T.J. Sacco Interview
("Syracuse, New York's Rising Country Star" )

He’s called “Syracuse, New York’s Rising Country Star” and it’s easy to see why!
He gave us a lucrative career at New Venture Gear (Chrysler) in DeWitt, New York to follow his dreams.
T.J. Sacco headed down South to Nashville where he spent the better part of a year performing in that city’s Top Clubs.
Back in town, he’s recording and performing with his band Electric Rodeo.
T.J. Sacco talked with us about his journey.

Q – T.J. I’ve been following your story for quite some time now. You actually gave up your job at New Venture Gear to try your luck at landing a record deal in Nashville?
A – Yes. I was at New Venture Gear for 10 years. Just after I was vested there I was able to go in and file my retirement papers rather than just quit. I left to change my career. It was one or the other. I couldn’t spend another 30 years in there, so, I gave it a try and moved down to Nashville.

Q – What were you doing at New Venture Gear?
A – I did everything. I was a Set-up man. I was a repairman. I was a Test-Bug Operator. I was a fork-lift Operator. I worked assembly lines. I worked machines. There wasn’t anything I didn’t do in the building. I ran every job at one point or another.

Q – You didn’t start your musical career until you were 21 or had you been in bands before that?
A – In high school a couple of my friends played instruments. They played away and I tried to sing, some lyrics. I think the Cars’ song was the only song I ever did. I never knew I could really sing. No one ever told me I could sing or sounded good, so I never pursued it until years later when I was 20 years old, at a Karaoke bar. People said I could sing and I just took a liking to it.

Q – So, it all started in that night?
A – Right. Enough people started telling me I was pretty good. I was working at a bar called Schultzies downtown. (Syracuse). It was the old Dailey’s. Mike Crissan was playing. He’s still around today and I know very well. He was playing and I was watching him and I said, boy, I really want to do this. Brian Schultz, the owner of the bar and a good friend of mine Brian Renna said, ‘You don’t play an instrument. You don’t sing’. I said, ‘Well, I could learn’. They said, ‘Well, pick a day you want to play’. That was in November ’91. I picked my 21st birthday, May 30th of ’93. I played my first show. I had about 300 people there. I just fell in love with it. I never stopped. I taught myself how to play the guitar in 6 months. Enough to get out and play a 4 hour show anyway.

Q – Just you, no band?
A – Yeah. I had a friend of mine sit in for a couple of songs. He played the guitar on a couple of songs for me.

Q – And 300 people was quite a crowd at that particular bar?
A – Oh, definitely. It was back at a time too when I was working in a bar. I was young. I knew a lot of people. It was Schultzies in downtown Syracuse.

Q - So, you left New Venture Gear and went to Nashville. How long were you down there?
A – I was there for about a year and a month.

Q – Was your plan to only give it a year? Why aren’t you still down there?
A – I was playing. I had a 4 day a week gig right on lower Broadway and as much as I dreamed about being a singer I also had a dream about owning my own establishment, my own bar. I thought that would also help me further my own musical career by booking bands and getting to know more people in bands by having a bar with ‘live’ music all the time. I wanted to model it after Nashville. So, I came back and opened Zip’s Tap Room with my sister. We brought that building (on Burnet Ave in Syracuse) back to shape and got the bar going and they denied us an entertainment license. So, my plans were shot right out the window. I had that for 2 years. I sold it and got my band back together, a different band and I’ve been going strong here in Syracuse for about 2 years since.

Q – What do you mean they denied you an entertainment license?
A – They denied us to have bands in the bar. In the city of Syracuse you have to have a special music license. I went before a Town Board, a City Board. The neighbors complained saying there would be too many cars around. They said you can have an acoustic performer. One instrument and one vocal at any time. That’s all you can have. We were allowed to do acoustic shows, but that wasn’t what I was looking to do. I was looking to further my career and help me out and that kind of side-tracked me here in Syracuse for a little bit.

Q – T.J. the neighbors might’ve had a valid point there. The houses are close together in that area.
A – Oh, sure.

Q – Probably something you and your sister should’ve looked into a little more before you bought the bar. What do you think? Looking back on it.
A – Yeah. Looking back on it, it probably wouldn’t have hurt to do that, yeah. They got music down at Shifty’s, a block away. They’re blaring away with the same amount of houses, so.

Q – When you were down in Nashville playing 4 nights a week, would industry people come out to see you?
A – No. Nashville is not what it used to be in that way. There’s so many people they don’t come out anymore. You have to hunt them down. They don’t come out anymore. I did make contact with some singers, some songwriters, a couple of agents that came through. It’s hard to trust anybody down there. Just like with the songs. You hear a lot of stories about going down there and getting messed around with. They do mess around with you. A lot of people like to come in and tease you, telling you they’re an agent from this co. or that co.  That’s not always the case. Very skeptical town. You gotta be careful.

Q – So, how’s a guy who’s a singer/songer who wants a record deal in Nashville supposed to get such a deal?
A – I don’t know. Nashville Star I guess. ‘American Idol’. That seems to be taking over everything to be a faster route to it. I’ve been going at it for 14 years. You go to publishers and you can’t get published until you have a song deal. You go to the record cos. and you can’t get a song published because you don’t have a record deal. They send you back and forth. It pretty much comes down to who you know and who do you have to invest the money in you. Nowadays you have to have your own money to start up. That’s the first thing they ask you-----how much money you’ve got. So, unless you find someone who believes in you enough to invest in you…..

Q – You recorded your first CD in Nashville?
A – No. I recorded 2 here. I recorded an acoustic CD and I recorded one with my first band called ‘Reflections’. That would be my third CD that I recorded down there.

Q – Was it more expensive to record down there?
A – Definitely. Yeah.

Q – But, you did it as a learning experience?
A – Yes. It was nice to get into a studio with some professional musicians. These guys were top notch. They knew what they were doing, the sound they were going for, the sound I was going for. Actually, that saves you money right there when you know what you’re doing rather than going in and trying to figure it out when you get into the studio.

Q – You’re billed as “Syracuse, New York’s Rising Country Star”. Do you like that?
A – Yeah. I’d like to think that after 14 years we’re getting some more recognition. We did just get nominated as being one of the Top 5 Bands in the ‘Best Of Syracuse’. So for a Country Band to come along in Syracuse it’s been a real long time probably since the late 70’s that there’s really a stir about Country music, local Country music going on. We’re starting to get into downtown bars like Bull And Bear, Shennanigans, Downton Manhattan. So, you can see Country going into places like that you can see we’re doing something right. I would hope we’re doing something right anyway. (Laughs).

Official website: www.tjsacco.com

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