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Dirty Honey – John Notto

They are basically New England, making amazing new rock and roll music and are completely taking the music industry by storm. Dirty Honey, consisting of Vocalist Marc LaBelle, Guitarist John Notto, Bassist Justin Smolian and Drummer Corey Coverstone just released their second single “The Wire” from their first debut self-titled album out in April of this year. Fans originally heard of Dirty Honey when they released their self-titled EP in 2019 spawning their first single “When I’m Gone” which made history when it hit #1 on Billboards Mainstream Rock Chart as a track from an unsigned band. They continued to stay strong with their second single “Rollin 7’s” as it rose to #3 on Rock Radio. This extraordinarily talented L.A. based band have been touring with The Black Crowes this past summer, and now they will be returning to Florida on October 2nd in Tampa at Amalie Arena for the 98 Rockfest, then in St. Augustine on October 8th at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre for the WPLA Radio Show, and wrapping up the state in Orlando on October 9th at Tinker Field for the WJRR Earthday Birthday.

Catching up with Notto while they were touring, he revealed some details about their show, their music, what inspires this outstanding musician and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: So, you’re from Massachusetts. So am I. You were raised in Maine and I understand when you were little, you would have pretend concerts with a stringless Ukulele. That’s adorable.
John Notto: Yeah.

SFL Music: So, were you always into music and that’s why you chose this as a career? When you were eight, your parents bought you a red and white Stratocaster, but what made you get into the guitar?
Notto: What first actually made me get into actually playing the guitar and stop pretending (he laughed), was my friends dad played in a punk rock band, so he was always paying guitar around the house and at some point, I should enough interest in what he was doing that he showed me my first chord.

SFL Music: Tell me what fans can look forward to with the show. I heard it was awesome and I know you have festivals coming up. What can fans look forward to with those shows?
Notto: Well, you can look forward to hearing nearly every song that we’ve made. We have a saying amongst the camp which is like a, we didn’t come here to have a bad time (he chuckled). It’s just a high energy, rock and roll show that we hope everybody sings along with and you know, gets a heavy dose of greasy, soulful rock and roll.

SFL Music: That’s very cool. That’s what I understood, you guys were amazing. People were really impressed.
Notto: A lot of people tell us that we’re better live which is funny. I mean, of course I think we’re very proud of our records, but I’m proud of the fact that people say that about our live show actually. I think we’re all enate performers. I think something lights up in us just by being onstage in front of people. So, that little extra something I think is translated.

SFL Music: That probably goes back to your love of playing the guitar. Did you have formal lessons?
Notto: Yeah. So, once my friend’s dad showed me some chords and I picked them up right away, my mom got me lessons and the guy was an older kind of classic rock head, and so he turned me onto Led Zeppelin and that kind of sealed the deal there. From then I just tried to absorb as much old rock and roll as I could, and at the same time listening to pop music of course, you know I wasn’t totally deaf to music of the 90’s and 2000’s. I then took lessons a little bit, but when we moved to Maine, I didn’t take lessons as much and it was more self-taught. And then I went to music school which was cool, but kind of not really sort of path critical for being a rock and roll musician (he laughed).

SFL Music: Because of what you studied at the University of Southern Maine?
Notto: Yeah.

SFL Music: Do you think that gave you a good foundation learning theory and all of that stuff?
Notto: I just love music and I love learning everything about it. I never put too much weight on what they were teaching me in terms of what kind of person I should be, but I just found it all interesting. I like harmony. I like classical music. I like some jazz you know, on a listening level. So, it’s all interesting to me and I just love music, but rock and roll is the home base expression for me.

SFL Music: Would you say being raised in New England had any influence on you? You listened to a lot of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s music from your parents, Queen, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC. Any Extreme or Aerosmith from the area? Do you think any of that had any influence on you as well?
Notto: I think once you peer into the classic rock genre, Aerosmith’s unavoidable. I didn’t take a particular influence from say Joe Perry specifically, but I just think the band Aerosmith, they have so many great songs that I listened to them and learned the riffs. Every kid who wants to play guitar and play classic rock and rock and roll wants to learn you know, “Dream On” and “Walk This Way”. Those are just huge songs in that genre. Plus, when I was a kid, it was like late 90’s. Aerosmith was Aerosmith, so it was kind of weird ‘cause they were still cool (he laughed).

SFL Music: That’s true.
Notto: Amazing!

SFL Music: How did you all get together? How did you end up in California and getting this band together?
Notto: Well, I think once we finished high school and college, we moved to L.A. and just had this sort of dream. Justin was already in L.A. He was born there, but it’s kind of cool ‘cause actually his father was a transplant from Connecticut, so he’s kind of got some east coasty roots which is nice to kind of go with us. But you know, I met all these guys essentially through the jam scene. There’s not jam band, but just in L. A. musicians’ network that go into open jams, and once I started figuring out where the good ones were, I started meeting people. I met Marc’s original drummer and I started playing cover gigs with Marc and it was pretty casual for a while actually, and then as it got more serious, guys started leaving because they didn’t want to be serious and we started replacing guys. That’s when we brought Justin in. We had a different drummer, and then we actually tried to make an EP with that different drummer and it didn’t work out, and then we got Corey and made another push for it and you know, that’s what resulted in this.

SFL Music: What inspires you guys when you write? What inspired you when you write?
Notto: You know, I think for each person in the band it’s a little different, but I think what inspires the band to move forward is an awesome riff, or some sort of awesome musical element. The ballads that we have, Marc has essentially written by himself, so that’s inspiring when he comes in and he’s just like, here’s a song. I think the most inspiring thing for me is when we finish a tune together. That’s the most inspiring to me ‘cause it’s cool when we’re jamming a riff and then just the way we’re playing it like somebody says the verse should be more mellow and then I’ll be like, oh I’ll come up with the chords, and then you know, it’s just cool when we all kind of pitch in. Then things start to happen naturally. That’s really inspiring.

SFL Music: You had an album come out a few months ago in April. What inspired the album? “The Wire” and some other songs seem to be relationship oriented. Was there a theme that inspired the album?
Notto: Oh no. I don’t think that there was anything that inspired that album as a theme. We haven’t done a body of work like that yet. Everything’s been sort of song for song, and then we look at the songs we have and we kind of make a batch that we think goes together. So, we left a few songs out that didn’t seem like they really got there or fit, and that’s why we decided on what we have. I think we left out about four songs that we did record. We didn’t feel they hit the bar or one of the other you know, need more time.

SFL Music: Are there going to be anymore videos coming out soon?
Notto: Which videos have you seen?

SFL Music: I‘ve seen “The Wire” and I know you have “California Dreamin’”.
Notto: What did you think of that one?

SFL Music: That was awesome! That was really cool. I could hear that 70’s, 80’s sound.
Notto: I mean, I think right now there’s a plan for the next single and we haven’t discussed what the video’s going to be. I’ve heard there are ideas coming from the director, but we’re still working “The Wire” so you know, we won’t let any info out yet (he chuckled).

SFL Music: Something for people to look forward to. How did the band name come together? Dirty Honey.
Notto: That came about early on. We hadn’t hit the road yet, but we kind of knew things were gonna get serious. We had just got Corey and we were gonna start making moves, and it was a name that was in a batch that we actually had missed. Dirty Honey kind of came through once and we missed it, and then when we really started, like we were up against the wall to choose a name. Marc re-presented that name and we just oh, great. That’s awesome! Family members thought it was awesome. Everybody kind of like approved of it for the first time ever. All of our names were terrible before that, and I think It was inspired by like The Honeydrippers in some sort of way. It was like he thought it was like dirty, the name. He thought they had a dirty name and then he was like, oh that’s cool! So, that’s kind of how that came about.

SFL Music: What inspired “California Dreamin’”?
Notto: Lyrically, that was inspired by what we’ve seen in L.A. that isn’t advertised as part of the journey you might go on when pursuing your dreams. You know, it’s the classic darker side of the street tale.

SFL Music: What would you recommend to up-and-coming musicians from your experiences?
Notto: Well, you know, I try to say, everyone’s path is gonna be different. Any up-and-coming musician is a different person than me, so not everything I could say applies, but I think one thing that applies to all people is you gotta pour most of your energy and your efforts into the thing that you’re the best at and that you love the most.

SFL Music: That’s good advice. Was there anything else you want fans to know? You said you have another video coming out that is still in the works. Anything else they should know about the festivals coming up? Anything different than what you guys have done in your shows before?
Notto: Well, I think the festivals, I’m not sure how long we get to play in Florida, but those that we play you know, we get to play a little longer. We get to stretch out on the solos. We get to play more songs. For the Festivals set, it should be sort of a greatest hits package if its shorter, but you know, the line-ups are strong and people are coming to shows, and its outside, so you don’t have to worry as much about the COVID factor.

SFL Music: Was there anything else you wanted to add?
Notto: You’re in the Florida area you said? Well, we’re playing Tampa on the 2nd then we’re playing St. Augustine on the 8th I believe, and Orlando on the 9th . Yeah, so it’s gonna be a nice little Florida run. Come check it out!

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