L4LM had the opportunity to chat with guitarist extraordinaire Danny Mayer as he readies for an upcoming Northeast run with his new act DMT (no, not that DMT….the Danny Mayer Trio). Mayer is a seasoned veteran of the scene that has played with a long list of musicians, ranging from Alan Evans Trio/Playonbrother, Ryan Montbleau Band, his own On The Spot Trio, and an ever-expanding cast of cats from Turkuaz, Lotus, Dopapod, the Nth Power, Kung Fu, Trey Anastasio Band, Particle and more.
If you like some guitar-laden psychedelic soul music, look no further than Mayer and make a point of it to catch him in one of his various projects; you will not be disappointed.
L4LM: You have some shows this week with DMT (Danny Mayer Trio) in the Northeast with some special guests, looks like it is going to be a lot of fun with some great players. Care to give us the 411 on that?
DM: I feel very lucky to have developed deep musical and personal connections with everyone in this band over the past few years. At this point, Mikey Carubba (Turkuaz) has become one of my best friends and musical comrades for life. Drums are the most important thing to me – the foundation. Everything starts there and I really do believe that a band can only be as good as its drummer, so to have a dude like Mikey holding it down the way he does, it’s already gonna be killing before anyone else even plays a single note! We’ve played music together in several different settings over the years and we’ve consistently had some of the deepest, most cathartic, hilarious, and inspiring musical experiences that I’ve been a part of to date. Reed Sutherland (Mammal Dap) has been a godsend for me. He was on the road with me tour managing Alan Evans Playonbrother for a while. The last shows Playonbrother did were 6 shows opening for Tedeschi Trucks Band. Those were truly life changing shows for me and Reed was right there the whole time, soaking it all up with me. He’s knows exactly where I’m coming from and has every quality you’d want in a truly great bass player and human being!
The three of us will be joined by Shira Elias (Turkuaz) and Mary Corso (Beau Sasser’s Escape Plan) for a handful of tunes each night. I really didn’t want it to just be another instrumental, jammy type thing. I absolutely love these ladies and their voices! They fit right into the vibe, but they also bring a dynamic that enables a much deeper connection to the audience. They’re both incredibly soulful, they both shine bright on stage and definitely add so much to the overall dynamic of this band. The last run we did featured one of my favorite bass players and human beings on the planet – Nate Edgar (The Nth Power). Nate is such a solid person, through and through. He really digs this band, so when schedules permit, he will most definitely be involved in the future of this band as well!
Watch DMT at Toad’s Place (Mayer absolutely shreds at the 22-minute mark during Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times”):
L4LM: Are there stylistic differences between what you are doing with DMT as opposed to OTS Trio?
DM: Absolutely. The instrumentation alone is enough to make it a drastically different overall sound. There are no keyboards in DMT, whereas OTS (On The Spot) Trio is a very keyboard heavy band. Kris Yunker (who plays keys and left hand bass in OTS) lugs around a smorgasboard of awesome vintage keyboards that are usually ALL seen onstage at a typical OTS Trio show. He and I, along with our old drummer Jeff Wilson, wrote most of the material OTS currently plays while we were living in Santa Cruz, CA. There’s an indescribable West Coast influence in our writing and a lot of our songs have a heavy Afrobeat influence. There’s a tangible willingness to explore and go wherever the music, or the vibe in the room, takes us. Kris and I have been playing and writing music together for a decade now, so there’s a certian familiarity and freedom there that can only come from putting in that amount of time! We now have Andrew Cusanelli on drums. He’s getting better and better all the time and we’ve developed our own unique vibe.
The idea for DMT came from me wanting to push myself in a different kind of way, while also having as much fun as possible. This is the first band I’ve ever played in where I can’t sonically hide behind a keyboard player. There’s a lot of responsibility there – to have the guitar just be out front all loud and proud. I’m very exposed in that setting but I always get a lot of inspiration from listening to guitar heroes like Jimi Hendrix, Derek Trucks, Wayne Krantz, Gary Clark Jr and Stevie Ray Vaughan. DMT feels like an amazing musical canvas that allows me to paint with those types of colorful influences. Everyone in the band brings their own influences and energies which creates the chemistry. Our chemistry just works so well because its all based on a very real love and respect we all have for each other, as people and musicians.
Also, a very noticeable difference in DMT is that a good chunk of the material we’re doing was written by Mary Corso and myself! That adds a whole different flavor to the band. Mary and I have an amazing connection and we’ve been able to channel that into music. We both love the blues and any kind of soulful music. We quickly recognized those soulful elements in each others sound while playing in Beau Sasser’s Escape Plan over the last year. So when we started writing together a lot of these songs seemed to just come together with very little effort. It’s really one of my favorite things in the world – to get to play original songs, with great musicians, who I trust with my life. Everyone in this band is also constantly busy doing other things so we don’t get to do this very much, which just makes it that much more special when we actually do!
L4LM: You have kept a pretty busy schedule playing with a lot of different lineups, most recently with Beau Sasser’s Escape Plan and Heavy Rambler. How was that run of shows?
DM: It’s been an awesome and busy year so far. Beau Sasser’s Escape Plan is so much fun! Beau has been a musical brother of mine for a good handful of years now, starting with the formation of The Alan Evans Trio in 2012. Anything he does has a certain fire and excitement to it that’s unmistakable and I love that about him! Mary Corso sings her ass off and adds the roll of the dynamic front woman to the band! Justin Henricks is the other guitar player. He is a truly amazing guitarist. We come from very different backgrounds and have had so much fun finding a common ground! We’ve influenced each others guitar playing pretty heavily in the last year and have developed our own double guitar sound for this band that’s definitely working very well and feeling really good these days. Bill Carbone on drums allows the whole thing to breath in a very wonderful way. Carbone’s an amazing dude and brings so many different and refreshing influences to the band!
After many “super jam” “super group” “all-star” and ‘tribute band” gigs over the last year, Heavy Rambler was very inspiring, to say the least. Chris DeAngelis and Adrian Tramontano from Kung Fu are two of the heaviest dudes in this scene and create one of the most telepathic, entertaining, and exciting rhythm sections I’ve ever heard! I’m incredibly lucky to get to play with them frequently and I’m usually smiling from ear to ear when I do! Kofi Burbridge has consistently been one of my favorite musicians for the last 15 years. We had been talking about playing music together, in some capacity for over a year, so I was thrilled when that finally came together! His work with Derek Trucks Band and Tedeschi Trucks Band has permanently burned it’s way into my brain, so being onstage with him was pretty surreal! Music just permeates out of that dude 24/7! and Ryan Cavanaugh is, without a doubt, one of the best musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with. He just so happens to play the banjo, which is rare in itself, but even more rare to hear a banjo player as funky and virtuosic as he is! It was amazing to be able to do those gigs with him and get a glimpse into what a truly unique soul he is!
L4LM: How have you evolved as a musician the last couple of years?
DM: This is a great question! The goal of any musician / artist is to keep growing, evolving and refining your craft with the ultimate knowledge that there is no true end result. You’re never “done” with music. It’s always changing and the possibilities are endless. With that being said, one of my major goals in the past had been to really figure out who I am as a musician, and to find my own voice. I really believe that music moves people the most when it’s genuine and honest. To be genuine and honest, you have to be genuine and honest with your self about who you are as a person and as a musician. This is something that happened for me in past couple years! I went from trying to sound like Grant Green and John Scofield to realizing that who I am is much more blues based and simple than that! I grew up listening to my dad’s rock and roll records and that music is more a part of me than anything. I had to realize that instead of trying to fake being a jazz guy, I could get real with myself and connect with audiences on a much deeper level by just being myself – a psychedelic blues / rock guy. That feels way better and comes way more natural to me. That mentality is also much closer to who I am as a person!
What really did it for me though was getting to play and be on the road with Alan Evans for a few years. He was the closest thing I’ve ever had to a mentor. He kind of took me under his wing and put me in a situation that forced me to figure myself out really quickly. His band was most definitely a vehicle for rapid education and self discovery for me. I came out of that experience knowing what I’m good at and what I’m not good at. It gave me a sense of confidence in what I do and what I want to do as a musician. I can now bring that confidence and self knowledge with me into just about any musical setting.
Also, in the last year I’ve worked with an amazing custom amp builder named Jamie Simpson at Booya Amplifiers to help me dial in my tone. I finally feel like I have a guitar tone that truly speaks to me, inspires me, and is directly inline with the sound I’m going for. and last but not least, there’s an amazing music community in the Northeast that has whole-heartedly welcomed me in as a part of the scene. There’s amazing things happening from Northampton MA down to Bridgeport, CT. My friend Mitch Moriber created Tone Wheel Music Group and is directly responsible for bringing a ton of great music to the area and building a whole scene in Hartford CT and beyond that is just killing it! It’s developed into one of those brands now that if you see the Tone Wheel Music Group logo on something, you automatically know it’s gonna crush! Being part of a music scene like the one in the Northeast has most definitely been crucial to my musical development in the past few years, without a doubt!
Watch On The Spot Trio at BRYAC, 3/22/2015:
L4LM: What is on your current music playlist right now?
DM: Let’s see here. Sly and The Family Stone, D’Angelo, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gary Clark Jr., Aretha Franklin, BB King, Etta James, Gretchen Parlato, Jimi Hendrix, The Arcs, Bob Marley, Joe Cocker and all kinds of old blues artists in constant rotation! There’s so much more though. Those were just the 1st that came to mind.
L4LM: Any new original music on the horizon that we can expect on your end?
DM: Absolutely. OTS Trio is about to release a 45 of two original songs that were recorded at Alan Evans’ Playonbrother Studio and feature Mikey Carubba on drums. Mary Corso and I are also dialing in a couple more tunes for the first DMT EP, which should be available at some point in the next six months or so. Super excited about that! There’s actually a really huge chunk of a Beau Sasser’s Escape Plan album floating around out there in the universe somewhere as well!
L4LM: Outside of the upcoming DMT shows, what else do you have coming up?
DM: I’m doing my first “artist-at-large” at this years Rock and Roll Resort from March 25th and 26th. OTS is playing Some Kind Of Jam in PA in April. I’m planning on continuing to be involved with as many projects and new situations as I can!
*** Catch Mayer at beginning this Thursday, March 16th, for the next four nights with DMT at Bishop’s Lounge in Northampton, MA, followed by performances at Nectar’s in Burlington, VT (March 17th), opening for Tom Hamilton’s American Babies at The Acoustic in Bridgeport, CT (March 18th), and at Arch Street in Hartford on March 19th. Mayber will be joined by Michaelangelo Carruba, Reed Sutherland, Shira Elias, and Mary Corso. He will also be joining Bill Carbone, Matt Zeiner, and Jeff Martinson in Rolling Thunder, a tribute to Bob Dylan on March 24th and 31st at Pacific Standard Tavern in New Haven, CT. ***