music (noun) – a : the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity
b : vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony
substance (noun) – a : essential nature
b : a fundamental or characteristic part or quality
heart (noun) – a : the central or innermost part
b : the essential or most vital part of something
Simple definitions defined by Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, simple concepts; yet at times, it feels as though the industry has lost sight of the cornerstone of music— to connect with people on a different level; a level other means of entertainment cannot quite reach.
“We’ll sell out before you even know who we are,” a lyric belted out by Davey Fortner of Freshman 15 that, while satirical in nature, reveals an ugly truth: just how far are musicians willing to go to achieve their dreams? While a concrete answer cannot be found in books or online blogs, one thing is certain, Carmen Magro, a Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter and the frontman of an adult contemporary outfit bearing the same name, will never sacrifice his music for fame.
The definition of music of substance and heart, Carmen Magro, the man not the band, got his start in the trade by using anything and everything available to him— including the family’s kitchen pots and pans— to assemble notes and rhythms. After receiving his first drum kit for his 14th birthday, Magro’s eyes opened to the realm of performing on stage.
As is true with many creative professions, articles of substance cannot be forged without trials and tribulations. Unfortunately, Magro lost his father when he was 10, and his mother when he was 19 due to breast cancer. “Those experiences humbled me to really come in tune with my feelings and learn to put them into music,” said Magro. “I find I can’t sing unless it is truly from my heart so I put my heart into every melody and song I write.”
Carmen Magro, the band, consists of Carmen Magro (Vocals, Piano, Keys, Guitar), Chuck Scarpello (Bass), Mark Burkert (Guitar), Dave Murphy (Drums), Steve Sauer (Keys/Synth/Supporting Vocals and Brian Fitzgerald (Violin/vocals). The band recently performed prior to and during halftime of a Philadelphia 76’s game.
Personally, what brought you to music?
Music is, without a doubt, an extension of my soul. I feel I have so much to share with the world and to reiterate what I learn from the world. I do it most easily with music. Putting rhythm, melody and lyrics together to put someone in a moment that makes a difference in their lives is a miracle that music does for all of us. I find myself writing melodies and marrying lyrics with them every minute of every day— some sad, some happy, some playful, some exotic, some tempting; all sincere and all original.
Personally, it is how I put my thoughts of the world into words to share with others. Some people write poems, some bitch and moan about everything, some people are just indifferent. I don’t know how to do any of that. I guess my music is poetic to some extent but it isn’t hard for me to write lyrics. They just come easily with the music. Sometimes I write a melody first but usually the lyrics and music come together instantly in my head and heart as soon as I have the feeling for them. Music is my sanctuary, my release from the world and my connection to it. Sometimes I feel that if I lost the ability to play my music and share it with the world, I would simply wither away and die. It is my lifeline for sure.
What about the Philly/Tri-State area music scene do you enjoy? Given that it’s a far cry from the likes of a big city, do you think it’s easier or harder to gain a following and make a name for yourself?
As an original artist I have to believe that if you have something special, it will get recognized. But I grew up in Philly. It’s a great town and those that want to come out to hear music know where to go to hear it. I just try to put myself in a position to be heard any way possible. I’m always hoping that every show is a step in the right direction. But like other musicians, even those in big cities as you mention…all have the big and small shows and they have to find a way to give the same show for one as they would for 100 or 1,000 or 10,000. I find that part easy. I just get lost in my music and hope that someone out there enjoys it and may share it with someone else and they may share it as well. Eventually, I hope it gets to someone that feels my music can really shape the world and can open a door professionally for me. But even without that, I’ve never been disappointed playing in a Philly area venue. Whether it’s in Jersey, Delaware or Philly, I find it easy to get lost on stage, put the world aside and just let my music shine through. I wouldn’t treat a stage in LA, NYC, Nashville or anywhere in the world any differently.
What lyric(s) of yours do you believe resonates with audiences the most, or with yourself the most? What was the inspiration behind it?
Well, I have a story behind every song. Whether it is my song, “America” that is written in appreciation for all that our soldiers, past and present, do for us. The chorus goes,
“America you’re beautiful, I would give my life for you to protect your every truth. America you’re beautiful but can you do one thing for me, won’t you watch my family.”
That really hits home when we think about all that people have done to put their lives on the line to give us this great country.
My song, “One Fine Day” has a chorus:
“One fine day that’s all I’m asking for, give me a reason I don’t need much more. Show me a way that I can cross this line. One fine day I’m gonna leave my troubles behind.”
That resonates with the crowd every time because everyone has days that they wish to forget or a day they are looking forward to where they can forget the things that get them down.
I have songs I’ve written about the one woman who has truly shaped my heart and soul, my mother, who I lost at age 19 to breast cancer. She was a true angel and I feel her every day of my life in my soul. I wrote a song called “Dancing in the Rain” [for my mother],
“I’ll remember days of dancing in the rain, and nights that I wished would never end. I’m in a moment where I’m at peace. For that I’m forever in your debt, thank you.”
And for my wife, my song “I’m All Yours” says it all.
“I don’t mind if you take my time to say what’s on your mind any time of day, any time of night. All my life, I’ve prayed for this. Now I crave your kiss any time of day any time of night, I’m all yours.”
And for my children, my song “Everything Beautiful”:
“You’re everything beautiful to me. You’re the sun and the moon and the stars and the rain, the wind that sets me free. You’re everything I could ever want or need. You’re everything beautiful to me.”
I have a song about growing up that nearly everyone relates to called “Take Me Back”:
“Take me back to that feeling again. To those warm summer nights that I wished would never end. Take me back to that time that’s never far from my mind. For the Lord knows that’s where I belong.”
And one of my personal favorites that also resonates well with fans of all ages is called “Slow Your Road.” It goes:
“Slow your road, just let go, show the world who you wanna be. Don’t watch your life pass you by, live it like your favorite dream.”
I think that is good advice for anyone.
Finally, anything you’d like to add?
I’m grateful I have a talent to make music. I’m not a signed musician meaning that I don’t make any money at it now. It kind of comes with the territory of being an original artist. But that is the joy of being an original artist. The music is real and from the heart. If I am ever given the opportunity to be signed and get distribution and hear my music on the radio where many people can be influenced by it, then I can truly say my dream has come true. I hope and pray that happens some day. But until then, I will continue to play my music any chance I can and I’ll continue to write music that is influenced by my own experiences and those shared with me by others and in the news and in the world. I keep making myself available to do shows of interest to benefits and causes where we can make a difference. And from that other opportunities arise.