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Cuchetti brings new sounds to town

Tony Cuchetti and his band, The Afterwhile, will perform Wednesday, July 12 at the Central Park band shell as part of the Red Wing Arts Association's summer concert series. Samantha Bengs / RiverTown Multimedia

Taking the Central Park stage Wednesday, July 12, is newly local but longtime musician Tony Cuchetti and his band, The Afterwhile.

The Afterwhile are no rookies when it comes to music. Tony Cuchetti, Chris Cuchetti and Alex Ceserani blend their folk, country and Detroit roots to produce music that reflects old time sound with a modern influence.

The Republican Eagle had the opportunity to chat with Cuchetti and discuss everything from the beginning of his love for music to what music has taught him about life.

Where did your love of music stem from?

I'm from a big, musical family and number eight of 10 kids. My parents are musicians and they were both trained in Detroit, Mich., — where we are originally from. Once they started having children they passed it on to us. We were literally immersed in music from birth. I sort of got my love from my older brothers and sisters, my parents, and just listening and being around music.

As a child did you always want to further pursue your career as a musician?

I did. I always loved it as a child. There were those parts where my parents encouraged other things as well. I was into sports when I was younger, especially baseball. I got really serious about it in high school and it paid for most of my college through scholarships. I even played two seasons in the minor league as a pitcher. Then I hurt my arm. I could have rehabbed and kept with it because it was a huge part of my life. I loved the sport and the competition but there was a part of me that said it was time to move on. I wasn't going to come back 100 percent like I wanted to. That's when I really started to get back into music at a more serious level. That was a 14- or 15-year stretch of my life where I was really immersed in baseball. I didn't really start pursuing music as a career until after that, probably around 2001.

How long have you been in Red Wing and what drew you to the area?

We had been coming up to the area starting about five years ago. Lacy is from southern Minnesota, but we actually met while we were both living in Florida. She had always told me how great of a music scene was up in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas.

We started coming up in the summers, my band and I. We would tour up here in the summer and I just fell in love. We would perform at the Harbor Bar across the river. I remember looking over at the city and always being curious about it. We would come to visit but we had never actually played here.

Last year, Lacy and I were both wanting to come back to the Midwest and we remembered Red Wing. We checked it out and it kind of fit. We loved the city and we loved the people. It's an awesome place. It's good for me because I travel a lot to the cities, Wisconsin and Rochester. It's a nice hub.

What was one of the first songs you ever wrote about?

One of the earliest songs I ever wrote was about my brother. I'm not sure if it was the first song I wrote but it was definitely one of the most meaningful. He would have been the brother right before me. He passed away at birth due to complications. None of us ever got to meet him but we always count him in the mix and keep him in our thoughts. His name was Thomas, so I titled it "Tommy C" and I play it a lot.

I have always had good interaction with people coming up to me and telling me their stories about if they have lost a sibling or anybody in their life. It is one of those songs that keeps giving back and keeps my brother in my memory but also shares him with other people.

Do you have songs you are more proud of or ones you are less proud of?

Sure, I remember going to a couple of writers workshops in Nashville years back. One thing that stuck out to me was from a writer that I was in a conference with. She said, "You always have to be kind to yourself." Writers are the worst at that because they are their own worst critic. "You write every day and even if it's not good to you or even if other people say it's not good, you are writing. You are actively honing your craft and it will start to get better and better. There will eventually be that one that shines."

There are definitely ones I have saved away and am still trying to rework. There are ones that I'm like, "Yeah, that one probably isn't ready to go out." Then there are other ones that I'm super proud of.

What has been your best and worst experience playing live?

I probably have many more worse experiences just because of the nature of the places I play, like bars. The best experience is not just one thing. It's the general ability to give people the power of music and see it in their faces.

They will come up to me and talk about how they were having a miserable day and how I really brought them out of that. That's such an awesome feeling as a musician and as an artist to be able to say that you helped that person or that group of people.

The worst one I can think of that recently happened was when I was playing up in Menomonie, Wis. I foolishly had my eyes closed and people were dancing close to the stage. This woman, she had had a little too much to drink, backed into my microphone. It knocked the bottom of my front tooth out. That was kind of a bummer. She turns around and looks at me and says, "Why was your microphone in my way?" That's always fun when you get those, but it comes with the job.

What is it about music that you love so much?

Not to sound cliche, but it's like no high or kind of stimulation that you could imagine. I'm sure everyone has had feelings of being really happy or really sad and there's really been nothing that I've come in contact with that gives me the euphoria that I feel when I'm playing. It's that overwhelming feeling of joy and excitement all in one thing. There have been moments on stage where, even by myself or with a group, there's just that bubble of energy that you can't compare.

There are other people that can probably do that in other ways but music, that's what really gets me. You constantly want that which is why I keep doing it.

What have you learned about life through music?

Just to be patient. It's taught me to be patient, kind and receptive to everything that everybody has to offer. I think people should focus more on how everybody has a talent and a gift they can bring to the table. You should never think that yours is any better or worse than anybody else's. Stay confident and just care. Those things, that's what music has taught me and it continues to teach me that.