Late to the writing table, journeyman musician Dave Vargo, who has already toured extensively as a sideman, has established a major local solo career in the Asbury Park area. Amid recording his third independent album since 2016, Dave has been honored by Makin Waves as Songwriter of the Year 2021 based on the strength of two impressive singles: the pandemic anthem “Half Bad” and the confessional “Fault Lines”. Dave also made waves with three wholesome and hearty projects:
- Musicians on a Mission: A non-profit organization that builds connections and inspires donations by raising awareness and funds for local charities through planned music events featuring New Jersey artists
- Asbury Park Porchfest: an Asbury Park Homeowners’ Association charity event that collects donations and merchandise proceeds for local charities from two dozen porch concerts throughout Asbury Park by over 100 musicians for crowds which total more than 1000
- “2 for Tuesday”: a Facebook Live concert series that Dave hosts with a different special guest at 7:30 p.m. EST each week.
On February 20 at the Transparent Clinch Gallery in Asbury, Dave Vargo will share some songs from his upcoming album at a fundraiser he hosted with Musicians on a Mission for the Rick Makin Memorial Science Scholarship Humanities and Social Studies at Monmouth University. Rick Makin, longtime Asbury Park Press editor, page editor and community theater talent, is known throughout the Jersey Shore as a kind and colorful Renaissance man, someone who could write, teach, sing, dance and play with great ability. In keeping with these diverse talents, the Rick Makin Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to Monmouth University students in Journalism, Music, Drama, Literature and History, which were all my father’s great passions.
Pop was the editor of Asbury Park Press’ Panorama throughout the 1970s, assigning stories, interviews and reviews as Bruce Springsteen rose from local entertainer to international superstar. Meanwhile, under his leadership, the press covered the sounds of Asbury Park as it grew in stature as an internationally recognized rock music scene. The Asbury Park Press then named him editor of the editorial page, where his work was honored with the New Jersey Press Association Awards. He worked at La Presse for 38 years, retiring in 2002.
For 50 years, Pop was also a sought-after performer within Jersey Shore’s community theater. His rich baritone voice and powerful acting have been featured at The Barn, Red Music Theatre, Metro Lyric Opera, First Avenue Playhouse, and more.
On behalf of his scholarship fund, Dave organized two song and story series with five other Musicians on a Mission members. He’ll share the Transparent Clinch Gallery stage with American soulful singer-songwriter Arlan Feiles, and when they’re not performing their own songs, they’ll be supporting Sharon Lasher, a legendary local performer of the world’s best songwriters.
A second round of the 4:00 p.m. EST show will feature award-winning talents Bobby Mahoney, Taylor Tote and George Wirth. To learn more about the show, click here. Donations can also be made online here. To learn more about Dave, who will also be playing two Light of Day shows on March 12 at The Watermark and March 13 at The Saint, visit his website and enjoy the following interview.
You are originally from East Brunswick. What impact did growing up there have on your desire to make music and how and why?
I always wanted to play the guitar. After years of nagging my parents, they gave in, bought me a cheap guitar, and found someone willing to teach an 8-year-old. The great thing about East Brunswick was that it was full of other kids who wanted to play music too. You’ve heard of garage bands. In EB we had basement bands. Everyone had one. We were also close to New Brunswick, which had a strong music scene at the time.
How, why and when were you drawn to the Asbury Park area?
I was a latecomer to Asbury Park. I only started writing my own music about seven years ago. Once I had songs written, I started looking for places to perform them. Asbury has the most favorable venues for original music. I think the first place I played was the Saint, probably in 2015.
You graduated from Berklee, which is a prestigious music school, but how and why did you get into wealth management?
It’s a long story ! After graduating, I was lucky enough to land a few regular and major touring gigs as a sideman. However, after almost three years of constant touring – over 300 days a year – I was exhausted. I wasn’t having fun anymore, so I decided to quit the music business and find a real job. I had a finance minor, and one led to another.
Thank you for helping to keep Makin Waves afloat as one of its sponsors. You are one of the most charitable musicians I have ever known. How did musical and financial success, as well as other factors, lead you to become a very generous and charitable person?
I think most of the musicians I know are really charitable people. They just don’t always have the financial means to help in the way they want.
Why do you like to express this charity with Musicians on a Mission? Why do you like working with them?
MOAM is a great organization filled with kind-hearted people. We are able to help small local charities that are often overlooked and we use local musicians who are happy to donate their talents to help us raise funds.
Of the many events you have produced with MOAM, which is your favorite and why?
This is a difficult question to answer. We have done so many great events for so many great causes. I’m really proud that we were able to pivot during the COVID shutdowns and find a way to run four successful virtual fundraising events on Facebook.
Why is the Rick Makin Memorial Scholarship for the Humanities and Social Sciences at Monmouth University a worthy cause?
It’s not often that we have the opportunity to honor the memory of a great person while raising funds that will benefit others. Rick had an amazing life and career and helped so many people. It’s an honor to be able to play a part in helping more people on his behalf.
What will make that February 20 fundraiser for scholarships at Transparent Clinch Gallery an event not to be missed and why?
It’s a perfect combination of great local talent, a great venue and a great cause.
What role does Asbury Park Porchfest play in the community on a cultural and charitable level?
We just had our fifth annual Porchfest in October and over 110 musicians performed. Each year it has grown and we have been able to donate all the profits to local charities.
What role do you play in Asbury Park Porchfest?
My main role is to set up the programming and the calendar of the musicians.
In response to the lack of concerts caused by the pandemic, you created a Facebook Live event called “2 for Tuesday” which you have been very faithful to produce every week even when you are on tour and now that the concerts have become more numerous. What is the format of “2 for Tuesday” and what do you like most about its production?
I just had my 95th episode this week. The concerts are far from getting back to normal, especially during the winter months, so it’s been a good outlet for me. Two songs by two artists – usually less than 30 minutes total. We’ve built a loyal community of fans who watch every week. I really appreciate being able to introduce them to talented artists that they’ve probably never heard of before.
Why do artists like to play ‘2 for Tuesday’?
It’s not a big time commitment, they don’t have to leave their homes, and they can reach new fans.
Are you accepting submissions for ‘2 for Tuesday’ or do you prefer to select artists?
I prefer to select artists. But I also get referrals from other songwriters who have played on the show.
How does your third album look and when do you plan to release it?
We are about to start mixing. I hope to release it at the end of March.
How does the third album compare to the first two?
It’s hard for me to assess. I don’t really listen to my albums after they come out. I hope my writing and performance continued to improve.
Do you plan a third single and/or video to coincide with the release of the album?
No, I’m just going to drop the album when it’s ready.
Do you plan to go back to Nashville and tour?
Nothing planned yet, but I usually go to Nashville in September.
How does Nashville compare to the Asbury Park music scene and why?
The amount and level of talent in Nashville is incredible. The person serving your lunch is probably a better songwriter than you. Currently, I don’t think there are any other music scenes that can match the quantity and quality of Nashville.
What do you enjoy most about the creative process and why: writing, recording or performing?
I enjoy practicing, playing and working in the studio the most. Songwriting is the hardest thing I do.
TO FOLLOW ALL THINGS DAVE VARGO AND ASBURY PARK, VISIT HIS WEBSITE! FOR MORE INFO ABOUT THE FOUNDATION AND FUNDRAISING MUSICIANS ON MISSION, CLICK HERE!