EAGLES MERE - Leo DiSanto will perform at 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Eagles Mere Inn. DiSanto's songs hearken back to a simpler time while having deeply thoughtful lyrics and a perfectly rendered narrative sensibility. Most of the songs from his first solo album, "The Moon, a Silver Dime," are available for listening online at www.leodisanto.com.
APRIL LINE: You were a 9-year-old Elvis Impersonator? How'd that go? Was it your idea, or did your parents help?
LEO DISANTO: It was entirely my idea. I just remember hearing Elvis - I think another kid in school singing an Elvis song or something; maybe I'd seen an Elvis movie. I started combing my hair like Elvis, which doesn't really score you a lot of popularity points when everybody else is listening to MC Hammer. That was when I knew I wanted to be a singer.
Leo DiSanto will perform at 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Eagles Mere Inn, Eagles Mere.
AL: Since we're talking about childhood, what'd you grow up listening to? Do you think it's contributed to your current aesthetic?
LD: Yeah, it definitely has. My earliest memories of listening to music were of my parents' collection of old records, The Beatles. The first time I remember hearing a song that had an emotional impact was "A Hard Day's Night" by the Beatles. I remember having this strange kind of transcendent feeling that I didn't understand as a kid. I think, too, a lot of folk records - people like Peter, Paul and Mary, which aren't really important to me now, except for that I discovered the songs of Bob Dylan through them and those are still very important to me.
AL: Have you seen Dylan live?
LD: I did once. It must've been almost 10 years ago, but more than seeing him live, he has had a huge impact on everybody.
AL: Do you have plans for additional solo albums and did you take a band with you to the studio?
LD: I do have plans for future albums. I hope to make a whole lot of them before I die, of all different kinds.
The main band that I've been playing with for the last five years is called Vinegar Creek Constituency, which started as a side project when I was playing in a lot of rock 'n' roll bands, but it became my main band. It's a bluegrass instrumentation, but we play songs that I write, so, [it's] original music, and it draws from a lot of American roots styles: old swing and early rockabilly, bluegrass, old-time music.
The solo album was something I wanted to do to go back to playing something that was rock 'n' roll. I didn't take a band into the studio, I took a bunch of songs, and we went through song by song, and decided what each song needed. I have a lot of really talented musician friends in the Lancaster area - where I recorded the album - and they were kind enough to lend me their talents.
AL: Do you play all original stuff?
LD: Everything I've ever recorded is original. If we have a three-hour show, we might throw in a Hank Williams or Johnny Cash song. We have a version of a Talking Heads Song, "Psycho Killer," that is popular. It's really important to me to make my own contribution, write my own songs.
AL: Talk about your songwriting process.
LD: This is interesting because I was just reading, right before you called, a book I just got called "Songwriters on Songwriting." It's a bunch of famous songwriters talking about songwriting. It's interesting to see how there are certain things they all say and things that are so variable person-to-person. One thing a lot of songwriters say is that it's kind of a mysterious process and it's hard to say anything about it.
There are songs that it feels like the muse leans over and whispers in your ear that are done are done in 5 to 10 minutes, others that take a year, where you end up filling a notebook with lyrics and moving things around and writing and rewriting. So what of it ends up being songwriters' craft, and to what other extent it ends up being direct inspiration is really variable. I always just try to come up with something that resonates as being true in some way. You know when you have it and when you don't. "It" has to have a certain kind of potency that I can relate to singing it night after night after night.
AL: How or why'd you name your album "The Moon, a Silver Dime"? It's sort of poetic but also sort of odd. I thought there might be a story there.
LD: I guess it is kind of odd and might be more so because there's not much of a story there. It was a song I wrote, the first song on the album is called "The Moon, a Silver Dime." I was trying to find something else, but it ended up becoming clear that it was going to be, "The Moon, a Silver Dime," which was a song I wrote on my birthday last year - just kind of contemplating fortune and fate and such. The phrase came to me and a melody sort of followed, and I don't have much logically or rationally to say about that title. But I liked it for the title of the album in the end.
AL: You seriously whistle in one of your songs.
LD: What we did was, my friend Chad Kinsey produced the album, and I had this idea of a Spaghetti Western - you know the whistling you hear - so we went into the bathroom. His studio's in the basement of an old armory, so it's really echoey. So we took a tape recorder into the bathroom and recorderd me whistling the melody into the tape recorder. People were walking by, looking into the bathroom, thinking, "What the heck?" They're all artists, so they probably thought, "Best to just let this thing happen," and kept walking.
AL: Did you have to work out your whistler?
LD: I kind of tried to whistle the simple melody that was happening on the guitar. I don't think I can whilstle really loudly, I don't know if it would work if I tried whistling into a microphone at a live performance. I haven't tried, I play harmonica on that song when I do it live.