Sunday, February 9, 2014

The College Experience with JP Catalanotto

>> You never really know when you're going to meet someone who will end up being in your life for years.  I didn't have a set group of friends in high school, so I just kind of went with the flow and would only spend time with people who didn't try to force me to go to lame events or what have you.  I stuck with the kids who had a different set of priorities.  Through those kids, I ended up meeting JP (who at the time spelled it JayP and it was ..interesting).  While we didn't go to the same school or have the ability to drive at the time, we hit it off instantly.  We'd talk about music and movies and things that weren't necessarily "cool," which are often best things. Flash forward to our junior years of college and here's JP, contributing to the site I started around the time we had first met.  He's a co-host of podSessions, the coolest music podcast on the block.  That feature helps add more personality to the site, and I'm glad I met JP when I did because it's helped me enhance a project of mine years in the future.  Sometimes the world brings music fans together, and sometimes it's a great thing.  JP answered these questions for me back in December, so I figured it was about time that I shared his responses with you.

Please state your name, age, and what school you attend / what year you're in (if applicable).
My name is JP Catalanotto, a recent 21-year-old and junior at Iona College.

When and how did you first get involved with the music scene?
My first involvement in the music scene was with a basement band a friend formed freshman year of high school. I played guitar but certainly not well. With that, I moved on to bass and that’s where I really made my stint in the band and in live shows. Looking back, it was an important learning experience. Gotta start somewhere, right?

If you got involved at a relatively early age, was it hard having to deal with age restricted shows?
I was playing guitar by 12. By 12 and a half, I was dying to get to shows – at a stadium or otherwise. The bands I’ve always wanted to see where always playing big venues like Nassau Colliseum or Madison Square Garden, so that wasn’t too bad. I think the issue really came with me trying to get to local shows that my friends were playing at. A lot of my friends have a two year jump on me, so by the time they could play 21+ shows, it got a lot harder to see them.

Now that you're in college, has that aspect gotten easier? Are things more accessible to you now?
They’re officially easier as of the day I’m writing this (December 2nd, 2013) because I just turned the big 21. So, my days of sneaking into shows are over… for now.

Do you find that you have more or less free time generally as a college student?
Absolutely the least amount of free time but in the same breath the most amount of free time I’ve had. Time management is the biggest lesson with any undergraduate; I’ve gotten into a terrible habit of filling up every time slot in my day. I like to stay busy at school, but at home I prefer not to move from my couch unless it’s to fetch some Taco Bell.

Being actively involved in the music industry, how often have you been tempted to skip class or put off an assignment in order to attend / play a show? How do you make the choice?
Let’s be honest; no one’s perfect. I’ve skipped classes for sleep, mental health, and definitely to play shows. That said, the trick is to realize that if you’re in school, you should get your money’s worth. I always make sure that I keep the skipping to a very bare minimum – shows are great, but grade guilt is always better in the long run.

Have you ever arranged your schedule based on music related obligations? Have you ever had to turn something down or reschedule something based on your school schedule?
I’ve never based my schedule on my music obligations. That’s a personal choice, though. Most musical things in my life happen at night, so I just make sure to ease up on night classes. I’ve turned down quite a few gigs because of classes, though.

Are you often faced with tough choices when it comes to priorities and scheduling as a student who's also involved in the music industry?
Not necessarily. I know when I can and can’t skip a class or a library day for a night in Manhattan to check out a band. It’s heavily based on where I’m at in the semester more than the schedule.

With being in a band, do you find it hard to find a place to practice if you're in dorms or if you and your band mates are at different schools? Is it hard to coordinate shows and performances for the same reasons? 
It’s definitely not easy. The reality is that, more often than not, you won’t “make it big” in the normal sense (money, fame, a VH1 series that painfully ends a career, etc.). I think that reality hits home for a lot of great musicians too soon and is the big deterrent for bands not to give it an honest go. That’s not to say they’re minds are in the wrong places, obviously – sometimes reality becomes way too overwhelming. Out of nowhere, you’re more concerned about adult things like getting into graduate school or landing a career instead of doing what you love (I’m caught in that adult-like whirlwind too). These are all great things and with both in mind I think it’s important to balance your idyllic and realistic goals. Keep your passions passionate, your work hard, and your brain focused and everything will fall into place (also, a quick prayer to John Bonham or Hendrix couldn’t hurt either. Go ahead. Try it).

For those who dorm - Do you struggle with roommates? Do they ever complain about you taking up too much space or being too loud with your musical endeavors?
I don’t think it’s an overt struggle for me. I try my best not to be loud and to keep practicing to a minimum out of consideration for my other nine roommates (that’s right, nine men in one floor). While that’s really saintly of me, that sacrifice really does affect my playing. I’m still holding out for Fender to make a soundproof porta-potty like structure, all inclusive with mics, spare strings, and a record deal.

What is one of the biggest obstacles you've faced while trying to progress your career while still in school? Have you faced many tough obstacles like that, or has being in school helped you take those next steps?
I have three goal-based mental states that I’ll constantly drift into: the creative one (being a musician, a podcaster, a film maker, or a writer), the realistic one (becoming a lawyer, a government employee, or a professor), and, finally, the Jedi one (self-explanatory, methinks). The biggest obstacle for me is just choosing one and sticking to it for more than 6 months. For example, it’s hard to write when I have to worry about studying for LSATs and it’s harder to play shows when I have important classes. Even as I write this, I should be studying for two midterms – but the creative mindset has sneaked in, plopped down on my brain-couch, and brought some snacks, too. He’s usually the most considerate.

How has being in college helped you advance your involvement in the music industry? Do you think the pros of being in both outweigh the cons?
As far as my major? It hasn’t. The biggest thing it’s helped with is, as I mentioned, time management. You’re lying if you tell yourself that you’re going to remember every lesson of every lecture you’ve sat through. But, you’ve pulled yourself out of bed, threw some clothing on, and went to that class. Maybe you forgot to brush your teeth and you’re wearing the same David Bowie shirt that’s been on you for the past three days (guilty, by the way), but you made it there and sat it out. As Woody Allen imparted, eighty percent of success is showing up.

Do you think it's been beneficial to start your career / path in the music industry while you're still in school?
Well, it depends on where you’d mark a starting point. For me, a starting point to your music career, not the starting point for your passion for music, is having your songs done, demoed, and ready to market the hell out of your product. Though many don’t want to admit it, the music industry an industry for a reason – there’s money to be made. That being said, I think it’s good to constantly be writing your music and perfecting it as a skill and passion. However, unless you’re studying anything music related, school is probably the worst thing that could happen to a potential music career. Of course, that’s not to say that school is bad (I have a sick love for research papers, history, and law, to the point where I’m spending my 21st birthday in the library). My recommendation? When you’re in school, keep the music fun – you’ll need it for some long nights with lots of coffee, trust me on that one. When making music isn’t fun, there’s a serious problem. 

What are your plans for after graduation?
I’d like to go right to graduate school, but I need money first. That’s also a very convenient segue for me to focus on my very considerate aforementioned creative mental state. In short, lots of traveling, music, and wacky adventures in my dearest Nassau County. 

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- Kate Russell

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