Speaker 1: Takin’ A Walk.
Antonia Bennett: I think it was probably before I was conscious of it, because there was always music around. There was always music in the house and musicians. I think for most of us, that our parents sing to us when we’re children. People don’t really know what comes first, music or language. Are babies singing or are they trying to speak? We don’t know.
Speaker 3: Thanks for checking out the Takin’ A Walking Podcast, music history on foot. Today, your host Buzz Knight is joined by Antonia Bennett, daughter of the legendary Tony Bennett. She’s launching her solo music career with new music and concert appearances across the country. Join Buzz Knight with Antonia Bennett on Takin’ A Walk.
Antonia Bennett: Hi, Buzz.
Buzz Knight: Hi, Antonia. Welcome to a virtual Takin’ A Walk.
Antonia Bennett: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
Buzz Knight: So you’ve created new music, Right On Time. You’ve put yourself out to perform live. Tell me how this all feels right now.
Antonia Bennett: I mean, it feels good. I took a long hiatus during COVID, so it’s nice to be back out there and doing my thing.
Buzz Knight: Tell me about your creative process when you are creating your own music. How does it work for you?
Antonia Bennett: I like collaboration. I wrote this song with Cliff Goldmacher. He’s a longtime collaborator friend of mine. We got together, we always start with a conversation. Then, throw a few little ideas out there. This one kind of stuck. Usually, melody comes for me first, with maybe a couple lyric lines. Then, we create the form of the song, and then finish the lyrics after. That’s usually what happens for me.
Buzz Knight: Had you collaborated with him previously?
Antonia Bennett: I have, yeah. We’ve been working together for years, writing songs. This is the first time that I’m releasing any of the songs that we’ve recorded. It’s really nice.
Buzz Knight: Tell me about the moment you first discovered the joy of music.
Antonia Bennett: I don’t think I can. I think it was probably before I was conscious of it, because there was always music around. There was always music in the house, and musicians, and artists. I think for most of us, that our parents sing to us when we’re children. People don’t really know what comes first, music or language. Are babies singing or are they trying to speak? We don’t know. It’s a very similar part of the brain that works. Even when you listen to infants, the inflections in their voice are quite musical. I think it really started from the beginning.
Buzz Knight: I love it. So you really think about the science and emotion of music as well.
Antonia Bennett: I do. I think that it’s the most natural thing. I think that most children are musical and that it’s only when they start comparing themselves to others that things change. But for the most part, in the beginning, I think we’re all very natural at being creative.
Buzz Knight: There were so many encounters you referenced that came together as a result of your dad’s friends. Let’s talk about some of those experiences there. I’ll mention some of these folks and just get your reaction. I’m going to start with this guy named Frank Sinatra.
Antonia Bennett: Yeah. Yes, they were very good friends. They both respected each other immensely and worked together. You couldn’t have a … What a incredible singer and performer.
Buzz Knight: Another person I’m going to mention is Louis Armstrong. I happened to be out at his house and museum a few weeks back. I saw this amazing photo, or drawing, artwork on the wall there, with the inscription of, “Benedetto.” What about Louis Armstrong?
Antonia Bennett: Well, I don’t ever remember meeting him but I’ve been to that house too. I certainly listened to a lot of his records. He was incredible. Today, I listen to those records. One of my favorite records is a record that he did with Ella Fitzgerald, it’s all duets. I just love it. No matter how terrible of a mood I’m in, if I listen to that record, it always makes me feel better.
Buzz Knight: I love that.
Antonia Bennett: To this day.
Buzz Knight: I love it. Ella Fitzgerald.
Antonia Bennett: Yeah. She was a tremendous person, friend, musician to my father. We spent … Most of our Christmas days, we would go over to her house for a little bit. She would always hold court for us, as she was always so warm and loving. Her family was always so nice.
Buzz Knight: And then, how about Mel Torme?
Antonia Bennett: Mel Torme, I met on many occasions. A wonderful singer. He was often around at Christmas parties, or whatnot. He would come and sing by the piano. He, Sinatra, Sammy Kahn, a wonderful songwriter. What they would do is every year, there would be Christmas carolers, and they would come to one house, and they would send the carolers from one house to the other. Each time they would go to Sinatra’s house he’d say, “Send them to Ella’s house.” He’d send them to Ella’s house, and Ella would send them to our house, or vice versa. It was always such a sweet experience.
Buzz Knight: Then, what type of experience for you was it, playing with the great Les Paul?
Antonia Bennett: Les was a good friend and a mentor. He was amazing. He had so many great ideas and so much to give. Sitting in with him was like show business 101. You’d learn everything from him. He was just such a pro. He had so much personality. He really could help you to just relax and be yourself. I miss him every day.
Buzz Knight: Who were some of your musical mentors, besides some of the folks we just talked about?
Antonia Bennett: I think that, if I didn’t say Ralph Sharon, who was my dad’s accompanist for so many years, that that would be a huge misgiving. Because he was really the one that was around when I was very, very young. I would get up and sing on stage with my dad, and we would sit down and work out a song. He was such a tremendous musician and support to me. That whole band. Paul Langosh was on bass, and Chola Barbara on drums. Those guys, they were there for me. They supported me and they made it fun.
Count Basie, he was also somebody that used to tour with my dad a lot. I would come out on the road in the summers, in the winter and it was always fun to be around all those musicians in one place, and just run in and out of the dressing rooms, and hear those guys playing, warming up.
Another one was Rosie Clooney. She was really a big influence on me. I really loved her personally. She sang as clear as a bell. She had incredible stage presence. She was an amazing storyteller.
Buzz Knight: So you’ve played at some pretty cool venues in your career. Recently, just at Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center, there. But what are some of your other favorite venues that you’ve performed?
Antonia Bennett: Well, I love … One of the places that I performed was at the Umbria Jazz Festival. I loved playing that festival, it’s always so fun. There’s always so many incredible musicians around. And you’re in Italy, where the food is great and the people are beautiful. That’s always a lovely experience. Royal Albert Hall. Beautiful, beautiful room. Obviously, Radio City is just so special to perform at a place like that. There’s just so many incredible places.
Back in the day, I sat in with my dad at Harbor Lights, which is now I think the Fleet … I don’t know, they keep changing the name, in Boston, of that outdoor venue. So I don’t know what the current name of it is. But places like that, Tanglewood. Those are all beautiful, beautiful places.
Buzz Knight: You mentioned earlier about how music can just change the mood. If you’re in a bad mood, then be in a great mood. There’s a venue that I want to ask you about, whether you’ve played there, that whenever I either go there to listen to music, I feel the same way. The Café Carlisle, or Bemelmans, or those places. You must have played there?
Antonia Bennett: I did play Café Carlisle. It was such a beautiful experience, when you think about how many wonderful people have come through that room. And also, as a kid I would go see Bobby Short there. Or Eartha Kitt, or so many great musicians. And then as an adult, to be able to go there and perform there was so special because the room is so magical. There’s so much history in that hotel as well.
Buzz Knight: I love it. It is a mood enhancer, there’s no doubt, right?
Antonia Bennett: Absolutely.
Buzz Knight: When you look out over the musical landscape, who are the people creating today that are this next generation of these great storytellers and songwriters?
Antonia Bennett: I think Sara Bareilles is pretty substantial, as far as storytelling. She’s quite amazing. There’s also a lot of great country acts that are really fantastic, like Big Little Town. There’s just so many. I like Billie Eilish, I think she’s a really great singer. I wouldn’t call her an American songbook singer per se, but she has a beautiful voice. She likes to … There’s a lot of great people. Her brother, Finneas, is also really great. There’s no shortage of talent, that’s for sure.
Buzz Knight: How do you discover new talent? Is it just word-of-mouth from friends, or how do you find some of this music?
Antonia Bennett: Well, I listen to a lot of different music and across a lot of different genres. I try to keep an open mind and search for things. And stretch myself a little bit, so that I can … Sometimes, you’re surprised in some things out of a genre that isn’t maybe the genre that you had listened to, but there’s still something so special to listen to there. I think it’s important to … A lot of it’s word-of-mouth and what your friends are listening to, but a lot of it is just searching and looking around.
Buzz Knight: Your dad was always very curious and exploring new things, right?
Antonia Bennett: Yes, he always did. He always kept an open mind. He was very supportive to other artists. Especially young artists, he really wanted them to feel comfortable. I think that he felt that if somebody was comfortable, that they could do a lot more so he always gave room for that, whenever he would collaborate with young artists.
Buzz Knight: So for you, what is the next year going to look like creatively, performance wise? What sort of things are you setting your sights on?
Antonia Bennett: Well, touring. I’ve got these shows coming up in Chicago and Indiana. I just finished, obviously, New York and LA. I’m going to keep booking more shows and touring. And also, collaboration. I’m planning to go to Nashville soon and do a couple weeks of writing, and doing those trips fairly frequently, so that I can get ready for my next record after this one. That’s really it. Just continuing to get together with musicians, and write songs, and get back into the studio and record. It’s just endless. There’s always something to do.
Buzz Knight: Do you like the studio?
Antonia Bennett: I do. It’s a completely different animal. I really love performing live, I’ve been doing that for so many years. But it’s also cool to really be able to cultivate something and to hear yourself back. Especially if you surround yourself with people who are really good at that, because it’s a whole other kind of ear to listen with when you’re mixing or mastering a record. That’s a whole other thing. If you surround yourself with great people, it’s also a much more pleasurable experience.
Buzz Knight: In closing, I know continuous learning is something that’s important. What are you still learning and what do you want to learn as you continue to grow as an artist?
Antonia Bennett: Well, believe it or not, when COVID happened, I went back to school. I took some online classes at Berkeley Online. I took a music publishing class, and a couple of music business classes, just because things are so different now. I think it’s important to just always keep expanding. Plus, I have a seven-year-old at home so I’m always learning from her. I’m teaching her things and I’m learning it better myself. That’s a plus.
I think what I really would like to just focus on is becoming maybe a better piano player. It’s not something that I want to do publicly, but at home, for when I’m writing and stuff like that, it definitely helps to be more fluid. Just dive into that a bit more.
Buzz Knight: Well, I do have one last question. If someone who’s listening to this is starting out in the business, what advice would you give them that you think would stick?
Antonia Bennett: I would say be yourself because everybody else is taken.
Buzz Knight: That’s so great. Wow. Well said. Antonia, congratulations on everything. I’m so honored to get to speak to you. Thank you for being on Takin’ A Walk.
Antonia Bennett: Thank you so much.
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