Mark Tremonti calls it “the most exciting musical project I’ve ever been involved in.” Which, after multiple multi-platinum albums with Creed, leading the bands Alter Bridge and Tremonti and making guest appearances on albums by Sevendust and Bury Your Dead, is saying a lot. And rest assured, many of the heavy rock guitarist’s followers will be more than a bit surprised by what the project is.
Tremonti Sings Sinatra, which comes out May 27, is exactly what the title says. Tremonti put down his axe, put on a tailored suit and tie and recorded 14 Frank Sinatra songs last year, with a band comprised of more than a dozen of Sinatra’s touring musicians and led by his musical director Mike Smith. Proceeds will go to the National Down Syndrome Society, inspired by Tremonti’s one-year-old daughter Stella. The project also launches his Take A Chance For Charity initiative, which will challenge others in the public eye — musicians, athletes, actors, comedians — to step out of their comfort zones and make similar efforts for charity.
“This gives everyone a get out of jail free card,” Tremonti tells Billboard. “If you do it for charity, there’s no, ‘Ah, what’d they do THAT for?!’ Imagine you’re a professional quarterback but you love singing. If you record a song and put it out, your fan base might weigh in and say, ‘Ah, just throw the football.’ But as soon as you do it for charity, people say, ‘What a good person!’ and then they might say, ‘Y’know, he’s got a decent voice. I’m gonna go deeper into what they’re doing musically.’ I want to have this roll into as many other people, with as many different backgrounds, as possible.”
That’s certainly what gave Tremonti his license to record Frank Sinatra songs. He listened to The Chairman’s music as a youth growing up in Detroit and Chicago, “mostly at Christmas.” Hearing it later in life, Tremonti noticed that “when I would sing along with it, his vocal range just suits me. When I sing Sinatra stuff, I’m not having to stretch out and sing outside of my range like I do with the rock stuff, which is a perfect thing for a singer. I can’t do this with Michael Jackson or Prince, but I can do it with Frank Sinatra and people in that lower register.”
Before long Tremonti became “obsessed” with Sinatra’s music, studying recordings and video performances. He began talking about his interest a couple of years ago, but he didn’t know what to do about it until Stella was diagnosed with Down syndrome. “All the stars aligned for me right then,” Tremonti recalls. “I guess everything in life must have a reason, and the reason for me to be so obsessed with Frank Sinatra…was to do this record and raise money for charity and awareness for Down syndrome. It gave me new purpose in life.”
When Tremonti pitched the idea to his manager, Tim Tournier of Janus Music Management, he learned that Tournier had taken lessons from Sinatra’s guitarist Dan McIntyre. McIntyre brought Mike Smith into the project, and after hearing a tape of Tremonti singing “Luck Be a Lady” recorded in a bathroom at his home near Orlando, Fla. — “Nice reverb,” he says — the Frank Sinatra Estate gave the project its blessing.
Tremonti and the Sinatra crew recorded Tremonti Sings Sinatra during three two-day sessions in May, July and October of 2021 at Palisades Studio (formerly The Tone Zone) in Chicago. “Everybody was telling me how nervous I should be, and usually I am nervous for musical projects,” Tremonti says. “But I wasn’t nervous at all for this. I practiced this more than I’ve practiced anything. I went in there 1,000 percent prepared — every nuance, every breath. I sang these songs, like, 1,000 times over. So I couldn’t wait to get into that room.” He recounts that his preparations were so intense that at one point his son Pearson asked Tremonti to park his car further away from the soccer field where he was playing because his father could be heard singing in the lot nearby.
Smith did his part to help Tremonti get in the spirit of the sessions, handing him an original Sinatra vocal chart and giving him the same tea, with the same amount of lemon, that Ol’ Blue Eyes would use during his sessions. While initially concerned about “what I’m gonna do with this project,” Smith wound up complimenting Tremonti in the studio for doing his homework. After learning that Sinatra didn’t like men wearing earrings, meanwhile, Tremonti removed his — which he’s had since he was 18 years old — for the recording session and has not put them back in.
For material Tremonti chose a mix of popular standards and lesser known tracks for the set, including “I Fall In Love Too Easily” from the film Anchors Aweigh, “Wave,” “You Make Me Feel So Young” and “The Song Is You.” At the Sinatra estate’s direction, many of the tracks are reimagined. “They don’t want you to do sound-alikes of the original arrangements,” Tremonti explains. “I really wanted to do songs that I loved that maybe I’d be introducing people to, like ‘Wave’ or ‘I Fall In Love Too Easily.'” He was initially hesitant to include the iconic “My Way,” but the ensemble created a version of the signature song at the end of the third recording session that felt appropriate to include.
“That was the only song on the entire recording session we didn’t use charts for,” Tremonti notes. “It was more of an improvised thing, a very live, in the moment of that song. Dan was playing a nylon string acoustic guitar, and I think I sang it a little softer than the original version. I’m so happy with the way it turned out. I didn’t want it to sound like the normal ‘My Way.'”
Tremonti — who took publicity photos in Sinatra’s dressing room at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas — plans to celebrate the album’s release with a listening party and concert in Florida around the time of its release. He’d like to do more Sinatra dates but also has a packed slate of work on the rock side, including tours by both Tremonti and Alter Bridge; he’s recording a new album with the latter, for which pre-production begins next month. He will nevertheless make sure Tremonti Sings Sinatra and Take a Chance For Charity get a proper launch, and he hopes this isn’t the only time he’ll be recording songs from the Sinatra songbook.
“I would absolutely love it,” he says. “I remember it was so sad that last day, when I was in the room with the last few guys, saying bye. The Sinatra stuff gets me emotional, and when you draw into the fact I’m doing it for my daughter…it’s a special thing. I just want to raise a ton of money for Down syndrome, and get other people to raise money for charities they love. I want to be a little old man on my death bed knowing I raised $100 million for charity or something. I feel really driven to do that right now.”
The tracklist for Tremonti Sings Sinatra includes:
I’ve Got You Under My Skin
I’ve Got the World on a String
I Fall in Love Too Easily
Fly Me to the Moon
Nancy (With the Laughing Face)
You Make Me Feel So Young
Luck Be a Lady
Come Fly With Me
In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning
The Song is You
All Or Nothing at All