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A Dirty Dozen with JOHN PALUMBO from CRACK THE SKY – October 2023

| 10 October 2023 | 1 Reply

Photo credit: Ronda Hofler

According to a recent press release: “Stephen Holden of Rolling Stone magazine called the debut album by prog-rock pioneers Crack The Sky “…one of year’s most impressive debuts.” Today, some 45+ years later, the band celebrates their milestone June 9 release of their 20th studio album From The Wood with a special acoustic performance video for the song “Don’t Close Your Eyes.”  The song tells a somber tale about teenage suicide and the toll it can take on loved ones set to melodic guitars, gently strumming along to Palumbo’s temperate vocals.” We get singer John to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

I think that a first listen might throw a person familiar with us who would not expect that sound. I suppose the inclusion of “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” which I wrote with KIX, done acoustically might make a die-hard fan listen twice.  That could be a “hidden nugget,” I guess.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I got into music after hearing The Beatles.  It was, however, a bit later that I left college, hitchhiked across America, bought an acoustic guitar and started writing songs, that I decided I wanted to be a musician.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Besides The Beatles, King Crimson, Yes, and Genesis influenced my music for the live.  The writing was influenced by The Beatles in the beginning, but after a year or two I depended on myself and my own experiences to create and craft my own style.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I would have loved to write with John Lennon.  That being impossible of course, my other choice would be Donald Fagen but I doubt we would get along! Both of us it seems are locked into our own creations and it would be quite an aggressive situation.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

When out of the studio, or not working on a new song, my favorite thing to do is simply spend time with my wife.  As far as an activity, I am a very lazy person, but I do love to paint.  I’ve actually had a couple shows of my art and that was fun, but I am not good enough to make painting a career.  I look around at different art and realize I am a slug as a painter.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

My music borders on the progressive, yet my concentration is on making a point that the listener has to almost decipher. Once, someone told me that my stuff reminded them of a prog band (I will not name them).  They were in fact, terrible and their lyrics were very, very academic and pointless.  That kind of made me question my writing!

Photo credit: Rei Peri

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

We don’t hang out together since we all live in different parts of the country.  When we are finished a gig and have the time, Rick (Witkowski)  certainly be the guy who brings out a guitar and get us playing around with singing old songs from the 60’s and 70’s.  Bobby (Hird) and I will bring out the Bourbon whiskey and get things going.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Recently, Peter Gabriel has crushed me.  I was knocked out by “Sledgehammer” and video of his latest live tour is staggering.  He is a talent to be reckoned with for sure.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The best part of being a musician I suppose is the ability to create at any time you want.  There is no office, no boss, and no irritating  co-workers.  No traffic jams getting to work, no corporation to disrupt your thinking and, of course, your creativity. If I was not a musician, I would love to be a driver for a Formula One Team… preferably a winning one!

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

An interesting question would be “Should I call you Dr. Palumbo?”  My answer would be “Of course. After all I worked very hard to earn my doctorate!”  Then, I would laugh and tell him or her that I would be really uncomfortable if they did. The one question I am very, very tired of answering is “Who came up with the name “Crack The Sky?”

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

I would absolutely not have signed the record contract with the company we did!  They were not prepared to support us, and I think we lost our shot at having hit records.  On tour, there were no records in the stores of the towns we would be playing, no press support, and no promotion either on or off tour. That was a mistake indeed.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

If I could slide back in time, I would have loved to have been there on the recording of Steely Dan’s Aja. I Would gladly had been the coffee boy for Fagen, Becker, and Gary Katz!  Any time I need to hear a comparison of a production of a recording, I use AJA as one of the songs I study.  Whether it be testing out new gear, or recording my own stuff, AJA is the gold standard for me.




Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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  1. Steve Osborne says:

    Of all the questions I’ve heard interviewers ask musicians, you asking John Palumbo looking back over his career what he thought was a misstep, is the best question I’ve ever heard asked. Perfect. Crack the Sky is one of my favorite bands of all time. Their early albums rival any other album released by any group at those particular times. I’ve always wondered why they never hit it “big”. John explaining signing with the LifeSong label was the crux. John explaining there wasn’t adequate promotions on and off tour, nor records in stores in the towns they played explains why they didn’t have top selling albums. I’m sure after every concert people were looking for records to buy but none could be found. They certainly had the talent. What a lifelong frustation it must be knowing you were as good or better than any other band but just weren’t able to break in! I still tell fellow music lovers about Crack the Sky and have not ever had anyone disagree they are a great band. I also take pride they are originally from West Virginia and John Palumbo went to Marshall University, albeit only one semester, I think. I live in Huntington and graduated from Marshall. A friend of mine was the resident advisor in the dorm John stayed in and he says John was a character in his college days. I saw them play at Marshall around ’77 or so and it still remains one of my favortie concerts I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, John wasn’t on that tour. It was the Safety in Numbers album timeframe. Great interview and thanks for a real insight into John and Crack the Sky.

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