Gino Matteo
" Interview "

Twenty-five-year-old Gino Matteo hails from Southern California and seems to have started his young recording career off on the right foot with his debut recording, I've Been Thinkin'. If the album is any indication of what Matteo might be able to build upon for his recording future - look out!

Since winning last year's competition at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, Matteo has been touring at several of this country's festivals and performs regularly in Southern California. In fact Hubert Sumlin mentioned Matteo's name to me, as Sumlin was a judge at one of the guitar competitions where Matteo performed. Sumlin told me, "This boy can play!" Plus, check out where Matteo cites Chris Cain, Jon Cleary, New Orleans Funk, Herbie Hancock, B.B. King, Johnny Lang, Phish, Miles Davis, Dr. John, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Soulive, Jimmy Witherspoon, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Tom Waits, Parliament Funkadelic, and Bill Withers, as some of his influences, which is a very impressive list considering Matteo's young age. Recently I caught up with Matteo, not long after his debut recording was hitting the charts. So let's see what this youngster has to say...

Bob Putignano for BluesWax: Good morning, Gino, how are you?

Gino Matteo: It's morning, Bob, and I am another one of those musicians that is not a morning person at all! [Laughs]

BW: For a guy of your age who is just getting started, you've been a pretty busy guy.

GM: I have been busy. If I am not at my own gig, I am always out seeing music or sitting in with whoever is in town, in fact I'm rarely home it night and it's all related to music.

BW: I've really enjoyed your I've Been Thinking', which sounds great and I know you put a lot of energy into it. The production and arrangements are very top shelf; as for my ears this is an above-par recording that really stands out. Plus, taking into account the fact this is your first effort makes it even more impressive. In fact, the first time I heard you was via your "Bone In the Soup" submission to my account. That guitar solo you laid down was one of the most heartfelt and emotional displays I have heard in a very long time, so immediately your music and performance had me captivated. You've also wrote a vast majority of the tunes on this recording.

GM: Thank you. And you know a lot people out here on the West Coast expected us to put out a straight Blues record, which wasn't what I had in mind. And I have to say that I am really happy with the way this record came out.

"...if you could wrap up Tom Waits, Chris Cain, and Stevie Wonder into a ball that would be where I live musically."

BW: You've been getting some complimentary reviews, too.

GM: It has. Actually I am shocked about the reviews as I was expecting to get crucified by the Blues mob, even though that is where my roots are. As you know, we hit at a lot of different genres, plus when I write a tune it comes out drastically different from the way I conceived it.

BW: Even a song like "Bone In The Soup"?

GM: That song became completely different once we got into the studio. But I have to say that I like the changes and in the end that song sounded a lot better than what was in my head prior.

BW: You used a pretty heavy producer, too.

GM: Yeah, Chris Desmond is awesome! Chris told me that I sound better after something like sixteen hours in the studio.

BW: I am sure the studio liked you logging in sixteen hours of time.

GM: Ha, yeah. In fact, the title track was something like the nineteenth take. Chris' feeling was that the more takes on a song just worked better for what I do. It was dizzying though.

BW: Do you go back and listen to the earlier versions to see how the songs develop?

GM: I did go back for a while, but I am way too self-conscious, as I was giving myself headaches taking the songs apart, so I stopped.

BW: It's obvious that you have a very wide palette of musical influences. I was looking at your website where you list your favorite musicians and man you are all over the place! But I dig that about musicians who take various components from all facets of music and then incorporate what they have sponged-up to create their own signature sounds.

GM: I like anybody who means what they say, which is what it all boils down to for me.

BW: You also have that New Orleans thing going on, too.

GM: Yeah, that's my favorite kind of music with that backbeat groove that I can listen to all night long and hear all of these sounds just bouncing around all over the place. What's interesting is that the groove always stays there, but never quite hits it square-on, do you know what I mean?

BW: I know exactly what you are talking about and that's what I love about New Orleans music, as it is rarely boring. In fact, that's why I need at least one trip annually to the Big Easy, which is where I will be in April this year for JazzFest.

GM: Oh, man, I just got to get there! Tell Jon Cleary I said, "Hello!"

BW: Do you want me to ask him if he needs a new guitarist?

GM: No way! As much as I love Cleary, playing in his band wouldn't be me at all.

BW: Tell me more about your musical influences and what is turning you on currently?

GM: I like this band called the Big Pill, who isn't together anymore, but they were a nine-piece horn, Rock, Jazz, Funk band who were incredible, they were from Pasadena. I also like Soulive a lot; Jon Cleary, of course; Little Walter, too. And just about anything that comes out of New Orleans I am probably going to listen to quite a bit, like Dumpstaphunk, and the New Orleans Social Club, or anything that has a Neville in the band.

BW: You've got this Tom Waits thing going on, too.

GM: Oh yeah, Tom is one of my all-time heroes; if you could wrap up Tom Waits, Chris Cain, and Stevie Wonder into a ball that would be where I live musically. I could never sing like those guys, but they all influence a lot of my writing.

BW: And you also covered Levon Helm. BW: That's pretty neat about "Ophelia." And overall I have to say you've accomplished making the entire recording of I've Been Thinkin' a successful story.

GM: God bless you, Bob.

BW: Any last thoughts that you would like to add?

GM: Sure, tell everyone who has heard me, thanks for listening! I will keep writing and hope the people will dig where I am coming from. Also I am proud to say that "Only 24" has been nominated for a Peoples Voice Award from the International Songwriting Competition and needless to say I'm very thrilled about this. And, believe it or not, I'd much rather get an award for songwriting than guitar playing.

BW: Good luck with the competition, thank you for your time, Gino, and best wishes with all.

Bob Putignano: