Van Life: Anthony D’Amato

© Meredith Truax

New Jersey’s Anthony D’Amato is no stranger to the road, his insatiable desire to take his music all around the world inevitable means mile after mile on the byways and highways. Travelling alone brings its own problems, yet inevitably leaves him a lot of time to both reflect on life, take pictures and, of course, listen to some of his favourite tunes.  In the UK for a number of shows alongside Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross and The Felice Brothers’ Ian Felice promoting his current album ‘Cold Snap,’ Americana-UK catches up with the old (young!) road dog to make sure all is fine and dandy. 

So how’s it going out there, Anthony?
Today marks nearly a month into this marathon two-month European tour, but rather than burning out, I feel like I’m just hitting my stride. The first few weeks were on the continent; a mix of my own solo shows and dates supporting Otis Gibbs and Andrew Combs in Scandinavia. Now that I’m here in the UK, I’m supporting Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross and having an absolute blast every night. Ricky’s fans are true music lovers, attentive and generous and it’s a gift to be able to make music in some of these beautiful, historic theatres we’re visiting. That said, two months on the road by yourself is not without its challenges.

I’ve already driven more than 3,000 solo miles, and switching to the left side without a co-pilot has been stressful, to say the least. Someone told me to listen to British things on the radio while I drive so that I’m constantly reminded to stay on the left, so I found a BBC segment on the history of fancy gardens, but I think that was too British and I ended up on the sidewalk.

My secret to keeping my sanity throughout all of this time on the road is photography. I think I’d lose my mind if every day was simply car-to-venue-to-hotel-to-car on an infinite loop, so I try to research the cool, the scenic, the historic, and the just plain weird wherever I’m going. I bring my camera and a small folding tripod with me, and I aim to capture something unique every day. It often means extra driving and less sleep, but that’s worth it to me for the memories. I’ve fed moose in Sweden, stood beside Europe’s oldest oak, come within inches  of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings, stepped inside a Nazi gas chamber, strolled amongst the villas of Lake Como, pondered the meaning of Stonehenge, and slept in the former home of original Beatles bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, and more, and that’s all just on this trip alone. Besides, if you’re driving 3,000 miles in a month, what’s another couple hundred give or take? I collect and share the photos and stories in my Tour Diary, which is another way of feeling connected to home while I’m gone for so long.

I’m getting in the van and I’m making my way to the glovebox. Tell me, what am I going to find?

This a New York City-produced radio show, and I think it’s the most riveting storytelling around. I’m a fan of anything that challenges you to rethink commonly held beliefs (or at the very least question why they’re commonly held), and this show does that consistently.

Matt Mays – ‘Drive On’
Matt Mays is a Canadian artist who writes the kind of classic, anthemic rock songs that would make any songwriter jealous.  This track is from his killer new album  ‘Once Upon A Hell Of  A Time’ and it keeps going through those endless hours on the road.

Typhoon – ‘Rorschach’
This single from the soon-to-be-released Typhoon album ‘Offerings’ is so deeply lodged in my brain I’m concerned about what essential life functions it knocked loose to get in there. Kyle Morton is a brilliant songwriter, and this track makes amazing use of the epic size of Typhoon (I think there’s like 11 people in the band).

Ricky Ross – ‘Pale Rider’
I heard Ricky play this song at our first show together and instantly fell in love. I listen to it on our days off just so I can get my fix. Can’t beat a good tune about death.

Jason Isbell – ‘If We Were Vampires’
You miss the special people at home and start to get real sentimental when you’re away for so long. Sometimes you distract yourself, and sometimes you embrace it. This song embraces it exquisitely.

Julien Baker – ‘Appointments’
The reigning queen of sad songs right now. This song was made for driving through the pitch-black night in the rain while you come down after a gig.

Bruce Springsteen – ‘American Skin (41 Shots)’ from Live In New York City
Live albums can be great for long drives because there’s an arc and a story being told and you have the time to relive it all. But for a REALLY LONG DRIVE, only the guy who puts on four-hour concerts will do. I could have picked any song from this album, but I chose this because I’ve been looking at America from the outside in for these past few weeks and thinking a lot about what it means to be an American and whose voices and stories count. This is a really powerful meditation on that.

Josh Ritter – ‘Thunderbolt’s Goodnight’
This is one of my favourite songs from Josh Ritter’s great new album, ‘Gathering.’ It’s the kind of peaceful, mellow listen that settles in just right in the late afternoon sunset.

Valerie June – ‘With You’
I’ve been lucky enough to tour with Valerie June a couple times, and she’s as inspiring a human being as she is an artist. She pushes herself into a whole lot of new territory on her new album, ‘The Order Of Time’ but this one reminds me of Nico and I think it’s just the most beautiful, romantic thing she’s ever written. It’s another one of those songs you put on when you’re okay, leaning into feeling lonely out here.

Timmy The Teeth – ‘Jewelry Box’
I met Timmy back in January when I was touring in Sweden, and I’ve  absolutely fallen in love with his songs. They were a reminder that music is supposed to be fun. FUN. Fun to play, fun to write, fun to listen to. That’s an easy thing to lose sight of, and I’m grateful for songs like this that give me a good reminder.

You can view D’Amato’s tour diary HERE

Currently in the UK on tour with Ricky Ross and Ian Felice. All dates are listed on 

Cold Snap is out now on New West Records

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