Musician Peter Cincotti’s idea of rebellion is dressing up more — and in classics that have been around forever.
Now 33, he was anointed by The New York Times at age 18 as “one of the most promising singer-pianists of the next generation.” That same year, his debut album hit the top of the Billboard jazz charts, making him the youngest artist to ever achieve that distinction.
He’s played Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Radio City Music Hall in his hometown of New York as well as renowned music halls such as London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and Paris’s L’Olympia.
He’s even tried his hand at acting, appearing in films such as “Spider-Man 2” and Netflix’s “House of Cards,” where he sang a duet with Kevin Spacey.
His talent and good looks have also attracted the attention of some major fashion brands including Ermenegildo Zegna and Tod’s, for whom he’s become an ambassador.
Cincotti took time out from putting the finishing touches on his album, “Long Way From Home,” due out later this year, to talk music, shopping in bursts and his “real” take on fashion.
WWD: What do you like to wear when you’re performing or just writing or producing in the studio?
Peter Cincotti: There are three tiers to my work life: there’s me in the studio, there’s me at home writing and there’s me on stage. When I’m writing during the day, it can be in everyday clothes, but if it’s 3 in the morning, I’m in my pajamas. The writing thing is completely unpredictable, and therefore, so are the clothes. On stage, there’s a certain respect that I like to have and I’ve always felt comfortable dressing up more.
WWD: How do you define everyday clothes?
P.C.: For me, comfort is key, and I don’t mean that in the sense of wearing sweatpants. When clothes wear you, it’s pretty evident. You’ve got to wear the clothes, not the other way around. In the studio, I would wear jeans and a sweater, although ever since I built my home studio, I only work in a terrycloth robe — no, I’m kidding.
WWD: Has the way you dressed changed over the years?
P.C.: A little, but not much. I don’t zigzag. There are certain classic things that have been around for hundreds of years and they’ll be around for hundreds more. But having said that, there have been slight deviations through the years.
WWD: When you think musician, you think of people with over-the-top tastes.
P.C.: A lot of time, people try to match the music with the dressing, and sometimes it’s authentic and sometimes you can smell it a mile away that this was a calculated idea and the artist was the prop. That’s relevant in the studio, too. You can tell when the song is not really right but you’re told to sing it. But thankfully I’ve had enough of a backbone through the years to not succumb to any of those temptations. I wear what I want to wear. My musical style has changed dramatically from my first album until now. That’s the real developmental shift. But my clothing has pretty much stayed the same. The important thing is to be real.
WWD: Who or what is the biggest influence on what you put on for work?
P.C.: On the musical end, I could give you a book of people who have specifically inspired different musical choices and songs, but for clothing, I don’t know. I usually blindly gravitate to something. You put it on and you know it feels right.
WWD: What do you like best? Writing, performing, acting?
P.C.: Producing has become huge for me. This is the first record I’ve produced top to bottom. It freed up this whole other world to me and it’s something I want to dive into more because it’s very connected to the writing and the recording of the song….But now that I’m done with that, I’m ready to tour, I’m ready to perform live. My life is very much about phases. In a few years, I’m sure I’ll want to be alone again and record and write.
WWD: Does what you wear affect your work in any way?
P.C.: If I’m not comfortable in something, then yeah. But usually I don’t leave the house if I’m not, so I catch it. There are times you misfire and you wear the wrong thing and in those settings, that’s when you become aware of your clothes.
WWD: Do you follow fashion trends, or prefer to stay true to your style?
P.C.: I’m not really a trendy type. I find the items within the trends that aren’t part of something that will expire soon.
WWD: Given a choice, would you dress more formally or more casually?
P.C.: I’d probably lean formal. There’s something nice about it. There are fewer and fewer occasions for people to dress up today, even the theater. I’m suddenly immersed in the theater because I’m writing two musicals and my sister is a playwright and we see a lot of shows. The theater used to be a place where you look like a human being. Now people look like they just got out of bed. And not to isolate theater — it’s nice restaurants, too. There are no real lines anymore. So I guess I’d lean formal, maybe out of rebellion or to even out the playing field.
WWD: Do you spend more on clothes for work or play?
P.C.: Probably for work. I don’t go shopping a lot. I do bursts: I’ll get everything I need and I’ll be done for six months. I don’t go walking down Madison Avenue to shop. I get a headache after 20 minutes.
WWD: What’s your favorite purchase of the last few months and why?
P.C.: This prosciutto sandwich that I got at the deli, but that’s probably not what you meant. As far as clothing, I would say the Zegna suit that I just acquired from their new line by Alessandro Sartori. It’s one of those things you put on and it feels right and the fabric is kind of unmatched.