Ken Leighton 1:30 p.m., May 4
RIYL: Edwin McCain, Snow Patrol, David Gray, Tracy Chapman, Pete Yorn, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam, Lifehouse, Third Day, James Blunt, Jeremy Camp, Seven Mary Three, Daughtry
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- Musician Interview: "Freeworld Rockin'" · June 24, 2009
Inception: San Diego, 2007
Influences: Edwin McCain, Snow Patrol, David Gray, Tracy Chapman, Pete Yorn, Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam, Lifehouse, Third Day, Jeremy Camp, Damien Rice
Phil Bellante comes from a long line of politically aware, socially relevant, musically adroit, and vocally unpredictable singer-songwriters like Neil Young, Harry Nilsson, Perry Farrell, Bruce Springsteen, and their deep-thought free-world-rockin’ brethren. Think Edwin McCain backed by the Cowboy Junkies.
“I was inspired by the way Tracy Chapman addresses social issues in her songs,” says Bellante, “with lyrics that are meaningful and relevant without being preachy.”
Raised in Cleveland, Bellante grew up in a musical family, studying both piano and guitar. “My grandmother was playing piano right into her 90s,” he says, “and that made her one of the coolest people I knew. My mother was a poet, and that has always influenced my lyrics.”
After graduating from college and arriving in San Diego with business degree in hand, Bellante says, “The only business I was interested in was the one called ‘show.’ Luckily, I found a musical partner right away in drummer Aaron Redfield [Switchfoot].”
Bellante’s 2008 release EP2 was produced and recorded by J. Logan Stewart and Taylor Barefoot at Barefoot Studios. Videos for several songs were directed by Steve Woroniecki (Mariah Carey, Kid Rock).
“My lyrics and the overall direction of my music have come from my vast life experiences and observation of others,” says Bellante. “I have looked under the surface of things in life to try to understand the whys of life. My music simply leads people to places in their soul to help them see things clearly: that is the best way I can describe it.”
In 2010, Bellante became known to fans of televised poker, due to his song “All In.” “Poker is going to be a big theme for us, as the song continues to gain a following and earn more exposure,” Bellante says of the marketing push behind his card-themed tune.
“I wrote the song in ten minutes while watching a TV [poker] tournament,” says Bellante, whose own favorite game is no-limit Texas Holdem. “I want to license it for movies, video games, TV shows, casinos, gambling websites, and of course poker tournaments. I think it has the potential to be like [Kenny Rogers’] ‘The Gambler’…it certainly has more to do with cards than ‘Poker Face’ by Lady Gaga, and yet that song is played in relation [to gaming] all the time.”
To that end, the singer/songwriter plugged his tune on the pokernewsdaily.com website and Phil Gordon’s ESPN radio show Poker Edge. “Phil’s brother-in-law is a friend of mine, so I’ve known him for years. He has a lot of connections who are looking at the song now, plus I spend a lot of time getting it around to others…several Nashville songwriters are pitching ways to make it a hit. It’s all self-marketing and self-financed for now, but that’s the only way to get things done.”
Bellante says he’s willing to consider most any opportunity to market “All In.” “A lot of people are telling me that I should be able to make money off the song, that it appeals to the same kind of passion that poker players have.”
“But selling out isn’t always as easy as it looks.”
In late 2010, he shot a video for his song “One Life,” before departing on an acoustic tour in February, 2011. While in Nashville, he recorded two new alt-country songs with Garth Brooks’ guitar player, “One Life” and “Whole Lotta Lucky.” On his return to San Diego, a cover of John Mayer’s “Heartbreak Warfare” and his own new song “First Time” were made available on his website.
Later in 2011, a new song written on the Ukelele, “One Day at a Time,” and a new cut called “Love Again” were both now available on his ReverbNation page, followed by his cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” with its original lyrics and performed on the ukulele.
A new song called “Right Here,” partially created in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in early March 2012, was released on his ReverbNation page.