Local Noise: Pat DiNizio

“Because that’s what I do. I play, and I write songs,” explains Pat DiNizio, visionary and renaissance man of the Smithereens, about his upcoming weekly residence at The Crossroads in Garwood. “I like the idea of having a weekly gig. It keeps me sharp. And it provides some respite for me, and the working people who work all day. I love playing. I’m from New Jersey, and it’s a very short drive to Garwood. I like the idea of a residence where you have a home to go to each week.”

Pat will be taking over the club for four Wednesday’s in December. Each week will have a different set list and a different theme. Dec. 1 sees Pat play Smithereens and Pat DiNizio songs. On Dec. 8 it will be Smithereens and The Who. On Dec. 15 it will be Smithereens and Beatles songs. And finally on Dec. 22 Pat breaks out Smithereens songs and Christmas and holiday music. There may be other surprises as well, with different guests joining in.

“We’re going to have a lot of different players each night,” Pat says. “I’ll start acoustic. We’ll be doing songs from the Smithereens, from the Beatles, from The Who, my three solo albums [and] Buddy Holly. We’ll take requests, and the audience can sing or jam with us.”

And with a catalog of so much great material of his own, why does Pat do so much of other people’s music? “When you’re doing a residence, it’s not enough to just do the original material,” he relates. “You want to give something to the folks who are kind enough to support you. You want to mix it up. We did a Buddy Holly tribute that was released on the anniversary of his death. We’ve done the Beatles. I’m paying tribute to my musical heroes.”

“Another group I work with, The Scotch Plainsmen, is a Beatles band. We’ve done the entire White Album, Rubber Soul and the Let It Be album. So we have fun with that. The South Plainsmen will be guesting. One of the weeks, close to Christmas, will be an evening of holiday songs. We did a Christmas album with the Smithereens. Dennis might stop by.”

Other musical heroes Pat cites include Eddie Cochrane, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry. “We played with him at the Union County Music Festival a couple years ago,” he recalls. “It was a dream come true.”

Another thing keeping Pat busy these days is his work on a new movie being filmed in New York. “I’m not acting, I’m tutoring all the actors on how to play guitar and how to be a band,” he says. “It’s a film about a band in 1963, a band from New Jersey who heard the Beatles, and want to become rock stars. I’m teaching them how to play guitar and be authentic. It’s David Chase’s directorial debut as a feature film director. He produced the most beloved series on HBO, The Sopranos.”

Pat’s reputation as a guitar teacher preceded him. “I got an email from Little Steven, the music supervisor. He said, ‘Pat, I hear you teach guitar.’ I said, ‘You know, I’m so good, I could probably teach a husk of corn to play guitar’,” he laughs.

In addition to the shows, and the movie work, there are a number of other things on his plate. “I’ve also been writing lyrics for the Smithereens album we’re working on,” he states. “We‘ve done with the basic tracks at my house. Fourteen brand new Smithereens songs. We’re recording at the Fidelitorium, which is a studio owned by Mitch Easter, who had the band Let’s Active.”

“When I’m on a break from the movie, basically I’ll be writing lyrics, and working with the band during the day. It’ll be house full of Smithereens making the record. As far as when it will come out, I would say April. I can’t reveal too much info, but we are going to go on tour in the spring, and it’ll be a great rock and roll package tour.”

One other thing that got Pat a lot of notoriety in the past was his run for the Senate. Does he have any other plans of a political nature on the horizon? “One run for the U.S. Senate in 2000 was enough for me,” he laughs. “That’s another conversation. All I can say is I was really prescient in my political views, and I sort of anticipated the Tea Party by 10 years. Not that I’m a member, but things like term limits, honorable people who are ready to put their best foot forward without being beholden to PACs, corporations and with campaigns funded by small contributions. The problem with our political system, as it exists, is the people who vote don’t have enough money to attract the attention of the person they voted in. Unfortunately, when you’re up against a candidate like John Corzine, who spent 96 million dollars of his own money, you stand very little chance of wining. It’s very difficult for me to think about my campaign because it broke my heart. I have a lot of respect for anyone who actually has the nerve to run for office.”

The shows at the Crossroads are almost like a homecoming for Pat. “I live in Scotch Plains,” he reiterates. “It’s the only place in the world I feel centered. New Jersey is my home. I lived in England for a while, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles. I’m at the point in my life where I don’t want any more surprises. I’m in Scotch Plains for good.” As far as the club, Pat never actually formally performed there. “I played there many years ago,” he continues. “I played there as a favor to someone. I love playing in my backyard. It’s right down the road from me, near the place where I bought my first guitar, a Gibson SG I bought in 1970. I’m looking forward to it, and hope everyone will come out every week and be part of the experience.”

Pat’s residency at Crossroads in Garwood begins on Dec. 1 and continues each Wednesday through Dec. 22. For info on other area shows visit patdinizio.com.