David Bitonti is writing music again.
After taking a break from music, the Ladysmith songwriter who spent many years playing in bands is excited to play solo shows — and to share the stage with his good friend Cameron Latimer Sat., Dec. 1 at In the Beantime Café.
Bitonti, who grew up with Latimer in Ladysmith, took a break from music but has recently gotten back into writing music, and he wanted to start playing shows again.
“I had a bunch of songs and wanted to play them live,” he said. “I didn’t have enough material to do a whole night, so I was thinking of people I know that I would want to play with, and Cam was the first person who came to mind.”
Bitonti knows Cam McIntyre at In the Beantime pretty well, so he turned to him because he’s been so supportive of local artists, and he thought he would be open to a show.
Bitonti isn’t really sure what made him start writing again.
“I was playing in bands for 15 years, and I took a couple years off to raise my kid and finish school,” he said. “I was still playing guitar, but not writing. I went to a couple open mic nights, and it got me excited again about playing for people.”
Bitonti and his wife Rhiannon recently played at an open mic at the Willow Street Café in Chemainus, and he says that was the boost he needed to start writing again and start performing more.
“It was fun, and I thought I should finish all these songs I have that are almost done,” he said. “I did … it was a very fertile period. You go to these open mics, and there are old people, young people and people at all different levels. The one I went to was really encouraging, even though I didn’t really need encouragement.”
Bitonti says it’s hard for him to play solo, no matter if it is a room full of familiar faces or not.
“I’ve been out of it so long,” he said. “I’m always nervous at a solo show. I’m just forcing myself to do it so that in six months, I won’t be. I will be a bit nervous. I want to get back into playing more shows, and it’s nice to have a place like the Beantime to come to and play. Cam [McIntyre] is so great about supporting local artists.”
Bitonti says some of his solo work is kind of catchy, while some is kind of dark.
“It’s just acoustic and me,” he said. “I wouldn’t put it in anything.”
Bitonti considers Matthew Good one of his influences, and his favourite band is Nirvana.
“That’s my era, 90s grunge,” he said. “That time of music is what’s near to me. The Stones are probably still my favourite, the first band that made me think I want to play guitar. When I was a teenager, I got into heavier stuff like Deftones. Anything that’s got loud guitar, anything that has lyrics that are not nasally and whiny.”
Bitonti first picked up a guitar when he was a teenager.
“Like most kids, you listen to your parents’ music first or my big brother’s, so the Stones, the Beatles,” he said. “I came of age in the late 1980s and 1990s and listened to Bon Jovi … I got into my teens and discovered the whole Seattle sound and decided I could do that.”
Bitonti recalls that he wanted to play guitar since the age of 10, and he tried saving his money to buy one. He finally did buy a guitar, and when he started taking lessons, his teacher asked which way he wanted to go, and he chose the songwriter route. He was 14 or 15 at the time, and he started playing with other guitar players. All through high school, Bitonti was in three or four bands.
Latimer, who now lives in Victoria, studied jazz music at Malaspina University College. He formed The Seams with Adam Dobres and Rueben Degroot and contributed significantly to the projects of artists such as Ridley Bent and Dustin Bentall.
Bitonti is really excited to play a show with Latimer, whose influences include Elliot Smith, Django Reinhardt, Lyle Lovett and Jeff Tweedy.
“I met him playing baseball when we were 12,” recalled Bitonti. “I started playing guitar at 14, 15, and he started playing guitar, and we jammed together. When we were still in high school, he went away to a songwriters’ thing, and he came back and he was amazing.”
Bitonti really admires Latimer and is a big fan of his, besides being a friend.
“I will go to any show of his that’s on the Island,” he said. “I think the world of him. We don’t see each other enough, but even if we don’t talk for months, I know I can call him up, and we’ll just be busting a gut. There will be a lot of laughing, and he’s got the greatest laugh.”
Bitonti thinks Latimer is an “amazing” songwriter, and he has a sound that’s all his own.
“His music’s really good, really soulful,” he said. “I’m always about trying to hear the emotion in the singer, and with him, you definitely get it. He doesn’t sound like anyone. I’m just lucky he’s my buddy because if he wasn’t, I would still idolize him. I’m fortunate he’s my friend, and I’m fortunate I have a bunch of awesome musician friends who will sometimes play with me or let me play with them.”
Because Bitonti has been growing a mustache for Movember, a campaign that raises funds and awareness for men’s health and prostate cancer, and this show falls on Dec. 1, Bitonti has decided to donate all of his proceeds from the show to Movember.
Bitonti and Latimer play In the Beantime Café Sat., Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for the show only or $25 for dinner and the show, and they can be purchased at In the Beantime or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.