Chris “Roadblock” Hartway is a Jersey native, current Hoboken resident, and the lead guitarist of the Defibulators.
He has barnstormed across the U.S. and Europe, playing gigs, eating Monte Cristo sandwiches, and tearing up the dance floor. When he’s not onstage, he moonlights as a studio musician and guitar instructor.
Rocks Off Concert Cruise will present the Defibulators today. The Defibulators will perform abroad the Half Moon, a 200-capacity yacht, which sails around New York Harbor. Guests to the cruise can wave to the Statue of Liberty while shaking a leg to the band’s corn-fueled country music.
I recently caught up with Chris to discuss the band, life on the road, and the state of coffee and cuisine in Hoboken.
Brendan Carroll: Tell me about your background. Who are you, and what do you do?
Chris Hartway: My Name is Chris Hartway. I grew up in Middlesex, N.J., studied painting at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. I moved to Hoboken shortly after school to be close to NYC (and leave Philly). I have played guitar since I was 14 and continued to do so through high school and college.
In college I became a bit more serious about it and visual art would later take a back seat to making music. I now play in two roots/country bands, the Defibulators and The Dixons – and I do occasional gigs with other artists as well as some studio work. I also teach guitar part time at Hoboken’s Guitar Bar and bar tend at a prominent NY Jazz club to pay the bills.
BC: Who are the Defibulators, and what’s your role in the band?
CH: The Defibulators are a 7-piece outfit consisting of the coed vocals of Bug Jennings and Erin Bru accompanied by rhythm guitar and banjo, electric guitar, fiddle, Upright bass, drums, and washboard and percussion. We are partly jug band in spirit but certainly bring a modern sensibility to our brand of country and roots music. I play electric guitar (primarily twangy telecaster).
BC: What can the audience expect to see and hear (and smell) from a Defibulators show?
CH: The Defib’s are a spectacle to behold from Justin Smitty “The Giant Fiddler” sawing away on his axe, to Metalbelly flailing away on his washboard in his red union suit long johns. We have a good time and the fun is certainly infectious. The audience is usually grinning and tapping their toes right along with us. We keep the energy up but change the pace with some ballads. The music itself is a wide range of the Americana Landscape, from Honkytonk, Bluegrass, Swing and an occasional R& B and blues tinge all done in our own unique style. I guess our shows smell like beer and whiskey, but the next will smell like the Hudson!
BC: What’s up next for the Defibulators?
CH: We’re currently planning a big fall tour out west in support of our album “Corn Money” and then its back to writing tunes and getting in the studio for our next record.
BC: Tell me about the Rocks Off Concert Cruise.
CH: We will be sharing the bill with our good friends Secret Country, (From New Jersey!) and playing to a captive audience on a cruise boat around Manhattan. It should be a great time.
BC: What has been the high point in the Defibulators so far?
CH: Being able to travel as a band, meeting people and seeing places and getting to perform all over. I think our month long tour of Belgium and Holland was definitely a high point for me.
BC: What has been the low point?
CH: Playing to one person in Athens Georgia at a place called Tasty World.
BC: In addition to Larry Cooney and Scott St. Hiliare, who else has had an impact on your guitar playing?
CH: I’m into so many musicians that it hard to say, but I’m certainly way into all the telecaster guys, like Don Rich, Roy Nichols, Roy Buchanan, James Burton and on and on. As far as contemporary guys I love Redd Volkaert and NY guitarist Jim Campilongo. There’s nobody like Jim.
BC: You studied painting in art school, and play guitar. I studied painting in college, and take Polaroid photos. What’s the deal? Speaking of art and painting, have any artists influenced you, and your approach to music?
CH: Yeah. How does that happen? It never seemed to be a conscious choice; it’s just where my interest took me. In terms of visual art, I’m sure that I’ve been influenced in ways I may not even know, but I’ve definitely always enjoyed the improvisational aspect of creating. This applies to music and visual art alike. Maybe I try to sound like Arshille Gorky looks. Huh?
BC: Lil Wayne is Weezy, Jay Z is Hova, and you’re Roadblock. How did you get the nickname, and what else do you have in common with these rap stars?
CH: No way I’m telling that lore to the general public. Sorry guys. I have a couple tattoos so I’m 10 percent like Little Wayne .¤.¤. sorta.
BC: You hail from Jersey-the home of Bruce Springsteen, Redman, Count Basie, and The Misfits. What’s the deal with Jersey, and why does it inspire such great music?
CH: We got it going on here no matter how you look at it! I guess when you’re the butt of a lot of jokes you got something to sing about.
BC: What hardcore matinee would you rather see-Mouth Piece, Resurrection, Lifetime at City Gardens or Earth Crisis, Snapcase, and Turmoil with Jim Winters at the Trocadero-and why?
CH: Any show with Jim Winters trumps all.
BC: Let’s focus on Hoboken. How long have you lived here? What is your favorite place to eat? Who has the best jukebox, and where can you find a decent cup of coffee?
BC: If Hoboken challenged Brooklyn to a no holds barred wrestling match inside the Rumpus Room, whom would you root for, and why?
CH: Duh! Hoboken’s where my heart is.
BC: What do you recommend at Dames?
CH: Drink Espresso at Dames.
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