Shoreworld: Full Fathom 5 – Tony Tedesco Talks Music, Mollycoddling And The Results Of Never Taking No For An Answer

Tony Tedesco will never win any citations for shoegazer protocol. When it comes to fashion and fitting in, he’s about as far outside the ring as one can get. However, that isolated location has the advantage in spades. It has allowed him to focus on music that naturally focuses on the needs of listeners tired of following playlists or blog requirements, and it has given him more newly born access to fans than any other attempt at the brass ring to date. Funny thing is, when you refuse to follow a formula that’s never able to be caught in the first place, others notice what you’re doing and are attracted like a moth to the bug zapper.

With that firmly in mind, Tony’s latest disc is the self-titled Full Fathom 5, and it boasts 10 solid songs bent on converting the new fan ranging from hard-earned life regret to the confessionary slow burn of abandonment and love. With a plethora of exceptional players, both recorded and live, Full Fathom 5 offer a great look at down and dirty living all wrapped up in a bona fide hillbilly bluegrass.

I spoke to Tedesco by phone this week, asking him a few $64 questions about the method, the music, and the very salt that make up The Full Fathom 5.

I know you kicked around for a good while, playing rock and roll and punk-edged blues. What brought you to focus in on this strange, hillbilly meets Jesco White sound?

Some of my earliest exposure to music was my father’s record collection. His collection was largely doo-wop music, old school country, and bluegrass. So a fusion of style has always been in my blood and what sets my heart a pumping. I like to mix things up and change once in a while. What brought this current band into focus was playing with Gorgo Beach. His mandolin style is one that is all his own. He is one of the most lyrical and compelling players I’ve had the pleasure to play with. We had been playing for about a year when we did a gig out at the Old Norse Meeting House in Princeton doing a Sarah Donner Indie Night. I saw what Sarah was doing with her, an upright, and a Cajon player, and I knew from that moment where I wanted to take the sound that Gorgo and I had been cultivating.

Yeah, your mandolin player looks like a tractor farmer from Kentucky. Where did you find him?

I’ll just say our first meeting took place out there near them cornfields where County 24 meets Route 513, up off 206 in Chester. There was one pernicious storm afoot, wind and lightning with rain drops the size of cow pies falling. All of sudden, from out of nowhere, I see this guy hitchhiking. Of course, I needed to stop; I mean, that storm woulda drowned a fish. I can’t really go into the details, but I will say that both he and his mandolin case were bone dry. Bone dry.

Does the band co-write, or are these all from the mind of Tedesco?

While I write all the lyrics and chord changes, it would be a great disservice to take credit for all the band brings to their individual parts. That said, I have always been open to writing with other folks in the area, but the offer is rarely taken up. Notable exceptions have been Gregory Schwartz and John Laidlaw. Schwartz has help with songs that have yet to be released, and John contributed (and credited as such) to “Virginia.”

Seems the old naysayers are giving out back slaps by the dozen now. But more importantly, what are the listeners saying about this new CD?

For the most part, the response has been extremely positive. Some folks are downright evangelical about the release. One thing that has surprised me is how wide the demographic range is of people that are really getting into it. There are folks like Ian [MacKenzie Smith], from heavy bands like OS101 and Useless, sending out social media messages on a regular basis about how amazing he finds the record. At the other end of the spectrum, there are friends that are sharing it with people they go to church with.

The most amusing folks to me are the ones who I can tell are blown away by the record and feel compelled to say, “I always knew you were a great songwriter.” Please bitch… I have a pretty good bead on what folks think of what I have going on. I waited for quite some time until I had enough really solid mature material to do a few albums worth of material before releasing one, my point being that some of these songs have been around a while. Equally amusing are the comments that I have heard third hand about folks not realizing I wrote songs. Mind you, this is from people who have attended more than just one or two sets I have played. It really shows the lack of attention being paid by a lot of people in the local audiences.

The CD has amazing dynamic separation and an honest, down-home feel. Who produced the disc?

The credits list Gorgo Beach, Tom Camuso and yours truly as producers. The music for the album was recorded live, with all of us in the same room in one three-hour session. We recorded in Tom’s Greenpoint studio, Studio E ( Tom’s discography is much too extensive to list here, but I can say it includes a few of my favorite albums. Of particular note is the fact that Tom won a “Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album” Grammy for engineering Steve Earle’s Washington Square Serenade. Our goal here was to create a record that sounded “loosely confident,” like a bunch of friends that had not seen each other in a while were gathering on a back porch for a BBQ and a ramble session. In my opinion, we hit the bull’s-eye.

Tell me about your appearance on Couch By Couchwest (CXCW).

I was approached by David John De Horton (, a national blogger and music enthusiast, to play this festival. He came across us on his own as he scouted out talent for the festival. He endeared himself to me from the start when he wanted to know how it was possible we had not caught the “eye” of an ultra-hip, local blog that he had been using as a resource for watching what was going on locally. After answering his question by explaining that my vagina was too dry and I was too fat for skinny jeans, I readily accepted the offer to join the festival. I even offered to help the cause by spotlighting other local talent via video shot from the infamous APM clubhouse. The fact that we presented the videos as a “Series From The Clubhouse” helped focus some attention not only on the pool of talent in this area, but on the APM itself, and on the individuals participating. Most notable was George Wirth’s performance that lit Twitter feeds up well after the festival was over.

Asbury Park has a pretty interesting story when it comes to music and drama. Where do you fit in the kingdom of the chosen?

“Chosen” is a good word choice. I am not one that usually gets “chosen,” whether it’s small intimate church concerts, interviews or articles (other than in this publication), or big blowout festival/benefits that attract the Bruce gawkers. I am probably the most inside outsider around. I am sure that is due to the fact that I attend way more shows than I play. This is, sadly, not the case for most people around here. Too many folks depend on “buzz” to determine if they even go see someone they are unfamiliar with, let alone actually sit and pay attention to. In my opinion, a huge portion of the “scene” here suffers from a myopic dysfunction that only allows folks to focus on the tips of their own noses and their imminent rock star future, with everything between just a massive blur. Then again, it could just be the fact that some people just don’t care for chocolate ice cream.

What can Full Fathom 5 fans expect to see at the show this weekend?

This weekend will hopefully be something special. We are going to be doing a “Last Waltz” sort of family ramble. We will be doing songs from our release, Full Fathom 5, as well as some new songs interspersed with tunes from some of our favorite songwriters, with those songwriters leading us. We will have 19 friends joining us for a full two and a half hours of back porch musical fun. Closing the night out will be Universal Tribe, performing for the first time in over a year and a half. It should be a great way to kick the summer off.

If you could leave your listeners with one Facebook-styled message, what would it be?

Think again if you think you’re something more special than anyone else. You still need to put your shoes on one at a time… Now go get your fucking shine box.


Tony Tedesco & Full Fathom 5 will be at The Saint this Sunday, May 26. They will be playing two sets consisting of their award-winning debut album, as well as songs with and by members of the extended Full Fathom family. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. and admission is only $5.

For more information on Tedesco’s saliferous septet, head over to