Local musician M.R. Poulopoulos became serious about guitar playing while he was a student in Providence, R.I. He will perform at Moon & River Cafe on Tuesday.
Albany native Mike Poulopoulos had to leave the Capital Region in order to discover his musical talent.
The indie-folk singer-songwriter, better known by his performing name M.R. Poulopoulos, grew up obsessed with The Beach Boys, and later Billy Joel. His parents even bought him a “beat-up guitar” while he was still in high school. But he didn’t really take to it until he went away to college to Providence, R.I.
“I met a bunch of guys who liked playing music that I ended up hanging out with my sophomore and junior years,” he said. “I was in a crazy band that played some of the bars in Providence. And then when I came home from college, I definitely brought the music back with me; I didn’t want to do anything without it.”
That was maybe a decade ago. Sometime in 2003 or 2004, he teamed up with like-minded singer-songwriter Matt Durfee as the duo Palatypus, which has risen to the forefront of the Capital Region indie scene in the subsequent years.
opening for The Drenched Earth Tour with Chris Castle, The Womack Family Band, Justin Stang, Lizzy Pitch
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20
Where: Moon & River Cafe, 115 S. Ferry St., Schenectady
How Much: Free
More Info: 382-1938, www.moonandrivercafe.com
For a time, Palatypus was the project that most music fans in the region knew Poulopoulos for. Although he had always performed solo, he didn’t really make that his focus until 2009.
With the release of his first full-length solo album, “Greenhorn,” in April of this year this year, it seems the tables have turned. This coming weekend and week, Poulopoulos is keeping busy with multiple performances — first up is an appearance at the second annual Roots Music Festival at The Linda on Saturday night.
“This is the second roots festival that they did at The Linda; I think the two before that they held at Red Square,” he said. “I think I’ve played all three, but in the three years previous I played in the acoustic duo Palatypus.”
Then, he performs on a four-act bill at the Moon & River Cafe, opening up for Union, Wash., singer-songwriter Justin Stang, Lizzy Pitch, Ohioans The Womack Family Band and Chris Castle (the latter two acts as part of the “Drenched Earth Tour”). On Thursday, Sept. 22, he’ll be part of a show at McGeary’s in Albany benefiting victims of Hurricane Irene, alongside fellow locals Erin Harkes, Sirsy and Mirk.
“I believe, Chris Castle, he’s played with a number of musicians, having lived in Nashville for a while, so that’ll be an experience,” Poulopoulos said. “It’s good to meet musicians out of town — so now maybe I can go out to Ohio, where those guys are based out of.”
Palatypus is still an ongoing concern — when he spoke with the Gazette, Poulopoulos had two shows lined up with the duo that weekend. But the solo performing has given both him and Durfee an opportunity to expand their musical horizons.
“It was a convergence of opportunities and situations,” Poulopoulos said. “There came a time that in order to grow the music as Palatypus, we had to go out and find other things to fill out the repertoire. I expect [Durfee] to come out with a solo album now, too — he’s a fantastic musician and an amazing singer and fingerpicker.”
The songs on “Greenhorn” are mostly new, written over the past few years. There were some holdovers dating back to the early 2000s, such as “Drunk,” which was a song Poulopoulos performed with his first Capital Region band, Manic Head, and Palatypus. The version on “Greenhorn” fits with the intimate, stripped-down aesthetic of the rest of the album, which was recorded by John Rice at Hilltown Studios.
“I always thought about the concept of how I wanted that tune to sound right from the get-go,” Poulopoulos said. “I had the opportunity to play it out with a bunch of different people, and the opportunity to hone in on what that vision was. But when I heard John play slide over it, and when Ryan [Dunham] gave it a nice breathy feel with the harmonica, I thought, ‘Yeah, we’ve gotta get it down like this.’ ”
It’s not unusual for Poulopoulos to play Palatypus songs in his solo sets, and vice-versa. Whether a song is a solo song or a Palatypus song, they both tend to start out the same way songwriting-wise.
“Matt and I, when we sit around and we play songs — I play a tune, and Matt plays along, or Matt plays a tune and I play along, and sometimes it doesn’t really feel like we’re meeting up somewhere,” Poulopoulos said.