It’s hard to imagine the amount of dedication, commitment, focus and sheer energy it takes to complete a record when you’re touring the world as a lead guitarist for a popular artist, as well as producing yet another musical project. For Chiaravalle (pronounced (“shaira velley”) it simply comes down to passion. It’s not a matter of choice; it’s just creative necessity. Not that he doesn’t absolutely love the job he’s had with Michael McDonald for the past 22 years, it’s just that he has music he needs to make and artistic statements of his own to offer. And Chiaravalle has done that in a very complete way with The World Around Me, his 4th record, on which he supplies all the vocals and plays all the instruments (with the exception of Pat Coil’s organ on “Long Haul”). Chiaravalle says it is his most personal effort yet. “I’ve always had people work with me, but as I developed this group of songs I had, it just felt right for the record to be doing it by myself. The songs are probably more introspective,” he explains. “I always admired Paul McCartney’s first album,” he says, referring to 1970’s McCartney. “I always thought it was heroic that he played all the instruments. That was my inspiration.”
The Beatles were his influence from the start, growing up in Marin County, CA. Their famous 1964 Ed Sullivan appearance prompted him to begin playing piano and drums at the age of nine. He remembers being absolutely voracious, learning his first guitar bar chord in the middle of the street. “It changed my life,” he recalls. After the formative bands and local gigs, Chiaravalle moved to L.A. in 1985 with a band by the name of Page One. Just as the group was disbanding, he met up with Ambrosia’s David Pack. “I sent him a tape,” Chiaravalle recalls. “And immediately we hit it off and began hanging out together and writing and playing songs.” At the same time, Pack was telling Michael McDonald about the guitarist. Chiaravalle auditioned for him and in1988, they began their playing and songwriting partnership.
In 1996, Chiaravalle released his first solo effort, Driven By Desire. Two years later, he relocated to Nashville and the following year he enjoyed a No.1 hit song, “Speak,” on the CHR charts. He also had a song called “Til I Hurt You” on Larry Carlton’s Fingertips, co-written with Carlton and McDonald, which sat on top of the NAC charts. Chiaravalle delivered his second album, Life As We Know It, in 2002, followed by Mystery Of Love in 2005. In 2008, Chiaravalle completed production on The Journey To Miracle River, an album for Amy Holland (McDonald), which had been several years in the making. Check it out at www.amyhollandmcdonald.com.
The World Around Me (available on CD Baby) took three years, with everything else going on in Chiaravalle’s life. Produced in his own studio, most of the lyrics were self-penned, although “Long Haul” was co-written with Michael McDonald, “The Only Game in Town” was co-written with John Goodwin, and Chazz Frichtel co-wrote “Nothin’ Left to Believe In.” “A friend of mine, Steve Leland, gave me a poem for the ballad ‘For a Little While’ that I wrote a song to,” says Chiaravalle, who adds that it is among one of his favorites, along with “No Way Out,” and “Nothin’ Left To Believe In”, “about a former relationship I had. It’s sort of a downer song, but with a positive message,” he says. Another favorite he mentions is “The World Has Let You Down,” a song about his dad.
So while some people say, “I’ve had a busy week,” Chiaravalle says, “I’ve had a busy decade,” with a chuckle. “Seriously, I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t make this music. I’m thankful that I still have the drive – and the ideas -- to do it. I do these records to re-charge myself, do these groups of songs, move on and write some more. I’m lucky to be able to do it,” says Chiaravalle, who, no surprise, already has a batch of new songs for the next one!