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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

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EOTR Interviews: Craig Veltri

Interview Conducted By @TrueGodImmortal

There's not very many of us in this world that can say they've first hand been in the wrestling business or been a part of it. Through various avenues, I've had the pleasure of being a part of the wrestling business and be somewhat hands on, doing ring work (helping to set up the ring), commentary (for the biggest wrestling promotion in the Carolinas no less), and just promotion work in general. I think one thing that made it so special for me was that I finally understood what people say when they mention that you have brothers in this business and find brothers along the way. While I feel like there's a few guys I can call friends that are active wrestlers or owners of promotions, one guy who I have always stayed in contact with was Craig Veltri. Craig was one of the more popular guys in some way when I first arrived to PWX Wrestling in October 2013, and I had come to know him through our Wrestling Heels Radio affiliation at the time. Craig was known for his bad one liners, slightly inappropriate jokes, but the man was a good guy regardless. As one of the leading announcers and commentators for PWX, and a few other indies, Craig busted his ass for the business. I remember riding to specific towns where PWX had shows and posting advertisements in all the college areas and the grind that It takes to make things happen. Craig was determined to succeed, but while wrestling was definitely a love of his, his passion always seemed to be music. I had the pleasure of performing with Craig doing an acoustic hip hop set in North Carolina with him on the guitar, and then I got to perform with him when he opened up for Mickie James. The man has a good ear for good music (he's complimented my musical talents so of course he knows good music). Regardless, a few months back, Craig decided to move to Nashville and chase his dreams even more, seemingly leaving behind the wrestling business (for now). He has an album under his belt already, and will likely have more music coming. I got a chance to catch up with my old buddy about music, wrestling, and what's next for him. This Is Craig Veltri.

First things first, introduce yourself for the folks who don't know or aren't aware:

My name is Craig Veltri. I'm 30 years old. I was born in Pittsburgh, raised in Charlotte and I now I reside in Nashville. I'm a musician by trade and I'm constantly on the road. My basic bio is at www.craigveltri.com.

Now, you're a musician, a wrestling announcer and commentator, and much more. What's your biggest passion?

Writing in general has always been a great release, past time and, indeed a passion. The great thrill in my life in wrestling was preparing copy the PWX Update Desk or writing columns for XWW, Wrestling Heels or doing research on new indy wrestlers I was preparing to cover. I love writing songs and collaborating with fellow songwriters. Writing anything, even a simple tweet or a DAR/EOTR interview, keeps me sharp.

When did you know you wanted to make music?

I've been singing since I can remember. I had always been in choirs and school plays growing up and I've always enjoyed being the center of attention (Editor's Note: this is true... for better or worse). My dad instilled that in me, him being the consummate dinner guest or party host. That man should have been a comedian. To this day, he works a room better than anyone. So I've always wanted to be some type of entertainer.

The thing about music, and I'm sure you feel this way True, is that I don't believe that I consciously chose to pick up a guitar and start writing. It just sort of happened. I figured out that I liked it, I was pretty good at it and I kept coming back to it, especially when some chick broke my heart. Didn't hurt that I was finally looked upon by my high school peers as something other than a meandering, awkward wimp with a big mouth (Editor's Note: Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same haha)
Which brings me to the answer of when the "ah-ha" moment happened: I was 16 and I had just gotten my first electric guitar that past Christmas. I'd been playing off and on since I was 12, but I never took it too seriously. After that red Squier Strat landed in my lap, I quickly built up a catalog of songs. I've always been good at memorizing stuff when I wanted to and the few lessons I took when I was 12 allowed me to play by ear or read chords with relative ease. That spring, I had been noodling around with a riff for about a week. A combination of a Junior chick leading me on and listening to a lot of Dashboard Confessional and Blink 182 at the time made me blurt out my first song called "Love Isn't Real." I think back on those lyrics and they were so clearly written by a high school boy with no wisdom.

Now, sometimes in chorus class, we'd break from rehearsing early and someone would bust out an acoustic guitar. When it was handed to me, I felt brave enough to play "Love Isn't Real" and the class, mostly the rich beautiful people of Charlotte, applauded. They would ask me to play it whenever the guitar got passed around from that point on. They may have been putting me on, but I kept writing and I never stopped.

As an aside, the reason my story in music is starting so late is that I was always told that an education was more plausible and practical. I knew that I wanted to be a songwriter, but I knew that no one would support it and I didn't know how or was too afraid to ask for support. So, like a coward, I muddled through school, took on the debt and I am now with a degree that I'm never going to use, unless I somehow land a job on TV or radio. That's why I was working the NC indy wrestling scene to make use of my degree in broadcasting and doing something that I always dreamed of doing. But I was always playing guitar, I was always writing songs and I just couldn't waste away in obscure open mics where no one was ever going to hear me.

So, here I am, making up for lost time.

Buy or Stream Craig's Album "A Million Miles To Go Here:



Who are some of your biggest influences?

George Carlin immediately comes to mind as a life influence. I'm not a comedian (True God can attest to some of the corny one-liners on Wrestling Heels and in real life), but that man and his cynical irreverence saved my life. Carlin showed me that society doesn't make sense by design. So, don't get invested in it. Just sit back and watch the world burn.

In broadcasting: Bob Costas, Vin Scully, Jim Ross, Myron Cope

In music: Van Halen, John Mayer, Lyle Lovett, Goo Goo Dolls, Billy Joel, and, more recently, Jason Isbell.

Tell us about the process of making the A Million Miles To Go album?

I had been playing in and around Charlotte for about 2 years up to that point. I had a wealth of songs written over the last 10 years, I had just gone full time in music and this album was the natural first step. I had known my producer, Maurice "Mo" Brines through the open mics he hosted around Concord/Kannapolis, NC. In fact, it was his open mics that got me back into gigging. Mo is a master at mixing live and I've always thought I sounded best on his boards. Mo runs a studio/rehearsal space out of his garage called B-Sharp Studios. It took Mo and I about 40 hours to record and master over 2 months. My friend Drea Atkins, who is the singer in this killer band in Charlotte called Farewell Albatross (https://www.reverbnation.com/farewellalbatross3), did a wonderful job on the photo art.

It had to be a full length acoustic album. I wasn't playing with anybody at the time and I didn't have the infrastructure or interested players. That will change on the next record...

Any great experiences that you've had making music that you can share?

Being in Nashville as a songwriter, I feel like a pretty girl in Los Angeles. I know I'm not the only one. Just getting to meet these writers who have cuts and credits to their name is as exhilarating as it is intimidating. But, that's why I'm out here: to see if I'm on that level.

Talking about wrestling for a moment, what are some of your best experiences in the business, and/or PWX specifically?

Overall, I got paid to watch and call AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe, Dash Wilder, John Skylar, Corey Hollis, No Way Jose, Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann, Apollo Crews and Tony Nese before they got their shot in NXT/WWE and yes, I am counting the CWC. Also, I got to see The Wolves, Bobby Lashley, Caleb Konley, Andrew Everett and Trevor Lee before they made it to TNA. For ROH, "Cauliflower" Chase Brown. Not to mention calling matches with Steve Corino (who gave me the nickname Stats), Hurricane Helms, Evan Karageas and interviewing/chatting with legends like Magnum TA, Ricky Steamboat, Tommy Dreamer, Raven and Matt Hardy.

I had a good run, I enjoyed the experience for the most part and I hope it's not the last time I get to call a match because I do miss it. But, I needed to focus on what's next for me and my music.  

What's next for Craig Veltri?

Later this summer, I'll be releasing a new single and music video called "F.I.N.E" with my friend and co-writer Lisa De Novo (https://www.reverbnation.com/lisadenovomusic). Later on this year, I'll be releasing my second record entitled Vagabond which will include "F.I.N.E" as well as full band tracks. I'm very excited for this next record and I hope it makes some noise.

Well, if you're not familiar with Craig Veltri, get familiar with him and what he brings to the table, as an artist and as a mind for wrestling as well. You have to admire a man willing to chase his dreams at any cost. Thank you once again to Craig and all of the readers.



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