By Bobbie Katz
Some artists have their heads in the clouds. But new Las Vegas headliner Frankie Moreno is happy having his way up there where the air is rare -- right smack in the Stratosphere.
For this one-of-a-kind singer/songwriter/musician/showman who is the resident headliner at that hotel, indeed it’s all about “headspace” – best described as he and the audience residing in the same vibe as he performs with his 10-piece band. Feeling that “vibe” is the keyword to the music industry today, Moreno puts on an eclectic show, much of it his original music, which resonates with the crowd every time.
”I was 13 when I started writing music,” says the 35-year-old Moreno, who co-wrote Air Supply’s first hit in 20 years, the 2010 radio single “Dance With Me,” which went to number 7 on Billboard’s Top 40 chart, and also had a number 1 hit on the Classical Crossover charts in 2011 with “Eleanor Rigby” from the number 1 album he recorded with violinist Joshua Bell and friends. “To me, there was no sense in singing someone else’s stuff. When the Stratosphere offered me the showroom and said I could do my original songs, I was thrilled.
“I change the show nightly – a lot of it is ad-lib,” he continues. “It’s not scripted. It’s more like a concert than a show. By dwindling down a selection of crowd and personal favorites, the show now encompasses a variety of standards as well as original works. My music is hard to categorize. I just call it ‘Frankie Moreno music.’ This town is all about entertainment. I just put my own twist on it.”
When it comes to his songwriting, Moreno doesn’t sit still and wait for inspiration to come to him. Every few months, he will go to a random place, away from the everyday milieu, and compose. Those random places include Vienna, Austria; Venice, Italy; Florence, Italy; Egypt; Germany, and Mexico.
“Two of my musical influences are Beethoven and Mozart,” Moreno reveals. “I’ll find a park where Mozart wrote symphonies and write and play my guitar there. Or I’ll go to where Michelangelo used to paint and I’ll sit and write music. My songs are eclectic and cover a broad spectrum – my other influences are Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, and Michael Buble.”
Having recorded 13 albums, his latest CD will not only be Moreno’s first self-titled one but will also be the first to be released on a a national level. Simply called Frankie Moreno, the new vehicle is a product of Moreno’s home studio where he records and produces his own music and does some writing, too.
“We’ve kind of been working for Sony Records,” he explains, “but it takes a long time to get things done. So they are allowing me the freedom to do things on my own. Record labels are not what they used to be 10-20 years ago because of the Internet. If you get a successful producer for a label, it’s not about the label anymore – it’s about the guy who produced that record and it becomes his record. These are my records, my thoughts, my emotions – all me. No one told me what to do. My music is completely me and what I believe in. And though it defies categorization, I look at it as an art form.”
While, admittedly, Moreno doesn’t want to be pinned down to a certain genre, he is also aware that that doesn’t fly in the music industry. To that avail, he and the band began focusing on a certain style. While still unnamed, it consists of a rock rhythm section with jazz horns and classical strings.
Moreno actually began playing piano at the age of 3 and singing in front of people when he was 10, In fact, he performed on the TV show Star Search when he was 10. By the time he was 11-12, he was singing on cruise ships while his father played guitar for him. Moreno was the youngest entertainer to ever perform on Holland-America Cruise Lines.
At 18, Moreno signed with Warner Brothers records in Nashville. Although he had a large catalogue of music he had written, the record company wouldn’t let him record his original music but rather gave him songs that their writers had written for him. So he signed on as a staff songwriter for a publishing company and began writing for other artists. He also got gigs playing piano for some big names in live performance.
Becoming jaded with the way the recording industry worked, Moreno soon ended up leaving Warner Brothers and went out on his own, making records in his own home recording studio and selling them online. In his early 20s, he and his four-piece band became the first house band at The Venetian in Las Vegas. Developing a large fan base, Moreno and the band moved to the city and played numerous casinos. Although his was one of the hardest working bands in town, Moreno eventually tired of the scene because no one was playing original music.
“I got frustrated and became a rebel,” he admits. “I was called a loose cannon. I had a vision of what I wanted to do and I knew it would eventually happen. I toured with Billy Carrington for a year and went on the road with Sugarland. Two years ago, I wrote “Dance With Me” with Graham Russell, the lead singer of Air Supply, and I also wrote 5 of the 11 songs on their Mumbo Jumbo CD. I was playing the Palms when the folks from the Stratosphere came in and offered the showroom. It had taken me 10 years to become a headliner in Vegas doing my original music.”
From the time he opened at the hotel in November 2011, Moreno was packing the room. Even today, it’s not surprising to see stars sitting amongst the crowd.
“What excites me is that I look at all the other bands in town and I tell them to play their own original music,” he enthuses. “There are great musicians here and we could be creating more of a music scene in Las Vegas.”
Things are definitely looking “up” at the Stratosphere.
This article appears by courtesy of Vegas Insider Daily.com.