Joseph Conti By Tom Craig December 8, 2020 Joseph Conti SFL Music: Hey Joseph, how are you doing? Joseph Conti: I’m doing well. I’m excited. SFL Music: Oh, good. Well, I appreciate your time today. Conti: Well, thank you for doing this. This is awesome. SFL Music: My pleasure. In talking to your dad yesterday, you started out very, very young with instruments and music in your life. What are some of the first music things that you remember? Conti: Well, I remember playing guitar, but I was playing music before I could even remember. That’s how long I’ve been doing it. My father told me that when I was two years old, something like that, two or three. I got up while he was playing a song and I just started playing drums with him, with the little sticks, as a baby. He said, I’ve got the rhythm. He’s been guiding me ever since. I took hold of it. SFL Music: He was saying that you actually started lessons on the violin at three? Conti: Three years old, yep. SFL Music: Do you have any memory of that? Conti: Yeah. I remember it was very, it was nothing like what I play now. It was ding, ding, ding, one note songs. But it was awesome, that opportunity. From there, I transitioned to guitar, and then when I started playing guitar, that’s when I started creating music. I kind of started putting the two together. SFL Music: What’s the first song you learned on the guitar? Conti: It’s not a song, but it was more of a chord. He taught me the A chord, the D chord, and the E chord. He said, “If you know these three chords, you’ll be able to play thousands of songs.” I remember us singing, My Girl, by The Temptations, I think. SFL Music: Temptations. What about on violin? What was the first song you learned on violin? Conti: Old Joe Clark? SFL Music: Old Joe Clark? Conti: Yeah, it’s a very traditional like bluegrass. I’ve had the same violin teacher since, I believe, I was six years old. His name is Brian True. He has a very Bluegrass style of teaching. That’s what he first started me going on, the Irish dance jigs. Those are some of the first pieces that I learned. Then he introduced me to more classical music, and he taught me how to read music. He really helped me with theory. SFL Music: Your dad also told me a story about your great grandfather, and that they used to have Sunday dinner, and he played the mandolin. Pretty much anybody could call out a song, and if he knew it, he could- Conti: And he’d know it. SFL Music: Is your great grandfather still around? Conti: He is not, and I never got to meet him. But we have his mandolin still at my father’s house, and I’ve seen it. I’ve never played it. It’s too precious to play. SFL Music: But you do play mandolin? Conti: I do play mandolin. Because of the violin. It’s the same note for each string. I was able to pick it up extremely quickly, because when I picked it up, I had already known how to play guitar. I got in that position of my finger work down. It was adding that to the violin, which I’ve been playing since I was three years old. I just took it and ran with it. SFL Music: With the mandolin? Conti: Yeah. I picked that up quick. SFL Music: I think maybe your great grandfather might have had a little to do with that. Conti: Maybe, maybe. SFL Music: Did you play violin through elementary school in any school bands or anything like that, or did that not happen until later? Conti: I only started recently being involved in music in my school. Everything before the music program was not up to par with me. I go to Cardinal Gibbons, right? I have an orchestra class for 50 minutes a day. With my teacher, his name is Mr. Crow. He has really pushed classical music in my direction. But before him, I never really thought of doing anything at school like that. I always kind of kept it to myself. SFL Music: Well, your dad told me that as a freshman you were first chair violin? Conti: Yeah. I was introduced to Mr. Crow, the summer before joining Cardinal Gibbons. I never played for him, but I don’t know, maybe he just saw something in me. But the first day I walked in there, he put me as first chair, and that position has not budged, let me tell you that. SFL Music: That’s pretty amazing, because you didn’t play other than for yourself, for private lessons before. Conti: He gave me the shot. SFL Music: That’s awesome. Conti: It’s awesome. SFL Music: What do you look to do with that? It’s had to have been a tough year last year for you, with the pandemic and everything, as far as school goes. Conti: It is. It’s really tough, especially in art class. But I go back to school tomorrow, actually. SFL Music: One of the things that Jay told me about was how at such a young age, how well you knew instruments, specifically guitars. He told me about you asking him to hand you a Gibson Les Paul jr off the wall at Guitar Center one day. You were about 5 or 6 maybe. He went to grab a Les Paul, and you corrected him? Conti: I don’t remember that. Oh, man, that’s funny. SFL Music: We also talked about how long you’ve been helping your dad with the benefits for the charity “Kids in Distress” Conti: I play that show every year. He plays it with me too, and we get a band of my dad’s long time musician friends together. We host an annual benefit for Kids in Distress. It’s a charity that helps foster children. SFL Music: Yes. Conti: This upcoming February will be our 35th annual show. Hopefully, if Corona doesn’t impact that, you know what I mean? SFL Music: Do you remember how old you were when he brought you to the first one? Conti: Well, I think I’ve only missed one, and that was when I was a little baby, because I had a huge fever. But I’ve been by my dad on the stage for as long as I can remember. When I was super little, like five, six years old; I would be up there with one of his bands. I would be up there with my black Stratocaster, and I wouldn’t be plugged in, but I would just be like a rockstar. Like air guitar, just playing, just strumming up there. But that grew my stage presence, because that’s all practice. Conti: Being on the stage, managing the crowd with my dad is, everything is for the music. SFL Music: He seems like a really neat guy. I had a great chat with him yesterday, and I was really thankful that Jay reached out to me to do these interviews for him. It sounded like an amazing story, and it is. You’ve been with him on those benefits since you were five or six years old. Conti: Playing on the stage. Yeah, I’d say so. As soon as I could walk. SFL Music: As soon as you could walk. How was this year’s benefit? Joseph Conti: It was a blast. No Corona, there was no Corona yet. But we played our show, I think I rocked it. But it was awesome, you know what I mean? Those things are the best. I look forward to every February because of that. SFL Music: I can imagine, and it seems like you and your dad really have a super time together doing it, so that’s everything. Conti: We enjoy it because we have fun through music. It’s one of our connections. SFL Music: That’s great. How many different instruments do you play? Conti: Hmm, tally this up for me. Guitar, bass, drums, I can sing, keyboard. I can play those five, and oh, mandolin, which would be six. SFL Music: And violin. Conti: I can play percussion, and yes, violin. I can play those eight. If you gave me 15 minutes, I can pretty much figure out any instrument that has a string on it. I don’t do woodwinds or flutes. I’ve never picked one up and tried. But with strings, I’m purely strings. SFL Music: No horns or anything like that? Conti: No. In my songs, if there are any horns, it’s always a midi. Until I meet someone who can play horns, and then record it like that. Until then, it’s midis. SFL Music: Would it be fair to say that you feel most comfortable with guitar and violin? Conti: Guitar is my instrument. Whenever I go to write down a song or construct a song, I always pick up the guitar. That should tell you that right there. SFL Music: I know you said earlier that you read for violin, do you read for other instruments as well? Conti: No, actually. I have never, I can sort of read tabs, but my musical theory knowledge is very inferior compared to what a standard would be, I guess. I can only read sheet music for the violin, other than that, I can just listen with my ear and just I can play the song. If you play a song, I’ll listen to it, and I’ll be able to play that on the guitar right in front of you. SFL Music: Is reading for those other instruments something that you’re looking at doing in the future? Conti: Possibly, if I would want to further develop that. But with what I’m hearing in my head and the ideas that I come up with, I don’t necessarily need to at the moment. Because I can hear, I can shape harmonies in my head, I can just [laughs], it comes very natural to me. It’s almost like a second nature, you know what I mean? SFL Music: Since the pandemic and COVID have come along, I know both Jay and your dad said that you’ve gotten way more into writing and recording on your own. Tell me a little bit about that. Conti: That’s 100% factual. To be honest with you, before Corona, I was kind of putting my musical talents aside, and I didn’t have any wishes to seek fame or a good platform that I can share my music with. But when Corona hit, I just had a mind shift. I started realizing that I can utilize all these things that I have and push a message with whatever I want to sing. I took it upon myself to start learning how to engineer my own music, and how to record my own music. So I can be an individual with it. I’ve just done that by writing and reading, and producing, and producing. With every song that I do, I keep getting better and better, I think SFL Music: When did you write your first song? Conti: Oh, man. Wow. The first song I can remember is when I was eight years old. It’s called, It Was a Crazy Day, and I did it with Johnny Keyser (Two time contestant on American Idol), who actually has a platinum song named If We Never Met out, which is awesome for him. But I knew him through friends of my father, the Keyser family, they’re awesome, I love them. But my dad introduced me to him, and we hit it off. Then we invited him over to a studio session that I don’t remember why my dad reserved it. I had this song written, It Was a Crazy Day, and we just wrote it, and recorded it. That was my first true introduction into professionalism in engineering, you know what I mean? SFL Music: hmm. That was at eight years old? Conti: Around then, yeah, very early. I was introduced, as soon as I could walk, guitar’s on my back. SFL Music: More recently since the pandemic, you’ve been doing a lot, and tell me about what you’ve been doing with Spotify. Conti: Well, I just recently got a music distribution service to be able to release my songs onto these mainstream platforms. In hopes that I get on one of Spotify’s playlists, and I started getting some traction on my music. But it all started with that. But my home base for my music, if you would say is SoundCloud. SFL Music: You put your stuff up there? Conti: I put it up on everywhere, but the majority, I only have what I think in my mind is my best songs that could be better, catchy. I think could reach a very wide, broad audience. That’s what I put on my Spotify, but my SoundCloud is for everything that I want to do. Whatever I think is ready, I put onto my SoundCloud. Because I have more of a following on there right now than I do on Spotify, or Apple Music, just because I started two weeks ago, three weeks ago on those services. For SoundCloud, I’ve been going for seven months, six months straight. Since Corona, actually. I picked it up and I ran with it. SFL Music: It sure sounds like it. For those, including myself, who aren’t familiar. Tell me a little bit about how you go about getting in with a music distribution service. What’s involved? Conti: Well, DistroKid isn’t a music label or anything of that nature. It’s simply a distribution for independent artists who want to release their music onto mainstream, and it’s a bridge to that mainstream platforms. Because most artists are limited to SoundCloud, but if you use this service, DistroKid, it helps you get on these platforms. It’s a subscription, but I think it’s worth it, because you have the potential to reach millions and millions of people. SFL Music: That’s really interesting. I know that as of late, you got hooked up with Rob at Power Station? Conti: Yeah, those guys are awesome. SFL Music: What’s that been like? Conti: God, that experience was incredible. We went into the studio [laughs], and we made my song, Something For Me. We went to Power Station in, Pompano early, the date was September fourth, that we recorded the song. I already had it planned out. I already had recorded a demo, actually a month or two before that. The song was public, but then I took it down, and then I took it to the studio and really perfected it. Conti: But, so we went into that day, and it was different from when I was eight years old, because I had been producing for the last six months, like I said. I was watching very closely with how the steps are taken to do it in a professional sense. I learned that you start with the base of the songs, like the root, the guitar, the drums, the bass, and then you add on the layers, and the layers, and the layers. Then that’s how you build your song, and you want to have a good, clean sound by doing that. Which before that, I was just doing it as I go with what I had in my head. But then you put that aside and you think, with every song that I do now, you start to think, “Would that fit with the scheme or the picture that I’m trying to paint?” That was very important to me. It taught me a very important lesson. SFL Music: What was the name of the song? Conti: Something For Me. SFL Music: Did you get to work on the board at Power Station or did you watch them work the board, or both? Conti: I watched them work the board. But I was right alongside him as he was doing it. Seeing what controls he did, how high the gain was. The little things, I was paying attention to that SFL Music: Was that something that really drew your interest? That part of it. Conti: Oh yeah. Because I knew that it would do nothing but pay off. I can only get better from there. It was a stepping stone for me, I believe. Having that day in there, and just watching everything that was happening. SFL Music: You got to spend a whole day there, and did you record just the one song or more? Conti: Just the one, just the one. And we made sure to get it right. SFL Music: Any plans to go back? Conti: Soon, soon. SFL Music: Good. Conti: I have a project coming on the way in the near future. SFL Music: Great. Some more writing you’ve done? Conti: More? Yeah. I have a lot of more writing to record as well. SFL Music: Fantastic. Conti: But it’s going to be, it’s something to look out for. SFL Music: I will. You’re a junior now even with everything that’s going on, and it makes it a little tougher. But that’s kind of a pivotal year in high school, because you start to look at what you want to do for college, and things like that. Is college on your radar? Conti: It absolutely is. I would like to stay in state, because I want to be close to home, I don’t want to be super far. Unless there are some opportunities that are brought my way, I would be willing to consider. But I wouldn’t, like my main, I have a few schools I want to go to that are in my list, per se. But I want to focus on music more than anything, but I don’t necessarily want to do that for my education. SFL Music: If somebody offered you a music scholarship, would you go for it? Conti: Yeah, I would. SFL Music: Let me ask you this. You would use music to get in, but you would like to have your degree in something else, is that? Conti: I would minor in music, 100% I would. But for my major, I was thinking more toward the monetary side of things, like economics interests me or just really getting knowledge of money. Learning how to build a portfolio etc. SFL Music: Finance? Conti: While I got all these years coming up ahead of me. SFL Music: If, let’s say somebody like a Berklee or a Juilliard came knocking,? Conti: I would go do music 1,000%. Forget the money then. SFL Music: Just wanted to check. Conti: If Julliard comes knocking on my door, absolutely. I’m packing my bags and going to New York, 100%. That would be like seeing a rainbow. That would be unbelievable. I can’t even fathom that happening right now. But who knows. SFL Music: Would you like to learn more about the production side of the business, and mixing and engineering? Conti: Yeah, because I feel that’s where my quality is. Because if I can really refine what I’m trying to tap into, that would be the final step. Then from there, who knows what will happen. But I’m going to keep building experience, because I’m only 16 years old. Imagine what I’ll be sounding like when I’m 19 or 21. When I have those years of learning the program. It’ll become like muscle memory at some point. It sort of, it kind of is now, it’s kind of getting there.’ SFL Music: I think so, because you started so young. Joseph Conti: I told you, music is my second nature, you know what I mean? SFL Music: Yeah. Conti: That’s all my dad. I would not be the same Joseph Conti without him. SFL Music: Do you think that, you’ve got a year and a half, let’s say, left in high school. By that point, or a little before that, you should have some pretty good pieces, both on violin, guitar, maybe even mandolin to send off to a place like a Juilliard or a Berklee. Maybe get somebody there that says, “Hey, we got to have this guy for four years.” Conti: If that does turn to a reality, I would absolutely go. But for me right now, music comes first over everything. I have a drive and I’m hungry for it. It’s the only thing on my mind right now. You know what I mean? SFL Music: Yes. Let me ask you, do you have, and I’ll ask it for the three instruments, violin, guitar and mandolin. Is there one or more people that are your influences on those instruments? Conti: Well. I’ll start with the violin first. Truth be told, this might come as a shocker, but I don’t like listening to Bach at nine o’clock at night on the weekends. SFL Music: Fair. Conti: But. I’m not a classical violinist at all, I am all fiddle. For when it comes to violin, I’d rather listen to Charlie Daniels than Stephan Grappelli. That’s what I like for that kind of music. That has everything to do with Brian True, my teacher. SFL Music: Because he started you? Conti: Because, like I said, first thing he introduced me to straight away was those Irish jigs and fast tempos 6/8 time signature. Which is standard for a jig, which is happy and is different. It’s more upbeat. But that side of everything with the violin is from Brian True, that’s who I have to thank for that. For the guitar. I don’t have one influence, but the roots of my brain are built on the Beatles. SFL Music: Harrison? Conti: Lennon, but his rhythm guitar, I don’t think I can compare myself to John Lennon. But I hear him in me. Because Paul McCartney and John Lennon shaped my music, and I love the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones. The true rock bands who led the direction for the music industry. Conti: Because what would the world be without the Beatles? SFL Music: Absolutely. Conti: They’re easily the most influential bands, in my eyes, of all time. Because you can hear, they’re timeless. If you couldn’t tell, I’m a fan. SFL Music: Yes, just a little, and rightfully so. The question you have to ask is, will there ever be another Beatles? I find it hard to believe that there ever will, based on how the music business has changed. Joseph Conti: Well, I want to change direction from rap and make Joseph Conti the mainstream. SFL Music: I’m behind you, 100%. There are rap artists that I enjoy, and there’s more that I enjoy photographing. Conti: Don’t get me wrong, I love rap as well. Not all times, not all times. I’m trying to capture stage presence. I’m going to reference an artist who is a rapper. He’s from Houston, Texas, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him before, but his name is Travis Scott. In 2016 I believe it was, he released that album, Astroworld. That’s one of my all-time favorite albums. He has such a … when he goes on stage, every eye in the crowd is all on him. He just has this flair to him that I really try to, not mimic, but embrace. Kind of try to make that kind of iconism a reality, I guess. I don’t know if I’m saying that in a good way? SFL Music: Yeah. What about the third instrument, the mandolin? Conti: The mandolin, truth be told, I wouldn’t say really I have any influence. It’s just more so, violin than I do the guitar for the mandolin. I treat the mandolin as a lead instrument, but everything I do on the mandolin is also kind of the same style as I do on the violin. I would put those two together, but when I play guitar, it’s very different. I’m rhythmic, I like to create a full more wide sound and a presence. That’s always the core of my songs, the guitar. Is what I said before, was when I go to write a song, I pick up the guitar. Every song I make is led by it. SFL Music: Let’s go from that to, I think I might know the answer, but songwriters. Conti: Try me. Songwriters. SFL Music: Who are your favorites? Who have influenced you as songwriters? Conti: Well, definitely Lennon and McCartney. But also, I’m going to have to say, Frank Ocean. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard him before? SFL Music: Yes. Conti: I love Frank Ocean. Frank Ocean does not have a genre, but I would put him as R&B just because his music hits your soul. But I like how he has a, he likes to use words as reference, and he’s great at telling a story. That’s what I try to do with everything, and I try to make a clear picture through the words. SFL Music: That’s great. Conti: I’d count Frank Ocean. SFL Music: Since you’ve had your experience at Power Station, and are interested in doing more of that. Are there any engineers out there that you admire? Conti: Definitely Travis Scott. He is a rapper, but his roots are producing, every song of his is perfect when it comes to that side. Also, I don’t know if they’re companions or they have some kind of relation but Mike Dean. He plays guitar with him a lot. But he forms those roots in the song. He has a big influence, and yet again, hearing, filling that void is what he does best. That’s what kind of my music traction goes toward, is complexity. SFL Music: Back to Lennon, and McCartney, what about somebody like a George Martin? Conti: Well, he’s the fifth Beatle. SFL Music: I thought that was Billy Preston. Conti: No, definitely not. SFL Music: I think there’s three, or four, fifth Beatles. Conti: There are a few. But I’d say George Martin, he earned that fifth slot. SFL Music: For sure. Conti: Honestly, I would say my George Martin is my dad. Whenever I make a new song, he’s one of the only people I show it to. I say, “What do you think? Is it ready?” His opinion, if he says it’s not ready, then I got to fix it until he says it’s ready. SFL Music: That just goes back to the bond the two of you have. Conti: I trust him. SFL Music: Nothing is more personal than a song. Makes perfect sense he’d be the first one to share it with and say, “Hey, what do you think?” Conti: He showed me the Beatles, he showed me Pink Floyd, he showed me all these bands. I know he has the same, he thinks like me. It’s not just because I’m his son, it’s because we truly do get along. Right? I care about what he says for each thing. He has the final decision. SFL Music: Wow. Well, I can’t wait to meet you one day when we get on the other side of this thing. Conti: Me too, Tom. SFL Music: Being a junior in school, man, you’re more than likely to change your mind 20 times between now and your senior graduation. We’ve all been there. I really admire you, and just amazed at … it’s great to see a father and son bond like yours. But then that separate bond you guys have over music is just tremendous. SFL Music: I’ve really enjoyed interviewing both you and your Dad. How can people find you on soundcloud? Conti: SoundCloud, yes. It’s just my name Joseph Conti. Instagram as well, that’s a good place for people to reach me. I post every announcement on there. SFL Music: I look forward to hearing you. Maybe down the road, we can chat again. Joseph Conti: I’d be more than willing to, Tom, anytime. Share It!