By Andrew Miller
Anthony Orio answered questions about his career as a Country musician from the car on the way to Macon, Georgia for a two-night stand, after which he was heading to Panama, Florida to play over Memorial Weekend. With as many shows as he plays per year with his band, the Goodfellers, when he’s on the road between shows is about the only chance you can get to talk to him.
“I love the interaction,” Orio says of live performance. “I just love the way you can be on stage and totally connect with an audience. And every audience is different. You’re connecting and reconnecting with different people every time you take the stage.”
Orio knew he wanted to perform Country music in front of an audience from the time he learned the guitar at the age of 8. It was his dad, a huge fan of Country music, who first got him into the genre—one he otherwise would not have listened to in his native Philadelphia.
“At the time when I was growing up, [Country music] wasn’t as popular. I was definitely in the minority among my peers,” he says. But he was in love with the style from the moment his dad bought a George Strait record for him, and Country music was all he listened to for a long time.
To pursue his dream of becoming a Country artist, he knew he needed to come to Nashville, and he moved to Music City in 2000. But in order to get on a stage in front of an audience, he turned to songwriting.
“I started figuring out that [songwriting] is a way to get a little bit more credibility, and also it’s a lot easier to break in with some of the write-arounds, and the writer clubs, and with publishers than it is with some of the other showcase venues and labels,” says Orio. “I saw that as maybe a little easier in, to get involved with the writer end and get into artistry more and more on the back end as the writing came along.
“Honestly the songwriting, really I didn’t develop a love and a passion for that until I did move here and started doing it more and more, and then of course fell in love with that process as well. I write a lot; I spend probably three days a week minimum writing, and co-writing, and demoing songs.”
Orio had his first success as a songwriter when two songs he co-wrote were recorded by Ray Stevens. However, writing songs for other artists was not his ultimate desire. “The thing I love more than anything about music, and always have, is performing in front of an audience,” he says. “To me, that’s always been the goal.”
He put together a band on his own and started looking for gigs, eventually landing a show at the famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. Afterwards, the Entertainment Director for Tootsie’s called him in for a meeting. “The sound guy that was there that night was impressed with my performance but thought the band was lacking a bit. They introduced me to this group of three guys that was playing together and playing for several other artists that played at Tootsie’s.”
He and the Goodfellers have been together ever since. Last year they recorded and self-released their first album, and Orio co-wrote all but one of the songs. He had recorded two albums prior to this one, neither of which was released. “I think it’s really important that you put your best foot forward. Your first impression is such a big thing,” says Orio. “This was the first time I felt like I had really captured, not only songs, but a sound that exemplified who I am as an artist.”
The band’s live performances, though, are still their area of emphasis, and they play as many as 250 shows each year. When they get a chance, he and the Goodfellers are working to record another album, but Orio’s main goal for the band is simple: “We’re just earning fans, one show at a time.”
For music, tour schedule and more, check out www.anthonyorio.com.