Our next Spotlight Artist is singer & guitarist Jim Roberti. Although he lives in Pennsylvania (Poconos), he is well known in New York for his long-running Thursday night residency at Bull's Head Tavern on Third Ave.
How long have you been performing? How long performing in NYC?
About 30 years, since I was very young. About 12 years in New York.
Past lives (i.e., previous bands, your early years, etc.):
I used to do a duo with my brother Tom as a kid. He played guitar and sang while I played drums and sang. We would do Beatles, Beach Boys, Elvis and other '50s tunes. My Dad would wake us up in the middle of the night to perform for his friends when they would have company. We also used to do the local trailer parks and country clubs, also some of my parents friends would have parties and we would play for them. I was in a band in College called RISK that enjoyed success throughout the four years we spent together. Several bands after that included The Earthlings, Arc of Puppets and Semolina. All were based in PA and basically just stepping stones to get me to where I was a band leader and doing my own thing.
Favorite venues to play:
We we’ve done SO many venues in the course of our career. They are actually listed on my website on the “venues” link. I would say generally I like doing bars and house parties the best. Bars are kind of like an “anything goes” atmosphere and house parties are great because it’s all people who know each other and they’re all there for the same reason – to see each other and have a good time. Sometimes people are in bars for reasons other than having a good time, like just getting wasted or hooking up. It’s not always conducive to music in a bar but I enjoy the challenge of trying to have an impact on someone’s agenda with music!
Well, I am a fan of the “song” first and foremost and I really don’t care too much what the style is. Having said that, bands that have influenced me musically and idealistically would be The Beatles, The Police, Rush, Phish, Belle & Sebastian, Beck, Peter Gabriel, Flaming Lips, the 60s movement in general, Ween, Dave Matthews Band, Jeff Buckley, The Smiths, Wilco, to name only a few.
What would you like to plug? I’ve been working on new songs for several years now. With the birth of my daughters 5 and 3 years ago it’s been hard to get into a rhythm recording with all of the gigging I do. Something is on the horizon. I just have to reel it in.
facebook: Jim Roberti. I don’t really have a dedicated band page. It’s just me.
Where can we buy your music?
My music is available on iTunes and basically anywhere online where you can buy digital downloads, as well as Amazon.com. There is also a page on my website that lists all of the places people can download my music or buy CDs. Folks can also buy CDs directly from JimRoberti.com.
Tell us a story or anecdote about performing live in NYC.
Well, I have A LOT of stories about playing in NYC but this is the first one that popped into my head…In 2009, we were asked to play the holiday party for the front office of the New York Yankees. The party was at the brand new stadium and the Yanks had just won the World Series. Needless to say we were excited. My friend Gary Wehrkamp (who is the third AND fourth member of the Jim Roberti Trio) and I decided that we weren’t going to let our drummer Paul in on where or what the gig was. We’re always playing little jokes on each other. We told Paul it was just a holiday party for some corporation that was being held in the Bronx. Paul was sleeping in the back of the van as we pulled into Yankee Stadium. We told him we were going to borrow a piece of gear from our good friend MJ from PA who actually works at Yankee Stadium and who also supplies sound gear to the Yankees as well as to our band when we need to reinforce our sound. SO we woke Paul up and had to go into the stadium to go through a security check. Once we cleared this we got back in the van and started backing in to the belly of the stadium where basically only deliveries and stuff are allowed to go. Well it wasn’t until we had our gear out of the van and onto carts that it finally dawned on Paul what was going on. He was pretty dumbfounded, but that’s part of being a drummer I guess.
Any advice to someone just starting out?
Be accommodating as long as you don’t feel like you are compromising your integrity musically or otherwise. I probably know more musicians that have a lot of talent that just can’t get it together and do all of the unseen things that get an artist or musician onstage in the first place. Being nice to people and getting to know them a little guarantees you that you’ll be on their short list of things to do when it comes to going out to hear live music.
You've had a long time residency at Bull's Head Tavern. How long have you been playing there. How did that come about?
12 years or so ago my brother Bill worked on Wall Street with a brother of one of the new owners of the BHT. My brother suggested that I do a solo gig there. The new owners at the time had just decided they weren’t going to do live music. They had pretty much decided it wasn’t worth all of the hassle it could potentially be, having been there and done that. While NYC is full of musicians it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to find ones that can draw or hold a crowd and make money for the bar. Anyway since I was a solo they said okay and I drove in from PA and did a solo there. They liked me and I liked them on a personal level. At the time I was playing five or six nights a week but was looking for a more lucrative Thursday night gig. I wasn’t married at the time so it was the right time in my life to start a new trend in my career. I was playing mostly solo shows in PA, being in between bands at the time. My drummer and friend Paul Cipriano and I had been doing a few gigs together here and there as a duo which felt odd w/o a bass-player at first. After only 2 or 3 solo shows at BHT I invited him to join me for a night. It just instantly worked and that was the beginning of our tenure at BHT. Through the last 12 years we have made so many friends and played to so many people it almost boggles my mind. The connections we have made through this little bar in NYC undoubtedly changed our lives and careers and put us in a new income bracket as well. I am particularly fond of the relationships that Paul and I have made with our good friends Tom Ryan and James Hendrick who own the BHT as well as several other bars and restaurants in Manhattan.
You can The Jim Roberti Duo most Thursday nights at Bull's Head Tavern:
Bull's Head Tavern
295 Third Ave.
(between 22nd & 23rd St.)
New York, NY