We Are Upstate NY with Musician and The Falcon Proprietor Lee Falco
The Hudson Valley has been home to many famous musicians but none as busy as Lee Falco. The 27-year-old drummer literally grew up alongside Live at the Falcon, one of the region’s premier performance venues for two decades, one literally hand built by his much-loved father, the late environmentalist, community activist and arts champion Tony Falco.
Lee began making music at a very young age, benefitting from the scores of world-class jazz, blues, rock, Americana and world musicians who graced the Falcon’s stages. He has toured the world over with artists including Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, The Lemonheads and Doyle Bramhall II and also made waves with bands of his own like The Restless Age and The Lost Leaders, alongside talented locals who came of age with him in the Hudson Valley including guitarist Connor Kennedy, keyboardist Will Bryant and bassist Brandon Morrison.
Young Falco is also a recording studio owner, record producer and composer for film, television and adverts. His studio, dubbed “The Building,” is housed on the site of the first iteration of the Falcon, in the backyard of his family’s home in Marlboro. Here, Lee has produced records for artists like the critically-acclaimed Lorkin O’Reilly and soundtracks for films like “Howard’s Farm.”
With the passing of his father Tony from Covid-19 in October 2021, Lee has taken on the mantle of running The Falcon. Together with the help of his brother Julian, his fiancé Jess and longtime staffers, he is continuing the progressive curation policies begun by his dad, bringing a wide array of the best in a broad spectrum of music to Hudson Valley music-lovers, along with visual art in two galleries at the site. Here is his take on what’s in store for him and one of the world’s most unique music venues.
Like many a musician, you started very young, when did you first get interested in playing and what role did the many world-class musicians passing through the Falcon play in your musical education?
I was obsessed with The Beatles as a little kid, one of my earliest memories is listening to ‘I Am The Walrus’ and jumping around crazed. By 5 years old, my parents had me taking weekly music lessons. With the original Falcon house concert scene, there were always incredible musicians and artists hanging out at our house. My childhood was immersed in music, art and culture and it definitely inspired me and set me on my path to a life in the arts.
For those not in the know, what is the history of The Falcon, both its former and current iterations?
My father Tony was a true visionary. In the early 2000’s he repurposed the building materials of a Methodist church in our backyard and created a beautiful space for music and art. The first iteration of The Falcon began there, with weekly concerts and rotating art exhibitions beginning in 2001. The scene was cool and the shows were very intimate. It fit around 60 people or so. Friends, family and community members in the know would bring food and drinks to share and donate directly to the artists. Before the shows, my mom would cook a family dinner for the musicians and we would all share a meal in the house. It was a beautiful thing.
In 2005, my dad bought the current site at 1348 Rt 9W, a three-story, waterfall adjacent, 18th Century button factory in the hamlet of Marlboro, and began planning his expansion. In 2009, the space opened as a public music venue, restaurant and bar with around a 150-seat capacity – The Falcon. Keeping the same artist-friendly traditions as the house concerts, the space quickly earned a reputation as a world-class venue for musicians and music-lovers alike. My father never stopped creating.
Over the years, he built a second stage and pub on the middle floor – The Falcon Underground. Then came an outdoor stage area with elaborate decks that wrap around the waterfall. His mission all along was ‘Support Living Artists’ and he created many spaces to do just that.
Your father was one of the most beloved figures in the Hudson Valley, not only for his tireless promotion of music but his social and environmental activism. How diﬃcult has it been to take on his role leading The Falcon as you also pursue your busy life as a touring musician and studio owner?
It’s not easy juggling so many things but I’m learning fast and acclimating to this new normal. My father was loved by many and I feel very supported by so many who supported him and the artist-friendly mission of The Falcon. My brother, Julian, is a big help too. He has taken over running my dad’s water businesses and is very handy keeping the property up, something that is no small undertaking.
The Falcon is very novel where you don’t sell tickets but ask for donations to compensate the artists who perform there. How did that come about and is staying true to it ever a hindrance?
That model came from the house concerts in the backyard and I love it. It’s all-inclusive no matter financial status and it allows people to support artists directly. If you have the means, be generous; if times are tough, put in what you can. It sounds crazy, but I can tell you firsthand that it works. It can be a hindrance when trying to book certain national acts that want guarantees but the spirit of The Falcon is supporting the artists in the community and we are going to try as hard as possible to stick with this democratic model.
The Falcon has a very eclectic booking policy, presenting everything from Americana and world music to blues, funk, modern jazz and more. How do you go about curating the performers and what are some of the most memorable shows you’ve presented there?
We’re proud to present all genres of music and art at The Falcon, as long as it’s quality, we’ll present it. One of the most memorable shows at The Falcon for me was playing a ‘secret show’ there with Donald Fagen & The Nightflyers, before we embarked on a U.S. tour in 2017. I was so excited to be playing in Donald’s band and to be able to put on the first show at The Falcon was incredible. Some other memorable shows are Pat Metheny, NRBQ, Son Rompe Pera (from CDMX), Yellowman, Brad Mehldau & Chris Thile, Lakou Mizik (from Haiti)…I could go on all day.
The Falcon has also been a place for art, especially the Avalon Archives that exist in your second space, The Underground. How did the Falcon come to be the home of this collection and what other artists have you been exhibiting?
The Avalon Archives is a collection of music memorabilia that’s curated by Ned Moran and has been on display in The Falcon Underground since it opened in 2016. The club and the museum have a beautiful and unique symbiotic relationship, one that seemed to happen organically between Ned and my father. Ned needed a space for his collection and we love music and music history, and the stories behind it! Ned has poured his heart and soul into the place and it radiates a love of music and history.
In the upstairs venue, we also have a large gallery space that we change every few months. My fiancé, Jess Brush, is our visual art curator and has a great eye. Right now, we have paintings by John Grande on display. John and his wife recently moved to Marlboro and have quickly become part of the Falcon Family and his work is excellent!
For such a young man you’ve done a lot musically, touring and recording with the likes of Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, The Lemonheads, Rachael Yamagata and Doyle Bramhall II among others. So, when did your professional career really start to take oﬀ and how has it grown?
It’s hard to say when my “professional career” started really. My dad had me playing in bands, sitting in with musicians and gigging when I was just a little kid. When I was 14, I met Connor Kennedy and we formed a strong musical bond and friendship as teenagers, something that is still very strong today. After graduating high school, I studied Jazz Performance at SUNY Purchase for two years, but I dropped out to tour and build a studio in the ‘old Falcon’ space. For years, I took every gig I could get and I was playing and singing in more bands than I could count!
In 2015, I was playing a lot with Connor, Brandon Morrison and Will Bryant and, in 2017, we got picked up by Fagen to be his backing band. That opportunity really brought us all up to another level and I’d say that’s when my professional career really took oﬀ. The Hudson Valley has an amazing music scene and I feel very fortunate to have grown up tapped into it.
You are also currently a member of several local bands who are making national waves, like The Restless Age, Lost Leaders and with players, like Connor Kennedy, who you grew up with. Tell us about your favorite local collaborators.
I love making music with my friends! Will Bryant, Brandon Morrison and I are a unit, we work together all the time in the studio and live, with all different artists. We started The Restless Age together as an outlet for the three of us to step out as singers and songwriters. It’s got a harmony-rich, power pop sound, one that has been really fun for us to collaborate on. We have a bunch of singles out and a full record that we’re planning to release at some point.
Lost Leaders is a band I’ve been in since 2013 that’s led by Byron Isaacs and Peter Cole, two great songwriters who I’ve learned a lot from. Our new EP ‘Jealous Sun’ was recorded at my studio and comes out this month.
Connor Kennedy is one of my best friends and longtime collaborators. He, too, has a record in the works that’s being recorded at my place. In the past few years, he’s been really honing his craft as a songwriter and I’m excited to see where it takes him.
As we mentioned, you are also a studio owner and producer working out of the old Falcon site which you call “The Building.” What are some of the other recent records you’ve produced there?
I’m currently producing two records that I’m really excited about. The first is for Glen David Andrews, a powerhouse singer and trombone player from New Orleans. The second is for Storey Littleton, a super talented young singer-songwriter from Woodstock, someone who I think has an amazing career ahead of her. Both records are almost complete and will hopefully be out soon.
I understand you also do scores for short films and advertising. What are some recent projects you’ve helmed in this capacity?
Back in October I scored a TV ad for Loan Depot that aired during the World Series, that was pretty cool! More recently, the food delivery company, Postmates, will call me every now and then to make little jingles and I’m always up for the challenge.
What are some of your favorite things to do in the Hudson Valley that are not music-related?
I enjoy hiking, visiting art museums and eating out at the many great restaurants we have here in the area. Il Cenacolo in Newburgh, River & Post in Staatsburg and Crazy Bowls are some of my favorites.
As someone who was born and has lived his whole life in the Hudson Valley, how do you view its recent evolution and growth?
That’s a tough question, generally, I welcome change. I’ve met and made friends with many cool people who have moved here in the past few years, I think it’s great to have them. This area of the world is very special and can be shared by many. But, unfortunately, with this influx of population, we’re also seeing the capitalist vultures swooping in. Deep pocket investors and development firms from outside our community are buying up real estate looking for nothing more than capital returns. Chain stores and ugly developments seem to be in the works all over the Valley, especially here in Southern Ulster county. I’m wary of these projects, their lack of vision for the greater community good and poor public planning.
What are your future goals for The Falcon and your own multifaceted career as a player and producer?
My goal is to keep The Falcon going and growing as a space of music and art for everyone. As a musician, I aspire to produce music that has permanence.
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Live World Class Music, dining & libations, cool vibrations, art gallery and the Avalon Archives Museum of Rock & Roll.
1348 Route 9W, Marlboro NY
845 236 7970
Written By: Sal Cataldi is a musician, writer and publicist living in the Hudson Valley.