Feelings put to music

17bbe441-c54b-5d51-a5b4-62d0e0906d18.preview-300Dec. 8, 2008  *  Skaneateles Journal

In his music – just like in his life – Dusty Pascal is driven by two ideals: honesty and simplicity.

The 32-year-old Sennett resident is a husband, father to five children and co-owner of his family’s company, D.B. Pascal Chimney and Roofing.

And Pascal believes that being honest about anything – family relationships, music or otherwise – begins with being truthful to yourself.

“There’s so much power in honesty. I think it’s one of the most forceful things on the planet,” he said. “With my family, my work, my music. … That’s what it all really comes down to.”

Music fans will surely learn for themselves about Pascal’s honesty and dedication after listening to his second album, “More” (Nachral Sound, 2008), released Nov. 29.

And on Thursday, Dec. 18, area residents can further tune in to his musical gifts when he performs at Auburn Public Theater at 108 Genesee St.

Last week Pascal took a rare break from work and fatherhood to discuss the new record and his creative philosophies.

“At this point, I’m having a hard time believing this new album is a reality,” he said. “I kind of felt the same way about the last one. I think it might take a few months for it to really sink in.”

If fans’ and critics’ reactions to “More” are anything like the response to his debut album, “Home” (Nachral Sound, 2006), he needn’t worry a bit. “Home” sold thousands of copies nationwide, received shining critical reviews and has had tracks featured internationally on Sirius satellite radio.

“More,” the title track to Pascal’s new album, has received frequent airplay on Blue Moon Cafe, a Sunday morning program on Syracuse station TK99. On the show, “More” has been featured alongside songs from acoustic icons like Van Morrison and Cat Stevens.

“The song’s about (my wife) Michelle, but it’s about me too – it’s about giving myself more,” he said. “It’s about wanting to be able to give her and my kids more, because that’s where my priorities live – with my family.”

Dissecting ‘Brick and Stone’

“But take it all away, right down to the brick and stone / And leave me with them reasons why I’m goin’ where I’m goin,’” Pascal confesses in the chorus of “Brick and Stone,” the first song on his new album.

The tune, which he called “as autobiographical as my songs get,” is about his partnership with Michelle, his wife of eight years.

“I think in relationships, people need to grow together,” he explained. “But just as important, we need to grow on our own.

“And if you love somebody enough, you’ll let them grow without you. …And hopefully they’ll do the same,” he added.

Using “Brick and Stone” as an example, he explained his process of writing and recording songs from conception to final cut.

As with the album’s other tunes, Pascal said the song’s initial creation was an inspirational process, as opposed to simply writing lyrics and accompanying music.

“It starts with a feeling,” he explained. “You start finger-picking (on the guitar), then all of a sudden there’s the notes, then the melody. And the more you play, the more the melody fits into what you’re feeling.

“And when you get to that point, the words just come out like you’re dumping them out of a bucket.”

Pascal recorded the album at Skaneateles’ SubCat Music Studios, where he was joined by bassist Bobby Perry, Danny Welch on harmonica and pianist and backing vocalist Rick Jewett.

In addition, Ron Thompson, Ron Keck, Hobe Abbott and Mike Cappuccilli added drums, percussion and bass to some tracks.

But Pascal’s biggest influence on both albums has been guitarist Loren Barrigar, whom he called “my musical mentor.”

“Loren’s taught me so much about how to ‘feel’ these songs,” he said. “At one point I was sort of stuck trying to find a direction to go in, and Loren just told me to go sit in a room with my guitar and figure out where the songs live.

“On both records, he’s been able to help me take the tunes to a new level,” he added.

The Live Dynamic

From the wistful lament of “Boston” to the Jack Johnson-esque acoustic groove in “History,” Pascal and his band’s sound is instantly listenable, almost as if the man were an old-school country musician in another life.
One of the most likable qualities of Pascal’s music is that, unlike some bands who try to boast about their musical skill while playing or singing, he lets the tunes speak for themselves.

“I try not to waver too far from what the feeling of the song represents,” he explained. “So if you can stay in that idea, it works.”

Growing up in Skaneateles, Pascal said he always had an affinity for performing, even considering trying his hand at standup comedy.

“But I never really had the guts to do anything in front of a paying audience. Then I started performing music a few years ago,” he said.

Anyone who witnesses Pascal’s live show will think he has been on the stage since he was an infant. A self-professed “huge fan” is Carey Eidel, Auburn Public Theater’s managing director.

“When you see Dusty play you know he just loves what he does,” Eidel said from the downtown theater.

Unlike some, he continued, Pascal has a gift for making each audience member feel as if he is singing directly to them.

“And that’s the true genius of a great performer. When you can be so open and honest like Dusty is (when he plays), you really have the ability to move people,” Eidel added.

A bonus of the new album is that three songs – “Brother John,” “Hunters and Thieves” and “Devil Wind” – are live recordings from a concert Pascal played last year at the Redhouse Arts Center in Syracuse.

Though rougher and obviously not as perfected as their studio counterparts, the tunes are self-explanatory examples of Pascal’s live presence.

“These songs are about communicating,” he said. “And I think those songs – the live versions – communicate better (to listeners) than the studio recordings do.”

And connecting with his audience is Pascal’s greatest attribute.

“You want to say as much as you can while you’re up there on the stage,” he said.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be able to (write and play) music. I have five kids and a business, and they come first.

“So I want to express as much as I can while I still have the chance to do it.”