Opening New Doors:
Marco Benevento Sings His Heart Out

Words by Audra Tracy

If you want to be reminded of just how unproductive you’ve been this year, then talk to Marco Benevento. Breaking new ground in 2014, he released Swift, an album that features the piano rocker on lead vocals for the first time in his career. He’s toured extensively throughout the U.S., playing club gigs on both coasts as well as festivals like Catskill Chill and Pickathon. And on Thanksgiving Eve, he performed alongside an all-star line-up, recreating The Band’s legendary farewell concert, The Last Waltz.

The year isn’t over yet, and Benevento plans to close out December with two more New York shows, including one at Brooklyn Bowl this Friday. Gearing up for the gig, Marco called us from his home in Woodstock to tell us about his studio, his latest circuit-bent toys, and why he’ll never sing like Robert Plant.

“I have the day off,” he shares, “I’m working on a new video for my song “If I Get To See You At All,” the second song off the new record, and I’m working on a lot of new music. My favorite thing is playing live of course, but right next to it is being in the studio recording and capturing different sounds. It’s head to head with performing, it’s really one of my most favorite things to do.”

When Benevento moved from Brooklyn to upstate New York three years ago, he turned the ‘little side house’ on his lot into a recording space — a place where he could invoke all the wild spirits of Woodstock with his musical mad science. Over the phone, he paints us a picture of the scene inside Fred Short Studio.

“It’s wall to wall keyboards, very rare keyboards, and there’s a beautiful 1970 Steinway in there that sounds really nice,” he shares. “You are in the woods, surrounded by trees, and it’s really beautiful. There’s windows in the studio so you can see outside, it’s really nice. I’ve got a big marching bass drum and a lot of weird little circuit-bent toys, and an old 8 track tape machine that I really like to use. It’s a combination of a lot of gear and a lot of recording equipment.”

Benevento’s collection of weird little circuit-bent toys certainly adds some character to his lushly layered piano arrangements, and you can hear the sheer joy in his voice as he describes the tools of his trippy-ass trade.

“I just got this circuit-bent television that’s really cool looking, and when you turn it on, it has like this line that sort of makes all these waves that go with the music. It’s pretty cool. I’ve got this classic circuit-bent toy called the Atari Punk Console, my friend put it in this old radio box with a baby head on it with green blinking eyes”, he gushes.

Instrumentals have always been his specialty, but with Swift, his fifth studio album, Benevento took things a step further. Following cues from his producer Richard Swift (the record’s namesake), and vocal critiques from his old friend Aaron Freeman (aka Gene Ween) Benevento literally sang his heart out on songs like “At The Show”, “Witches of Ulster”, and “Eye to Eye”.

“I have more of a low singing range as say, Chris Robinson or Robert Plant, or people who can sing really high,” he admits. “I never really liked my low singing voice, but I just embrace it now. It is a new instrument for me, and I’m happy to be opening up that door.”

Catch Marco Benevento with Dave Dreiwitz (bass) and Andrew Borger (drums) at Brooklyn Bowl this Friday. Get yer tickets here! | Swift