Intrinsic Drive®

Musical Mentoring with Two-Time Grammy Winning Producer Robert Cutarella

April 10, 2024 Phil Wharton - Wharton Health Season 5 Episode 7
Musical Mentoring with Two-Time Grammy Winning Producer Robert Cutarella
Intrinsic Drive®
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Intrinsic Drive®
Musical Mentoring with Two-Time Grammy Winning Producer Robert Cutarella
Apr 10, 2024 Season 5 Episode 7
Phil Wharton - Wharton Health

Robert Cutarella spent most of his childhood evenings burrowed under his pillows, a transistor radio speaker in his ear listening to the Dick Clark Show and other famous deejays. A passion for rhythm emerged during drumming sessions with wooden spoons borrowed from his aunt. At nine years-old Robert’s parents took him to see drum icon Gene Krupa at the Metropole Club in midtown Manhattan. Krupa’s physicality and deep passion for his craft made a lasting impression on this soon to be music industry giant. 

Bob had visions of owning his own company and following a career in the music industry. Robert developed an ear for rhythm, melody, and song structure through growing up in the rhythm and blues era, he earned the opportunity to play with “Do Wop” greats the Shirelle’s, Dion and the Belmont’s, among others. 

Robert then took a side road, he fell in love eventually marrying his childhood sweetheart, became a teacher, owned an antique store, sold clothes on the weekend, and played music at night. Music was pulling him to go all in, he accepted an ultimatum from his wife to make it in the music business within a year. Ten months later, Robert recorded his first album. 

We learn of Robert’s devastating losses, heartbreaks, and betrayals, and priceless wisdom gained. Robert recalls humble beginnings, meeting clients at his first office at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, returning calls on the New York City Public Library’s phone booth.   

During the last 40 years, this music producing mastermind has produced over 3,000 songs, 160 plus platinum records, including two Grammy awards, for the Les Paul and Friends Tribute Album. Robert discovered and launched careers for some of the most prolific performers of all time including, legendary blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn, and pop singing megastar Celine Dion.

This behind-the-scenes hit making genius has guided current recording giants John Legend and Lady Gaga through his songwriting mentorship programs. We are anxiously awaiting Robert’s new book Mentor, we hope you glean valuable insight, and enjoy meeting this music industry superstar on this episode of Intrinsic Drive ® .

Intrinsic Drive ® is produced by Ellen Strickler and Phil Wharton and Andrew Hollingworth  is sound editor and engineer.

Robert Cutarella artist bio and timeline:

Robert began his career in the music industry as a producer and performer. He was employed by many major labels and performed with a variety of recording artists ranging from Joe Williams to Bruce Springsteen.  Here's a list of some of those artists;
Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, Sheena Easton, Air Supply, Melissa Manchester, Whitney Houston, Michael Henderson, Diana Ross, Deborah Allen, Dolly Parton, The Police, Elton John, REM, Culture Club, The Human League, ABC, Linda Ronstadt, and Frank Sinatra, Hall & Oates,The Bee Gees to Sammy Cahn, Benny Benjamin, Jule Styne,
Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Metallica, Raven, Gino Vannelli, Vanessa Williams, Patrick Simmons, Basia and others.

Host note--If you are still listening at the 1:13:06 mark. I say "centurions" while meaning to say "centenarians", a mistake that you may find hilarious.

Show Notes Transcript

Robert Cutarella spent most of his childhood evenings burrowed under his pillows, a transistor radio speaker in his ear listening to the Dick Clark Show and other famous deejays. A passion for rhythm emerged during drumming sessions with wooden spoons borrowed from his aunt. At nine years-old Robert’s parents took him to see drum icon Gene Krupa at the Metropole Club in midtown Manhattan. Krupa’s physicality and deep passion for his craft made a lasting impression on this soon to be music industry giant. 

Bob had visions of owning his own company and following a career in the music industry. Robert developed an ear for rhythm, melody, and song structure through growing up in the rhythm and blues era, he earned the opportunity to play with “Do Wop” greats the Shirelle’s, Dion and the Belmont’s, among others. 

Robert then took a side road, he fell in love eventually marrying his childhood sweetheart, became a teacher, owned an antique store, sold clothes on the weekend, and played music at night. Music was pulling him to go all in, he accepted an ultimatum from his wife to make it in the music business within a year. Ten months later, Robert recorded his first album. 

We learn of Robert’s devastating losses, heartbreaks, and betrayals, and priceless wisdom gained. Robert recalls humble beginnings, meeting clients at his first office at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, returning calls on the New York City Public Library’s phone booth.   

During the last 40 years, this music producing mastermind has produced over 3,000 songs, 160 plus platinum records, including two Grammy awards, for the Les Paul and Friends Tribute Album. Robert discovered and launched careers for some of the most prolific performers of all time including, legendary blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn, and pop singing megastar Celine Dion.

This behind-the-scenes hit making genius has guided current recording giants John Legend and Lady Gaga through his songwriting mentorship programs. We are anxiously awaiting Robert’s new book Mentor, we hope you glean valuable insight, and enjoy meeting this music industry superstar on this episode of Intrinsic Drive ® .

Intrinsic Drive ® is produced by Ellen Strickler and Phil Wharton and Andrew Hollingworth  is sound editor and engineer.

Robert Cutarella artist bio and timeline:

Robert began his career in the music industry as a producer and performer. He was employed by many major labels and performed with a variety of recording artists ranging from Joe Williams to Bruce Springsteen.  Here's a list of some of those artists;
Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, Sheena Easton, Air Supply, Melissa Manchester, Whitney Houston, Michael Henderson, Diana Ross, Deborah Allen, Dolly Parton, The Police, Elton John, REM, Culture Club, The Human League, ABC, Linda Ronstadt, and Frank Sinatra, Hall & Oates,The Bee Gees to Sammy Cahn, Benny Benjamin, Jule Styne,
Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Metallica, Raven, Gino Vannelli, Vanessa Williams, Patrick Simmons, Basia and others.

Host note--If you are still listening at the 1:13:06 mark. I say "centurions" while meaning to say "centenarians", a mistake that you may find hilarious.

Phil Wharton  (00:00:00):

A lifetime of training, practice, study hard work through discipline, some achieve excellence, mastery, fulfillment, self-actualization. What can we learn from their beginnings, discoveries, motivations, and falls. How do they dust themselves off and resume their journey? During these interviews, stories and conversations, we reveal their intrinsic drive.

Robert Cutarella  (00:00:26):

Robert Cutarella spent most of his childhood evenings burrowed under his pillows, a transistor radio speaker in his ear, listening to the Dick Clark Show and other famous DJ's, A passion for rhythm emerged during drumming sessions with wooden spoons borrowed from his aunt. At nine years old, Robert's parents took him to see drum icon Gene Krupa at the Metropol Club in midtown Manhattan. Krupa's physicality and deep passion for his craft made a lasting impression on this soon to be music industry, giant. Young Robert had visions of owning his own company and following a career in the music industry, Robert developed an ear for rhythm, melody, and song structure. Through growing up in the rhythm and blues era, he earned the opportunity to play with Do Wop greats, the Shirell's Dion and the Belmonts, among others. Robert then took a side road, he fell in love, eventually marrying his childhood sweetheart, became a teacher, owned an antique store, sold clothes on the weekend and played music at night.


Music was pulling him to go all in. He accepted an ultimatum from his wife to make it in the music business within a year, 10 months later, Robert recorded his first album. We learned of Robert's devastating losses, heartbreaks and betrayals, and priceless wisdom gained. He recalls humble beginnings meeting clients at his first office at St. Patrick's Cathedral, and returning calls in the New York City public library's phone booth. During the last 40 years, this music producing mastermind has produced over 3000 songs, 160 plus Platinum records, including two Grammy Awards for the Les Paul and Friends tribute album. Robert discovered and launched careers for some of the most prolific performers of all time, including legendary blues guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and pop singing Megastar Celine Dion. This behind the scenes hit making genius has guided current recording giants, John Legend and Lady Gaga through his songwriting mentorship programs. We are anxiously awaiting Robert's new book, and we hope you glean valuable insight and enjoy meeting this music industry superstar on this episode of Intrinsic Drive.

Phil Wharton  (00:03:11):

All right, Robert, well, thank you so much for taking the time out of your super crazy busy schedule with artists and all that you're doing now with the new book and the new school, and just like to welcome you to Intrinsic Drive. Thanks for coming man.

Robert Cutarella  (00:03:27):

Oh, it's my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.

Phil Wharton  (00:03:33):

 Let's go to the beginning for you, and in the show we have the genesis or the start for you in music. Would it have been that time when you're nine years old and your parents take you to the Metropole Club and you see Gene Krupa? Was that when you saw this amazing drummer with the pompadour hair that wasn't out of place, and you said, that's me. I want to do that. Was that the moment?

Robert Cutarella  (00:04:00):

We always look for the defining moments? Right, and I mean, I know that that was a pivotal moment, but even before that, I used to watch the Dick Clark show in New York, or he was in Philly, I think, but it was television and it was transistor radio, which that's dinosaur, but that was mono. So you only had one of ear plug. You put it in your ear, and this jockeys would be talking to you, and basically they were your voice. They were speaking your voice through their music and through their commentary. And it was a lot of fun because my parents said, Robert, I can hear go to sleep,


And you're under the covers. You got the transistor, you're hooked up


Transitor radio and two pillows. I never used the two pillows for my neck.

Phil Wharton  (00:04:52):

Good for you.

Robert Cutarella  (00:04:55):

So they couldn't hear the music. But the Metropol, when I went to the Metropol, because it's impressive to sit next to somebody who is that physical Yeah, that musical, and is very naturally doing what he does. It's not this effort like, oh my God, I got to lift 450 pounds. And it's not that kind of an effort. The effort is he's playing his heart out because there's something deeper in there that's pushing him to do that. And that's what I identified with, I mean, I'm only a kid, I get that. And I was playing sports up to them all the time. Baseball, baseball, football, football. So that was always, the drive was always some kind of physical thing, but watching him, and I was a bit that I was chubby and hunched over, and I just took a look at this guy and I went, wow. I mean, I still have the signed album cover is great, and I still have that, still have the album. It's interesting because that's a rabbit hole too. It brought me down the rabbit hole of, oh, let me learn about drums. Oh, how do you tune drums? Oh, drums made of and all that. So yeah, the short answer is that would be one of the most pivotal moments before the Beatles.

Phil Wharton  (00:06:26):

And so there's a passion that's coming out and also obviously a curiosity and a joy of this music. And the DJs are talking to you and you're like, okay. And so then you start practicing right to the 45's. You had a turntable and you're practicing?

Robert Cutarella  (00:06:45):

In the beginning for me, it was just boxes. And my aunt, me, her wooden spoons in between sauce. In between sauce, I get the wooden spoons. So I get a half an hour, 45 minutes here and there, and I can practice to the Beach Boys or whoever. It was mostly at that point. It was stuff. It was always the DoWop stuff. And see, that was beautiful too. In my house. We had a Victorola. As I explained to people, it wasn't, we didn't call it a record player. It was called a Victorola

Phil Wharton  (00:07:22):


Robert Cutarella  (00:07:24):

 That's what RCA made the Victorolas. And later on, you find out RCA was part of Channel Four, which is one of the main, they all had TV stations, Columbia Records was Channel Two CBS. And so it was pretty cool. You learn all that later.

Phil Wharton (00:07:45):

So, there was still some radio shows when you were growing up. There was still the old time radio. There was still some of that going on?


There was that going on in TV. We had a TV upstairs and downstairs in my house where my aunt lived and parents, my father loved music. My father was a singer who couldn't sing in time. And having a drummer for a son, you can get a lot of arguments about, this is where the time is at, and this is where you're supposed to phrase this, but he just sang because he loved it. And my mom loved listening to music too, but she loved Mahalia Jackson and Della Reese. Odd stuff for white kids growing up partially in Brooklyn and Queens, but the love affair of hearing it all the time and the joy in it, and the pain in it too. It's weird you know there's a lot of joy in it in music all the time, but there was also a lot of pain in it. For some reason, as a kid, I don't know why I identified with the pain too. To this day, I still feel artists. Matter of fact. I'm always looking for that visceral response somehow.

Phil Wharton  (00:09:03):

Makes sense. And that helps you to step into the space with them, I'm sure, because of you're modulating the frequency and you're feeling them in the heart.

Robert Cutarella  (00:09:14):

Yeah. See, that's interesting modulating the frequency, because to me, it's all energy and it's all reaching different chakras, and I just relay a really crazy story. But to your listener, it might be a cool story.

Phil Wharton (00:09:28):

Yeah. Tell me.

Robert Cutarella (00:09:28):

 When I had cancer, I was having trouble with my bladder, and they didn't want to send me home with this unless they sent me home with a catheter because I was having trouble with the bladder, and I just could not, for whatever the reason, that was the one stumbling block. And I said, look, you're supposed to be released in three hours, so I don't know. If you don't get to go to the bathroom in three hours, you're going home with a catheter. And there's no way in the world I was going home with a catheter. So I called up a friend of mine who had tuning forks, and when you talk about modulation frequencies, he came over. They didn't really want him in there with the forks and all working on me, but he was working on me on my bladder point. And twenty minutes later, man, I was good as gold. Went home without the catheter, and they just looked at me, how did that even happen? You've been struggling with this for a week now. And I said, it's not. I said, we can move the energy around. Sometimes we need a little help.

Phil Wharton  (00:10:33):


Robert Cutarella  (00:10:35):

And frequencies. And I know a lot of people who are working with different frequencies for sleep apnea, for things like that, and they're having a lot of success with it, even having success with Alzheimer's patients.

Phil Wharton  (00:10:52):

That's great to hear. I'm sure you're connected to a lot of them through the music world. I know from the healing world, some of us, we use a lot of tones in our healing work, and it's just amazing how can sometimes breakthrough an old pathway, an old pattern of disease model can unlock.

Robert Cutarella  (00:11:10):

You have to be open, you have to be receptive. And a lot of times we resist that because that's not the old model. It's not what we've been taught. Right. And so most people, that's woo woo stuff.

Phil Wharton  (00:11:21):

That's right.

Robert Cutarella  (00:11:22):

Yeah. Yeah. It has been.


 To me, it's pretty normal, but that's because I enjoy it and I find it fascinating, and I think that I respond to it. Some people don't.

Phil Wharton  (00:11:34):

Yeah. And the results make sense. I mean, as we look Robert in the ascent, when you're kind of rising, when was it when you felt you were rising in your craft and how old were you? Was it maybe the moment when you were asked to get on stage with the Shirelles and sort of more into that DoWop that your father was bringing you into at that time?

Robert Cutarella  (00:11:56):

No, not really. It's a funny thing. I took a side path. I really fell in love with my childhood sweetheart. We were both English teachers and we both loved music. Her father was a flamenco guitarist, but her father was forced to quit because he was given an ultimatum, either your family, by his wife or nothing. I didn't want to be that guy either. You know what I mean? Who had to have an ultimatum given. But eventually, that's what happened with me. But the love affair for the music and the ascent, I always felt like I was doing the right thing playing music. There was never anything wrong playing music. It was just that it was drummed into my head that, Hey, you're not a rock star. You're not going to, and these kids are, it's a fad, or it's this or that. I never felt like it was a fad either.

Robert Cutarella (00:12:55):

But I did what my parents expected me to do, and I went and had a career as I studied to be an English teacher, and my grades weren't good enough. My high school was a nightmare for me because my parents sent me to Bed-Stuy in the middle of all the riots to go to school. 

Phil Wharton 

Oh, wow. 

Robert Cutarella 

Yeah. I got beat up eight times, nine times. My clothes, my homework and this or that. And then I was terrified to get on a train. Of course, I was not a very good student. I was so traumatized. I wasn't thinking about school.

Phil Wharton  (00:13:32):

Absolutely you were getting abused.

Robert Cutarella  (00:13:35):

I had an escape. Finally, the ascent really came. There was a knowledge that I was really enjoying what I did playing. It was frustrating, not making enough money, but I was almost making the same amount of money as a teacher playing drums on the weekends or playing with different people. And when I started getting more and immersed in that world, I wanted to know more. My ex-wife and I came up with, let's give me a year and let's see what I do in a year. 

Phil Wharton 

There you go. 

Robert Cutarella 

Yeah. Had a year window. Most people say 10 years to get into the music industry. I got one year, so I got one out of ten right.

Phil Wharton  (00:14:22):

That's tough. So you're on the chopping block here.

Robert Cutarella  (00:14:25):

Oh, I certainly know the chopping block. Anyway, the long and the short of it is within a year managed to get a single out, managed to get it charted here and there. Managed to manage a band, learn about production, and feel like I'm in the music industry in less than a year.

Phil Wharton  (00:14:44):

In less than a year's time. It's remarkable.

Robert Cutarella  (00:14:46):

And on the job training, really, because we didn't have the internet and we didn't have books that told us all about all this stuff. We had people and we had to develop people skills. So thanks to my mom, I was able to get an office in Manhattan. It was right under Stevie Wonder's office.

Phil Wharton  (00:15:05):

Oh, wow. And that's amazing.

Robert Cutarella  (00:15:08):

57th and Broadway. Oh yeah. I mean, he was there once in a while, even as a West Coast guy, but he was there, thought he was there. This was in New York, and I started to feel like I was part of the industry in around 1974, Seventy Five. I was doing the right thing then, but a lot of people, I had a lot of ups and downs, which I talk about in my book a lot. It's just part of life.

Robert Cutarella (00:15:40):

It's not, oh, it's the music industry. It's not segregated that way, and it's not onto just entertainment or it's just part of life. You go through ups and downs. And I don't say that I'm the most graceful by any means in dealing with it, but if you can find a moment of grace in whatever you're doing, and realize that if you're joyful in what you do and that's bringing you your happiness, then you're on the right path. So for me, it was the joy. I mean, there's nights when I would play where we would sing certain songs where I would be crying while I'm singing it. It really hit me that hard. And then there other nights where I just have a smile from ear to ear.

Robert Cutarella (00:16:28):

There were more of those, although I'm one of these characters that I would be offered a job in the music industry as an A and R guy. And then literally the day that I go to sign the contract, the guy dies, or the guy moved away from the company. It happened three times for me.

Phil Wharton  (00:16:46):


Robert Cutarella  (00:16:47):

I was down to pennys and I was living down the village, but I had, my office was St. Patrick's Cathedral. I used to use as my office.

Phil Wharton  (00:16:58):

Really? That's amazing.

Robert Cutarella  (00:17:00):

St. Patrick's Cathedral. And then the public library was my phone that was around the corner.

Phil Wharton  (00:17:06):

That's great.

Robert Cutarella  (00:17:07):

And those were my two. Those were my go-to's. I had two go-to's there. And it's funny, there was a window right by one of the saints, I don't know. It was donated by the Maitland family. Mike Maitland was the president of MCA records, and I swore I would work at MCA at some point.

Phil Wharton  (00:17:30):

You did

Robert Cutarella  (00:17:31):

In 1981 I did. I worked.

Phil Wharton  (00:17:33):


Robert Cutarella  (00:17:34):

I thought that was interesting. A little.

Phil Wharton  (00:17:35):

So that was a real synchronicity.

Robert Cutarella  (00:17:37):

Yeah, that was. But I mean, it was, you know how if you put it out in the world that, oh, this has already happened. It's just that it hasn't arrived here yet, but it's already happened. That's what I always, with the MCA thing, MCA for me was a nightmare of a job because it was, you might get your wish, and sometimes what you wish for isn't what you think it is. So MCA was very bad. Four different presidents in five years is horrible.

Phil Wharton (00:18:10):

Was that when you were head of the New York City division of talent acquisition and producing?

Robert Cutarella (00:18:16):

I was director of talent acquisition.

Phil Wharton  (00:18:17):

Okay. Okay.

Robert Cutarella  (00:18:18):

But it's later on in the journey. But I don't know if I answered your question in a roundabout way, but

Phil Wharton  (00:18:24):

No, you absolutely did.

Robert Cutarella  (00:18:25):

 I was 1974, 1975, started to feel like I was in the industry and I was being accepted by heads of companies, these guys. These were my mentors, big producers. And I didn't know what any of it was. Didn't know what producing records. I didn't know nothing. Absolutely ignorant of all of it.

Phil Wharton  (00:18:45):

And yeah, let's go to some of those. In your discovery, through these experiences and events, like having an office in St. Patrick's and then phone over there at the library and all these things, who were some of those other mentors? Was it George Martin from The Beatles was it?

Robert Cutarella (00:19:03):

Well yeah. My friend Bob Rose, who was a studio guitarist. I made friends with all the studio guys. They were popular then. They were making all the records. Everybody called them for all the records, and somehow we just bonded, we're musicians and all this. So we would all hang out together, and they would invite me to the sessions they were playing on, and I would just sit there. So George Martin was one of them with the Neil Sedaka record "A Song." Matter of fact, Will Lee was the bass player. We were talking about that the other day.

Phil Wharton  (00:19:33):

Oh, really? Wow.

Robert Cutarella  (00:19:33):

Yeah. We were just connecting a dot

Phil Wharton  (00:19:36):


Robert Cutarella  (00:19:36):

About stuff like that. And so I sat there and I didn't ask many questions initially, but I did observe how powerful somebody like a George Martin is. And then Rupert Holmes, who was also an artist, was producing Barbara Streisand then. And he was very nice to me. He and a guy named Jeffrey Lesser. And then, oh my goodness. Arif Mardin.

Phil Wharton (00:20:08):

Arif yeah. I remembered you mentioned him.

Robert Cutarella (00:20:09):

Arif Mardin to me was, he is the quintessential definition of a producer. He is versatile. He was an arranger, as kind as can be. He has total respect from every musician he's ever been around. And the thing during those time periods, and this kind of played into something too, which I liked, these guys would get dressed up to go in the studio like a job. And not that it's important to be dressed up, but it put a bit of a separation in a good way.

Phil Wharton  (00:20:45):

Makes sense.

Robert Cutarella  (00:20:47):

They came in, did their job, but here was this guy who actually thought out all the songs, all the arrangements went through all that, what a producer did. Then they had to do arrangements and everything. They didn't have the tools that we have today where you can just press a button and it's kind of already arranged for you because.

Phil Wharton  (00:21:05):

This is an analog.

Robert Cutarella  (00:21:08):

I mean, this is a real deal live. Arif was a big, big influence on me because he had worked with Chaka Khan, Phil Collins the BeeGees. When I got my first job, the BeeGees were like first people I met on the job. And we had Saturday Night Fever at that time. So it was big.

Phil Wharton  (00:21:29):

Couldn't be bigger.

Robert Cutarella  (00:21:31):

My head was like, Wow. I'm working here.

Phil Wharton  (00:21:35):

Right. It's not like work, like you said, it's like this a passion, and the time's just going.

Robert Cutarella  (00:21:42):

I was determined. There was no way. I was not going to make that job work for me. No way. Somehow.

Phil Wharton  (00:21:55):

That's amazing. And in the drives. So here you are at this dream job, and what else do you feel like? What were some of the external and internal forces and motivations during that time in your life? What was urging you forward? That passion? Because you being a musician and then you're inside all these studios and you're learning and growing, what were some things that come to light?

Robert Cutarella  (00:22:18):

That became very natural stuff. I was also a sensitive person in a weird kind of way when it comes to, I was always insecure about myself and my body and everything else. And so being divorced, I was thrown into a whole new world around that timeframe, being divorced. And it was also a very sexual revolution then. There were a lot of women were, What drives you, Robert? Well...

Phil Wharton  (00:22:50):

Night fever. Night fever. Night fever.

Robert Cutarella  (00:22:53):

Definitely. Night fever became day fever before I had the job. Day fever. Night fever. Morning fever. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I was such a dog that way.

Robert Cutarella (00:23:08):

But you know what? It was, everything was part of a discovery. It was all related. It wasn't, it was finding a way. I couldn't find a balance. I didn't have a balance. So I would overdo everything overboard, which is why I don't do drugs or drink or stuff. I'm really, if I overdo anything or have it's health related. But I was driven to be a part of an industry, contribute and understand what it feels like when you, like the first platinum record I got, man, my head was spinning.

Phil Wharton  (00:23:48):

Yeah, must have.

Robert Cutarella  (00:23:49):

 Yeah. And then there was this wild thing, and it came about in the strangest ways too, because my boss was a man named Irwin Schuster. There was Irwin Schuster, Irwin Robinson, Frank Military, and Don Oreola. It was four different guys who I got my job in a very, very odd way, because three opportunities came the same day. I went to the interviews with all of them, and this is 1978.

Phil Wharton  (00:24:20):

So this is Chapel Polygram, right? This is now that?

Robert Cutarella  (00:24:22):

Yeah, Chapel Music. But I was offered a job with Columbia Records publishing, which is called April Blackwood. I was offered a job with Billy Joel's ex-wife Elizabeth, and that was at the height of his, "Stranger", and all that stuff, but I didn't feel those jobs. The odd one for me was Chapel, because I had known the people up there. I had liked the people there. They knew me. They always take things.

Phil Wharton (00:24:50):

The rapport yeah.

Robert Cutarella (00:24:51):

So it felt good up there. But they were in the middle of doing construction. I had my one nicest pair of shoes on. I was struggling. So I wasn't in flush means by anything, and I always try to keep myself looking good. So I went up there and my boss says to me, my boss to be said to me, you know what? He said, this is a strange meeting for me. I said, why is that? He said, I just hired somebody this morning, but they told me I had to see you. So I said, okay. So I said, so there's not much of a shot here, is there?

Phil Wharton  (00:25:28):

Right. Yeah. It's a foregone conclusion. Yeah,

Robert Cutarella  (00:25:32):

But it wasn't because he gave me what's called the Clive Davis litmus test. What he did was he would play a song and he'd say, who do you think should record that song? And I answered five of them. And all five had just been recorded by the people. I said, so

Phil Wharton  (00:25:52):

You had that ear.

Robert Cutarella  (00:25:53):

He threw the cassette at me and he said, what am I supposed to do now?

Phil Wharton  (00:25:58):

Yeah. Here's my guy. Here's my real guy right here. Yeah.

Robert Cutarella  (00:26:03):

What can I tell you? I said, I would love to be here. The salary was about 5,000 less than I was making playing drums.

Phil Wharton  (00:26:14):

Oh, really?

Robert Cutarella  (00:26:14):

I was playing drums for a mafia guy. I was making good money because it was all cash. And over there, if you play Mama twice a night, the guy's, Hey, Frankie give him a hundred. Here's 1970's hundred. Here is another meal. Hey, come. What'd they put their arms around you? They got you in a vice grip, and I was making good money, but I couldn't wait to get out there. I really couldn't wait get out. I was watching after this guy's girlfriend, even though he was married. Part of the deal with us was I got the gig. I had to teach her the music industry. So it was really, so I wanted out quickly as I could get out.

Phil Wharton  (00:26:59):

A lot of baggage that came with that.

Robert Cutarella  (00:27:01):

Yeah. It was too much. At that time. There were mentors who were helping me there too, like Neil Bogart, who had Donna Summer and all that stuff. These were people that were in my corner. But anyway, got the job because when I went home, I ripped the last pair of shoes that I had, the nice shoes. Now I'm thinking, I don't have the job. I got to work for one of the other assholes because I felt like they were assholes. I shouldn't say that, but I didn't feel comfortable with them.

Phil Wharton  (00:27:32):

Makes sense.

Robert Cutarella  (00:27:33):

Got on the train. And I'm cursing like an old drunken sailor. Right. Shoes that I. And then I get home and on my machine it said, what do you want for lunch tomorrow?

Phil Wharton (00:27:44):

Alright. Alright. From the new office. Yeah.

Robert Cutarella (00:27:49):

But this may answer a question you may ask or not, but I think it will. I went to work, then I would go in at eight in the morning. Everybody else comes in at 10. I would go in at eight. I would study the catalog, this and that. I would also drink a pot of coffee before anybody came in. So I was like a Screaming Mimi.

Phil Wharton (00:28:09):

You were revved man.

Robert Cutarella (00:28:10):

I was more than revved. Trust me.

Phil Wharton  (00:28:13):

High octane.

Robert Cutarella  (00:28:15):

I say Hello. It's like, what is it? The Roadrunner?

Phil Wharton (00:28:21):

Yeah. That's amazing.

Robert Cutarella (00:28:24):

But I would go in at eight and I would leave some nights at 10pm, and go see three bands, and then come in at eight the next day again. And I think the exercise and everything really helped me because I was amped up, but I was also, I could exhaust myself to go to sleep five hours and be happy as I'm coming in the next day.

Phil Wharton  (00:28:42):

So you were running in the park and doing some Oh, yeah. Yeah. So you were

Robert Cutarella  (00:28:47):

During the day

Phil Wharton  (00:28:48):

Taking care of yourself.

Robert Cutarella  (00:28:49):

Yeah. My lunch was at the health club.

Phil Wharton  (00:28:51):

Nice. Fantastic.

Robert Cutarella  (00:28:53):

Running in the park. It helped. And I tell you what, I did burn out. They put me in the doctor's office. One day I passed out, they brought me to the doctor's office and they said, look, you're burnt out, pal. You got to cut out the nighttime thing. You can't go out one in the morning every morning and working. So I stopped for a couple of weeks. I laid low, according to my boss. They said, lay low. And what was happening was I was pitching forty fifty songs a day to different people, and I was getting no results.

Phil Wharton  (00:29:29):


Robert Cutarella  (00:29:30):

And I was learning all the producers and Clive Davis and I were becoming, I was on his speed dial because he liked my taste in songs, but nothing yet. So one day my boss says, get out of the office. I said, Uh Oh, did I get fired? He said, no, no, no. He says, I'm so happy I have you here. Just get out of the office for this afternoon. Take a walk. I said, well, he said, go to the park. I'm telling you, get out of here. I grabbed the cassette with me. I wasn't going to leave without a cassette. Got a cassette, and I walked right into Clive Davis.

Phil Wharton  (00:30:06):

No way,

Robert Cutarella  (00:30:07):

Clive. I got a song for Barry Manilow, and Barry was with him. I said, I got a song for him. And then I've got another song. You've got a new group called Air Supply. Anyway, I give him three songs and I get a call that afternoon when I come back, said, we're going to cut all of them. One's going to be the second single, and the other one's going to be Barry's Single, and it's going to bring his career back, but we need a piece of publishing. So I talked to my boss. My boss negotiated it. So all of a sudden, I'm finally getting something. In the same week. I got a call about a Chaka Khan song that became a gold record, but they offered me a job in the West Coast. And so they said, I'm going to send you out there for three weeks and if you like it. And I said, well, sure, why not? I went out here to meet people and all. And what happened was when I got in the car going to the airport, both of my songs were playing back to back in the radio. And I was smiling like you would not believe. I get on a plane. I go, wow, I'm doing the right thing. I know I'm doing the right thing. I land, and as I'm landing, there's fires everywhere and all I'm going, holy shit. What happened here? The earthquake happen? No, that's just like normal West Coast stuff. Fires in the mountains. I didn't know that West Coast stuff, but I'm looking out the window going, this is horrible.

Phil Wharton  (00:31:32):

This is not good.

Robert Cutarella  (00:31:34):

Same two songs playing again. And I went, okay.

Phil Wharton  (00:31:37):

Okay. This is meant to be. Yeah, this is meant to. Yeah.

Robert Cutarella  (00:31:41):

So it was a confirmation that Yes, I know I've been speaking quickly. I don't know what timeframe is here.

Phil Wharton  (00:31:49):

No, no, you're good. You're good. Take your time. This is really amazing to hear all these synchronicities coming together to moving you forward and giving you that validation that, okay, I'm in the right place. I'm in the right industry. We're making a difference. Things are landing. What about falls for you? And you may have already said that when your shoe ripped and you're on the train and you're cursing, but

Robert Cutarella  (00:32:19):

That was just like, that was a blip.

Phil Wharton  (00:32:22):

Okay, very good. I thought so, but

Robert Cutarella  (00:32:25):

No, but I did have a fall coming. Okay. Big fall coming, which was totally unexpected. When my parents, they got divorced and they got back together. My father was having affairs, and an affair with my mom's sister. I mean, just the family was wackadoodle. I'm an only child. I'm in the middle of all this, and still I was trying to stay married. That didn't work. Then I've got this job and I'm trying to keep my head about that. And also, when you're getting, a lot of people give you accolades and you've never had any of that positive reinforcement, then you got to deal with that. I was going to therapy, so that was good.

Phil Wharton  (00:33:04):

That's good.

Robert Cutarella  (00:33:05):

The therapist that I had was really good guy.

Phil Wharton  (00:33:07):


Robert Cutarella  (00:33:08):

And it's another Italian guy, but he taught me to meditate and all this stuff.

Phil Wharton  (00:33:14):

That's great.

Robert Cutarella  (00:33:15):

He's Italian. My roommate was DeVito, the other roommate, the guy's name is Santa Maria. I'm like, all you're missing is meatballs and a pinky ring you know.

Phil Wharton  (00:33:27):

You make an offer you can't refuse kid, sit at the couch lay down.

Robert Cutarella  (00:33:35):

 But the fall was coming and the fall was that politics internally in big companies. Now, I was extremely, extremely, extremely close to my boss. He was like a father to me. We just would hang. We'd go to the, he was part of the Friars Club. We'd go there for dinner.

Phil Wharton  (00:33:57):

Yeah, the Friars. Yeah.

Robert Cutarella  (00:34:00):

Friers Club. You see all the Alan King and all these guys sitting there.

Phil Wharton  (00:34:03):

Yeah, I know. I have a friend that belongs there. Yeah.

Robert Cutarella  (00:34:06):

Yeah. I mean, now, I don't know what it is now, but I mean, they're trying to re-up it, but back then it was a big deal deal. My friend Frank Military would take me there all the time. He used to manage Sinatra. Anyway, so I was very close with this man, and two things happened that were really, really pivotal. One was I get a call one morning saying from my mom, saying, your father has a couple of months to live. I'm like, excuse me. And I don't know, I just broke down. I went freaked out. He says, yeah, he's only got a couple of months to live. They got 27 lesions in his back. So that kind of freaked me out. At the same time, two other things happened. I mean, there was a positive attached to this. I got into discovery about diets and stuff. I went to see Michio Kushi, A friend of mine told me. 

Phil Wharton  (00:35:06):

Oh yeah Michio.

Robert Cutarella  (00:35:07):

East West Institute.

Phil Wharton  (00:35:08):

Yeah, one of the fathers of Macrobiotics.

Robert Cutarella  (00:35:12):

He was the guy. So I got there a little too late for my dad. And it's interesting because six months before this, my father was in the hospital. They told him he had an inner ear infection the first time he was ever in the hospital. And it was an Asian practitioner who said to him, listen, I know you have an inner ear infection. I can give you Dramamine. You'll be fine. It'll go away at some point, but you're going to experience the same thing happening again. Your kidneys and your liver are jammed. And my father was like, well, thank you. Thank you for telling me that. He didn't care. He was like, really? Just get me out of here. And he didn't believe him and didn't understand any of that. He was really talking about the kidney points in the liver.

Robert Cutarella (00:36:01):

They did discover my father's cancer. He had 27 lesions in his kidneys. His liver, his spine. So right there, here I got this job. I got four assistants that I'm working with. It's a powerful job.

Phil Wharton  (00:36:17):

Really high powered.

Robert Cutarella  (00:36:18):

At that point. Yeah. I had a lot of writers and I was really at the top of where I could go in that setting. Same time, my boss had this kid and he said, he's got a good ear and we need another guy here. Will you train him? So I said, sure. I'll be his mentor, and I liked him. He was very nice person. At least I thought he was a nice person at that point. We'd hang out and then I would drive home to the Long Island. I'd drop him off. He was out in the Island. I'd go see my father and spend the night and the next morning, pick him up. And it was quite draining because my dad required I'd be awake half in the night with him sometime. It was just required a lot. I had to paint his house because that's the last request he wanted. Now here I got this job and he's on more morphine, and I got to paint the fricking house. But it tested me on a lot of levels because I remember I got my wisdom teeth taken out, and I did it all in one night. And I had talk with the therapist before that, and he said, look, train yourself to know that it's just an inconvenience. You're not in pain, just discomfort. And I was able to do that to keep myself going with my dad without taking pills. I had to drive and all. So it taught me a lot of this grit that you have, anxiety you don't know you have.

Phil Wharton  (00:37:50):

That's right.

Robert Cutarella  (00:37:50):

When you're reaching into something else.

Phil Wharton  (00:37:53):

That adversity, that adversity advantage. You had to go through those. And so you had to step through that threshold.

Robert Cutarella  (00:38:00):

And it's not anybody, they don't teach you that. It is what it's, it happens, and you have to either can step up or not in that situation. But what happened was this kid was, I was teaching this kid, and I had said to him, since I was technically his boss in a way, I said, look, all the music that comes in on a Wednesday from international, and then Friday mornings we get it. I get first shot at sending it out to my contacts, and then everybody else sends theirs out. It's kind of the chain. That's the way it works.

Phil Wharton  (00:38:39):

The way it works.

Robert Cutarella  (00:38:40):

And it also worked because for five years I had been working there or four years, and I had gained that seniority, and that's allowing me to keep succeeding and whatever behind my back. This kid was using my name, my contacts, sticking his name on it and all this stuff.


It was all blowing up. Same time my father's dying. Same time. I mean, this was the perfect storm coming. At the same time, my boss was going through something that none of us understood or knew. All of a sudden he was drinking at lunch. I think he was taking some kind of pills. His mother had died. He had this beautiful family and really well known, and everybody loved him and just a sweetheart. And I bought him a dartboard one day, and I went to open his door and the dart came flying out. All of a sudden we're like, okay, no dartboard for him. We got him weights or something else. 

Phil Wharton 

Yeah, something a little less hazardous. 

Robert Cutarella 

Very hazardous. That thing came flying past my ear. Normally I would just go knock on the door, open the door, and go in you couldn't do that anymore.

Robert Cutarella (00:39:59):

So what ended up happening was one day I'd had enough of this when I noticed that my songs that I was pitching, I wasn't getting the credit for the kid, was taking the credit for all of that. I was introducing them to all these artists, Pat Benatar, Cindy Lauper, all my friends. And what he was doing was he was having sex with a couple of other women in there, and they were helping him out at night, getting all the stuff ready for him, so he could prep and send everything out before it did anything with me. I grabbed him one day and I'm the easygoing guy. I don't fight. I put him against the wall. Next thing you know, my boss is like, okay, you move your office there, you go over there. I don't need this BS here. We're there one day. And my boss, we get a call that he's missing for three days, and next thing you know, we get a call that he just jumped out of a window. We were heading to his house. He had just jumped out the window. His wife saw it. There was a note, but we never got the thing on the note. That was devastating. At the same time my dad died. So that happened probably within three months of each other. Then I was dating an African-American woman, and my mother was very prejudiced, and she wouldn't talk to me when my dad died.

Phil Wharton  (00:41:34):

Oh, no.

Robert Cutarella  (00:41:35):

Even though because of that. So now we got this going on, and then they were selling the company.

Phil Wharton  (00:41:40):

All at the same time.

Robert Cutarella  (00:41:42):

So I took a job at a smaller company, but a more prestigious situation. But it was all a bit overwhelming because that particular job, I signed a bunch of major acts and ended up in a lawsuit. I didn't have a great contract, so I had this perfect storm. Parents started talking to me. Then I get the girl caught her in bed with somebody, even though we never had any disagreements, everything seemed to be fine. We were with each other all the time. So it was this, I got hit like bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. You go from this big job to the smaller company, then you go, you lose your father, you lose the two men in my life, my father, and then my boss, and those were the only two men in my life who had any kind of impact on me other than the therapist. And the period following that for about two, three years was miserable. I mean, because getting into the lawsuit, I had just signed and involved with Metallica, and a whole bunch of people like this, and I lost.

Phil Wharton  (00:42:55):

Okay, so that's CBS Sony, right? With the John Hammond project?

Robert Cutarella  (00:43:00):

Yeah. John was a sweetheart, but the real boss was this guy, Chuck Gregory. John was getting a little senile, and he wasn't really happy with whatever they had structured. I don't know what had structured. Stevie Ray Vaughan's tape came in one day and it was thrown in the garbage by John.

Phil Wharton  (00:43:19):


Robert Cutarella  (00:43:21):

Oh, yeah. It'll never end up in a book. So

Phil Wharton (00:43:24):


Robert Cutarella (00:43:26):

It ended up through Chuck Gregory's friend, a guy named Chesley Millikin. Stevie Ray came in, the tape came in, and my boss played it for me. I was the head of A and R, and I said, okay that's that's a wrap. You don't have to think about this one. I mean, this isn't a natural, we just do this deal done. So when we played it for John, John goes well he is just another blues guitarist, so I don't know what we do with him. I mean it was just, John could be like that. John was brilliant, but everybody else missed it. Chuck and I went to lunch. Chuck and his Infinite wisdom said, we're going to start a bar band series. So I found out that Stevie's brother was available to T-Bird's.

Phil Wharton  (00:44:21):


Robert Cutarella  (00:44:22):

And I said, okay. I called my friend who had just dropped him from Chrysalis, and he told me why and all this stuff. And I said, okay well we can get the brother. I said, and then we can get Stevie. Then Chuck said, we'll get Doug Sahm, we'll get some other anyway long and the short of is, we go back in and Chuck could sell ice to Eskimos. He goes, we're going to do this bar band series. John it's an amazing, we got this the fabulous T-Bird's, and we got this guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and we got and John goes that's fantastic. Fantastic. Do it. Sounds great. Chuck grabs the tape out of the garbage, makes a phone call, and the next thing we have Stevie and the T-Bird's. And I was involved initially as the A and R guy, and then it went, they did a buyout where John took them over to Sony. So Stevie ended up on Epic.

Phil Wharton  (00:45:14):

On Epic

Speaker 3 (00:45:15):

T-Bird's ended up on Associated Labels. I think that's the way it ended up, or vice versa.

Phil Wharton  (00:45:21):


Robert Cutarella  (00:45:22):

I was supposed to have points on all this stuff. So I started a lawsuit when everything, I had just signed Metallica, Anthrax through one deal with this guy, Johnny Z, and I was supposed to have my percentage points on all this Basia, Gino Vannelli, Vanessa Williams. We had a label that should have been the next Chrysalis.

Phil Wharton (00:45:44):

Yes. I mean Patrick Simmons too. I think you.

Robert Cutarella (00:45:47):

Oh, Patrick, I still talk to Patrick.

Phil Wharton  (00:45:49):

Do you? Oh, that's neat.

Robert Cutarella  (00:45:50):

Yeah. I mean, I try to stay friendly. Jimmy Vaughn got pissed off because he always wanted me to be his guy. And Jimmy, to all his credit, he's not Stevie. He wasn't Stevie. So I tried to make everything happen the right way for them, which we did. The Tough Enough album broke them, but it didn't come out on our label. It came out through the Sony affiliate.

Phil Wharton  (00:46:16):

That was a very popular album, there was two or three cuts on that that were very top. They were top in the charts, weren't they? I mean,

Robert Cutarella  (00:46:22):

Yeah, Wrap It Up. Yeah. Became a big one. But the big one was Tough Enough. We get arguments about all this stuff too, because the guys in the band had, I'll just leave it at, they thought about other things rather than just the music.

Phil Wharton  (00:46:39):

Got it. Yeah.

Robert Cutarella  (00:46:40):

And they think, they look at me, I'm the procurer of the other things

Phil Wharton  (00:46:46):

Of the extracurricular activities.

Robert Cutarella  (00:46:49):

And I'm like, sorry guys. I'm here to make a record.

Phil Wharton  (00:46:51):

Right. Yeah. It's a professional thing.

Robert Cutarella  (00:46:53):

I'm your label guy. I'm not a bank. I'm not. Anyway, the long and the short of it is I ended up in a nine year lawsuit with all the labels that the artists ended up on and I lost. So that was the final defeat of that. And so I started another company, which is, I don't know what's listed in the bio. I never look at my bio, but.


Yeah, I think that your company was the Zaman Hit List, wasn't it?


Yeah. We created five number ones out of my,

Phil Wharton  (00:47:28):

Yeah, I mean, it was a huge success.

Robert Cutarella  (00:47:32):

 I would think so we started Celine Dion's career.

Phil Wharton  (00:47:36):

Unbelievable success.

Robert Cutarella  (00:47:37):

There's another one that will never end up in a book because the head of A and R died, Don Grierson, who was a friend, and the producer involved Chris, who's alive in London. He is a dear friend. But that was one of those situations that Sony owned the artist through Canada, so that meant you'd have to put her out on the Sony affiliate in the States. So we went to Sony proper, Columbia Records International, and we met with, I won't mention names that would insult. The guy is another nice guy. But he took the meeting with us and he said, average singer, average song, and they said, but you own her. You've got a David Foster and Chris Neal produced an album. Why wouldn't you put it out? She's only 17 years old. I mean, she's a major potential artist, and you already have it. What does it take for you? But promotion now we don't believe in it. I said can we bring it to Epic? We got in the elevator and we went to Epic Records, which I don't know how many floors apart it was. We saw Don Grierson, he said, I think it's a hit record. I think she's great. Blah, blah, blah. Put it out. And a friend of mine helped promotion quietly, and we had a number one record with her, and that started her career. And then I had two others with her.

Robert Cutarella (00:49:07):

But again, I'm a creature of habit and habit sometimes and not good. I'll say this as a positive thing. Just because things are familiar doesn't mean they're good for you. I've chosen business partners and people around me in my career because that record company loss was a major loss for me financially. And then now I start this thing out of my living room, and the next thing you know, I go take a vacation in. My partner's got a whole floor on 57th Street and a whole bunch of workers, and I'm like, whoa, guys, we just got our first check can't we just enjoy some of this. And there were drugs and there were drinking, and I had to take a buyout. And that's when I took a job at MCA. I did not want to have a job at MCA, but I was starting to crack.


I'd worked, sleeping on my floor, let this guy stay in my house. Busting your ass, because you still love what you do so much, and you believe so much and that you're not going to fail. You didn't fail before. And if you don't leave any room for failure, you're going to have blips. Like I had a blip there, but three years you climb back and now you should be sitting on top of the world, and instead you're taking the frigging job. So not the ideal for me. I sold my piece at a very low price just to get out of it. My lawyer said, do yourself a favor. They're gonna run.

Phil Wharton  (00:50:41):

Just get out of the situation. Yeah.

Robert Cutarella  (00:50:44):

And they embezzled from me, probably millions of dollars because we had brought Lynyrd Skynyrd back.

Phil Wharton  (00:50:52):

Yes, I saw that.

Robert Cutarella  (00:50:54):

I have the money from the management. I'm not understanding why. So it was a confusing time. And MCA was just one absolute cluster of a horrible, I had more success there, and I met some great people there, but that's one that when that was finished, that was it. I wasn't going for any more jobs.

Phil Wharton  (00:51:21):

Okay. Yeah. So you finally realized, okay no more of this, and I've got to just really reevaluate. And maybe you were seeing people in their true selves what they could have been, but what they weren't ready to be in that moment.

Robert Cutarella  (00:51:36):

Yeah. I always gave everybody the benefit of the doubt. And then I made myself such a nervous wreck. I developed Epstein Bar. I developed a nice immune disorder but it got me into a macrobiotic diet and losing weight again.

Phil Wharton  (00:51:53):

That part's good. That's a good pivot.

Robert Cutarella  (00:51:55):

And that's the pivot. Yes. Again, it's just life happening the way life happens, and then all of a sudden it's just your journey.

Phil Wharton  (00:52:09):

That's right.

Robert Cutarella  (00:52:10):

When you start thinking about it, it's not all this extraneous, oh he didn't like this one, or I didn't like wrong well and good. That's all extraneous bullshit in the end. It's this journey that you're on that, okay. Did you discover that you finally figured this out, that maybe familiar people that you know? Well, my father was an alcoholic, so of course I'm picking people who have alcohol problems, drug problems, and even though they're nice, my father was nice. I loved my father to his day I miss him terribly. But really, when they have these flaws and you feel comfortable enough with these flaws, you're inheriting, you're almost asking for.

Phil Wharton  (00:52:54):

Yeah, you're going back to the familiar, because that's what you know, even though, okay, it's damage, but that's what I know. That's the motif.

Robert Cutarella  (00:53:04):

Yeah. You're asking for the punch. The left is coming. Just one and the right too.

Phil Wharton  (00:53:11):

Yeah. Right, right. No, I so identify with that. And it feels so good that you, even if we have to come to the darkest part of the abyss, so be it. Now you're coming out that, so you've found the macrobiotics, you found a better way to be healthy. So you're eating differently, you're taking better care of yourself. And now it seems like, okay, what happened career wise after that? I mean, how did you pivot in that way after MCA? What came up for you?

Robert Cutarella  (00:53:46):

 I had always been teaching songwriting for the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and that was an evening thing. I would do two nights a week. I had great classes.

Phil Wharton  (00:53:56):

That's great.

Robert Cutarella  (00:53:56):

And the beauty of that is, I mean even to this day, I'm still pitching it as a reality TV show because .

Phil Wharton  (00:54:03):

You should. Yeah.

Robert Cutarella  (00:54:05):

Well, you don't know how you get twenty people in a room, and number one, they're excited to be there. They're different ages, different places in their life, and they start bonding and it's ten weeks, and then they sign up again for another ten weeks, and another ten weeks. And before you know it you've got 'em there, three, four, five years now. I've been best man at weddings. I've been.

Phil Wharton  (00:54:30):

I bet

Robert Cutarella  (00:54:31):

These are some of my best friends.

Phil Wharton (00:54:33):

These are your family, these are your people. This is a creative incubator. This is,

Robert Cutarella (00:54:39):

Yeah. It's a tribe. The beauty of it is that you're watching people in their natural element just trying to attain who wants to be a songwriter, who wants to be an artist who's doing it for fun? And what would happen is during the course of it, somebody would come out who's gay, somebody else would have an affair with somebody. It would just be life again,

Phil Wharton (00:55:13):

The life cycle. Yeah

Robert Cutarella (00:55:14):

Pretty much. And then you'd live through their things with it, their deaths and their family, all this good stuff and bad stuff. And also you're watching them blossom. As a songwriter, you're watching the progression. So in the midst of all of this, you got this great progression going. And for me that was really exciting and always has been. I did it for sixteen years.

Phil Wharton  (00:55:40):

That's amazing.

Robert Cutarella  (00:55:41):

Through those programs. Lady Gaga came through there.

Phil Wharton  (00:55:46):

 Did she? That's great.

Robert Cutarella (00:55:47):

 Starland, Atlanta Del Rey, John Legend, all kinds of great people came through the system. So I mean, I started doing those again. I kept doing those, and then I started saying, you know what? I was managing producers that wasn't working them. I managed one guy, got him so much work, he literally dropped dead in his car, in the cab heading to the hospital. He didn't say had a heart problem. We got him all this work. He was taking all the work, and then all of a sudden he dropped dead in the cab. So that was weird. You going to predict that one? I don't think so.

Robert Cutarella  (00:56:32):

What a rollercoaster

Robert Cutarella (00:56:34):

I said you know what, I'm going to produce and write.

Phil Wharton  (00:56:36):

Yeah. That's amazing. And that's kind of genesis of this new, the mentoring school that's coming up, as well as obviously the book, your book that's coming out that we'll talk about.

Robert Cutarella  (00:56:49):

I mean, the book started out entirely different. It started out like twenty years ago as one title was, "Sex No Drugs and Rock and Roll." And then that morphed into a different kind of book, and then it became, You Couldn't Make this Shit Up if you wanted to.

Phil Wharton (00:57:11):

I like that one.

Robert Cutarella (00:57:12):

And then it turned into another, Celebrity, and then Celebrity turned into Mentor. It morphed as I realized what the book was really,

Phil Wharton  (00:57:27):

Really about yeah.

Robert Cutarella  (00:57:28):

It turned out to be. It really turned out to be about mentoring. I was fascinated with celebrity, but it turned into this whole thing of, being a mentor, and people that mentored me.

Phil Wharton  (00:57:40):

That makes sense.

Robert Cutarella  (00:57:41):

 That really had an impact.

Phil Wharton  (00:57:43):

Yeah, that resonates with me for sure. That makes sense. With your journey, and I think if we look at a rollback, Robert what do you think? What would you redo or do differently, if anything, if you had the opportunity?

Robert Cutarella  (00:57:59):

I always say I have no regrets, but the truth in the matter is I would do things differently for sure. I wouldn't be as impulsive as I've been when it comes to decision making and jumping into, I'm going to jump into this, or I'm going to jump into that. I have a tendency to get so excited about an artist or a writer that it's exciting, that discovery. So I want to get in. I've been taught to get in before other people, otherwise someone else will jump on it, so I might be less impulsive. That's number one. Number two, I think in the beginning and all, when I started having success, I was arrogant on some level, but not dismissive here and there. And I could have been kinder person, not as dismissive, and I always say, I don't want to be the smartest one in the room, but from time to time, I think my ego was not in check enough and I was probably insecure. So insecurity turned out to be me being a braggart or identifying myself with these kinds of successes instead of being a successful person, which is entirely different.

Phil Wharton  (00:59:19):

That makes sense. Yes.

Robert Cutarella  (00:59:22):

I mean, I think you can understand entirely that if you remain healthy and you live a good life, and you remain respectful, and if you remain humble, then you have a much more successful, or I consider that a much more successful life than somebody who says, oh, I got a boat, and I got a house, and I got the Maserati, and I got this. 

Phil Wharton 

That's right. 

Robert Cutarella 

I went through all that stuff too. Whenever I had money, I just pissed it away just because it felt like you got to show people this. You got to show people that instead. A better way would've been just be who you are in your heart, understand your heart, and then call yourself on your BS if you're yourself. If you can't be honest with yourself, oh my God, what are you going to do in the world and how can you be honest with anyone else?

Phil Wharton  (01:00:23):

Yeah, well, I love that. It reminds me of what we were talking about off air with your relationship with your God Son, and how he's calling you on everything, and it's like this very real natural mirror. Obviously, you're seeing yourself in him, and he sees things and hopefully a lot of growth, but that makes a lot of sense to me.

Robert Cutarella  (01:00:48):

It's part of the journey too. I'd like to think I've hit a certain age where a lot of my friends recently have been dying. My cousin committed suicide. My best friend.

Phil Wharton (01:00:59):

Sorry to hear that.


 My best friend just died, and all of a sudden you're looking at mortality and you're looking at these two things. You know what, yeah I want to live to be be 105, 110. I don't know if I will or not, but can I be productive and what am I going to do now? What's important? Of course, one part of me always loves philanthropy and all that, but I don't have the means financially to be philanthropic. But I do have the means to do some good things with people and for people, and that could be helpful. Matter of fact, I went to a fundraiser about a month and a half ago, just invited through some people I'm dealing with, and it was fascinating because they were talking about, I think it was Cambodia. They've been able to build villages, five thousand a house with fresh water, fantastic. All of this, electricity, everything. And they've been building like thirty, forty of these things. Even that night alone, they raised a couple of a million dollars that evening.

Phil Wharton  (01:02:03):

Doing God's work. Yeah, but you're sharing, sharing your experience, and through the mentoring. To me that's the ultimate philanthropy is to give of the self all these rich experiences that you've had, and all this knowledge. You really love to pass that on and in the right format, which you're creating now. That's an extension of that other school that you had, and I think it's really great.

Robert Cutarella  (01:02:33):

I appreciate it. I mean, I think that I'm a sponge, when it comes to the songwriting. I just want to know more, and more, and more, and more. And other than having a taser in my hand to get somebody's attention. Hey you give them coffee, give him a taste. No, I mean for me, I think it's so important that they want to know this stuff. And you get a lot of, I get a lot of, what's the word pushback. No, that's not what they want. They want the quick road to making the record. I said I don't look, I understand that that's available somewhere too.

Phil Wharton (01:03:22):

Yeah that's not me. That's not you.

Robert Cutarella (01:03:24):

Yeah. I mean, it's like asking, I don't know, Deepak Chopra or somebody to do yourself a favor. Forget about the chakras, forget about the this, forget about that.

Robert Cutarella (01:03:35):

Is there a pill I can take Deepak?

Robert Cutarella (01:03:38):

Yeah, I need a quick fix here. And it's not a quick fix. I mean, and that's the whole thing about the journey anyway. If you can't enjoy this journey, whatever it is, ups, downs, there's a lot of shit in there. And there's a lot of great stuff in there. And the great stuff outweighs the BS.

Phil Wharton  (01:03:57):

Yeah, I believe that too.

Robert Cutarella  (01:03:59):

I think that, that's part of it.

Phil Wharton  (01:04:02):

And I think you've touched on a lot of this, but if we look at one thing we do on the show, kind of the anvil taking us into account, an event or decision that forged you, like a defining moment that kind of shaped your destiny, what do you feel that was? Was it hearing those back to back hits coming into LA?

Robert Cutarella  (01:04:26):

No, LA then here's the perfect antidote, and I will answer your question, but you should appreciate this because I've been telling you about the journey and everything else. So you've got a pretty good handle on some of the events. So I won a few Grammys with a gentleman named Phil Quatararo, who became the head of the capital records, and he gave me the opportunity. I had a situation where I could create a great record. I thought he gave me the opportunity, financed it, and promoted daylights out of it. And so that was a beautiful thing. 

Phil Wharton  (01:05:06):

That was the Les Paul record, was that correct?

Robert Cutarella  (01:05:08):

Les Paul. Right. Yeah. So it took me ten years. Me, my friend Barry, and everybody to convince Les to make a record, and it wasn't until I got Phil in front of him and he loved Phil. Then he said, okay, I trust you and it's Capital. And that's where Les built part of his career is Capital Records. So a couple of years later, Phil goes out in his own and he starts a company called Phil. What was it? Filament. So he talks to me and he says, you got to meet my business partner, Jimmy. I meet Jimmy in New York and they're all living out here. And he said, we got a great company. You should come join us. So I come out here every week, back and forth every week, and Phil goes, why the hell don't you just join us here? Came up with the package for us. We had Ross Perot's money, I think.

Phil Wharton  (01:06:11):

Oh wow.

Robert Cutarella  (01:06:11):

We were supposed to buy Chrysalis Records. We did the due diligence I was starting to get to, we had thirteen extremely highly trained guys that were handpicked by Phil over the years, and Phil knows everybody. And his next door neighbor is Arnold Schwarzenegger. And he broke U2. 

Phil Wharton  (01:06:28):

Yeah, I saw that in the bio there with the new project. Yep.

Robert Cutarella  (01:06:33):

Yeah. So anyway, I say, okay, I'm going to come out. So I finally make the decision. I give up this beautiful loft. I have in Brooklyn overlooking all of Manhattan, and I'm going

Phil Wharton (01:06:42):

Oh Wow. On the heights. You were in the heights or somewhere in there.

Robert Cutarella (01:06:45):

 I'm going to miss this so much.

Phil Wharton  (01:06:47):


Robert Cutarella  (01:06:48):

I called the car, get the car sent out, and I get here. And the day I got here was April Fools 2009. The economy had just collapsed.

Phil Wharton (01:06:59):

Oh yeah. That was yeah.

Robert Cutarella (01:07:00):

It was terrible. EMG had just outbid us on the company we were supposed to buy, and we lost all our money. So the day I came out here, we had no income and no job.

Phil Wharton  (01:07:14):

The day you came.

Robert Cutarella  (01:07:16):

And I had avoided coming here all my life. I just decided to stay since I've been here after that. Making that major move and everything else. So even on the surface, it looked like it was great. It's that you can tell that all those events were going to happen, and that's why it's just life happens through all of this stuff and you just have to kind of figure it out.

Phil Wharton  (01:07:42):


Robert Cutarella  (01:07:44):

So you asked me about when was that pivotal time? It was always in me, and it just became unlocked when I got my first job. But it was always music. It was always

Phil Wharton  (01:08:03):

Always there. Yeah.

Robert Cutarella  (01:08:04):

I mean, I would've loved to be in films. I've been in a couple of films and plays and stuff like that, but I'm a ham. I'm used to the audience.

Phil Wharton  (01:08:13):

That's great. I didn't know you are an actor too. That's amazing.

Robert Cutarella  (01:08:16):

Well, you wouldn't call what I did acting, but I was in there anyway. Have you noticed there's no billboard and notice anywhere. Robert Cutarella up for Emmy nominations, but I'd still love to do it. And I'm in a reality show coming up. I've been in one out here, the Real Housewives of Orange County, where I was able to be the first iteration of it. I discovered a girl could sing and I made her a record deal on the show.

Phil Wharton (01:08:46):

On the show. That's fantastic. I want to see that.

Robert Cutarella (01:08:49):

Yeah. And I got a better one coming up in the next year that we start filming in October.

Phil Wharton  (01:08:56):

Okay. So we'll make sure we drop that in the liner notes at the end. And Robert, in your journey, and I know you've touched on a lot of this, but what's most important to you now, and what does the road ahead look like for you, and what's next?

Robert Cutarella  (01:09:10):

Now, it is about maintaining the joy in whatever I do. The industry has changed so much that I am not a fan of where the industry's gone. The industry, and they talk about it freely. Now they have to lost control of the music. So it's now become a popularity contest on TikTok. It's not about having the next Elton John.

Phil Wharton  (01:09:40):

It's not craft.

Robert Cutarella  (01:09:42):

It's not Diana Ross or any of that. No.

Phil Wharton (01:09:44):

It's not the musicality.

Robert Cutarella (01:09:45):

No, and the icons that we see, young icons, Bruno Mars started 12 years ago, and he's been on the stage since he's two or whatever, Beyonce, even further back. So these aren't kids that just came up. I love certain people, Doja Cat and people like that. I do enjoy. I like Post Malone and all. Will they have the same journey trajectory that we see with Elton John's thirty-one albums?

Phil Wharton  (01:10:17):

Right. Longevity right.

Robert Cutarella  (01:10:18):

Something like that. Yeah. Stevie, I wonder all that. We don't have that. And so what's important is that's why I got into the mentoring thing, is still a way to hopefully inspire. I need to inspire. I hope that whatever I can do can inspire some kind of greatness in people, some kind of joy in their soul, so that they feel like they're connected in a happy place, and they'll get enough other knocks they don't need. The knocks are going to come no matter what.

Phil Wharton (01:10:59):

That's right. Yeah.

Robert Cutarella (01:11:00):

How much money they make, the knock and the money comes and goes. So for me, it's that and finding a comfortable place for myself within this where I'm part of the fabric of it, because I still enjoy and feel like I, I can offer you know like the old Asian, the Japanese when they become older and they're paid by the government for a while. You should mentor, you should teach, you should show them how to make the Noguchi Table, you know whatever.

Phil Wharton  (01:11:34):

Right. Yeah.

Robert Cutarella  (01:11:38):

That's where I should be.

Phil Wharton  (01:11:40):


Robert Cutarella  (01:11:40):

At the same time. What else? I'm starting to play every day again and writing.

Phil Wharton  (01:11:45):

Oh that's Great.

Robert Cutarella  (01:11:47):

I never released my own records only early on. That's how I started. So starting to get into that head could be a lot of fun because now I know I have some famous friends, and this and that, and could be fun to have them show up, and play a gig and people would get gassed by that.

Phil Wharton (01:12:04):

It would be amazing great. That would be fun. Totally fun. Yeah.

Robert Cutarella (01:12:09):

It should all be joyful. It should all be expression and no judgment. 

Phil Wharton  (01:12:16):

And light. Just dive into the creative. Just be lost in that orb of creativity, which is where you really thrive. It's feels like.

Robert Cutarella  (01:12:25):

Well, that's home. That's a home. If a home isn't where I got my sofa or whatever, home in my right home is probably all the music that's sitting in my house. All the art. I like paint, I paint a lot.

Phil Wharton (01:12:43):


Robert Cutarella (01:12:43):

I've had shows around the world of my stuff. So I started getting back into that as well. 

Phil Wharton 

That's great. 

Robert Cutarella 

Just a little bit of a full circle kind moment.

Phil Wharton (01:12:52):

That's beautiful. And if just looking

Robert Cutarella (01:12:55):

Stay healthy. That's the other thing. That's really, that is the first and foremost thing that I've learned after having the cancer. Stay healthy. Otherwise, nothing else. You get nothing done.

Phil Wharton  (01:13:06):

Right. No, I know. That was a great talk we had at the beginning, before we aired when we caught up yesterday. And you were talking about the show that you were recommending on Netflix called, The Blue Zones. I think it was sort of an extension of the centenarians. What are the five elements of health, and this idea of family or community and natural foods, organic foods or close proximity food quality, and location, and lack of stress, or a lifestyle of joy.

Robert Cutarella  (01:13:43):


Phil Wharton (01:13:44):

Are you enjoying what you're doing every day? Are you around people that are kindred spirits, all these things?

Robert Cutarella (01:13:50):

Yeah, the laughter thing was a big thing for all of us, they were always smiling. Maybe it was the wine, I don't know, whatever it was, they were dancing and smiling at a hundred years old. And I'm sitting there thinking, I remember my aunt at a hundred. My aunt lived to be a hundred and one. And I think one of the funniest things, because it's hard to accept when somebody then starts to lose touch, right?

Phil Wharton  (01:14:17):

Decline yeah.

Robert Cutarella  (01:14:17):

And she had her whole family there at 101, and she's just been starting to lose her, really. And she was sitting there and her sister says, oh, Irene, I'm so happy to see you, and blah, blah, blah, blah. And my aunt just looked straight in the eye, all of them. She said, I don't know who any of you people are, but I'm so happy you're here.

Phil Wharton  (01:14:39):

That's good.

Robert Cutarella  (01:14:39):

This is so nice. I can't even thank you enough. And they all left and went, holy shit, that's going to happen to me if I'm not there.

Phil Wharton  (01:14:48):

Right Yeah. Yeah.

Robert Cutarella  (01:14:49):

It's like, that's life. Hundred and one. She lived to a hundred clear as a bell. God bless.

Phil Wharton  (01:14:57):

God bless. Returning to that childlike state. So in the slipstream, Robert, we look back at our lives and any parting gems of advice you'd like to leave for us today?

Robert Cutarella  (01:15:11):

Yeah, I can. I was going to quote from my book, but I don't have it sitting in front of me, but instead of quoting from the book, I'll just do it off the top of my head. First of all, we just talked about staying healthy. 

Phil Wharton 


Robert Cutarella 

The most important thing, developing a sense of yourself and understanding who you are, and being honest with yourself and others. Be respectful of others. Don't be the smartest person in the room. Never, ever

Phil Wharton  (01:15:39):

Don't fall into that trap.

Robert Cutarella  (01:15:41):

No. And learn that in business that I'm in, you're going to meet the same people going up as coming down. So you got to figure that out. You got to figure that if you're not respectful, you're not. If you talk shit about people, if you're that way, that doesn't work. That never works in our business. I think you have to listen, be a good listener. Think outside the box. Be as creative as possible with the tools that you have and learn. Just constantly learn. I've reduced my life to two things and people laugh at me for this and I don't care. I really don't care. There's only two things in life for me. One is learning to love myself and others around me and bring that love out. That brings respect. Is part of the love, honestly. Respecting, inanimate as much as animate objects. In my case, I believe that it's all connected. It's all part of one. So I don't think you can separate. It's like trying separate one part of your body. You're saying, well, the heart's one thing, but no, no, it's all connected. So learning to love. And then the second thing is learning lessons. Two L's, that's it. Two L's, simple. Everything else I've learned that I've complicated my own life by all the other things. Otherwise it's a lot simpler. Life is a lot simpler.

Phil Wharton  (01:17:22):

It feels like you're living by those tenets now. When we talked the other day, and it was something about driving all around town, you're like, nope, they're going to come to me today. That's going to be, not in an arrogant way, but just in a way of, okay yeah that felt right.

Robert Cutarella  (01:17:40):

You have to know you're

Phil Wharton  (01:17:42):


Robert Cutarella  (01:17:42):

It's not that there's a pecking order. It's not a pecking order. I don't want to be that arrogant, but once in a while you feel like, okay this has to be mutual. And that's part of the respect and learning lessons and all. That's part of lessons. I'm sure you've experienced this in your life, and I know my friends have, they put out a lot of energy in one direction. and unfortunately we do a lot of times have expectations.

Robert Cutarella (01:18:17):

Not that that's, maybe expectations should be limited to our own expectations about ourself and not from externally, because people, it's hard to keep people to that, to our idea of what we want.

Phil Wharton  (01:18:33):

That's right.

Robert Cutarella  (01:18:34):

But it's a give and a take. And if it's mutual, then that's what feels right. And if it's not mutual, you're going to try to find a balance. That's been tricky for me. Balance has been difficult for me. 

Phil Wharton  (01:18:53):

And being in the moment. I think that's a new practice for you now is diving into being in the moment. You were saying the other day,

Robert Cutarella  (01:19:00):

The drawing and the painting.

Phil Wharton (01:19:02):

Yeah. It takes you right there, doesn't it? Yeah.

Robert Cutarella (01:19:04):

You don't really have an option,

Phil Wharton  (01:19:06):

Right? That's right.

Robert Cutarella  (01:19:08):

The writing process, I mean, you might not love what you write. You may do a lot of editing, but being in the moment, if I was sitting talking to you, I have been for the last whatever, if I was distracted, I wouldn't be able to focus, and I wouldn't be in the moment. We'd miss a lot of stuff. The good stuff would go by because we wouldn't, or I wouldn't even be attached to it at that point. And so that's, ask me a million questions and I'd be casually answering something that's cocka.

Phil Wharton  (01:19:45):

Yeah. Well, that didn't happen today and I'm so grateful for our time together.

Robert Cutarella  (01:19:51):

No, I truly appreciate it. For me, I love, if there's anything that comes out of it that resonates with someone and makes them feel good, helps them on their journey, helps them identify things that might be stumbling blocks, things that might be something that they want to do or they have a desire to do. I will do this all day long. You can always call me.

Phil Wharton  (01:20:16):

Fantastic. And folks, we'll have the links to the book when it comes out, Mentor and all the new projects. I'll get you info and we'll look forward to that. Robert, thanks again for coming to Intrinsic Drive. You were a pleasure to be with.

Robert Cutarella  (01:20:32):

So you too. Have a lovely day. And to all your listeners out there, go out and have fun. Enjoy your life.

Phil Wharton  (01:20:40):

There's nothing better than fun.

Robert Cutarella  (01:20:42):

No, there's nothing better. All right. Oh, stay healthy!

Phil Wharton  (01:20:48):

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