It bothers me that Greg diPiazza isn’t famous. It could be that I’m a hopeless optimist, or perhaps I’m living just this side of naivety. Maybe I’ve been duped.
I’m talking about the good, old American dream. You know, those romantic nuggets of wisdom that suggest that if you work hard enough you can achieve anything? Do what you love and the money will follow? You can be anything you want to be?
DiPiazza has been living his dream for a long time. His bio reads like a who’s who of the music industry: h’s worked with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, opened for the Grateful Dead and Willy Nelson, recorded and performed with Steve Ferrone from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He was hand-picked to record songs and tour with Cassandra Denver, wife of the legendary John Denver. It isn’t lack of talent or drive that has left him less than famous.
Nor is it lack of effort. In his Orange County days, diPiazza formed several bands that played high-profile gigs around LA and wrote multiple songs that got airplay on the local rock radio stations. He’s been up to pretty much the same thing for about 20 years on Maui, too. Over the years he’s formed local bands Volcano Jones and Twisted Fisherman with some of Maui’s elite musical talent, and written and recorded multiple CDs.
For his new project, Maui Underground, diPiazza has written music for two albums, which he performs with jazz saxophonist Paul Bunuan and flamenco percussionist Indio. The music on Maui Underground 2008 varies a lot; some of the songs are funky Latin dance tunes and others have a smooth, bluesy jazz sound and disarmingly emotional lyrics. On every track, diPiazza’s experience and attention to detail, along with his skilled composition and mastery of his instruments—the guitar, keyboard and vocals—shine with the brilliance of a man who has followed his passion with unwavering resolve.
I met up with him to debunk some of my idealistic assumptions about fame, success and the pursuit of a music career, and to talk about his latest album.
You’ve been writing and recording music for a while. Do you ever get tired of it?
I’ve been addicted to music for a long time. It’s something that builds up in me—it builds up in your system and it eventually has to be released. In some sense, it’s frustrating. It’s not an easy road to support yourself as a musician on Maui and I donrecommend it.
Isn’t it even more frustrating to never really “make it big” in the industry? Didn’t you want to be famous?
Sure, I wanted to be famous. It’s funny—I’ve played with world class musicians and everybody that plays with me seems to get signed to a record deal. But that’s not the only reason I make music anymore. I’ve been tested a lot in my life, but I think my day will come eventually.
It seems like it would be really hard to build a serious music career on Maui. What made you relocate out here?
That’s not necessarily so. There are a lot of amazing musicians on Maui; take Vince Esquire for example. The guys I work with now are so incredibly professional. They’re the only one’s I play with now. I’ve personally been “discovered” three times on Maui. I’m happy on Maui and I don’t want to be on the road anymore. I tried to leave and live in a mansion in Malibu; it didn’t work for me. There’s a healing energy here.
OK, so you’ve never gotten that “big break,” but you’re still happy as a clam. As a working musician, how do you measure success?
Success is measured by how you feel every day. If you wake up and you’re happy then, yes, you’re successful. I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
Right, so it’s just me over here being all worried about trivial things like fame and fortune. I get it. Back to the music. What can people expect from you?
If you listen to my music you’ll see it’s pretty mainstream. You could hear it on the radio right now. My sound adapts a lot and I write from a rhythm.
What were your inspirations for the latest album?
It’s funky. I mean, it’s really, really funky, like G. Love and Special Sauce. Some of my biggest influences are G. Love and Ben Harper, but it’s more like stuff you can dance to. We sound just like that live, too. MTW