Asher Cataldo: An Interview

To get your country rap fix, check out Asher Cataldo. His blend of soul and poetry will make you wish every day could bring with it the sweet sounds of the south. 

 

1. Who are you and what do you do ?

I am Asher Cataldo. I am 26 years old, and I'm a singer-song writer from Wartrace, TN. I have been playing and singing and writing for 16 years.

2. What were your influences in creating your music?

I believe my biggest influences were my brother and sister. When I was very young--about six or seven years old--my brother and sister were recording in my brother's apartment, and they let me mess around in the studio while they were taking breaks. And just for a side note, that's also where the country rapper Big SMO did his first recording.

3. How did you come to combine rapping and singing lyrics?

I recorded the song "How It All Goes Down" back when I was nineteen years old and had a lot in my mind. I first recorded it in a make-shift studio we built in about forty-five minutes at my friend Brett's apartment in Manchester, TN. I started recording the song without any lyrics written down. I would just go into the closet where we had set up the microphone, and I would tell my buddy to hit the record button. At that point I already had a melody I wanted to use, so I just started free-styling lyrics, and before I knew it I had the chorus down.

As I wandered out of the closet my friend looked at me and said with a very serious face, "This song sucks." We both kinda laughed about it.

Brett had to pick up a friend from work, and he told me if I didn't have a hit song ready before he got back that we needed to call it quits. It was getting late and he had to be up early. While he was gone I recorded my verses and reworked the chorus. Just adding harmony really brought the song to life.

When he got back I showed him the song, and he looked at me with the same serious face and said, "Man, I think you got something." We stayed up into the early hours of the morning perfecting the lyrics and making the song something new and different.

Neither of us had ever heard a song quite like it, so we weren't sure if it was going to really be something people would enjoy listening to. We didn't do anything with the song after we finished it. We didn't show it to many people. But two years later, Brett and I moved into a house together in Tullahoma, TN. I started playing the local bars just trying to see how people would react to my sound. I did fairly well on my own, but I needed something new. I met up with Tayler Montgomery, an old friend who lived around the same part of town. He was interested in singing but never really tried to do it on his own, so I asked him to come along and play a few shows with me.

We were an instant hit. After a few weeks together, we were packing the bars we were playing in, and we were invited to play some shows in Alabama. With our small and very sudden success, we knew we had to pull some original songs together. Tayler wasn't much of a songwriter at that point. I told him about the older rap music I used to do, and he was interested. I showed him "How It All Goes Down," and he fell in love with it. He picked up the guitar and started playing along with the track and singing the chorus. At that moment I knew we had the sound we been looking for, so we started playing it at shows and the rest is history!

4. What genre would you consider your music?

I honestly couldn't label my music because I don't think it has a genre. I play and write in so many different styles, ranging from country to rap to pop and everything in between. I truly love music. All kinds of music. So I feel like it would be selfish if I kept my talent restricted to one genre.

5. Any fun road stories to share?

The funniest story I have is when Tayler and I played a show in Ardmore, Alabama. We had played five shows in the weekend leading up to it. We got to Ardmore at about five o'clock on Saturday and had to meet with the bar owner, who also owned a sod farm. We met him at his farm and tried to warm up for the show. Both of our voices were shot and our fingers were bloody from playing throughout the week before. We struggled through our set list and moved on to the bar. The place was new and out in the middle of nowhere. Needless to say, we didn't have a very good turn out. The bar owner met with us after the show. He told us he was throwing a big party back at his farm and would pay us triple if we would come out there. It was one-thirty in the morning and we were a good three hours away from home. We agreed to play the show anyway, since we needed the money. We went back to the farm and we played for another three hours. We for sure didn't want to drive back home, so he kindly offered us a place to stay, a small camper. We had brought six people with us to the farm, and they also needed a place to stay, so all of us packed into this tiny camper in the middle of the summer with no air--you can imagine how hot it was in there. My brother and I were supposed to share a bed that was made for a very small child--and my brother is six-five. Both of us ended up sleeping outside in the hot morning sun before it was all said and done. It was a fun time, and I wouldn't trade it for the world!

6. How long have you been creating music?

I've been working with music as long as I can remember, to be honest. But I started taking it very seriously around age thirteen, when I started recording in Big SMO's studio. I was in a rap group called the Wartrace Boys, which consisted of my younger brother, Ezra Cataldo, and two friends, Tony Hord and Paris Edwards. We opened up locally for Big SMO.

7. Are there any songs you've written that have a personal story you'd like to share? Or influenced by?

One song that stands out to me is called "Way Too Long." It tells the story of how I've been working on the road and traveling a lot, working different jobs over the years.

8. How did you get signed? As in how did that process happen?

How I got signed? Well that all goes back to playing the bars in Tullahoma. During that time, Tayler and I were playing a lot, and I had to work nights. Some Friday nights, I couldn't make it back in time for the shows, so we had to find a singer who could fill my time while I was gone.

We picked up a young local artist by the name of Zach Donegan. Zach was very new to the scene--only eighteen, just old enough to be able to perform in the bars--and I just so happened to walk in on one of his sets. I had already heard a lot about him, but never had the chance to meet him in person. When I walked into the bar, I had no clue who the kid singing was, so I pulled up a seat and listened to him stumble over his words and fight to make it through songs. But don't get me wrong this dude had a killer voice. I asked him if he minded if I helped with his sound and the mix on his PA. He quickly shook his head yes, and I did what I could to make it sound better. I asked if he would mind me sitting in on a couple songs, and again he smiled and said, "Please do." We played a couple songs together. He became a part of what we were doing and started showing up every Friday to play with us. Zach is a very talented songwriter as well, so we wrote a lot of songs together.

After Tayler moved on and got his own band, Monty-Hill, Zach and I started working on Zach's EP. We sent it to a friend of mine up in Nashville and he showed the tracks to some of his friends at a publishing company. They called us a few weeks later and set up a meeting. After we met with them, they presented us with a contract. We had our lawyers look over it and signed the following week.

9. What advice do you have for aspiring musicians trying to get signed?

My only real advice would be to never give up trying. You've got to put in the work to make it there. No one will ever hear you if you sit at home all day waiting to be found.

Fun Questions
1. If you were stranded on an island that had animals and water, what five things would you bring with you?

A boat to get back home.

2. If you could meet any musician living or dead who would it be?

Elvis Presley, for sure!

3. Where in time would you travel if time travel were real?

The Sixties or the Seventies--that's when I feel music was at its best.

4. If you could perform at any venue, where would it be?

I'm really not sure. I always thought somewhere in London would be cool.

5. What's your favorite instrument to play with?

Guitar!