By Mike Sales
I first saw Chris Otto perform, when I was at a gig, on break, taking a walk and heard the most amazing guitar-shredding solos echoing over the water from across the marina. I HAD to go see who and what was making that sound, so I borrowed my venue’s golf cart and drove over to find him on the stage, layering everything and playing beautifully.
I interviewed Chris over a table full of his latest press-kit material and a hot tea on the breezeway of The Local Bean coffee shop, which he incidentally co-founded…
WPT: Where are you from?
Chris Otto: Cleveland, Ohio
WPT: How did you get to Siesta Key?
Chris Otto: I was headed down to Key West with a friend who’d gotten me some gigs there. I wound up spending 6 months doing research and handing out press kits. I made connections in Key Largo, where I’d play 3 nights there and then head down to Key West to play a few nights per month. On my way down there, I stopped on Siesta Key, played, and returned, because I liked beaches. Down in Key West, without beaches, I imagined I’d have nothing to do but drink all of the time. I prefer to wind surf and hang on the beaches.
WPT: How long did it take you to get a full schedule on Siesta Key?
Chris Otto: I got a gig at SKOB on Sundays right away, then made the rounds to create a Gulf Coast music career from there. It took a little while to fill in the schedule on the island, because I wouldn’t compromise my price. I have spent time honing my craft and know what it’s worth, so I played as far away as Bradenton and even went on an East Coast tour, before my Siesta Key schedule came together. It was tough driving all that way for 3 years, but I’m glad I held out instead of marking down my fees. It’s a trade off between how much I truly love what I do and how much more money I’d make with the same level of study and competence at a more traditional career.
WPT: What is your favorite thing about being a full-time professional musician?
Chris Otto: I like connecting with people. I love putting smiles on their faces and watching as they open up and interact with the music. I love to hear that I’ve played a part in making their vacation so enjoyable. I even have people tell me they heard me the year before and sought me out when they came back to the island!
WPT: How many instruments do you play?
Chris Otto: At the same time? (laughs) I sing, play guitar, bass, harmonica, and percussion.
WPT: What can people expect to see at your show?
Chris Otto: A barefoot, sizzling guitar action, non-stop, acrobatic, watch the feet, feel the beat, step to the street…I layer, rhythm, bass & percussion and then play a lead and sing over that…I like to refer to myself as a 5-piece act.
WPT: You write songs; what kind of music do you write?
Chris Otto: It’s considered “Americana/Folk”, but I’m really everywhere, its always upbeat. I write about current events and matters of the heart and family related subjects, I’ve written 4 songs about my son’s life and how he’s growing up. I have a lot of songs about moving down here and all of the well-to-do hippies I met. I like to joke that not all of them are all that bright, but they know how to have fun…I managed to blend right in!
I don’t like to write about negative stuff and prefer the songs have meaning.
WPT: What process do you use to write songs?
Chris Otto: I just catch ideas as they come to me when I’m playing. I can’t abide trying to force things or make them up and I don’t edit or pander. I rely on inspiration entirely, practice what comes to me, record it and copy-write it.
WPT: Where do you see your career growing from here?
Chris Otto: I’d eventually like to see myself making the rounds in my rv, up and down the Coast to play the area festivals and sell merchandise, during the season.
WPT: Who do you like to go see when you’re not playing?
Chris Otto: Al Donati, he’s quite a performer. I love when Damon Flower and Chuck come into town and Callie Chapel and whomever she plays with is always a great show. If you’re looking for a nice date night, Chris Rolo and Nick LeValle are mellow, up-to-date and have great harmonies…there are a lot of great choices on the Key.
For more information about Chris Otto visit: www.facebook.com/chris.otto.52
Chris Otto plays weekly at:
Captain Curts – SnikiTiki
1200 Old Stickney Point Rd. Siesta Key
S.K.O.B. 5238 Ocean Boulevard, in the village
Mike Sales is a local singer/songwriter. For more information visit mikesalessings.com