Anthony D’Amato wrote “If You’re Gonna Build a Wall” (see video below), one of the best protest songs of the Trump Era, during the primary season. And he wasn’t sure it was going to have a long shelf life.
“I released that originally as a demo,” says the singer-songwriter, who performs in the New Voices series at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair, Sept. 16. “Like, NPR posted it, back when we were still making the record, just because I didn’t think Trump was gonna be around that long, and I felt like I wanted to say what I wanted to say about him, at that moment in time.
“Little did I know how much time I would have to talk about it.”
“If You’re Gonna Build a Wall” was included on D’Amato’s 2016 album Cold Snap as well as his charity EP, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? The six-song EP — whose other tracks include covers of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” Bob Marley’s “One Love,” Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” and, yes, the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” theme song — is raising money for the refugees-aid organization, International Rescue Committee.
“I was tired of feeling frustrated and helpless,” said D’Amato, a Blairstown native who now lives in Brooklyn. “I don’t have a lot of money to donate to any cause, but I do have the music, and I’ve got friends who feel the same way, and I figured if we put it into a recorded format, and gave people something unique and special that they could pick up, it could pool a whole bunch of like-minded folks’ money and talent together, and raise something meaningful.”
D’Amato has released two albums on the New West label, whose artists, over the years, have included Steve Earle, John Hiatt and Rickie Lee Jones. He’s not sure what label his next album will be on, or what musical direction it will take.
“It’s kind of all over the map right now, ” he says. “What I’m trying to do is write as much as I can, and not censor any of it, and then figure out what fits together. That’s the way I find always works best. But a bunch of the songs have kind of a funky, Americana vibe, sort of like The Band, which has me kind of excited, because I absolutely love that music, and it’s an area that I really haven’t explored that much on record.”
D’Amato performs at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m., with Lily Vakili opening. The show will take place in the Guild Room of the First Congregational Church at 40 S. Fullerton Ave. At the show, Outpost volunteers will be collecting items to support those affected by Hurricane Harvey, working in conjunction with Toni’s Kitchen and other local organizations. Items that can be donated can include shelf-stable food items, diapers, toiletries and cleaning supplies.