On Saturday, March 25th at 8 p.m., Gene Casey and The Lone Sharks will take the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center for a rare concert-style performance.
“Speaking personally, I’ve been doing this a long time, and my feeling is that to stay on the scene for as long as I have, which awards me to grow and get deeper and get better, I feel very fortunate,” Casey told Hamptons.com. “This concert is a milestone for us. It’s an opportunity to sum up where we’ve been and forecast where we’re going.”
We recently caught up with the The Lone Sharks’ frontman about the band’s new album, performing on the East End, musical inspirations, and more.
Did you always know you wanted to be a musician?
GC: Yeah, I think pretty early on. I was just looking at some photographs that my brother sent me of me noodling around on the guitar as a little boy. There was always music on at the house and that kind of fantasy world of playing music, which really has not stopped for me.
What age did you start playing the guitar?
GC: I was banging around on the drums and on a cheap guitar probably around when I was eight. You know, just trying to make some noise. It wasn’t really until around ten that I really started figuring out proper chords. I didn’t take any lessons – I just kind of grew into it.
How did Gene Casey & the Lone Sharks form?
GC: I was living in Manhattan trying to scuffle around, make something happen on the music scene. This was the late 80s and I moved out to Sag Harbor in 1988. I was just doing a temporary job and I ended up staying there. I was really struck by how many bars back then there were and how much live music – much more than today. And I just decided let’s form kind of like a bar band to have fun and play music. It started with no high concept, just to have fun, and eventually it caught on and got busier and became my way of making a living, gradually.
What musicians are you inspired by?
GC: Well, I was what you call a Beatles kid. My brother and I were obsessed with The Beatles, and when you get into The Beatles, it naturally leads to all the music that influenced them, and certainly American rock n’ roll and country music and rhythm and blues music. So, by getting into The Beatles, I went backwards into the 50s and so on. Really, everyone from Louis Armstrong to anyone that’s out there plugging away. The Beatles were my first inspiration and I guess you could say guys like Chuck Barry, B.B. King, and Willie Nelson – the people that stayed in there a long time.
You’ve been a fixture on the East End music scene for over 25 years. Are there any performances that stand out? If so, why?
GC: We had a lovely 25th anniversary concert at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. It was a sold out thing. We managed to have virtually everybody who was ever a member of the group, who was still around, because lineups change over the course. We had pretty much every regular member of the band kind of stop by and did a few songs and that was really a special night. But, every gig is special in it’s own way. I know that sounds corny, but whether it’s a barroom or concert hall, it’s all the same.
Where’s your favorite East End venue to perform at?
GC: How do I answer that without hurting anyone’s feelings? Locally, on the East End, I think I can safely say we have this crazy thing going on at a place called Billy’s by the Bay in Greenport and it’s just a little kind of seafood restaurant, but we really pack them in and it’s really fun. It’s just the locals, you know? And it’s certainly as much fun for us as it is for them. We play there every couple of weeks in the summertime. We can always depend on Billy’s by the Bay to have a good time.
Why did you decide to do a rare concert-style performance for your show at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC)?
GC: It’s just the nature of the venue itself. It really doesn’t have a dance floor. When we played at the Suffolk Theater in Riverhead and Bay Street Theater, they allowed for upfront dancing, which is great. But the Westhampton Theater is basically a converted movie house, so there’s really not a dance floor section, per say. But also, we’re going to make that work because we’re featuring mostly original music. My feeling is that our fans that see us everywhere will appreciate a slightly different presentation. It’s still going to be a lot of fun.
And the performance at the WHBPAC will also include a few special guests?
GC: We’re augmenting the regular quartet so it will actually be seven pieces. As far as special guests, our good friend Nancy Atlas is probably going to sing a duet or two. She was nice enough to invite me on a few of her concerts, so I’m repaying the favor, with pleasure.
How do you curate your set list?
GC: Well, that’s a good question because I’m currently doing that right now. I’m trying to balance what I call the “crowd favorites” – the ones that they really expect us to play – and our versions of various tunes, and I’m trying to work in my own songs, and I’m thinking of about halfway through doing a little acoustic portion right in the middle. It is a challenge because for all these years I’ve been playing, very, very few actual concerts have I had to work on. So we’re going to do a couple rehearsals to figure out how best to pace a long set.
What’s your go-to song to perform?
GC: Well, I guess when in doubt, we go into a marathon version of Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash. I actually never get tired of doing it, and every time we do it, it gets a little crazier. When all else fails, we can usually count on that.
You’re debuting Guitar in the Rain, your new album, concurrently with this concert. Tell me a little bit about the new album.
GC: While we’re kind of known for playing a lot of classic early rock and blues and so on, we’ve always done some of my own songs. When it comes time to record and making the effort with the expense of putting out a record, I just do my own songs because that’s the most productive thing to do. This record is a balance of rockers and more kind of moody, country type songs. I’m not one of these self-confessional types of songwriters. My songs are pretty accessible. I just think it’s the best batch I can come up with. We’ve had some luck with our songs being put on TV shows and movies, so we’re hoping for more than that.
Speaking of that, your music has appeared on shows like Sons of Anarchy and Justified, and a few feature films. What was it like to hear your music on the big screen?
GC: It’s a real kick. Usually, in most cases, it’s a noisy barroom scene where a character walks in and you hear it way in the background, and you have to listen really hard to hear, oh that’s me. It’s like I can’t get out of the barroom, it seams. But, Sons of Anarchy and a movie with Robert De Niro called Killing Season, you heard the song upfront. It’s kind of surreal. It’s almost like my ears are playing tricks on me. Even though I’m expecting it, it’s very strange. It’s equal to when you first hear your song on the radio – which is one of the greatest highs I think you could ever have.
Tickets to Gene Casey and The Lone Sharks at WHBPAC are $25.
Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is located at 76 Main Street in Westhampton Beach. For tickets, call 631-288-1500 or visit www.whbpac.org.