Today is record store day, and it is a wonderful day. The web is full of wistful remembrances of people buying their first album. By now, I have heard for the 319th time the story of my husband walking in front of his favorite record store and seeing Nebraska in the window, and how excited he was by the new Springsteen record. I have also heard him wax poetic about the triple gatefold Yes albums, and the magic of Roger Dean album covers (and the mandatory “try doing that on an .mp3). So I think I’ll spare you another record store day trip down memory lane.
However, I would like to share what record store day means to me as an artist. How wonderful it is when you find that (now rare) record store where people go to get buying advice from the owner, and when you actually form a relationship with that store. That happened to me in Italy, in a small town near Milano called Gallarate. Nestled right in the middle of this small square is a wonderful record store called Caru’ Dischi which is owned and operated by Paolo Caru’. In all fairness, Paolo is much more than a record store owner. As the co-founder and one of the main editors of Buscadero, Italy’s leading roots rock magazine, he has been an ambassador and champion of great American and British music over there for the past 30 years. And there are hundreds of artists who are on a first name basis with him. In the pre-internet world, the combination of Buscadero and Caru’s mail order business were one of the few channels that Italian music fans had to discover indie artists. One could say that Paolo was a one man Record Store Day every day, since he had access to rare undiscovered vinyl gems year round.
One of Paolo’a greatest qualities is how passionate he is about music and discovering new artists and introducing them to his audience. Almost every summer he and his wife Anna, who runs the great bookstore next door, travel to the U.S., looking for undiscovered independent artists to write about in the magazine and sell their music through their store. On any week-end day or late afternoon, you can be in Paolo’s store, and someone will walk into the store and ask Paolo: “What is good this week?”. And Paolo, knowing that person’s taste, will roll off a list of records that he/she may like.
My husband grew up in Italy reading Buscadero and, as soon as my first record Brave and Wild was done, he sent it to Paolo. We were really happy to find out that he liked it, and a short while later, the magazine gave it a great review. And that was only the beginning. As a result of that connection, Caru’ now carries copies of all my records. Through Paolo, I met Italian promoters who worked with me so that I could tour Italy three times. I was also invited to perform at Buscadero Day, Italy’s best roots rock festival in 2010 (that year it was headlined by Son Volt and Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women). And I’ll never forget one of my favorite shows of that 2010 tour: the acoustic show we did at his store. Imagine a tiny square space surrounded on all sides by record stacks, and you get the idea. We fit a full trio plus audience in that tiny space, and it was an intimate and special experience that I’ll never forget.
Now, four years later, we’ve developed a relationship with Paolo, and now we consider him and Anna more friends than anything else. Every time we go to Italy to visit my husband’s family, we go on our ritual visit at Caru’ to get the two or three best Italian records of the year (as recommended by Paolo, of course). Sometimes, we even discover a new American artist! So today, if you are anywhere near Gallarate, celebrate Record Store Day by going to visit Paolo at Caru’ Dischi. I am sure he will have two or three great picks for you…