Musician Zach Caruso. Photo courtesy of Zach Caruso.

Musician Zach Caruso. Photo courtesy of Zach Caruso.

With Gashouse, it’s really the same thing. The guy who owns the station is the main DJ, and he was — and still is — a musician. He played in bands all over Philly. He’s someone who’s really passionate about music and he really understands it. When someone who has that type of background in music, or is that passionate, takes on a radio station, they always seem to approach it in a way that makes everything very comfortable for the musician. They know what it’s like on our end. So, he’s looking for good music. And it’s really tough in [Gashouse’s] area. There’s not a lot of stuff in Philly and South Jersey; it’s very suburban. But I guess he heard something in my music. He’s been a supporter since I put out my second album in 2010. We’re setting up some shows, hopefully in Philadelphia, for later in the summer. He’s helping me set it up through Gashouse Radio. You make these connections with people who are sort of your peers and understand what it’s like to be independent that way, whether it’s running a radio station or being a musician. It kind of connects everyone; it’s a great community and everyone tries to help each other out.

GALO: In terms of the creative process, does the entire band collaborate on the songs, or are most of them written by you? And is the past the driving influence behind your songs or a mixture of both past and present?

ZC: I’m the main songwriter. I started when I was very young, and it’s always been a rotating group of people that have come in and out [of the band]. The one constant has always been me — that’s why it’s just “Zach Caruso.” I have that freedom to kind of work with different people whenever the mood strikes, whoever’s clicking at the moment. This incarnation is really fantastic. As far as the songs go, the writing process from the inception of the song, to the vocal melodies, to the arrangements is all on me. I do a little bit of everything as far as what I’m drawing on; a lot of the things I write about are current. I think everyone has something that they turn to or do when they’re trying to understand a situation that’s going on. For me, it’s always been music. It’s always been writing melodies and lyrics, and putting it on paper. When I’m in the middle of something, I’m constantly jotting down ideas. A lot of times, when a mood strikes and I start to reflect, I get nostalgic about my past and that will inspire something. It’s a combination of both. I kind of flip-flop between current things and my past; whatever strikes me at the moment.

GALO: You earned a master’s in writing with an emphasis on journalism in 2011 from Rowan University. Your career is currently largely focused on music and you’re becoming a seasoned lyricist/performer. How do you feel your master’s comes to use for you as a songwriter?

ZC: I really credit grad school for great professors who encouraged me to try things. My thesis was in the form of gonzo journalism and the exploration of our generation as it relates to the American dream and how it’s changed. It was a project about the economy and our generation. It pushed me to try different things. It allowed me to open my mind and, in that, I found some great poets and writers like Joan Didion, Charles Bukowski, E.E. Cummings and Mark Doty. I had a professor who recommended Mark Doty; I’d never heard of Mark Doty before. I thought I’d check him out one day and he became one of my biggest lyrical inspirations. He can take the most mundane of things and turn it into something absolutely gorgeous on a page.

I think what I learned in those few years, especially in grad school, opened my mind and brought in a lot of influences and approaches. It definitely comes into play when I’m writing lyrics — take a chance and try something. I take books of poetry and read; I highlight words I don’t know or phrases and ideas I really like. I jot it all down and kind of mix it up to see what I can do with it, how it inspires me. My degree and what I learned in those years at school definitely come into play when I’m writing.

GALO: The songs on this album are deeply personal, but it isn’t your first time sharing personal tales with your listeners. In your 2010 song “Cali,” you described having a relationship with someone who you really were infatuated with, saying that you grew “addicted to the drug” this person became. Although it’s a sentiment a lot of people experience throughout their lives, is it ever difficult to share these feelings with thousands of listeners?

ZC: In conversations, I’m not much of a talker sometimes. There are very few people who I let into my circle. My closest friends in the world — Frankie being one of those, for example — those are the people I really talk to about things. Everyone else, I don’t really feel the need to share. It’s not like I’m constantly spewing things out. I think if I did that, I wouldn’t have anything [left] to really write about because I’d already have gotten it off my chest. I would have already talked about it, so it’d be very exhausting and I wouldn’t want to talk about it anymore. That’s why I write, and [through that] I don’t mind sharing with people at all. I’ve been in love with music, and what gets me through tough times is writing and listening. There are certain albums that I connect with. It’s such a special thing to hear a song and think, ‘That’s exactly what I’m going through. I get it; I don’t feel as alone anymore in asking these questions and being confused,” so, if I can share that and do that for one other person — if one person hears a song and goes, ‘Oh, I get it. I’m not alone’ — that’s what it’s all about.

GALO: Your Web site states that you’ve opened for national acts. I think it’s fair to say you’ve been able to get an in-person view of celebrated artists that not many artists happen to encounter during their careers. It must’ve been quite an honor to share the stage with these musicians. Can you share with us who some of these artists were and what these experiences taught you?

ZC: We played with Grammy-winning artist Charlie Musselwhite. He’s like a staple in the blues community, he’s been around forever. We got to open for him and we played both sold out shows. We also opened for a guitarist named Johnny A. in 2010. It was a fantastic experience because I had been reading about him and was a fan of his since I was 14 or 15. One day, we received a phone call that they were looking for a local opener. My dad [was actually the one who] called me and asked if I wanted to do this. I said, “Yeah, absolutely.” It was a great experience. We got to watch Johnny A. do a sound check when we were loading our stuff in. He was sitting there and his set-up was so intricate. I remember, as soon as our set was over, we put everything down and went out into the audience. These are guys you can’t look away from. They’re not only phenomenal players, but they’ve been around forever. Seeing their confidence on stage, seeing how they perform and interact with the crowd, it was inspirational. We were just taking a little bit from everyone. I got to talk with Johnny A. after the show and I picked his brain a little bit. You definitely learn something from watching anybody, but those guys we’re talking about, they’re road warriors who’ve been out there for years doing this. They really know what they’re doing.

GALO: You’ve been touring for a few years now, mostly throughout Florida. How would you describe a Zach Caruso show to those who’ve never seen you perform live?

ZC: We definitely play our hearts out. I try to put on a good show and make you laugh a little bit, too. For some reason, when I get up on stage, I really like interacting with the crowd and cracking jokes. I like keeping it light. I’ve seen shows where people don’t say anything to the crowd. Their heads are down the entire time, and yeah, that’s cool, but personally, I like the idea of getting to know the artist on stage and connecting with them. Sometimes you forget that musicians are people too. When they’re only in one context of music, sometimes you lose that connection. I love cracking jokes and telling stories about stupid things I’ve done or mistakes I’ve made. I think it helps people connect a bit and loosen up. When we play, we give 110 percent and we’re having a good time on stage. I think that’s definitely apparent when you’re watching us on stage. It’s just a good rock show, and if you’re in the mood for that, we’re definitely the band for you.

For more information about Zach Caruso, inclusive of current tour dates, please visit his official Web site. “Might Be The Rain” is currently available for purchase via iTunes and CDBaby.