Sermons of Suwannee: Jeff Mosier on the Healing Power of Music March 19, 2019 16:03
Interview by Brett Hutchins: Brett on Bands
It shouldn’t surprise you that a man nicknamed “Reverend” has a lot to say. Rev. Jeff Mosier, the longtime right hand man of spiritual jam forefather, Col. Bruce Hampton, is a jamgrass pioneer in his own right. But more important than that is his uniquely purposeful approach to live music. Here, he speaks with Live & Listen about the brain of the improviser, the magic of the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, and how the lessons of music align with everyday life. Mosier’s words are like his playing. They weave and wander, but in the end, they hits home in an intentional, powerful way.
Let’s jump right in with this ensemble you’re so excited about. What’s the format?
Jeff: It’s banjo, fiddle, mandolin, bass, drums, and electric guitar. The music is very open. We do a lot of improvising and we write. The magic is in the way we present it, almost like chamber music. We sit in the round where we can see each other. We do normal songs too, but it’s the way we play them that makes it different. It’s the best thing I’ve done and I’m really excited about it. I can’t wait to do a live album.
I’d bet you prefer playing with groups versus solo.
Jeff: As I’ve gotten older, I’m doing both. I have a solo set planned for Suwanee this weekend. It forces me to use my brain and language more when I’m by myself to do some storytelling mixed with music. When I’m in an ensemble, I use the improvisational Grateful Dead-affected, Col. Bruce nutcase run through the woods naked brain. That’s the brain of a child. The brain of imagination. It’s where all the things he taught me reside - that a band is people yielding their ears one to another in the hopes of becoming bigger than the sum total of their parts.
You can rehearse something and pull it off or you can get up there and make the donuts, take chances, risk, and do it in front of a live audience. I prefer that. I like having some structure, but improv is what really moves me these days. Now I’m playing with musicians who are all comfortable with improv. I don’t get scared looks on the stage anymore. Anyone I play with knows that anything might happen at any given moment. And nobody ever looks surprised.
Is that part of the brain something that needs to be developed or does everyone have an inkling of it from the get-go?
Jeff: It’s more of a philosophy that you apply to your ears. Improvising is not something you can learn. It is feel and how you respond to your environment. That’s how I define it. Feel is how you relate to The One or The Beat. It’s what you leave out. It’s what you put in. As has been said many times - John Hartford said it and many others - style is based on limitations. It’s what you can’t do that defines you, not what you can do. A lot of people who fill up their bucket with skills are people who think they have more to offer than they do. Sometimes, having less to offer affords people opportunities, meaning that musicians who are really good at what they do and don’t reach beyond that are better to play with because they are comfortable with who they are.
From a spiritual point of view, it’s your philosophy that makes you a good improviser, not your skill set. If you love the concept of improvising, then it lets you get to the point where, as Bruce used to say, you let The Invisible Whip take over. You’re getting to the point where you aren’t playing music, the music is playing you. That’s what I learned when I was in the Aquarium Rescue Unit. Even though I was in a band that could play circles around me, I was an equal with them as far as how open I was. It changed my life at 30 years old. I’ve never been able to go back to formulary music.
It sounds like a lot of those lessons you’ve learned through music, via Col Bruce or otherwise, translate to the real world and everyday life as well.
Jeff: They really do. If you keep your expectations low in life and you raise your tolerance for frustration, that space in the middle is mental health. A lot of times, if you raise your expectations too high in music, you miss the point. You want to bring too much to the table. You want to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes it’s the simplest of notions that will hit a listener right between the eyes, bring a tear to the eyes, chill bumps to their arms, make them move, dance, think, emote, and realize something. I play music as a spiritual activity. I know it’s entertainment, too, but in my mind, I am playing it as a healing point in the universe. That’s what Albert Ayler called it.
Right now more than ever, people need that healing aspect, they need it live, and they need it together in a crowd. Festivals are serving a need that we never imagined we’d need. The elephant in the room I don’t even have to mention, but we do need that community. Music is color blind and culture-blind. And is a beautiful reminder of what makes us human.
Circling back to that communal experience you were talking about. I know you have a theology background. What similarities do you see between the experience of church and that of live music?
Jeff: Live music creates community very much like the church does. A lot of people that come into music or are at Suwannee are also involved with church. I had to step out of that mold because I was overloaded. I saw the first Moral Majority meeting in Atlanta. I was involved in the hardcore Christian Right growing up.
When I got into music, it became my new family. I could believe, cry, feel, think, have friends, have ritual, have all the things church provided me, in and around performing and listening to music. We had something in common and the music became the belief system. My biggest belief is that art equals life. No matter what you have to do as a parent, a spouse, a worker, your life is in some way, a creative activity, Hopefully, we are all working to leave a legacy of something that will survive in perpetuity after you’re gone.
We’re really good at making something out of nothing. We can do it. Sadly, we’re really good at bad ideas as well. We’ve yet to achieve viability as a species. We are only viable to ourselves right now. We’re not doing a good job being viable to the system that spawned us. Music can do that.
We can do it without being political and playing green songs and all that stuff. We prove ourselves simply by being out there under those trees together, dancing, joking around the fire, hearing the music and seeing our friends. We sleep. We watch the days go by. We see the weather. We’re in the weather. All that stuff reminds us that we are a part of nature, not apart from it. The more apart from nature we become, the more miserable we are. That’s why we focus on money and government. We’ve lost our way.
Music holds our hand and brings us back to our senses. That’s why I still do it. For myself, my family, and all the people that enjoy what I do.
Great stuff, Jeff. Anything else you’d like to add?
Jeff: Live Oak is the balm. It heals me from missing Bruce, missing Vassar. It gives me a chance at 60 to keep it going as long as I can. So far, so good. That’s all you can do - keep writing, creating, doing interviews with folks like you and you doing your writing, that’s what life is - keeping the ball rolling.
That’s one of the things I love about these Suwannee roots festivals - you can feel the musical history floating through the air and you have people full of intention, both onstage and out in the crowd that are there with respect for the past but also there for the now.
Jeff: It’s a special place and it made a huge difference in my kids’ lives. They’re in their 20s, but they started going when they were babies. It taught them everything they needed to know without us having to teach them. It taught them how to be. They decided to be people like the people of Suwannee. And now they’re good people. My little boy used to say, “Why can’t the world be like Suwannee?!”. That’s really it. Why not? I think it can.
I go there every year in hopes of keeping that going, though it seems like the world’s gone down and that the message has lost its meaning. It’s easy to go there, but I can’t. Gratitude is the attitude.I keep my chin up and post more about the things I believe in and less about the things I don’t.
The Jeff Mosier Ensemble is scheduled to perform at Suwannee Spring Reunion Festival in Live Oak, FL this weekend. This group features Mosier, Mark Nelson (bass), Leah Calvert (fiddle), Adam Goodhue (drums), Neal Fountain (electric guitar), and Michael David Smith (mandolin).
Photo by Andy Estes
The Musicians' Musicians: An Interview With Todd Nance & Friends August 15, 2018 10:33
Interview by Erika Rasmussen
Photos by Christan Newman
In every industry, there are the consummate professionals that others seek out. In the world of tunes, these are the musicians’ musicians. The people that highly talented and creative artists listen to and with whom they want to collaborate. The people who write the music that us nerds can all bliss out to. Folks like Col. Bruce Hampton (Retired), Big Star, Leon Russell, and the luminary like.
I had the rare and fortunate opportunity to sit down with six of these examples in the modern era. These gentlemen share a body of work that has interwoven over the years in such acts as Bloodkin, Widespread Panic, Drive-By Truckers, Barbara Cue, Blueground Undergrass, Aquarium Rescue Unit, brute., and a number of others. And that’s quite a formidable résumé. When the group of friends and peers were all in Asheville recently to perform under the moniker of “Todd Nance and Friends”, I got to sit down with them and geek out about all things music. Here’s how that all went down.
Ok, so I do I want to warn you guys that I was quite the talented drummer in sixth grade when we all had to choose chorus or band so I don't want the legend of my “Wipeout” performance to intimidate any of you going into this. You just have to forget about the reputation I built up at Bragtown sixth grade.
So, when you guys come here to Asheville is there anywhere that you like to go? I know during the day you gotta rest, but is there anything that you hit here with all the fatty food and heady breweries and hipster hangouts?
MOSIER: We went to Sierra Nevada today. It was cool.
We couldn't get in; it was, like an hour and a half wait.
MARTINEZ: We went kinda early and there was still a decent line.
You’re troopers. We gave up and went to the seedy BBQ joint instead and it was pretty good.
NANCE: Luella's. That's good.
That’s my favorite. Imma steal that mirror ball disco pig one day. It’s going home with me.
MARTINEZ: I like Sunny Point. I don't make it there too often, though.
Yeah, you have to go up there early too.
MARTINEZ: I passed it.
So, if you guys are on the road and you stop at a gas station, what kind of junk food do you get?
NANCE: I get pistachios.
Shelled or lazy?
NANCE: Shelled. Salty shelled.
So it gives you something to do and...
NANCE: No, I just like pistachios (laughs). You can pick 'em out too quick if they're already shelled. You gotta pace yourself.
So what do you guys eat on the road? Like, not what you tell your wife you eat, but what you really eat when you stop at QuikTrip in Burlington.
MARTINEZ: My wife knows exactly what I eat. She watched me look at, and she tells the story all the time, we were at a kiosk of cinnamon buns and she said to Tori (Pater), "I wish he looked at me that way..." (laughter all around) I was like "damn, look at that!"
“Look at the curves on that thing…” Have you ever heard the Louis C.K. skit about people in line at Cinnabon? There's no one happy in line at Cinnabon?
JN: Yeah yeah yeah (laughs) he stopped at one when he was leaving the airport.
Yeah. Even better. If you have to get your fix on your way out, that's a whole new level of Cinnabon hell. (laughter) Speaking of on the road, when you get to go somewhere very "hallowed", like Muscle Shoals, or when you worked with Terry Manning and there was some guitar that was supposedly Robert Johnson’s, do you ever feel that, like, magic around those places and those instruments or is it "this is all hype that we've all built up in the urban legend folk persona?"
NANCE: In some places, it's actually documented, you know, the Robert Johnson guitar will, it's not officially documented but they're pretty damn sure
It stays in tune, right? You don't tune it?
NANCE: You don't tune it. If it stays in tune with itself, you just, well, that's what we did
And the sound at Muscle Shoals is hard to reproduce
NANCE: The whole vibe there, too, is just...
I just don't know if I get into that whole fan girl thing like this is magic and I watched the documentary which is so amazing and-
NANCE: I love that stuff
Yeah. Now. I have a theory that the guy who's the drummer in the band is the guy who "gets things done" and is the toughest and strongest in personality. This may be another stereotype, but think about Jon Bonham, right? Bill Kreutzmann used to be the guy that would punch people out if they didn't pay the band. Charlie Watts punched out Mick Jagger for saying, "where's my drummer?"
NANCE: I love that story!
MARTINEZ: In his suit! Got dressed in his suit.
Yeah! Got dressed in his Savile Row suit first.
NANCE: Are we talking about punching people out as gettin' shit done? (laughter)
Hahaha. Or just being tough mentally.
NANCE: Gettin' shit done! (laughter)
I mean, even Animal in the Muppets, they modeled him after that stereotype. He's the toughest in the band. If no one paid the Muppets, they'd definitely send in Animal. (laughter). Do you see that in drummers or that could be anyone and they just get that...?
NANCE: That could be anyone.
Do you see that in you?
NANCE: I just wanna play my drums and take it easy. I'm not looking for trouble. (smiles)
MOSIER: He's one of the most mild mannered drummers I’ve ever seen.
I was gonna bring that up. You don't tear through your kit like Bonham and other drummers...
And he never thought they were precious. Do you keep your kits?
NANCE: Oh yeah.
Do you collect other kits?
NANCE: (laughs) I’ve got enough of my own.
That's true. You collect guitars, right?
NANCE: Yeah, I do have a guitar collection, it's not a huge collection, but-
MARTINEZ: He's got some badass guitars.
I know I’ve heard you talk about a hollow body Gibson?
NANCE: Yeah, I’ve got an ES-330
That's interesting! I'm listening to Clapton's autobiography now-
NANCE: There ya go! (laughs) But it belongs to my brother, it's on permanent loan.
Ahhhhh. I see. In your storage facility, yeah. So I am actually listening now to Clapton's autobiography talk about how he had the generic mock-off of the 335 was the k-something? And when he knew I’ve really made it was when he could buy an es-335. He was "holy shit, I’m a professional".
And I don't know a lot about guitars so I don't even know that was such a big deal til recently. Any other really notable in your collection? Or, to you, they're all notable. They're in your collection....
NANCE: Yeah, John Neff gave me a lap steel, which I’m kind of fond of.
Oh really? Do you get to play that often?
NANCE: At home, but I’ve been so lazy lately that I haven't really touched my guitars very much.
Yeah. It seems like, even for a guitar player, the lap steel is such a different instrument. I can't imagine knowing all the layers of that. Do you guys collect your own instruments? Different instruments other than what you play?
What is your weird and freaky “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” instrument?
JN: I don't know...I have an electric sitar.
I don't think I even knew that was a thing. Is that like Beatles psychedelia Indian electric sitar?
JN: It's not as exotic as a real sitar. But it sounds buzzy it has a bridge, it's strung tuned just like an electric guitar but the bridge is a buzz bridge and it gives it that buzzy sound.
I could see that. Do you guys have any interesting instruments in your collection, collecting dust at home?
HUTCHENS: I don't think of it as a collection, I have a number of guitars at home, but I play 'em-
That's true. If you play it, it's not a "collection".
HUTCHENS: They don't hang on the wall. Although there are a few that hang on the wall....
JN: I hang 'em on the wall but I play 'em (laughter all around)
HUTCHENS: Mine have just been hangin' on the wall recently...But you know, it's not like a museum piece, and I beat the hell out of 'em and they get dirty and sweaty and scratched up.
MOSIER: It's a weapon of mass construction. (laughter)
I like that. That'll be my next t-shirt I make (referencing our earlier discussion about the stuff I’d made and worn that weekend).
MOSIER: Yeah! That's what it is.
Don't let me hear anything witty I’m just like "I want that on a t-shirt!" (laughter) Do y'all collect anything else? Does anybody have any quirky-
MOSIER: I don't have to collect banjos. I'm really blessed to the extent that I leave my window cracked on my car and I leave a banjo in there and always somebody in the public will come by and leave another banjo (laughter) with my banjo, so I’ve got like 150 thousand banjos that I’ve collected over 30 years of parking lots all over the country (laughter).
NANCE: Mosier Depository. (laughs)
MOSIER: It's just they all…they usually just put a little note on there, "Good luck".
NANCE: "I hope you give it more life than I did!" (laughs)
MOSIER: Yeah. "Take this outta my life..." (laughter)
"Take this pain!" I just keep imagining these little banjos just popping up all over the country... (laughter)
MOSIER: It's marvelous.
I love it. Does anybody have any quirky collections? Or when you're on the road is there any random thing you collect?
NANCE: I had a friend and she always wanted a refrigerator magnet from whatever state I was in or city, so I would go out on a little quest at these truck stops.
MOSIER: (laughs) I did that for my kids.
NANCE: Did you?
It's nice to have a thing to look for. It gives you a reason to get out and look and interact. You're like "Man, I gotta find another magnet. I have five skylines of cities, gimme something new."
NANCE: Yeah. I don't have to do it anymore because I think she got all of the states I go to, she got one from there already.
Nice. When I was a kid and we had the pens that you tilt and they'd slide and the picture'd be revealed? Like of a lady’s boobs? That was my thing.... (laughter)
So, I find the drum-guitar crossover interesting. I always hear blues guitarists talking about "bending the note" with their string and I’ve wondered before, is that something you can or want to or tried to bring to percussion? Like with a flick of the wrist or inner-to-outer edge?
NANCE: You can do it with timpani, the foot pedal.
NANCE: And there are other-
MOSIER: What's the talking drum?
NANCE: The talking drum is where there are cords that hold the heads together and then they're on the same cord and you squeeze it and tightens the tension on it and you got this little curl stick that looks like a walking cane. Actually, I’ve seen one that was a floor tom and you would, it had like a kick pedal or a high hat pedal you would step on and it would change the pitch. I can't remember where I saw it. But I have seen one of those.
Have you found other guitar or other instrument tricks that you've found you could translate over? I think that's fascinating all the subtleties that everyone in the audience isn't even aware of. Or have you now fine-tuned your set-up? What defines your sound? Do you have one with what you've refined over the years as your set-up, do you think?
NANCE: Yeah, I think all of us could answer and say 'yes' to that. It's like these guys, it's easier for me to play a rental kit, it's not as hard as if you've got a certain amplifier or certain outboard gear you use and stuff like that. So, yeah, everybody tries to keep their general sound about them and have that available now.
Yeah, cause I’m in my Clapton phase now and he was talking about how his sound was modeled after Freddie King and that high thin sound, but because he brought his amplifier closer and had more distortion, it became the Clapton sound. So, have you ever, maybe when you were starting out, modeled your sound after someone do you think? Even consciously or subconsciously?
NANCE: No, not, no...
MARTINEZ: I’ve been trying to copy Eric Carter since day one. (laughter)
HUTCHENS: Can't be done.
MARTINEZ: I’ve been trying.
MOSIER: I’ve tried to sound like Bela Fleck and after five attempted suicides, I quit trying. (laughter) He's just the master. Amazing. He's just great. I’ve met him and he's a great guy, too. But he helped the banjo more than, in this kinda world, I could even say.
I’ve just started learning more about banjo. I know a luthier outside of Raleigh who's taught me more about banjo and strings, James Griggs.
MOSIER: I know who you're talking about. I’ve heard the name.
I figured. He's taught me more of the ways because he realized how poor my education was in the banjo arts. So have you guys learned any tricks that translated over from another instrument or have you invented anything like 'Oh, this is the Hutchens English Flick of the Wrist'?
HUTCHENS: No, I don't think so. I think you just, or to me, find what you're comfortable with. Not looking for a trick. And I think with a lot of us it's just a kind of second nature, like you know what works for you.
Like, what doesn't give you carpal tunnel syndrome? (murmured agreement)
HUTCHENS: All the experimentation, I could know pretty quickly when I play a certain guitar if it suits me.
And now you guys have better guitars and they're not strung as high and you're not having to kill yourself hopefully...
HUTCHENS: I’ve definitely had worse guitars.
I honestly didn't even realize til a few years ago the difference that that made and I think it's so hard to play a good guitar-
I just don't have the hands to fit it, so I can't imagine having to really grab up there.
HUTCHENS: I play heavy strings, anyway.
HUTCHENS: I’m used to playing rhythm, and like, a solid chord, so-
So they don't snap as often but it's gonna be harder to play?
HUTCHENS: Yeah, there's a difference, but you know. It's all relevant to what you do.
I'm such a nerd about that stuff. (To Todd) I noticed how low your drum kit is and Ashley was saying that's a jazz kit and Chris was saying it's also adjusted for your back to not hurt to be-
NANCE: Well, also it's low, too, cause it's just a 20" kick drum and my big ass behind it makes it look small.
Like Bonham aping it up behind the drum!
MOSIER: You really are bigger than it seems. When we were in the car, I was like, "How tall are you?!?" (laughter)
Yeah. We always see you sitting! You know we have these big dogs in the hotel this weekend that are way over 25 pounds? The joke is that if we get busted, we're standing them beside Big Jimmy for scale so they seem tiny. (laughter, as the dogs have been the running entertainment of the weekend)
So another thing I find interesting is the technology interface that's kind of coming about. You've come a long way from having the phone receiver tied to your head with a bathroom belt (for phone rehearsals) to Bluetooth headsets and ears and all that. Does that make it easier for you guys? Do you miss the simplicity of not having so much?
NANCE: Saved my hearing.
NANCE: If I hadn't started wearing "in-ears" 20 years ago, I’d be deaf as a post.
Right. What about the social media?
NANCE: I don't...I haven't looked at it.
It's not your thing. And, full disclosure, I work in technology and my company works in making concerts more interactive and that's something I may get into, but the thing is how interactive does...? Because the audience wants interactivity, the venue wants interactivity because that feeds sales, but is the band like "Jesus, another point of interactivity? Can we not have the green room sacred space?” Or, is it interesting to see the interactivity during that? I think that's such a controversial issue. Some bands are "Gimme all the data you can" and-
NANCE: But that's not the music.
Right. Even when I’m writing a show up, I don't take my phone out, I don't take notes, I think it's very distracting. And I get paid a whole buncha money to push technology, but in the show, I think that's sacred. I dim my watch (laughter at my Apple watch), I put my phone away, so that's what I worry about. Are we pushing it too far? Is it one more burden when you have so much going on already in your headspace?
MOSIER: There's no replacing being there.
MOSIER: You get the most pixels when you're there. We're the highest definition. So, that's what it's for. It's a medicine we made for ourselves and we purvey these things called songs and package this wonderful material of polyrhythms, lyrics, melodies, and hopefully help the people feel better than they did when they got here. If they had a gun in their mouth, they'll pull it out. They'll just feel more hopeful. Now more than ever, even with all the technology, it's the need for just standing in the shower of sound coming off that stage is something that I need, we need it, and the people out there need it. It's just an amazing powerfully magical life-changing substance, and that's music. It's just incredible and there's no technology, there's nothing that could come up that could jazz up the jazz.
Yeah! That's a good way to put it.
MOSIER: You can't jazz up the jazz. And music is truly…it doesn't need to be jazzed up.
I think that's a good point that it's so unifying and there's very few places that you can go to today like that. You can go to a sports arena and even a fan of the same team may argue with you about a referee's call. If you go to church, there's controversy about who made the pound cake. This is one of the few places that we can just come together and just openly, freakily love each other. (laughter). So, what do you see on the horizon for y'all? Each of you or together?
NANCE: We're just gonna see how this goes and if it keeps rolling down the hill then we'll just keep riding it. If the wheels don’t come off. We've all got to a place now where we've got time to get together and do this and before we were all a little too busy, you know?
NANCE: To do just a couple single shows here or there or wherever....
Right...half-assedly? Not that y'all would do anything half-assedly...
NANCE: What were you gonna say?
Mills: I was just agreeing about the half-assed part. (laughter)
Mosier: I’m just hired; I’m not on the board of directors.
Mosier: I’m a hired gun.
Martinez: He's our gunslinger. "Banjo...Banjo..." (sung in a western tv show style)
What kind of recordings have you not released? Isn't there a kids recording?
HUTCHENS: Yes. A bunch. A bunch.
Mills: We had a whole record that we never did anything with.
Which one? Do I know of it?
Mills: No, because nobody's heard of it.
Nance: The Romper Stompers?
No, I know that. I’ve heard of that.
Mills: Yeah, that was me and him and Danny and Neff.
Yeah. And I have two children so we're your target demographic.
Hutchens: There's a number of things. That's always on the-
You just wanna finish post processing or are you still recording or...?
HUTCHENS: It's just, things get backed up. I want them out. You know, you have to find the right way to do it. You have to find financing, and then the Bloodkin world, Romper Stompers, recordings with Interstellar Boys. There's a bunch of stuff, it's just not released and it's, you know, it's always something coming in the pipeline.
Where do you like to play? Music halls like this? Do you see yourself outdoors? Do you see yourself doing some sweaty festival? I'm getting ready to go to Lockn and avoid heat stroke as hard as I can.
Nance: We talked about trying to get on some festivals.
I didn't know if you enjoyed that anymore.
Nance: You get a huge crowd, you get paid, you get exposure, you're on a big ass stage, and they accommodate everything you need.
Mosier: Great way to see music, too. You get to see your friends. Kind of like the watercooler for musicians. Otherwise, we don't get to see each other. So, there's a lot of magic that happens with sit-ins and collaborations and workshops. It's just more heady and sweet and nice and it's very lucrative. And you get word of mouth, like Todd said. It's a very human way to present music. It's very communal.
I like that about Jam Cruise. I got to do that once, and just all the random impromptu set-ups. You know, they're sitting on the deck, the guys from Love Canon.
Mosier: They're great.
Imma let you guys relax before the show, I really appreciate your time. I hope they weren't questions you've been asked a million times.
Nance: Those were better questions than most.
Nance: "What's your favorite color? How'd you name your band?" (laughter)
I listen to music audiobooks all day long and interviews. And I get bored of that. First of all, if you're a fan, you'd know the basic facts and second of all, that doesn't really speak to YOU. Like "tell me your favorite color", unless it was the blue of your grandmother's eyes.
Mosier: The great Col Bruce Hampton, one of the things that he taught us on some level, it IS all the same. If you're playing Danny Boy in a nursing home, or if you're in Madison Square Garden, the gigs are the same. The tenets of music. It requires the exact same attention no matter what the crowd. It's easy to look at the crowd and the budget and the hype and the delusion and all that, but, that's why I'm here because I know why they're here and how they play and we're on the same page that way.
It's a thoughtful interaction, like what he had. He (Col Bruce) was on that Jam Cruise of course. He was on all of 'em. And my last conversation with him was about this framed artwork where they took all the Jam Cruise luggage tags and put 'em together for all the years he'd been there and he wanted me to bring that back with me. He's like "Shug, how am I gonna get this back?" And I go "How am I gonna get this back?!? What are you talkin' about? Col, they'll ship that for you." He goes "That's right...they will..." and we leave Jam Cruise and I go party on a sailboat for a night and I just remember thinking "Thank God I don't have Col Bruce's framed artwork on this boat right now." (laughter)
Mosier: That's right!
And I had very many wonderful interactions with that man which I'm very grateful for. I'm a lucky, lucky soul. Thank you gentlemen. I'm gonna wrap this up.
Listen to Todd Nance & Friends' show at Isis Music Hall (08.10.18) here:
Listen to Todd Nance & Friends' show at Isis Music Hall (08.11.18) here:
Rev. Jeff Mosier Preaches Gospel of Col. Bruce Hampton at Suwannee October 19, 2017 13:44
Photo via YouTube
Words by Brett Hutchins: Brett on Bands
Musicians hate genres, but there may be no other festival more aptly named than Suwannee Roots Revival. The event is by all means an unrivaled collection of roots and Americana music, but it also harkens to roots of other sorts, through the twisting moss of the hallowed Spirit of Suwannee Music Park grounds where Native Americans once frolicked to the way generations of families skipped arms entangled from stage to stage.
What better way to cement that heritage than a series of musical workshops with artists themselves. These ranged from songwriting workshops with Willie Sugarcapps to mandolin playing with Mickey Abraham, but my personal highlight was a an hour of banjo and philosophy with Rev. Jeff Mosier speaking and taking questions from about 30 novice players and listeners. Longtime sidekick of cosmic prankster Col. Bruce Hampton, Mosier played three sets of music throughout the weekend, but the most heartfelt and direct mentions of Hampton came in tidbits throughout this workshop. This would be too tidy for Hampton, but let’s boil it down to the four noble truths of Col. Bruce.
- “Listening is everything.”
Being present when you’re not playing is just as if not more important than when you aren’t. The quality players are in constant conversation when on stage, both audibly and visibly. If you;re not paying attention, you’re being left behind. Mosier went on to clue the crowd into some of those secrets, like the raising of the foot when a song’s about to end,
- “Drop the ego”.
There should be no boundary between the stage and the audience. As a player, to think you’re more important than the listener because you run your hands over wood well is asinine. Music is above all a human experience and to cut off that connection is to cheapen it.
- “Lighten up.”
If there’s one thing that was most clear about Col. Bruce in his time here, it’s his belief that “the worst thing in the world is a serious musician”. The constant prankster both on and off stage, Hampton made clear what Mosier demanded of the small gathered: “Have fun!”.
- “The movie ends the same for all of us. Make it a good one.”
Mosier promised he wasn’t being downer when he mentioned this simple fact: we’re all going to die. Instead, he asked to us to recognize it for what it was and to embrace life how we intended it, to get off the fence, stand firmly, and play a tune or two.
As the crowd’s questions came to an end, something happened I’ve never seen in my time at Suwannee. A fuse was blown and power suddenly went out. Unphased, Mosier gathered his two fiddle players and acoustic guitarist for a final tune, Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues”. Originally a lament for long lost lover, this take, with emphasis on the “day you said goodbye line”, was an obvious nod to the man who shaped Mosier so much.
Watch Rev. Jeff Mosier interview Col. Bruce Hampton in February of 2012 here: