Sarty’s new CD a different musical road for him

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

Jonathan Sarty

Singer-songwriter Jonathan Sarty grew up in Denmark, Maine where he ran down country roads, jumped in nearby lakes and ponds and climbed up and down the local hills and mountains — all the while, soaking up everything around him.

Known best for playing gigs and developing his craft throughout New England for over a decade with his roots Americana group the White Mountain Boys, Jonathan Sarty has now — as the CD’s title says — taken “This Road,” to show us another side of his multi-faceted talent.

Jonathan has woven his own life experiences and the feelings they produced in to his original lyrics and music and that fill his new CD.

The Jonathan Sarty Band, his hot new five-piece group comprised of both world-renowned and amazing local artists, perform a compilation of rock, ballads and Americana on “This Road.”

Jonathan’s “This Road” tour began with a sold out show in August at the acclaimed Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, and the tour continues with his Nov. 18 show at The Leura Hill Eastman Performing Arts Center in Fryeburg, followed by his seacoast premier show Nov. 26 at Jonathan’s Restaurant in Ogunquit. For more information, log on to www.jonathansarty.com

“These are songs I’ve written over the last 10 years,” Jonathan said, in a recent interview at The Bridgton News office.

Guitarist Duke Levine, who has played with the J. Geils Band and Mary Chapin Carpenter, and who plays electric guitar, rhythm guitar and lapsteel on “This Road,” “is one of the best guitar players in the Northeast,” said Jonathan. Another guest artist on the CD, along with Levine, is fiddle player Joyce Andersen.

Those on the CD who are members of The Jonathan Sarty Band include Don Walden on bass, keyboardist Joe “Sonny” Barbato, and drummer Dave Mattacks, the former drummer for Fairport Convention, who Jonathan said whose input “has been absolutely critical.”

Jonathan pointed out that Ray Ryan is the guitarist for both the new Jonathan Sarty Band, as well as the White Mountain Boys.

Homecoming performance at FA

“Things have been great — the CD release party was sold out — sales of the CD have been good — and we were invited to return to The Leura Hill Eastman Performing Arts Center as part of an Americana performance,” said Jonathan. “We’ll be joined that evening by the Fryeburg Academy Chorus. It’s a homecoming performance, as well. I’m a graduate of the (Academy’s) 1992 Bicentennial Class.”

Jonathan spoke fondly of his years as a student at Fryeburg Academy, where Music Department Head Brent LaCasce inspired him to become a musician.

“Brent was my first music teacher,” Jonathan said. “Brent formed the All-School Rock Band and I was the first lead singer. It’s his fault I got in the music business,” said Jonathan, flashing his characteristic broad smile.

The very first song Brent LaCasce ever heard Jonathan song was the Beatles’ tune Let it Be.

“Brent said I was the next Elvis Presley,” Jonathan said.

Asked what or who most inspired him to become a musician, Jonathan replied, “My father (Ralph Sarty), actually.”

Ralph Sarty was a Maine Game Warden, when his son Jonathan was growing up.

“He was a closet singer, but we always loved to sing along with records, when we were kids,” said Jonathan of his dad. “I always was singing with my family, but I became really serious about being an entertainer, when I was in high school. I’m fortunate, I think, because at a young age, I knew what I wanted to do.”

He said it was his performance in Pippin that changed his dad’s mind about Jonathan becoming a performer  — something he once told his son he thought was ill advised for a career choice.

“When I did that role, my dad told me, ‘I didn’t think it was a good idea, but when I saw you on that stage, I knew you’ve got what it takes.’ That meant a lot to me,” said Jonathan.

“I was born at Bridgton Hospital, and yes, my dad was a warden,” Jonathan stated. “So, I spent a lot of time with my dad out in the woods wearing my little warden hat. My friends called me Nature Boy, because I was not out on the playground, I was climbing trees — always busy. It’s a huge part of who I am — the forests, fields and growing up here in New England. And, when I was traveling, it was what I missed most — it’s in your blood — you can’t deny it — like Canada geese flying home. You can hear that in the first track on the CD titled, Call Your Children Home. It’s inspired by the mountains and nature around here.”

Jonathan Sarty has taken a long look at his musical artistry and the art of performing — of being an entertainer.

“The big thing was separating the artist from the entertainer,” he said. “Now, I feel more capable of my roots as a songwriter, because now I have some stagecraft. It’s my music.”

Another singer the family would sing along with was British singer and songwriter Roger Whittaker. “Roger Whittaker just has this robust, throaty voice,” stated Jonathan.

“I’ve been years and years in the trenches, honing my skills — playing pubs and cafes, wherever I could, to play music,” he said. “I’m never happier than being in front of an audience!”

Who else inspired Jonathan?

“I was and am a diehard Elvis fan, but I kept it a secret, all through high school,” he said, laughing.

Jonathan and the White Mountain Boys are known for the tunes they play at gigs in restaurants and clubs that are more intended for dancing. Yet, Jonathan said his performances of the songs featured on the new CD are more intended for “a listening audience in a performing arts center setting or a small concert hall or theater.”

“This CD is for people who want to listen to what the band has to say,” he stated.

Jonathan said he writes songs that “are about universal human feelings — that are pretty symbolic — and I use a lot of metaphors about how I feel about life. I dig deep into my heart, soul and feelings to find something relevant I feel people can relate to.”

Saying he is proud of the hard work he has put in to fine-tuning his performing skills, as well as his musical talent, Jonathan said, “The music business is pretty insensitive to the struggle of honing your craft and what it takes to become really competent,” he said. “I’ve been singing, since I was six years old. I was 15 years old, when I first picked up a guitar. I wanted to be a drummer, but a guitar you can carry around.”

The “This Road” CD was recorded at Alan Bean’s recording studio in Harrison. Jonathan also formed the White Mountain Music Group record label to produce the CD.

“These are super high caliber musicians,” he said, of those who perform with him on the CD.

“Deciding what songs to use on the CD was the toughest part,” Jonathan explained. “I wanted to have a continuity — a cohesiveness — a common thread, throughout the project. “This Road is about my emotional experiences — the up and downs, love and loss, and heartache and hope. I think it’s definitely another side that fans of the White Mountain Boys would want to see. These aren’t songs I would sing in a pub, because they are close to my heart. People go to clubs and bars to dance and drink — they are not there to share deep human emotions. You need to be in the right situation, where people are coming to hear what you have to say. This was really an opportunity to share my perceptions of life and my thoughts and feelings in a really creative way with an audience who appreciates it.”

One of Jonathan’s tunes on the CD has received airplay on both WBLM and WHEB “where it was pretty well received by people,” he said.

Another cut on the CD, entitled Don’t Go That Way, “is a call to the generation coming up behind me,” said Jonathan. “I’m trying to help them avoid some of the mistakes I made by saying, ‘Hey, don’t fall into the pit I’ve fallen into,’ and trying to extend a little bit of help — but I tried to tread lightly, and I hope they take it for what it’s worth. It’s something I would say to my own kids, if I had them.”

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