How did you start out?
Depends on where we define my “starting point”. I’ve always been musically inclined, played piano, guitar and drums when I was a kid, I’ve written songs off and on my entire life. A few years ago though I decided to get a little more focused on the craft. Living in Dallas and seeing live music regularly, I was heavily influenced to do the whole acoustic-and-harmonica solo thing, that’s how I started gigging and it’s still a big part of what I do. But my recordings and some of my live shows as well have seen me accompanied by all manner of musicians, some very talented friends of mine who play steel, mandolin, banjo, piano, accordion, you name it. I still love the solo thing, too. I enjoy the challenge of trying to fill out a sound and hold an audience’s attention when it’s just me. You have to hold yourself to a higher standard in those cases, can’t cover up your shortcomings with the beautiful musicians all around you. Plus, let’s be honest, there’s a million of guy-and-a-guitar singer-songwriters out there, it’s a pretty vanilla genre and I don’t like it very much, even though it’s what I do! So I just try to focus on putting out material that offers something unique in some way.
What is your current release?
Well, I just released an EP “Any Lovin’ Way But Wrong”, consisting of all cover songs – John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Todd Snider, and the late great Texan Blaze Foley. It was an inspiring change of pace for me to step back, reset myself and record interpretations of other’s songs for a change and by such great writers as well. It was intimidating but I loved it and actually it has me feeling more grounded. My immediate plans are to record my first ever full length in 2012.
What is the best part of being a singer/song writer?
This may sound really weird but honestly the most rewarding part of the past 2 years of performing, recording, etc has been the people I have met and developed friendships with – reviewers, songwriters, musicians, fans, club owners (only some of them!) and record company folks. Some of the people I’ve met directly through my music travels just over the past 2 years I now count as some of my closest friends. Other than that, writing has always helped me process various things I might be dealing with at the time. I try to always be writing – sometimes I’ll get in a phase where I think it’s all crap but I keep writing anyway because you’ve gotta keep those creative faucets flowing for when an inspired idea does actually hit you, so you’ll be on your game and ready to go. Just creating the musical aesthetic of this genre that I love so much, I guess a shorter and more comprehensive answer would have been: It’s really fun.
What is your most significant moment yet?
I’d say my most significant moment is a collective bunch of “firsts”. First time I heard my song on the radio, first CD sale, first magazine review, first gig. I don’t take for granted anything good that ever happens to me in my music career and remembering these “firsts” provides a real touchstone moment for me and fuel to keep going.
What are your biggest musical influences?
For starters I’m very partial to the old school singer-songwriter troubadour and model a lot of what I do after them – Prine, Kristofferson, Guy Clark, Townes, Steve Earle, even Dylan can fall into that category. I think Todd Snider fits in that mold as well, he just hasn’t been around for 40 years like they have – he may be the modern day archetype. Lots of more modern influences as well, I’m pretty heavily influenced sonically by the whole Son Volt/Wilco/Jayhawks scene from the 90s. And I find lots of inspiration in my modern day peers making Americana music. I think the genre has experienced quite a creative renaissance over the last couple of years. It’s good for everybody.
What venue/gig do you most want to play?
Americana UK Fest 2012 ! Seriously, that might be my #1 goal for this new year. I want to come meet all you fine folks and play for you. But stateside, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco would be a dream of mine as well. The lineup every year basically reads like the artist listing from my ipod. I’d be happy to play a 5 minute set on opening night and then spend the rest of the time listening!
What is your best/favourite song you have written?
‘With Love’, off of my first EP. I have a strong emotional attachment as it deals with processing the death of a family member. Writing that song was an exercise in emotional catharsis more than creating art. I wrote it in one sitting, over many hours and when I finished I was so drained I felt like I had just run a marathon, not that I know what that feels like!
What’s your favourite album of this year?
TIE – Decemberists “The King Is Dead” and Hayes Carll “KMAG YoYo”. But I will also add that 2011 was probably the best year for new music that I can remember in a long long time. There will probably be 20 albums on my top 10 list.
What does the next six months have in store for you?
Recording! I think I’ve found a great group of guys in Nashville and Chicago who will help me flesh this thing out, including a producer who I really seem to click with. We’re looking at studios and I just can’t wait to get out there and do it.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully still making records, trying to crack the songwriting code and playing live for even more great folks. If that Gods smile on me and I get to continue to do this same thing only for larger audiences that would be a dream come true.
What’s the best thing about Americana-UK?
The new artists that I’ve been exposed to through the site – specifically Felice Brothers and Justin Townes Earle come to mind. I remember deciding to get their records after reading a piece on A-UK. Thanks for that recommendation, for this interview and for all the fine work you do promoting good music to those of us who can never get enough of it!