—- How did you get hooked on rock & roll as a kid? Well, I wasn’t into Rock and Roll I was into Jazz (as my father wanted). I wanted a drum set and he bought me one with conditions that I learned how to play jazz for a couple of years. Then on one Christmas I was like 15 or 16 he bought me Led Zeppelin 4 and Rush’s “All the Worlds a stage”...changed me forever!
—- Who were your top few musical heroes as a kid and why? Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, John Bonham, Neil Peart, Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro, Steve Smith and Stuart Copeland. Because they all played as who they truly are and offered something in drumming to me that I needed and wanted.
—- What was the first record you ever picked up and does it make the playlist still today?Benny Goodman Live in Belgium and yes it would because of sing, sing, sing. (It could be a killer rock song today)
—- Who is your favorite drummer and what is it about their that fascinates you so? I don’t have a pure favorite drummer because they all offer something. But if I had to pick 2 I would choose Bonham and Gadd.
—- What are your three favorite rock drum tracks of all-time? Rush 2112 (The whole thing), Steely Dan, Aja and Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain”.
— It’s often said that no two drummer are alike — do you believe one drummer can duplicate another’s feel or parts perfectly without technology? No and Technology would make it worse
—- If you got the call tomorrow, what band could you sit in most comfortably with without freaking out too much? I would freak because my chops are not perfect because I have to work for a living. But once I had those screaming I could and would love to play for Seal and/or Peter Gabriel…Possibly Adelle!
—- You’re bit of a drum collector and aficionado — does the brand and year really make that much of difference once you get past materials used etc.. ? I don’t know, for me it is just the sound and feel of the kit. I have many kits from many makers. I LOVE mid-60’s Rogers and Late-60’s / Early-70’s Ludwig!
—- What part of your personality do you think comes through / translates best / helps in your role as a Financial Advisor?Creativity, Technicality and Empathy.
—- You are not sure if you are dreaming but suddenly you are thrown in to a heavenly Moby Dick drum jam with Bonzo and Mooney, a third kit awaits you. How do you approach the sudden rush to join the fray and hold your ground? I see my Craviotto “Big Drum” kit….I honor the masters and hold my ground just fine because …I am prepared and I can play.
———– What role did music play in your upbringing in the Diné tradition? In the Diné language (Diné Bizaad) Hataałii means both “singer” and “doctor”. Also, in our language Sodizin means both “song” and “prayer.” So in my upbringing, music was all about deep intention to make the world a better place. Music was seen as a healer and singers were viewed as doctors. I was born into a world of struggle, as Native Americans continue to live in post-war conditions after the Native American holocaust. There’s a lot of work to do to improve our communities. I was raised by strong people to live my life deliberately and to view every one of my creations as an opportunity to heal my people, all people. ———– Were you discouraged at all from getting into American pop music and it’s culture as kid? I was never discouraged from this. In fact, society encouraged me to listen to this because it was “cool” and it was the only thing on local radio stations. I drank the Kool-aid for a lot of years and went along with the programming of American children. There was a time though, around age 10, when I actually stopped drinking soda and I stopped listening to mainstream music. I started to see that mainstream music often times was part of the problem of keeping the public ignorant and distracted.
———– What artists / songs got through to you early on and how did their music, vibe and lyrics influence you and your outlook on your place in the world? The Beatles were a heavy influence growing up. My father was born in 1954 so he brought a lot of his music from the 60s and 70s into my life. When I picked up the guitar, the first songs I started to learn were Beatles songs and I think that continues to influence my song structures today. Other influences from all different genres included System of a Down, Lauryn Hill, Shania Twain (I know… funny right?), Blackalicious, Rage Against the Machine, India.Arie, The Glitch Mob, Led Zeppelin, Ulali and others. These artists showed me that music is a powerful launchpad for bringing joy, inspiration, hope, education and unification to the oppressed. None of these artists were Native American because it seemed at the time there weren’t a lot of Native American role models in the music world for me. There was Buffy Saint Marie but I never really got into her music. Myself and a number of others are trying very hard to generate a new genre of Indigenous music that inspires the youth.
—————— You have a track record for winning poetry jams at a statewide, and nationwide level, when did music become an extension of your drive to share your message? I was always a writer. I remember reading poetry in public places as early as 4th grade. I remember winning writing competitions that early as well, for whatever that’s worth. When I stumbled upon spoken word at age 14, I was an instant fanatic. I travelled all of the world in my teens performing spoken word. I also started picking up the guitar in earnest at that point. So my poetry and my music development started around the same age, but I was slower to become a decent musician, whereas writing and speaking came more naturally. I didn’t feel confident in my music enough until very recently, perhaps five years ago, to really include it in my public performances. But since then, it has come to be appreciated as much as my poetry is.
—————— What was your musical life like while at Stanford? I think that a lot of the drug addiction and sexual abuse I was experiencing in high school and at Stanford muted my musical confidence. I didn’t feel worthy as a woman to do much of anything because I felt like a bad person. I didn’t realize that just because bad things were happening to me, didn’t mean I myself was bad. But because of that, I was very creatively stunted for a long time. It wasn’t until my junior year of Stanford that I started to heal from the rape, get sober and pick up my guitar again. At that point the songs started flowing through me all the time. I didn’t feel comfortable releasing them at that point, but now I do!
———— How does the song writing process work for you and what does it take for you to feel a song is finished and ready to be performed or recorded? Everything is in prayer. Like my ancestors, I treat life like a ceremony. So first thing I do, unless I’m being rushed and careless, is I pray. Maybe go outside and offer some corn pollen to the earth and ask her to give me some good words. One of my mentors has a prayer that he says every morning: “May you help me help at least one person today.” That is a very beautiful prayer to me. So I pray that with each song it can help at least one person. I don’t have a real unreachable standard for when a song is finished. I try to be laid back and allow a song to go out even if it’s not perfect. I used to do that and I would never publish anything because it wasn’t flawless. Now I kind of rest in my imperfection and do my best and be happy with that. I’m often pleasantly surprised with what “my best” ends up being.
————- In a way what you’re doing harkens back to the late 60’s folk rock peace movement – do you feel any affinity with those artists and their music today? I feel very connected to this movement, even though there aren’t a lot of highly visible Native American’s in that movement. I feel like even though it was mainly a White movement, it still had some very good messages and was trying hard to generate a new way of seeing things. I pray to further that movement by grounding it in Indigenous rights. I feel that before this country can have peace it must contend with its “original sin”: the fact that this country is founded on the genocide of Indigenous Peoples. Until we give lands back to what little Native people are left, and until we make serious efforts to uplift these communities on their terms, then we will always be a farce of justice.
—————– What do you do to get in the right head space before playing (or speaking) to an audience? Do you have a day-of-show ritual? Again, prayer is the first thing I do. One of our old songs says, “Great Mystery, first I pray to you. Because of this, I will live well with my people.” This song reminds me that prayer is the first step to any process. I used to say a little mantra I’d say to myself before stepping in front of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people. I would say, “I am always confident, calm, humble and strong before I speak to the people because I know I carry a message of truth, love, healing and peace.” I would say that all the time. But now I think it’s woven into my being so it is understood without being spoken.
—————– How was your experience last year at the Newport Folk Festival?I loved being in Newport and not just for the seafood! I remember my set was sandwiched between a lot of amazing musicians on one of the side stages. I was the only woman in that section, the only person of color and definitely the only person who identified as Native American. So in many ways I was an anomaly. A lot of people in the audience were not expecting to hear an Indigenous activist/musician. They were overwhelmingly grateful for the set I brought and bought a lot of albums, the proceeds of which I donated to Lakota youth projects. These audiences often don’t know what to make of me, but they are always pretty moved by it and describe my set as a cathartic process.
————– You are asked to perform a song on The Grammy’s to further ‘First Nation’s’ causes / pride. You are to be allowed a brief introductory sentence or two and then to play a cover song of your choosing — what do you say to and play for America?
First of all, I should say, I try to refer to this land as “Turtle Island” and not as “America.” Because that is the original name given to this continent by its original peoples. But, I hope this day comes, not for the sake of my fame but to bring my people’s message to those who might not hear it otherwise. If I were in that position, I would say, “My people are busy working to revive languages and land stewardship techniques that were brutally destroyed by the processes of Manifest Destiny. We can no longer destroy what we do not understand. The systems of my people are not savage, but incredibly sophisticated and have the ability to bring solutions now, to a world in crisis.” And then I would sing an old song of my people, a song of overcoming called, “Shi Nishaa.” This song is the song that the elders sang when they saw their southern sacred mountain for the first time in four years. They didn’t see it for so long because they were being held in a concentration camp by the US military from 1864-1868. It is a song of joy and resilience. Not even the US military can stamp out this medicine. We are here to bring it to everyone, even those who tried to wipe us from the face of the earth. This is the unconditional love that my elders told me was the deepest medicine. – LYLA JUNE
—————- How did you get hooked on rock & roll?I’ve always been drawn to music that has either a really catchy melody or something that gets me pumped up. Back when I was younger the iTunes library at the house was riddled with tons of classic rock bands from my sister and brothers tastes (Zeppelin, Sabbath, Hendrix, Beatles etc.) so before I even had my own music player these guys had been priming my brain. I think the major turning point was when my brothers friend Eric had popped by the house and pulled up the music video “Dani California” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in 2006. That ended up dragging me down the rabbit hole of music and becoming a musician, and I can honestly say I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t discovered RHCP.
———- What’s your favorite live album of all-time? I haven’t listened to too many live albums, more so watching live concerts on YouTube. I’ve probably clocked a few hundred hours of watching live Red Hot Chili Peppers concerts, so if I had to pick one (which is tough) maybe I’d say “RCHP Live at Slane Castle”, “RCHP Live at Pinkpop 2006” or “RHCP Live at Pinkpop 1990”. In terms of CD’s, Iron Maiden’s “Flight 666” is pretty solid.Brady and Nick introduced me to Thin Lizzy “Live and Dangerous” which I also thought was excellent.
———- Is there anything about the band that could have only emanated from Winnipeg? or Canada for that matter? A crippling fear of being attacked by a bear, a large wolf, or a pack of coyotes whilst leaving the jam space.
——— Was bass your first instrument?Years back my brother had a guitar laying around the house that I would pick up and mess around on. I’d actually watch RHCP’s “Live at Slane Castle” on my computer and try to learn certain licks by ear and play along. Later that year I asked my parents if I could rent a bass, to which they replied “they’d think about it”. At Christmas there was a bass starter kit under the tree, and my mind was blown.
————- How did Moon Tan come together? The band originally emanated from Nick Knock’s desire to start a cover band along with another singer at the time. I heard about the band from a guitar player who I had jammed with a couple times. I auditioned along with him, and I got in, but he was not selected. Nick’s Dad (who is a music teacher) knew the music teacher from the city of Gimli, which is about an hour away from Winnipeg, and that music teacher recommended a guitar player from Gimli High School – Brady. Brady auditioned and was selected. Eventually we decided that we wanted to do original material, and ended up parting ways with the original singer in the process. After a few years of enduring a revolving door of Kijiji-sourced singers, I decided to take on the task of singing. We’ve been truckin’ ever since.
———— Originality aside, did you guys have a vision for yourselves a definable brand or is it all natural? I can only speak for myself, but the main thing I’ve always focused on is creating music that I actually like listening to. That’s the most important thing to me. Everything else is secondary. The live presentation developed from us wanting to make our shows more of an experience, and in turn THAT has naturally led to us developing into more of a definable brand. In my opinion people go see shows, watch movies, play video games etc. to de–stress / have a good time / seek inspiration / escape reality, so if you can do a good job of providing an opportunity for this with your brand then you’re well on your way. We have some interesting ideas for live production we would like to experiment with in the future.
————— What do you think Moon Tan fans have in common socially? They’re all heavily into Baccarat. Other than that, lots of them seem to like Rush, prog, sci-fi, be musicians themselves, or have a genuine love for rock n’ roll.
————– What gets you off more — writing, recording, or playing live?1,000,000% writing. Sitting alone with nobody around, my laptop & Garageband open, and just freely creating with 0% judgement but my own.
————— Since you have a prog rock thing going on, is there any pressure to do shorter numbers for more airplay or a ‘hit single’? It’s interesting, because in all honesty I don’t really see Moon Tan as a prog band, but people who watch us tend to categorize us in that way. I guess that brings forth the question: “What is prog?” Maybe I don’t even know.. haha. I find my natural songwriting style is actually in a pop style format, perhaps disguised by the odd time signature here and there or a flashy lick from one of us. Circling around to the question with all that in mind, you need to give the song enough time to mature and finish, and if can we find a way to do that in 17 seconds, we will.
————- You guys won Indie Week last year in Toronto and got to play in Manchester as part of your bounty: how did it go in England? England was fantastic. It was our first international gig, and we received tons of great feedback from everyone over there. I think I ate a whole margarita pizza every night for six nights straight, and Brady and Nick we’re hooked on the fried chicken. We are definitely planning our return as we speak, so fans of rock – and vendors of margarita pizza & fried chicken – beware!
How would you describe the inner-band dynamics of The Lil Smokies?Does it work the similarly off stage as on or do roles change some between the two? I’ve always firmly believed that one plays his instrument like he lives his life. This is certainly true for our band. That said, as much as it is a collaborative effort on stage, it is off of the stage, as well. Between interviews, conference calls, long drives, and loading up the van, we all try to do our share. I would like to tip my hat to our bass player, Scott Parker, and our banjo player, Matt Cornette, for being the primary drivers. Thank you, gents.
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you guys this year? I think there are some secrets better left on the road. Talk to me after the show, in the alley in hushed tones.
How do you think being from Montana inform your music and vibe? Indicative of Montana is space and serenity; my favorite of the vast catalogue of its great attributes. I think we’re able to appreciate that space and let that permeate into our music. Bluegrass, at times, can be incredibly fast and frantic. I think incorporating space can slow the song or set down and be quite effective.
How do songs come about for you and The Lil Smokies? It definitely varies song to song. For myself, it’s the constant battle between perspiration and inspiration. Usually, I tend to think there needs to be inspiration before the perspiration, but lately I’m trying to find the inspiration inside the perspiration. Once a song is ready to bring to the band, it can take a couple rehearsals to arrange it or months of coming back to. It really varies from tune to tune.
Did you grow up with music in your family? Yeah, my father is a musician for a living. He’s a singer-songwriter, guitar player, and multi-instrumentalist. I definitely grew up inundated with the music of James Taylor, Paul Simon, Chet Atkins, Earl Scruggs and the Beatles. Over time, even as much as I rebelled against it, there was no escaping the power of osmosis.
Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on? In high school, I went to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and was completely floored by the enormity of the festival. I think seeing Béla Fleck and the Flecktones’ set that year (2005) was a really monumental moment in my musical career.
What was your first personal public performance?My first public performance was playing guitar with a jazz pianist at a fancy restaurant, my freshman year in college in 2006. It was all simple instrumental jazz standards. My jazz knowledge is incredibly poor. We got through it somehow. I was, personally, yelled at for playing my stratocaster too loud though. Victory.
How do you feel about playing covers?any personal fail-safe campfire goto’s? I love playing covers. We try to do at least one cover a night. I think it’s important to have a thread of familiarity with audience members that aren’t versed in your own original material. I think as long as the cover is special and authentic, you can make it your own. The Punch Brothers are an incredible example of embracing cover tunes, even with an extensive archive of their own originals.
What singers / songwriters are on your Mt. Rushmore? In no particular order: Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Taylor Goldsmith, Chris Thile.
What advice do you give to a young musicians & artists seeking their path? Play because you want to play and because it’s fun. That is the golden rule, which can be applied to writing and performing and touring and all the other subsections of the music industry. Also, be authentic and humble. People will really resonate with humility and authenticity.
The Lil Smokies are granted a wish by a NASA Genie in which you can time travel back to open for any show / band / concert in history — what are your coordinates? I’m not a Deadhead at all. Neither is the rest of this band, but I would think opening for The Grateful Dead in Egypt in 1978 would be one hell of a night. Plus, it’s on my bucket list to see the pyramids.
What’s your favorite thing about the recordings you guys have done for THE LOST MILLIONS debut ‘101’ now available on iTunes? They are all really good songs on this album and they don’t sound like anything else out there to me. We are proud of it and can’t wait to see how they go over. For all I know there’s a whole genre built around bands that sound like us, who knows. We’re nobody but represent millions. We’re just four more dudes playing rock in a band. Everytime we get together it seems like someone in the group says quietly in passing “the ‘lost millions’ are kind of a big deal” LOL..
How does the writing process work for you guys? The bulk of material on this album was written by Matt Westfield and Heath McBurnett in what has become a prolific partnership. Generally, the songs begin with a riff or progression in a jam situation and develop from there.
Did you go in to the recording process with a vision for the sound over all or is it more of a sum-of-the-parts / songs-as-they-happen dynamic? There wasn’t any preconceived overall sound we were shooting for on this one. We just started building on the framework with the gear we had and what we thought the song dictated.
What is your go-to set up? In the studio, I mainly used a Fender Blues Jr., although an Orange and a BF Bandmaster were used as well. Effects-wise I used a Ibanez ts808, MXR phase 90, and a Big Muff. For guitars I used a Strat, Les Paul, and an Angers 12 string. I played the Wurlitzer through a SF Champ. There wasn’t much food involved.
What was the first record you ever bought and how do you feel about it today? The first record I ever bought was Elton John “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player”. It still stands up. Great melodies, great lyrics and a killer band.
Can you recommend any guitar solos young guitarists should sink their teeth into? That is a tough question. There are so many different approaches and tones that I wouldn’t know where to begin. Usually what inspired you to pick up a guitar in the first place will lead you on your own journey. Some of my favorites for sure were played by Mike Campbell, Johnny Marr, Brian May, Billy Gibbons, David Gilmore, George Harrison, Joe Walsh and of course ‘Ace’ & ‘Pagey’.
Do you still listen to LP / CD’s or are have you embraced music via the computer and phone with platforms like Spotify? I still prefer listening to LPs. It is a ritual. Dropping the needle, checking out the cover and credits, flipping it over, it’s an interactive experience. Plus, I just think it sounds better. That said, I do listen on the phone and computer. I’m a music junkie but can’t always be near a turntable.
Outside of the SXSW bonanza, what can you tell us about the scene in Austin for bands looking to make in-roads in town or visitors looking to go pro for a night? Austin is struggling to find itself musically as the tech sector takes over. The cost of living has forced venues to close and musicians to move. We are just beginning to navigate the inroads of the new landscape and we will keep you posted on how that goes. For those from out of town looking to play for a night and make some money …good luck.
If you had to make a list, has your favorite music come from England or here in the US of A? My top ten is probably dominated by English bands but American bands would make up most of my top 100.
Through a series of unforeseen events you wind up at the Pearly Gates with a guitar and, as folks settle in, Saint Peter nods your direction and mouths “do something good!!” …. What do you go with? I imagine it would be a large and diverse crowd there so I would keep it instrumental. Perhaps “Bron-y-aur” or a Nick Drake inspired tune I’ve been working on. Chill, non-offensive, and hopefully impressive to the powers that be. Maybe they’d let me play with some of my heroes if I pass the audition?
What got you hooked on rock & roll as a kid? Listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Those powerful vocals of Ronnie Van Zant drew me in.
What was the first concert you ever attended and what strikes you about it today?Jakyl opening for ZZ Top! I was 17 years old and the energy of that show was overwhelming!
What was your first public performance? how did it go?Well my dad (Oliver Smith) was a southern gospel bluegrass singer and performed in different churches so I would say my first performance was more than likely with him at one of those churches. As far as the first real performance that I remember; I was in the 5th grade and performed Lee Greenwoods “God Bless the USA” for a school program. There is a video of that out there somewhere …lol
Musicians are funny about their instruments, sometimes even superstitious — tell us about your relationship with guitars over the years; what is your stand by go-to 6-string today? I’ve never really considered myself a guitar player. I’m more of a vocalist but a good guitar is key in having a good performance. I played a Taylorguitar for a while and I beat it to hell playing the honky tonks in Nashville. When it was time for a new one I went with the Seagull that I currently play. It is a great sounding guitar without the hefty price tag.
How does the song-writing process work for you? has it evolved over time or do you have a tried & true formula you try to stick with? I haven’t really been writing that much the last few years. Just a line or two here and there but when I was writing consistently it was just a matter of what I was feeling mostly. Occasionally someone would say something that would spark an Idea and I would use my corny sense of humor to write something like “Nothing but your snuggie on”
Do you have any advice (cheap tricks) for your artists looking to connect more with the audience when playing live? Be true to who you are as a musician and you are going to connect with someone or a group of people. Don’t be surprised if someone asks you to sing something that just doesn’t fit you and if you can bare to sing it then sing it and get right back to what you love. They will appreciate you for it.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows? The craziest thing that ever happened at one of my shows other than having the drummer bring a dancing Zombie Doll on stage would have to be being interrupted by Jermaine Jackson while playing at Legends Corner in Nashville so he could promote a tv show that he was filming.
Given your experience as a finalist on CMT’s Can You Duet in 2008 , what advice would you give to a young artists looking to take a shot on a similar live contest like American Idol or The Voice?I would say if you’re gonna go for one of shows just be prepared to take some criticism and don’t let a “no” answer stop you from moving forward with your career. Sometimes being true to who you are isn’t always what they are looking for so you just have to keep on keeping on.
Some artists hate the question but who do folks liken you too most and how do you feel about it?You know it’s been a while since someone has compared me to another artist but I use to get Billy Dean a lot when I was in Nashville. I’ll take that as a compliment.
What are you working on and what’s your view of 2018 from here?Right now I’m just working on being a better performer and trying to gig as much as possible. I’m working with a group of great players and we call ourselves the Douglas Fine Line. I would like to play more with these guys this year and get into some bigger venues and festivals. Right now I’m just working on being a better performer and trying to gig as much as possible.
What’s Four Lost Souls all about to you as you look at it now?It was about my relationship with America and more specifically, the South. So much of what I love about this place came out of Memphis, Muscle Shoals, Nashville, and New Orleans – yet the history and legacy of the South looms over everything since Trump’s election.
It’s a good ride from Wales: how was your Alabama Shoals experience and what are a few of your favorite things? We worked with Norbert Putnam, the great ‘60-‘70s Muscle Shoals/Nashville producer, and David Hood, who’s been on so many great records. We had a lovely time in Alabama – very efficient, very creative and very different. The music community down there is very fluid and open to ideas.
Did you hold any tunes or recordings back or is the full salvo from the heady proceedings? I think everything we did is on the record. We only had four days to record and the songs were specifically written for the record. They all told a little story that I wanted to be included and everything worked out great, so it seems no point leaving anything out.
What did you learn this time out and will you ever recover? I like to change things up with every recording situation. Working with a real producer was definitely an education. And I didn’t play guitar on the record and I really like that.
What was the first concert you ever attended and what strikes you about it today? I want to see Procol Harum in the Bristol Colston Hall in 1973, when Grand Hotel came out and I love that show and I still love the band. It was a really different time and we were very young and the crowd was full of hippies. I kind of thought of it as someone else’s music, but I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t until punk came along that I felt THAT was my music.
What was your first public performance? Singing Gilbert and Sullivan in the school pantomime.
Musicians are funny about their instruments, sometimes even superstitious — tell us about your relationship with guitars over the years; what is your standby go-to 6-string today?Mostly I’m playing acoustic on the gig supporting this album; as I said, I didn’t play any guitar on the album. I find guitars need constant stroking and attention, much like people. The guitar I play in the “Snake Behind Glass” video is a really old Martin that belonged to Marty Stuart and was once played by Porter Wagoner in his “Parkview” video. It’s a prized possession. When I play electric with the Waco Brothers I use a couple of customized strays.
Do you have any advice (cheap tricks) for your artists looking to connect more with the audience when playing live? Lots of stupid banter between the songs.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows? I really don’t know where to start. Possibly the entire band attacking the soundman half way thru a Sally Timms gig at the Khyber Pass in Philadelphia many years ago. Don’t diss the Timms. That really stands out because there’s been so little violence over the last 40 years and that was one of the quietest gigs we ever played.
You are to take a 4 hour dune buggy through the desert with anyone on earth, who do you choose and how do you strike up the conversation? My wife Helen because she drives the buggy while I looked out the window – do they have windows?