We recently had a chance to sit down and get to know Boston-based indie singer-songwriter Fil Pacino better. We hope through this process that you not only get to know Fil a bit better, but that you fall in love with his music.
Indie Minded: For those who may not be familiar with Fil Pacino, tell us a little about yourself and your sound.
Fil Pacino: My father worked nights when I was growing up so most of the music I was exposed to when I was young came from my older sister, mother and aunt. A lot of Motown, oldies and yes….disco was on deck. Stevie and Earth Wind and Fire make up most of my early musical memories. It wasn’t until my early teens that I was exposed to 60s/70s/80s rock. Queen, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin was all I listened to once that happened. I always sang in school choirs from a very young age but didn’t pick up the guitar until I was almost 16. I was one of those “hide from the world and practice scales” guys for a couple years. I played bass in a band my senior year of high school and was hooked for the next 10 years or so. Playing about 50 shows a year all around New England. I took a brief break….fell in love….got a “real job”…..and played sparingly until I had it with the corporate world….now I’m playing just under 300 shows a year for a living…granted mostly cover gigs…but it pays for my original projects. I released my debut solo record “Death by Lions” in the fall of 2013 and I’m currently working on a new record for an early 2016 release.
IM: How has the music scene changed since you started in the industry?
FP: It has changed a great deal. I actually have a degree in Music Industry from Northeastern and watched it quickly become useless once Napster and the like changed everything. We now have an entire generation of people on this planet that were born into a world that taught them “music is free…just go online and get it”. There used to be much more diversity and a lot more respect for the art of playing music when I was younger. Now a lot of artists are “flash before substance”……I actually saw last month that you can get an auto-tuning pedal for LIVE performances. I get how in the studio a little push on a note when the performance was excellent…..but now you can be in a club and not even know if the person at the mic has any skill/talent at all. It’s pretty sad.
IM: What should people expect when they come to a live show?
FP: They should expect to see an organic rock show…..real people playing real heart on your sleeve music. My songs are very autobiographical and that comes out when I play. They’re also going to see a band that likes to take chances live….I’ll take an exciting emotional performance over perfect notes all night.
IM: You’re from Boston, the indie scene is alive and kickin’ in Boston, but do you still find it difficult to get people to come out to live shows?
FP: Yes. I don’t understand it either. When I was younger some of my favorite experiences was seeing live music. People in general seemed more motivated to go out and be a part of something live. Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of great bands/artists out there and some draw a big crowd but the overall vibe I get is that people don’t like to take chances…..maybe they’re home watching on their phones?
IM: Who are some of your musical influences?
FP: Queen, Nikka Costa, Lewis Taylor, Jeff Buckley, Butch Walker, Zep, Beatles, Stevie, Prince to name some of my favorites…..the list otherwise is quite long
IM: You’re clearly a family man, how do you balance being a dad and being a musician?
FP: Easy. I don’t sleep much. I’m a single dad and I have two incredible boys (7 and 9). We’re a pack. I’m lucky that I have them half the time…more than that in the summer….basically Im with them all day then I gig at night…..life is a series of well planned naps.
IM: What got you started in music?
FP: I’m not sure I remember. I just always loved singing along. Trying to pick out the different parts before I knew how it was all put together.
IM: Do you have an opinion on what’s going on right now with streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music?
FP: Yeah…..ugh. That’s my opinion. Basically you have the vast majority getting away with what they want to get away with. It’s wrong but because most people like it that way no one is going to change it. I hear “musicians really make their money touring” being spewed by people who have NO idea what or how music is made every day. I’d love for them to see how much a band trying to make it spends just trying to play a small 2 week tour. I like the aspect that someone who lives on the other side of the planet can listen to and enjoy my music…BUT at the end of the day…..my music cost me a lot of money to get to the point where it’s now on spotify….so if that person isn’t going to pay me for it…..then….how do I afford to make the next one???
IM: What has been your biggest challenge when it comes to the music business?
FP: Staying optimistic. LONG gone are my delusions of grandeur and at the same time I’m writing the best music of my life. So now I tell myself that I write and record because it makes me happy and is something I can pass on to my kids. Just getting people to actually listen is the biggest challenge. So many people are so distracted.
IM: If you could play with any musician or band (dead or alive), who would it be?
FP: Stevie Wonder
IM: What is your writing process like? Does the music come first or the vocals?
FP: It happens every and any way. Lyric first, melody, chord progression, riff…..usually at a time when I don’t have a guitar nearby so most songs are clips on my cellphone that I work out later….
IM: What can we expect from you for the rest of 2015 into 2016?
FP: I’m writing and recording or an early 2016 full length album release
IM: Guilty pleasure (music-wise) – everyone’s got one, who’s yours?
FP: Kelly Clarkson’s 2nd record “Breakaway” is freaking brilliant.
IM: How important do you find social media and engaging with your fans to be? Are you active on social media?
FP: It seems that social media is THE primary means to engage with fans. I spend way to much time on facebook and instagram….still have no idea how twitter works…..
IM: What do you think your “biggest break” or “greatest opportunity” has been so far in your musical journey?
FP: Last year I was fortunate enough to have two songs from my first solo release used in the score for the indie film “The House Across the Street”
IM: Before we let you go, who’ve YOU been listening to lately?
FP: Nikka Costa. Love love love what that woman does.
Huge thanks to Fil Pacino for taking time out of his schedule to chat with us!