HomeInterviewsMark Tremonti talks new Sinatra covers album

Mark Tremonti talks new Sinatra covers album

Several years ago, Mark Tremonti started practicing singing Frank Sinatra tunes just for fun. The Grammy-winning hard rock guitarist (Creed, Alter Bridge, Tremonti) wanted to give the new hobby his all, so he’d spend late nights scouring the internet for old live recordings and videos of Ol’ Blue Eyes. Tremonti was starting to feel good about his progress singing like Sinatra, but he didn’t know what he was going to do with it. Then, in 2020, he and his wife received news that their daughter would be born with Down Syndrome.

“Almost immediately I was like, ‘This Frank Sinatra obsession is meant to be,” Tremonti told 360°Sound. He had read books about Sinatra and had learned that the Chairman of the Board raised over $1 billion for charity throughout his 50-plus-year career. Following the birth of Tremonti’s daughter Stella in March 2021, he decided to record an album for a great cause like Sinatra would have done.

Tremonti partnered with the National Down Syndrome Society, and the LP, Mark Tremonti Sings Frank Sinatra, was released in May as part of his new charity initiative Take A Chance For Charity. The album is a collection of 14 Sinatra classics, including “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “That’s Life,” and “Come Fly With Me.” Tremonti was joined in the studio by 17 musicians, 15 of whom were part of Sinatra’s final touring orchestra. Sinatra died in 1998 at age 82.

In this exclusive interview with 360°Sound, Tremonti talks about the swingin’ recording sessions, the response from metalheads, his favorite Sinatra recordings, and more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

360°Sound: I’m curious what the response to the record has been like, particularly in the hard rock community. Were people surprised you recorded an album of Sinatra covers?

Mark Tremonti: It’s been amazing. I’ve got feedback that I only could have dreamt of before. We [Tremonti] recently played a show with Judas Priest, and I walked in to get some lunch. Rob Halford is sitting there. He stands right up in the middle of his lunch, gives me a hug, and tells me how much he enjoyed the Sinatra record. He said, ‘I can’t stop listening.’ Absolutely blew me away.

I understand you had a charity concert at The Abbey in Orlando in May. How did that go?

That was amazing. That was the first show we did. We had five or six of the guys fly down from Chicago and then we partnered up with local musicians here [in Orlando]. We always try to play with as many people that have toured with Sinatra as possible. We raised a lot of money and had a ton of fun. It was great to see all of our fans from around the world dressed up. When people come to these shows it’s a formal event, so it’s a good night out for everybody. We filmed and recorded it, and at some point, would like to put some of it out.

On December 15, you’ll have a charity concert at indigo at The O2 Arena in London. Since that will be close to Christmas, any plans for some Sinatra holiday tunes, perhaps “The Christmas Waltz”?

You never know. It’ll be a lot of fun.

You were joined by surviving members of Sinatra’s band on the album. You’ve said in interviews that you were well prepared for the recording sessions. But were you still a little nervous?

No, I was excited. A lot of folks thought that I’d be terrified to do it. The two biggest reasons I wasn’t nervous is because I had practiced tirelessly. I was ready to go. I couldn’t have spent another hour practicing and have been any more prepared. I knew this stuff backwards and forwards and knew how I wanted to approach it in the studio.

The other reason I wasn’t nervous was because this is all for charity. There’s no reason anybody should ever feel nervous about raising money for a good cause. Even if I had sung terribly and raised $100, I’d still feel good about it.

The record has well-known songs like “Fly Me to the Moon” and “My Way,” but also some lesser-known tunes like “Wave” and “The Song Is You.” What were your considerations when choosing the songs?

Sinatra recorded almost 1,500 songs. Whenever I was in the car, going to sleep, or walking around the house, I would turn on a different playlist and try to go way down the rabbit hole on Sinatra’s recordings. I think I started with the Columbia years and then the Capitol Records stuff and then end it with Reprise.

There are so many hidden gems in there that lots of people wouldn’t be familiar with, and lots of things I wasn’t familiar with. He had a lot of different styles and personalities, and I wanted to show that in the record. I wanted to show the depth of what he brought to the table as a musician and not just do “New York, New York,” “My Way,” and “That’s Life.” Songs from the beginning of his career, like “All or Nothing at All,” “The Song Is You,” and “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” are a different personality, a way younger version of Sinatra than people are used to hearing.

In the beginning, he had a softer, airier approach. Then he had this falling out in his career, and then in 1953, he starred in From Here to Eternity and won an Oscar. His career seemed like it was over and then he came back. Columbia dropped him and Capitol signed him, and that’s when he really became the Sinatra that we’re familiar with in the modern age. I wanted to show the two different sides of that coin.

In studying Sinatra’s career arc, what were some of your takeaways regarding how his voice and music evolved?

I love studying his whole career and seeing how one thing affected the other. I’ve studied and studied and tried to find every little nugget of information I could on how he became the singer he is. From [trombonist and bandleader] Tommy Dorsey [in the early 1940s], I think he learned how to phrase like a musician. He always respected musicians so much that he wanted to have his take on vocals be like he is another musician in the room and not a singer. Sinatra would phrase like a trombone, trumpet, or sax player would phrase. He would play with rhythm like the rhythm section would.

He never sang the same song the same way twice it seemed. He would mess with his rhythm and pronunciation and change lyrics. He’d get Cole Porter mad at him for changing lyrics. I think Porter asked him politely to stick to the original lyrics and Sinatra was like, ‘I’ll just not sing those songs anymore if that’s what you want.’ Porter was like, ‘Alright, sing them however you want.’

Sinatra was first very influenced by Bing Crosby. He was his hero. He went to go see him live and said, ‘I want to do that.’ He started singing at the Rustic Cabin [in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey] and got discovered by [bandleader] Harry James. I’m sure that had a big influence on Sinatra, touring for the first time in a bus and being around all those great musicians.

Some of the coolest pictures are Sinatra singing for Dorsey. The guy is the bandleader of the most famous band in the country and every eyeball is on Sinatra. Before Sinatra, the singer was not the leader of the band. They were not the focal point of the band. He was the guy that created that in modern music. He was the first guy that had a line for blocks outside his show. Girls would pee themselves because they didn’t want to get out of their seats and lose their spot. He was the first big star like that. He lived a pretty epic life.

What would you say is your favorite Sinatra record?

I think In the Wee Small Hours is a great one. I like some of the compilations. I love the Columbia Years package. I listen to that probably more than the modern stuff. I’m very interested in the beginnings of his career.

I think Only the Lonely is my favorite. Would you be interested in recording an album of Sinatra ballads and saloon songs?

Absolutely. “I Fall In Love Too Easily” is that same kind of vibe. I think “In The Wee Small Hours,” if you stripped back some of the strings, could almost be a saloon song if you put it on a piano. “Angel Eyes” and “One for My Baby” would be great songs to cover. There’s just so many.

I’ve got volume two already picked out. I don’t know what will happen recording wise, but I already have songs picked out to learn. It’s not just singing these songs like Sinatra. It’s not just like hearing a song on the radio and singing along to it. I really have to study it and memorize every little breath, pronunciation, and placement of everything. When I learn a song, it takes me a long time to really do it. But I’ve already picked out the next batch of songs that I want to really dive into.

Here’s hoping we get a follow-up to this fantastic album.

For more on Mark Tremonti, check out his official site. You can also follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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