Anthony Casuccio in Villa’s on-campus recording studio. Photo credit: Derek Gee, The Buffalo News
Anthony Casuccio is living the standard-issue existence of a successful person: He has a good job – chair of the music department at Villa Maria College – and a nice home in East Amherst he shares with two teenage sons and his mother.
He has a couple of college degrees, does lots of work in the community – he’s president of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame – and has a healthy side business mastering music recordings. The framed certificates on his wall, honoring him for working on Grammy-nominated projects, are a nice conversation starter for visitors.
It’s impressive. And he’s an affable guy, too, with a warm smile and a chill demeanor that accents his intense ambition. Casuccio co-founded a small record label. He wrote a book called “Be Nice,” which he published a decade ago. He’s one of those people who always has something percolating beneath the surface. Today, it’s something in his basement.
“Let me open this up,” he said one afternoon, sitting behind a console in a small room that is filled with microphones, speakers and guitars. He’s opening a song that he’s about to release in the European market.
From this home recording studio, Casuccio is creating music that is positioning him as something of an indie music sensation.
In this song he’s opening now, Casuccio is going to fix what he calls a “cough” moment: A musical mistake that, when the song is played aloud, makes him want to cough to cover it up.
“That is the luxury of having my own space and my own equipment, but it can be a curse,” Casuccio said. “Sometimes you just have to let things go. I can’t. If I hear something, I will fix it.”
But from here in his basement, Casuccio is big in Europe. He records songs that are hitting the charts. He’s interviewed regularly by music websites and magazines and the occasional broadcaster. Few people in his daily life realize this. In Buffalo, he’s a dad and a professor and, as president of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, a leader. He’s good things, but he is not a music star.
Until you look online.
“You know what? I don’t really talk about it,” Casuccio said. “I don’t know how to talk about it. Because of that, only people in a small circle know what I’m doing, and they’re blown away by it.”
This is a little mind-blowing: Four of Casuccio’s songs as a solo artist have listed on European music charts, led by “Lighthouse,” which he released over the summer. With a punchy keyboard track, love-song lyrics (“I’ve been wandering for so long, searching for a place to belong, I wasn’t looking in the right direction, till I stumbled on your perfection”) and a club-style beat, the song has persistently climbed into the top five of the European Indie Music Network charts, peaking at No. 3.
Three other Casuccio songs (“Friends First,” “Not Alone” and “Love is the Answer”) have cracked the Top 40 on a variety of European charts, mostly ones that track independent releases. That means his work is generally not competing against major artists. (There’s not an Anthony Casuccio vs. DJ Khaled showdown in the works.) But he is going head-to-head for airtime and ear-time on radio stations and streaming platforms with the legions of musicians who, like him, are using easily accessible technology to produce their own work.
“Honestly, it’s a game to me, and I love it,” Casuccio said. “How much farther can I go with this release than my last one?”
That game begins with contacts, and three decades into a mostly behind-the-scenes music career, Casuccio is loaded. After graduating from Williamsville East High School in 1987, he earned his undergraduate degree at SUNY Fredonia State College and headed to New York, where he trained at the Juilliard School and worked for Reader’s Digest Music. A decade later, he moved to San Francisco, where he spent the next five years working with a broadcasting company funded by Sony and getting involved with the Grammys. (He remains involved today as a political advocate and is also a Grammy voter.)
During his time in San Francisco, Casuccio established himself as a go-to producer for mastering, which is a late-stages step in the musical production process. He developed deep connections in the hip-hop community in particular, and parlayed that into a business, Xtream Audio Mastering, that be brought with him to Buffalo when he moved home in 2004 and began teaching at Villa Maria.
For his first decade back home, Casuccio used his portfolio of experiences and contacts in the background. He built Villa’s music program, became president of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, and got involved in music-related charitable initiatives. He kept playing guitar, his primary instrument, but typically used it only in recording sessions or to create jingles, including one for the Vinyl Outlet and a dairy campaign called “Milk Times 3.”
That changed eight years ago, when he teamed with Lana Marie, a well-known singer in Western New York music circles, to form the pop-rock duo A&L. Together they released nine singles, marketing them online by working with promoters who pitched the songs to radio and streaming platforms.
In the United States, that’s an expensive and highly regulated industry. In Europe, however, that involves a smaller investment – hundreds of dollars versus thousands – which made the overseas market an accessible one. Seven of A&L’s songs broke into the Top 40 or better, and through that process, Casuccio developed relationships with European-based promoters.
When he started releasing his own singles during the pandemic, he tapped those same contacts and started charting as a solo artist.
Record promoter Alessandro Cicioni said that Casuccio is “esteemed and respected here in Europe” and described his appeal: “Since the very beginning of our collaboration, Anthony demonstrated his high quality level and his careful (attention) to the details. But it is not just that. (It) is also that he made music with a universal language.”
Cicioni suggested that Casuccio’s music has potential in farther-reaching markets, including Australia, and says his music has “a super intelligent irony.”
Before he releases music, Casuccio asks his promoter contacts for feedback: “I’ll ask, ‘Which song do you think will resonate with your audience?’ ” he said. “They’ll tell me, and I’ll put more effort into that song.”
Casuccio picked an important bit of feedback early: Use guitars. It turns out his primary instrument is a key selling point in Europe. “I’ve kind of shifted my musical tastes from this pop-rock, guitar-central music to this EDM, pop-style music that still has guitar,” he said. “Because guitar is big over there.”
For “Lighthouse,” Casuccio produced a bright, tight track with an electronic-driven melody support guitar line and bursts to the forefront in a 15-second solo that follows the bridge. The song’s promotional graphic depicts Casuccio standing in front of a dark sky filled with lightning bolts, staring directly into the camera, holding a light sphere between his hands. That image has been used in several stories and reviews about the song, most of which appear in indie magazines and websites – an ecosystem of sorts for DIY creators who publish, promote and talk about their art.
A reviewer on one of those sites, Elnews.world, called “Lighthouse” a “captivating track” and nodded at Casuccio’s following: “(The song) embodies a message of love and positivity, perfectly capturing his new musical direction. While Casuccio’s love for the guitar remains evident with mesmerizing solos that will captivate his devoted fan base, he seamlessly incorporates dreamy pop sensibilities and electronic elements, showcasing his versatility as an artist.”
Soon, that showcasing may happen a little closer to home. Casuccio has performed a handful of stage shows and DJ sets in Buffalo and is forming a band to hopefully launch an East Coast tour of small venues, possibly wineries. “My bucket list is to go on tour, even if it’s a short tour,” said Casuccio, adding that a European tour may follow.
If that happens – if the man follows his music from the basement to a continent across the Atlantic – the fans will be waiting.