Nick Piunti's latest album is called "Downtime."
Which is exactly what the Downriver rocker hasn't given himself during the past decade.
The just-released 10-track set is the Grosse Isle resident's fifth since 2013. Another collection of buoyant, infectious power pop, it also introduces his new band, the Complicated Men, and the fact that "Downtime" is coming out during a brutally debilitating downtime for the music business has not deterred Piunti and his mates at all.
"The saving grace is the songs are kind of timeless," Piunti, 59 who co-owns and operates his family's Sibley Gardens restaurant in Trenton says of music that references a musical sweep from the Beatles to Tom Petty. "So if we get a chance later in the year, or next year, to play em, they won't sound outdated."
But Piunti is confident that "Downtime," recorded during early 2019 with producer Jeff Michael at Big Sky Recording in Ann Arbor, has an energy and spirit that separates it a bit from its predecessors.
"The biggest difference this time is having the band and having more than just yourself excited about the music," he explains. Bassist Jeff Hupp was the first to join, bringing along drummer Ron Vensko for his first show with Piunti. Keyboardist Kevin Darnall came in later to complete the Complicated Men.
"The other guys I recorded with before" including former Verve Pipe drummer Donny Brown "were into it, for sure, but when you have a band, it's a different thing. There's a vested interest in it, a different kind of input. We did this record playing together, not just one guy playing at a time. We did some overdubs, but it really sounds like four guys in a room, playing together."
Having a band again actually brings Piunti's music life full circle.
Raised in Riverview, Piunti started playing when he was 12 and formed a band, Dwarf, back in 1972. The group became The Take around the time it moved to Los Angeles in 1984 for an unsuccessful two-year stay. After that, Piunti came back to Michigan and threw in with the restaurant.
"I didnt really have a band for several years," he recalls. I had my fill of it, I guess. But I always kept writing songs and recording. I figured there'd be an outlet for them one day."
That came in the form of the Respectables, a band Piunti led during the mid-00s. The group released a pair of albums and an EP, and it licensed songs to the NBC medical drama "Mercy" and the independent film "Jeff Who Lives at Home." That, in turn, set up Piunti well for the solo career he launched seven years ago, getting support from Little Steven's Underground Garage network and other corners of the power pop world.
"This is really the music I grew up in, from when I was a little kid," explains Piunti, who has three daughters, ages 24, 21 and 16. "There's the Beatles, of course, and then the Raspberries came out, Slade, Badfinger, the Romantics, Tom Petty's early records, the Cars just really good, hooky songs. I never really out grew that."
That's, in fact, why he called his 2013 album "13 in My Head."
"If you're still doing this, then you ARE still 13 in your head which is fine with me," he says.
Though live shows are on hold for the time being, Piunti was in the studio recently to record acoustic versions of "Downtime" tracks for a British podcast and possible other uses.
"We were planning to get out of town and play some gigs and promote the record in places we haven't played before, so it's disappointing," Piunti says. He wouldn't mind putting the Complicated Men on stage at Sibley Gardens, even when the time is right.
For now, however, he's making sure "Downtime" gets its due and even casts an eye toward the future.
"I'm always writing," Piunti says. "I probably write 30 songs to get to 10 songs that make an album and try to pick the cream of the crop. And I don't really go back. I figure if it's not good enough to make the prior album, it won't be good enough for the next one. So I'll just keep going until I get another album's worth, whenever that is."
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