Most people spend their entire lives trying to figure out what they want to do. Not Peter Cincotti….the highly talented singer-songwriter-pianist, who at age three found his calling with a toy piano, and hasn’t looked back since. By the time he was in high school, Peter was playing clubs all over Manhattan. From there, he was off to Carnegie Hall, Radio City and L’Olympia in Paris and The White House, to name just a few. His new album, “Long Way Home”, which he wrote, arranged and produced, is an eclectic collection of songs which he defines as “a new sound, bringing active, rhythmic piano playing back into the landscape of modern music.” The Overhead Compartment caught up with this born and bred New Yorker to hum a few bars, and learn about life on the road in the music world.
The Overhead Compartment begins now….
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OC: You wrote, arranged and produced your new album Long Way Home and said that it’s “an album that brings active, rhythmic piano playing back into the landscape of modern music”. What do you hope your fans take away from it?
PC: Well first and foremost I hope they enjoy it! Everybody listens to music in a different way, some just lightly and in the background. But for the deeper listener, I hope they are moved by and relate to the themes and topics within the songs. Love, loss, humor, social observation, sarcasm and a lot more – these songs are in a sense my confessions and philosophies of life wrapped up in piano-centric sounds and rhythms.
OC: How has the music industry changed as a result of the digital age?
PC: It’s changed in a myriad of ways, and I can only comment on how it has affected me, which is largely positive. I have more musical control and freedom than ever before and that is one of the reasons why I chose to produce this record and learn more about production and sound and how to use technology to express myself. It’s been an all consuming, but very fulfilling process, and has forever changed the way and write and record music.
OC: Do you think it’s better or worse?
PC: For creative reasons like the ones I just mentioned, I think it’s better. From an economic standpoint, the business has completely altered and revenue streams have shifted, and are still shifting, but there are more knowledgeable people than I to comment on how it has affected that side of the business.
OC: You were born and raised in NYC and started playing the clubs in high school at night. What is the craziest thing that happened?
PC: Where do I start? One memory that comes to mind is on one of my first big gigs in the city, at a prestigious club where they served dinner as well, the New York Times was in the room among many other publications, TV bookers, and reviewers, so the pressure was on, so to speak. They announced my name, the lights when out, and without me knowing, a waiter spills a pitcher of water into the open piano. I’m all ready to sit down at the piano and blow them away. The band starts, I play, nothing comes out. Only half of the piano worked. It was a disaster. I don’t know how I got through that show, but I did.
OC: How do you think those experiences molded you into the musician you are today?
PC: I learned to work through situations. I learned the difference between playing music and performing. When to acknowledge the crowd, and when to disappear into my own heart and head when playing. Every situation is different and being thrown into the “lion’s den” of the NY music scene from such an early age was the best education I ever could have gotten.
OC: Top three favorite musicians?
PC: Impossible question but I’ll answer with people alive and active in the music scene today: John Mayer, Sia, Ryan Tedder.
OC: Top three favorite restaurants in NYC?
PC: Also impossible but lately: Bella Blu, Ribalta, and Han Dynasty.
OC: You have played around the world from Carnegie Hall to Radio City Music Hall to L’Olympia in Paris: which venue was most special to you?
PC: I’d have to say Radio City, though again impossible! It’s been a real honor to play them all. I grew up passing places like Carnegie Hall, dreaming about playing there.
OC: What was the most interesting city your music has ever taken you to?
PC: I’d have to say Hong Kong. It was like NY on crack!
OC: What did you do there when you had free time?
PC: Bought these amazing fake designer watches, went to clubs that seemed like they were located on Mars, and went to dinner at restaurants that spoke no English and ate God knows what.
OC: What is your pre-performance ritual?
PC: Wine, warm ups, and waiting.
OC: You also had a presence in fashion industry representing Ermenegildo Zegna and Tod’s. What is the key to looking good when traveling?
OC: Complete the following sentence: I never leave home without:
Peter Cincotti, please use care upon departure as items may have shifted in The Overhead Compartment during our journey. Thanks for choosing us for your travel tips! Have a wonderful day!
Photo credit: Poby.net