Indie-folk singer-songwriter Dante Mazzetti recently released his single, “Here I Go,” which was featured in Netflix’s popular movie, Pain Hustlers.
Mazzetti’s raw, gravelly vocals paired with his creativity have established him as a rising tour de force, witnessed by worldwide airplay and sharing the stage with artists such as Ben Folds, Guster, and America. He also starred in Levi’s ‘What’s True’ national television commercial campaign.
Mazzetti began his music career with the release of his self-titled debut album. After exploring the genre of Americana, Mazzetti experimented with his sound by releasing his rock album, Lost and Drifting. This album showed off his ability to capture different genres through his songwriting.
After the heart-wrenching events of September 11th, Mazzetti took a hiatus from music to serve the people of his city by joining the Fire Department of New York (FDNY).
In July 2019, Mazzetti made his official return to music by releasing a string of singles and EPs. This culminated in the 2020 release of Hotel, his third full-length album. The record brought together gritty acoustic folk and alternative blues, laced with lyrical storytelling.
Mazzetti is still an active FDNY firefighter. His dedication extends beyond his service. He has organized fundraisers for First Responders Children’s Foundation which supports the children of firefighters, police officers, and EMTs who have died in the line of duty.
CelebMix spoke with Dante Mazzetti to find out more about why he makes music, the inspiration for “Here I Go,” and his definition of success.
Let’s start off with a simple yet revealing question: why do you make music?
I make music because it’s my passion. It keeps me moving. It keeps my mind expanding, searching, finding new things, finding new ways of looking at life and love. I believe that people must always be moving in some direction. I like the way music makes me feel and sharing it with people is a very special thing.
What inspired your new single, “Here I Go?”
It’s about being truly independent and separating yourself from what you’ve known. It’s about being yourself, walking to your own beat, and not being a yes-man.
The last verse is about temptation. We are never far from the things calling us in the wrong direction. So many of us are just following what we think we should do, what others tell us is the right thing to do. We go through life just following the crowd and the rules that society has created for us over the years, but we don’t stop to question what’s right for us. The more you can be true to yourself, the happier you’re going to be.
“Here I Go” was recently featured in the Netflix film Pain Hustlers which is currently generating Oscar buzz. How did that come about?
During the Covid pandemic, everyone took to the internet and online education became a big thing. My wife found an online course that taught all about how to get your music in TV and film. After that, we ended up taking meetings with lots of music supervisors. Then last spring we got word that ‘Here I Go’ was up for this placement in ‘Pain Hustlers.’ It was amazing.
It’s nice to be able to contribute to someone else’s artistic vision. It makes me feel good that they liked my song enough to put it in such an important scene in the film.
You have a new album coming down the pipeline. What can you share about it?
I’ve been lucky enough to team up with GRAMMY-winning engineers Oz Fritz (Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Ramones) and Oscar Zambrano (Harry Styles, Sting, Justin Timberlake) for this collection of songs that speak to my thoughts and experiences over these last few years. Some of the tracks, like ‘Here I Go’ have already made their way into the world as singles. We want to do some interesting things with this album. For instance, there will be exclusive bonus tracks that are only on the physical album.
How did you get started in music?
As far as I can reach back in my memory, I wanted to make music. My father was often playing guitar and writing songs. Other musicians would come over and they would play together. I wanted to be a part of the music that was happening in my household. It kind of just took hold of me.
I was always fascinated by sounds and wanted to get my hands on all sorts of different instruments. I loved figuring out the nuances of each instrument – little things like how the tone changes depending on how much pressure you put on a plucked string.
Music always made me feel really alive. It felt really good to be part of it – to add my voice to it. When I got a little older and I found out that this was maybe something I could do full time I thought that sounded amazing. I wanted that. I wanted to travel and see the world while playing and singing songs about the salt of the Earth. So, I started playing in the subway stations in NYC and going to open mics in the area. I became part of the music scene in New York.
If you had to describe your sound to the uninitiated, what would you say?
The heart of my songs comes from American roots music – folk, blues, and country. I keep my sound very organic. I like to capture the pure sounds of each instrument. I also always had a very special and happy feeling for those Greenwich Village finger-style songs from the ‘60s. It just always felt timeless to me. So, you can hear a lot of that influence in my music.
What’s your definition of tone? And has your tone changed over time?
Tone is how a musician gets the emotion across to the listener. It’s the unique color or quality that a sound has. We create a mood based on the sounds we choose.
When creating a song, I am creating a world through the tone of my voice and instrument. I can sing with warmth to create an intimate feeling. The sound of the notes creates a certain energy and feeling.
I gravitate now towards what I call quiet energy. The common way to achieve energy is volume. But I prefer using quiet mixed with energetic grooves to make a sound that is both chill and energized. The overall tone of the music is much more open-ended in spirit – much less confined than in the past.
Over the course of the last few years, how have you changed as a person and as an artist?
When I was young, I was very opinionated. I was convinced the world was unfair and owed us more. My early writing was that of a person who thinks he has it all figured out. I’ve come to learn there is a healthy peacefulness that is attained by accepting that which you don’t know.
Over the last few years, I’ve really been focused on authenticity in my life and in my music. That means being honest with people and honest with myself about the things I’ve done right and the things I’ve done wrong. I try to perceive things exactly how they are without the complications of taking sides or seeing things through someone else’s filter.
In music, now I focus on getting a natural sound in my recordings. I allow my music to be honest and exposed. I don’t cover up every flaw.
I think that has led to a more authentic overall feel. It’s hard to make the realization that as an artist I have been imitative at times. That imitation hindered my growth. The last few years, I’ve allowed myself to present the music in my own voice, without trying to be anyone else.
What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, or other media?
Early on my work was mostly influenced by the novels I was reading. The music was more traditional folk storytelling in essence. As time has gone by, I find that a story can only be told once without surprises. That in itself is not a bad thing, but now I want to provide the listener with an experience that can bring them to a different place each time they listen – a little more ambiguity, a little vague in plot, but cohesive enough to create a picture. My goal is to make the picture have many faces, not just one portrait.
What can you share about your writing process?
New ideas always come when I am learning and listening. When I write I am moved by an emotion, not so much an experience. I’ve never written about anything that happened recently to me. It’s hard to explain, but I almost go into a trance when I begin. I move and close my eyes and try and melodically dance on top of the lyrics I spit. I try and write as much as I’m feeling. Sometimes I only can get a verse and I then chuck the whole song. If I can get two quality verses, I’m happy. After I write the verses, I go back and edit and fine-tune.
Which artists in your opinion are killing it right now?
You know, I’ve always approached music from a slightly different angle. I tend to discover artists at my own pace. For me, it’s more about what music resonates with me deeply and that’s not always an artist that is new or an artist that has a large following. I like to take my time discovering artists that speak to me. So, to answer your question, I believe that any artist who is being true to themselves is killing it.
How do you define success?
Success is individual to each and every person. For me, I’d have to say it doesn’t exist. Happiness could be considered success, but I prefer to define it as happiness. Success suggests something far too idealistic and hints far too much at financial gains or fame. Love, happiness, kindness – these are the words I try and live by.
Let us know your thoughts on Dante Mazzetti over on ‘X’ (formerly Twitter) @CelebMix.