Long Island native Sal “The Voice” Valentinetti, who made it to the finals of Season 11 of America’s Got Talent, is making his Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) debut on Sunday, August 27 at 8 p.m.
Earlier this summer, we caught up with the charming crooner, who will be celebrating his birthday at WHBPAC, about his new album, his first original song, which America’s Got Talent judge is the funniest, and more.
How has your life changed since Americas Got Talent?
SV: First off, I have no time. I spent the entire weekend traveling. I had a show in Detroit and we had such a good response that they said, “Let’s book you another night on Saturday.” And I said, “I can’t.” And they said, “Why?” And I said, “Because I have a sold-out show in Buffalo.” So they said, “No problem. Can you come back on Sunday?” So I spent the entire weekend in the sky. I went from Detroit to Buffalo back to Detroit. The people in both cities were fantastic. I had such a great time. We actually broke a few records. During the summer I do a lot of the Italian feasts – that kind of helps sell tickets to what I call my “regular” season gigs, which is fall, winter and spring – in the theaters. So Saturday night I get a phone call – I’m supposed to leave the hotel at 7:30 p.m. – I get a phone call at 6:15 p.m., okay you’re guy is going to be there in ten minutes. They’re shutting down the Buffalo Skyway because we have 15,000 people to see you and Buffalo’s never experienced so many people in such a small area. The state police were actually brought in with helicopters and everything to shut down the Buffalo Skyway. Sunday, the guy that runs this feast in Detroit, Joe Ventigimila, so he comes up to me after my second performance and he goes, “I just have to hug you.” This big Italian guy – I’m a sweaty mess, he’s a sweaty mess, and I go, “Is everything alright?” And he goes, “In 2008, I broke every record for the state for the biggest feast, most amount of people. Tonight, I shattered every record in the region, so including Chicago and Steubenville, Ohio.” He goes, “I have to hug you because you put our feast on the map.” Busy, crazy weekend, but I love what I do and people really tend to appreciate it.
But, my life has completely changed. I can’t go to the mall anymore. Certain things like that. Just because my life has changed, I tell this to people all the time, I just told this to Christian Guardino, who by the way is a great kid, I told him, “Christian, just because your life is gonna change, doesn’t mean you have to.” I’m still the same guy I was last year. People tell me all the time, “You must not have time for your friends anymore.” I go, “No. I make time. I take them on the road with me.” I ask, “What are you doing this weekend?” They say, “Nothing. Why?” I say, “You wanna go to Milwaukee?” It’s been enjoyable for everybody. Like I said, my life has changed but I haven’t.
Being a Bethpage native, what’s it like performing on Long Island?
SV: It’s the best! There’s no place like home. People ask me if I still get nervous. I say, “Yeah. Because it’s a nerve-wracking thing going up and performing, especially if you’re in a new city with new people. You don’t know which jokes are going to go over, which references they are going to get. You come home to Long Island and you’re just so comfortable because you’re like these are my people. I make these people laugh three times a week when I run into them at the butcher or when I’m picking up my dry cleaning. I know I’m going to do okay. Thank god every show I’ve had in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut – I would now say home is the tri-state area – every single show has sold out, completely. We had Patchogue and there were two tickets left. This couple came off the street and they needed to see me so they sat at opposite ends of the theater. It’s a great feeling to know that you’re hometown is supporting you all the way.
Will this be your first time performing at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center?
SV: It will be and I’m like the Hamptons… la-di-da.
And you performed at the San Gennaro Festival in Hampton Bays last year.
SV: Yes, those are my guys! They were so upset because they called me and were like, “Can we have you back?” And I was like, “No. I’m going to be at a theater.” They were so great about it, saying, “Oh, we’ll get our families down there and buy tickets.” It’s beautiful out there. I love it out there.
Heidi’s, Heidi Klum, out there most of the summer. But, she’s all the way out there in Montauk. The vice president of the company, Jennifer Love, she’s in Hampton Bays, so I know a few folks out there.
Can we expect to see Heidi in the crowd at WHBPAC?
SV: That’s all up to the filming schedule of AGT. I know she’s back and forth because she does Project Runway. She’s an animal. A: she’s promoting her new book, so she’s got that. B: she has Project Runway in the City, New York. C: she has AGT, which she’s doing the live shows out in California in August. I told her, “If you have time, if you’re around, I’d love to have you. If not, I’ll be at a theater in Beverly Hills in October.” But, she tries, she really does. She’s definitely very, very supportive. She’s always checking in. She goes, “I love watching your Instagram stories (@salthevoice ) of you and Big Tommie always getting into trouble and having fun.” She really is one of the people that has supported me the entire time and she’s really a genuine person. I think a lot of people don’t get to see that as often as they should. Simon Cowell is an absolute cupcake off camera. Mel B is sweet as anything, she’s so funny. I always break Howie Mandel’s balls. I say, “You know Mel B is a lot funnier than you?” He goes, “Thanks. I only crack jokes when I get paid for it.” Nick Cannon, we’re actually talking about some stuff. He’s doing some producing and we’re talking about some things.
With so many classics out there, how did you decide what to include on your new album?
SV: Each song has a very personal touch. I kind of went into it thinking I’m going to choose these songs for me, even if nobody gets why. This one’s for me. I paid for my own album. A lot of artists can’t say that. Like Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – I wish I performed with Jersey Boys and Jonathan Dorenbos, he was one of the magicians on the show – he’s a long snapper for the Philadelphia Eagles, a real deal NFL guy – one of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve ever met in my entire life, and I do my last song on the show and he pulls me aside and goes, “Sal, I know I’m probably not supposed to spoil this surprise for you, but, I need to tell you so that you don’t totally fan boy. You’re going to go downstairs right now and rehearse for your performance on the finale with the cast of Jersey Boys.” And I started freaking out. In Bethpage I’m a 30 minute train ride from some of the best theater in the world, from Newsies and Hamilton and Wicked. The only shows we [New Yorkers] go to see are Lion King and Jersey Boys, and I’ve seen Jersey Boys four times. It’s like I paid that kid’s mortgage. So I was freaking out and Jon was like, “Snap out of it.” He goes, “I want you to remember something: you’re not performing with Jersey Boys. You’re here. They flew in from New York to perform with you. I want you to know that this is your brand now. You’re not some singing delivery boy anymore. You’re Sal “The Voice”. This is who you are. You’re going to grow into an amazing artist.” That was such a defining moment in the early stages of my career. So I said I need to put a Frankie Valli song on the album as kind of like a nod to that moment in my life where everything changed.
Just in the past year, so much has happened. We’re doing a reality show, I put out an album, I performed in five different countries, I opened for Jay Leno – huge stuff. And I’m doing a destination wedding back in December in Jamaica – and not Jamaica, Queens… Jamaica the island. It was this women’s fairy tale wedding and it couldn’t have been more of a disaster. She rented the only castle, the Trident Castle. It’s in Port Antonio, Jamaica, which is 3 1/2 hours from any major airport. So all of these guests are riding through rural Jamaica and one of the buses break down. That’s just the first day. We get there, meet with the groom, and the bride had planed the whole wedding – got all these entertainers from all over the world – the groom had one ask and that was for me. So we meet the groom and he looks like he’s just seen a ghost. We go up to him and we’re like, “What’s the matter? You can talk to us.” He goes, “The castle isn’t air-conditioned.” Now it’s 85 degrees and humid. He had to have air conditioners trucked in from Kingston, Jamaica, which is a 3 1/2 hour trip by bus. If you’re trucking giant air conditioners, you have to go 5 mph through the mountains. It took them eight hours to get there. The morning of the wedding, it pours. Now, they’re getting married outside of the castle – shoes sinking into the mud, and another thing, if you know Jamaica 15 minutes means three hours. So, it’s 1 a.m. and they’re finally serving dinner, so I get up there and I’m about to perform and the bride’s mascara is running down her face because she’s crying and I go, “I want you to know something, how special it is for me to be here and how incredible for me, no matter what happened today, this is still so beautiful, so amazing, and this is the first night of the rest of your life and you shouldn’t let anything ruin it.” So I get up to the balcony of this castle and I start singing the song Love Is a Many Splendored Thing – that love trumps all and it makes you feel like a king no matter what’s going on, and I walked down and grabbed the two of them and brought them onto the dance floor and sang this song. There was not a dry eye in the house.
Really, what that song means to me is that music transcends emotion, it transcends reality. Even though when I’m on stage, it could be just another performance for me, there are people out there that it’s a special moment for them and the music brings so much emotion and so many feelings out of people. It’s important to recognize that as a performer.
What about your Christmas album?
SV: I’m totally stoked about that. Christmas is my favorite holiday. I start listening to Christmas music like Thanksgiving. I start playing it at the table. My family yells at me every year, but I don’t care. I love Christmas, I love what it represents, what it means. I’m going to have my first original song on this album, which is super exciting. This is going to be my first tune that is all mine, and it’s going to be a Christmas song, which is even more special.
I told my band, Black Tie Brass, we’re recording in August. It needs to be Christmas in August, so I’m bringing in fake snow, I’m going to make it 40 degrees in the studio, we’re all going to be wearing Christmas sweaters.
Heidi Klum, for the Christmas special, we did Santa Baby. So we’re recording it in September in Los Angelo’s – it’s 100 degrees outside. How are we going to be in the mood for Christmas? She had them bring in fake snow, she had all the band members dress up as dancing gingerbread men, she had girls dressed up as trees on roller skates, she came in from a giant candy cane – from the ceiling, lowered down. So, I was like that’s the right attitude to go for. Go big or go home. So we’re doing some crazy stuff like that too for our recording sessions.
What are some of your fondest holiday memories?
SV: Definitely having 40 people over at the house. We used to do Christmas Eve at my nonna’s house and Christmas day at my grandma’s and they’re not big houses. They’re regular size, Long Island ranch homes – single floor and it would be 30 or 40 of us crammed into this little house and it didn’t matter because we were all together, having a good time. I don’t think you get that level of personal family relationships in a lot of modern families. I think growing up with all my extended family and sharing holidays with them really helped me become who I am. When I do have a family, I want them to share the same values and I think it’s important to carry those traditions on.
Tickets to Sal Valentinetti at WHBPAC start at $71.
Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is located at 76 Main Street in Westhampton Beach. For more information, call 631-288-1500 or visit whbpac.org.