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Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Michael Cartellone on Drumming and Painting

Michael Cartellone has a fantastic job as the drummer of Rock and Roll Hall of fame band Lynyrd Skynyrd who will play at iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach on July 21, but he also is a visual artist. An exhibit of Cartellone’s new works will show at the Wentworth Gallery at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood on Thursday, July 20.

Before that one two punch of his artistic and musical capabilities,  Michael Cartellone hopped on to the Jitney to answer a few questions.

When did you first fall in love with music?

Michael Cartellone: Some of my earliest and fondest memories as a child are about music. Music was always playing in our home: my parents loved Big Band Swing from the 1940’s. I still love that music to this day). My older sisters were playing Beatles (who immediately became my favorite band) and a lot of Motown.

How did you end up joining Lynyrd Skynyrd?

In 1998, Skynyrd were recording an album called Edge of Forever. It was being produced by Ron Nevison, who had produced both albums from my previous band, Damn Yankees. Ron hired me to play percussion on that Skynyrd album and it went so well that they asked me to join the band.

As a drummer how did you personally first approach joining such a famous and established band?

As shown in the above answer, it happened in a natural progression of events. Also, just prior to the recording of Edge of Forever, I was playing with Tommy Shaw (my former Damn Yankees bandmate) as the opening act on a Skynyrd tour. During the course of that tour, I was getting to know the Skynyrd band, socially. That helped establish friendships, which paved the way for my joining the band, not long after.

What can audiences expect on this new Skynyrd tour?

Since we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the first Skynyrd album Pronounced, we are creating a new show for this tour. We have new staging, lighting, video and a different song list, playing some old favorites we haven’t performed in awhile. It’s going to be a great tour made even better by sharing the stage with our old friends, ZZ Top.

You’re also an artist whose work will be displayed at Hard Rock. What will people be able to see at the exhibition?

Wentworth Gallery (at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood) are currently exhibiting some of my new works. There is a Beatles themed painting and a Lynyrd Skynyrd themed painting, both recently completed. I am very proud of these paintings and I encourage people to go see them.

Can you walk us through your artistic process from inspiration to completion?

The new Beatles painting is called “Ringo”. He is my favorite drummer, from my favorite band, so it didn’t take much for the inspiration to happen. The painting captures what it was like to be him … as The Beatles performed their iconic rooftop concert in 1969. You see what Ringo saw, sitting behind the drums and looking out at the other Beatles and the London skyline. I did extensive research for this painting … studying photos and films to get exact details before I began painting. I made sure everything from the aged drumheads, to the brick and mortar patterns on the buildings, looked authentic. It took me a year to paint this painting and it was a true labor of love.

Who are some of your influences as a visual artist and as a drummer?

As a visual artist: Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Seurat, Magritte, Roy Lichtenstein, Norman Rockwell and M.C. Escher.

As a drummer: Ringo Starr, Bill Bruford, Terry Bozzio, Stewart Copeland, John Bonham and Neil Peart.

Are there any similarities to creating art and drumming or do they work completely different parts of your brain?

For me, painting and drumming have always been two halves of a whole. They compliment, motivate, nurture and balance each other. I have done both, simultaneously, my whole life. I can’t imagine doing one without the other.

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