Skip to main content

Originally published Friday, June 8, 2012 at 5:31 AM

  • Share:
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Smooth sailing with Rocky Votolato's new sound

Rocky Votolato, who came up 15 years ago as singer-guitarist for the Seattle band Waxwing but now concentrates on a softer, folkish sound, is playing at Seattle's Neumos on Saturday, June 9.

Special to The Seattle Times

On the Internet

Hear Rocky Votolato:; search "Red River."

Concert preview

Rocky Votolato

Doors open at 8 p.m. Saturday at Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., Seattle; $13 advance (206-709-9442 or
Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
No comments have been posted to this article.
Start the conversation >


Rocky Votolato — who plays Neumos Saturday — first sailed into port 15 years ago as singer-guitarist for the band Waxwing.

The post-grunge foursome worked up a tempestuous racket, channeling fellow Seattleites Sunny Day Real Estate's sweeping sound but adding a metallic flair. But it was Votolato's blanket-warm vocals — limited in range, yet rich in emotion — that truly set Waxwing apart.

Amid the din lurked a troubadour. Votolato seemed to know it. In 1999, he began navigating the calmer waters of acoustic folk-rock, and has been steering with a mostly steady hand since.

Following 2010's "True Devotion," however, things started looking a bit, well ... rocky. Votolato's contract with Seattle's Barsuk label was up, complicating plans for his seventh solo voyage, "Television of Saints." A two-week studio session, in which an album's worth of content was scrapped, led to a canceled European tour and a full revision of his plans.

"My management, friends and family all thought I was crazy at the time," Votolato says in a phone interview.

To right the ship, he not only rerecorded "Television" at home, but brought that concerned family aboard. Brothers Cody and Sonny played second guitar and bass, respectively; his wife, April, made the cover art. A wildly successful Kickstarter campaign — with original paintings by son Kienan among rewards for supporters — financed the release.

"A family affair, all-around," Votolato says proudly. "I like opening the liner notes and seeing all our names listed there."

With 10 tracks at just over half-an-hour, "Television" doesn't drift.

"I focus a lot on being concise," says the 35-year-old musician.

There's a disarming softness to songs like "Little Spring," with its multitracked vocal and Simon-and-Garfunkel-like descending chord progression. "Sunlight" is a pastoral country hymn with harmonica and slide-guitar adornments.

Though he's dialed down the volume, Votolato's punk upbringing remains an influence. In a nod to years playing house shows as a member of Waxwing, he still tests the waters on new material in fans' living rooms.

These excursions, Votolato says with a laugh, "are a bit different than the ones I did when I was younger, in punk basements," but the artist-audience connection is similar.

"It's immediate and intimate, the way acoustic music is meant to be experienced," he says.

Charlie Zaillian:

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Time to add another piece to your Hawks collection

Time to add another piece to your Hawks collection

Check out the full lineup of championship merchandise from The Seattle Times store.