Gino DePinto, AOL
What have you been up to recently?
Well at the moment, I'm running around New York City promoting this single 'Sticks and Stones' from the new record. It's coming out this summer and it's called 'The Lovesick.' We don't have a date for it unfortunately but maybe if we push the label hard enough they'll give us one [looks at his label rep]. Never mind, he's not even listening [laughs].
Yeah, I'm excited I just can't wait to put that out right now. It's all pretty much about radio and press at the moment. I'm not touring or anything, I'm just waiting for it to come out.
You dropped out of college to move to California and pursue music. How long did it take for you to get things going in L.A.?
It's interesting how I'm going to answer that because the first night I went out there, I met Colbie Caillat. It was not at all that things started happening because I met her, it was just so surreal that the moment I went out there I immediately met this person that I was so destined to meet apparently. We started writing right away, the first night we met we started writing songs and I'd never written with anybody before, just by myself. I wasn't planning on moving to California, I was just planning on going there for a few days. When I met her I decided to stay and not go back to Iowa, where I'm from. So I guess that's the moment where I really jumped in all the way and committed to it.
At first I was just excited to go see what it was like and we wrote a bunch of songs. They turned into what is happening right now, over the course of a year or so from when we started to write them. I guess it was in 2007 that it all became very serious when her first record came out and then people started to pay attention to my songs as well and we both have kind of done this thing together, and separate from each other. It's turned into what it is.
Gino DePinto, AOL
I went out there to record music and I was in the studio with this guy and he knew her from being friends with her dad, [who] is a really famous music producer [Ken Caillat]. He produced a lot of incredible, huge albums. And he'd been working with this guy named Michael Bloom, and when they heard that I was coming there, Colbie had just started taking guitar lessons, she had her first guitar lesson when I met her, the day or two before. She had started writing one song; I think she'd written her first song. And so they thought maybe we should meet because I was a song writer coming in from Iowa and we liked each other so much we had just some crazy magical vibe, it doesn't always happen that way you know. Her and I are like brother and sister and we'd never met before and it just happened that way. There's only a few people, I've written with a lot of people, that it's effortless to write with. It's sometimes very hard and forced even on occasion to be honest. But when we hang out, songs happen.
Do you guys still find time to write together?
Yeah, we do. We had dinner last night...not that we were writing at dinner.
How did your life change when her first album 'Coco' went platinum?
Drastically? [laughs] OK, so nobody knew who either of us were. We were writing all those songs just for fun and I wanted to do this for real. I wanted it to be my job, at the time it wasn't. We were both working various jobs, not very well. We were quitting them quickly. You know, when that happened, obviously music became both of our jobs for the first time. At that moment for me, all of a sudden other people wanted to write with me out of nowhere, for the first time in my life and that is the best part of it for me, 'cause that's going to be the thing that I'll probably do forever. I'm probably not going to tour forever, but I might write songs till I die. There's a lot of people that are really old that still write music, so that's how it changed my life. I have this door that was opened for me then, if I don't mess up I don't have to walk out of [it]. I can stay in the room for as long as people believe in me, which is amazing.
What's the driving inspiration behind your new album 'The Lovesick?'
Love. Love is the driving inspiration behind all of my writing but this record in particular is about one specific beautiful and tragic experience. It starts out really bright and amazing and it gets very tragic, very hard really quickly and the end of the album is one of the most intense things I've ever gone through. Making it, writing it and recording it was one of the hardest times in my life and I hope you can feel it a little bit, I know that it only gets part way there but this album is about the up and down and sometimes the down is a lot more drastic than the up.
Does your Iowan upbringing inform your songwriting at all?
I think it just makes me who I am as a person. That's where I start when I write music. [The songs] are all very real and honest so they come from who I am actually. You know, some people write music that isn't necessarily perfectly true to them, and that's not insulting them it's just like, they'll write a song that sounds cool or they'll write a song about something that they think is a good idea, but for me, they're all coming from who I am and I think the Midwest is a very unique place, especially Iowa. Everybody that I know from there is a little bit off in a good way, I mean all my friends are completely insane. And I am too, but it's just a different kind of people I guess. It's not a bad thing or a good thing. Other regions have different things that are good and bad too. I don't know it's just a specific place.
I think one of the things that I like about it is that it's so slow and it's the country basically. I live in a small town but it's surrounded by cornfields and you can tell that there's no one really hurrying around, like in this city. This city is the complete opposite of where I'm from. The most different that you can get would be New York City compared to Iowa. And when I come here it blows my mind, like every time. It does. In a good way and in a really bad way.
I lived here for six months or five months and that was as long as I could do. I was really proud of myself for that. I had fun while I was living here but I eventually just got eaten alive essentially, but it just mentally, not physically.
Gino DePinto, AOL
To tie it with Colbie. She was working at a fitness center, like a workout place like Gold's Gym or something but it wasn't Gold's Gym. She was the receptionist out at this desk and there was a food shop next to it. So she hooked me up with this job because, you know, I needed a job, and she got me this job right across from her which was a horrible idea. I was so slow at making food and I didn't care. I did not care how slow I was going. People are in such a hurry, it's just the case for everything in life now, but especially when you're waiting for food and I'm making food too slow for you while you need to rush off to something and they just kept telling me how slow I was and I was like, "This is ridiculous" and we both quit our jobs. That day was a special day. We wrote a song on the day that we both quit [laughs]. It was good.
Do you rush to get your music out into the public?
I'm actually in the opposite of that situation. I write so many songs that I could play out a hundred times more than I do. I'm in the trying-to-be-as-patient-as-I-can stage actually. Honestly, I could probably put out a record every two months. It'd be stupid, but ... it's something I'll have to adjust to. I have to slow down.
Are you writing for anyone else right now?
Yes, Colbie has a new [album] I wrote a couple on. I wrote with Newton Faulkner recently. He's really good. Hedley, a band. I wrote a new one for Kris Allen [from 'American Idol'], Rosie Golan. Right now, I haven't been writing as much as in the past because I've been promoting this new music.
Do you find it hard to part with songs after you write for other people?
No, not usually. I get a lot more enjoyment out of just letting somebody else sing it and do all the work. It's a lot of work promoting a song and if I just write it and let somebody else do it, not to mention when I listen to it I can actually enjoy it because it's not me singing it. I don't have to analyze it and think that I'm terrible, then it's more fun. I love listening to Colbie's songs.
Usually I know who I'm writing for, if I'm writing for somebody. Beyond that I'm usually with them. It doesn't really happen very much these days that you just write a song and people take it. That's becoming really rare. So I mean I wish I was alive 50 years ago because I just have a whole stack of songs, seriously, sitting in the dungeon right now that nobody's going to take because they just don't do that. It would've been like that, maybe even only 10 years ago.
Gino DePinto, AOL
Yeah, someday I'll put out an album called 'Nobody Wanted All of These Songs.' It'll be like 100 songs long. It'll be a box set. Some of them are really good and it's not that I didn't like them enough to put them all out, it's just I can't put them all out.
For the most part, if I'm writing a song I know if I want it pretty quickly before it's even done. And I'll just keep it and not let anybody else hear it.
Who are the songwriters you admire most?
Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, yikes ... there's so many. Waters and Gilmore, I mean Pink Floyd. I love Andrew Bell, new music, speaking of new people. Brendan James. He used to live here, I stole him, convinced him to move to California and I abandoned him.
You did a tour with Brendan James, right?
This is a cool story. We were on tour in North Carolina a long, long time ago. Probably two or three years ago. We were just going to get lunch in some little town and there was a Vespa parked on the sidewalk and he got on it and he's like, "We should do a tour on these." And I was like, "That's ridiculous. Let's do it!" Then it wasn't for a long time after that that we had this crazy idea, we put it in the back of our minds. Then a year or two from that we remembered and were like "Let's actually do this, let's make a tour on Vespas." We got Vespa to give us the bikes and be involved in it, they liked the idea enough.
We went through San Diego to San Francisco over the course of 16 days and the point of it was that we weren't going to stay in hotels or take showers ... not that we didn't... OK lemme explain that a little more [laughs]. We camped outside in tents every night; we showered in the ocean with biodegradable soup, which was horribly freezing. It was in March and April, swimming in the water was horrendously cold. So we would do our best to shower in the morning but it was crazy. We had a van with all of our instruments.
We spent 16 days out on Vespas on the West Coast and it was amazing, I want to do it again. We didn't shave or anything. It's kind of crazy because at the last show, I think a lot of people kind of compromised it, like shaved a little bit. Brendan and I definitely stayed true to it the whole time and didn't waver from our idea, but everybody else kind of sacrificed. We just looked like total hippies at the end and all these pictures of people ... people always take pictures and put them online. There's still videos and pictures of me looking like I'm homeless or something.
Have you ever ridden [a Vespa]? You should because they're like miraculously amazing. They're not like a moped or anything, they're like the luxurious moped. All you have to do, literally there's no gears, it's just your right hand and you're going very fast, very quickly. I'm like a Vespa representative.
If you could work with anybody, who would it be?
I would work with Eminem and Nicki Minaj in the same song. I love both of them. I just covered a Nicki Minaj song on Billboard, I don't know when it's gonna be up but it's crazy. They wanted me to do something that's not me and I was like "I'm going all the way then." I [covered] 'Moment 4 Life,' but I didn't do Drake's verse, I just did Nicki's. I was like I got to keep it to one because ... that verse is a little bit beyond me. It's a little bit gangster and I'm not at all. Nicki's is cool. It's more playful and his is more like "Yes, I'm not kidding you, I'm a thug." But anyway, it's coming up soon.
Watch Jason Reeves' video for 'Sticks and Stones.'