Christina Fuoco-Karasinski >> The Entertainer!
Jared Kolesar takes the stage at The Listening Room Phoenix and is taken aback by the silence.
“Why is everyone so quiet,” he says with a laugh, as he wrestles with his acoustic guitar.
The frontman of Tempe’s Jared and the Mill, Kolesar is used to raucous fans and the clinking of glasses in venues he plays. This is The Listening Room Phoenix, though, a spot for serious music fans to do just that—listen to music without loud conversations and noises interrupting the moment.
“We’re not a food or a beverage place. We’re not a restaurant,” says owner Jim Colletti. “We’re not a bar. We put all of our focus on the performance—and we really do.
“We approach this as if the performer is our only customer because we truly believe that. We believe that if the performers are given everything they need to create the best possible experience. Then we, as audiences, are going to have the best time.”
Colletti opened The Listening Room Phoenix two years ago and in that time, he has hosted 260 events.
“We have proven time and time again it’s great,” he says. “The performers tell us afterward they have never been treated the way they’re treated here. They’ve never been given the best opportunity to perform. Many of them hear themselves as if they’d never heard themselves.”
Music listeners respond similarly, Colletti says.
“The audiences sit there like, ‘Holy cow.’ They’re like, ‘Where has this been all of our lives? We’ve never heard music like this before.’”
Megadeth’s David Ellefson brought his “Basstory” to The Listening Room Phoenix.
“I found The Listening Room to be the perfect size and ambiance for what I needed on my ‘Basstory’ tour,” Ellefson says.
“My events are part concert, part master class and part audience participation. The size of The Listening Room gave me all three in one. What I found interesting is that it’s not only a quaint location, very much off the beaten path of the hipster areas of Phoenix, but when pulling into the parking lot (which only holds a few parking spots) they have a sort of exclusive walk up area reminiscent of the trendy clubs of NYC or LA, complete with what could be a red carpet, red velvet rope and proper door man.
“There are many ironies of quant verses hip, casual meets exclusive and so forth. As much as I want everyone to know about it, I like it being a sort of intimate venue that only my friends know of….it has that sort of, “Pssst, I just found the ‘cool’ spot in town,” a sort of music speakeasy.
From advertising to music
Before The Listening Room Phoenix, Colletti was in marketing and advertising in the automotive industry. One of his biggest clients was Nissan, which is headquartered outside of Nashville. One trip changed his life.
“Music was never a part of my life until I had this chance encounter with a young musician who was playing on the streets,” Colletti says. “Come to find out he was homeless, living in his car, trying to make it like hundreds or thousands of musicians do every year in that area.
“His music just touched me for whatever reason. I bought his music. What he would do is go to the library. He burned CDs and he’d hand draw the cover art. I think I paid him $40 for the CD. I listened to that CD nonstop and that’s not me. It totally changed my life. I shared it with friends who were in the music industry.”
The musician was Adam Smith, and one of his friends who owns a recording studio in Sedona said, “Get him here now.” Colletti put Smith on the first flight from Nashville to Phoenix, and drove him to Sedona.
“All of my friends in Sedona wrapped their arms around Adam,” he says. “He recorded the full demo album. They took headshots. They wrote his bio. They gave him all the tools he needed to get out into the world.
“On my way out the door, my friend says to me, ‘Now, you know what your job is, right? You have to manage his career.’”
That took an unexpected turn as well: Colletti and Smith have been married for two years.
“Before that, I was walking side by side with him, watching him, and having all these experiences in venues all over the country,” Colletti says. “There’s just so much that a performer has to go through to really just do what they live, never mind eke out the money to make a living.”
When Smith moved to the Valley, the two tried to find venues for him to play. He wasn’t happy.
“He went to a venue in town to plug in his guitar and there was literally a French fry in there,” Colletti says. “We started to make mental notes from every place we went, and we said, ‘Someday we’re going to open our own venue. We’re going to change this and we’re going to do it differently.’”
That was The Listening Room Phoenix.
“We didn’t approach this as being a moneymaking venture,” he says. “We approached it from really a perspective of selfishly giving Adam a place where he can be comfortable and give all the Adams—and there are hundreds and thousands of them in our local community—someplace to play.
“Our focus with this space is to provide a pure musical experience, void of all the traditional distractions that you find in other venues. We’re not a bar. We’re not a restaurant and we’re not a café. We’re not even a club with concessions, quite frankly. The Listening Room Phoenix is a place where they don’t have to compete with people sitting at tables or chairs in front of the stage having a conversation.”
The benefits at The Listening Room Phoenix go beyond that. Powered by a Bose sound system, The Listening Room Phoenix allows performers to choose if they’d like audio or visual recordings of their shows. It is part of the performance agreement. Colletti also live streams the performance on social media or the internet.
“We do provide editing services for an additional charge so the artist can get their recordings finished for duplication,” Colletti says. “We have had six or so albums released from Listening Room shows.”
Like Kolesar, some find the room intimidating.
“I’ve had musicians who have played for 30, 40, 50 years and who have said to me, ‘I’m feeling nervous and I never feel nervous,’” Colletti recalls musicians saying. “Part of it is because there’s nothing to hide behind if you’re not on key. But the experience is it’s a goosebump room.”
The Listening Room Phoenix
4614 N. Seventh Street, Phoenix