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!

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ANDY DUNNIGAN w/THE LIL SMOKIES

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.

GILLIAN ROSE

GillianRose4When did you realize you enjoyed singing?  For as long as I can remember, singing has been something I’m passionate about. If I were to try and pinpoint a starting point, it would probably be one of the many times that I sang through every song in Avril Lavigne’s Let Go album for my parents and their friends (with the TV clicker as my microphone of course).

Who did you grow up listening to?  Growing up I was heavily influenced by the music that my parents were listening to, so I’ve always found comfort in artists from the 90’s and early 2000’s like Norah Jones and Sheryl Crow. Billy Joel has also stood out because his song “Vienna” resonated so strongly with me from such an early age.

What was the first song you ever learned to play on guitar and sing at the same time?  The first time I picked up a guitar it was with the goal of singing along, so I started teaching myself song by song. I’ve mentioned Sheryl Crow, and her song “The First Cut is the Deepest” was the first one I learned as a surprise for my Mom’s birthday. It was rough to say the least, but she shed a few proud tears so I’d call it a success!

What was the first concert you ever attended and what impression did it leave on you?  I’ve been going to concerts since a very young age with my family, but the first one I can really remember was seeing Avril Lavigne when I was probably around 10 years old (the height of my obsession with her). The second she came on stage I started crying, and have cried at almost every concert I’ve attended since. I think it’s a combination of overwhelming admiration for the artists, and a longing to experience what they’re feeling on stage.

Can you describe how the writing process works for you?  My writing process is pretty inconsistent. Some of my songs, like “Already Miss You”, I finished in under an hour because I was so emotional at the time and it was really the only way I could find to deal with those feelings. But other times I find myself coming up with a chord progression and the first verse of a song, then hitting a wall and leaving it for a while in hopes that I’m more inspired the next time I work on it. That is definitely the most frustrating thing as a writer; to feel like you’ve had a great start and a song has potential, but you just can’t seem to find where it’s supposed to go. I’ve probably started and abandoned a hundred songs by now. 

Do you think living abroad has informed your music, or love of it, in any way?  Absolutely! Music has always been a constant in my life. Whenever we moved, it felt like I was starting over, reestablishing who I was each time. My guitar was one of the things that I could always bring with me and be reminded that that piece of me was still there. Having lived in three different countries, I am a strong believer that your surroundings influence your views of the world quite heavily. My experiences have shaped who I am as a person and a songwriter, and intensified the love that I have for music.

As a 19 year-old, what is the most daunting thing to you about embarking on a career in music?  The uncertainty is very unnerving to me. I will forever be happy performing for crowds of any size, and sharing my music with whoever will listen. But to earn a living in music, that all has to be on a much grander scale. With so many talented musicians out there it’s unrealistic to just assume that I will become a popular name, so it helps that I focus more on using music for personal expression. It has also been incredibly reassuring to me when fans reach out and tell me how my music has effected them, or how they enjoy it. I am also attending DePaul as a full-time student so that I will have additional opportunities available to me outside of music.

Gillian Rose (PaulNatkin)
Photo by PAUL NATKIN

 What’s your perspective on shows like The Voice and American Idol?  Like many, I grew up watching American Idol, pretending to be a contestant on the show during commercial breaks while my sisters judged. I think those programs have given many singers a lot of hope, and do a great job of inspiring individuals to pursue their dreams. They have also produced a number of great role models and talented professionals. Though at one time in my life I would have loved to be on those shows, currently I am pursuing my music career in a different way. I am hoping that my small population of loyal fans continues to gradually grow so, rather than a quick rise and possible fall, I can be heard for many years to come.

If you could open up for anyone on a Midwest run of dates this Spring who would it be?  John Mayer! I absolutely love his music and I respect that his live performances are even better than the recordings (which I didn’t think was even possible). He is incredibly talented and I would love the opportunity to learn from him.

The genie nods: your wish has been granted …in a puff of smoke Bob Dylan appears in your dorm room and you may ask him one question …what say ye?  I swear I’ve dreamt about this scenario… Once I regained consciousness from fainting, and the tears had subsided, I would ask him what his favorite decade was for music. And since there is already a genie present… I would then wish to go back in time to that decade with him! – GILLIAN ROSE

JESSE BREWSTER

jessetieguitarblazin_nobkWhat is your favorite moment on your last record Wrecking Ball at the Concert Hall?

That’s a tough one. The theme of that record is big sounding Americana tracks countered with heartfelt ballads. I think working on “God Fearin’ Man” was a blast, but there were some really tender moments too, especially on songs like “Sometime” and “Sorry Ain’t Enough”.

You’re taking a new approach to your latest release March of Tracks, it must be liberating in some ways and yet daunting in others?

Man, it’s a departure as far as the process of making a record goes. On the last album much of it was tracked live, with the same 5 people. Now I’m using a multitude of players, studios, engineers and gear, and it’s been incredible. I’ve been hand picking my favorite West Coast players for each song that plays to their individual strengths. Being able to focus 100% on one song at a time is so refreshing. There is the ever present and motivating factor of my own self-imposed deadlines (new song released 1st Tues. of every month) which can be a little stressful. But it’s also a response to the demand for single songs- don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of albums and will make more in the traditional way in the future, but this time I want to get my music out there in the most effective way, and have gotten a great response so far. What was daunting was the idea of starting work on a 12 song album that people wouldn’t be able to hear any of for 6 to 9 months. Ah the world of instant gratification!

How’s it going so far; do you already have the future tracks mapped in order?

Right now I do have a rough order, and am trying to be conscious of the tempo and style of each release. I want to be sure to mix it up and not, for example, release all the big up-tempo stuff up front so that all I’m left with is ballads. The other struggle is that any time I’m recording (and I think many artists would agree with this) I hit a creative stride with new material. So who knows, some of the stuff I’m writing right now could still make the record.

When you start writing a song, what comes first for you?

As a guitarist and sideman for years before I starting performing and touring as a lead singer/songwriter, that’s where things usually begin. I’ll find a progression that inspires me in some way, and 90% of the time the feel leads me to the subject matter. That being said, on occasion I do start with a theme and work from that side.

How do you know when a song is done and ready for recording?

That’s a great question, and something I think a lot of songwriters struggle with. As I’ve self-produced most my songs, I usually have a pretty good idea of when they’re ready to track. For songs that I send out to my players I try to give them a decent demo without getting to specific, because I like to allow people to approach their own parts creatively. But working with a producer is also a great way to finish that last 15% of a song, and something I hope to do more of.

JesseBWhat’s the state of rock & roll in California?

I think there’s a ton of amazing music out there, and it never ceases to amaze me how often I discover new incredible bands who are miles from where I live. So from that standpoint it’s as prominent as ever. From the industry side that’s a different story, I think with the internet era, people are less drawn to genres now than they are to good (sometimes not so good), catchy songs. That’s why every 15 year-old has 1000 songs on their iPhone from 1000 different artists. The way we as artists make out living has also changed, with an emphasis on licensing and placements becoming a more the norm.

Is there anything left of San Francisco of the 60’s?

Yes, and they’re all still performing! Every band who had a hit in the 60’s is still doing it, and they’re drawing all the same folks that came to their shows way back when. The boomers are the demo that can consistently afford to go out and see shows. Overall here though there’s a great collective support system in place of local artists, not as dog-eat-dog as other markets I’ve seen. I think it’s a great place to live and to foster your creativity, but I don’t see much opportunity here. I can’t think of many bands who have gotten really huge coming out of SF since Counting Crows or Train.

What were the first 3 records you ever bought and how do they rank today?

I’m not sure if they were the first 3, but I remember getting vinyl of Bob Marley Live, Willie Nelson and The Eagles.  All of which still measure up pretty strong compared to the music of the last 30 years

When did you start playing guitar and what was the first song you really got into to the point where you owned it?

I had a couple of false starts. At 7 or so I learned a couple chords, then again at 9 I picked it up again and went through a Bob Dylan songbook and learned “Don’t Think Twice”. I had a pretty good foundation when I kicked into higher gear at 12

By an amazing breakthrough in technology, you are to be awarded a role as a rock & roll deity with an expanded life span of 250 years (congrats) but, as a condition, you are forced to choose between electric or acoustic guitar from here on: would you be able to face the anguish?

That would be tough. I think I’d have to go with the acoustic, because that’s where 80% of the songs I write begin. Even the hardest hitting, slamming electric guitar driven tunes were usually started in my dining room on an acoustic. Also then if I’m still alive and kicking after the next major war or calamity, I won’t have to worry about finding a place to plug into in the post-apocalyptic hellscape!  :)

GREG KIHN

ImageIs there an album or song that got you hooked on rock & roll as a kid? 

Yes, I remember hearing “Don’t Be Cruel” by Elvis on the Juke Box at YMCA summer camp and I noticed all the girls loved it.  Later, when I got a guitar and started to learn folk songs I saw the effect guitars had on girls.  By the time the Beatles came along I already knew the basic chords.  I was too shy to meet girls any other way.  But music turned out to be the best way.  As far as an album that shaped my life I would have to say “Freewheelin’” by Bob Dylan because it got my whole generation writing songs.  As far as life-shaping events go, I’d guess I’d have to say seeing the Beatles for the first time on Ed Sullivan.  It blew my mind, it blew all our minds.  You had to be there.

What was the first complete tune you learned to play and sing at the same time?

That would be “Tom Dooley” by the Kingston Trio.  I can still remember how proud I was to get up on stage at a coffee house and play it.  I learned the 3 basic chords of life and I found out later it fit 90% of all the songs on the radio.

With the revival of Americana and roots music is it difficult to resist the temptation to return to your folk roots and put out KIHN FOLK?

Oh, you wicked, wicked man.  The “Kihn” puns just won’t die!  The only times I didn’t use the “KIHN” puns for GKB album titles- “Glass House Rock” and “With the Naked Eye” both albums stiffed, so we went right back to the KIHN formula for success.  I try to hide ‘em, but my folk roots stand out like Nicki Minaj’s hair color.

How did you get your first break in the music biz, or was it a confluence of events?

Matt Kaufman and Allan Mason were two law students in Baltimore when I was still in high school playing gigs at local coffee houses with names like “The Foghorn” and the “Crack of Doom.”  Allan later invited me out to California and let me crash on his floor.  Allan wound up working for A&M Records and Matthew started Beserkley Records.  When I first came to California I used to play on Telegraph Ave for spare change.  I did pretty good, too!  About 40$ a day!

What is, hands down, your favorite Greg Kihn record and why?

My all time favorite Greg Kihn song is The Breakup Song because it’s always fun to play, has a great guitar riff, and the lyrics “Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh translate into every known language.  That’s why today I can walk down the street in, say, Lithuania or Tasmania and people will point at me and shout, “There goes that uh-uh guy!” 

You have found a new home today on radio in San Francisco; is it strange being on the other end of the mic or was radio always something you could see yourself doing?

You know, my ego is so freakin’ huge I don’t care which side of the mic I’m on, as long as the mic is ON!  Radio is a wonderful way to communicate with hundreds of thousands of people every hour.  I love it!  Plus I can do the show in my underpants and nobody would ever know!  They can’t see me!

If you had a classic fake radio DJ name what would it be? any suggestions?

When I was a kid growing up in Baltimore, DJ’s had names like Fat Daddy and Commander Hot Rod.  Maybe I should change my on-air name to Beef Jerky or Greasy Cheeks or Dash Riprock.

As a horror writer now with several acclaimed books out, have you ever considered writing tunes to accompany your novels on the expanding digital landscape or in your audio books?

Actually I started out trying to do just that.  The result was the “Horror Show” CD in 1997.  It was supposed to serve as the soundtrack for the novel “Horror Show” and possibly a movie score but I only got 2 songs finished before I drifted off in another direction.  The 2 songs were “Horror Show” which you can see on You Tube, and “Vampira” which has no video.  Eventually I’ll make the movie of “Horror Show” and write the rest of the soundtrack.  By the way, let me be the first to announce the release of my new novel RUBBER SOUL published by Premier Digital Publishing in the spring of 2013.  It takes place in Liverpool in the early 60’s and has the Beatles as the main characters in a murder mystery.  It follows their meteoric rise to fame and culminates with assassination attempts in Manila in 1966 after snubbing the Marcos Family.  As far as I know it’s the first historically accurate truly fictional BEATLES NOVEL.  I hope you check it out when it’s released in early 2013.  I guarantee it’s like nothing you’ve read before.

ImageWhat are your fondest memories from touring with the Rolling Stones?

Hanging out backstage with the Stones.  Mick was very nice and gave me packs of cigarettes (Marlboro Box) whenever I asked, but the guy I most enjoyed talking with was Charlie.  He is a very interesting man- knows about history and is an expert of the Civil War believe it or not.  He’s got jazz roots.  Keith and Ron just played guitars and never said much.  Bill Graham introduced me and that did the trick.  I was one of the inner sanctum after that.  I’m sure Jerry Hall, Mick’s wife at the time, was checking me out.  Or maybe it was the drugs…  I’ve forgotten.  I’ll never forget the rush of walking out on stage in front of 90,000 people!

What are Greg Kihn’s “Ten Commandments of Touring”? 

1.    Never get separated from the band in a foreign country.

2.    Never leave the hotel with a chick who says she’ll take you to the airport in the morning.

3.    Never drink in the hotel bar alone, nothing good can happen.

4.    You’re better off smoking a joint alone in your room and watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island than going to a local club with some chicks you just met.

5.    When singing the National Anthem, start low and sing fast.

6.    Never drink from the mini-bar in your room.

7.    Never poop in the lavatory on the tour bus, peeing is OK, but defecation is not welcome.

8.    Never drink the other band’s beer, steal their women, or smoke their stash, it’s bad karma.

9.    Always treat the roadies with respect; they can really make you look bad if they want.  Remember, they have their own secret credo from which they never vary- (I’ll tell you but don’t say you heard it from me.)  The Roadie’s Credo- “If it’s wet, drink it, if it’s dry, smoke it, if it moves fuck it, if it doesn’t move, put it in the truck.”

10.  Pace yourself, it’s a long tour.

Visit Greg online at GregKihn.com

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.

DIDA PELLED

1.0 – When did your love of jazz begin and with what artists / records?

I began listening to jazz when I was fifteen years old, at The Thelma Yellin High School (Israel). I didn’t listen to jazz at all before that. As a guitar player (I didn’t sing at all at the time) I loved listening to Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, and to other instrumentalists like Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Miles David, Coltrane, Ahmad Jamal and many others.

2.0 – Were you singing before you picked up an instrument?

No. I began playing music only as a guitar player, and did only that for a few years. I played many gigs as a guitar player only before starting to sing, and at the time I wasn’t even thinking about singing. After High school, I went to the army (like everyone in Israel), and I was chosen to serve as an ‘outstanding musician’, so I played in the army band. In that band I started singing a little bit, and I fell in love with it. A year after, when I moved to New York, I began singing on my gigs too.

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

In the beginning I didn’t sing jazz so much, and I was mostly fooling around with singing some Israeli songs, Nirvana songs, or something in that vibe, I don’t remember :) So I guess those were the first songs I sang and played at the same time. I think that the first standard that I’ve learned to sing an play at the same time was “Like Someone In love”.

4.0 – It seems so few female guitarists gravitate towards improvisation but rather use it as a vehicle for songs: did that come naturally to you or was it something you had to work at a bit?

It came very naturally, because I started as a guitar player, so improvisation was what I was mostly working on. When I played a gig, many times with another singer, I was only playing guitar, and improvising was my way to express myself. In that sense, I think that I’m happy that I started singing late, because starting with the guitar gave me a point of view of an instrumentalist first, and of someone in the band. Starting to sing after playing guitar and improvising, and really knowing the songs and the language helps a lot.

5.0 – How was your experience like at Berkeley School of Music?

I was there only for 5 weeks, so I don’t really know how it is like to be a student there.:)

6.0 – What led to your decision to ultimately go for it as a musician in the states versus your home of Isreal?

I had a dream about moving to New York even before I started playing music. My older sister and brother were students in NY and I wanted to do the same since I was very young. Later after I got serious into jazz, I had no doubt that NY is where I want to be!

7.0 – Do the early 50’s rock’n’roll pioneers have any influence on your sensibility as a player?

Sure :)

8.0 – What do you enjoy most: playing live, writing or recording?

Playing live!

9.0 – What’s your favorite thing about the music scene in New York?

I don’t know another city in the world where you can go out every night and find a few very good options of different music to listen to, and to be inspired by the best musicians in the world.  I am back in NY at The Living Room on August 27th.

10.0 – If you could sit in with anyone, anywhere, anytime, past or present, for just one night….who and where?

Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles?  It’s a hard question! ( Visit Dida online at DidaMusic.com or on Facebook )