NAUGATUCK — Local musician Bob Semanchik’s instrumental take on the soul standard “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” perhaps most famous for the Supremes’ rendition in 1969, has been playing on the Weather Channel’s Local on the 8s programming.
The track appears on Semanchik’s 2008 debut album, “Standard Interpretations,” a collection of mostly-instrumental versions of classic songs in addition to three originals, “Blue Lobster,” “Hot Rain,” and “Easy Cruisin’.”
Semanchik, a private guitar and piano instructor for more than 25 years and a sound recording technology instructor at the University of New Haven, said he got the best feedback about these three songs and the songs that include vocal tracks.
“I put two and two together and figured I’d do more of my own writing and singing,” he said.
And now Semanchik is in the process of working on a second album, this time comprising all original pop-rock songs in the vein of the Beatles.
Though the Fab Four got Semanchik “into music in the first place,” he also claims other guitar legends as the “usual culprits” in terms of artistic influence—Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Moutain’s Leslie West, among others.
Semanchik has had a long career in music; he holds a B.A. in Music Education from Western Connecticut State University, he’s played in several original and cover bands, and he now plays in a jazz-influenced wedding band and performs solo acts in rock and cocktail guitar music.
But he’s just releasing his own albums now. Part of this has to do with the decreasing cost of home recording.
“With the new technology, a computer at home … it’s so easy; you could spend a few hundred dollars for drum tracks [in a professional studio] and do the rest at home.”
He played in a band called The Crayons in the ‘80s but said the prohibitive cost of cutting an album kept them from releasing an LP.
But Semanchik also said his songwriting is really starting to take off.
“For a long time, I wasn’t writing … but now it’s just coming out of me,” he said.
His songs now often come to him between private lessons, he said, when he’s just sitting at a piano or noodling with a guitar in the interims. Songs start with a set of chord changes, which in turn inspire a melody and lyrics.
Semanchik’s jazz influence is evident on “Standard Impressions,” but he said his interest in the form is fairly new. He cites his involvement with the Bales Gitlin Band, a versatile wedding band, as a reason he got into jazz guitar.
He said he’s now inspired by jazz players like Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhardt, and Kenny Burrel.
“I’ve bought maybe three rock albums in the last 10 years,” he said, “and they were probably all [Paul] McCartney albums.”
Semanchik’s roots are in rock and roll. He said when he was learning to play and teaching himself Beatles and Allman Brothers songs, he would put the records on slow speed and learn them “so deep” that now there’s “nothing left to listen to” in that music.
But he also said his “roots are too strong in rock and roll … to play jazz exclusively.”
The ability to move from jazz to rock to, say, blues or soul without much trouble comes from hardline training in musical theory and reading. He was forced to learn classical guitar at Western State, which he said “got [him] to learn the [guitar] neck.
“You should always learn to read [music],” he said. “You wouldn’t go to a mechanic who didn’t know anything about cars or a doctor who just said, ‘Yeah, my wife’s sick; I’ve been diagnosing her for years. I’m really good at it.’
“… That’s why guitar players get a bad rap,” he said of rock guitarists’ tendency to know little in the way of theory or note-reading. “But they do it to themselves. … You get these kids now who get together, they tune all wacky, and they can’t play with anyone but each other … there’s not a cross-pollination anymore.”