Interview : By Robert Cavuoto
Backup Planet is a Nashville, TN quartet made up of Ben Cooper [keys, vocals], Chris Potocik [drums, vocals], Gavin Donati [guitar, vocals], and Blake Gallant [bass, vocals] who write arena-size anthems echoing with progressive intricacy, funk swagger, and even a little metallic edge. The band has just released their sophomore CD; Reactions and I caught with guitarist, Gavin Donati, to discuss its creation.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me how you came up with the name of the band.
Gavin Donati: Ben came up with the name Backup Planet while working at a liquor store during college. He was tired of all the terrible things we saw on the news and wished for a Backup Planet where he could go to and escape. Music has become our escape.
Robert Cavuoto: What was the vision you had going into making your new CD; Reactions?
Gavin Donati: My vision was to have an album that sonically sounded better than anything I could imagine. I wanted our music to have a great sonic quality and a level of production that was unique to Backup Planet and exceeds the current standards on the scene today.
Robert Cavuoto: How are Reactions different from your previous CD?
Gavin Donati: Reactions is much more of a collaborative effort with the band and our producer than Element. We collectively built these songs from the ground up.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell us about the songwriting process.
Gavin Donati: It usually all starts with a guitar riff, keyboard part, or chord progression. Sometimes we will write during sound check or come up with ideas while improvising live. Other times one of the guys will come up with something and then other guys will add their parts. We will flesh it out that way.
Robert Cavuoto: Who influences you most as a songwriter?
Gavin Donati: That’s a tough question. Definitely too many to list, and I go through phases with different players/songwriters but here is a few; Warren Haynes, Hendrix, Dickey Betts, Freddy King, Jerry Reed, etc.
Robert Cavuoto: What does it take to stand out as a band nowadays in an overcrowded market?
Gavin Donati: Unfortunately more than just your music. I would say you have to have a huge social media presence. We try to stand out through our songwriting, and putting on the best shows that we possibly can. You have to have great live production as well. We like to make a Backup Planet show feel like an “event” as much as it does a concert.
Robert Cavuoto: What do you think has been your biggest challenge, both musically and professionally, so far in your career?
Gavin Donati: Musically – getting in and out of ruts or plateaus with my playing. Also learning how to grow in a band has been taxing because of the amount of time I practice. Professionally – the hardest thing I would say was rebuilding our band after we were hit by a drunk driver a couple of years back. We lost almost everything and some of us were seriously injured.
Robert Cavuoto: What do you want fans to take away from your music?
Gavin Donati: I want them to forget about their negative thoughts of a shitty work week or any drama or problems that they are dealing with. Even if it is just for 3 minutes. That’s important to me and the other guys as well.
Robert Cavuoto: For someone who hasn’t seen your live show, what can they expect?
Robert Cavuoto: The energy in our shows is always amazing. We incorporate a lot of improvisation during the shows. No two Backup Planet shows are ever the same, and unlike a lot of the bands in our genre, Backup Planet doesn’t record or release live audio footage often. We want to create a once-in-a-lifetime event atmosphere for the people that are present at the show. We are becoming known for that by the fans and the press, and people are really responding in an incredible way. You can expect it all- loud & loft, fast & slow, heavy & gentle, pleasing & dissonant funk, rock, jazz, country and intergalactic space music. All delivered with love and honesty.
Robert Cavuoto: What songs will you be playing live from new CD for The Heavy Planet Tour?
Gavin Donati: We will be working on playing all of them but right now it’s; “Reactions”, “Different Life”, “Little Mingo”, and “Earth as a Dream”.