As Miss Kitty’s Saloon in Naperville, Ill., fills after a long day of work on a Tuesday evening, John Guzaldo melts patrons’ troubles away with the impressive one-man band set up in the back of the dimly lit joint. The regulars’ heads and feet bop to the gritty blues and folk beats coming from the all-in-one banjo, guitar, tambourine, drum and vocals.
“He makes people move,” said Matt Edgcomb, a former employer and friend of Guzaldo. “His music gets people moving even if they are sitting down. You see people bouncing their foot or tapping their glass.”
Like many musicians before him, Guzaldo of Jack Avery’s Kin is still searching for success. Isn’t that where all musicians begin though? Chasing childhood dreams, Guzaldo recently committed to pursuing his passion for music. Prior to, he was working toward his bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship. He piddled around after graduation, working a few dead-end jobs before finally saying the hell with it.
Guzaldo made his first move —to Tennessee—toward living the life of a musician. Friends with promises of starting the band Moonshine Matinee heavily influenced him. “I drank the Kool-Aid and went,” Guzaldo said.
During his time in the South, Guzaldo had an epiphany: everyone sang and played guitar with much more expertise than him. This forced Guzaldo to sequester himself for long practice sessions that pushed him to his limits and past simply being a rhythm guitarist. However, a few months in, Guzaldo realized he didn’t want to devote his music career to Tennessee. Instead, he came home to regroup and perfect his sound further.
Although he did not find success in one of the biggest musical capitols of the U.S., Guzaldo’s still reaped the benefits. The catchiest of songs on his set list, “Through the Night” and “A Song for June,” were written while living in Tennessee, and all of them plus more will compile his first record.
By May, the record should be completed and will feature tunes about relationships, river baptisms, hammers and shovels, the month of June and sitting around the dinner table with the people he loves the most—family. Inspiration includes songs from his past. Even if the genre does not relate to his band, such as 1990s alternative rock, Guzaldo gets a rush of creativity. “If it comes on, I get so ill with nostalgia, like, it just brings me back,” Guzaldo said. “It’s like a portal.”
Guzaldo’s self-taught sound is composed with an innovative one-man band setup, including the harmonica, banjo, guitar, drums and a homemade “foot tambourine.” Throughout his set, he switches harmoniously from a banjo to a guitar while intermittently singing and blowing into a harmonica and tapping his feet to play his drum and tambourine.
“Every year or so I just keep adding something else. Snare drum might be next,” Guzaldo said of his multitasking musicianship.
“I wanted to be someone that could play all the parts,” Guzaldo said. “The thing that always drew me into the blues were the guys who were doing it all: they were keeping the time, they were picking, they were doing solos and they were doing the melody all within one guitar arrangement. I guess that’s what pulled me in.”
Guzaldo understands continued practice and small shows are necessary. He feeds off the healthy competition of his fellow musical entrepreneurs, making it worth the work. Obsessed with honing his sound and captivating an audience, Guzaldo plays every open mic night and books as many shows as he can.
“He is a very meticulous and methodical person. You can see why he is good at playing all these instruments, which takes a lot of focus and practice,” Edgcomb said. “He is literally a one-man band, and it’s fucking awesome.”