Q & A With Steve Adubato

For blues/rock guitarist and singer Chaz DePaolo of Kearny

How did you get so popular in Ireland?
I put out my own album six years ago. I sold, like, a thousand records in New York City. There was a head of one of the music stores who said, “Well, this guy’s half Irish.” He got the Irish boys to come down and look at me, and he said, “You sing like a black man and you remind us of this guy Rory Gallagher. Do you want to go to Ireland? We can’t pay you. Go do a couple of pub tours.” So I went over for two weeks with my fiancée, and we financed the whole thing on a credit card. At the end of two weeks, every place was packed. They told me to come back six months later, and then I was headlining the last night of the Galway Arts Festival. The next thing you know, I was opening up for Buddy Guy. And I just kept going back.

Why are the blues so big in Europe?
Europeans are very artistic-driven. If something is done well, whether they know it or not, they will pay attention. That’s how my whole career took off.

Tell me about your mother.
My mother was a Broadway showgirl, so I was brought up on Broadway. She was in a revival of Pal Joey in 1952 with Harold Lang. I grew up in part of that world. My mother had me on stage as a little kid. My mother was also a Rockette. She’s now 70 years old and can still do a split and a back walkover.

How did word of mouth contribute to your success?
For my particular success, it has been critical. That’s how I ended up [at the] Montreal [Jazz Festival]. There’s a record store that’s in between the two main stages of the Montreal Jazz Festival. The store manager called me up on a Monday and said, “You’ve been bugging me for a year. I’m not going to pay you. If you can come up here on Saturday, you can fill in for Alison Krauss,” because she canceled the first day. I said, “I will be up there.” He ended up keeping me for two days, and I sold tons of records.

You talk a lot about personal tragedy in your songs. What has been the most significant loss in your life?
My sister was murdered by a heroin dealer in 1974, and my brother was killed two months before that. They were 16 and 17 years old. When I hit 30, 30 bothered me a lot. Not because of the age, but I had a lot of guilt about my brother and sister: Why did I live and why did they die?

How did these experiences affect your outlook?
You can’t blame anybody for the past. You’ve got to take responsibility for yourself. You need to believe in God, the higher atmosphere, the energy, or whatever you believe in.

How has all this influenced your life and career?
I took the responsibility to choose to play this style of music. There were no guarantees I was going to make a lot of money, so I can’t be mad. My friends say, “Well, aren’t you bitter?” Why would I be bitter? I just came back from spending seven weeks in Europe. There was a week I didn’t have any money—I couldn’t even call my fiancée—but you know what? I’m doing what I want to do. I’m a successful man. If I died today, I’ve lived 24 years longer than my brother and my sister. I’ve been all over. I’ve been to Galway Bay and played guitar at a sunset. That’s success.

Steve Adubato is an Emmy-winning anchor for Thirteen/WNET and host of One-on-One With Steve Adubato on the Comcast Network.

Read more Jersey Celebrities, Jersey Living articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown