One moe.Time: "6th Member of moe." Contest Winners Interview, Part II

Posted: January 19th, 2013

On December 29, moe.rons made their way to the Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts. They came from far and wide, braved a cold and very snowy evening, to see and hear their favorite band. They were not disappointed. It was night 2 of moe.’s 2012 NYE run, and featured “6th member of moe.” contest winner JOE BELLANTI. We caught up with Joe and asked him all about his moe.experience. We’re now happy to share it with you:

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Q: What made you decide to enter the contest?

A: There were a bunch of things, but I'll give you the top three:

1. The music: I love moe.'s approach to music. They come from the same Buffalo jam band scene that I do. One of the hallmarks of that scene is that the line between the band and the fans is pretty blurry. Every gig feels like a frat party where everyone is just there to share the music and have a good time. A few people just happen to be the ones with the instruments. The thought of being able to blend into that, even a few minutes, was something I really wanted to take a shot at. Yet, I was waffling about it at one point and I had a couple conversations with my good friend Corey Kertzie, a drummer that also lives in Buffalo. He got me all fired up to enter and really motivated me to follow through with it.

2. Parental Consistency: I always tell my daughters that, when you love something, you have to try. You may win or you may not, but you have to try. It was great to be able to share the whole experience with them and my wife, Mary, who was really supportive through the whole process. Once I told the girls about it I really wanted to follow through.

3. Personal challenge: I had some fairly major issues that affected my playing during the first part of 2012. I am very fortunate that I am actually better now that I was before. I had some doubts about whether I could still play though—especially at a professional level. The contest was a great opportunity to focus on a specific goal, and follow through with getting my entry submitted.

Q: What about choosing the songs “Nebraska” and “NYC” to play? How did that come about?

A: I was looking for songs that I felt would sound good with a piano added in. I play other keyboards and instruments too, but piano is my main instrument. “NYC” is my favorite moe. song. I love the melody, the signature line that Al plays during the intro and that Chuck and Al play together during the break before the solo section, and the fact that it was in the key of G, which just happens to be a comfortable key for me on piano. “Nebraska” came about a little by accident. The contest rules said that if you were chosen you could play one song with the band - you pick a song and the band could say yes or no. Vinnie called me to let me know that I had been chosen (which was amazing in itself) and asked me to send over three songs and they would tell me which one. I sent over “NYC,” “Nebraska” and “Tambourine.” A couple days later Vinnie sent me back a note and said that they had decided on “NYC” because they liked my audition video, but they also wanted to do “Nebraska” because of the Dixieland-style part where Chuck plays the talk-box solo. That was really fun to play live.

Q: Any particular moment that stands out that day of the show?

A: Probably my favorite moment of the whole experience was at the sound check - we had just finished running through “Nebraska” and I had figured we would play “NYC” the same way the guys play it live. Al turned to me and said, "We were thinking you could play the intro like you did in your audition video and we would just blend in after a while". So I'm thinking, "... you want me to play the intro ... alone ... in front of people?? ... a lot of people???..." - but all I remember saying was, "OK - sounds good". The fact that they wanted me do that really meant a lot to me.

Q: You seemed very comfortable up there, have you performed before that many people?

A: Only once in front of an audience that big, which was at the University of Buffalo, Springfest, when a band I was in, Wild Knights, opened for Cheap Trick—that was in the last century. Other than that I have played a ton of shows over the years and just really enjoy sharing music with an audience.

Q: When you sat down at the keyboard, what did you feel when you looked out on the crowd, or did you look at all?

A: I definitely looked—at first the spotlights were on and I could not see anyone, but as soon as we started “Nebraska,” the lights shifted and I could see everyone all the way up to the top of the balcony. Definitely a stellar moment. My cheeks were actually sore from smiling when I walked off the stage after we were done!

Q: Do you perform regularly these days?

A: I haven't for several years because of family, children, job, and health considerations but things have stabilized and I had made plans to get a band together and also start playing some solo shows about 3 months before the contest was announced. The contest really sealed it for me. I will be posting news about it at www.joebellanti.com and on my facebook page if anyone wants to check it out.

Q: How does it feel to know your performance video is up on Relix?

A: Awesome and hilarious at the same time - If you go to the page at Relix.com where the video of “Nebraska” and “NYC” is posted: http://www.relix.com/blogs/picks-and-pans/2012/12/31/moe-with-joe-bellanti-nebraska-and-new-york-city my mom left the first comment - who knew she reads Relix? Too funny. It was great the day they put up the page with the videos of the guys that played. We were listed with a bunch of great bands. I thought Taylor Frederick and Matt Mahoney both did an outstanding job as well. I have been talking to both of them on Facebook and Taylor stayed over for the second show in Worcester so we got a chance to talk and had a great time at the show I played in.

Q: Any feedback you wish to share about your experience?

A: In terms of feedback that I have gotten, the response has been overwhelmingly positive which has been great and really humbling at the same time. My favorite messages have been the ones from moe. fans that were at the show or saw the video, and took the time to find me online and have sent some great notes. I've gotten a lot of great messages from fellow musicians too, which has also been very humbling. For my own part, the guys are probably getting sick of hearing it, but I would like to take one more opportunity to thank Chuck, Rob, Al, Jim, Vinnie and the whole moe. crew for both the chance to play and for really making me feel at home when I was at the show. moe. runs a first class operation and it is easy to see why their fans are so loyal. From the minute I pulled up at the loading dock door to the minute I hit the road to head back to Buffalo, everyone I came in contact with went above and beyond to make sure that I had everything I needed. I can't tell you how much I appreciate everything that everyone did. Thanks again and I am really looking forward to seeing you all down the road.

Tomorrow, Part III: interview with Kansas City guitarist Matt Mahoney