Tony Kamel is about to head into the studio to try some some duets with female artists. Luckily we caught up with Kamel amidst his busy schedule of performing, being a semi-at-home dad, perfecting his burgeoning TikTok skills, and making endless trips to Lowe’s for his latest construction project (a personal writing studio that he’s calling his “dojo”). Although he is perhaps best known as the lead singer of the Grammy-nominated band Wood & Wire, he now has a solo album under his belt and is about to go back into the studio for a special semi-secret project. Here are some highlights from our talk.
Take us back to your early days as a musician in Austin. How did you get into the scene?
“Starting around 2007 or so, I wanted to learn how to pick bluegrass. I didn’t know anybody, so I went on Craigslist and met this guy… who was looking for someone to pick with and then he introduced me to the whole scene-- The Central Texas Bluegrass Association, there was a really cool open jam at this place called Artz Rib House that I started going to and that’s where I started meeting people. The guys (Wood & Wire) were all so much better than me. So I had to play up to their level, so I had to work hard at it.”
Your tracks can be funny and sentimental with some topical content and pop culture references. How do you write your songs?
“There are songwriters that write like a song a day. I’m not one of those guys. I have to wait for it to come to me, like this feeling of creativity to get there… I rewrite a lot… After a while, even if you think its done, rewrite it… When I say rewrite the song I don’t mean start over. Edit. Edit yourself and look for places that you can make it just a little more interesting… It’s amazing how literally one word-- one word in a song-- can be like, ‘ok that’s it, now it’s ready.’”
You released your first solo album last year. Did you feel more pressure because you had to make the majority of the decisions or was it somewhat freeing, being able to do whatever you wanted?
“I was worried, honestly, that people would think it was kind of a joke that I was doing something that had drums and electric instruments. But I kind of accidentally became a career bluegrass musician. Wood & Wire was started for fun and we just grew… I had other influences before and during the last decade and I was anxious to try something different.” It was “definitely freeing in a lot of ways. There’s more pressures associated with that but it was freeing.
“That’s not to say that I don’t miss playing with the guys. There’s a special creative bond that we had on a creative level that I’ll never get again. There’s something that we had that was so unique and special that I’ll never get again. So I do miss that terribly.”
Do you plan on recording anything soon?
“We’ve got a couple of dates with producer Bruce Robison and the Next Waltz set in September… We’re just going to go in and start messing with some duet stuff. With some women that I like singing with. I don’t know whether anything will come of it or not but I like singing with girls. So I hope to see if we can record some duet songs with a couple of different female singers. And I don’t know if it will be cool or not yet -we won’t until we do it.”