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Mark Nanni Rolls Out Two

Mark Nanni plays out every day it seems. As a social media pal I see him posting shows all over the region. This multi-instrumentalist vocalist is well beyond the days of paying dues, as a seasoned pro working as much as he does.

You’ve probably seen him out at one of the brewery gigs, a restaurant, a festival, perhaps. He’s the bearded dude with the hat playing keyboards, accordion and guitar. 

Today he’s with us to talk about releasing two brand-new works. Two. Again, the ambition of Nanni is notable in that he has this much music to offer.

Chuck Schiele: Most people talk about their new release. You are here to talk about two new releases, yes?

Mark Nanni: Yes, correct. It was a bit of a surprise, actually. I set out to make a studio representation of what my solo show is like now, and what I’ve lovingly curated over the last six years or so. My previous solo release, Towns and Spaces in Between, came out a few years ago, and really represents phase one of this solo show experience I’ve been on. It’s just piano and vocal with lots of blues, jazz, a little Grateful Dead, a few originals, and a Beethoven piece thrown in to show range. These were my earlier influences, and before I reintroduced accordion to the show, and then later introduced guitar. 

Today’s show is really about the three instruments and the even broader range that they allow me, along with tons of material that has been added since T & S. 

I felt that I was years overdue for a release that exhibited my present show, in deference to so much live playing. So I just forced the sessions into my calendar. Otherwise, I would just keep telling myself, “you’re too busy with live shows and family obligations.”

But the surprise came in the form of a second release, recorded live in the field, that gave me just enough time to actually release both simultaneously this past October. 

CS: Are these works a series of the same inspiration; or are they representing two different inspirations?

MN: Both, really. On the one hand, they are companion releases that do a pretty good job of telling the whole story of my solo show, after so many years of essentially being a side guy with some of our region’s very best talent, including 20 years with the band Los Blancos. 

Between the two releases, there are no duplicate songs, and there are still many more that I play regularly on gigs and are as yet unrecorded. The difference is then, one is the recording of a live show with a mic on my front-end speaker, warts and all. This is exactly what I sound like live, and how I organize a show, while being influenced by the audience in attendance for that particular evening. There are no overdubs, and no studio magic other than a simple EQ mix and mastering. 

The studio recording, on the other hand, allowed me to employ the tools available in a studio setting. Many songs are recorded to a click track for tempo control and the ease of overdubbing, if called for. Some songs were captured live in a single take, while others, I would overdub in order to fix a mistake, add a new solo, even in a couple of instances, adding layers of instruments or vocals that would be impossible to do by myself completely live, as I would on a show.

CS: Please tell us a bit about #1. Who’s involved? How you did it.

MN: The studio album is called Mountain, named after one of my original songs. I recorded at my friend Sam Patterelli’s home studio, Blue Jay Way. Sam owned and ran his own studio when I first met him years ago, working on a Donna Colton recording. He has since moved all of his gear into his home, so while it’s a home studio by definition, it’s a bit more advanced than most people’s home studios. Sam and Donna happen to live just a couple of blocks away from me, so between being old friends and knowing Sam’s talent as a recording engineer as well as musician, and the proximity, it was too convenient to pass up. Sam and I had excellent chemistry and a wonderful working relationship, which made for a really easy project together. 

We kept things very simple, and only brought out the studio tools when they were most appropriate. I highly prize Sam’s ears and taste, and so I gave him a co-production credit along with myself. Well deserved, indeed. 

CS: Please tell us a bit about Work #2.

MN: The second release is called Live at McCarthy’s, and was recorded all in one show at this fun Cazenovia venue. Chris Fisher has been going out and recording some of his favorite bands, such as Count Blastula, Mike Powell and the Echosound, Rollin’ Rust, and lately, yours truly. He then puts them up on his Soundcloud page. Chris is part of the old school guard of the original “Tapers” at Grateful Dead shows, faithfully capturing live recordings in the field. 

The McCarthy’s album came from the very first time he came out to record one of my shows, and he has subsequently captured a few others as well. 

Chris’ enthusiasm and willingness to record and share live music he loves is a boon to any of us lucky enough to have him drop by our shows with his gear. Upon playback, I realized that I had enough good material to release, so Sam and I simply cut the songs up into individual tracks, fixed some levels and EQ, and readied the material for mastering, which was expertly handled by Ron Keck at SubCat studios, for both releases. 

CS: What were some of the highlights in the creative process and production of these works?

MN: Again, the live recording was just that, and so I just enjoyed myself playing a show as I do four to five times each week. In these situations, I do my best to put it out of my mind that there is a recorder going, and I just try to cater to the audience.

The studio recording, however, allowed us to do a bit more. Not settle for any mistakes, overdubbing when necessary. As mentioned earlier, we could also add some layers. There is one song where for the briefest moment, I sing three-part harmony with myself. Also, in a couple of instances, I would add a solo to a rhythm track, something I can’t do live. I even added a track of drums from an old school drum machine that I played live on the pads with my fingers. Otherwise, I remained very faithful to the solo format. 

I’ve made a very firm decision to keep my live solo shows completely live, like an old troubadour. I want to stand apart from other musicians. I don’t use a looper at all, like many other solo performers. I try to show the maximum performance from one guy, whether that be all on one instrument, or by employing one of my favorite tricks: leading a song on guitar, jumping to keys for a solo, and back to guitar without missing a beat. I play solo accordion, which really no one does anymore. Even with my guitar, I choose to play a nylon string versus the usual steel string acoustic. I play both finger style and with a pick, and I’ve endeavored to develop very much my own style on each of the instruments. 

CS: Do you have a typical or favorite way or ways of writing and creating?

MN: I really don’t have a typical way. For original material, I usually write words first, then music, but sometimes it’s the other way around, and sometimes, they come out simultaneously. While I’m a pianist first, I often write on guitar, finding that having less familiarity actually helps in the creation of new music, but of course, I do write on both instruments. 

But, some of my favorite ways of creating is in arranging and interpreting cover material. I only play songs I love, but I still find it important to play songs people know. I tend towards the deeper cuts of known artists, but ones that people still know and love. I really enjoy reminding people of songs they truly enjoy, but may have forgotten about or haven’t heard in a long time. 

The key for me is choosing which instrument I will use to accompany my vocal, whether it be piano, electric piano, accordion, or guitar. I love figuring out ways to employ knowledge of each instrument to create a rhythm section for myself. Different left hand techniques on keys (bass lines: melodic or repetitive, chording, etc.), finger style on guitar versus strumming, oompah bass and chords on accordion…these are all within my arsenal, and each style of music lends itself uniquely to each technique. 

CS: What other writers are hot in your mind, these days?

MN: I really love the material being created by people like Marcus King, Chris Stapleton, Tedeschi-Trucks, Gary Clark, Jr., Tyler Childers, and outliers like the Dirty Projectors. I have a very wide range of music that I love, but I still come back to classics constantly. Certain ones just speak to my soul and I can’t nor want to get away from them.  

CS: Where can we access and obtain your new releases?

MN: The very best way to grab my new stuff is at my shows. The two new ones have been released on CD as well as USB thumb drives, which contain MP3’s of all the songs, as well as all of the artwork, liner notes, credits, and layout, (all handled masterfully by Matt Figueroa for Neon Grove Studios). You can choose to load your devices in order to play and view, or you can plug them directly into your car’s USB port and they will play and display beautifully.  

Alternatively, you can contact me via my website or email to arrange for me to snail mail the product to you, unless you’d prefer digital only, which I’m happy to provide as well. Here are my website and email:



CS: What’s in your near future music schedule?

MN: I play four to five shows weekly, year round. It’s easy to catch me, but I do move around quite a bit. I tend to stay a little closer to the home region during the colder months, while summer finds me further flung, hitting, for instance, the Thousand Islands region quite often for three day mini tours. 

CS: How do we stay in touch with Mark Nanni music?

MN: My entire shows calendar, bio, gallery, merch, etc., can all be found at my website, while Facebook works great for whatever is happening during the present week. (Links below in my signature.)

CS: Thank you Mark. It’s been a pleasure to talk about your new releases.

MN: Thank you, Chuck. The pleasure’s all mine.

Mark Nanni Links:




insta: @nanni88s

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Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is a lifelong, award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member Quatrocollective.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.