Rocky Votolato Brings New Perspective To Constellation Room


ROCKY VOTOLATO plays Casbah Aug. 20, Constellation Room Aug. 22 and more Photo: Amber Knecht

When Rocky Votolato steps out to greet fans attending his performance at The Constellation Room in Santa Ana on Aug. 24, they will see something rare for most current shows, one man and one guitar. No band, effects or gimmicks will join Votolato on stage, just his heartfelt, honest songs that perfectly capture the confusion and mystery of life.

Born in Texas, Votolato moved to the Pacific Northwest during his formative high school years. It was there that his love for music began, “I got up there and started going to punk shows and it was just such a vibrant all ages scene at the time,” he said. “I saw bands like Fugazi and Jawbreaker and I was really grateful to be exposed to everything that was going on.”

Encouraged by the Pacific Northwest’s flourishing music scene as well as local radio station, KEXP, Votolato began playing in bands and writing music.

“Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie and all those bands were just getting started,” he said. “Some of my first shows were Death Cab and there were so many people in that scene that I was a part of that went on to have really successful careers in music and I think it just kind of fed into the scene there. KEXP being there and supporting artists that didn’t necessarily want to be a part of the mainstream or had a more underground approach or a DIY approach was huge for me and for a lot of other bands. That’s something that helps fuel the fire.”

The influences of some of Votolato’s first shows are reflected in his music. Though his solo albums veer from his punk roots, they maintain an intensity that is personified in the music, a demand to heed the words being sung because they can start a revolution in your soul.

Using his own experiences as inspiration for lyrics, Votolato writes indie-rock/folk music that finds stability and harmony while navigating the tricky waters of intense emotions.

“The main thing is the lyrics for me, making sure that they are communicating something I want to and just telling stories and trying to capture something transcendent and beautiful that way,” he said.

His forthright lyrics and cradling melodies keep his career strong and steady. Fifteen years, seven solo studio albums and countless tour dates later, an unexpected discomfort with making music crept into Votolato’s mind.

“Trust that everything happening is perfect,” Votolato sings in the first song on his latest studio album, “Hospital Handshakes.” Those words carry extra meaning for the singer whose demons had him questioning his musical purpose. After suffering from a bout of depression that coincided with a lack of musical inspiration and writer’s block, Votolato found himself considering retirement from music for a more stable life. In the end, after taking time away from recording and touring, as well as seeking help with his depression, Votolato’s music came flooding back in a flurry of original songs that would end up being the tracks on his latest album.

“That whole experience was extremely difficult, but I think it was also a gift because it kind of clarified things for me and gave me a new perspective,” he said. “You know, just kind of not being so hard on myself and being a little bit less of a perfectionist with everything I did with my career and with my music and just trying to let things flow and have fun.”

As evidenced by his current tour schedule, jam-packed with cross-country dates, Votolato is back to doing what he loves most.

“Sometimes you need to get away from it for a minute and have perspective to know what you loved about it in the first place and go back to it with that original inspiration,” Votolato said. Votolato’s upcoming intimate shows in Southern California are sure to have attendees feeling his renewed creativity and passion.

Rocky Votolato is also appearing at Casbah Aug. 20, The Garage Aug. 24 and The Troubadour Aug. 25.