Mucisian Votolato stays true to folk music passion

By Larissa Gula

Guitarist Rocky Votolato has always felt that he belonged in the folk music scene.

Even… Guitarist Rocky Votolato has always felt that he belonged in the folk music scene.

Even when he performed as the guitarist for punk rock bands like Waxwing, he wrote acoustic songs on the side for himself. Votolato described the composition as an unconscious process.

“I played in a bunch of punk bands, but on the side, I was always writing country-sounding songs,” Votolato said. “I was always writing on the acoustic guitar. My mom bought an acoustic guitar from a pawn shop, and that was always the guitar I was writing songs on in my bedroom.”

In 2003, Votolato emerged as a solo artist with songs that combined his life and fictional aspects. He has used this songwriting style ever since while slowly gaining support.

The singer prefers to perform in small venues, often participating in charity shows. Ten percent of the royalties from tomorrow’s show will go to One Day Foundation’s wages to help fight extreme global poverty. Votolato said he does not consider himself a large-scale, famous singer.

“I’ve always been kind of under the radar with my career,” he said. “I do good in a lot of places in the country, but I started out kind of subtle and it was a slow climb.”

Votolato stayed positive and always had help from a support system of friends, family, fans and reliable music labels. His name is known in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

Even though his name has gone international, he still holds to one of the values of folk song writing — closeness.

“It’s still at a level that it’s very intimate,” Votolato said about his music. “Most of my shows are from 200 to 500 people. I like that right now. I’m happy with it. If it continues to grow, I’ll try to do two nights in each city since I like small venues. It’s just me and my guitar.”

Votolato said he also loves the “sense of community” he creates with his music.

“The communication at shows, having a group of people there to experience art and take away something meaningful” is his favorite part of the shows, Votolato said.

“That’s what drew me in originally,” he said. “It has the ability to change people’s lives, hopefully for the better.”

He said his own life has taken extremely fortunate turns.” He balances time between tours and playing music with being with his wife and children in Seattle.

“In Seattle, it’s beautiful,” Votolato said, explaining he dislikes seeing scenic landscapes disappear, and he is lucky to be able to walk in the forests with his children. He plays at least once per year for a show that contributes its proceeds to conservation efforts.

Most important to Votolato is having good music to perform.

“It sounds obvious, but there are people who want to market and have a plan,” Votolato said. “But I think it comes back to the songs. People know it when they hear a good song, and if they feel it, you have a shot at a career. I stay focused on the music and writing, and stay true to what’s in my heart with it.”

Votolato’s music career thus far has given him a sense of longevity, and he said he is grateful that his life has worked out the way it has.

“I knew from a young age this is what I wanted to do,” Votolato said. “When I had kids, I struggled with the idea of if I could take the chance [of performing for a living]. It’s a big risk, especially if you have kids. I worked other jobs, but no other vocation I really wanted to do. I got my degree in English literature, so maybe I could have taught, but I don’t know. For me, I’ve made up my mind.”