PAUL BOLGER w/ MR. BLOTTO

MRB hi rez cropped1.0 – It’s quite an amazing accomplishment to be a leading live act in Chicago for 22 years now, what’s the secret to getting along well enough to stick together?

It’s definitely a trick keeping it together. The biggest part is that the members all have to share a dream. That way no matter what you are up against, it’s still worth it. It’s still worth fighting for. It’s us against all comers. Getting along is easy because even if you are arguing or pissed or disappointed and blaming each other etc, that moment comes when you hit the note and have a great live show or write a new song and you’re all back in. That’s the payoff, the battery re-charger. As long as we are creating, we hit a re-do or reset many times a month.

2.0 – A big part of your success has been your shrewd booking acumen and relationships with promoters, how has the festival scene changed over the years? 

Chicago is a easy hang. People here are very unpretentious including promoters (for the most part). So you don’t have to cow tow to them or “work” them, you can just be yourself and let it happen. We as a band are fairly organized so I think we had an advantage in that promoters knew early on that if we were headlining the gig, it would go off on time and with no glitches. The way the fest scene has changed is that it used to be a neighborhood contracted a promoter, gave them a budget and left it up to them. as a result you got great regional bands that weren’t the same at every fest. Now you have neighborhood committees all sitting in a room and all 7 people are starting their sentences with…”well i think we ought to……” So they all know off the same couple bands and that’s it. Better to have a promoter who knows hundreds of bands and chooses them according to the vibe the neighborhood wants. Also there was more nudity back in the day.

3.0 – What’s on tap for Blottopia 2013? 

Blottopia has become a phenomenon and we ride it like a crazy bull that our hand is cinched to with a rope. It’s the most fun weekend of the year and it’s always a surprise in one way or another. We always encore Saturday night with a surprise album so that’s really fun to do. Look for it the last weekend of July.

4.0 – When do discussions of the choice for encore begin and have you ever had to filibuster to get your way?

A filibuster won’t work in a band. If you win, it’s like convincing an unwilling lover. Not as fun as you had hoped. Music is very dependent on the vibe so you can’t destroy the vibe to get your way, and then hope it’s going to be magic. It’s like winning the battle but losing the war. We don’t always have a setlist and rarely call the encore until we’re in it.

5.0 – Any plans to record new material for a studio release, or is Mr. Blotto now a strictly live proposition?

We are mixing down our 6th album right now. It’ll be out by summer. And we should have done it long ago. It’s just such a pain in the ass to do. But we have sworn to each other to do an album a year from here on out.

6.0 – Of your personal gear, what is your favorite acoustic guitar and do you play it live? 

I’m fairly monogamous when it comes to my instruments. I have several acoustic and electrics. For 15 years I played a Martin Shenandoah with maple back and sides. It finally gave up the ghost and lost it’s tone. I now play my Martin D35 which I love love love. It was my spare before and now it’s my main axe. I use a Highlander pickup under the saddle.

B13 wide stage7.0 – As with your line-up, Mr. Blotto’s esteemed and well traveled PA system has evolved over the years: is it approaching perfection yet?

It’s virtually the same. We’ve only had to replace about a half dozen speakers in 20 years! It’s because Bob Georges designed it to have more headroom and power than it would ever need to use so the system is never stressed. It’s become a part of the band. We play it like it’s an instrument.

8.0 – What advice do you give to young musicians looking to make a living at playing music?

James Taylor said “play everyday and keep your overhead low”. That’s great advice. We haven’t kept our overhead particularly low but we all play all the time. I tell young cats to get their promotional ideas together and treat them with the same importance as the music. They aren’t as important as the music but they think they are. You need a place to gig. You need an audience. You need exposure. If that all works, then you can play music for a living. It’s a different promo game now. We had a 6000 name mailing list that we labelled and mailed once a month. That’s like the dark ages now but we did it because we wanted this life. Now there is a wide open field for promo that is just being discovered and actualized. It’s ideal for the creative minds that are in bands.

9.0 – What was the first record you bought as a kid and are you still listening to vinyl?  The first album I ever bought was Brick “Good High” because of the song “Dazz”. The rest of the album sucked! So I began buying 45’s from that moment on, with some exceptions. The first 45 I bought was “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate. Ha! That’s a little embarrassing. I still listen to vinyl and have about 4 crates and a Luxman. It sounds great through my Infinity RS6000 speakers (geeking out now sorry).

10.0 – If Jimi Hendrix miraculously appeared next to you on stage, what Blotto stand by would you launch into to bring Jimi back to life for one more extended jam?

I would love to hear Jimi go to town on something like “1977” or “Rattle My Cage”. He would just take off into the blues stratosphere. I just hope at the end he doesn’t trash all our gear. Maybe he could just hump a feedback drenched screaming amp which 9 months later would give birth to a full blown whopper of an hallucination that would explode into a rainbow of flowers and guitar picks… but then again we don’t need another mouth to feed. Got to keep that overhead low.

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FRED STUCKY

FredStucky1.0 – What is it about rock & roll that makes people feel good?

For me its the feeling I got when I heard Lou Reed “Walk On The Wild Side” on the radio when i was a boy has never really gone away. It made me love rock so much. I was probably 8 or 9. The song was so exotic. Such a trip far from my world. I was so hooked on this thing that came out of the radio. “Jumpin Jack Flash” on an AM transistor radio in Philly in the early 70’s was pretty magical.

So its escape and energy and fantasy and freedom for 3-6 minutes when tuned in. That feeling is hard to beat.

2.0 – How did you catch the roots bug?
As a kid. I heard Jerry Reed singing “Amos Moses” on the school bus for a few months. The song just pulled me in.  A little later “Tumbling Dice” was a hit. I knew I loved these songs and tones. The way they melded country and blues and their souls all together. It was clear to me they had something, some magic,  that no one I knew had. I wanted it.  It took a while but I melded them all to my satisfaction.

Also–In the early to mid 70’s all I listened to in my fathers old Jeep were 8 track tapes of, Willie Nelson live, Ernest Tubb, Charley Pride, And Hank Williams.

3.0 – Is there an artist that sets the barometer for you today?

Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and the mid period Rolling Stones

They wrote songs so honestly.  “Swinging Doors” what a brutal song. “Black Rose” is hard to top. “Let It bleed” is an amazing release as is “Beggars Banquet”.

The Stones from that 69-73 period is hard to get around. I think all of my songs have a taste of “Torn and Frayed” in them.

4.0 – Your new GAS MONEY disc Untethered is incredibly authentic, is that function of maturity now as a band?

Thank you.

I think just did not care how honest and sincere I was. It was my goal to get it right like Merle Haggard done on his classics. Every song is a true story on Untethered. With that it was easy to to be free to let the songs come to life.

I was also very tuned into the detail of the pedal steel and acoustic guitars. The levels and accents of both made it sound the way it does. All of this comes with getting older and being more patient and relaxed.

Many things on this recording were done on the spot in the studio. It was very organic you might say. And with that I let go and let people do what they do best. Very rewarding.

Untethered5.0 – What did it take to get the sound you were looking for on the record?

I knew it in my head.

I had a clear vision of what it was I wanted and but at the same time it was not letting that idea take control. The Stones song “Let It Bleed” and that LP  was the basis for the entire release production wise. The instrument selection along the way was fun too. Some of my old guitars & mandolins & banjo’s would just step right up and say this song is my song.  I then focused on the acoustic track and the snare.

6.0 – What took so long for the sophomore effort to the debut, 22 Dollars?

I had a family. My Son was born right after 22 Dollars came out. We had a daughter two years later. So life was busy for me just that simple. In  2011 we moved from an old stone house built in 1926 to a new townhouse.  No house maintenance and the kids being older was a real treat. The songs just poured out that summer.

7.0 – What’s your attitude when it comes to your gear live and/or in the studio?

Simplicity and tone.

My live gear is very basic. 59′ Grestch 6120, 58′ Fender tweed deluxe amp and a early 70’s Echoplex. That’s it.

The studio is a real treat. I have been collecting vintage instruments since the mid 80’s when I was in college. Nothing is more fun than bringing these old guitars, mandolins, banjos, steels and amps to life. I want them all to be used and to sing. Let the instruments do their job. I’m just strumming.

8.0 – How does a song usually start for you, with a riff? a title? a progression?

Typically its a title or a key line in a song and I build on that. The song “Every Empty Bottle” was originally called “Reinvent The Feel”. I came up with that line one night in my garage and wrote it on the side of a box with a sharpie pen. I looked up at that box for over a year. Then I used the phrase in the song. The idea of reinventing a feel stuck with me. The song wrote itself after that.

“High water” was written during the hurricane we had in august of 2011. The amount of rain was used as a parallel to a past romance I had. The song just spun naturally out with using the vision of a big flood and a tough breakup. The riff was much more rock as I was using barre chords. I changed the feel using the first position voicing.

9.0 – Is it true rockabilly is a way of life where, if you don’t buy in full-on, you are an outsider?

I have always been somewhat of an outsider with the rockabilly scene. Gas Money was described once as The Replacements of Rockabilly“. We have never really been embraced as a rockabilly band per se. Nor did I want to be.  We play lots of rockabilly but there was something a little wrong about the way we played it in the 90’s.

I have a deep love for rockabilly and I always will. The shit that comes along with the music however is somewhat silly. I have had an odd relationship with the genre for a long time. The music is magic but the scene surrounding it makes me a bit uneasy. Those big rockabilly shows are like Halloween parties.

Playing live now however we do three sets of classic honky tonk and rockabilly. The bars and clubs we play are interested in dancing and drinking not original music. We don’t get paid playing our tunes. The classics are really fun and ya know who else in Philly is playing George Jones “You’re Still On My Mind” with a pedal steel player on a sat night. No one. I think in a way it helped my song writing with playing classic honky tonk songs.

10.0 – Is it possible that certain guitars may contain magical properties?

It is true. I have a few pre-war Gibson flat tops,  50’s Gretsch hollow-bodies as well as some pre-war Gibson mandolins and banjos. Each one really is unique and has its own voice and character. As a player I can pick up a guitar at a friends house or at a vintage guitar show and just “feel” it.  Especially the pre-war mandolins and banjos. They want to talk and just don’t get out like they used to. yeah old wood is magic without a doubt. It’s intoxicating if you get hooked on it.

BRYANT LEE

1.0 – What’s the best thing about your latest release, the new The Pear Traps EP, Elsewhere

It’s different than our previous EPs.  The first 2 were home recordings that we did by ourselves which is mainly why they took on the lo-fi sound.  Elsewhere is our first “studio” recording and although we kept it uncomplicated, it’s easy to hear the difference.

2.0 – Did you have a sound in mind when you starting recording it or did it evolve?

We completed the songs before actually recording them and knew how we wanted them to sound through our amps/drums/etc, but did not have any idea how it was going to turn out after recording.

we did the recording and mixing ourselves on the early recordings, so we had total control of the sound.  This time we had someone else (Jamie from Carterco here in Chicago) do the recording, mixing and mastering on legitimate equipment (as opposed to our karaoke microphones) and it was definitely a change.

We finished recording in 2 days and then Jamie spent another day or so mixing. During the mixing process Jamie was definitely leaning towards a cleaner, more professional sound and then when we heard the early mixes, we were always like “put more effects on that, make it more lo-fi!”  I think in the end it actually did evolve into a very happy medium and we could’nt be happier with Jamie’s help and input to give Elsewhere its full sound.

3.0 – Do you consider branding & image as part of the artistic process? 

In my opinion branding and image are part of the business process, not artistic.  If you know us or have seen us play a show it’s pretty easy to see that we put zero effort or thought into branding and/or image.  We are 5 friends playing music together because it’s fun and we like playing.  Not to try and make money or get big or anything like that.  Probably because we’re old enough to realize that we do this to have fun at practice every week and play out.  If we ever decided to start focusing on our image or try to be anything other than what we are, I think the enjoyment of us being in this band would go down dramatically.

4.0 – When did you start writing songs and what was your first?

I started writing about 3 or 4 years ago, right before we became a band.  I’ve always been a guitar player and never really thought about singing or writing songs – I actually prefer just hanging out and playing guitar in the background.  But over the years I’d come up with ideas for songs that I thought were OK, run them by the singer and nothing would ever come of them.  After not playing in a band for a little while and not finding anything that I was very interested in I started trying to complete ideas for songs by myself and eventually started singing.  I figured out how to program drums, record/mix audio, and just started messing around with songs in my apartment.  My first finished song was called “Ways to Doubt.”  It’s actually not that terrible and the thought of giving it a shot with The Pear Traps comes up every once in a while.

5.0 – Do you have a philosophy when it comes to writing? 

No, not really.  If I’m ever at home not doing anything I’m usually messing around on my guitar.  If something happens to sound all right I record it.  Or tell myself I’ll remember how it goes but then usually forget about it.  If I come across the recorded guitar parts again (sometimes days or weeks later after I’ve forgotten I recorded anything) and it sounds decent I’ll try to put lyrics to them.  Very little effort or thought goes into the lyrics.  To me vocals are primarily just another melodic part to the music.  Ideally the lyrics end up clever or interesting but as long as they don’t seem extremely contrived or cheesy I’m usually OK with what comes out.

6.0 – And what about the stage and playing live?

Stage presence is another thing we don’t really put too much effort into.  It’s kind of the same thing as image, if we ever had to try to act or be a certain way on stage that wasn’t natural to us, I don’t think we would want to play out.  We have fun playing shows together so I imagine that comes across to the audience, which is all I would really hope for.

7.0 – How did you catch the rock & roll bug originally? 

Possibly a little cliché but it was when I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  I think I was in 4th grade and had always really been into music but when I heard that guitar intro it just blew me away.  I think my actual logic was that if I learned how to play guitar I could learn those songs and then I could hear them whenever I wanted to instead of waiting for them to come on the radio.  My dad was very musical and supported my interest in learning an instrument but we didn’t have much money so he made a deal with me that for every chore I did I got a dollar saved towards my guitar and after 100 dollars were saved up he’d buy me one.  Couple months later I had myself a very cheap, used white electric guitar and I was ecstatic.

8.0 – Did you have to work at it or does it come naturally?

I was not natural at all, it took a lot of effort for me to be a passable guitar player.  I’m just very stubborn.

9.0 – What’s your favorite record of all-time? 

Possibly another cliché but I’ve honestly got to say The Beatles’ White Album.  It was kind of funny because when I was younger I literally went through my Beatles phase in chronological order.  At first I really liked the poppy mop top love songs even though it was completely dorky and my friends would give me shit for it.  Then heard Revolver and thought it was just amazing.  Then got my hands on an Abbey Road tape and would listen to it on repeat.  Then one year for Christmas my mom bought me the White Album.  I remember listening to it lying in bed and feeling disgusted at how perfect everything they did was- no matter what genre they played in.  I actually remember hearing Dear Prudence for the first time and wanting to quit guitar because I knew there was never any way I could play something that great.

10.0 – What was the first concert you attended and what do you remember most about it today

This one is not so cliché.  My dad liked country and about the time I was listening to Nevermind over and over he took me to a Randy Travis concert.  I actually had tears in my eyes because I hated it so much.

CHRISTMAS DAVIS

1.0  – How did you catch the rock & roll bug?
Ha ha, “Catch” is funny word. I believe that my fever was congenital, and my condition is probably genetic. Connie’s definitely is. There were no “rockers” in my family, but my great-great-grand father used to play a single string gourd instrument at local dances in the turpentine towns of north Florida. According to some accounts he was the only musician at these events, which would make for a pretty strange dance party. My father had the hi-fi on all the time, mostly big band stuff. It made an impression. The first time I saw a rock band it was at a school assembly to promote a talent show. They brought my elementary school class in to fill some seats. It was the first time I saw an electric guitar in person. I think the older kids in the band were playing Skynyrd, but I can’t be sure. I was hooked though. That was it for me. Connie definitely has music deep in her, and she was absolutely born with it. For her music is like an extra limb. It’s just a part of her. Her dad played sax in bands her whole life. He’s an amazing guy. Connie grew up in music. I had to go exploring.
 
2.0 – What was the first guitar you ever owned?
When I was 12 I borrowed a guitar from a friend who’s father had an old harmony acoustic, the jazz kind with f-holes and painted on “wood grain.” The action was terrible, but I bloodied up my fingers and tried to learn some chords. The older kids on the school bus used to ask me why I played such a big violin. Then a kid up the street sold me a terrible no-name electric. It was plywood painted candy apple red and shaped like an SG.  The action was even worse than the harmony – a real archery set – and to sweeten the deal the bridge had sharp screws sticking out of it. I had resolved myself to guitar playing being a painful sport.  But that was my first guitar, bought the old fashioned way – with money from my paper route.  I was glad to have it.
 
3.0 – What was the first song you learned to play well?
Play well? I’m still working on that. But the first song that I got up enough confidence to play in front of anybody was “Tangled Up In Blue,” the Bob Dylan song.  We were cruising in a friend’s car in high school. My friend and his girlfriend were up in the front seat and the radio was busted. I was too young to drive so I was in the back seat alone with his guitar. “Tangled Up In Blue” was the only song I knew all the way through so I played it while we drove around. They didn’t seem annoyed. They were very kind.
 
4.0 – When did you start writing songs?
When I was 15 I started a punk band with two other kids from my high school, and we needed some original songs. As far as song writing goes, I didn’t think anything of it, we needed songs and somebody had to write them. So I wrote 12 songs in one week – all power chords and shouting – just so we’d have something to play. Nothing seemed unusual about this. Back then I figured anybody bored enough could write a dozen songs. Only one of them was any good though, and it was only good because it was funny. I think it was called “Vomit Omelet.” Yup, funny stuff. I don’t think that I ever really wrote a song that I was satisfied with until I started writing for Connie and The Tall Pines. Hearing her sing the songs that I write makes them feel real to me.
 
5.0 – as your style changed much over time or did you find your thing early on? 
It always changes. It has to. Tall Pines Music is just a mash up of everything that Connie and I have ever loved. You can make collages forever if you have enough material,and they should all look different. We’re always looking for material. Your style is just how you combine and present the things that you’ve always loved anyway.  
 
6.0 – How long have you been playing with Connie Lynn Petruk and how did you meet?
Connie and I have been playing together for a few years. We dated for a while before we started making music together. She is such a great singer – really incredible – and I had all of these songs that I’d started writing, so we just began to put things together one night and found that we really enjoyed collaborating on music. We met because I was a huge fan of a band she sings with in New York called The Losers Lounge. I used to go see them all the time, and because I had a huge crush on her I would try to “accidentally” meet her at the shows and around town. Unfortunately my efforts to casually cross paths with her all resulted in failure. She is a truly elusive person. At one point I expressed my frustration to a mutual friend – Sean Altman, who founded the group Rockapella – and he said he’d set me up on a date with Connie if I promised to be a gentleman. I did not want to be “set up” and I told him to forget it. But, he set us up anyway and we’ve been together ever since. Thanks Sean.
 
7.0 – Is it a challenge writing tunes for a female singer in terms of perspective or attitude when it comes to lyrics or titles?
Sometimes.  Some songs I just write from a male point of view and then change all the gender based words when I give them to Connie. “Always True” and “Because I Love You” are like this. Other songs I write for her, but more for her as a “female character” than for her as the real person that I know. That makes it easier. I have been accused of writing songs for her that are sexist or that praise the man in her life a little too much. Bill Bragin from Lincoln Center called me out on this after he heard “Good Woman” and “Love You Better” from the Campfire Songs record. He’s a friend and we had a laugh about it, but I felt like a bit of a jerk because I’d never thought of the characters in those songs as being Connie and me. As strange as that sounds, I had written both songs about other people, and I almost always think of the couples in my songs as being like two characters in a film or short story that I made up, but not us. Now that I’ve had this pointed out to me, I realize that I may be on to something. How many guys can get their lady to sing their praises – literally – into a microphone every night? Thanks Bill.  
 
8.0 – You just re-recorded Howlin’ Wolf’s “Wang Dang Doodle”, is that branding by association or did it come about more innocently?
Connie and I host aincredibly fun monthly jukejoint party in New York City called “The Tall Pines Review.”  “Wang Dang Doodle” is hands down one of the all time greatest songs ever about throwing a party. We’ve always loved it and wanted to cover it, even played with it some at rehearsals a long long time ago, but we never had a reason to do it before. Once we started putting on our monthly “Tall Pines Review” parties we wanted a theme song that represented what we were doing, and all of the great characters that come out of the wood-work when people have a good time. No song does that better than “Wang Dang Doodle.” We usually hang up a picture of Howlin’ Wolf on the side of the stage, but we also have a picture of Koko Taylor which we swap out from time to time. Heroes.  If you’re ever in New York on the third Thursday of the month you should come by. We always have a great time, “…all night long!
 
9.0 – What song would you say captures the quintessential essence of what The Tall Pines are all about?
There are a few, “If The Devil Knows You By Name,” is our choice at the moment. It’s about redemptioneternity, and the dark and light sides of human nature, which are some of the recurring themes in our songs. Also because it rocks live, we love playing it, and because we both get to sing together. We have some new songs that we’re working on now which I hope will change this answer, but for this interview, “If The Devil Knows You By Name” is the one.
 
10.0 – Are you ever torn by the struggle to experiment and yet be a relative purist?
Experimental and Pure don’t need to be mutually exclusive. I don’t think about things in those terms.  I just write songs that come from an honest place and that feel like something that I would like to hear and share with my friends.  Connie let’s me know if what I’ve come up with is worth working on, and then we take it from there. I may write the songs that we do perform, but she’s the arranger, and the editor in charge of what we don’t perform. I can be hard headed, so she’s got a big job too.

NATALIE GELMAN

1.0 – Are you happy with how the new EP, Streetlamp Musician, has turned out?

I am! The songs are great to start with and the production and players performing on it are top notch. It has a diverse range of songs and I think I’ll be performing all of them for a long, long time.

2.0 – What are your plans if any for the release?

I’m taking it slow to make sure I’m doing everything right. It will be a soft release  and I’m going to start touring it towards the end of this year and more next year. I am hoping my friends and fans love it enough to share with their circles of friends so it finds a home in a lot of peoples music collection.

 3.0 – Which song on it do you have the strongest emotional relationship with, or are they all dear?

It changes over time. They all have been close to me at one point or another. The most emotional song for me is “One More Thing” but the one I have strong love and respect for is “Most The While”.

 4.0 – Do you have a formula when it comes to writing or is it more free-form? 

A melody and some lyrics will come to me at first and then its my job to uncover what the song is about and focus it moving forward. I also try not to give up on the song or judge it prematurely. I don’t have a formula exactly but I do try to capture everything I think is interesting and inspiring in notebooks and in files on my iPhone. I’ll refer back to those often when I’m looking to write and when I’m looking for a spin on a song I’m already writing. I work really hard on my lyrics to try to be as clear as I can in saying exactly what I mean to and honoring the message of the song. That process is tedious and involves a lot of revision most of the time.

 5.0 – What were the songs that you recall impacting you as a kid? 

I don’t have too many songs that impacted me as a kid because I grew up studying classical violin and piano and my mom played classical music at home. I did eventually get a Lisa Minnelli CD and Madonnas Like a Virgin album and listen to those repeatedly. I also started listening to the hit radio station in NYC and liked musical theater like Gilbert and Sullivan and Disney songs that I was studying musically when I started singing.

 6.0 – What was the first song you learned to sing and play on guitar at the same time, by who?

I was already writing songs when I decided to learn Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me”. I had only been playing for a few months at that time and I learned the plucking, the harmonics and everything. I still cover that song at shows.

 7.0 – Is there an influencing artist that you consider your ultimate muse?

For a long time early Jewel was my primary muse. I’m now really inspired by Patty Griffin. I think she writes stunningly beautiful songs and stories and sings them amazingly. She’s an underappreciated gift.

 8.0 – Why led to your leaving NYC for California? 

I left for a variety of reasons, a lot of them too personal to mention in this interview but definitely available in the songs on my record. NYC, and the people surrounding me there kind-of broke my heart. I also had an opportunity to record out here with a great team and it just made sense to get out to Los Angeles and dive into it. I came out thinking I might be back by the Fall but the record took longer then expected and then one thing lead to another and now I live here and love it. I still get back to NYC a lot and miss it so much sometimes. It will always be my home and I love the energy of the city. I’m so proud to have grown up there.

 9.0 – You recently performed in the subway in New York; has that experience changed at all from when you started out busking in the West Village or is that what Streetlamp Musician is all about anyway? 

I didn’t start busking in the West Village. I actually started in Times Square and tried to avoid ever playing too close to home. I didn’t really want to run into people I knew though I always do when I play – usually quite a few folks actually.

Anyways, it has changed because it’s become more crowded. And, as I get older and as the economy has changed people are less likely to tip artists down there now. I still think it’s the best way to hone your chops and start to build your fan base as a young artist. I’m lucky to have made it into the MUNY program that’s run by a part of the MTA who manages the subways. They give you permits for bet spots and times as well as the right to amplify your music. It’s a great community to be a part of and it feels more like a legitimate thing that we’re doing together to make the subways more interesting and special. The buskers and street artists are so vital to the city and it’s spirit.

Streetlamp Musician is about the West Village changing in the past few years as much as it’s about me wishing more people would listen to me when I’m laying my heart out on the line. The city has to change but I wish the West Village was more of the neighborhood I grew up in with artists and bohemians. It’s way too expensive for interesting characters to live there anymore and all the mom and pop shops that had been there for generations were pushed out because rent got too high. My godmother blames the Village getting too popular on Sex and the City and I think she’s right.

10.0 – What’s the worst gig situation you have ever found yourself in? 

The worse ever was at a place called The Guitar Bar in Savannah, GA. I set up a show there for their opening night while on my first tour. Everything sounded good from the owner in follow up and checking in a week before the show right up until I got to the venue the night of the show and the owner told me that they weren’t going to be opening that night. My drummer was from Savannah and we were expecting a lot of people so we rescheduled for the next night and now were co-billing the show. We called 30 people to tell them about the switch and ended up playing a house concert that night instead.

The next day we went to the venue and they were complaining that they still didn’t have their liquor license and hustling to finish painting, put things away etc. I saw painters tape all over the floor moldings that needed to be removed so I started helping with that and got to the moldings in the bathroom when I realized they had no toilet paper. I asked the owner if they did and he was overwhelmed and said no so I offered to get some thinking he would pay me back. I went across the street (aka highway) in the dark to get some at a deli and loaded it into the bathroom.

The place opened that night and a ton of our friends came out. The show was amazing right up until I went to go take care of being paid before leaving. We had worked out a 50/50 split of the door deal and I had brought out 30 people at $10 a person. So the band should have made $150.

He handed me maybe $20 or $40 and said he was sorry, they didn’t have their liquor license blah, blah, blah. I quickly found out that he needed all the money from the people I brought in to pay the other act who was a friend of his who has flown in from CA when he paid the other guy $250 right in front of me. The other act hadn’t brought out anyone. I told him that wasn’t okay, we had still driven for hours to be there, had helped them out so much and brought in a lot of people and had a fair contract, yes, the payment details were in writing and it was signed. After a ton of arguing I ended up just leaving and just was so mad that he was making this my issue and just left.

I just looked them up and that place is finally closed. I can’t believe they actually stayed open for 4 years or so. What a nightmare.

TERRY RADIGAN

1.0 What’s your favorite moment on your new record, The Breakdown of a Breakup?  If I had to pick one I’d say the trombone solo on “Mistake” played by J. Walter Hawkes.

2.0 – How did you track the record and who was involved? I tracked the record at my studio Catherine The Great in Brooklyn. I pretty much record / mixed and did basic mastering myself. David Barratt was the executive producer on The Breakdown of a Breakup and I can say without a doubt that had he not come on board and lent his brilliant fresh ears I’d be working on the record for the next ten years.

3.0 – Do you allow yourself to compare your own records and if so, where does this one rank for you now, the week after its Valentine’s Day release?  I don’t really compare them as they’re a snapshot in time but this record was a real departure musically and lyrically.

4.0 – How did the concept for the album come about?  When my marriage of twenty years ended I wrote a bunch of songs to help me process it all. I didn’t think of putting it all together as a collection until David Barratt stepped in and helped to make sense out of all the tunes. Once we listened to them, it was pretty clear that they were all of a piece.

5.0 – What’s your best advice for getting through the pain and doubt of a failed relationship?  I know for me writing the tunes was a way of communicating to myself how I was really feeling & I’d imagine anyone going through it songwriter or not would get some clarity but writing it all down. It helps to keep it from just playing in the background of your mind.

6.0 – On your website, folks are encouraged to share their love stories; how’s that going?  It proved to be a great forum for people to share their stories, and to let others know that they aren’t alone in their heartbreak.

7.0 – Which is your first love: playing guitar, singing or writing music? I’d have to say playing that guitar, as that’s where it all started, but the three together are the holy trinity for me.

8.0 – How do you know when you have a good idea for song, or are you never quite sure?  Some songs just feel like gifts that you’re being given & your only job as a songwriter is not to get in the way! Then there are the tunes that you go 12 rounds before they show themselves.

9.0 – Was there an artist or a record that propelled you as a kid? “Ode to Billy Jo” by Bobbie Gentry. That song & Ms. Gentry’s singing blew me away. The cover for the sheet music was a picture of her holding a cool parlor guitar. I’d have to say that was it for me. I’m always trying to write that song !

10.0 – What’s the finest compliment you have ever been paid walking off a stage?  Hmm … I honestly don’t know that I can pick one. It’s always so moving and incredibly generous to have people come up & thank you for giving voice to something they were feeling. I am in a constant state of gratitude for that.

ADAM LEVY w/ THE HONEYDOGS

What do you feel is the high point of your new release, The Honeydogs; What Comes After?

This whole record feels like a solid offering to me. Hard to pick faves, just like your own children. The ending of “Devil We Do,”  “Broke it, Buy It,” The string arrangements on “Everything in its Place” and “Turned Around.”

What other Honeydogs release would you say is closest kin to the newbie?  

Hmmmmmm.  The record feels like a synthesis of our older roots records with some of the more elaborately arranged records of the last decade.   It has elements of our first two, and a few moments of 10,000 Years or Amygdala.

Now ten albums on, has the process of choosing the album title changed at all and how does “What Comes After” sum up what this record is bout to you? 

Album titles are in some ways like song titles.  They have some significance.  “What Comes After” has a bit of a spiritual ring to it–i was thinking about life and death matters quite a bit in the last year.  it’s also self-referential as an artist–I always like to keep moving forward artistically.  I have a number of projects percolating, and feel in a more creatively productive period than at any point in my career.  I hope to continue to always ask the question, “what comes after?”

How do you work as a band when it comes to new material; has it changed over the years? 

As the band has gotten more adept at learning songs the unit has become accomplished in the art of learning tunes on the spot; this record I brought a lot of songs the band had never heard.  They learned the songs and we tracked them immediately, sometimes in one or two takes.  That said, the band and my songwriting, while having a signature style, has always tried to not be predictable.  We don’t want to retread previous charted territory.  The band as players have developed some great antennae and abilities to learn quickly and fashion parts that feel new. This record was the easiest one we’ve ever made.  We worked with young engineers.  The band didn’t labor over details and we tried to retain as many of basic tracks and vocals as possible.

When is it time to get into the studio for The Honeydogs? Is it an organic process or does it take a lot of pre-production at this point?  

its time to go in the studio when I feel like I’ve got enough songs to work with.  The band loves being in the studio.  We grow a great deal every time we do this.  As I mentioned, little or no pre-production happened on songs for this record.  It is a very collective process of giving shape to a new body of work.  I always have ideas and make suggestions about parts.  But the more we work together, the more I trust everyone’s amazing instincts in this band.

Did you have any personal goals for this record? 

Sometimes not having expectations has some interesting results.  We didn’t have big plans tracking this record.  I felt like the songs were very personal and felt very comfortable in the studio with results happening quickly.  Not having any expectations always leaves you pleasantly surprised.

How did you gravitate toward ‘folk’ as the framework for your expression as a young artist?  

I grew up with the 1970’s pop folk landscape of radio. All of those bands listened to blues and folk and country.  My early favorites were all bands that merged older American musical styles with various other musical traditions.  I studied cultural anthropology in college and managed to soak up a lot of early American music in my studies.  I played in country VFW bands, old school honkytonk, and woodshedded to old blues and jazz records.  My early songwriting leaned heavily on Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons, Richard Thompson, Dylan…I never wanted to be a museum piece simply curating old musics and always had it in my mind to refer to these musics while offering something different.  My favorite artists have used the past as a touchstone to produce inspired hybrids and fresh interpretations.

What was the first song you ever learned to play and sing at the same time? 

Ha ha ha ha ha.  Badly or well?  KISS’s “Detroit Rock City”  badly.  “Sweet Black Angel” from the Stones’ Exile on MainStreet.

Who was your favorite guitarist growing up? 

I loved Mick Jones from The Clash.  Jimi Hendrix taught me the most.  I studied him hard.  Keith Richards and Pete Townsend taught me the importance of riffs and funky minimalism.  George Harrison taught me the importance of composing parts sometimes to create memorable music.

What advice do you give young artists looking to hit the road?  

Do it while you have time and freedom.  Create a great band.  Make everyone feel invested, loved, appreciated, and hope they areb equally driven.  It takes time to build a good team.  Be patient but be relentless and learn from failures…over and over and over.  Don’t listen to your parents.  I say that as a parent!