Ziggy Stardust. The King of Rock and Roll. Two legendary musicians who share the same birthday and will forever be remembered on January 8. What better way to celebrate these revolutionary artists than to suit up and rock out to their timeless tunes?
Splice Records’ 10th annual BowiElvis Fest will be rockin’ on Saturday, January 12 at Austin’s Barracuda. Honoring the birthdays of David Bowie and Elvis Presley, two of the most beloved and influential artists of the previous century, this year’s event will feature music by Swimwear Department, Pecos Hank, Brian Scartocci and Henry & the Invisibles. Sponsors include Old Humble Whiskey Distillery, Deep Eddy Vodka, Texas Direct Insurance, and Splice’s main sponsor, Lone Star Beer.
We had the chance to interview performing artist Brian Scartocci and chat with him about his journey through his music career, influences, and the much anticipated BowiElvis Fest. A singer/songwriter based in our own home of Austin, Brian is what many call a “retro-soul phenomenon,” gracing ears with his warm, inviting melodies that leave you wanting more. Having been a frontman for several bands over the years, Brian has now returned to his passion as a solo artist and is making waves.
Can you tell me about your journey through your music career thus far?
Brian: Well, the funny thing about this show [BowiElvis Fest] is that I can go all the way back to the very beginning when I was a kid and maybe four or five years old. I remember an infomercial for commemorative plates that were for Elvis Presley and said “Aloha from Hawaii.” I was like “Whoa, what is that?” I was mesmerized as a kid, so my aunt went and bought me some tapes, and from there I was crazy about Elvis. It’s funny, because I even used a little white plastic Fisher Price microphone where you’d step on the pedal and it would cheer for you. I can remember spending hours up in my room, singing old Elvis songs and pretending. And then this morning I got to play “Don’t Be Cruel” on the news, television dreams coming true.
Thinking back though, throughout middle school and high school my music was basically for myself. When I moved to Austin, that really brought up the first recordings and was the first time I tried to put a band together. I’ve been in bands since 2007, recorded a few albums and did the whole thing on “The Voice.” But I feel like that never really gave me much traction. So early last year I finally decided try the solo thing out and be myself, and this is really the best it’s ever been for me.
And, what about your creative process? What does that look like for you?
Brian: Well for me, because I’m a singer first and foremost, a melody just has to come to me. I never really fiddle around on the guitar and keyboard, it’s mostly melodies that stick in my brain. From there, I’ll recognize it, and sit down and kind of make a song out of it. Usually, it comes very quick. If I’ve got a little hook that feels good, it sparks something in my brain and the rest of the song usually happens right then and there. Then I’ll bring it to my friend Austin Roach who is my guitar player, and we’ll work it out from there. He puts the music all together.
What type of impact do you hope your music creates in the world and for people?
Brian: If they’re feeling sad, I would like to have a sad song that makes them feel better, in a way that helps. And sometimes it’s just those simple songs, that are three minutes, pretty, melodic and relatively simple. I want to make music that is for everybody and the message to be easily understood for kids, adults, and everybody in between. I want to make healing music. It’s worked for me in the past, and a lot of times it’s been Motown, Sam Cooke and Elvis. I’d like to make music that is timeless and for everybody.
So back in 2012 you were a contestant on “The Voice.” Can you tell me about that experience?
Brian: It was a whirlwind. The only thing I’ve ever really had to compare it to, that I’ve done so far, would be skydiving. I remember being backstage and it felt like when I had my toes dangling over the edge of the plane, thinking, “All right, you’re up here and better jump.” I was in my mid-twenties at the time and I was looking for some sort of validation. To me, that experience within myself, it felt like a message. I felt an ease about it. It felt like “Yes, this is what you do.” It let me know that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. “The Voice” experience on a whole was a wash, the highs met the lows, and I don’t think that it really brought me closer to what I was looking for, but I don’t regret it. It was a really wild time.
How do you feel that experience changed you, if at all?
Brian: I think that it taught me a lot in a short amount of time. Every artist’s goal is to have the widest audience they can get. For a brief moment in time I had that audience, I had the world. The feedback that you get from the world is wonderful. It was such a fleeting thing, and gave me a taste of it. I was pretty green at the time, I feel like I had a lot to learn still, but I learned so much in that quick time. I feel like when I get there again, it’ll be on my own merits and I’ll be ready for it. Now that I’ve got that arrow. Now that I’ve got that experience.
Let’s talk more about BowiElvis Fest! Will this be your first time performing at this event?
Brian: My first time was last Saturday night [January 5] in Houston, they do one in Houston and one in Austin. It was unreal. It really was everything that I built it up to be in my mind and more.
What are you looking forward to most about performing at the event in Austin?
Brian: It’s my backyard here. So I feel like it’ll be really great because there’ll be a lot of highs on this one. It’s a pretty good spot to find myself in. I’ve been playing around town for damn near a decade, but I feel like this is the biggest event I’ve had my name on thus far, and I’m ready to show that wider audience. I feel confident. I don’t feel overconfident, but I feel competent. There’s something poetic about it being at BowiElvis because of those two. I also grew up listening to David Bowie who brought me to the dance. So for this to be at beginning of the year, it’s going to be a strong year. I basically put everything together in 2018, that’s kind of my building year. Right here from the gate with BowiElvis, there’s some poetic about it.
What type of influence, if any, have David Bowie and Elvis had on your own music?
Brian: We call Elvis the King of Rock and Roll, but there’s a lot of soul in him. The way his songs are structured, the simplicity of them, and how he’s such a dynamic performer is deceptive. It seems easy. His songs seem so easy and so simple, but there’s some magic that makes it work. That is the formula I’m going with right now too.
I remember in third grade during summer vacation, my parents had gotten a new CD player and I was so excited. They got the double greatest hits David Bowie CD, and I was just blow away. I made a little copy for my Walkman and took him everywhere. He took me to Mars that summer, and he’s been a part of my life ever since. David Bowie has got some funky albums, but as far as my own music I don’t know if he’s had direct influence. But everybody is some sort of influence, so I feel like he’ll come out soon enough.
What’s next for you in your music career?
Brian: This year I’m going to put out my first album. I imagine that will happen sometime around the late summer or fall. It’s a dream come true! I’ll also put out a vinyl, which fits the style. I’ve got a few more singles coming out, and one should be the end of the month or the beginning of next month. That’ll help build the momentum this year. Again, I feel like 2018 was my building year, and now I think all of that building is going to lead to something. I’m looking forward to meeting new people and moving my career along. I really look forward to doing some more traveling. I got to go to Santa Fe and a couple other little cities last year. This year I’m proud to go on to Memphis. I’d love to go to New Orleans, and eventually Europe and Japan. I don’t know if it’ll happen this year, but that’s a big goal. I think I’ll do really well there.
For more information on Brian Scartocci visit https://www.brianscartocci.com, and for tickets to BowiElvis Fest click here. Tickets are $15 presale and $20 at the door. Doors are at 7 p.m. Costumes encouraged – you better bet we’ll be rockin’ our best Bowie and Elvis look!
Feature Photo Courtesy of Brian Scartocci
Leigh is a native Texan gone temporary New Yorker and now proud Austinite. Passions include but are not limited to music (both as a spectator and dabbler), traveling & cultural adventures, film & television, true crime, design (of the fashion, interior, and graphic sorts), and photographing & writing about all the aforementioned. Self-acclaimed coffee connoisseur & wino, cat aficionado, book worm, and nature junkie.