Tony Furtado
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Tony Furtado

Portland, Oregon, United States | INDIE

Portland, Oregon, United States | INDIE
Band Americana Folk


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"Tony Furtado CD Review"

Tony Furtado comes off as the laid-back sideman who saves the day when the star gets sick. Supported by players like Sean Slade, Jim Dickinson and Dusty Wakeman, he mixes bluegrass roots with a mainstream pop streak, easily holding the spotlight, thanks to his restrained virtuosity on acoustic and slide guitar, and a warmly engaging voice reminiscent of T Bone Burnett, sans preachiness. Although his down-home covers (Creedance, The Who, Elton John) are pleasant enough, Furtado's originals cut much deeper, with the tense, bitter "Another Man" and depressing ballad "The Alcohol" exposing the desperation behind the mellow facade. - Paste Magazine

"Tony Furtado Interview"

It seems wholly appropriate that when I interview Tony Furtado, he's on the road. Furtado's frequently changed his location, eliminating the status quo as a means to personal and professional growth. Raised on the East Bay of San Francisco, he developed an interest in the banjo after making a rough version of one for a school project. This led the aspiring sculptor to enter the Grand National Banjo Championship, which he won twice, in 1987 and 1991. Years later I watched him playing slide guitar at his then home of Boulder, Colorado. And later still, besides shining on more stringed instruments, he added singer/songwriter to his list of accomplishments. This occurred while he was living in Los Angeles.

As he conducts this interview Furtado is at the end of a drive that brings him from his current home of Portland, Oregon to the first date of the next leg of a touring cycle that begins in Santa Cruz. As usual, he seems not content to allow his creativity to settle down into one dimension. While Thirteen continues the lyrics-driven material that began on 2004’s These Chains, Furtado is already contemplating a future that will combine the various sides of his musical personality. It sounds as if it's been part of his plan from the very beginning, more than 20 years ago.

John Patrick Gatta: The last time we spoke was during your solo stint opening for Gregg Allman. Now you’re on the road with a band. Are you using any of the musicians that appear on Thirteen?

Tony Furtado: No, I didn't get any of the people. Three of them are older producer guys, have been around for years and years and wouldn't even really consider roadwork.

JPG: How did you end up working with the musicians on Thirteen?

TF: It was my manager's idea. A couple of these guys were people that he's worked with a bunch. He brought up the idea that maybe we'd get Jim Dickinson, who I'd met before and he'd come to one of my shows before and I sure like his work and, I guess, he kinda dug what I'd done. And that totally made sense. Then, Sean Slade, I had never met before, but he was interested in coming and working on it ‘cause it was something different for him. Dusty Wakeman, of course, we worked together before. Winston Watson lives in Tucson and L.A. He's worked with all of those guys before.

So, it fell into place. It was all happening when they were going to be down there anyway for the big Tape Op Convention that happens in Tucson. Tape Op’s an indie magazine that focuses on studio engineering, especially studios that use analog tapes.

(At this point Furtado’s cell phone isn’t transmitting so well, which elicits a comment on technology being our friend and enemy.)

JPG: Of course, for someone like you, you can avoid all that and just play acoustic.

TF: When I do play electric I don't use a lot of crazy stuff. It's because I don't think my brain's built that way. (slight laugh) I usually have a maximum of three pedals in front of me for my electric guitar ‘cause I just don't think I could handle any more. I'll get a tone that works for me and that's pretty much it. And then with the acoustic guitar I do the same. Get a tone that works for me and volume up, volume down.

JPG: I read you opened up for Eric Johnson. I’d imagine he had a fairly elaborate set up.

TF: Oh yeah. He's definitely got elaborate stuff. Definitely very elaborate. I think it's cool. It worked for him. It's definitely great for his sound. I think the guy that I saw that had the most pedals was Trey Anastasio. He was almost surrounded by pedals. Literally. He had like a horseshoe of pedals all around him. It was like, ‘Oh, I can't even imagine that.’

JPG: The album deals with certain themes, serious stuff, sometimes not such happy situations. I’m just wondering how was your frame of mind while writing this?

TF: I wrote it pretty much over the course of about a year-and-a-half. There were a lot of songs that I wrote over that time. I think that was probably about a quarter of what I had written. There was definitely a fair amount of introspection. I intended for that to happen, as well as just input into myself, into my brain with doing a lot of reading, a lot of listening to other music. I used it as a learning period.

I took a year-and-a-half or so off the road, well not technically, ‘cause I went out a couple times here and there to make some dough. I had a couple weekly gigs and I'd try out some of the new songs and try out some new covers and just have fun with it. I didn't want to force anything. I felt like I grew a lot. I did some co-writing with different people. By doing that I think the whole songwriting thing, which was pretty new to me, the lyric songwriting thing, it became more of a vital form of expression. The more I did it, the more necessary it became to actually do it, and the more easy it became to actually express true emotion rather than do something where it's, 'Hey! Look! I can rhyme to music!' This is what I'm -

"Tony Furtado Interview"

Tony Furtado thinks 13 could be his lucky number. Thirteen (2007, Funzalo Records) is the 13th album from the 13-x-3-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist-banjoist whose career highlights range from winning national banjo competitions to appearing on stage with Keith Richards and Telecaster master James Burton.

Furtado's 1987 win at the National Banjo Competition (a feat he would repeat in '91) led to a touring sideman stint with bluegrass musician (fiddle) Laurie Lewis (Laurie Lewis and Grant Street) and the launch of his professional career. But, bluegrass was only one style of music that interested Furtado. He'll spend the next two decades fusing bluegrass, country, rock, blues, jazz, and folk (both American and European) on his expanding instrument arsenal of banjo, guitar, slide guitar and voice.

A sampling from Furtado's discography illustrates the eclectic nature of Furtado's career: Swamped (1990, Rounder Select); Within Reach (1992, Rounder Select); Full Circle (1994, Rounder Select); Roll My Blues Away (1997, Rounder Select); Tony Furtado & Dirk Powell (1999, Rounder Select); Tony Furtado Band (2000, What Are Records?); American Gypsy (2002, What Are Records?); Live Gypsy (2003, Dualtone Music Group, Inc.); These Chains (2004, Funzalo Reocrds); and Bare Bones (2005, Funzalo Records). You can preview each of these CDs on CD Universe. Be prepared for everything from bluegrass banjo picking to fusion jazz.

Furtado is a mature multi-instrumentalist whose desire to communicate engaging stories has encouraged him to develop his vocal abilities over the years. Both 2004's These Chains and 2007's Thirteen showcase his singing, though fans of Tony Furtado the instrumentalist won't be disappointed. Furtado strives to create music in which his voice and string work contribute different elements to the story being told.

And storytelling is the essence of Thirteen; stories of, from, and to the heart.

The upcoming release of Thirteen (street date: January 23, 2007) served as the backdrop for the interview below, which took place on December 12, 2006. Will 13 prove to be a lucky number for Tony Furtado? Fortunately, for Tony, the success of Thirteen will have little to do with chance and much to do with listening pleasure.

Listen to two tracks from Tony Furtado's new CD, Thirteen.



[Please note: While Modern Guitars has been given permission to provide full track on-demand streams, the tracks have been downsampled to 64 kbps to accomodate the Modern Guitars stream server and don't represent the fidelity of the original CD.]

Tom Watson: I hear the Road Dog's on a road break.

Tony Furtado: I've been on a break for about a year now.

Tom: Nice.

Tony: Not a full-on break. I've done little tours like once or twice a month for the past year and few months, just to kind of keep money in the bank and groceries on the table and to keep things going a little bit. But for the most part, I haven't been touring so much. I took a lot of time off the road to write songs for the album and then to actually make the album and to chill out a little bit. It gave me some necessary motivation and necessary time and space to focus and relax, you know?

Tom: Sweep the cobwebs out.

Tony: Exactly. I was able to practice my instruments a little bit more, as well as just read a lot and work on some song writing, which I've wanted to really focus more on. The last album I put out was called These Chains and it felt a little bit more like exercise than anything. I felt like it was an album that needed to happen. I hadn't really focused on song writing like that before. A few of the songs came out good, but I think with this one [13] I was more focused on actually writing from the heart. When we recorded 13 I had a bit more fun because I felt like it was coming from a deeper place.

Tom: You’ll hit the road in January to support the new album.

Tony: Yeah. Exactly. I kicked back this year [2006].

Tom: Who are you taking with you on the road?

Tony: Oh, some guys from around here. There's a bass player named Damian, who's actually the nephew of Peter Erskine, who's a famous jazz drummer. He's a great bass player. And a drummer from here named Drew Scholls who's just a very fine young drummer. And I'm not sure who the fourth person's going to be yet. We're still working on that.

Tom: How old are you?

Tony: I was born in '67. I just turned 39.

Tom: What an eclectic career you’ve had.

Tony: Definitely. I started off in I guess it would be '89 … or '88. I left college, basically. Fresh out of high school, I was hired by a woman named Laurie Lewis, and I was just playing banjo back then. But I was really into banjo. I mean, really into banjo.

Tom: What year did you win the National Banjo Competition?

Tony: It was in 1987 and in 1991. I did it twice. The first time was because I didn't know any better. The second time I did it because I needed to pay rent. Th - Modern Guitars


These Chains 2004
Bare Bones 2005
Thirteen 2006
Deep Water - Feb. 3, 2009


Feeling a bit camera shy


Tony Furtado – Deep Water – new CD coming out out now!!!

It takes guts to start your album off with The Bawds of Euphony, an instrumental banjo tune. But Tony Furtado (also known as the ultimate road warrior) is a man unafraid to go with his instincts when it comes to his music. “Yeah,” he laughs, “it’s weird to start the album off with an instrumental banjo tune, but why not?” And why not indeed, when Tony’s 14th album, entitled Deep Water, comes entirely from Tony’s heart. This CD is 100% Tony Furtado, from the cover art that he created, to the collection of 14 songs that he wrote and chose specifically for Deep Water. Here you will find tunes that embrace his love of slide guitar, his prowess as a banjo player, and his ability to write a song that elicits deep emotion. Produced by the fabulous (and slightly mad) Sean Slade (The Pixies, Radiohead, Dinosaur Jr., Dresden Dolls), Deep Water wanders through a wide array of sentiment; from joy and love, to despair and hopelessness. Recorded in Boston, away from managers, label employees, publicists or loved ones, Sean and Tony came together to make a record Tony truly wanted to create.

By the age of 19, Furtado had earned himself a reputation as a young banjo prodigy, winning two National Bluegrass Banjo Championships. Despite the press and praise as one of the most promising bluegrass artists, Furtado decided that one genre wasn’t enough for him. Creatively, he had something more to express. “I don’t think I could ever be happy staying in any one place musically,” says Tony Furtado.

Next, Furtado picked up the slide guitar and soon established that his dexterity transitioned with ease. Using fingers and a bottleneck, it wasn’t long before Furtado began writing songs that had a folksier feel and featured himself as the vocalist. Previously he had released banjo albums that featured the vocals of talents such as Allison Krauss and Jerry Douglas. But Tony wanted to add singer to his songwriter and instrumental talents. And, in true Furtado fashion, he accomplished that as well.

From his teenage years until the present, Tony has wandered through genres and styles, never growing static and always evolving musically. He has toured tirelessly for over two decades and has garnered a great

deal of respect from his peers, and has taken part in acts such as The Everyone Orchestra and The Banjo Killers, and shared the stage with the likes of Papa Mali, Keith Richards, Tom Freund, Nick Luca, Scott Law, Dirk Powell and Susan Cloud among others. Like his vast catalogue of recordings, a Tony Furtado show has something to offer everyone. His music has taken him all over the country and into the hearts of many a music lover. Whether he’s playing with a band, or recording as a solo artist, his playing and considerable skills as a multi-instrumentalist and his strong songwriting prowess have led to him to be embraced as a recording artist or as a live act.

Tony is an extremely skilled musician with a riveting voice who blends rock music with elements of blues, pop, folk and country. His musical reach is broad enough to resonate with fans of Ry Cooder, The Band, Bruce Springsteen, CCR, and Tom Petty, among others. Furtado’s extremely impressive, furious slide guitar skills and 25+ years of banjo experience will blow away the music geeks; for the lovers of a story in a song, Furtado has a few tales to tell; and to those who are looking for a performance, get ready to be captivated, charmed, and entertained.

And on Deep Water you will find yourself pulled in and drawn under.

For more information, interviews, etc, regarding Tony Furtado, please contact Funzalo Records, 520-628-8655.