BWW Interview: Eddie Brigati of EDDIE BRIGATI: AFTER THE RASCALS at The Cutting Room
I had the true privilege of speaking with the legendary founding member of The Rascals, Eddie Brigati. Starting March 1st he is taking up an exciting musical residency at The Cutting Room, Eddie Brigati: After The Rascals in New York City produced by rock royalty Steven and Maureen Van Zandt. We discussed everything from his song writing process with The Rascals to the meshing of Broadway music with Rock and Roll. Anyone who has spent time with Eddie would agree that he has a gentle spirit, a passion for music and is a steadfast advocate for the arts. His show is sure to be a feast for the ears and promises to touch the hearts of the lucky people who snag a ticket to this intimate cabaret series.
Tell your fans what they can expect from the show!
It's a presentation from my point of view. It's a hybrid, naturally we will have some Rascal songs. Maureen Van Zandt produced the show, it's like a new exciting world. Tasted a bit of Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theater a few years back with Steven Van Zandt and his wife Maureen's production of The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream. I'm almost an adult now and it's a retrospect of my life through storytelling. It includes the Rascal records and then Maureen had the grace to suggest some Broadway songs and to my pleasure it added another dimension. It's theatrical, it includes monologues, it almost feels like a musical.
That brings me to my next questions, what is your connection to Broadway musicals? Did you choose the set list?
Maureen picked out the pieces. I was kind of reluctant because I'm a rock brain but at our core we are really balladeers; we're singers. I followed my brother David into the music business, he was in Joey D and the Starlighters. They sang The Peppermint Twist. My first recording was a song called What Kind of Love Is This? for Joey D, I was 15 years old. That was early 60's, we started The Rascals in 65. But this residency is a whole new world, it's more intimate, it's a more personal venue, a cabaret. There's an array of different types of music. Sinatra songs, Benny King, rhythm and blues. Steven wrote a wonderful song for me called Eddie's Song - he's a mentor to me, him and Maureen have been very kind. Steven is a perfectionist and a champion for education in music and advocacy of important issues and we mesh together very well.
That's beautiful, it terms of your song writing process - is it the story that comes first or the music?
Songs are mostly love songs aren't they? Lost love and found love. As a writer it's "traumatic and dramatic" and when we add music to those feelings they are more palpable, almost turning them into little operettas. You have three minutes to express your feelings about all these different characters and by the time the show is through you hope people can find something in themselves to relate to it.
Originally during The Rascal's success Felix was the musician along with Gene and Dino who played the keyboards. I was the storyteller and editor. I would say to him, what do you want to say in a word or two, where would you like this to go? When we wrote Groovin' it was our day off, we were living in Manhattan right up the street from Central Park. You could be anywhere you want to be. It was a mellow, summer airy, Latin feel and we just wrote about our day off the crowded avenues. I used to say each song was like a pizza. What would you like on it today? Every song has a different vulnerability; insight into what you want people to know about you. I think of my mother and grandmother's philosophy of softness and heart. We are ballad singers but Rock and Roll was the vehicle when we were young. We always kept our best foot forward and realized that children were going to hear this. Always tryied to make things upbeat and positive, progressive and hopeful and it stuck! You go into a room, people fill in, they clap for you, you raise them above with a song and before you know it they forget about their troubles and that is the whole point. I think Santana said it best when he said music can change the molecules of the room and if you go in with that intention it's even more powerful.
I love that, so powerful. Could you speak to how this residency came about?
The Van Zandts arranged all of it. Steven has always been a Rascal fan. I think he and Bruce [Springsteen] went to a concert as teenagers before they knew each other down in South Jersey. I've been given this opportunity by Steven and Maureen to express my opinion in this quiet and controlled environment. I can express all these little stories about people trying to get somewhere or accomplish something in some cases even escape something in their lives.
What can you tell us about the Rockit Foundation?
My wife taught in the Montclair school system in New Jersey. Children are so pliable and moldable and are so dear to us. These children came to her and looked at her as a role model. So we understand the importance of education. Steven and Maureen introduced me to Bruce Gallipani who started the Rockit Foundation . It's children 8-18 years old who play music with enthusiasm and expertise beyond their years. It's an amazing program with exceptional kids. Music is the focus but they are also taught to be gentle and considerate to each other. As kids we didn't have these kind of mentors, Rock and Roll was such a new concept.
That sounds like an incredible program, I'm a former music teacher so I'm very invested in children's musical experiences.
Our currency is music, our songs are going to live way past our shelf date. These are spirit songs and they mark our places in history. I'm trying to use the opportunity I have to entertain people and hopefully it will help encourage the audience to find their own artistic path, whether it's dance or music, anything that brings them joy. I have wonderful family and friends and the best fans anyone could ask for and it's always important to express to the how much they mean to me through this journey and I'm excited to share that through this show at The Cutting Room.
Rock 'n' Roll legend Eddie Brigati will begin a monthly residency with Eddie Brigati: AFTER THE RASCALS at the Cutting Room, 44 East 32 Street, New York City. Created and directed by the legendary Steven Van Zandt and produced by Steven Van Zandt and Maureen Van Zandt, Brigati's shows are 7:30 PM Thursday, March 1; Thursday, April 5 and Wednesday, May 2. Tickets are on sale now. Click here for tickets! This is a return engagement to the Cutting Room where the show debuted last Spring to SRO crowds. Additional shows will be announced soon.