Arts & Entertainment
Roger Gardella: Giving Thanks
By Uncle Mike
On Friday night, May 8, local singer/ songwriter/guitarist Roger Gardella will celebrate the release of his first solo CD, Thanksgiving Day, at McLoone's Supper Club in Asbury Park. Joining Roger on this special occasion will be fellow musicians and friends, Kristian Rex, Marc Muller, Thom White, Linc Davis, Jeff Sund, Bob Boyd, Matt O'Ree, Nels Andersen and BethAnne Clayton.
Like most kids of his generation Roger Gardella fell in love with music when the Beatles came to America. In his words, "I wanted to become a mop-topper." From his earliest memories of strumming on a tennis racket to banging on one of his Dad's five gallon Spackle buckets from the garage, Gardella had the bug. More precisely, Roger was what he likes to call an out and out music junkie. Be it rock, pop, bluegrass or folk, genres be damned, Roger couldn't get enough of music. However, unlike most kids of his generation Gardella never gave up on his dream of becoming a musician. For Gardella music wasn't just a passing infatuation, it was his true love, his calling if you will. And not only did Roger want to sing and play guitar, but he wanted to be a songwriter as well. He wanted to do it all, pretty big dreams for a kid from the Burg.
During his formative years Roger and his family moved to Middletown where he was fortunate enough to be exposed to the artists and music of the Middletown Folk Festival. So, it was more or less a natural progression for the young music enthusiast to be attracted to the folk-rock buzz of Dylan, James Taylor and Neil Young, as well as folk singer/songwriter Steve Goodman. And while this self- taught musician was playing guitar and songwriting by the age of 12, it wasn't until he was 16 years old that Roger ventured out of his Middletown bedroom and started performing with his first band, New Morning. Comprised of neighborhood pals, Peter Grubbs, Dave Levine and Kim Parent, Roger still remembers the thrill of being driven to his first gig all the way over in Englishtown by one of his band mate's parents. It is a thrill he still gets to this day whenever he's writing a new song, reworking a well known cover tune, recording in the studio or performing live on stage.
I first met Roger Gardella back in 1992 when he was performing as part of an acoustic duo with Michael Finnegan at Patrick's Den in the Atlantic Highlands. And even then it was clear to me that he was a breed apart. It was also in October of '92 that Roger launched the SAMIs at the House Of Coffee in the Galleria on Bridge Street in Red Bank. The SAMIs, short for Shore Area Musicians Invitational, was his way of bringing together and showcasing the talents of young up and coming local singers and songwriters. Hosted and MC'd by Roger some of those earlier shows featured the talents of Indus, Lizard Music, Karen Mansfield, Michael Finnegan, Mary McCrink and Kevin "Bird" Connair, just to name a few. Yes. Decades before Writers In The Raw would become the rage of the local scene, Roger Gardella saw the importance of building a sense of community amongst the local talent by offering singers and songwriters a venue where they could develop their craft and ply their trade.
These days when you sit down to talk music with Gardella the first thing you notice is the ear-to-ear smile that immediately appears on his face when you bring up the subject. The second thing you notice is the sheer joy, passion and commitment in Roger's voice as he speaks about what is still the love of his life. Holding down a full-time job, raising a family and trips to Nashville aside, Gardella has been a mainstay on the local music scene for over 35 years. And you can hear all of that life experience, the ups and downs, the joys and heartbreaks, in every note and every lyric of Thanksgiving Day. During one of the most difficult times in his life Gardella returned to his Middletown roots for some downtime and to do some serious soul-searching. Obviously, it was time well spent for what has emerged is some of the best work of his career as he rediscovered his music as well as himself. Thanksgiving Day is one of the best local releases of the year and an outstanding CD. As a recording it is both brutally honest and hauntingly beautiful.
At the suggestion of longtime friend Jeff Nissim of The Musical Heritage Society, Roger went to producer Jon Leidersdorff's Lakehouse Music Studios in Asbury Park to record his CD. And thanks to all involved, Thanksgiving Day is a brilliantly crafted and inspired studio effort. What Roger has created here is a totally honest, intelligent and heartfelt piece of work that is as reflective as it is uplifting. From the opening line of "How Did You Know," right on through such musical gems as "Thanksgiving Day," "I Will Make It Through," "Woodpile," "Lost In Sussex," "The Sun's Just Fine," "Kathryn's Lullaby," "So Close So Dear," "Bird Song" and "Tennessee," to the last note of "Aglow," Gardella has put his heart and soul in full view for all to see. In the world of the arts, this is an everyday occurrence, however in the real world I tend to think that's called courage. As a musician, singer and songwriter, Roger Gardella has it in spades!
Yes. Gardella is a lucky man who has a lot to be thankful for and he'll be the first one to tell you so. I mean, how many of us actually get to live out our dreams and do what we have always wanted to do? And while it hasn't always been easy, Roger has at various times in his life paid a heavy price to hold on to those dreams, he would not and could not give up his first true love, music. As he so aptly puts it, "I have loved music longer than anything in my life. I have to do music!" The things that I have always admired about Gardella as a singer/songwriter/musician are his honesty, his integrity and his intelligence. Everything that he does comes straight from the heart. It is not the easiest way to do things, but for Roger Gardella it is the only way! And that my friend speaks volumes for Roger Gardella as a man and an artist.
Roger Gardella has recently relocated to Sweetwater, N.J. and later this year he will celebrate his 51st birthday. For more information on Roger and his music you can go to myspace.com/rogergardella or largermusic.com