Words with Stylish Songwriter Jim Campilongo
NYC store manager Jim Parker speaks with award-winning guitarist Jim Campilongo on dressing for life and stage.
Jim Campilongo is wearing The Armoury Lambswool College Shawl Collar Cardigan, Drake's Chambray Shirt, vintage ascot (his own)
NYC shop manager Jim Parker gives us a vignette into his life, sitting down after his bi-weekly guitar lessons with award-winning instrumentalist, Jim Campilongo. The pair discuss the importance of dressing up—both on and off stage.
JP: I’m interested in how certain musicians and performers dress on stage. For some of them, it’s obviously not about what they wear. For others, it definitely is. I think you fall into the latter category, where you’ve put some thought into what you’re wearing when you’re performing.
Where did that come from?
JC: Well if you look at it, you know, you can do a Youtube search, and see me as a young man with black hair and dressed up. Part of it is because I like a certain era of country music, like Ernest Tubb.
Those guys— they wore suits and dressed up—they wore ascots, they wore matching suits. So one of the first things I started getting into were Gene Autry suits, and they were literally made for Gene Autry. I still have some. I bought a few, and one I traded guitar lessons for. You see in Beverly Hills, they were great suits, and I had the whole band in them.
I think about Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. I’m not saying I’m either one, but they are considered more timeless, because they’re fashionable. It gives a dignity and value to what they’re doing, as opposed to a dirty t-shirt and jeans that don’t fit or whatever. I also want the audience to know that I’m respecting them, and respecting what I do, that I thought about it earlier.
I think there’s something cool too about guys that show up in a t-shirt they wore the day of the job.
But I don’t want to be that kind of cool. My cool is that I thought about this, I take it seriously. The other theory I have is: the worse the venue is, the more I dress up. I really want to look like I don’t belong there.
Jim Campilongo is wearing The Armoury Lambswool Basketweave Sweater paired with his vintage Levi's "Trucker" jacket
JP: You mentioned old jazz guys like Thelonious and Miles, who is one of my favorite dressers of all time. I like Roy Buchanan, and the crazy 70s look. Is there anyone else?
JC: Yeah, yeah, yeah. When Roy would wear weird golf pants, he looked like he was dressing for Easter, but it was kind of cool. Yeah, I mean that’s a good example.
I just like fashion. I used to wear more country stuff and suits. What I want to get is one of those black velvet suit jackets. Roy was wearing a red maroon shirt with a velveteen jacket for a while with those weird golf pants.
I don’t know if I’d do the weird golf pants, but I’d definitely do the velveteen. You know what I’ve been doing lately: the 70s disco look. I’ve been getting all these ruffled shirts, and it looks cool. I’ve been getting into New York salsa, 70s New York salsa.
I really dig the way those guys dress: the shirts, polyester pants. I’ve been getting shirts like that and wearing them. So that’s my latest thing. I’m doing it for my fun too.
JP: Tell me about the latest record.
JC: Well, we recorded every show for about a year and a half. We completely forgot that the microphones were on, and I collected all the thumbdrives of every show. I cherry-picked what I thought were the best performances, and made them into a record. That’s called Live at Rockwood Music Hall NYC. It chronicles this era with Chris Morrissey on bass and Josh Dion on drums. We have a great chemistry, and it’s very uninhibited.
Sometimes when you go into the studio, you might lean towards craftsmanship. We go some places live that I really wanted to capture.
Jim Campilongo is an award winning Brooklyn-based guitarist who has recorded and performed with a wide array of artists including: Norah Jones, Martha Wainwright, Nels Cline, and Cake. His latest record, Live at Rockwood Music Hall NYC, was recorded with his trio over several months of their weekly residency at Rockwood Music Hall in New York. It can be purchased here.