Gino DePinto, AOL
The 'My City' singer dropped by the AOL Music offices in New York to tell us about his latest album, 'Soul Punk,' his musical crossover successes and why he no longer wishes to hide the face he's always had.
How was playing solo at Lollapalooza in your hometown of Chicago?
It was awesome. I really didn't have any expectations. Maybe it was morbid curiosity but there were a lot of people there watching me. It's a little stressful but it's also amazing. I don't know what I did to warrant that many people watching.
There was this one moment where there was this really nice breeze off the lake, and I got the smell of the lake -- which is one of the thing's I'm most nostalgic about -- and that smell came up, and I was standing there singing and there were these people singing the words and then the skyline behind them. It was a once in a lifetime kind of feeling.
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What are your favorite parts of the Windy City?
I know that my having lost weight has been a big issue, but I'm a Chicagoan and I'm obsessed with Chicago food. There's so many ethnic enclaves and different regional things, it's crazy just to experience eating there. I love the little Korean tofu houses, and the tofu hotpot stuff. Chicago Dogs, the Superdog specifically. Weiner Circle's awesome too actually, but I don't do the after hours thing. [Laughs]
[And] Hot Doug's is amazing! I used to live across from the old Hot Doug's. I think it burnt down, actually. But he moved to a bigger place anyway so I think Doug's doing alright. We have this really vibrant scene of avant-garde foodie dudes -- like I love what Graham Elliot's doing. I love going to that place, it's incredible. I've been trying to get into Alinea for a while [Laughs]. I think there's something to connecting with different cultures through food. Little India, on Devon, you get to experience that.
The Lake is a really huge thing for me. My grandpa used to have a sailboat and we went out all the time, and it was just the coolest thing ever. It's a uniquely Midwestern thing to be sailing on a lake. Any of the Great Lakes get to experience that. It's this shared thing that we have with Michigan and Milwaukee and Canada. And then, we have really good comedy and theater. Really good architecture. I really like being there.
Tell us about working with Lupe Fiasco on 'My City.'
Lupe and I have known each other for a long time, and we'd been tossing around the idea of working together again. It's always on the books, in the back of our heads. I did a track for his 'The Cool' album called 'Little Weapon.' That was the first time we ever released something together, but then Fall Out Boy did a remix that he was on.
Gino DePinto, AOL
It was really funny! And Lupe came in and went straight acerbic political. Just amazing! And really told it, on this little feature on this remix. And it was jaw-dropping. So when I was putting together 'This City,' as far as working with someone and knowing that someone's going to bring it ... he did it, and he was amazing. I think he did two takes, and it was exactly what I wanted.
You've drastically changed your appearance, and you look great! When did you know you wanted to change your music style and your appearance?
One of the things I kind of regret is that the two happened at similar times because they're pretty unrelated, the weight loss especially. The music feels like more of a change than it really is. This is all stuff that I've been doing my whole life. I've been writing [pop music] concurrently with writing punk rock songs. And I do have a lot of other material that probably won't be released for a long time, but I have some blues stuff [too]. But with all that I've been doing funk and R&B and soul and '80s pop stuff.
I have this undying love of Morris Day and the Time. And it all comes back to that for me. It's really hard not to make each song sound like them [Laughs]. It's like a challenge.
I think that after I began to change physically, that maybe I took a few more risks. You get more confident in yourself. It is somewhat vapid that people are that vain, that looking good makes you feel good. But it does. I don't know why that is physiologically. You know, you think of yourself as a fairly secure person and then you lose weight and you're like "I'm awesome! I feel great today!"
Gino DePinto, AOL
So I think part of it, was that I grew more comfortable with myself and I think it became an echo chamber with the music and the visual art, my album cover stuff and my stage stuff. I'm taking more risks because I'm more confident. And also, it's part confidence and part nonchalance because you start pushing 30 and you're like "I just don't care. I'm not in high school anymore, I don't care what scene I'm in. I'm just going to be myself."
Do you miss the sideburns?
No. They would get caught in stuff and they itched a lot. I just got used to them so I never thought about it. There was also a point where they would get really long and then I'd trim them back and they would be so itchy! And the other thing too is that I had the same haircut for 10 years. That's crazy! I mean, how unimaginative am I? You call yourself an artist and then you have this thing. It's like never setting foot in another town, or never trying another food, or never experiencing anything new.
And I also felt like I was hiding. It was just another thing to hide behind. There were a lot of turning points in the weight thing but the biggest turning point was when we got to play the Youth Ball for Obama's inauguration. That was something you'll do once in a lifetime, get to play the night of a president's inauguration, right? That is something you probably want to tell the grandkids right? And there's this photograph of all of us standing there with the President and Mrs. Obama and everyone's smiling ... and there's a hat, and there's some glasses and there's some sideburns and there's nothing here [points to face]. I was just totally invisible. I wasn't really there. And I looked at it and was like "Am I going to do this for the rest of my life? Am I going to totally hide for the rest of my life?" I was just tired, so that's when the sideburns went.
And it was scary, man! I remember watching something about Lenny Kravitz describing when he shaved off his dreadlocks. It felt the same where it was like ... they're gone, there's a face there. There are cheeks there!