Next time they have Show and Tell at Morristown’s Thomas Jefferson School, music teacher Brad Marullo has something cool.
He can show a brand new CD, I’ll Be Coming Home, recorded with his SteppingSTONE band. And students can tell their parents to catch the group live on May 24, 2013, at the Dublin Pub on Pine Street.
Actually, none of this should come as too big a surprise at the TJ and Sussex Avenue schools, where Brad, 37, teaches instrumental music to 4th and 5th graders.
In 2011, he performed an instrumental version of U2’s With or Without You at the packed Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown’s Got Talent!, a benefit for the Morris School District, his professional home since leaving Jersey City five years ago. He also helped lead an impromptu sing-along with all the contestants at the talent show.
We caught up with Brad online to talk about his twin careers.
MORRISTOWNGREEN.COM: Congratulations on your new CD, I’ll Be Coming Home, with your SteppingSTONE band. I understand that creating this CD was an emotional experience for you and your band-mates. Tell us about that.
BRAD MARULLO: It definitely was. We put everything we had and every free moment into this CD. It’s something we are all very proud of.
The album is something we all have a strong connection to. We are all a part of the music in one way or another. For me personally, it is that life journey filled with one of the many joys of gaining experience that comes with age and just “growing up.”
Also, tapping into these life experiences and being touched and inspired by them, and by certain people you meet along the way that certainly makes an impact. The colors and layers I added are all directly and indirectly outpourings of those experiences and people in my life.
Combined with that, is just the fact of working with Ryan, JP, Eric and Tom. It has been a very rewarding experience. When I first heard Ryan’s music, I immediately connected to it both musically and lyrically. He is such a good storyteller with a soulful voice, that you can’t help but connect to the music. Working with these talented guys has helped us create and build a strong friendship and bond between us. You can hear the musicianship and chemistry throughout I’ll Be Coming Home.
MG: How long have you guys played together? How did SteppingSTONE get started? And what about that name?
BRAD: We have played together for about two years as the SteppingSTONE BAND.
A few of us played in another band together and that is basically how we all met. Tom Casperson, our drummer, met Ryan Schutz [lead singer] a couple of years ago and joined the band first.
He then brought in Eric Schaberg [vocals, violin, cello, mandolin] and myself and when I knew we needed a bass player I gave Jonathan Presnell (JP) a call because I knew he would be a perfect fit with his playing abilities and strong background vocals.
The name SteppingSTONE Band has a different meaning for all of us, I think. For me, I see it as a journey through life. Throughout life we will always encounter all these SteppingSTONEs that lead us and make us who we are.
Each stone we step on is an experience, an education and a moment in time that hopefully will lead us in the right direction. I think our music shows that, and Ryan is such a good storyteller with his lyrics, you can hear how both lyrically and musically our songs have become living, breathing outpourings of ourselves.
MG: Your day gig, as a teacher at the TJ and Sussex Avenue schools, is pretty demanding. How do you find energy to record and perform?
BRAD: That is a great question. I love my job as a teacher and working with my 4th- and 5th graders. It is demanding, but any stress I feel is all coming from a good place and for a good reason. I think the old adage “choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” holds true to some extent.
With that said, it is tough finding the time to record and perform and then be up early the next day for 4th- and 5th grade band rehearsal.
To be honest, sometimes I do feel like I am burning both ends of the candle but that’s what it is all about. I am just happy I can take what I have learned from being an active musician and bring it to my students in the classroom, and vice versa, take what I know from teaching and bring it to the band.
The same holds true for our violin player Eric Schaberg. He is the stings teacher at Randolph High School and his knowledge of teaching and music theory helps the band out so much.
MG: A couple of years back you competed in Morristown’s Got Talent. How did your students respond to that? What did you learn from the experience?
BRAD: Yes, performing for MGT was a great experience and another SteppingSTONE that was important in my life. The response from the students and the community was excellent. Their support was something I will always remember. It was great walking the hallways in school and all the kids coming up to me saying they saw me in the paper or on stage.
I think that is important for kids to see their teacher living what they teach. That was one of the main reasons why I auditioned for MGT. I learned a lot about performing as a solo artist, which is difficult and much different than performing with a full band. It’s not an easy thing to be on stage alone…just you and your instrument. That experience alone has made me a better performer.
MG: You’re listed on the CD liners notes as playing guitars, keyboards and lap steel. Do they ever let you sing? Do you write songs?
BRAD: I do help out a little with background vocals when we perform live. As far as writing songs, I do write my own songs but all the ones on I’ll Be Coming Home were written by Ryan Schutz.
MG: Which gives you greater pleasure–shaping a song in the recording studio, or performing it live?
BRAD: Another great question. Both are great experiences, but I think building the songs and adding our parts in is greater pleasure. Our drummer Tom Casperson said it best. Our songs are like a painting and we all take a brush and add our colors to the canvas.
One of the best moments on this album for me is when we first wrote and heard Bottle Of Wine. I remember rehearsing at Tom’s house in Andover and we were all downstairs taking a lunch break and Ryan went upstairs and started messing around with Bottle Of Wine.
A few minutes later I went upstairs and started playing the guitar hook and then Eric, Tom and JP came upstairs and added their colors.
The song was born and really blossomed into what it is today. Very cool experience to see something start so small and then metamorphose and grow into what it is today. Amazing process to see. I actually still have a recording of that rehearsal and that moment.
MG: How did you get into music? Who were your influences? Is guitar or keyboard your preferred instrument? What do you enjoy most about playing?
BRAD: I got into music when I was in sixth grade. My Uncle Pat had passed away and left a piano and guitar behind. My parents started me on piano lessons for a couple of years and later on I eventually found my Uncle’s guitar in my brother’s closest collecting dust. It was then that I was bit by the bug.
My two brothers have also been a big influence in my life. As the youngest, they always looked out for me and had my best interest at heart. I always looked up to them and gravitated towards what ever they were doing or into. I remember as a teenager, I would sneak into my bother Jer’s room and go though his CD collection.
At the time, CD’s were new and he had a small collection of about 15 CDs, which was a lot back then and amazing to me. I would listen to Pink Floyd (The Wall) and Zeppelin’s Since I’ve Been Loving You over and over and be amazed at what I was hearing. Jer also played the drums, so him and I would jam and write songs all the time. It was a great outlet and bonding moment for us.
MG: For people who will be seeing your band for the first time at the Pub, what can they expect?
BRAD: This is not a band we formed to just to have fun or be weekend warriors. We believe in what we created. This is real music and well written and they should expect to hear great music and something the five of us are all very proud of.
MG: What musical projects are next for you?
BRAD: We are hoping this CD will lead to better gigs. Maybe a festival or two, or open for someone. So right now we are working towards widening our playing radius and getting our music out there. We also started talking about working on new music and eventually recording a follow up CD.
MG: Thanks, Brad. Keep the hits coming!