Nick Pulizzi has been a musician for as long as he can remember and recent COVID-19 shutdowns have forced the guitarist and singer to connect more intimately with his creative side.
Because his band, Mad River Junction, was forced to stay home instead of scheduling concerts in Rome, Utica, Syracuse and the surrounding areas, his bassist and friend Greg Owens built a recording studio in the sub floor of his house. And that’s where Mad River Junction came together to record and produce their latest album, “Phoenix Rising”.
“This experiment was about finding a way to leave a positive mark during a very dark time with the COVID-19 pandemic – to create something cool and to be able to collaborate with other artists,” Pulizzi said.
Mad River Junction recorded, produced and mastered their debut album, which is now available on all streaming platforms, such as Pandora, Napster and Spotify, and can be found for purchase on iTunes and Amazon.com.
“We’re all local guys, most of us are from Rome, and the album is a great testament to Rome’s thriving music scene,” said the guitarist / singer.
Despite this being the band’s first album together, Pulizzi said that he and Owens, who have performed in different bands together for over two decades, have around nine recordings to their name. Mad River Junction has been performing together for about six years.
All of the members have “day jobs”, and although music is their hobby, it is also a great passion. Pulizzi is the Director of Special Online Education for Camden Central School and has worked in education for 26 years.
“I’ve been a musician for as long as I can remember – it’s the only kind of hobby I’ve ever had,” Pulizzi said. “I don’t play golf – my ‘thing’ has always been music. I’ve played in bands my whole life, and this band has been around for about six years. The bassist and I have been playing together for 20 years.
He said, “We’re all fathers and working guys, and it’s super fun for us – we take it as seriously as a bunch of working guys can take it. We play covers and go out to bars, but writing and recording music is what is really fun for us. In my day job, I am the Director of Special Education and I am passionate about serving the community and taking good care of our students.
But Pulizzi remembers those awkward teenage years, when young people are still trying to find each other. He remembers being around 13 when his music teacher at Staley Junior High School first introduced him to the guitar.
“I was a teenager and didn’t know what interested me, and I remember the music teacher doing a guitar unit in music class. I picked it up and it showed us ”different chords, remembers Pulizzi. “It was the only thing I could do right away, and it turned out to be my ‘thing’ – not as a profession, but certainly as a hobby of a lifetime.”
From that point on, Pulizzi said he had become interested in all kinds of music over the years.
“I have studied and devoured music of all genres my whole life,” he said. “I’m a singer too, so it kind of came together.”
Growing up in the 1980s, rockers like the late guitar legend Eddie Van Halen, as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix were big influences on Pulizzi’s style and sound. He’s a fan of everything from blues to “old school” Rock N ‘Roll, which includes “hair bands” like Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses and Twisted Sister.
To sum up the sound of Mad River Junction, “We’re like old school rock n ‘roll but really catchy, like ZZ Top meets Bon Jovi and The (Rolling) Stones,” Pulizzi said. “And we like to play this type of music without apologizing.”
Pulizzi also enjoys being a “Rock N ‘Roll Papa”. While his two adult sons may have found their father’s hobby “ridiculous” at one point growing up, Pulizzi said they now respect him for his creative spirit.
“My adult sons think it’s cool that I do something a little unconventional and creative, and always go my own way, even though I still live the traditional 9 to 5 life,” he said. -he declares. “Now I’m trying to chase my 3 year old daughter in the recording studio. “
It was during the COVID shutdowns that everything went quiet, including the music. For most musicians, this meant that their livelihoods or hobbies were interrupted. But instead of “darkening”, the members of Mad River Junction decided they would stay connected through their music.
“The most interesting thing during the lockdown is that we really ended up like all the other groups – a man with no country,” Pulizzi said. “So we decided to finish these songs I was working on, go into the studio and make a record. It was the silver lining of COVID. It made us stop doing shows, but it gave us time to focus on art.
And with today’s technology, musicians can produce and master their own recordings from the comfort and privacy of their own homes, rather than paying high studio rental fees. But Pulizzi admitted it wasn’t a cheap task.
“The cool thing about 2021 is that you can record a legitimate album in your basement. It’s not cheap, but the technology is so good today, ”he said. “We built a studio in our bassist’s basement, and he’s (Owens) a genius when it comes to engineering, mixing, and mastering.”
Mad River Junction releases a limited number of “Phoenix Rising” CDs, and the songs became available to listen or download on all major streaming platforms starting September 30.
And since the two grew up and attended college together, Pulizzi said he was proud that Roman Mark Montalbano also played an important role in his latest musical release – designing the cover for the daring album Phoenix.
“Mark is heard in reference to everything about Rome, but what a lot of people don’t know is that he’s this amazing and genius artist, so he’s the first person I thought of to come up with an album cover, ”Pulizzi said. of his friend. “I gave him some basic ideas, and we worked together for months. What he came up with is simply breathtaking.
As for the excitement surrounding the release of Mad River Junction’s debut album, Pulizzi said it was most certainly the “silver lining” of a troubling time.