Q&A: Clarence Bucaro

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Clarence Bucaro was recently named one of 10 new artists to watch by Rolling Stone magazine. It’s a label that seems a tad misleading since the singer has released a dozen albums over the last 15 years, nevertheless, this humble artist welcomes the honor. “It’s very humbling,” said Bukaro. “Rolling Stone is the musician’s magazine. As a kid, I was obsessed with music. I remember seeing the magazine at the local shop and dreaming about being on the cover someday.”

One to not rest on his laurels, the talented singer/songwriter has embarked on a tour that will bring him to the Swedish American Music Hall in San Francisco supporting Joe Henry on July 14. In anticipation of his performance, we reached out to Bucaro to chat about what it means to him to be acknowledged by Rolling Stone, what the inspiration was for his new album and what San Francisco fans can expect at his show.

How does it feel to be named one of “10 Artists to Watch” by Rolling Stone?
It’s very humbling. Rolling Stone is the musician’s magazine. As a kid, I was obsessed with music. I remember seeing the magazine at the local shop and dreaming about being on the cover someday. I took guitar lessons when I was eight. I would write songs and record them on cassette tapes then sell them to my neighbors. You could say my profession chose me.

You’re originally from outside Cleveland, Ohio, and have lived in New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Nashville, all major hubs of live music. How’s the music scene different in each city?
I went to Ohio State University and studied Political Science and Environmental Studies. I had an internship at the Capitol and was offered a job full time after college. At the same time, literally the same week, I got a record deal with an independent label out of Portland, Burnside Records. I hit the road at 21 and never looked back. New Orleans was like a dream. It is a city with so much soul and an incredible music scene. My music mentor, Anders Osborne took me under his wing. I went to LA and got immersed in the scene and searched for the ghosts of Laurel Canyon. (Joni and Neil and Jackson) Every day was sunny in LA. I missed the seasons so I drove my car cross-country to New York and never looked back. I love NYC. It’s constant culture and constant inspiration and energy. It’s not only about one kind of music all kinds of music and all kinds of art really. Once you have lived in New York it’s hard to live anywhere else.

Early in your career, you toured with The Blind Boys of Alabama and Mavis Staples playing to sold-out theaters across America. What was that like?
Terrifying. I was only 21 and really had no experience doing live shows of that scale. I actually got boo-ed off stage in Boston. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life I almost quit right then but my music mentor told me I had to get back at it. The next night I got a standing ovation and Aaron Neville stood on the stage while I performed and told me “I had something very special.” It was one of life’s big lessons.

Clarence Bucaro
Clarence Bucaro

Fast forward fifteen years, eleven albums and hundreds of shows later, what’s the funniest or strangest thing that’s happened to you at a show?
Too many to count really! I’d have to say the time I was booked a tour in Italy and one of the shows was on a farm in Tuscany. It was outdoors by a really beautiful lake at sunset. About twenty minutes into my set a family of wild boars came up and plopped themselves down right by the stage. It was almost like they were listening to the set. They stayed till the end.

You recently released a new album, what was your inspiration for it?
Anyone that knows me, knows I write songs from the heart. I pull on personal experience. I also have been reading a lot of literature and listening to a lot of opera. The title track, Passionate Kind is an homage to powerful women. Heroines like Carmen, Turandot, and Violette (from Traviata) are incredible influences. They are protagonists who are complex and completely mesmerizing. Other songs on the album touch on current times. Sleepwalker is about someone who is down in the dumps and needs to wake up to see the beauty around them. Both of the songs have videos (on YouTube) and feature actress/muse Juliet Doherty. Check them out!

What are your goals with music this year?
That’s a great question. I am currently working on some passion projects that run parallel to my career as a singer-songwriter and touring musician. I am really excited by a multimedia concept that is centered around how music impacts society. It’s something I have been ruminating over for years. It feels like the right time to launch. I am also working on a project for Broadway and a collection of short stories.

You’ve got a show coming up next week in San Francisco. Do you enjoy playing in this city?
San Francisco is quite a city. I even wrote a song about it! “Flying into Frisco.” San Fran is mystical and beautiful. I loved it before I’d ever visited it from reading Kerouac. I am really excited to be at the Swedish American Hall with Joe Henry. He is an idol to me. He has been called the songwriter’s songwriter and its true. His work is outstanding and something I greatly admire.

What can San Francisco fans expect at your show?
When I wrote my last album I wrote a note to myself on the cover of my notebook. It says, “Is it honest. Is it interesting?” I hope I deliver on that and I hope the fans connect with the lyrics, even if its just one line, that makes it all worth it.

Joe Henry: solo performance, Clarence Bucaro – Swedish American Music Hall – Sat. Jul 14 7:30pm $22 – $25, 21+

An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.

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