Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, John Mayer, Ed Sheeran. Chris Paterno, BC ’15, hopes to follow in their footsteps through his new record deal with Joe Nicolo’s Blackbird Productions.
In early May, the Philadelphia Freedoms, the city’s tennis team, asked Paterno to play a set at their event at Villanova Pavilion with over 1,000 spectators. Paterno was forced to quickly throw together a band, now known as The Chris Paterno Band, and the group has remained together since that first show.
After a successful gig at Villanova, the band was asked to play again in Spring City, Penn. The band’s mandolin player, Adam Monaco, brought Nicolo to the show, whom he had been previously working with to record several tracks.
After hearing the band’s sound and original lyrics, Nicolo asked to meet with Paterno and officially signed him his label last week.
“Joe saw us play and really liked our set and our original music,” Paterno said. “He asked me to stop by the studio and the rest has just been contract negotiations and seeing what we wanted out of [the record deal].”
Nicolo, prior to creating Blackbird Productions, had owned and run Ruffhouse Records, which he sold to Sony Music in 2000 for $900 million. Nicolo also produces for Columbia Records and has worked with artists as famous as The Rolling Stones and The Police.
“He’ll keep pushing himself, instead of putting himself in the box and doing the same thing time and time again.”
-Sean Seaver, MCAS ’16
The Chris Paterno Band is beginning preparations to record in the studio and plans to come out with an album, consisting of six EP tracks and one bonus cover. Paterno and the eight-person band is recording with a full band consisting of acoustic guitar, vocals, percussion, keys, bass, trumpets, and trombones.
While searching for members of the band, Paterno recruited a couple of high school friends and auditioned some new musicians. The drummer, Doug Parsons, was actually Paterno’s high school English teacher before joining the group.
Paterno’s passion for music began at a young age. After watching his father bang on the steering wheel of the car, pretending to play the drums, Chris Paterno was inspired to take up percussion. He began on the drums, but when he got to high school, he also taught himself to play the acoustic guitar so he could begin to compose his own music. Paterno wrote his first song, “No Horns,” at age 16.
“[The song] is about dealing with hard times and the evaluation of the realization of responsibility,” Paterno said. “The hook of the chorus is centered around the line, ‘Oh the devil, he wears no horns.’”
While he doesn’t have a standardized process that he uses to write his original songs, Paterno said that he will usually write a track in one sitting, whether it spans 30 minutes or three hours. From there, he refines the song and adds in the different parts of the band to fill out the sound.
He likes to write about daily experiences and feelings that most artists don’t like to talk about in their music, Paterno said.
While at BC, Paterno was a member of the marching band for one year, where he played the tenor drums. Paterno was most heavily involved with BC’s Music Guild, however, an outlet for student artists where they can perform at open mic events scheduled throughout the year. Paterno became vice president of the Music Guild his junior year.
“A lot of my success has been derived from the platforms of Music Guild,” Paterno said. “It allowed me to go out and play on a consistent basis, get over stage fright, and try out new songs. Those things really come a long way when you go out and perform a live show.”
Paterno also worked closely with Sean Seaver, MCAS ’16, to produce a couple of EPs using BC’s recording studios. Seaver and Paterno worked for over three months, producing and creating the new tracks that would eventually help Paterno sign with Blackbird Productions.
“Chris just strikes me as a kid that would want to push himself from one project to the next,” Seaver said. “He’ll probably want the next EP to sound different and he’ll keep pushing himself, instead of putting himself in the box and doing the same thing time and time again.”
In addition to his work with different music programs on campus, Paterno graduated pre-med, with a major in history and minors in biology, chemistry, and music. He claims that the skills and music theory that he learned through his music minor have helped him to compose songs and look for ways to create a new sound.
Despite the time constraints of his new record deal, Paterno is currently working full-time at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia as a clinical research assistant studying kidneys in the nephrology department. Paterno is taking a gap year to decide whether he wants to continue with his studies in medical school or really devote his career to music.
“From what I know of Chris, if he has the opportunity [to work in music], and this seems to be the opportunity, I feel like he would take that over med school 10 times out of 10,” Seaver said.
For the time being, Paterno hopes that Nicolo’s connections in the music industry will allow him to continue recording and playing live shows. He looks forward to travelling to Boston, Nashville, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., to play gigs in the coming months.
“The dream would be in five years time, I would sign with a larger label and keep performing and playing music,” Paterno said. “I’m not sure if that’s a huge reality, but because of this contract, I am definitely stepping in the right direction toward making that a possibility.”
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor