Back in October, Shotgun Wedding brought their brand of urban country music through upstate when they played a pair of successful shows in Central New York. They are a band of NYC professional musicians with extremely decorated resumes, including current positions in Billy Joel’s band as well as work with names from Guns ‘n Roses all the way to Sir Paul McCartney and everything in between. Shotgun Wedding started this city country band as a side project, but it quickly side winded into a passion project for the quintet. One album later, a handful of music videos, and enough songs for a second album already, Shotgun Wedding is blazing a trail of their own! Fortunately, I had the opportunity to corner them after a performance for some conversation about where they come from and where they are going.
Interviewer: George DiFabio
Dennis DelGaudio: I’d say officially it was 2013, when Catherine came into the band.
GD: Catherine finalized the band?
Dennis: Yeah, we were doing stuff prior to that and when Catherine came in, then that was the final piece to the puzzle.
Wade Preston: She rescued the band actually.
Dennis: We had written a few songs prior to that we had done some gigs and what not, but yeah she came in and that was it. We were good to go.
Dennis: Not really. It was a piece of music I had laying around for a while and that piano figure is actually a guitar figure which is actually copying a banjo line. So that piano figure I wrote on guitar and I had a melody for the verse. That was all I had. I had a verse melody. It was the second song we wrote, Wade and I, and I sat down with him and said, “What do you think? Let’s mess around with this.” Initially I was playing the guitar figure and I said, “This is not really working right.” Wade Preston over here said, ”Let’s put it on piano.” We reworked it on piano and it was done. We started writing lyrics and it came up as, ”I wanna write an answer to “Country Boy.” Albert Lee’s “Country Boy.” I wanna write an answer to that.” And we did.
Wade: He came up with the title before anything. He said, “I wanna write a song called “City Boy.” We do a song called ”Country Boy.” Let’s do our “City Boy.”” I’ll never forget that. You were like, “We gotta write our own anthem.”
Catherine Porter: We try to write as many songs possible with “City” in the title.
GD: That was one of the earlier songs you had written, right?
Dennis: Yeah, it was the second song we’d ever written. The first song Wade and I had ever wrote, a piece of music, was “Brooklyn Rag.” The first song with lyrics was “City Boy” and he had the whole, “Good morning Lady Liberty” line.
Wade: The apartment he was living in at the time, you actually looked right out the window and there was the Statue of Liberty. Looking out my window you’re a sight to see. There was trouble with the economy. Stocks are down. Sun is up . . .
Dennis: Peaking over the rim of my coffee cup. We were bouncing off of each other and it was fun and he has the end part. The “New York brings me . . .” That was his idea, the lyrics and the melody. So he worked on the beginning of the song and the very end and then he went out to LA for like, a month or something. While he was away I said, “I’m gonna finish these lyrics.” We had started to come up with some other bits so I’m gonna finish it when he comes back we have a song. And I got the middle all figured out basically right? (asking Wade)
Wade: Let’s see, that whole Fifth Avenue thing was you.
Dennis: Yeah, after the first chorus. But the choruses are different. We had written something that was very simple, “I’m a City Boy” and that was it. Then we brought it to producer David Kahne, a well-known producer, who said he wanted to mix it and he said, “Let me change the chorus. Make something more defined. More hook-y, so that was all I had. “I’m a city boy.” He said come up with some ideas, I came up with one. This is how it’s gonna be. (Laughs)
Wade: The skyline line – the apartment that I was living in during Movin’ Out, I would go up to the roof and it was bizarre because I had the sky and I had the city skyline all around me and it was actually kind of quiet up there so it was this real beautiful thing.
Dennis: It was a lot of imagery and it was fun. That’s the whole idea behind that tune and where it birthed. It came together pretty quickly.
Wade: And it’s a real testament to collaborating because there is so much of both of us in there. Like those two verses that we talked about when I went away, that’s all him (Dennis). The other ones are also collaborative. Dennis is great also in that you can bring him an idea and he’s like, “Change one little thing . . . Ah, there you go. Now you’ve got something,” and he’s usually right. You know, one person can be in charge of all of the creative ideas and it’s limited. When you have everybody collaborating the way this band does it becomes something much better, much bigger.
GD: You’ve been doing a bunch of music videos for this album. Is that all for internet distribution? Are you putting them out to the bigger mediums, the music channels and such? What’s the intention with your videos?
Dennis: We don’t really know.
Catherine: Huffington Post launched our “City Boy” video, so that was the “exclusive.” Then, very kindly, Billy Joel put us on his Facebook page and website so that was a lovely link and a couple other people – Gavin DeGraw and Brian May linked it. I mean, sure we’d love to be on . . . Is there an MTV video thing anymore? CMT? That would be great. I think we’ve explored it. We have “Footsteps Away” coming out. We did release “Tumbleweed Tuesday” back for tumbleweed Tuesday.
Dennis: It was more of a lyric video.
Catherine: Yeah. Now we’ve got “Footsteps Away” ready to come in the next week or so and then “Hurtin’ Songs” video will be at the end of November.
Dennis: Yeah, November 30th or maybe beginning of December.
Catherine: We would love for them to be everywhere but, you know, we haven’t quite figured it out.
Dennis: We are doing it all ourselves too so we’re learning as we go. I think “City Boy” was the first one and it was, “OK we learned a few things from that” and now “Hurtin’ Songs” we’ll apply that to “Hurtin’ Songs” or even “Footsteps Away” and see how we can expand the reach.
Catherine: If you know anybody . . .
GD: I’ll tell my friends and post it everywhere.
Catherine: OK, that’s all we need. And then those friends will tell a few friends, and then those friends will tell a few friends . . .
GD: You guys have had a lot of adventure in the last year with the release of South of Somewhere. Are these new experiences opening the creative door and lending themselves to new songs?
Chuck Burgi: We have to break up before we can do a reunion.
Catherine: Yeah, we need something dramatic to happen to us so we can write about it.
Dennis: We’ve been in business mode and because no one else is doing it for us . . . you know, you hear other bands saying, “Hey listen, you’ve gotta know the business” and I’ll tell any musician you have to know the business. You can’t whine and say, “I just wanna play music.” Oh that’s great. Go do it from your bedroom. We’ve been in business mode and we have to be. We’re gearing up to book ourselves nationally and even internationally. It’s not to say we haven’t reached out to booking agencies. We have but we’ve just found that . . . do it ourselves.
Catherine: There are always ideas for songs coming up. I don’t know about you guys but I have to keep my recorder when I go out walking or whatever. Ideas will come to me in the car, so there are definitely songs waiting to be finished.
Wade: I think also, it’s a unique time – it’s an unprecedented time because the business has changed so drastically that there is no model for “This is how you make it in music.” It’s a whole brand new world.
GD: That’s some of what I was getting at with the music video question. Gone are the days where you just make a music video a give it to MTV and they play it.
Wade: And it gets played a lot and suddenly your records get sold and you get a percentage of each record and suddenly you’re able to afford a house in Bel Air. No, it doesn’t happen that way anymore.
Catherine: You do have to have confidence though. People want to see stuff on social media. They wanna know that you’re making things happen. They wanna learn about who you are, so we’re trying to be good at this new model of social media.
Wade: There’s no real right way to do it.
Dennis: But songs we have plenty. We have stuff in waiting. We really do and when the time comes for us to sit down to work on new material we’ll have stuff and we’ll have more. It will happen. We’re focused on the other aspect right now.
Dennis: To really grow our business and our brand to the point where we can support ourselves and we don’t have to do other things, wherever that takes us. We don’t have a record label helping us out at the moment. We have to be willing to dig in the dirt and get our hands dirty and I think people will come to us then.
GD: Is country music a passion of yours, or more like a bucket list item? Is Shotgun Wedding a country band, that will always be a country band, or could you find it going to other avenues? You’ve covered so many genres in your work.
Dennis: I think we probably fall under maybe the bigger category of “Americana”, than strictly “Country.” We call our music “City Country” music. I always thought of it as a catchy thing, but we probably fall under more of an Americana.
GD: I called you a gateway drug to country music and a crossover band in one of my other articles. I’m generally a jam band fan. A song like “Brooklyn Rag” could EASILY translate over to jam band land.
Catherine: That’s where the city part kind of gives you license to have elements of jazz, hip-hop, we’ve got a lot of Latin rhythms in there. Stuff like that to make it fun.
GD: Every now and then I will hear the music going off and in my head I’m really feeling like the music could jam over in this direction or that. It’s definitely outside the lines of your standard country.
Catherine: What is standard country? I don’t know what country music really is anymore. I mean, country music to me sometimes sounds like pop rock. Sometimes the stuff you hear on the radio is not what we grew up listening to.
Wade: I think it’s fair to say that we are not necessarily into modern country. What we’re kind of from is old school country, classic country, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Tanya Tucker, Waylon Jennings. You know, classic country. Kind of taking our street smart, cityish attitude, along with it and making our own thing out of it. Really coming from the past as opposed to modern country, which is this whole other sound. I don’t want to say that’s a bad thing or anything. That’s just not where we come from.
Dennis: Plus we’re not from the country. We’re not from the south. We’re not from rural areas. We’re just gonna write about what we know about. Can’t pretend. I’m not putting a cowboy hat on my head. I can’t pull off the cowboy hat thing. It’s just not me.
Catherine: Your head’s too big.
Wade: You know, some time ago country has a monopoly on storytelling and certainly city folk have a lot of stories to tell so why can’t we use this genre, this style of music, to tell our own stories about the city. But of course along with that there is going to be some of this slick musicianship that goes along with that. Like Chuck had the idea to throw a disco beat in “City Hall” during the chorus and that NEVER would have occurred to us but it’s clearly – he’s taking a style that’s not country and mixing it in with this Americana kind of thing and making it very unique.
Chuck: Next will be “AmeriMetal!”
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