Anthony D’Amato Turned His Heartbreak Into Artistic Triumph Thanks to Some Big-Name Pals


Anthony D’Amato will perform at Off Broadway on Friday, October 30. - PHOTO BY BIANCA BOURGEOIS
  • Photo by Bianca Bourgeois
  • Anthony D’Amato will perform at Off Broadway on Friday, October 30.

What happens when a couple breaks up but stays in the same apartment because rent is too expensive to pay alone? Some would seethe together, others would cringe apart. Either way, someone is bound to sleep on the floor.

Anthony D’Amato chose to write songs, and the music of his heartache became his latest album, The Shipwreck From the Shore.

“There was this relationship I was in,” he says. “We’d been living together in New York City and neither one of us could afford to leave and pay for another apartment. So we ended up staying in the same space together. I started writing music and lyrics as a way of processing the weirdness of it all. I would test out the songs as I wrote them. I was playing some live shows and it was really helpful for me to road-test the new material.

“I was amazed by the reception for some of the songs,” he continues. “People would come up to me and ask to buy whichever CD had the song ‘If It Don’t Work Out’ on it. And I would tell them I wrote it two days ago. I guess these songs were striking a nerve with people because they were coming from such a raw and unfiltered place.”

Prior to The Shipwreck From the Shore, D’Amato had released two albums and received accolades from NPR and the New York Times. But while Paper Back Bones and Down Wires were recorded alone and in his room, D’Amato knew he wanted an outside producer for the third release.

“Before I started recording, I knew I wanted to work with Sam Kassirer,” he says. “I kept on seeing his name turn up in the liner notes of albums I really loved. Josh Ritter, David Wax Museum, Joe Pug and lots of others. I’m a huge fan of pretty much everything this guy touches. So on a whim, I contacted Sam and he said yes. Pretty soon after, we recorded the album in his studio in Maine.”

Even though D’Amato revered Kassirer’s taste and judgment, it was tough to give up the producer’s seat at first.

“It was scary. I like to be in control over everything when it comes to my music,” he explains. “The first few times Sam would suggest something different, my immediate reaction was to doubt it. I had such a specific idea of how I wanted something to sound. But the reason I picked Sam in the first place is because I love all these records that he’s done. I allowed myself to let go of my own ideas, to trust him, and we started to see really cool results.”

D’Amato managed to convince not only Kassirer to help him put together the record, but also Matt McCaughan of Bon Iver and Brad Cook of Megafaun.

“Earlier on, Matt was filling in with Josh Ritter’s band and Sam and Matt hit it off. Once Sam was on board with Shipwreck, we showed Matt some of my stuff and asked him if he wanted to help out with the album,” D’Amato says. “He was into it. We wanted a rhythm section that had played together before, so Matt invited Brad, who’s a buddy of his from North Carolina. I’m a huge Bon Iver fan and a huge Megafaun fan, so I was really lucky to have these guys helping out.

“We would all sit down and listen to my acoustic demos,” he continues. “Matt would hear a certain vibe, Sam would hear another vibe and Brad would hear it another way altogether. We would discuss all these ideas. And the end result was often very different from what I expected.”

D’Amato is no novice when it comes to seeking out the assistance of talented individuals. When he was a student at Princeton, he convinced Paul Muldoon, winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, to help out with his lyrics.

“Paul is a huge rock & roll fan, and he played in a band too. I proposed this idea where I would bring songs to Paul and we would talk about them and work them through,” D’Amato says. “Every couple of months, I’d send something over to him. He’d say something like, ‘This turn of phrase doesn’t feel like it’s connected with the other line.’ He taught me a lot about lyrical structure. Now, when I write lyrics, I think about what he would say. In that way, he’s still helping me write today.”

D’Amato is planning on recording a new album for 2016. This time, he’s bringing on Mike Mogis, noted producer of Bright Eyes, to help out.

“When we were getting ready to make decisions about the upcoming record, Mike was at the top of my dream list in terms of producers I wanted to work with,” he says. “I asked my manager to reach out to him to see if he was interested. We ended up spending the afternoon together in Omaha and he’s on board for the upcoming album.

“For now,” D’Amato adds, “I’m really excited to play in new places. I’ve never played in St. Louis before and I’m definitely eager to be coming through. It’ll be cool to come back in the future and see who comes back for a second show.”

Anthony D'Amato
8 p.m. Friday, October 30. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue. $10 to $12. 314-773-3363.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.