MELODY CHEBRELLAN

>>>>> What was your first instrument and when did realize you could sing? Are you classically trained?  My first instrument was definitely my voice. My mother always said that I was singing before I could talk. When I was four, we were living in San Francisco and she brought me along to an audition for Beach Blanket Babylon’s twentieth anniversary show. She was auditioning but I apparently told the director I wanted to audition too and he ended up creating a role for me. I was little Snow White and sang “Let Me Entertain You” in the San Francisco Opera house to a crowd of about 3,000 people. I’ve basically been performing ever since; doing musical theater, a cappella, and singing in bands.

>>>>> Who were your favorite artists growing up and whose on your island cloud today?  Again, my mother was so influential in developing my musical taste. She was the lead singer in an alt-rock band called B.B.M.T in the early 2000s, and I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by musicians, artists, and eccentrics, and all of their eclectic listenings. I was surrounded by so much music that I still love today, from Beck to John Coltrane, Billy Idol, Nina Simone, Queen, Bowie, Leonard Cohen, the Gypsy Kings, and Joni Mitchell. Having just moved to Austin, I have been exploring local bands like Matt the Electrician, Shinyribs, Dana Falconberry, Shakey Graves, and Little Mazarn.

>>>>> Did you plan to release a full-on record when you started recording the songs featured on Comets & other drifting bodies?  Yes and yes …I began this project with the intention of doing a full record. I had released two shorter EP’s in 2016 and 2016, one by myself and another through a side project called Little Hermit. I was writing feverishly at the time, but wanted a bigger production, so I started looking for collaborators. I submitted “Often Unrequited” to a database for sound engineering students at dBs Music School Berlin, which I wasn’t sure would amount to anything, but a few weeks later I got an email from a student named Joao Fronesco. This was the start of a great friendship and fruitful collaboration that resulted in Comets & other drifting bodies. Once I got Joao on board the project took on a life of its own and we spent the next few years writing, recording, assembling session musicians, re-recording, both of us moving continents (me to Austin and Joao to Hong Kong), then mixing, mastering, and finally releasing the album!  It has been a long, arduous labor of love.

>>>>> The production on the disc is stellar, at times sounding like a multi-million dollar major label effort:  how did you do it?!  I have to give full credit to my amazing sound engineer Joao Fronesco who recorded the full album and to the very talented Erik Wofford at Cacophony Recorders who mixed and mastered it. When I started recording I had zero budget for studio time or to pay an engineer, so I specifically looked for talented students who might be interested in my music. Joao was perfect because he is bright, focused, and wanted to produce an LP as his master’s thesis. He also knew a ton of musicians with whom he was often trading favors. It was totally symbiotic. Once we were in the studio, my main role aside from performing was recognizing who was really talented and giving them opportunities to explore their creativity.

>>>>> You cop a lot of different but notably comfortable feels on the album, from minimalism to wisps of jazz:  are we hearing your band or are there several line-ups of musicians on the album from song to song?  Haha yeah! As I said, I love all different types of music and the muses were pretty generous during this period. I brought the best demos to Joao, who was excited to work on a myriad of different genres and flavors. He was instrumental to transforming my rough demos into what you hear. We approached each song individually and tried to make each track the best it could be. Then we brought in friends and fellow musicians (bribed with favors and trades) and encouraged them to bring their own flavor and talent to the song. Berlin is super international; our session musicians came from Bolivia, Israel, Germany, the Philippines, Portugal, Brazil, and Hong Kong. Everyone was invited to add their own styles which added a great deal of texture and variety to the tracks.

>>>>> How does a song begin for you?  I wish I knew the formula but every song begins differently for me. Some I have to really muscle through to finish, while others like “I’ll Never Fall Apart” seem to fall out of me whole. With that song, I was walking around my neighborhood singing to myself and when I got home, I hit record on a tape recorder and it was all right there, scat included. A few years went by and I didn’t know what to do with the recording; then one day I played it for Joao and he thought of his friend Adriel Bote in Hong Kong, who is an outstanding jazz pianist. We sent him a recording and he sent back the amazing piano part you hear on the album! It was like magic.

“Losing Touch” was a collaboration with my friend Ben Pfister who is also a talented pianist. He had a chord progression stuck in his head for months and I wrote lyrics and a melody on top of it. We actually recorded that one in the studio twice, because we couldn’t get the right rhythmic shuffle on the chorus. It was sitting half finished when two session musicians picked it up and ran with it, the guitar part was created by Hannes Petri and the drums by Roy Salmon. The two of them really took the song to the next level. I think my best songs sort of strike like a bolt of lightning, but there’s this great Mary Oliver quote that I love about how you have to show up for your muses.  I lean heavily on writing practices that pull me through stretches of writer’s block and put me in a receptive place for inspiration.

>>>>> What song on the disc do you think best represents what you are about today, musically & otherwise?  After shepherding this project for so many years, I am thrilled to have what feels like a clean slate. I don’t know what direction my music will take and that’s very exciting for me.

>>>>> You lived for years in Berlin before moving to Austin: how do you think that experience there informs your music or approach today?  Berlin is edgy and has this sort of dark disco grungy techno vibe. It also is nestled in Europe, so I was exposed to a lot of international indie folk/rock music like First Aid Kit, Angus and Julia Stone, and Mighty Oaks. As an expat I enjoyed this tinge of never quite belonging, which meant I could live and work a bit outside of convention, both socially and artistically. I have always been a rule follower by nature, but in Berlin I felt free to experiment and this intense drive to do so. I flagrantly disregarded the rules and guidelines about what music is, how a song should be structured, notes that go together, ideas about cohesion and meter and genre. Some of the songs I wrote in Berlin were downright strange. Now living back in the US, it has been challenging for me to keep up this fertile subversiveness. But I am still a bit of a foreigner in Texas, so that helps.

>>>>> The video for “Upside Down” does a great job of matching your energy in a fun visual, did you direct it? Thanks! I am really proud of that video. “Upside Down” is the most upbeat, fun song on the album and I thought the dense imagery in the lyrics would lend itself well to video.  I met Aaron MacCarley, another dBs student in the film school and it was his idea to make it a stop-motion adventure. I’ve loved stop-motion animation and claymation since I was a kid, so I was immediately onboard. We spent a few months in pre-production (brainstorming, story-boarding, creating backgrounds and assembling props, and testing the sequences).  I had no idea how much work goes into a stop motion film, especially a no-budget operation like this one. We tye-dyed the backgrounds, the props consisted of my books, instruments, and Aaron’s roommate’s samurai sword. We hand painted the fish and the planets and drew and cut out each letter of the credits. Aaron found a plank of wood in the alley behind the studio, drilled a hole in it for the lens of his camera to rest in, and we suspended plank and camera across two hanging fluorescent lights. The shoot took four full days, during which I laid on the ground moving incrementally and tensing various body parts for 3500 different frames. It was exhausting and exhilarating and I’ve never been so sore in my life.

>>>>> Since you point out on the record that you’ve taken into account the earth’s wobble on its axis, where does sci-fi figure in to your worldview and did we really put a man on the moon?  I play with sci-fi in both “Upside Down” and “Signs” to explore the absurdity of existence. I always come back to this idea that our primordial experience of life is so ridiculously improbable, for example: how lucky we are that Earth wobbles clockwise around the sun. I was thinking about regret and that naive desire to go back in time, and I remembered that old comic of Superman spinning the earth counterclockwise to physically turn back time. And then that led me to thinking about Benjamin Button, born old and dying an infant. I like writing like this, following my train of thought from one idea to the next and just seeing where it will take me. I’m fascinated with science and the limits of science’s ability to explain reality as we experience it, which is reflected in some of the more sci-fi lyrics in “Signs” about “mitochondrial cults” and “life undermining scientific paradigm”.  If you can’t tell, I love to free associate when I write. As for the moon, I can’t wait to go!  – MelodyChebrellan.com

DEANNA DEVORE

>>>>> How was your disc release show at Schuba’s  for Half & Half, your 3rd release?  It was a super great show! The turn out was really good and so we had lots of energy on stage.
>>>> What is your live format in terms of instrumentation? has that evolved over time?  The live instrumentation is electric guitar/vocals, backup vocals, bass/synth, wurlitzer/synth, live drums/electronic drum pad and a laptop playing some tracks from the recordings. It has evolved over time…I had a hard time over the years recreating the sound of the recordings live and my current live arrangement does just that. I’m really happy with it.

>>>>>> How do you get in the right head-space to perform? do you have a ritual at this point?  Alcohol… kidding. I try not to over think it, because it’s when I do that it causes me to second guess things. I have so much to think about while I perform – between playing guitar, singing, pedals, live looping etc. It’s hard to not get in my head.

>>>>> What’s the biggest high for you:  writing, recording or playing your stuff for an audience?  I’d say the writing/recording process. Playing is great too, but writing is really where my passion lies. When I record, it brings the songs to life, and I like seeing how the song transforms from the bare bones where I started, to the song after production.
Did you have a goal in or specific approach to recording the new songs?  This album is called half and half because it features two different production styles and a spectrum of sound – from electronic to acoustic. Half the songs are more electronic, while the other half are more acoustic. 
>>>> The production on each track is stellar and concise: how do you know when a song is done?  Production is a big part of what I do in the studio since I’m mostly self-produced (some tracks from the new album had additional production, but most of them were produced myself). It depends on the individual song, but sometimes the song goes through different production/directions until I get the right vibe from it. That’s usually the case when it’s a song that was written on guitar and then I end up making it more synthy/electronic in the end. Other times, I know right away what sound I want from the time I’ve written it. Production is fun because it can really make the song come to life.
>>>> With the file sharing as the life blood of social media, and the widening gap between talent and compensation, what drives you to do this? Things have definitely changed over the years, but it’s important to keep up with the times. I just want to get this new music out into the world.
>>>> Today artists are in a way forced to see each tune as an island onto itself that can stand alone as a promotion: do you think of the songs as individual pieces or as part of an overall statement that is the album?  Hmm I’d say both. I think they can stand alone but also be heard in the album as a whole. I had released 3 singles previously, before the album came out, so maybe that’s why I feel that way.
>>>>>> What were the first few albums you picked up as a kid? are they essential to who you have become as an artist?  I remember my first albums as a kid were Ace of Base and Green Day, but I don’t think there’s an overlap there haha. My taste has definitely changed since then.
>>>>> If you envision yourself on stage in an arena sized venue, what role do you think theatrics would play in delivering your music?  I think there could be something cool in a visual component being added to the live sound – especially at such a massive venue. Not saying dancers etc but I mean more in terms of a screen with images being shown, tying in with the music.

SARAH VOS’ w/ DEAD HORSES

>>>>> Most musician’s early influences are in some way tied to family in some way, is that true for you too?  Absolutely. Both of my parents are very musical; they both sing and play piano and organ. I grew up in the church so there was a strong emphasis on hymns and psalms and singing in general. I was also in a handbell choir in middle school! The choirs taught me about music theory and performing with others in time and in dynamic. ​

>>>>> As kids, many creative types often flounder a bit until they find their muse as it were; was this true for you at all?  I’m still floundering in many ways. There was, however, a definite switch for me during adolescence where music naturally became central to me over any of the other activities I was involved in. It wasn’t until my twenties when I decided to pursue music fully, and that helped me feel a lot of fulfillment. I had spent my college years trying to figure out how I could play music instead of what I was doing. 

>>>>> What singers did you try to emulate when you first started singing / writing / playing and what was the first tune you learned to play and sing on guitar comfortably enough to play for others?  I never consciously tried to emulate anyone while singing or writing or playing. When I first got a guitar- around ten years old or so- it was a vehicle for me to write songs. I taught myself how to play by looking up guitar tabs to songs I knew online. I’m really not sure what the first tune was that I played and sang in front of others, but I think one of the first times I played in front of others was at an open mic that I asked my mom to take me to because I wasn’t old enough to drive yet. I remember being pretty terrified but excited because I always knew while writing that I wanted to share too.

>>>>> What was your first album purchase and concert viewing respectively and how do you think they may inform your music or general approach today?  My first album purchase was “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” by the Beatles. So epic! I bought it on cassette, and I would listen to “A Day in the Life” over and over again. It’s interesting how that’s two different songs melded together. I’ve done the same thing in my writing many times.

>>>>> Some who hear Dead Horses may find the songwriting, beyond folk, as decidedly southern: where does being from the Midwest & Milwaukee figure in to that mix you think?  I think it might be related to how I grew up listening to old gospel hymns. 

>>>>> How does the songwriting process work for you and Dead Horses; has it evolved or do you have a tried and true formula at this point?  No real formula per se. I usually have the skeletons (or more) to songs and I bring them to Dan and we work on them together. It’s always evolving and I welcome that.​

>>>>> How do you get in the right mindset pre-show or is that not a concern for you day to day?  Funny you should ask, as I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. It’s so important to be flexible because you never know what you’re going to have to work with from show to show or festival. Maybe you’ll have a quiet place to warm up in, maybe you won’t. A couple of weeks ago we drove five hours to a festival, got out of the van and immediately took a golf cart to do a session on a porch, and then we rode back to our stage where we played a full set

I am curious about how it might help to spend time getting in touch with body before a set- meditating, stretching, breathing. ​Some of the best advice given to me were “Use your nerves.” I really appreciate the nerves I get before most shows, because they serve as a source of energy and a tangible recognition by my body of what’s about to take place. 

>>>>> The ‘Critically Acclaimed Album’ seems to remain the spark point in the Americana scene for artists looking to make it to bigger stages: How do you manage / ignore the pressure to ‘one-up’ your prior release?  I feel that I’m at the beginning of my career and that there are many records to come. I think there will be ups and downs in how people perceive our work and also how I will feel about it. I think it’s great that anyone is paying attention to the writing because it’s one of the most fun parts for me.

>>>>> Could you ever see yourself doing a big Nashwood-type presentation were you to headline the Sheds soon? Is that a fear as you’re name grows; preserving what you have without compromise to keep climbing?  I do definitely have a strong attachment to this desire to stay “authentic.” I have been asking myself what that really means, as it has caused me some inner conflict. I think you have to do your best; decisions are often not black and white. Things that we hang onto with our whole being are often ego-based, but a level of integrity is so important- especially in this field. 

>>>>> You encounter a lot of great young, new artists on the road: when you meet those you really believe in, do you engage them? and what sort of advice do they tend to seek form you?  Definitely! If I can. Today someone was asking me about how to get rolling with music. He’s a great player but doesn’t play out ever. I told him it’s a community and you’ve got to get involved! Find some people you want to play with who are playing music you’re interested in.

RON WEIMER @ BUCK LAKE RANCH

——— How did you originally get the rock & roll bug? What music did you hear in the house growing up?  My Dad listened to Bluegrass & Country. The Statler Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs, Johnny Cash, Alabama, Oak Ridge Boys. Watched Hee Haw! My Brother listened to Kiss, ELO, BTO, Foghat, Peter Frampton.

———— What was the first record you ever bought and how does it grab you today? Boston, Don’t Look Back. Still love it but it is considered Classic Rock now.

———- Since you don’t actually play an instrument or sing (outside of the beer tent or car), how do you explain your love affair with ‘Outlaw Country’ to new friends?  Just love Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr., Willie Nelson style more than ever because Nashville has always dissed them thus become the “Outlaw” term. Today, Nashville created Pop Country thanks to Scott Borchetta and changed Country music. You either love Pop Country or hate it. The hatters love Outlaw Country. I really love the new Outlaw Country artists Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Cody Jinks, Jamey Johnson etc.

——— Who is on your shipwrecked island playlist today?  Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Marcus King, Billy Strings, Government Mule, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver.

——— Was your first concert experience really Alabama at Buck Lake Ranch?  Yes, I went with my Family in 1982. I remember every moment so well and even still have pictures from my photo album.

———– You’ve spent a good deal of time & love now revamping Buck Lake Ranch, once the ‘Nashville of The North’. What color can you share on the lay of the land for Midwest promoters in 2018?  Cut throat more than ever. People just do not realize the cost to put on a show these days. There are a couple big promoters who keep driving the costs up to try and keep small guys out. They buy massively which keeps their costs down.

———– You cut your teeth as promoter of the highly successful, annual BBQ, Blues & Bluegrass Festival in St. Joseph MI over the last 5 or so years, how does that experience inform your belief in and approach to the revival of Buck Lake?  Well as any promoter knows, it takes 3 years to build something out and become profitable. We are so excited for Buck Lake Ranch because of the Rich music history it already has. It has been awhile since Buck Lake has had anything going on so 2018 is going to be the “ Come Back” year. We have over 75 local, Regional & touring bands booked for the season. We have created our “Jammin in the Bowl” Series to be held every Saturday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. We have Blessing of the Bikes & Abate biker rides to The Ranch. We created the Americana Music & Arts Festival & many more events to come.

————- What new artists are you keeping an on eye for future festival plays who you’d love o see at Buck Lake someday soon?  First and foremost, Jake Kershaw. The kid is another amazing Blues artists who will be on everyone’s radar real soon. As you know, I have been following Marcus King to stardom and Jake is right behind him. Jake has a new CD “Piece of my Mind”, everyone should go buy! Also, a young lady Erin Coburn who also has a new CD “Queen of Nothing”. These are two very amazing young artists who you will see on the legendary Buck Lake Ranch Bowl Stage real soon. 

———— If you could book a dream 3 band bill, to be broadcast worldwide, dead or alive, who would be on the bill and what’s the ‘theme’ as you see it?  Well right now it would start with the Eagles. I am a huge Glenn Frey fan God rest his soul, but I just am also a huge Vince Gill fan and I love the current sound. Next would be Stevie Ray Vaughn, a man who had a relatively short career in just 7 years but made a massive impact on musicians worldwide. Third would be Hank Williams Sr. To most it may seem like a strange lineup but it goes with my love for versatility. As a promoter & music fanatic, I love many styles of music. So I love to bring in different styles from Blues, Classic Rock, Southern Rock, Outlaw Country to Indie, Progressive & Traditional Bluegrass, Folk & Jazz.

————– If you ever did become a musical artists, what would you call yourself and what song do you cover your first time on the Grammys?  That is a tough question to answer. Music is written about life experiences, tragedies, heart breaks, failures, successes and so on. So thinking along those lines, I would name my band Gullible. I have had a life full of challenges because I was over trusting, deceived, believed if someone gave me their word they would stand up to it. Not so anymore, you can trust no one except for a few closest to you. As for a song, Chris Stapleton is my favorite song writer. I would sing “Tennessee Whiskey” on the Grammys. Also, “Nobody to Blame” by Chris as well.

THE NEW ZEITGEIST

——- Duo musical couples seem to be rarer and rarer these days, was the potential to work together on music part of what brought you two together? 

Eddy: The first night we met was at a singer/songwriter open mic in Wrigleyville. Jen was expecting to meet a friend. That friend never showed and I eventually offered her my guitar so that she could perform after she noticed me performing and turning her way from two feet away over and over. After some good conversation, I offered her a ride to the train station downtown since I lived close to there. I mentioned that we should make some music together sometime and she gave me her MySpace card. The rest is history.

Jen: Strictly…at 1st J Eddy also possessed the alluring quality of a man of culture. I wanted 2 things in a man that were not easy to find:  1.) Finding a rock star to do music with 2.) Marrying the musical rock star

—————- Your personal musical influences seem as incongruent from one another as possible yet they find a comfortable balance with The New Zeitgeist, did it take time to develop its cohesion or was it immediate? 

 Jen: Ha, really?  There was immediate chemistry, yet as we explored places we had never been between his twangy-blusterous grit and my tailored velvet, our songwriting individually wandered untested roads, and our sound became more intimately entwined.  I suppose what helped our unlikely and risky launch is the somewhat later exploration in my 20’s of my personal music taste and, therefore, probably the largest genre evolution out of the two of us.  For me, mostly Church Gospel songs to uh, rap and punk in middle school, then indie folk, and finally, what we identify loosely as roots/Americana now.  I was definitely at a point in my music where I wasn’t being challenged creatively and feeling a musically plateau as a solo artist just before we met.

Eddy: Jen had such a remarkable natural ability to sing amazing harmonies. When we met, I was asking her to accompany me on my old material and she made it ten times better! She was working on her sound at the time and wasn’t sure she wanted to abandon that and start a new band. We started the first album in the summer of 2103 and released it in December of 2014. That was The New Zeitgeist. We met as acoustic artists but she had encouraged me to return to playing electric guitar and, I couldn’t have been happier getting back to my rock roots on our second album which was released in summer of 2017.

————— How does the writing process work for you? does it vary song to song? 

Jen: I’m really great at listening for arrangement and structure (Evaluating Eddy’s songs), but Eddy’s also greatly improved the musical riffs of my songs. I’m currently trying to expand my writing process beyond waiting for the inspiration of that flaky muse, but traditionally it’s very lyrically dominant for me and the melody drives the song.  The voice creates the music and the instrument, many times comes later.  Since my main instrument is my voice, I feel if you have a strong melody you have a strong song.  We’re also opening up our songwriting experience to collaboration in smaller ways, but not necessarily co-writing.  We’re both very dominant songwriters and I think it’s an intimate and personal experience for each of us.

Eddy: I am not at all disciplined as a songwriter. I listen for the music in my head. Either I will find a hook or a riff that I like, or stumble across one while practicing guitar. It may be a thought or an idea. I think choruses are meant to connect with. If I find one, then I try to write a song around it. I do enjoy using a word processor, using word documents to create a poetic structure, and then filling it in around the hook. I still will write down a phrase on a piece of paper if it comes to me. When I was at NIU in the late 80’s, I had the privilege of attending a poetry workshop with the legendary Gwendolyn Brooks. I read a song of mine to her and she responded with something I have taken to heart until this day. ‘Revise, revise, revise.’ I try to practice that.

————— Is there a tune of yours that you feel is the quintessential representation of who and what you are?   

Jen: Definitely “Desert Rose,” since it’s the most original on lyrics and music, and a classic sappy love tune. I never wrote a personally real or convincing love song before that, and also pushed myself to write outside my genre zone of comfort—an ode to classic country. 

EddyOf my songs on our recent album, “Myths and Mortals”, I have a difficult time choosing one.  I think it has to be “Lack of Linear Thought”. It is my 60’s dream pop song. The cast of characters playing on this track includes Alton Smith on the Farfisa, whom I think takes it over the top! I was playing though a sweet little vintage Supro amp on most of the album and made the most of it on this track, too!

—————- The New Zeitgeist has a lot in common with the late 60’s folk movement in terms of lyrics and messaging: were your parents hippies? What did you grow up listening to in the house? 

Jen: My Dad was definitely a “Jesus Hippie”!  Definitely no for my mom!  They were opposites musically as he would have the oldies playing in the car and he was especially a lover of classic folk like Dylan while my Mom preferred Italian opera.

EddyMy dad was definitely not a hippie, but he did appreciate the pop music of the 60’s era. His favorite groups were The Everly Brothers, The Righteous Brothers, The Ventures, and The Animals. He would say that once The Beatles went to see the Maharishi they became too “out there” for him. I remember my parents having Elton John’s Greatest Hits, Jim Croce, and the red and blue vinyl Beatles Greatest Hits. The blue album, which included “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, was my favorite, of course! My mom and dad listened to the radio with us a lot throughout the 70’s and the 80’s. My mom wasn’t a hippie, either. She liked to dance to good music and we would watch American Bandstand. Her favorites included Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. On a further note, my grandfather was an accomplished accordionist and he performed with my father on drums at VFW halls around the SW suburbs. We would hear them practice often and that would include hearing a lot of polkas and waltzes. I loved it! Hearing that made me want to make music, too!

—————- Would you guys ever consider expanding the presentation to include a full band and, if so, what would be your instrumentation wish list?   

Jen: Oh, yes! The recent album Myths and Mortals (2017) was the real creative impetus for our dream instrumentation at every turn.  The opportunity to work with some really great Chicago musicians, including Gerald Dowd (drums), John Abbey (bass), Alton Smith (organ), Nora Barton (cello), and Austin pedal steel extraordinaire Lloyd Maines, strengthened us to be tighter musicians and more intimately entwined as a duo.  A lot of those songs inspired Pedal Steel, Bass, and Percussion to be added to our duo’s mandolin, acoustic, and electric, but I can see also stripping it down to an even more simple roots package with an upright, chains/rattles, and dobro.

EddyFor me, there is nothing like playing in a great band situation. Jen was very conscious of the different sounds she wanted when planning ‘Myths and Mortals,’ and those included a rhythm section. She insisted on the pedal steel and after hearing the initial takes in the studio, I was convinced of almost every idea she had. Playing with the truly great musicians that performed on “Myths and Mortals” was a dream come true and I would wish to bring them together again in the future if possible.

——————— What were the first 3 albums (for each of you) you purchased as a kid? Which is the best? 

Jen: I probably didn’t purchase my own music until I was 12.  My very 1st, ahem, (cassette!) was The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA” with the cartoon cover…I mean, hey, I grew up in Florida. J Then to CD’s, Grammatical Revolution (1999) by Christian hip hop group named Grits, and definitely my most memorable album, The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek (2001) from punk-rock band Reliant K, which is very worn and whose several albums really motivated my learning of guitar chords.

EddyThis has been challenging to remember. My parents were in the habit of occasionally purchasing a new album. I remember receiving as a gift the album ‘Double Vision’ by Foreigner in what must have been the Christmas of ’78. In the following year with my own money for the first time, I must have wanted to buy a Kiss record, but my parents “encouraged” me to buy something else first, so I bought the first Foreigner album and then the Ace Frehley solo album! I think the third album I bought was ‘Double Platinum’.

——————– What do you guys like to listen to together these days if you are going to pop on an ‘album’?

Jen: Hmmm…it’s not that easy!  It depends on mood, flexibility, and activity—like driving, or…other things!  I think Zep has done us no harm, some Johnny Cash, some Neil Young, or even U2, but usually it’s nothing newer than the 80s or 90s. J  I’m embarrassed to admit how much we just listen to our album!

EddyIn the car, Zep is our go to, or 93.1 WXRT. At home, it’s U2.

—————- What’s the best thing about Chicago and ‘our scene’? 

Jen:  I’ve found that it’s sometimes the less appearance-driven and smaller profile neighborhood dives that have the strongest music influence because they operate more at a community grassroots level and are not caught up with ticket sales or official advertisement.  While we greatly respect some of the finest names in Chicago’s music scene, some of the best recent times for us have been the meaningful connections we make up-close like Lizard Lounge’s 2017 Ugly Sweater Party singing ‘Silent Night’ to be followed by an outstanding woman just from Ireland jumping on stage to belt a cappella a traditional tearjerker.

EddyI really enjoy all the different little bars and the different music scenes at each one, especially those places that haven’t changed much since the 90’s or at which no more that ten people regularly attend! Also, the Old Town School of Folk Music and the singer/songwriter scene there has been really important for us, and we really appreciate all the great people and musicians that we’ve had the pleasure to get to know there. We attend a lot of shows that the people we’ve met at the Old Town perform.

A new show bubbles up in which musical duo couples compete for the affection of millions of young Americans. In the finals, you are forced to dress up like and perform a couple classic couple duo number by Donnie & Marie, Captain & Tennille, Sonny & Cher, Paul & Linda McCartney, John & Yoko, Stevie & Lindsey, Ike & Tina or any other of your choice, what songs do you chose and which do you think you could pull off best?  

Jen: That sounds like loads of fun…well, my 1st instinct is to be our real-life heroic couple, Piggy and Kermit.  However, there’s a history behind the song “I’ve Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher being played at a party in our pre-dating hangouts which really sparked the idea of getting romantically involved with Eddy.  We also walked up the aisle to that song. J

Eddy: It was at my long-time buddy Jeff’s birthday party singing karaoke in the summer of 2011 at which Jen and I sang “I’ve Got You Babe”. I think that would be the one!

DAVE GROSS w/ BLUE PLATE SPECIAL

—– What were your favorite bands in high school and how do you rank them today?  I was into The Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, David Bromberg, Poco. New Riders of the Purple Sage in high school, but when I would listen to The Allmans I would say “Who is this Robert Johnson?”, and look him up. I was heading towards roots music as a teenager. When The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” it had a major impact on me and my friends. That is how we discovered Doc Watson,  Vassar Clements, and Merle Travis. Doc became my sign post to all that followed. He had such great taste and style. From blues, bluegrass, swing, Doc had it all. Then Garcia, Grisman and Vassar released Old and in the Way, which also led us towards Bluegrass. New York radio had great non-commercial radio that featured bluegrass, Irish, jazz and blues. That was my education.

—– You started out as a drummer – what’s your first recollection of the mandolin and when/how/why did you pick it up?  I started playing mandolin because there was one in my house. My Dad played violin and mandolin (all by ear). Mandolin seemed like a good idea because everyone played guitar.
I played drums from 4th grade through high school.

—– What do playing drums and playing Mando have in common for you?  I think it helps inform my mandolin playing because mando is percussive and plays on 2 and 4 in bluegrass.

—– Did you take Mando lessons or are you self-taught?  I taught myself mandolin at first, but eventually studied with Barry Mitterhoff. (Skyline, Hot Tuna). I still study and take lessons from various people via skype.

—– I assume there are go-to guys that Mandolin players hopes to emulate – who were they for you initially and who are you in to today?   To discuss influences, any bluegrass mandolin player must mention Bill Monroe. I love Sam Bush, David Grisman, Doyle Lawson, Ricky Skaggs, Jethro Burns and the list goes on. Although I am sure I am influenced by many people, I don’t think I emulate anyone because mostly I learn from other instruments, like guitar (Django) fiddle and even piano or horns. I have recently become obsessed with the music of Django Reinhardt sometimes called Gypsy Jazz. I released a CD called Mandology and lead a band of the same name.

—– What is your Mando of choice and how did you settle on that as your ‘ace’ of choice?  I play an instrument made for me by the great builder A. Lawrence Smart. It is modeled after an F-5 Gibson.

—– How did Blue Plate Special come together and how would you describe the bands dynamics on stage, and off?  Blue Plate Special started in 2001 after Tom Wise (Bass)  and I were playing together for a bit. After kicking around a few band configurations, Tom’s wife Jay Friedman began playing fiddle and man can she sing! (Who Knew?) The three of us started learning some tunes and we all began to write. We added some musicians who have come and gone. Fortunately, about 7 or 8 years ago, we hooked up with some amazing young musicians James Hempfling (guitar) and Dan Whitener (banjo).
At this point we are all best friends.

 

—— Do you guys feel you part of the Nu-Grass movement or are you more traditional?  I wouldn’t say Blue Plate Special is a traditional bluegrass band. Bluegrass is an ever evolving and growing genre with some bands keeping it really traditional and others taking liberties. This has been true now for decades. I feel like we do what feels right, what the song tells us to do.  Sometimes that means keeping it traditional, sometimes not. We play swing, blues and some rock covers. What ever feels like fun and sounds good. What characterizes our band I think, are the arraignments. I really don’t like to cover a tune without making it our own. We work very hard to find a sound for each song often with three part harmony.

—— How does the writing process work in BPS?  When someone comes in with an original song idea, we arrange very carefully. It is really fun to see a song evolve in that fashion. When I write a tune, I sometimes hear the music almost fully formed. Maybe with a word or two or a concept. The lyrics usually follow.

—– Blue Plate Special are to perform at the CMAs in the ‘honorable mention; Bluegrass” category, what tune do you guys do, what do you wear, and how would the choreography work?  If we were to perform at the CMAs we would dress up in our finest clothes(I would have to go shopping) and try to smile a lot.

ARMAND DOUCETTE

—- 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.