Interview by Ed Stuart
Who’s answering the questions?
Where is the band from?
I started playing music in Nevada City, CA and have lived in Los Angeles for the past ten years. I've been singing in bands for about 15 years and recently decided to try writing and playing my own stuff. I just recorded an album back in Nevada City with some friends of mine and I think it turned out great. It’s nice to have a ton of talented friends, it makes things much easier.
Who is in the band and what instrument do they play?
So far, all my live shows have been just me and a guitar, but I'm in the process of putting an actual band together. I’ve never been in this position before, so everything feels like it’s taking forever and I get impatient a lot. On the record, Lee Bob Watson and Ehren Haas play lead, Jason Graham plays bass and banjo, David Nicholson plays drums and Adam Kline plays some guitar, piano and some back up vocals with a few other friends. Even Dana Gumbiner, who recorded the album, adds some voice and percussion. They added a lot to it, I’m very grateful to those guys.
How did the band start?
Actually, it started out of frustration. I’ve always just been a singer in a band, so I was always at the mercy of other people, which I really didn’t mind most of the time, but I didn’t have too much control over things. Forcing myself to learn guitar well enough to write an album was a huge thing for me and I’m so glad I started, instead of just joining another band as a singer. It’s more rewarding so far since I wrote it all myself, but that will make any bad reviews that much harder to handle, too. If that starts happening, I guess I’ll find out how much the ol’ ego can handle it.
What bands did you have in mind when starting this band?
Well, I didn’t have any specific bands or artists in mind when I started and the songs were coming out sounding more country than I thought they would. At the time I started writing, I was listening to a lot of Marty Robbins, Buck Owens and other old country as well as old soul like Sam Cooke and Joe Tex and all that, but I really wasn’t trying to sound like any of them, maybe just trying to get a certain feeling of a song. There’s an Ivory Joe Hunter song called “Since I Met You Baby” that I love and I tried to get that overall feeling in a song on my record called “Darling.” I don’t really think they sound very similar, but I do like how that song turned out.
Do you think music can still be a vital force in such a disposable age?
Well I think music will always be important. I think it’s lost some of its value, since you don’t get the chance to search and discover anymore, but there are up sides to that, too. It seems like people are getting exposed to different musical genres and eras than they normally would have before the whole digital thing.
50 years ago people use buy music and get their water for free, now people pay for water and get their music for free. How do you think this affects music in anyway?
On the plus side, that makes bands and artists focus more on playing a good live show that people will want to come out to over and over. But it does make it a little harder for bands to start out when they’ve got to foot the bill for recording and putting a record out when the labels are crumbling and kids are getting to hear your shit for free. On one hand I think “As long as people are listening, who cares how they get a hold of it?” But the older I get, I think I’d probably start getting annoyed by it. It’d be nice to pay some bills and stuff.
What are the song lyrics about?
Most of the songs on the record are about when I moved from Nevada City to LA. I almost immediately became completely broke and depressed. I was in a sort of fog for about six or seven years. I started drinking quite a bit and had no real direction at all, but I was determined to stay here. I didn’t let myself move back to the comfortable old home town, there was no way I would do that. When I was in the midst of that period, I wrote songs, but they were all happy. I was miserable, but I couldn’t admit it. As soon as things got better for me, I could finally start writing about the bad times. Not that I think it’s all smooth sailing now, but I guess I’ll find out in a few years what’s dragging me down these days when I start writing songs about it.
I read you have an album coming out in early 2010. Is this a self-release or is a label putting it out?
For now, it’s a self-release. I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to pay for it. I had been planning on it coming out in December 2009. I’ve been saying it’s coming out in “a couple months” since October, but seriously, it will be out in a couple months.
What is the connection with Golden Shoulders?
Adam from Golden Shoulders is one of my best friends. We were in a totally horrible band together very early on and have been close ever since. Recently, I started accompanying him on tour, singing back-up and playing percussion, and touring with him is actually the reason I decided to try the solo thing and play music again. He’s also helped me out a huge amount during the recording of my songs. I’m always second guessing myself, so I’m so grateful for him and other friends and family who keep me going. Otherwise I would have probably just sat on these songs thinking they weren’t good enough or something.
Do you think your road trips have had any effects on your songwriting?
Definitely. If I’m not writing about something specific from the road, just the time spent in the car thinking helps come up with ideas. Long drives are like meditation in a way, just the act of driving hundreds of miles, listening to music and thinking. It’s probably my favorite way to spend a day.
The songs have an older feel as if from previous decades. Was that conscious decision in the songwriting?No, but thanks! I’ve always loved older music. When I was a kid, I would pretty much only listen to music from the 50s exclusively. I still love hearing groups like The Fleetwoods, The Platters, The Drifters, Buddy Holly, doo-wop, that sort of stuff. Then after a prolonged period in high school of really bad taste (think 90s adult contemporary), I finally was introduced to some current stuff I had no idea existed and I sort of went crazy with it and hunted down these bands. I think about that time as when I really discovered music for the first time and I was already over 20. But I’m really thankful for having that music from the 40s, 50s and 60s as a base as a kid, most of everything I listen to or write now still stems from that.