KSU graduate sings the ‘Refugee Blues’

Gabe Gott

The day after Chris Volpe graduated from Kent State in 2003, he moved to Washington, D.C.

Since then he has lived a nomadic existence, traveling the country from Virginia to New York to California. For the first year and a half, he didn’t live in one place for more than three months at a time.

“Everywhere I went I was playing and writing songs,” Volpe said. “Even on the trains I was playing for people in lounge cars.”

Volpe has lived in Arlington, Va., New York City and San Diego, and now he lives in San Francisco.

He has played his brand of folk music in clubs such as CBGB’s in New York and the Sweetwater Saloon in San Francisco.

In 2004 at the Sweetwater Saloon, Volpe won Best Song in the West Coast Songwriter Association’s contest. He won free studio time, which is how he recorded his first, and only, album, Refugee Blues.

“I sat down and recorded all 15 songs in one take – one right after the other,” he said.

It took two hours to record the album, Volpe said. He only had to stop a couple times in between songs to make microphone adjustments.

The sound engineer at the studio wanted to record the vocals and the guitar parts separately, but Volpe wanted to do it his way.

“I wanted it to be done the way I wanted it to be done,” Volpe said.

He designed the album packaging and his Web site, ChrisVolpe.com.

Refugee Blues is available on CDbaby.com and towerrecords.com.

Volpe recently won Album of the Year for Refugee Blues in the 2006 Independent Music Awards. The contest was judged by Norah Jones, Melissa Etheridge and Bill Wyman, among others.

He has also entered and won honorable mentions in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and the Billboard Worldwide Song Contest – when he was still a student at Kent State.

Volpe didn’t participate in any extra-curricular activities at Kent State, he said. He spent most of his free time recording at Moondog Recording Studios on Water Street.

He also had part-time jobs and spent time playing in a couple of bands.

The bands he was in didn’t play any gigs, he said. One of his bands, The Chris Volpe Band, won the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Battle of the Bands in 2001 – although the band only lasted a few months.

“A drummer that I knew convinced me to get a band together for this contest,” he said.

Volpe played solo gigs in Kent at the now-closed Robinhood, Brady’s Cafe (now Starbucks), Mike’s Place and Susan’s Coffee and Tea.

While a student, he participated in a study abroad program in Europe. He played his music on trains while traveling across the continent. He even played it on the streets in France.

Everywhere Volpe has traveled, he has played for money on the streets and in the subway stations.

Whether he is busking on the street, performing on trains, playing gigs in venues or traveling around the country, Volpe keeps himself busy.

Contact ALL correspondent Gabe Gott at [email protected].