Photo courtesy of Petronzio's Facebook page

ITHACA, N.Y. — An independent local musician is in the national spotlight for his debut solo album, “Light At The Speed Of Life.”

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The album, which was was submitted for the 2016 Grammy Awards along with over 21,000 other entries, has moved onto the second round of considerations by the Grammy’s voting members.

Artist Jonathan “JP” Petronzio, stage name Road Man, and his album are currently being reviewed for Grammy Award for Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album. If Petronzio garners enough votes to pass the second round, then he will be a Grammy nominee.

Photo courtesy of Petronzio’s Facebook page
Photo courtesy of Petronzio’s Facebook page

“Light At The Speed Of Life” is the culmination of seven years of work for Petronzio. It is a funk and reggae album, which are two genres of music he played while on the road with bands Revision and John Brown’s Body. He said many of the songs are “stories of his life” and have deep meanings for him.

“The goal was to create the best songs I knew how and use all the tools I’ve been accumulating ever since I was a kid taking piano lessons to learning about conducting and recording in college to playing live in bands,” he said.

Over 200 demos

The album took many years to create because it was largely an independent work by Petronzio. He wrote over 200 demos in preparation for the album, 12 of which were completed and made it onto the record.

He said he also had to broaden his musical abilities and learn new instruments like guitar, bass and drums in order to write and produce the songs.

JP with a cat

“As much as I love to play the piano, I learned that I’m not very inspired behind the keyboard,” he said. “I had to learn how to play the guitar because I discovered that I’m much more inclined to write lyrics when I can take a guitar outside to my backyard or to the lake.”

But most of all, it was Petronzio’s desire to make a meaningful album that required the most time and effort.

“You can just throw words on a page and say that’s good enough but when you really want to create something that resonates with people, you have to make it a labor of love, go back to it every day and work on it, so that’s why it took me so long to finalize it.”

A Humble Beginning

When the album was finally completed last summer after years of work, he had a listening party in July 2014 at the Carriage House Cafe and also handed out free CDs in hopes that anticipation for his album’s release would swell. In September 2014, he made his album available online but the response was rather disappointing.

“When the record first came out, I sold two copies online. I put so much time and effort into this, 7 years to create this. So, I almost quit. I said, ‘Well, I guess I’ll just get started on the next project then,” he said.

However, he later received an offer from Jim Drew of digital music distribution company Soulspazm to relaunch his album. Petronzio agreed and in December his album was re-submitted to iTunes. This time, the album gained much more attention.

“[Drew] introduced my record to iTunes and we had a less of a local release and more of an official release,” he said. “Signing to his distribution company gave a new energy to the record and it was pretty cool to see my record, which was pretty much unknown at the time, to be featured on the same page as Bob Marley’s ‘Legend’.”

On Petronzio’s Soundcloud, an online platform for artists to share their work, he has over 100,000 listens on his songs.

Road to the Grammys

Initially, Petronzio had no intentions for a Grammy. He didn’t even submit himself; it was a listener in Colorado who asked for Petronzio’s permission to submit an entry for him.

“This gentleman out in Colorado heard my record through Twitter and he contacted me one morning to say that he was really excited about the record and that he would like to submit me to the Grammys,” he said. “I didn’t say no because as an independent artist, you’ve got to take every opportunity. But I didn’t really think much of it.”

Petronzio said he is surprised the popularity the album has received, especially because he didn’t begin the album to profit off of it.

“This album was not about money. Any artist will tell you there’s not a whole lot of money to be made in independent music,” he said. “I knew people would like it because I spent a lot of time on it and people gave a lot of good feedback but I didn’t know it would go this far.”

‘The ultimate goal’

Winning, Petronzio said, is not his goal because what he wanted was for people to find his music and enjoy it. However, he added that getting a Grammy nomination would be meaningful because it will give him the conviction to pursue a career as a recording artist.

“I feel that the mission has already been accomplished at this point because people are getting excited for the music and that’s all I really care about. If I were able to get nominated then that would be a game changer because that would be a sign for me to make this my full time mission and that is the ultimate goal.”

However, whatever the result of the Grammys will be, Petronzio said music will continue to be a part of his life.

Petronzio is currently involved in several musical projects. He is teaching music at his Fall Creek studio and plans to tour with John Brown’s Body. He has begun work for his second album, which he said is “a lot of pressure.”

“They say it takes a lifetime to record your first album and a year to record your second one so the pressure’s on to follow it up with something as good or, hopefully, better,” he said.

Petronzio will also be promoting his album with his local band, and will be playing this Thursday at Casita Del Polaris.

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