Singer-songwriter Vic Kastel has just issued his first-ever album, Time Traveler (Island Avenue Records), with much of the music recorded in the mid-70s.
It’s something new but reaches back to the past. The album was recorded on analog equipment without auto-tune, or digital technology.
Songs “Don’t ever Let Me Catch You Giving Up On My Love” and “First Impressions” highlight the 13 tracks. It’s an impressive debut for any artist.
We caught up with Vic in West Palm Beach, Fla., where’s he’s been staying during the pandemic, for a NY Independent Q&A.
NYI: You recorded this music in the ’70s; it’s out now … why’d it take so long?
Kastel: When I originally recorded them, I was in the middle of several projects, raising a family and working, so it kept getting put on the shelf. Every time I re-visited it, music trends had changed somewhat – singer/songwriters were in, then, they were out. So, I kept holding onto it. Last year the time seemed right.
NYI: What does it feel like to be considered a “new artist” when in reality, you’ve been working and performing for several decades?
Kastel: It’s odd for sure, but, the one thing I bring to the table now –unlike many others- is years of experience. The business is a tough one to navigate sometimes, but the team I’ve assembled is going about it in a very real way.
NYI: What was it like recording in the famous A&R Studios-owned by Phil Ramone?
Kastel: I have to say, that not only did we have one of the best studios at hand (Elton’s John famous 11-17-20 concert was recorded there), but, we had, in my opinion, one of the best engineers ever, David Smith, who actually initiated the sessions. Sadly he’s passed on, but his technique, his encouragement, his professionalism, made it all work. We had real musicians; everything was recorded on analog equipment; and, the results are a true representation of what music was back then.
NYI: The singer/songwriter genre has unfortunately taken a back seat currently; what artists did you follow back then?
Kastel: The reality, I feel, is that a lot of the fans of that genre, are still here. Yes, we’re a bit older, a bit wiser hopefully … but, still appreciate a good song and good production. Look at how the concept of the great American Songbook has flourished. Artists from Rod Stewart to Bob Dylan have delved into that area. Age is just a number; a good song will live forever. I love everything from Billie Holiday to Bob Dylan, Michael Feinstein, Johnny Mathis, Steely Dan and Cat Stevens. I predict that genre will come into vogue once again.
NYI: Tell us about your process.
Kastel: For me, every story becomes a song. Emotions, trials and tribulations, observations about life, the world at large, and imaginations help create the palette for my words and music.
NYI: Tell us about the fantastic cover art.
Kastel: It’s a picture of a pen-and-ink drawing by an artist friend of mine, Anthony D’Avino. I felt it matched perfectly the title of the album, Time Traveler, for a variety of reasons. The attention it has received has been very gratifying.
NYI: You’ve performed at some very seminal clubs in NYC like The Peppermint Lounge. Tell us about that
Kastel: We actually played there either right before, or right after The Beatles visited the club. So, the excitement in the air was palpable. It was a great club and it was the club of the moment. I love connecting with a crowd and the time there was very special indeed.
NYI: You also performed with Chubby Checker and an event Bruce Morrow was hosting. What did you think of both of them?
Kastel: Chubby was riding a wave of excitement that not many artists ever see. It was an honor, and Brucie was amazing … it’s not a surprise he’s bigger than ever with his show on SiriusXM. He’s an icon and a total pro.
NYI: You live in Long Island. Tell us about the musical heritage of that location.
Kastel: You have Lou Reed, Joan Jett, Eddie Money, Debbie Gibson, and Billy Joel all from there. Sometimes the Island gets a bad rap (no pun intended), but the diverse artists that have come from there are amazing. It’s close to NYC, but has developed an integral connection to popular music for sure.
NYI: Tell us about Kurtis Blow.
Kastel: I worked with his initial set of producers and they were just sensational. Kurtis’ music was an untested market for sure … but, because of the belief of his producers and record label, it all worked.
NYI: What part does the media play for a “new” artist these days?
Kastel: A friend of mine, who has been in the media-end of the music business for 40 years, has repeatedly said, it’d bigger than ever … and, he’s right. Even with the pandemic continuing … writers and the media are constantly looking for that next hot story. With things like Spotify and iTunes, it’s easier than ever to get your music out. You have to take advantage of it. It’s like that old ad expression: If you do nothing … nothing will happen.
The album will hit the streets Friday, July 31. For more check out Kastel’s Web site here.