What are you working on and why are you excited about it? I went in the studio with the point of releasing an EP. Kind of a bridge to carry over from the debut album, Almost Heard the Ocean to my second album. I was in the studio last week and tracked a brand new song. Then it seemed like maybe this should be its own album. So now, that is what I am pretty much working on. The band is on hiatus for the time being. We lost a few members to distraction and lack of focus.
Did you grow up with music in your family? My parents were classical music people. So a lot of concerts that they attended, I did too. It was always on in the house. In my room there was a lot of Kiss, The Beatles, Boston, pretty much ‘70’s rock. When I went off to boarding school my range of music appreciation began to grow Dylan, Stones, Neil Young, Grateful Dead, and after heading to college I became exposed to the blues- Muddy, John Lee Hooker, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Elizabeth Cotton, and also into jazz music as well — Art Blakey, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Willem Breuker Collektif. Classical performances were at the beginning but not without ironically Hank Williams, “Your Cheating Heart” around the time I was 3 or 4 years olds.
Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on? I think seeing a Bob Dylan show seemed to really show how tight a band can be but at the same time so very loose, authentic and unscripted as well. Giving the sense of spontaneity always impressed me, that and the connection of the artist to the audience.
What was your first public performance? A group of friends playing together on and off as Surf Jazz Kill and The Uninvited Guests showed up at a party and using the house bands instruments tore it up. Talk about loose, unscripted and spontaneous!
How do songs come about for you? Certain cadences of words arrive. Sometimes with a melody, sometimes not. I write everyday but don’t always play guitar everyday. Basic song structure comes through exploration and discovery-one my talent on guitar isn’t that great, but I have taught myself to create moments where the melody embraces the lyrical direction pretty easily.
You’ve been around the Chicago music scene for nearly 30 years now, in different roles, what’s the (your) state of the union? This is an extremely difficult business. That in of itself is an incredible detractor from the act of making music. The task of making yourself the center of attention is a guilty pleasure it seems. I don’t like being in the spotlight, but once I am there it feels unreal. I’m lucky to have my own songs to play and to not be spending time and energy covering everyone else’s stuff. In Chicago there is an incredible community of caring and generous artists without a doubt. In the land of performance there is a whole lot of hurt going on. It’s where most bands usually seem to fall apart trying to get from one gig to the next. The recording process is time-consuming and expensive. Manufacturing even with the return of vinyl is on the way out. Digital streaming and social media savvy is where it seems to be. Performing is the only way to make money but it is also an extremely arduous path to navigate. People like to hear bands and unless you are established with a fan base over 1000 people locally, you are not going to be actively sought after to headline someone’s club.
Who are your favorite 3 artists of all-time?
Miles Davis- spirit, creative genius, longevity
Bob Dylan- words, music, reinvention
Vivaldi- summer, fall, winter, spring
What advice would you give to a young musician seeking a path? Play anywhere and everywhere you can, surround yourself with people who are kind, generous and honest.
Are you jazzed about any new artists or releases we should know about? In Chicago, The Flat Five, Cardinal Harbor is cool, Big Sadie is as solid as they come!
You are to put something personal in a time capsule headed for the outer reaches of space — what is your offering for mankind? I always thought it might be some sort of graphic design tome of visual delight that would be remarked on and celebrated for all time. Now, maybe one or two songs and a story about how we aren’t who we think we are — maybe something much more…