What better way to kick off the new year than discussing Anthony Savino’s thoughtful, ambitious release Good Job, which tackles weighty topics like wealth, work and love — ideas that might have made an appearance in your resolutions for 2020.
For a decade, Savino fronted the New Bedford-based punk band Half Hearted Hero, which now plays as Dream Job. Savino’s solo work takes a more straightforward approach and puts the spotlight on the lyrics. Good Job’s unvarnished production doesn’t add a lot of fluff, and the playing is subtle enough to make the songs a vehicle for Savino’s rich storytelling.
“North” has a sort of bossa nova lite feel and explores the realities of growing up. “Someone Else’s Dime” is a take on the enterprise that is the American desire to succeed: “One size American dream/I’m free and bored and rich on someone else’s dime/I see the stores and silver circles fill my eyes.”
The stripped-down “Work Harder” candidly explores what it means to build your craft as an artist while balancing the need to make money and keep the plates spinning. “Thick Line” has a country ballad vibe and talks about the powerful men called out for their behavior in this more enlightened era.
I recently spoke with Savino about the new album and his thoughts on songwriting.
Jake Bissaro (Motif): You’re probably best known in punk/alternative circles for your work in Half-Hearted Hero. Was there a conscious transition to a more stripped down sound?
Anthony Savino: I’ve always tried to maintain involvement in both the punk and singer-songwriter worlds, so I don’t really have a demarcation for either style. To me, it’s all guitar-based music.
JB: Songs like “Pictures” and “Someone Else’s Dime” are frank discussions on politics, and in some cases the American Dream. Do you intend on a theme for your albums?
AS: Typically no, at least not initially. I tend to just dive right in. I’ve done the concept album thing, but I’m mainly trying to have the song say everything it needs to say first, then look at the album and see what the bigger picture may be.
I like to think that I’ve always allowed myself to explore whatever topics come to mind as I understand them. For this round of songs, trying to focus my songwriting approach made certain subjects stand that before may have been more oblique.
JB: Has your songwriting approach changed over through your time playing music?
AS: I certainly hope so. I like to think I’ve grown and developed over the years. I’ve really tried to seek out songwriting resources to apply to my own work, whether it’s reading materials or workshops. For a while I was involved with the Brown Arts Initiative songwriting course as a participant, then as co-facilitator. It’s a weekly meetup of songwriters, people bring their work and have it critiqued by the group.
JB: Tell me about the title track, which uses some history to explore the value of work.
AS: I’m wary to talk too much about the songs, because as soon as you put something out, I see it as being in the hands of the audience. But on “Good Job” I wanted to lay out something in a direct way. There’s a little sarcasm and humor in there, and some family history.
JB: What was the recording process like?
AS: As with my last album, That Easy, I recorded in Portland, Oregon, at my friend Ben Barnett’s studio. I had been sending him demos beforehand, but pretty much just recorded for three weeks straight. I went crazy for a little bit, as one does when digging into the creative process — there’s always that moment when you’re facing the abyss. I had great support from his team out there, and Ben really understands songwriting, which is a huge plus.
JB: There’s some great playing on the album. Any notable collaborations?
AS: A. Walker Spring sang these great harmony vocals with me on the majority of the record. And Danny Aley on keyboards added a wonderful magic layer to everything with his thoughtful playing. He’s the kind of player you would show a song to once, and they come up with something incredible right off the bat.
Anthony is playing locally twice in the next few months:
Sunday, January 12 | Co-Creative Center in New Bedford, Mass | with Hayley Sabella, Seamus Galligan.
Friday, February 21 | AS220 | with Mountainess, Lindsay Foote
Hear Good Job at anthonysavino.bandcamp.com/album/good-job