Gambler Tuesday

Jim Santanella gives us a new ‘Gambler’ and an interview

Do you hear that? Do your ears deceive you?

Oh, yes that’s a new cover of “The Gambler” by Seattle musician Jim Santanella who was kind enough to send it our way and let us feature it in the playlist. I gotta tell you, in the few years I’ve done this, this might be the best Gambler Tuesday ever.

Not only did Jim gives us this great cover, he also answered a few burning questions.

Who are you? Where are you from and what’s your musical background?

My name is Jim Santanella and I am a singer-songwriter originally from the New York/New Jersey area. I moved to Seattle from New York City in 2000 and continue to call the Pacific Northwest home. I have released three albums, as well as “The Gambler” single, independently on my Squatter Records label.

What drew you to covering “The Gambler”?

I was always drawn to “The Gambler” as a kid because my parents were playing that Kenny Rogers album constantly throughout our house in NJ and still have their original LP in my record collection. (I toyed with the idea of replicating the cover with a modern day photo shoot for my version.) But I really ended up recording it because “The Gambler” popped in my head while I was checking out my friend Perry Morgan’s band, Blue Spark, play at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard (a Seattle neighborhood). I remember thinking the singer, Garth Reeves (previously of Goodness), would sound great singing a version of “The Gambler”. I told Perry that they should cover the song. Perry laughed a little and said yeah, yeah, yeah. But I could tell he was never even gonna tell him. So, I decided to do it instead. I originally started working on it as an acoustic version. While working on it, I was also messing around with a drum loop that was pretty punk. Next thing I knew, I was laying “The Gambler” chord structure over the loops on the electric guitar. The vocals were a mix of me singing laid back in a low register and a backup screaming vocal that was strait up New York Hardcore (I was going for Agnostic Front/Cro-Mags). When it was done, I played it a few times and then my wife came in to our detached garage where my studio was and asked me to play it again. That moment of acceptance is probably the only reason this song made it this far. I then sent the song to longtime friend and engineer Tom Camuso (Steve Earle, Madeski Martin & Wood, John Scofield) for a listen and he wanted to get involved. He asked to send the ProTool session over to him in NYC and said he would fool around with it and make it sound better. Tom added some guitars and brought in Anthony Krizan (Spin Doctors, John Waite, Noel Redding) for the drums and additional guitars including the solo and Greg Faiella to play bass on the final mixes.

Have you figured out when to hold ‘em or when to fold ‘em?

Such a great line that can apply to almost every aspect of your life. Let’s put it this way, I am getting better at these types of decisions.

What’s the best advice you’ve received you consider an ace you’ve kept?

You never fail until you stop trying.

What’s the most you’ve ever had when the dealing was done? Did you walk or run?

My favorite gambling story is playing black jack when I was in Puerto Rico and I had the first seat to the left of the dealer. I was new to the game at the time and clearly inexperienced. The people to my left were pissed that I was taking cards when I shouldn’t be and I ultimately ended up taking their face cards. The whole table was cursing and talking under their breath about my lack of blackjack knowledge. Even the dealer shook her head at me on one occasion. I played a few hands but ran away before it got too out of hand. Advise: If you are new to blackjack, sit to the right of the dealer, not the left.


I’d like to thank Jim for taking the time to answer these questions. As you can tell, he has some deep musical roots and great musical connections. I’d recommend gonig out picking up not only the single for “The Gambler,” but I also recommend you picking up one of his albums. Get them at emusic, Amazon, iTunes, or CD Baby.

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