The Cabaret at the Columbia invites you to “Fall in Love with Tony DeSare.” The New York Times says DeSare is “a baby Sinatra with burning brown eyes and flashing teeth – his sly performance establishes the kind of connection to a younger generation that has helped make Michael Bublé a heartthrob.” He will perform two shows Friday and Saturday, Sept. 16 and 17 at 8 p.m. at the popular club on Monument Circle.
DeSare is also a pianist, songwriter and recording artist. Making his third appearance in Indianapolis, he performed previously in 2009 with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in “Irving Berlin: From Ragtime to Riches,” and again with the ISO in a solo show, “Valentine’s Romance,” and a Symphony on the Prairie concert, “Sci-Fi Spectacular, “ in 2010.
Known for a singing style that ranges from pop to boogie-woogie and R&B, the singer’s interpretations of classic standards and original compositions have garnered him recognition as one of this country’s most exciting young performers.
DeSare has played major jazz rooms like NewYork’s Birdland and Blue Note and nightclubs like the Café Carlyle, and has also performed in major concert halls around the world.
Recently, DeSare spoke by phone from his New York apartment with knotmove.com.
So what do you have planned for your Cabaret show?
I’m doing a solo show. So, it will be me on the piano. I’m really looking forward to it. It allows me the opportunity to try some new things that I’ve been working on for my latest album. I love working with my band, but when I’m by myself I can just go anywhere and play the music any way I want to. I don’t have to worry about the songs being rehearsed with the band. So I’ll be playing some new stuff that I’ve written and maybe some other stuff that I usually don’t play.
My show will also focus on my piano playing, since it will be the only instrument on stage. It’ll be a more of an intimate evening than a lot of the things I’ve been doing these days. I work with a big band when I’m opening for Don Rickles at orchestra shows and I’m also doing pop shows. This will be more like a New York nightclub act.
You had been performing regularly at Bemelmans. Are you still doing that?
Yes, I’m there all this month on Sundays.
So is that a similar arrangement? Do you just perform alone with your piano?
No, actually I’ve got my band on that.
You don’t seem to have any problems pattering with the audience. Do you enjoy it?
Yes, I do. I enjoy it a lot more than I used to. I’m always been a shy person. When I started playing in the beginning, I was really hesitant to speak. But now I’ve learned to really enjoy it.
Would you say that your patter is educational? Do you like sharing background about the songs you sing?
Sure. Yes. I think it’s nice to give a background on some things, but it depends. I try to make it more relevant than just supplying information. Whether it’s a funny story or something that helps the audience understand the song better – that is what I hope for. Rather than just saying, “This was written by Rodgers and Hart on a Tuesday.”
Tell me about your upcoming CD. What’s the title?
Well, I don’t have a title yet. But I’m writing all the songs now and will be recording it very shortly. I hope to have it out pretty soon.
Where do you record?
In New York, either at Avatar or Nola, and also at home. I’ve got my own recording studio that I’ve built over the years in my apartment here in New York.
What kind of response have you received from your You Tube videos that show you performing in your apartment and which you have posted on Facebook?
It’s great. I realized a couple years ago that a lot of people, before they come and see me, would naturally Google me and look me up on YouTube. So I made it a point to start to put up more content that kind of shows my act and what I do. It’s been fun. I’ve even learned how to do the video editing. We’re in such a different age of media. It’s cool that an artist can continue to put out stuff whenever he or she wants to. I view You Tube as, yet another channel to get stuff out there. It’s great when people like it. The stuff that I’ve put out, I’m proud of it and glad that people like it.
You seem to be really aware of how to effectively use social media and how to use it effectively to promote yourself.
I don’t know that I’m probably as good as I could be at it. Some people really are at it all the time. They are always on Twitter and Facebook. It’s hard for me to post things that I don’t think they’re important. Like, “I’m crossing the street today.”
Are you on Twitter?
I do have a Twitter account. I very rarely tweet though.
Would you say that you’re just more focused on creating music?
Yes. With social media and constant connectivity becoming a part our lives, it’s been harder for me to sit down and focus for two hours on writing a song. In the last year or so, I’ve really have had to make a conscious choice to shut the phone off and turn off my email and just sit with my piano.
It appears to be working. How is your career going?
It’s been great, the way things have moved along in the last few years, to have the opportunity the tour on the road and do shows in jazz clubs. And now, in these last couple years, thanks to Jack Everly and Ty Johnson (Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra principal pops conductor and producer, respectively), I have broken into the pop world. It’s been so much fun.
Why is it that you enjoy working so much with Jack and Ty?
I just have so much respect for Jack’s talent and his commitment. He’s just so good at what he does – so smart, and such a good arranger that it’s a pleasure just to collaborate with him and work with him. You know, I’ve learned a lot from working with him, and I’m glad that I’ve had him as my guide as I started in pop music.
Ty is just so great at creatively putting shows together that people like, and he’s got a really good feel for what audiences respond to.
The combination of working with those two is musically satisfying. Also, whenever I’m doing a show with Jack and Ty, I also love the social aspect of and being around their energy.
As one who performs all over the world, would you say that they are they assets to Indianapolis?
Absolutely. Whether it’s Indianapolis, New York. Wherever. Anybody who brings that high level of creativity and musicality to their work is someone to be appreciated and supported
I see that you’ve been performing with a lot of orchestras. So what’s your calendar look like next year?
Actually I kick it all off this season at Carnegie Hall with Jack. We’re doing the Irving Berlin show October 14th. That will be exciting. We’re doing it with the New York Pops. Then I’m in Long Beach, Calif. Also, I’ve have bookings with orchestras in Baltimore, Oklahoma City, Vancouver and Atlanta. I have a lot to look forward to.
What is your favorite format: orchestras, big bands, with your band or by yourself? Or do you like them all equally?
I like them all. They each have their own challenges, but the things that go along with them are great. I just enjoy performing for an audience. When it’s a good piano and the sound is good, then that’s really what makes it for me. When the tools are there and the audience is there, – then I know I’m going to have a good time.
I would think that having a huge symphony orchestra behind you must be an unbelievable experience. What’s it like?
It is magical. When I’m on stage with an orchestra, I really enjoy every second of it. Even in the spaces where I’m not singing, I become an audience of the orchestra because I’ve got a seat right on stage, and they just sound so overwhelmingly beautiful. I appreciate those moments probably more because I’m on stage live with an orchestra. That happens less frequently than when it’s just me at my piano at the Carlyle or something like that. I can sit down and play and recreate that experience for myself anytime, but during a performance with an orchestra – that’s really something that’s very special, and I appreciate it. It’s magical.
Do you have any film or any television projects coming up?
I’ve gotten more of an interest in that in the last year or so. I’m open to that, but I’ve been so focused on doing concerts and writing that I haven’t really put myself out there proactively to pursue it. If something were to come my way, then I would certainly explore it. And I may try auditioning or even try my hand at acting a little bit, but I feel it’s good to focus on one thing at a time.
What if you were to play yourself – like in a nightclub scene in a film? Would you enjoy that?
Yes, I would love to. It would be a fun challenge, and yes, I would absolutely love to do that.
What about composing music for films? Would that be something that would interest you?
Yes, I’ve always loved film music a lot. And I’ve done a little bit of that over the years, for student films and things like that. It’s certainly something that I would love to do. It’s a whole separate business, really, located in LA. If I had the opportunity, I’d love to take a crack at it.
So you’re open to any way you can share you talents?
Well, the thing about music that I love the most is the really high level of communication you can have with somebody. It’s such a pure form of expressive self-worth and emotion in a very special way. That’s really the magic of it to me. We all want to do is be able to relate to people and know that they received the message.
What do you think about your being compared to Sinatra, Connick and Buble?
I get that a lot. It’s a compliment. I really respect all those guys a lot – especially Frank Sinatra. Considering what I’ve done a lot and the material that’s been on my CDs – it’s an obvious comparison.
As I move towards songwriting and I as I get a little bit older, I feel like I really have found a lot more of my own voice. And I think that comes through, too.
But you know, with the type of music I’ve done, it is easy to be compared to Connick, or Sinatra or Buble, because there are so few people really doing it. If I were a country act – it’s not like they compare every new country singer to Hank Williams and Garth Brooks. Because there are so many performers that just sing country. This is the style that I’ve really focused on, and it is music that not a lot of people perform.
But you also cover artists such as Prince and other contemporary composers, so it’s not just American songbook?
Right. It’s not American songbook as we traditionally think of it – pre-1965 or George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Berlin. Still, I think there’s a good case to be made that there are songs that have come out in the last 40-45 years that do stick around. People don’t just relate to the production or the singer, but because the songs are really good.
Do you think the Great American Songbook is still being compiled?
I think so. I would agree with that. The focus of popular music has strayed from the quality of the song to the kind of the quality of the arrangement and the singer more. So I think that we’ve had fewer and fewer great songs become popular, but that doesn’t mean that the American songbook doesn’t continue. It just maybe isn’t adding songs that are going to last as quickly as it once did. Every once in a while there’s a really great song that comes along, and only time will tell if people will still be singing it and knowing it 30-40 years from now.
What can Cabaret audiences expect when they come to your show?
Well, they can expect to hear a mix of standard songs from my CDs, as well as brand-new stuff. I’ll probably try quite a few of the new songs I’m working. My hope would be that when an audience comes to see me, that they kind of experience a range of emotions, from laughing to maybe crying a little bit to maybe learning a couple things. How I get there kind of varies each show. I like to tailor it to the audience and the room and how it feels that night. But the end goal is always the same: to go on a journey, to make everybody feel comfortable and to share some music that I really like.
When you did your Valentine’s weekend concert with the ISO a few years ago – the music was geared toward love and romance. Are you a romantic?
Yes. I guess you could kind of classify me as that. I don’t know if I want to say I’m a hopeless romantic. That sounds a little cliché. But I think the power of music can be used in so many ways, including the expression of love and romance and those different colors that exist in that relationship.
I’ve focused on that more than other things, and it’s really something that I enjoy and I feel, like any artist. You try to find your voice as an artist. As far as mine, I feel more in that direction than, say, Bob Dylan focusing on politics. Some people have a more angry voice, and people respond to that.That’s not my focus as an artist, though. It is more focused on romance and love.
So would it be fair to say that you’re a lover and not a hater?
For tickets and information about “Fall In Love With Tony DeSare” at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club, call (317) 275-1169 or visit