Chris Desa – Interview

Folk singer-songwriter Chris Desa is interviewed about his musical upbringing, his favorite guitar to play, his prolific body of work over the years, and much more.

What first got you into music?

I started playing piano at the age of four. My mom was an accomplished pianist and vocalist, so the family was introduced to music at an early age. In 1968 I started learning guitar (4 chords were shown to me by a family friend) after which I was self taught listening to performers on vinyl records and the radio. In 1969 My music teacher in boarding school recognized that I had some talent and taught me to play virtually every instrument in the school band, with the exception of the violin, which he advised me to stay away from! (I could play 13 instruments when I graduated high school in 1971).

Who are some of your influences?

Earliest influences were The Beatles, Peter Paul and Mary, The Seekers, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Jim Croce Leonard Cohen, Crosby Stills & Nash, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Don Maclean, James Taylor, John McLaughlin and Chet Atkins, to name a few.

I prefer songs that mean something through words manifested in the lyrics, which is why I like folk music

What’s your favorite guitar to play?

My beloved 12 String Ovation – Glen Campbell model. (I currently have 11 guitars, 6, 9 and 12string, acoustic and electric).

What draws you to your preferred genre?

I prefer songs that mean something through words manifested in the lyrics, which is why I like folk music. As a singer songwriter and performer, I prefer to be a solo act as I tend to interpret songs differently than the original composer intended.

What is your favorite song to perform?

“Vincent” by Don Maclean.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

Music speaks louder than words. play and sing so that the message of the song gets through to the listeners.

How did you get your start in the Savannah music scene?

I’ve been a member of the Savannah Folk Society since 1993 after moving to Savannah in 1992. Our bi-monthly picking jams at the time, allowed me to meet and play with several local musicians. When we began our First Friday series in the mid 90’s I was a frequent performer and that in turn gave me some exposure to the local scene. In 1997 I was interviewed by renowned music journalist J.R. Roseberry who wrote a huge two page article about me and my professional career as well as love for music. I was also guitarist for our church (St Peter the Apostle) since 1993 and when our kids were in school there, played for the weekly 9 am mass on Sunday as well as most school masses whenever I was in town. I have played at numerous weddings/ funerals and other functions whenever requested.

Newer artists and performers are always emerging, particularly in the younger generation which seems to be progressing quite well

Talk about your favorite local venues to perform in …

I hosted our First Friday series for over five years as President of the Folk Music Society and enjoyed “Stewart Hall ” at First Presbyterian Church. When we had the “Third Thursday’s on Tybee” series for several years, rain sites like Spankys accommodated us. I will miss the Bayou Cafe now shuttered, where I would occasionally jam with Eric Culberson and his band. A few months ago I was invited to perform at the 5 SPOT and enjoyed that evening as did many of the listening clientele. Johnny Harris was a great venue where our Savannah Songwriters series was very successful, its demise is sorely missed.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the Savannah music scene?

Savannah has a very diverse and eclectic music scene. Newer artists and performers are always emerging, particularly in the younger generation which seems to be progressing quite well. Sadly, with the Covid situation and closure of many venues locally and nationwide, live performances have been adversely affected. Professional musicians, stage hands, venues etc. have indeed been dealt with a severe blow, which will be hard to recover from.

What’s next for you?

My professional work in the Maritime Industry keeps me quite busy but I still try to find time to play music. Hopefully, in a few years, when I do decide to retire, I’ll have more time for music and perform for attentive audiences who enjoy listening.

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