In 2009, that eighth grade boy is now a husband, a brand new dad and also an accomplished songwriter living in North Dallas. He writes indie rock, film scores, operettas and bombastic Hollywood love songs. He writes alone or sometimes with a partner or two. On the rare occasion he covers someone else’s song, he chooses something like a venerated Leonard Cohen anthem. His latest solo album, Stir the Menagerie, was self-produced and released last year. At 39, Gandolfi is still star material and still chasing that dream. Some people don’t have it in them to surrender.
Art&Seek: You were considered something of a musical prodigy from your early teen years. What was your attitude toward the future at that time?
Paul Vincent Gandolfi: When I came out of high school and did the first record when I was 16, things were good. I was musically, for my age, pretty advanced. I was already writing a lot of music. And the thing that you have to grapple with yourself is: it was kind of expected. “I’ll make it by the time I’m 21! Goodbye, everybody!” It came close to happening a lot of times; it didn’t happen. It kind of redefines who you are and what you’re about. Is it OK, and do you enjoy your music enough, that if you don’t sell 10 million records, that it’s still worthy of you to do? I think that gets down to the core of who the artist may or may not be.
A&S: When did you figure out you needed some sort of digital presence for the marketing of your music?
PVG: I’ve had Web presence really only in the past five or six years. Lifesketch was a longterm, kind of maudlin little album. Never listen to it while drinking red wine. I had a huge collection of songs. I had a songwriting partner for a number of years, and we did the operetta together, and I was like, “You know, I haven’t done a solo record in a good number of years.” So I did that. I had to do all new photo shots and interviews and that kind of stuff, so that’s where the Web presence kind of came out. And the flash sites, ’cause they’re kind of fancy. Now we’re actually converting the site to something that works within WordPress so that I can start blogging more, and I’ve got to Tweet now. I’ve been on Twitter since last year, but I don’t tweet very much because I think it’s cyberstalking.
A&S: You mentioned the operetta. You’re all over the map musically. Was that your idea?
PVG: Me and a buddy named Terry. He had been on Broadway. We started writing songs together for W.T. Greer here in town – great, soulful singer. He used to play piano in town at The Library at the Melrose. So Terry and I were writing songs together, and we got the idea to write an operetta. I was classically trained, and we did a lot of research and wrote a story called V about Vlad Ţepeş, who’s the basis of the Dracula legend. It’s not Dracula; it’s rooted more in the history of the Romanian prince. Those projects take a long time. It’s three hours, fully scored, all that kind of stuff.
A&S: Were you doing both music and lyrics?
PVG: Oh yeah. We wrote the full libretto, the book, and then wrote the score, orchestrated the score, then recorded the album. The demo is very dated now – this is like mid-90s — but it still holds up. In fact, it’s being shopped in New York right now with a production office. Another piece that we wrote with a third partner was called Song of Motherhood. It was premiered here at the Watertower Theatre in Addison. Terry Martin, the Executive Director, was originally in the show and then we picked him to direct it.
We wrote material for other people. We were actually slated to do the score and write the main theme for The Bridges of Madison County. This was the big break that didn’t come. Terry went to California and had this meeting. I was unavailable to go. Our music was circulating all through the industry for film, you know, like big romantic themes. The book was out, and it was all over. Robert James Waller was knocking it out of the park.
A&S: Was Clint Eastwood attached to it yet?
PVG: No. No. Clint Eastwood killed me. This was Amblin Entertainment. It stemmed from Bonnie Curtis, who we had a relationship with, who was Speilberg’s assistant. Really nice. Universal was partnered up as the studio. They were like, “We’re going to give each of you guys a scene, and we’d like you to write the main love theme and then take things from the scene and assimilate it into the lyrical context of what you’re doing.” And you get to go in there and meet the other composers. So it was Jerry Goldsmith, who has since passed away – incredible film scorer – Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Marvin Hamlisch and Langfitt and Gandolfi. It was crazy – of all the times that I couldn’t be there … We wrote this theme, it was great, Universal started to pass on it, Amblin was still doing it, Speilberg was going to produce, Sydney Pollack was directing. Sydney Pollack had to pull out because he had to do Eyes Wide Shut – he wasn’t directing, but he was in it. So then they get Eastwood to do it. And he’s a jazz pianist himself, and a fledgling composer, very simple. I’m not critiquing his work; it’s tasty. But there’s like 19 minutes of music in that two and a half hour movie. Well, the director has the ultimate power on those things. And so it went away. It was heartbreaking.
A&S: That is the worst B+ in the history of all time.
PVG: It was. I was 26. It was going to be a hit no matter who did it, because the book was so huge. Here I am a rock and roll guy and I was like, “I’ll do this all day long, because I love writing balladry.” Don’t get me wrong – there’s something very guttural, instinctive and soulful about rock music, and what you say and the driving of the rhythm and everything, it’s very sexual. But love songs are love songs, and the top 20 songs of all time are love songs, because the human condition is based upon relationships. Everybody can relate to love, happiness and sadness.
A&S: Did you have similar experiences with your solo music?
PVG: I’ve got all sorts of stories like that. It’s all based on the whim of whoever is in the spot to get you where you want to go. The entertainment industry is based on the rule of one. It takes one person, in the right spot, that believes in your art, no matter what it is – this could go with any kind of media, art, music, one publisher if you’re a writer of books – one person in that spot to change the fate of where your art goes. It’s all based on one. And I’ve had lots of ’em.
The Art&Seek Q&A is a weekly discussion with a person involved in the arts in North Texas. Check back next Thursday for another installment.