Neil Giraldo may be a hotshot rock 'n' roll guitarist after 40 years with wife Pat Benatar and other musical concerns.
But it's his outside interests that helped turn him into a bourbon maker -- and, via his new Three Chord Bourbon brand, connected to him to Michigan and events like the Ann Arbor Blues Festival and this weekend's Michigan State Fair.
Giraldo is also a screenwriter, and a social media posting about one of his projects caught the attention of Brian Canning, a longtime friend who hadn't been in touch for a number of years. "He wanted to get involved with it, and I said sure, and then Brian said, "Why don't we try to attach a whiskey company and maybe get some seed money for (the film)," Giraldo recalls by phone. “I took a second and said, 'Why don't we start our own company,' and that's literally how it started."
Because the film has what Giraldo calls an "edgy...noir kind of appeal to it," he felt that a dark liquor like whiskey or cognac would be the best fit -- until the idea of bourbon crossed his sights. "I challenge myself a lot," Giraldo explains, "and when I realized bourbon was one of the toughest to do, I reflected on my own self and how I've done some real crazy things that most people with any smarts would never do, I decided we should do the most difficult one."
Giraldo and Canning have the Ann Arbor-headquartered Three Chord up and running after just two years, Music is an integral part of the company's branding; Giraldo will host all-star Three Chord Stage shows in various city -- including this weekend's Michigan Music Mega Jam at the Michigan State Fair in Novi, curated by Nadir Omawale and featuring artists such as Carolyn Striho, Laura Rain, the Gasoline Gypsies, the Brothers Groove, Brandon Calhoun and more. Giraldo was planning to be part of the Mega Jam, but he's elected to stay home in California since he and Benatar's oldest daughter is about to give birth to their first grandchild. Nevertheless he's planning to assemble an "all star traditional blues band" that will play other Three Chord events. Giraldo is also pursuing the movie in earnest again -- he's keeping the title secret for now -- and has other screenplays he's working on.
Benatar, meanwhile, is taking time off the road right now. "She really wants to be that grandmother and spend time with our daughters," explains Giraldo, whose credits also include work with Rick Springfield, Rick Derringer, John Waite and others. "We've been on the road a long time, 38 years, doing a lot of things, so we're pulling back. My focus now is to try to spread out and do some things that Patricia won't be a part of. I don't think it's done, but I wouldn't project anything that's going to be happening in the future -- and let's leave it at that."
If You Go:
4th Annual Michigan Music Mega Jam
1-4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 3.
Michigan State Fair at the Suburban Collection Showplace, 46100 Grand River Ave., Novi.
State Fair tickets are $6-$30.
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