From delivering pizzas to the singing on reality shows, Sal “The Voice” Valentinetti’s career is on the rise and will include a stop in Montclair.
A fan of the music of Dean Martin, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra, Valentinetti, an Italian-American signer, will perform June 2 at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair.
He took the world by storm at age 20 on Season 11 of the NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” in 2016 and the Bethpage, N.Y. native appears unstoppable. Valentinetti was a finalist on AGT that season that was won by singer Grace VanderWaal.
“I tell stories, I tell jokes. I talk with the crowd – the audience can expect fun for at least two hours,” he said of his show.
His grandmother was his inspiration. When she passed away the music was what he most remembered her by. Not many teenagers are fans of Sinatra and that may have cost him a few friends growing up, but it was well worth being true to himself.
“I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, but my grandma, coming up through elementary school, was a friend of mine,” said Valentinetti, who finished fifth on Season 11 of “America’s Got Talent.”
Having started in music by playing instruments such as the baritone horn, base trumpet, tuba and trombone at Holy Trinity in New York, his voice was accidentally discovered. As he prepared to get into the band he asked his teacher if he could play a song by Bobby Darin. His teacher asked him to sing a line or two of the song and once the teacher heard Valentinetti’s voice he said, “Woah, woah, woah when did you start singing?”
When asked if his mother had encouraged him to sing, Valentinetti laughed out loud.
“My parents are tone deaf, when I sang in the shower all my mother would think about was that I was wasting the heating oil,” he explained.
His teacher approached Valentinetti’s mother to encourage her to get him singing lessons.
“My mother is from Queens,” said Valentinetti.
Concerned she was being solicited to pay for lessons, Valentinetti said, “She goes ‘yeah my son can sing and my daughter can juggle’ – get the hell out of my house.’ ”
Valentinetti went to both public and Catholic schools. He told a story of having been asked to sing at his principal’s spaghetti dinner. He said it earned him the right to park in the lot for the rest of high school.
“The politics of Catholic school worked out for me. I mean forget it, you do a couple of guys a favor and you’re in,” he recalled.
He is from New York but maintains New Jersey has been very good to him.
“The Wellmont is a big venue, so we have an 11-piece orchestra,” he explained.
Throughout the interview, Valentinetti often spoke of his Uncle Joe’s advice.
“My uncle always said to me: ‘walk into a place like you own it, soon enough you will.’ “
Describing his journey to fame he said that at 17 he was delivering pizzas in his Cadillac. Asked why a pizza delivery boy was driving a Cadillac, he replied, “I love Caddies and Lincolns. I love my country and this land of opportunity. And I love the way my Caddy drives. It drives like a waterbed.”
As much as he enjoyed delivering pizzas, his uncle got him a gig singing at a restaurant, and soon his family encouraged him to audition for the signing competition show, “American Idol.”
“My Uncle Joe was a Bensonhurst Sicilian. He said if you don’t say nothing to J Lo (Jennifer Lopez) I’m going to disown you,” he said.
Valentinetti made it to Hollywood week on “American Idol’ but did not go any further.
During his audition, Valentinetti flirted with J Lo and sang to her. She politely turned him down but Uncle Joe was impressed.