Phil daRosa (aka PhillyD). He is a singer, songwriter who is from Massachusetts and lives on Martha’s Vineyard island. He has many other talents up his sleeve that we will touch on in a little bit, so stay tuned.
So what’s it like living on Martha’s Vineyard island? Vino all around, right? LOL. So you have been writing for over 20 years, wow. You must have lots to share. What do you mostly write about? World issues? Love songs? Something else?
– MV is great… Though confined at times and a bit hectic during others (August is nutso here), there are a lot of things here to be grateful for; the amazing nature, the numerous and incredibly talented artists (musical and visual), the tight knit community. I grew up here so it’s been home to me for a long time.
– I guess I HAVE been writing that long… haha. Time does move along quickly. I suppose I write a little bit about everything – but it does seem that most of my writing does gravitate towards love, politics and life experiences. When inspiration hits, I try and let it lead the way a bit if I can… Sometimes I write about nothing at all and try and string some words together that sound good. Usually that takes shape and falls back into something rational or logical… sometimes not. 🙂
If you were to describe your music to a person who has never heard your music, what would you tell them in seven words or less?
– I suppose: groove-oriented, guitar driven, lyrical solo artist.. something like that.
I see you have quite a bit of music already released. One of them which is a Coldplay cover, “Trouble In Town.” Great cover. Why did you choose to cover that song?
– My Father, Dennis Philip daRosa, recently passed away, and he and I went to a Coldplay concert a few years back at Gillette Stadium. We had an amazing night, and ever since have both enjoyed listening to their stuff together. When their last record came out I bought my father the vinyl and we listened to it quite a bit. His favorite song on the record was ‘Trouble In Town’, so I decided to cover it at some of my live shows when he first got sick last Winter. I knew he’d love to hear the version recorded so I went ahead and laid it down for him.
Let’s talk about some of your own master pieces. How about the song “Won’t Be the Same.” Can you tell us what won’t be the same?
– This tune is basically about losing people you love, and how so many folks have lost (and are losing) loved ones for needless reasons, whether that be needless wars, gun violence, or from something like the coronavirus, even when our own government could have thwarted so much of the death and avoided so much of the illness that’s spread from it. It’s also about how things just won’t be the same after losing someone you love. They say time heals all wounds, but that actually isn’t the case from my point of view. Maybe the wound scabs over a bit, and if you’re lucky, forms a scar that’s healed enough to push you through, but I find that the pain from losing people we love is something that never quite heals… it always stings, and will probably sting for the long haul. I guess this tune is a tribute to all who’ve lost someone, and maybe it can act as a moment in time where you can remember that we are not alone in that universal truth, that we all lose someone, sometime.
How about January Grey… what is that song about?
– January Grey is sort of a testament to my partner, Ann. It’s saying that throughout the dark times, I will be there to show her that there’s a better, brighter time around the corner, and to encourage her to ‘get up/stand up’ and walk with me to that brightness. I also know a number of people with pretty bad anxiety, and figured this tune can also be a message to them that there are brighter days ahead when they’re feeling the pressure of that anxiety kick in. And to look to people they love to help them through.
Can you tell us about “Faraday”?
– Faraday started as an experiment with my friend Ryan Casey… He had the idea of taking my voice and basically creating a rhythm section with samples of it (that’s what you hear during the intro, which continues for basically the rest of the song). From there we just started recording some vocal takes, mostly just mumbles, with the melody you hear now being the end result of those trials. Words started coming long after we had the verse and chorus melodies, which sort of ended up being politically driven. With all the shit going on in the world, the chorus is a question to the listener of whether or not they believe that life is actually better than what we see on the news. The basic statement being that ‘we will all be ok’… Sort of an optimistic sentiment during what is now a completely crazy time in history, but I figure why not try and stay positive, right? Michael Faraday was a scientist who came up with the ‘Lines of Force’ theory as well… if you have time, look him up and dig into that a little. VERY cool stuff.
I understand you are a multi-instrumentalist? Does that mean you play several instruments at once? Lol Just kidding. When did you pick up your first instrument? When was your second instrument? What were they and is there more that you play?
– Funny you say that… I actually do use a loop station often when I play solo, and layer percussion, guitar, bass and vocals… so I sorta DO play em all at once. 😋
I first picked up the trumpet in 3rd or 4th grade. I didn’t pick up my 2nd, guitar, until I was 16, when I showed interest in it and my folks were nice enough to get me one for my birthday that year. They’d endure a couple years of pretty terrible sounds coming from my room before I was good enough to play in front of anyone. Now, I play piano a bit as well and also had a go at saxophone in college, which I don’t really pick up anymore. From my guitar playing I picked up bass and was in a band called Dukes County Love Affair (dclamusic.com) for a number of years when we toured the country and went all around the northeast many times over. It’s mostly just guitar and bass these days and electronic production in the studio.
I would like to talk about your “Away” album. How long did that take you to create? What’s your favorite song off the album and why?
– That was my 2nd studio release. I think it took me a couple months, and I ended up with a pretty small collection of tunes, of which I think ‘Beneath Your Feet’ was my favorite. That tune is one of the only songs where I actually reference where I’m from (“I come from the west side of an island in the east”). I like the groove on that one and the chorus’s melody and it has evolved a lot over the years with various backing bands of mine… I’ve actually considered re-recording it with a full band so maybe that’s a good winter project.
So you are a producer and studio engineer. Do you find wearing many hats slows you down in your production? How long have you been doing the both of these?
– I’ve recorded all of my own solo releases, and I do sometimes wish that I had another engineer in the room so I could focus only on the music, but it’s also liberating being able to have ideas for what you want things to sound like, and then have the ability to actually make those ideas a reality. I’ve been lucky to have engineered a lot of other great bands and artists as well, which only helps my own music, seeing their workflow, hearing songwriting ideas and producing/co-producing records which only enhances my own approach and skills. I’ve been lucky that way, no doubt.
How are you dealing with the music scene during these COVID-19 times? Are you writing about it? Has it slowed you down? Do you produce more music now?
– I actually have a new tune called “Say I”, that’s all about these weird times with COVID… Not quite done but working on it and hope to release it this fall or winter. The first few months of COVID I actually released 3 of my new songs in the span of one month, basically start to finish, including the cover of ‘Trouble In Town’. So yeh, at first I was recording a ton and writing. The summer got busy though with another business I own here on MV called Dukes County Audio Visual (dukescountyav.com), and with the death of my father, I’ve been taking a little break from creating but will no doubt get back on the horse real soon. He was my biggest fan and I know he’d want me to keep writing and recording.
I see you have shared the stage with several well know names like; Carly Simon and Ben Taylor. Who was your most favorite to share the stage with? Can you tell us about some of your experiences on and off stage. Like memorable moments.
– haha… Well, I can say that any time I’m onstage with Ben or Carly, it’s always a really fun time. They’re both amazing, witty, friendly and fun. I also had a gig in LA with a friend a couple years ago where Susanna Hoff joined us to sing a couple tunes. She’s one of the sweetest humans I’ve ever met, and such a pretty voice. But I’d say maybe the most memorable moment was when I was playing guitar in an old 70’s funk cover band at an annual party here on MV, and Bill Murray joined us to sing a few tunes… He was gettin down pretty hard on stage during a little jam in one tune and was waving his arms all around like a madman. By accident, he smacked me in the head, almost knocking me over! He was horrified that he’d hurt me but I was totally fine. We had a pretty good laugh about it though… and I certainly won’t ever forget it.
Do you feel social media has helped or hurt your music? What kind of pointers would you give to someone just starting out in the music biz?
– I think it’s helping all artists gain exposure like no other time in history. It’s the modern day radio, but you don’t need to actually go to a radio station to get heard. If you know what you’re doing in terms of marketing, you can really make waves without major label help. There is a common thread though I think, between the old industry and the new, which is that if you really want this to be ‘your thing’ and make a decent living at it, you need to hustle, and devote ALL your time to your music and marketing it to the right audience. I sort of burnt out on that model years ago, and now have a couple businesses while still making music, as it’s really the creation of the art that I love the most. Yet being broke isn’t too fun, I learned… LOL. I think that maybe too much emphasis is placed on achieving fame and recognition these days. The whole point of art is to create it and love the process.
Can you tell us about “Faraday,” which is Track #5 on the Boston Rock and Roll Anthology Chapter #21?
Faraday started as an experiment with my friend Ryan Casey… He had the idea of taking my voice and basically creating a rhythm section with samples of it (that’s what you hear during the intro, which continues for basically the rest of the song). From there we just started recording some vocal takes, mostly just mumbles, with the melody you hear now being the end result of those trials. Words started coming long after we had the verse and chorus melodies, which sort of ended up being politically driven. With all the shit going on in the world, the chorus is a question to the listener of whether or not they believe that life is actually better than what we see on the news. The basic statement being that ‘we will all be ok’… Sort of an optimistic sentiment during what is now a completely crazy time in history, but I figure why not try and stay positive, right? Michael Faraday was a scientist who came up with the ‘Lines of Force’ theory as well… if you have time, look him up and dig into that a little. VERY cool stuff.
The new anthology is now out! 21 tracks on CD with booklet. Boston Rock and Roll Anthology Chapter #21 Listen https://tinyurl.com/Anthchapter21
First video – As It Is – Karmacar
Please consider reviewing 20 page booklet on our website as well http://joeviglione.com/?p=1796. Boston Rock and Roll History in the Making. Hear the Anthology Chapter #21 on mixcloud: https://tinyurl.com/Anthchapter21
This will be our THIRTIETH COMPILATION of local music with many more to come. The CD includes a booklet, the story of the anthology series and information on each track with the music in the back of the booklet. Produced and directed by Joe Viglione, Co-sequencing and assembling: Kenny Selcer. Mastered by Rob Fraboni.
First Video from Anthology Chapter #21 “As it Is” Karmacar Directed and Produced by Jaylie Jo Wayling, granddaughter of Jo Jo Laine and Denny Laine As It Is https://youtu.be/v60ddB_saIM
Well PhillyD, it has been a pleasure learning about all your talents and your music. Did I leave anything out that you would still like to talk about? Do you have any shout-outs, projects, etc?
– I think that pretty much covers it!
Where can our listeners buy your music?
Keep us updated on your music adventures!
Thanks again! It was a pleasure!
T Dawn and the BTD Radio team!