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Spotlight: on The Jersey Arts

Jersey Son jumps onto Bigger Stage: Spotlight on Paul Gargiulo

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The place was packed at McLoone's Boathouse on April 12 - you can see Paul Gargiulo and the band playing on stage, behind the dancers.
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The Paul Gargiulo Band on stage at McLoone's Boathouse in West Orange.
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ACIEM Studio shot footage for an upcoming documentary about Paul Gargiulo and the band. This photo was taken on site at McLoone's Boathouse, in West Orange, New Jersey.
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Diane Lilli
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As a film crew worked on a documentary about a Jersey boy who matured into a musical force to be reckoned with, McLoone’s Boathouse in West Orange was packed with dancing, ecstatic fans on Friday night - who were lining up to ask who the blazing hot guitarist/singer was and could they know when he’d be back.

New Jersey native Paul Gargiulo looks like an adult version of a Rock god but doesn’t play the cliche-part in his personal life. Instead, he is soft-spoken, humble, and grounded. I met this surprising musician about 5 years ago, when I saw him perform in a local coffee shop in Caldwell, New Jersey. I was taken aback immediately, because he looked too good to be real - a grown up playing original music that I enjoyed - and it took only a few songs for me to realize he was not just a local talent, but someone who could also easily play on main stages. Yet here he was - playing his heart out to a crowd of 40 coffee drinkers at a Rockn’ Joes in Caldwell, New Jersey.

Gargiulo, 46, said he discovered his life-long passion for music as a young boy, and started to take music lessons when he was 12. Instead of playing football or basketball with his friends, this kid was holed up with a guitar and music teacher, and also in his house practicing - and practicing - and practicing. So who was his big influence?

“Elvis,” he said. “It was Elvis, right from the beginning.”

But besides his early love of Elvis and music, Gargiulo said he realizes now that his musical gifts are also connected to his DNA.

“My dad was a musician, and played the accordion,” he said. “One of my brothers plays drums - and my other brother? He is a graphic artist. Both of my parents are artists, and I have an uncle who is artist as well. So, it does run in the family.”

Though he grew to love and play all kinds of music - from Elvis to Led Zepplin to Aerosmith and Stevie Ray Vaughan - Gargiulo matured into a professional musician, and he found himself drawn to a Roots oriented, Americana style infused with bits of the blues, spliced into his original tunes through his lightening fast guitar picking. Unlike the Bon Jovi, Bruce worshipping hordes of Jersey music lovers, this local talent cultivated his own strong sound, as unique as that family DNA. You can’t mistake this Jersey son’s voice for anyone else’s sound.

“Whereas Stevie Ray Vaughan went into a more Blues’ direction, I went back to the early Roots music and started from the beginning, with African Blues roots,” explained Gargiulo. “Then, I expanded from there in Americana , Blues, Jazz, and Country. I remember my father always playing Outlaw Country Records, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn as well as Frank Sinatra. He still has all those old records. I bet it rubbed off on me.”

But as any true artist knows the road to living fully in an artist’s skin is bumpy at best.

Gargiulo, enamored of music, committed at the age of 18 to a lifetime of music, embracing his passion and forgoing college, marriage, and a regular full time job. While all of his friends, brothers and cousins were getting married and embarking on careers, Gargiulo kept taking singing lessons in New York, endlessly practicing his guitar skills and writing new material.

Instead of moving out and getting into a typical career - and focusing part time on his music - like his own musical ancestors from generations past in Italy, Gargiulo turned his own world into a music-centric universe: working as a painter or in construction to get by in order to keep creating, writing, and playing music.

“My parents are very understanding about my passion for music,” he said. “It must be in my blood. Did I give up marriage, a wife, and money for this? Sure, I did, but I have no choice. This is who I am and this is how I want to live. And I know how lucky I am to have such an understanding and supportive family.”

Now, after playing in numerous venues in the tri-state area for twenty years, Gargiulo is ready to hit the road and do work on tour. He has played in Memphis, Nashville and North Carolina and said he plans to go back on tour again.

“I really want to go back to Nashville, and visit Colorado, West Virginia, and who knows where else,” he said, smiling. “I need to share my music in other parts of the country.”

Looking at his schedule, however, this reporter had to ask: How will you find the time since you are booked so often?

Pausing for a moment, he replied.

“That’s easy,” he said. “For me, music always finds a way. And I’m sure I can find the way to do a tour, and grow my fan base beyond this area.”

At McLoone’s Boathouse on April 12, as Paul worked his guitar with his lightening fast fingers and sang an original tune to the crowd, one woman asked me why he isn’t well known on a national scale yet.

“I can’t believe how good this guy is,” she said, shaking her head. “Is he on TV? Where can I see him again? And how does hehold that note so long on Suspicious Minds?”

Paul, who wows the crowd every show with his ever increasing breath control and holding of a note at the end of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds, said he aims to keep increasing how long he can do this - yet he is already at what seemed to be a minute.

With such a buzz circling this original artist, I don’t doubt his future success.

Now, with a new film is being edited about Paul Gargiulo, as anyone knows, a buzz backed up with professional video can truly make magic happen.

If you would like to visit Paul Gargiulo’s webpage, go to www.PaulGargiulo.com.

He is also in the midst of filming with a well known studio, and will post video of his original and cover songs - both on his own and with his band. And, Paul Gargiulo offers guitar lessons, so feel free to reach out to him.

With music as his calling, this is one artist who is sticking to his passion, with gusto.

If you are an agent or booking manager, contact Paul Gargiulo at Paul@PaulGargiulo.com.

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