Neil Giraldo is married to, and plays alongside, 1980s chart topper Pat Benatar. They’ve been working together now for over 30 years and their live show is heading to Atlanta. We got a chance to talk with Giraldo about his musical beginnings, his relationship with Pat and cookbooks.
When you and your wife Pat met in 1979, do you remember what you were thinking?
I was just finishing a record with Rick Derringer up in Woodstock, NY and one of the producers for Rick said, “I want you to meet this girl, she just got signed and she has no band. I think it’d be a great opportunity for you to start something brand new with her together.” I met her and we got along really good right away. I sat down at the piano and started playing some stuff then I said, “I’d love to hear you sing. Let’s hear what you got, let’s see what you can do.” She started singing and I started playing some guitar and we knew immediately – I was always searching to work with a great singer and start something right from the very beginning. That was really important to me. I was playing with Rick who was an established player and a professional, but I wanted to do something on my own right from the very beginning. So,this was perfect. It was great because there was no musical identity, we created it together and that was really special.
Was guitar the first instrument you started playing?
I started guitar when I was about 7 years old. I was playing guitar since my father wanted me to do duets with my sister on accordion. I wasn’t a big fan of guitar, I didn’t really want to play it. I wanted to be a football player but I was way too small for that so that would never happen. We had a piano in the house, an old beat up piano. I just started playing piano when I was about 10 years old.
You’ve written/produced/arranged more than 100 songs for Pat. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
It’s hard, it’s really not a conscious effort. You act as a conduit. Ideas just come to you without thinking about them. If you start thinking about them they don’t come, so you put yourself in a position to keep your mind open and creative ideas start happening. The producing part and the arranging, that’s just something I’ve always done since I was a kid. When I started playing guitar I wasn’t playing guitar for myself, I used it as a tool. I wanted it to be a piece of a bigger picture. So, when I listen to records I listen to the arrangements. I wish I could’ve played football, but you know what? I do OK doing this, better than I would do being a football player so it worked out OK.
So after all these years of touring, do you guys still get that thrill onstage?
Absolutely. It’s very funny because before we hit the stage we can be really tired but as soon as you step on the stage something happens. It just gets right in your blood and there you go. It’s great because it’s a moment and you’re only interested in living in that one moment. There’s no stress, it’s just great.
How do you guys connect with your audience?
We do it two ways. One is by speaking. One is by example. We give people hope in a lot of different areas. Not only lyrically, not only musically, but also by example by watching us. When you see us play live it’s as if you’ve entered our living room so you really get a peek into really what we’re about as a couple, as professional musicians…you get a glimpse that you don’t get from a lot of other acts. You’re giving them hope.
Do you remember the first concert you went to?
Absolutely. My first concert was The Who in 1966 or ’67 in Cleveland, OH.
What are three songs you’ve been playing on repeat recently?
“Salute Your Solution” – The Raconteurs
“Be Mine” – The Heavy
“I Can’t Escape From You” – Hank Williams
What’s the best concert you’ve ever seen?
It would either be The Who in 1967 or Led Zeppelin in 1968. Those two. They were so impressionable and so magical. I was so young and so ready to tear it up.
Lastly, what’s going on for you and Pat for the rest of the year?
We’ll be doing a Christmas record of all original songs that I’m going to have all kinds of different people guest on. That’s going to be interesting – it won’t be until next year. We’re also writing a cookbook because we both love to cook. It’s really about stories about our lives growing up and as a couple to back them up.
You can catch Pat and Neil June 23rd at the Atlanta Botanical Garden! Hurry up and grab tix because it’s this weekend!