Mile of Music Interview: Anthony D’Amato

Photo by Smouse

Last updated on August 12th, 2023 at 01:44 pm

New York native Anthony D’Amato connected with us last weekend just after his performance at the Mile of Music Festival. As a first-timer at the festival, Anthony pulled double duty playing solo as well as in the new super-group Fantastic Cat, which a Rolling Stone staffer introduced as his favorite new band. Last year, D’Amato released his latest album, At First There Was Nothing, in a variety of formats, including a beautiful photo book of his own photography.

Photo by Smouse

Music in Minnesota: You’ve released countless albums in your career and toured all over the place. I’m curious, what’s the importance of a festival like this for you?

Anthony D’Amato: Well, it just started for me, so we’ll find out. A couple of things right off the bat that have been amazing are just how artist-friendly and artist-forward it is. I mean, even where we are right now with this catering is wonderful. As somebody who’s on the road all the time and just scraping together whatever food I can find and whatever place to stay I can find … it’s great to have a nice place to stay, nice healthy food to eat, and to be able to sit still. It’s kind of crazy that I’m playing seven shows in three or four days here, but at the same time, I’m in the same town, sleeping in the same bed every night, which I never get to do.

MiM: Have you taken advantage of any of the services yet?

D’Amato: I just got signed up for a massage tomorrow, which, you know, I never get to do that. I wanted to see about the dental services. To have all that kind of stuff available to artists is such an incredible thing. I think there’s so much here for music lovers to look forward to here. People come from all over to spend a week listening to nonstop music and all that. But it’s rare to have so many things for the artists to look forward to as well.

MiM: There’s a cycle for artists in writing music, recording, promoting, then touring before repeating it all over again. Is there a favorite part of that process that you are drawn to more than others?

D’Amato: I really do love touring. To get to travel around and play music and meet new people and see new places makes me feel so lucky to be able to do that. I try to never take that for granted, even on the days when you’re driving 11 hours and get no sleep. I really do love putting a record out and just hitting the road and just knowing that I have to go play shows for people.

At the same time, with Fantastic Cat, I get to be in two different places at once; we’re in the middle of making a record right now. For myself, I’m in the middle of writing a new record, and then, you know, I’m also touring the last record, so I kind of have a little bit of everything going on at once.

Photo by Smouse

MiM: Reading about your past albums, you seem to be someone that is into collaboration and working with different people. Is the Fantastic Cat collaboration taking that an extra step down the road?

D’Amato: I hadn’t thought about it that way, but it makes total sense. With the solo records, I know what the songs sound like when I write them and play them and record them myself. It’s always fun for me to write a batch of songs and think about who would bring something interesting to it and then go to a different studio, work with a different producer, and let them put together the band. It feels like something exciting and different because somebody put their stamp on it.

With Fantastic Cat, rather than a record-by-record kind of view, it’s almost like a song-by-song view. Any one of us brings a song in, and by the time we’ve recorded it, it sounds different than any one of us would’ve done it on our own solo records.

MiM: As someone that takes photos, I’m really inspired by how you released At First There Was Nothing as a photo book. Where did photography enter into your life?

D’Amato: I shoot on a Nikon D750, and it’s just kind of always been a part of my life. It started with my dad, who worked for a magazine about trains and railroads, and he was a photographer. He would take pictures for the magazine. So since the time my brother and I were little kids, we had cameras in our hands. Our summer vacations were taking the train somewhere to go photograph some rare railroad thing or historic thing that was going to disappear forever and that kind of stuff.

When I started touring really heavily as a solo artist, I realized that bringing the camera along made all the difference on the road because I’m by myself so much. Suddenly when I have the camera, it’s a reason to get up early and go out and explore, stay out late and see the city at night, or veer an hour out of my way to go see some natural wonder or weird roadside attraction. It made me interact way more deeply with the places I was going. And it also just kept me creatively occupied. When I started bringing the camera along and started finding these adventures to go on as part of the tour, that became almost as exciting to me as the shows with mapping out these destinations.

Photo by Smouse

MiM: Talk to me a bit about the intention behind releasing the album and having this optional photo book with it.

D’Amato: There were a couple of reasons. One was on the purely artistic side. I love the idea that these photos kind of capture the vibes of these songs, that you could sit there and lose yourself inside this big photo while reading the lyrics and listening to the song. That felt like the exact kind of sensory experience I would want someone to have. Then from a purely commercial standpoint, when I think about ways to release music, I try to think about myself as a fan and what I care about at a show.

If I wanna bring something home from that show as a souvenir, I can’t play CDs anymore as the computer doesn’t have it. I think about, “How can I buy this album and support the artist?” without just going to Spotify and streaming it for free.

This felt like an opportunity for people to do what they wanna do with the show, which is to get something signed that they can bring home and a beautiful visual reminder of this concert experience that hopefully is really special for them.

MiM: Any festival tips for fans when experiencing something like Mile of Music?

D’Amato: I would just say try to make sure that your schedule has time for some stuff that you haven’t heard before. It’s really easy to go to a festival and make your calendar out of all the stuff that you know. Check out some stuff you haven’t seen before because so many of my favorite things that I’ve discovered have been by accident.

Photo by Smouse

Written by Smouse

Having spent 13 years recording and producing Minnesota artists, along with running a small record label, Smouse is a passionate advocate of musicians and artists in Minnesota.


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