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Rock soft

Rocky Votolato's not as hard as his first name would imply for now, at least


Ive been to that Chinese restaurant. The hot-and-sour - soup is fantastic!
  • Ive been to that Chinese restaurant. The hot-and-sour soup is fantastic!

Rocky Votolato is a talented enough musician that he could be an asshole to me if he so desired and he'd get away with it.


Votolato's latest album, Makers, propelled him to moderate stardom, as critics hailed the Seattle musician's stripped-down, Elliott Smith-esque folksy acoustic rock. This recognition received another boost when one of Makers' songs was featured on Fox's now-defunct TV show, "The O.C.," where fellow Seattle-rockers Death Cab for Cutie had gained a massive following.

But the 29-year-old father of two isn't pretentious, isn't callous and isn't the least bit pissed off that my phone call woke him up albeit at 11 a.m.

It's this soft-spoken and accommodating persona that makes Votolato such an enjoyable listen.

"I just really wanted Makers to be exactly what I saw in my mind," Votolato says. "And I wasn't going to settle for anything less than what my vision was. I skipped release dates, quit touring, went into severe debt, did anything I could for the art of that album. I was able to realize the vision of it."

Votolato, Texas-raised and Seattle-based, is a former member of Waxwing, a post-punk alternative West Coast band that disbanded in 2005. After focusing strictly on a solo career, Votolato spent close to two years recording and writing Makers.

The record featured Votolato in his own element, combining insightful songwriting with a warm, intimate sound usually just Votolato on acoustic guitar with small splashes of harmonica or percussion.

Only after the success of Makers did Votolato quit his day jobs: landscaping, fast-food work and computer engineering.

"Anything that put food on the table for my family," he explains.

While Makers is almost exclusively Votolato, his next album set for release June 19 will feature a full band and a more filled-in sound. It'll include a fairly reputable folk-rock group James McAllister (Sufjan Stevens) on drums; Bill Herzog (Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter) on bass; Casey Foubert (Pedro the Lion) on electric guitar, banjo, mandolin and all percussion; and Rick Steff (Cat Power, Hank Williams, Jr.) on piano and accordion.

It's the natural move for Votolato, even if stripped-down acoustic guitar is what earned him his success.

"When I was doing pre-production for the record, I just decided that each of the songs sounded better with a full band," he says. "It wasn't like I conceived it that way. I wrote a bunch of songs before picking out the ones that would be on the record, and they all seemed to gravitate toward using drums and electric guitar and piano. It was a pretty organic decision."

In the meantime, Votolato continues to tour in support of Makers and to tease his new album.

"Its not that different from Makers," Votolato says of what's currently titled The Brag and Cuss. "It's still the same type of songs, just laid out with a band. I just think it's going to be seen as a mature step in the right direction.

"But I didn't want to make the same record twice," he reiterates. "I'd never want to do that."

Rocky Votolato with Drag the River and Street to Nowhere

The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.

Tuesday, April 10, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $10, all ages; call 866/468-7621 or visit

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