Tremonti Sings Sinatra, a collection of Frank Sinatra songs covered by GRAMMY Award Winning musician Mark Tremonti (Alter Bridge, Tremonti, Creed) performed with members of Sinatra’s band with proceeds from the album and merchandise going to support the National Down Syndrome Society. RockRevolt had a chance to talk with Mark about what this project means to him and why it’s so important, how it all came together and what Frank’s original band members initially thought when asked if they would like to work with the legendary metal songwriter/guitarist. RockRevolt also received an update on the latest Alter Bridge record, current Tremonti Tour as well as a few interesting tidbits on whether Alter Bridge would consider touring with Creed and how that ‘Support Local Hells Angels Washington’ sticker ended up on Mark’s guitar. Read on for more or you can find the entire video interview at the conclusion of the article.
ROCKREVOLT: Tremonti Sings Sinatra, comes out this week with the proceeds going to a great cause, National Down Syndrome Society, tell us a little bit about the NDSS.
MARK TREMONTI: They are the largest organization in the states to help folks with Down syndrome and families with members with Down syndrome. They’ve got some many different programs and so many things that it would be hard to discuss them all in a half an hour. We just wanted to partner with the biggest organization to raise as much funds and awareness as we could with this project.
RR: Obviously this is near and dear to your heart. Tell us why that is.
MT: Yeah my daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome before she was born and that’s what gave me the purpose to do this record. Before that I was just a huge Frank Sinatra fan, I wanted to sing along just for fun. He was such a hugely charitable man that I decided this would be the perfect project to raise money for folks with Down syndrome. He raised over a billion dollars for charity.
RR: Obviously your love for Frank Sinatra goes way back. Do you recall how that love got started?
MT: I think my earliest memories are around Christmas time. His Christmas songs would be on the radio every year. And you would see him in movies and on the radio and it was something that always made me happy. It was kind of a happy place for me.
RR: Did you ever dream that you would put out a Sinatra covers record? Not only that but work with some of the surviving members of his orchestra. How mind blowing is that?
MT: Oh, crazy. I never thought that in a million years that this would happen. I did think that maybe I could grab some local musicians and do a record. When I told my manager about the project he was like you know my guitar teacher was Dan McIntyre who toured with Frank Sinatra. So he connected us with Mike Smith who was Frank Sinatra’s band leader and he organized about 15 people that shared the stage with Frank Sinatra recorded on this record.
RR: Was the initial thought to have a backing orchestra or did you want to put your little twist on it? What was the initial thought?
MT: I wanted to be as close to the real deal as I could. Sound like the old Capital Records recordings. I didn’t want this to be over produced. I wanted to be raw and sound like you’re in the middle of the room with an orchestra. The recordings you hear on this record are the band doing it in one take. This is not copy, paste and edit. This is what you hear is what you get. That’s how excellent these guys are.
RR: What was their initial reaction when they heard Mark Tremonti, metal guitarist, wants to do a Sinatra covers album and work with some of the original members?
MT: They all didn’t know what to expect. After the session they all pretty much said hey kid you did you homework. We didn’t know what to expect coming in here but you did a good job. From there on out everyone was excited to be back in a room with one another and we had a great time.
RR: Walking in that room initially to start recording how nervous were you?
MT: I wasn’t nervous at all. I was ready to do it. I had done my homework. I practiced these songs more than anything I ever practiced in my life. I was ready to do it. On top of that this was all for charity, I knew this was coming from a good place. Nobody is going to judge you for trying to do something good for the world, right? I was ready.
RR: Obviously you’re very happy with the results.
MT: Absolutely. I’d change a few things but overall I’m very happy with it.
RR: How weird is it, of course you’re use to having a guitar, was it a whole different vibe for you?
MT: Ah yes absolutely. You know with this I never thought of ever adding a guitar to it of my own. It was good to just focus on the vocals. It does take a lot of focus to do what Frank Sinatra did with his phrasing and what not. There’s no way I could have done it with a guitar.
RR: Recently you took it a step further and did a live performance for a charity event. What was that like to actually perform it live in front of an audience.
MT: It was awesome. It was really fun. It was great to see everybody dressed up, it was a formal event. Everybody that I’ve seen for decades coming to rock shows wearing black t-shirts and black jeans were wearing ties and suits. I tried to do some research on people performing Frank Sinatra songs, even Frank Sinatra performing, the kind of things they did live. It took me three videos to realize this is a waste of time, be you up there and it worked. I never wanted to act like Frank Sinatra on stage. I don’t want to be that campy about it. I just want to be authentic so I’m just going to see how it goes as each show goes by.
RR: So you have more of these performances scheduled?
MT: We’re talking about doing some shows in September and then December as well.
RR: Will those also be black tie events?
MT: Well one show that we’re doing everything around is going to be in New York, that’s in September. NDSS has something called the Buddy Walk which raises a bunch of money for their organization. We’re trying to set up a show based around that. And we’ll probably do a week of shows leading up to it. Try to hit Atlantic City and around that area. For the Buddy Walk everyone is not going to walk in suits (laughs). I’d like to keep most of them formal, it’s just the way they would have done it back in that era. I think people like getting dressed up every now and then.
RR: Sure even us metal heads. It’s interesting, I’m from New England. Tom Brady was big into the Best Buddies up in New England. We would attend the charity flag football game he would put on. Some great memories of his support for the organization.
MT: That’s great. I’d love for him to get involved in some way with the Take A Chance initiative. That would take it next level.
RR: Well he’s in Florida now, maybe you can connect up with him.
MT: Yeah give me his number and I’ll call him (laughing).
RR: Now the artwork for the album, where did that come from? I recently read an interview you did with Mille Petrozza of Kreator and you brought up the artwork and it’s importance. Were you involved with the artwork for the Sinatra covers album?
MT: Yeah my publicist said Frank Sinatra was a painter and you’re a painter it would be cool if you did the artwork for this. He didn’t have to ask me twice, I love painting. My wife had bought me a book on Frank Sinatra’s artwork so I know he likes more kind of abstract more modern art. I actually have a piece of his art here that he painted (pulls out a Frank Sinatra artwork piece). Pretty awesome. I painted more of an abstract thing. I did about 12 paintings and chose to fit with the album artwork. There’s the blue cover then when you slide the records out the front and back of each record has a painting on the sleeve, the second record will have two paintings as well and then on the back. I think there’s five paintings all together.
RR: There’s quite a bit of work put into this besides just the musical piece.
MT: Yeah a lot of passion, a lot of heart and soul went into it.
RR: So people need to go out and buy the physical album to get the whole experience.
MT: Yeah and you know it’s a shame that all the supply chain stuff is so tough right now. Getting records made right now is really, really difficult. There’s people in line for a year now waiting to get records made. Because this is a charitable thing people are putting us in front of some other projects just to be helpful. It’s going to be tough. When you see those records and you want one then get one because they’ll be tough to get.
RR: Crazy times right now and have been for the past couple years.
MT: CD’s are easy and all the merchandise is available it’s just the records that we are trying to get them as quickly as we can.
RR: Anything else going on in the world of Mark Tremonti (laughing). I see you have some tour dates coming up in Europe for Tremonti in support of your latest record Marching In Time. How is the tour going?
MT: We head out on Monday and do about 5 weeks in Europe. Just finished the new Alter Bridge record last week. We’re all done tracking, it’s being mixed right now. That comes out October 14th. Between now and then we’ll do those shows in September with Tremonti Sings Sinatra. Then when I go to Europe with Alter Bridge this winter we’ll do a big tour and then I’ll stick around and do some Sinatra shows overseas. Just trying to stay busy.
RR: I was disappointed to see you’re not playing Copenhell. I’m headed over for that.
MT: Yeah man that’s always fun. I didn’t know where we are going. I just get on the bus and they tell me when we’re on and not on. Can’t wait to go.
RR: Mark I’m going to go back a bit. I was reading an article from 1999, Creed has just released Human Clay and one of the things you are quoted as saying is “I think there were a lot of people sitting at home going, ‘Man, music sucks now because there’s no rock?’ So when they heard us, they were going, ‘Great! At least there’s one band out there playing straight up, old school rock & roll with big guitars”. (as I butcher the quote in the video). Do you recall saying that back in ’99? The reason I bring it up is because it kind of resonates now, it was a big deal about a year or two ago when Gene Simmons said rock is dead and it’s 23 years later. It’s interesting that you said that at that time. What are your feelings on that?
MT: I think if you look at any time period we’re always going to complain about how the past was better, that kind of a thing. I just know that when Creed had first come out that all the rock was kind of light-hearted, fun party rock. I think when “My Own Prison” came out it was one of the only more somber, moodier tunes. I think that’s maybe why I said it. You know rock has it’s ups and downs. Even nowadays rock might not be as popular record sales wise as rap or country music but it’s better than it’s ever been. Some bands are just amazing. It’s not the most commercially recognized music right now. One day it could be again, you never know.
RR: Kids are still showing up to the shows, that’s a good thing.
MT: Oh yeah, rock’s not going away any time soon.
RR: It’s interesting you bring up the somber theme. You mentioned the new Alter Bridge is darker than the last record.
MT: Yeah I think Walk The Sky was definitely a little more uplifting than this record. There’s a lot going on in this record. You’re not going to get it all on the first listen kind of thing. Some of the lyrics are definitely darker. I think if you’re a fan of Alter Bridge you’ll enjoy this record. It’s definitely one we’re all proud of.
RR: I was recently watching Alter Bridge Live in Amsterdam from 2009 and I picked up an interesting thing, on your guitar was a sticker that said Support Local Hells Angels Washington, what’s the story behind that?
MT: We were playing a show in, I think we were in Seattle. My tour manager said hey the Hells Angels are coming out to the show and just let them hang wherever they want, they want to see the show. So I’m backstage warming up about ten minutes before we went on stage and this gentleman came back and just sat down next to me and just watched me warm up and as I was playing took out this sticker and just stuck it right on my guitar (laughing). Just put it on there, didn’t say anything, just did it. I just kept it there, it’s just a cool memory, cool story. I remember another show we did the Hells Angels came out and one of the guys gave me a red snow cap kind of thing. I said I can’t wear this right? I’ll get beat up. He’s like no as long as a brother gave it to you, you can have it. Every run in we’ve had with them they’ve always been nice and enjoyed the shows. It’s been good.
RR: It’s good to keep them as friends.
RR: Top five Mark Tremonti riffs?
MT: “Flying Monkeys” comes right off the top of my head. One of my favorite riffs. (struggling) Ah, it’s hard to say I don’t know. I’d have to think on that one.
RR: How about one Creed song that possibly Alter Bridge would cover?
MT: None (laughing).
RR: How about play live? You would never do that?
MT: We’ve always stayed clear that we want to keep the bands a separate as possible. Never muddy any waters.
RR: Would Alter Bridge and Creed ever tour together? I know 3 of the 4 play in both bands but what would you think of a bill like that?
MT: You know we’ve talked about things like, not the Creed and Alter Bridge, but like the Tremonti, Sevendust, Alter Bridge, Projected, the bands that are in one family. But it makes sense I think when our managers speak to promoters they say you’re just bringing the same fanbase to six different bands. It’s better when you pair a band up with a different fan base to bring more people to the show. If you’re just doing Projected, Tremonti, Sevendust, Alter Bridge you’re bringing a lot of the same fans to the same show. They want to sell more tickets, they want to expose you to a different fan base.
RR: I completely get it but boy that would be fantastic.
MT: You know one day we’re just going to do it. At some point hopefully. Go against everybody, just do it, life’s too short.
RR: I just noticed Blackbird is nominated for the best guitar album of the ‘00’s. Do you ever vote on those?
MT: No I don’t personally. Most of the time I’m on Instagram. When you see me on a place where I could vote, I don’t know if you can vote through Instagram. Whenever I do a post I just add the other socials to it and send it out. I think my brother, who does a lot of our social media, would do some voting and tell people to help support the cause. He helps us out with that.
RR: Obviously that album has gotten major accolades, it’s a fantastic record.
MT: Thank you very much.
RR: And obviously yourself has received many accolades. It would take us a half an hour just to go through that. Must feel pretty good.
MT: Yeah, it was my childhood passion to play the guitar. I’ve been more of a songwriter, I love playing guitar but I like it to create with. I think of myself more of a songwriter than a guitar technique guy. I love to play guitar but I love it to use it for expression.
RR: Mark I could talk to you for much longer, so many questions so little time. I know you have a lot going on. I appreciate it. Any final words for the fans?
MT: Right now the most important thing is if you go to TremontiSingsSinatra.com, anything you pick up will help the National Down Syndrome Society. There’s donate now links. There’s also stuff on there that shows how you can take a chance for charity and challenge all your favorite artists to do the same thing. And keep an eye out for Tremonti tour next month and Alter Bridge record out October 14th.
RR: Never a dull moment in Mark Tremonti’s life. Appreciate you taking the time once again. Good luck with everything, good luck with the release of Tremonti Sings Sinatra, looking forward to it and looking forward to seeing out on the road with that. Thanks.
MT: Absolutely, see ya.