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Tom Carleno





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Contemporary Instrumental;Jazz;New Age

Guitar, Acoustic;Guitar, Electric;Guitar, Steel / Dobro


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Sep 21, 2018

Tom Carleno


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As guitarist and composer with his acoustic jazz ensemble Perpetual Motion, Tom Carleno has released five albums and performed throughout Colorado for over 25 years appearing at Swallow Hill Music Association, Nissi’s, Dazzle, The Mercury Cafe and many other venues. He has played in all three very popular Rocky Mountain Violin Summit concerts at Swallow Hill and has recorded as a session player on several projects, most notably with Danny Seraphine of Chicago. 

An award winning composer, Tom won ‘Best Instrumental’ in the 2009 SongDoor International Songwriting Competition for his solo piece, “Child’s Play”, and Honorable Mention for the Perpetual Motion song "Por Causa de Você" in the 2009 SongDoor International Songwriting Competition and the 2007 UNISONG International Songwriting Contest. In May 2014, Tom's CD "Perfect Imperfection" was nominated for "Best New Artist" and won "Best Instrumental Album - Acoustic" in the 2013 Zone Music Reporter Awards in New Orleans.

Tom’s music has been heard on The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and The Learning Channel.

An Interview with Tom Carleno

What inspired you to play the guitar?

Watching my cousin Paul Musso perform a great Jose Feliciano impersonation at a family get together really struck me. I thought "I want to be able to entertain people like he does." The next week I asked Paul if he would teach me how to play the guitar. He agreed to, and for a dollar a half-hour, every Friday after school we would go to his house for a guitar lesson.

How did you realize it was what you wanted to do with the rest of your life? was it an event, or what?

I could never see myself having a regular, 9 to 5 type of job. There was nothing that interested me enough to want to make a living doing it as much as music did. Early on, though, I didn't know how to go about making a living as a musician, so I just spent my time learning my instrument and hoped I would figure that part out later. I became enamored with the idea of being a rock star.

What was your first gig?

I was in high school and playing with my first band. We were playing for another school's dance.

What was your first band, any funny stories or horror stories?

The Blind Man's Band. It was the band my cousin Paul had formed a year or two earlier, and he asked me to join. We had two guitars, keyboards and drums, no bass player. I remember a party we played where our keyboardist didn't show up, although we had hauled his electric piano there for him. We had a girl singing back up and she sat behind the piano and sang into the mic that was set up for the keyboard player. Someone at the party complimented her on her piano playing, even thought she never touched the keys the entire night!

It was also with this band that I made my first attempt at singing. I was singing 'Pinball Wizard' by The Who when, as happens with most teenage boys, my voice suddenly cracked as I was trying to hit a high note. The rest of the band members were laughing so hard they couldn't keep playing the song. Fortunately for me it happened during a rehearsal instead of a gig!

What inspired you to explore fingerstyle guitar and open tunings?

I studied guitar and composition with Steve Mesple' from 1982-90. I had dabbled a bit with fingerstyle guitar before, but Steve really taught me the proper technique. When he introduced me to alternate tunings I took to them immediately and wanted to learn as much about them as I could. I found I could write songs easily using different tunings. They just sparked my creative side. I enjoyed discovering, or even inventing, new chord voicings using alternate tunings.

How did you make the transition from wanna be rock star to acoustic musician?

After attempting to form many rock bands that all eventually faded out, I decided to find one musician that I could collaborate with and then build a band around that foundation. I figured it would be easier to do that with one person than with four or five. I assumed it would be another guitarist, but then I met Josie Quick, a violinist. It was the late '80s and by this time I had been playing and writing acoustic music in open tunings for a couple of years and it occurred to me that a violin would sound great with acoustic guitar. I asked Josie if she wanted to get together and try some stuff out and we began working up a few songs. I started writing parts for her to play over my existing songs and eventually writing many new tunes for us. Two great things came from that collaboration - we formed a band called Perpetual Motion that has been performing and recording for over twenty years, and Josie and I became best friends and partners, in music and in life. We got married in 1992.

Why are you doing a solo CD now? What inspired you to do it?

I have wanted to record a solo CD for years, but my work with Perpetual Motion took center stage. But in 2008 I began to think that I should really pursue this project. I had been writing more solo guitar pieces and it felt like it was time to record them.

How is recording a solo album different from recording a band?

With a band, It takes a lot of work on everyone’s part but each musician is focused on their part. I don’t have to worry about the bass, drums or violin because I know the other players know their stuff. I can concentrate on the guitar parts and fitting in with the ensemble. Recording as a solo guitarist is different - it’s all me.

As a soloist I’m obviously playing melody, bass and harmony all together. As a soloist, I am always playing all the parts. So I decided the best approach would be to get two or three songs ready, book some studio time and record them, then get two or three more songs ready, book another session, and so on. I knew this approach would take a while, but hey, I was in no hurry.

You decided to call your album “Perfect Imperfection”. How did you come up with that title?

I used to think perfection was when you performed a task perfectly from start to finish and were left with absolutely no doubts about what you accomplished. I thought that perfectionists were people who were able to do just that.  I did not think that I was a perfectionist.

But then it occurred to me that maybe a perfectionist was a person who strives so hard for perfection that they think they never quite attain it no matter how close they might come.

Josie, who meditates daily and calls herself a half-assed Buddhist, likes to say that nothing is perfect. That is what makes life so perfect - that everything is imperfect. Nature is perfect only in it’s imperfection. That got me to thinking that perfection to one person is not the same as to another, so nothing can be perfect if everyone is different. 

Tom Carleno

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