The Rural We: Tony Kieraldo
Hudson-based musician and composer Tony Kieraldo has performed at the Kennedy Center and at the White House, plays keyboards with the rock group Bash & Pop, led by Tommy Stinson, and in 2017, musically directed and conducted the critically acclaimed opera “The Mother of Us All.” He currently works as a musical director for Harmony Project Hudson, National Dance Institute, and Celebrate the Beat. On Sunday, Jan. 13 at 8 p.m., Kieraldo will celebrate the release of his solo debut album, “Milk Money,” at Club Helsinki. He says the album’s songs “sound like music you'd hear in an Old West saloon or at a cosmic karaoke cabaret.” New York City band Xylopholks, who perform dressed in animal and Muppets outfits, will kick off the evening.
I grew up in rural Wisconsin in a village of about 800 people. I started playing piano at age 4; I took lessons from the pastor’s wife of a church in town. When I was in middle school, I started driving to Rockford, Illinois to take lessons from a jazz piano and accordion player. I learned all about jazz theory. When I was in eighth grade I was playing a retirement party and someone saw me and offered to pay my tuition to Interlochen Arts Academy. I went there for high school in the jazz piano program and was surrounded by artists from all over the world. Then I went to New England Conservatory in Boston for two and a half years, dropped out and moved to New York City to play music there. I played everything from hip hop to jazz fusion to opera, just doing the musician hustle. I worked as an accompanist for the National Dance Institute, which is a nonprofit children’s dance company, and I’m still involved with them.
I lived all over the country for a while, and ended up in Hudson about five-and-a-half years ago. I have a piano studio here where I teach, compose and write.
This summer I started making little videos called “minute rags,” short renditions of pop songs and ragtime music. I dress up in different costumes each week, in drag or as a reindeer, and I put a video on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. I play piano, but I also sit on a bass drum and play that with my right foot and a high-hat with my left foot. The videos aren’t making any money, but if you’re scrolling and you see some idiot dressed up it’ll bring a smile to your face. I got about 8,000 views for “Gramma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and the man who wrote it, Randy Brooks, liked it. I did a ragtime version of Portugal the Man’s song “Feel It Still,” and they saw it and liked it.
I decided to take a few of those songs and make an album with some really awesome singers from the Hudson Valley — Ryder Cooley, Ella Louden and Christina Viggers — and we recorded videos for every song. My daughter Louise sings Tom Petty’s “Free Falling,” and Tommy Stinson does a Marshall Crenshaw cover, which didn’t make it in time for the physical album, but it’s going to be released as a single.
The Xylopholks and I have a similar sensibility in that they grab songs that you might not have heard of and that can get lost. You hear of Scott Joplin, but there were a lot of rags written after that. If you don’t play these songs, they disappear.
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