Considering the fact Alfie Zappacosta is viewed as one of Canada’s premier songwriters and performers, best known for 80’s hits like “Nothing Can Stand In Your Way,” and “We Should Be Lovers,” it is a tad bit ironic that he never set out to pursue a career in music.
“I never wanted to be a front-man,” he tells The Times & Transcript earlier this week. “I was more interested in being an original songwriter and being involved in that aspect of the business. I never could have dreamed it would be something that I would have the opportunity to sing my own songs.”
Joking that he viewed the music business as being a great place to visit, but nowhere that he wanted to live, Zappacosta’s rich baritone vocals and superior songwriting abilities were discovered as he was writing songs for his first band, Surrender.
“One thing just led to another; I went from square one to having a record deal and then a publishing contract. I was lucky that people in the industry saw something in me that I hadn’t seen failed to really see in myself.”
In addition to earning a handful of Canadian radio hits along the way, the singer-songwriter began racking up international accolades, landing his song “Overload” on the multi-million selling Dirty Dancing soundtrack.
In 1988, Zappacosta won Juno Awards for Album of the Year and Most Promising Artist of the Year for his 1986 release A-Z, along with an American Music Award for Most Popular Album of the Year.
Although hit singles and award statues are generally seen as the ultimate sign of having “made it,” the accolades couldn’t quell a nagging voice that Zappacosta heard in the back of his head.
Concerned he was being marketed as a star that he couldn’t personally identify with, he focused on strengthening his songwriting skills, releasing a string of singles including “Start Again” and “Spread Myself Too Thin,” which he hoped would put some distance between what he considered to be his unrepresentative mainstream past and how he wanted to be viewed as a songwriter.
“I feel fortunate to have had a wonderful career, and essentially make a living from music. There have been a lot of great times; I got to write alongside some of pop’s greatest writers, like David Foster. Just when I thought I was done with the industry, I got sucked into a completely different realm of performance.”
In 1990, that “different realm” turned out to be the world of theatre, where Zappacosta was cast into Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar and Tim Rice’s Evita.
Theatre didn’t keep him away from music for too long, however. The mid-90’s welcomed the release of his album Innocence Ballet, followed by Dark Sided Jewel and Start Again after the turn of the century. Subsequent albums Bonafide (2007), At The Church At Berkeley (2008), Blame It On Me (2010), 2012’s Live At The Blue Frog Studios and Once Upon A Time (2013) served to help keep the songwriter busy.
Zappacosta’s latest release is No Avoiding Cliches, recorded live at Festival Place in Sherwood Park, Alberta. The album boasts 12 tracks culled from various eras of his successful career, and features backing from a full band, including a horn section.
While his matinee performance at Moncton’s Tide & Boar tomorrow will feature Zappacosta accompanied by just one other musician, he shares that having the opportunity to present his music in a whole new light is what keeps him motivated.
“Whether it is a 12-piece band behind me, or just one other musician on stage, I love giving my material a whole new perspective. After 45 years of making music, it’s important to find new ways to keep everyone, myself included, interested.”
With four-and-a-half decades of experience behind him, it is somewhat fitting that also included in No Avoiding Cliches is a DVD documentary that walks viewers through various eras of his career.
Produced in conjunction with students from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Jorgensen, Zappacosta says seeing his life laid out in the documentary was eye-opening and humbling.
“Michael and the students did a wonderful job with the documentary, pouring through the archives and helping tell my story. It was tough to revisit my life in that fashion, because you know that people will be looking at everything through a very powerful lens, seeing the good, bad and ugly of your life spread out before them. At the end of the day, however, I am very proud of what I have been able to accomplish.”
What: Alfie Zappacosta
When: Sunday May 1, 1 p.m.
Where: Tide & Boar Gastropub, 700 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $28. Advance tickets are available online at www.tideandboar.com/music.