Q&A with Massachusetts-based Anthony Geraci, four decades of musical excellence both in studio and onstage

"Being honest with yourself and others. Without that we have nothing."

Anthony Geraci: Blues Called My Name

Boston, Massachusetts-based Anthony Geraci’s ­fifteen Blues Music Award nominations and 2021 BMA win reflect four decades of musical excellence both in studio and onstage. A native of New Haven, CT, Geraci witnessed the live performances of blues greats including B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers, providing a world class blues education at an early age that would later come full circle when he had the opportunity to perform with them, and many other blues icons. Geraci graduated from the Berklee College of Music with a B.A. and holds an M.A. from Skidmore College. An original member of Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, and Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters, Geraci has recorded extensively with both groups, in addition to a host of iconic traditional blues artists and leading contemporary acts.

(Anthony Geraci / Photo by Laura Carbone)

He received a 2000 GRAMMY® nomination as one of the studio musicians on Super Harps I (Telarc Blues) featuring Charlie Musselwhite, James Cotton, Billy Branch and Sugar Ray Norcia. Just a few seconds into Anthony Geraci’s new album, Blues Called My Name on Blue Heart Records (Release Day: May 20, 2022), there’s no doubt you’re in the recorded presence of a consummate keyboardist. Solidly backed by Paul Loranger on acoustic bass, Jeff Armstrong on drums, and mostly Charlie O’Neal on guitar, the Berklee graduate, and 2021 BMA-winning musician offers up ten self-produced originals, half of them instrumentals, which showcase his stunning piano and Hammond organ prowess.

Interview by Michael Limnios           Anthony Geraci, 2020 interview @ blues.gr

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music?

I’ve been playing piano since I was about 4 years old! Even at that young of an age I know this was something that was in me, and something I would carry with me my entire life. I’ve always studied music seriously. I studied at a very young age at a Music School affiliated with Yale University (New Haven, CT). I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the Berklee College of Music, and a Master’s Degree in Music from Skidmore College. But in between I was bitten by the “Blues” bug around 16 years old after hearing Jimmy Roger’s Chicago Bound album on Chess Records. I listened to, and played along with all sorts of Blues greats recordings-Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Sunnyland Slim, Otis Rush, Big Joe Turner, Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy, Big Mama Thorton, John Lee Hooker and my friend Pinetop Perkins. The great pianist Lloyd Glenn taught me how to play “Honky Tonk Train”! Little did I know at the time when I was listening to their recordings that I would back up all those great Artists in just a few years and become friends with them.

What has remained the same about your music-making process?

I’ve always respected the “music.” Whether learning a composition by Debussy, or “Honky Tonk Train” by Mead “Lux” Lewis… it’s all music and I treat it all the same.

What do you think is key to a life well lived?

Being honest with yourself and others. Without that we have nothing.

"I play all original music-so trying to keep a band together is really hard when there’s not a lot of work. Musicians need to play…and make money-I get it. I just can’t have a pick-up band playing the music I do. It’s very personal music and I want the musicians that work with me to really dig into the songs." (Anthony Geraci / Photo by Bob Sekinger)

What musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? If you had a question you would like to ask another musician what would it be?

I am inspired by everything around me… traffic, birds singing, my lawnmower as I cut my grass-there’s a rhythm and melody everywhere if you just listen. I still listen to the same records I listened to 40 years ago! I love listening to jazz Artists such as Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy McGriff… and I really dig the jazzy blues playing of pianist like Charles Brown and Lloyd Glenn. I listen a lot to the recordings of Big Bill Broonzy, Lighting Hopkins, Tamps Red… there’s something about that kind of blues that really speaks to me. I would ask them what challenges them, no matter how long they’ve been in the business to keep making and creating the best music possible.

Currently you’ve one release with Blue Heart Records. How did that relationship come about?

I did the recording for what became Blues Called My Name while we all were “locked” down for the most part. I recorded the basic tracks-piano/rhythm section at the conservatory I teach at-they have a beautiful Steinway “B”, which is very important for me. There was also a great engineer that lived near me (Jeff Largent) and he had great equipment to record the “sessions.” I gathered the musicians locally that I had been playing with and we started out just recording as a rhythm section. I then added the vocals-Sugar Ray Norcia, Erika Van Pelt (season 10 American Idol top 10 finalist-who used to teach with me)… and sent files to Anne Harris, Walter Trout and Monster Mike Welch to do their magic on the tunes! I contacted Sallie Bengtson at Blues Heart Records and sent her the “rough” mixes and she really liked the songs and where I was trying to take my music. I few days later we signed a contract and I’m thrilled to be part of this exciting and growing record label. Betsie Brown at Blind Raccoon is doing the publicity for the recording.

Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album Blues Called My Name (2022)?

I think just persevering-always putting one foot in front of the other, just keep going no matter what’s going on around you. I’m not going to dwell on the pandemic and how it has affected everyone-we all know what to do to stay safe. I believe we’re all doing our best to keep our art moving forward… you can’t stop art!

"I think “Blues Music” is riding a great new wave. It’s so important that we have young Artists like Christone “Kingfish” Ingram doing so well. He was with the Pinetop Perkins Foundation for many years when he was really young-I’m honored to be on the Board of Directors at the foundation in Pinetop’s name. We need new “blood” in both the Artists helping to sustain this music-but also younger people to start coming to shows." (Anthony Geraci / Photo by Terence Lane Slagle)

What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome as a person and as artist and has this helped you become a better musician?

I play all original music-so trying to keep a band together is really hard when there’s not a lot of work. Musicians need to play… and make money-I get it. I just can’t have a pick-up band playing the music I do. It’s very personal music and I want the musicians that work with me to really dig into the songs.

What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs and music? How do you want the music to affect people?

I model my songs after Artists such as Lightning Hopkins and other blues greats. You have to tell a story in a short amount of time. I like writing songs that if you close your eyes while listening you can get a visual within your mind. Even my instrumentals I feel tell a story-they’re not endless jams, but music that has something to say as well. My latest recording Blues Called My Name on Blue Heart Records has a song I wrote titled “Into The Night” that features the great Walter Trout on guitar. The melody tells a story, and Walter’s guitar playing is so lyrical that you can feel a story emulating form the notes on his guitar.

Are there any specific memories from the late greats J.B. Hutto, Brownie McGhee, Matt "Guitar" Murphy, that you would like to tell us about?!

J.B. Hutto was a gas to work with. He was such a quiet man-until he got on stage and he let it all hang out. We were on the road with him for about month-and the first week we noticed he wanted to go to Denny’s at least once a day. Denny’s is a chain restaurant-not quite fast food, but not great either! We finally figured out that he couldn’t read very well and Denny’s had a picture menu so he would point to what he wanted to eat-eggs and bacon for breakfast-maybe burger and fries for lunch. I have stories with just about everyone, I’ve worked with-hopefully they’ll be told in the book I’m writing. These are experiences that can’t be duplicated. Siting in with Muddy Waters, hanging out with Otis Rush-not just on stage-but as friends in a fun environment not related to the music. That’s where the real “person” comes out. When you’ve earned their trust as a musician-then you can talk!

"I am inspired by everything around me… traffic, birds singing, my lawnmower as I cut my grass-there’s a rhythm and melody everywhere if you just listen.  I still listen to the same records I listened to 40 years ago!"

(Photo: Anthony Geraci)

Artists and labels will have to adapt to the new changes. What are your predictions for the music industry? How do you think the music industry will adapt to it?

I think “Blues Music” is riding a great new wave. It’s so important that we have young Artists like Christone “Kingfish” Ingram doing so well. He was with the Pinetop Perkins Foundation for many years when he was really young-I’m honored to be on the Board of Directors at the foundation in Pinetop’s name.

We need new “blood” in both the Artists helping to sustain this music-but also younger people to start coming to shows. If we don’t pass this on to a younger generation than in fifty years I don’t know where blues music will be. As far as adapting…with all the new technologies available today people can get anything they want just by clicking on something. There’s really no record stores anymore, and streaming can’t support you as a musician. That’s why being on the road and selling physical copies of our recordings is so essential in helping musicians survive in the new music economy. But I have faith. In Blues We Trust.

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