Dirty Dozen: Dusty Wright

“Cinematic Americana” was how someone once described Dusty Wright’s music. For a guy that loves to write, and not just music, it aptly described his vignettes of love, loss, and the mysteries of life. Darkness abounds, wonderful darkness.

Can you tell us about yourself? Where you’re from and what you’ve been up to over the past few years?

I’ve been a music junkie since my earliest memories of seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I’ve been so passionate about music that it nearly consumed me.

I left the comforts of an Italian-American family business in building and property management in Akron, Ohio, forgoing law school, to try to find my way in the entertainment biz in NYC. The City was exploding in the ’80s; the music/art/theater scene was off the charts. It really wasn’t until the end of that decade that I started my first “official” music project, The Trolls. It was a folk-rock duo that wrote and performed children’s songs for adults. Really quite cool and quirky. I then started a pre-grunge/noise band the Bastards of Execution (BöE, pronounced “boo”) with a sick-o guitarists from the Lower East Side and that was really exciting and set me on my path. We played CBGB’s, Downtown Beirut, Limelight, all the of the coolest venues. But after a few years, I started down the path of folk-rock and Americana. I found it to be more challenging musically, and offered me a much longer creative outlet that I could carry forward into the future.

I’ve been working on a new record that deals with the loss of my father Joseph in 2015 and then my younger brother David in 2016. And I ry to play out live with my quintet — 2 guitars, cello, bass and drums — at least twice a month in and around New York City and on the road when the right opportunity presents itself.

How would you describe your music?

I think it’s Americana-ish with a healthy dose of folk-rock and probably a lot of ’60s radio influence. Certainly the country music of Kris Kristoferson, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson, too.

Can you tell us a little bit about your influences?

My music has always been informed by the simplicity of a great radio song’s structure but hopefully with the poetic depth of great lyrics and hooks. Like many artists, I’ve drawn influence from the masters, like Dylan, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Nick Cave, Warren Zevon, Townes Van Zandt. And I’m big on tone and textures for production and guitar sounds and have found inspiration from Pink Floyd, early Roxy Music, Eno, XTC, Elbow, Radiohead, PJ Harvey….

What are you currently promoting?

My new album Caterwauling Towards the Light is my fifth solo album; released the first week of January. The album reflects my emotional journey over the past two years of my life. Side one is dedicated to the life and memory of my brother and side two to my father. But I believe all of the songs function and live in their own little world and that the listener can enter that world and take in the view or perhaps draw from the same energy that I used to create these micro-stories.

Have you got a particular song you’ve done that you’re particularly proud of, one that might define you?

I’ve got several. Some of my earlier songs like “Ghosts,” “Watching Angles Cry,” “Secret Window,” all define me in some way or another and all are concert staples. And I still enjoy playing them and still find something new to convey when I play them. From my new album I’m very proud of “Life Is Hard” about my younger brother David’s life. He was involved in a horrific motorcycle crash this past summer. He remained in a coma for 7 weeks until he mercifully passed away in July. He battled many demons in his life. His death made me examine the history of depression in our family and how I’d become depressed about his passing, as well. I think the title sums it up quite well. Life is very hard on so many levels and yet we try to sell just the opposite in our behaviors and attitudes. Life is an insane roller coaster ride for all of us; up and down, sideways and scary, exhilarating and fun, and every shade in-between.

What are you currently listening to?

I’m currently getting back into vinyl. Loving plenty of vintage albums by Warren Zevon, Emmylou Harris, Crowded House, The Byrds, and new music from Nick Cave, MIchael Kiwanuka, Syd Arthur, Ryan Adams, and plenty more.

And your favourite album of all time, the one you couldn’t do without?

Extremely hard for me to pick just one… After The Goldrush by Neil Young and Horses by Patti Smith. I think those two albums probably informed my musical psyche more than I would ever thought possible, even if stylistically I may not emulate them all that much. But both are perfect listens on vinyl. Their ethos and pathos are extraordinary. And Patti Smith’s record completely blew my mind when I first heard it. How empowering it was–her poetry and energy and her band’s musical chops were remarkable. Seeing her live in Cleveland in the late ’70s was incredible. Really cemented her legacy for me.

What are your hopes for your future career?

To make music until my time has come to leave this mortal coil.

If money were no object what would be your dream project?

To record an album with David Gilmour or Nick Cave, maybe even together. And the whole project would be filmed in VR (virtual reality) so the listener/user could experience what I experienced in the studio while recording new music with these legendary musicians.

What’s the best thing about being a musician?

The freedom to express myself in public and yet still hide behind the characters or voices that I create within a song’s narrative. For me, it’s like hiding in plain sight. You create narratives that afford you any vantage and you don’t have to worry if people believe your narrative is about you or not. Of course, you hope they do.

And the worst?

The worst thing is not being paid for your work. With music being so readily available at no cost or micro-cents on the dollar, it’s extremely difficult to make a fair wage. Unless you tour and sell tonnes of swag, it’s become nearly impossible to be a full-time musician. Of course, if you play on Broadway or in a professional orchestra, it’s a much different story. But for singer-songwriters, jazz, rock musicians, it’s an enormous challenge to support oneself just doing music. Sure it’s easier to record music and share music, but at what cost? When was it ever cool to steal any kind of art, music or otherwise.

Finally, have you anything you’d like to say to the readers of Americana UK?

I would encourage readers to dig a little deeper with new artists or unknown artists. Listen to their music beyond just one or two tracks. Check out their catalog. Buy their CDs, vinyl, downloads, tour t-shirts and more; let them know you appreciate all the hard work that was put into releasing it. And please go see live music, too. We must support music locally on a granular level, it’s a precious commodity that we can ill afford to become extinct!

Author: Rudie Hayes

Rudie is the weekly host of the syndicated radio show – The Horseshoe Lounge Music Session – playing the best American Roots and hosting terrific live guests.

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