Tommy Odetto, it seems, was born to play blues-influenced rock ‘n roll. His sophomore release, “Curses and Revelations,” and even more recent 2020 single, “Show Me,” feature his solid, face-melting blues-rock guitar.
Tommy Odetto grew up in the San Francisco Bay area of California, cutting his teeth sitting-in with artists at club shows including John Lee Hooker’s famous “Boom Boom Room.” Odetto has toured with the likes of Big Brother and the Holding Company, and has opened shows for Cheap Trick, Chevy Metal, Tommy Castro, Coco Montoya, Foreigner, the Marshall Tucker Band, Ace Frehley, Robin Trower, and Trainwreck with Kyle Gass (of Tenacious D), in addition to performing a multiple city tour with blues legend John Mayall. While new to the Milwaukee area, Odetto has been an acclaimed artist on the national level for some time. He's played Napa's Bottle Rock Festival, the Harley-Davidson Milwaukee Rally and was tapped to play this year’s Summerfest, before COVID-19 hit.
“I never thought of live music as something that could be scarce,” Odetto shared with Rock the Green on a recent Zoom call. “Seriously, I went from playing shows in the San Francisco Bay area multiple times a week, and going to see my friends’ performances on nights when I wasn’t gigging, to watching everything shut down. Everyone is really missing live shows. I’ve been doing my best to focus on writing, listening and reading. Streaming shows have been a big connector as they are all we have right now. They help create the communal space for folks to gather, albeit on-line, around music. Music is such a powerful force, and in these times can be such a unifier.”
Odetto, like so many other artists have had their touring plans and livelihood change as a result of the ongoing pandemic. However, in Odetto’s case, his plans included a change in scenery. “I moved to Milwaukee just a few months ago and know how much Milwaukeean's love rock ‘n roll music,” Odetto went on, “I thought this would be a great scene to be part of.”
Odetto has been focusing on giving on-line guitar lessons, doing whatever gigs he can, and harnessing the tremendous energy in his performances, whether they are in front of an in-person audience, or an audience sharing in the groove from the other side of a screen. “Listening to music you love is so incredibly uplighting,” Odetto shared. “As a young person I became interested in blues-rock by listening to the likes of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I felt like within a month, I discovered all three of these artists and their music truly moved me. It felt like their guitars were crying while they were playing. That kind of emotional connection with the audience is what I aim for when I play live. Music allows us to express ourselves and to share our own truths… it provides an avenue to let others into our soul.”
Partnering with the amazing Tommy Odetto this week for our Rock the Stream show is Guitars 4 Vets, a terrific organization whose mission is to help the mental health and wellbeing of veterans using music as a way to help build bridges and engage communities. Guitars 4 Vets co-founder Patrick Nettesheim shared on the Zoom call, “Building community is at the heart of everything we do.”
Founded in 2007, Guitars 4 Vets has grown from a local idea, pitched by Nettesheim and one of his very first students, Vietnam Veteran Dan Van Buskirk, to a nation-wide organization that utilizes the skills of 500 volunteers, and has 110 chapters across the country in 43 states. “We’re not trying to reinvent music therapy,” Nettesheim quipped on the recent Zoom call, “We simply want to try to use music, especially playing the guitar, as a way to inspire vets, and help them deal with their experiences. Playing the guitar helps self-sooth and helps people disengage from the traumatic experiences they have faced or are currently facing.”
Odetto continued, “Music is so much a universal language that it truly transcends everything! Watching legendary players like Clapton, Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn just tip their head back, close their eyes, and play from the heart had such an incredible influence for me. It was like they were leaving their whole soul on stage while they played. Playing the guitar allows you to let your guard down as a player and let others in. This same feeling that performing music gives me can also be a breakthrough for the brave men and women who have served our country and are now experiencing trauma and post-traumatic stress-related issues. Music is something powerful enough to help others conquer even their deepest reservations and fears.”
Nettesheim elaborated regarding his Guitars for Vets organization, “When things are rough, we all need ways to process what’s going on in our lives and escape. Guitars 4 Vets is built on the idea of creating a community amongst veterans that strengthens their self-esteem. It allows veterans new ways to express themselves without the pressure of having to speak in front of a crowd. Playing the guitar can allow you to dump your emotions to others without even saying a single word. The teamwork and camaraderie that the vets experience playing with their teachers and with each other is truly exceptional, and provides such a unifying connection to so many people whose paths would not have crossed otherwise. Our program puts an instrument in the hands of a veteran and allows him/her to have ten lessons. Once they complete that portion of the program, the vets are given a band-new, really-nice Yamaha guitar with a case and all the accessories. The vets then continue to play in small groups with one another. It’s such a beautiful experience!”
Nettesheim further added, “When this COVID-19 stuff is all said and done, we’re going to be keeping a lot of this virtual stuff in place as a way to expand our reach and connect with as many people as we can. While there are drawbacks in some areas, the video conferencing via Zoom, FaceTime or other platforms have made this a great time to be a musician as we are able to connect to others in so many different ways.”
We look forward to hearing the mighty rock sounds of Tommy Odetto as he aims to connect with the Rock the Green: Rock the Stream live from The Barn, this Thursday, August 6th at 7pm CDT. Tune in to feel good tunes for a great cause at Rock the Green's Facebook, YouTube or Twitter channels.
See Whiskey Belles #RockTheStream on August 27th. Trapper Schoepp performed Rock the Stream's premier date April 30th and will be performing with a full band, stay tuned for details.
Please consider donating to support Tommy Odetto & Guitars 4 Vets
Funding format:100% of the funds donated from the live-streams are split equally between the musician and nonprofit.
Another way to support Tommy is with a merch purchase: CLICK