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All Things Neal Casal: One of America's Most Intriguing Guitarists October 19, 2018 12:46

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

When I finally decided to put Live & Listen into motion four years ago, one of my many goals was to create a valuable platform for up-and-coming bands. Through this, I would attempt to line up a variety of artist interviews, in an attempt to learn more about the music that I love. Thanks to a tremendous amount of love and support, this outlet has grown into what it is today. 

In July of 2015, I musically peaked at Soldier Field in Chicago. This would be the closest experience I would ever have to a weekend with the Grateful Dead. The core four members would join forces with my favorite current musician, Trey Anastasio, as well as Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti. Entering the weekend, there was a notable buzz about the music and archival Dead video footage being played. It had a strong Garcia sound to it, but no one knew exactly who was behind it. 

The world then learned that the band would be called Circles Around The Sun, which was led by guitarist Neal Casal. The response to this music was so strong, that the band officially took form in the summer of 2016 and have been pushing musical boundaries ever since. Earlier this week, I caught up with Neal to discuss this whole experience, his previous solo work, touring with the likes of Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Hard Working Americans, and much more. 

Let's start off with some background info. How did you get started playing music? When did this become a reality as a career?

Neal: I started playing music when I was twelve. I started playing guitar and was inspired by The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, and all the great English blues/rock bands. I joined some bands in middle school and high school. I was just obsessed with music, you know? It just took over my mind at a very early age. I couldn't stop thinking about it. It became a real obsession. 

I guess it was around by junior year in high school when it comes time to speak with your guidance counselor to start deciding what your future is going to be. While all the other kids were deciding on colleges, I was deciding that I was going to live this gypsy life and make a life in music somehow. I set out to do it, and I did. 

I'd say that was a pretty good decision. 

Neal: Well, it was a good decision in many ways. In other ways, it's a pretty scary, unstable decision. There are a lot of things that people have at my age that I don't. It can be a risky thing. If you don't get really successful in music, it can be a tough road. There's no guaranteed stability or security in it. Those things get important as you get older, so it's hard to navigate if you haven't set those things up. 

I don't regret my life in music though. I've certainly accomplished a lot. I've made people happy through my music and made friends all over the world. I made a lot of the dreams I had come true, so that part is cool (laughs).

I think that's a common misconception among music fans. They start seeing their favorite bands playing bigger venues and festivals, and they just assume that you're living the "rock star life."

Neal: That's true. Mine hasn't really been a rock star life. Granted, I've gotten to travel the world and see a lot of things that other people haven't. Some of the other life building events that people go though...I haven't had some of those things. It gets harder as you get older. I've definitely had an amazing life in music. That's for sure. I've gotten to make so many records, tour, take photographs, write songs, meet new friends, and all of that. 

That's great. I know you touched on this topic just now, and you've probably answered this one many times, but I can't help but ask about your influences. Your overall tone and style of play is amongst my favorites.

Neal: Oh it's just an amalgamation of all the guitar players that I love. Starting with all all four of the Rolling Stones' guitarists: Mick Taylor, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and Brian Jones. Then you have Neil Young, Steven Stills, Buffalo Springfield, Spirit, The Byrds, and all the California country / psychedelic rock stuff. Ry Cooder is a great slide player. Peter Green is another guy. The Grateful Dead is certainly in there too. 

I don't know. I guess just listening to so much music for so many years, and having it all kind of synthesize into hopefully my own. I think you can hear pretty clearly the different influences that I carry with me. Maybe the combination that I've put together is a little bit different than others. I haven't invented anything as a guitar player. I've definitely put together a kit of influences that is pretty user friendly. 

As a lead player, Mick Taylor was probably my main influence. There are all the great rhythm players, even the AC/DC guitar players. There's all the weird stuff, like the experimental sonic youth style music. Glenn Branca and all of those avant garde players that I wouldn't compare myself with. I do take some of that on, as far as atmospherics and damaged / chaotic sounds. I could go on and on. It's a long list.

I can imagine. Correct me if I'm wrong on this, but you released six solo albums between 1994 and 2000, right?

Neal: Yeah. That sounds right. 

I was wondering how this experience leading your own project early on prepare you for your future work with Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson, Hard Working Americans, and others?

Neal: Well those were years spent learning to be a songwriter, you know? At the end of that day, no matter what kind of player you are, every player needs a song to sing or play. Those were the years I was learning to sing, write songs, make records, and play guitar in a record making fashion. Not really as some type of virtuoso instrumentalist, which I'm not and never will be. Learning to use the guitar as a songwriting and record making tool, rather than a focus of instrumental prowess or experimentation. 

At that time in the 90's, I wasn't jamming so much as I was really trying to make good records and write good, concise songs. Three to four minute songs. How to really write a tune. How to compose and make good sounding records with good ensemble playing. Yeah, singing as well. Harmony singing, lead singing, all of it. 

Those are the foundation of all of my skills really. I took those, of course, into playing with Ryan (Adams), because Ryan is a songwriter first and foremost. That's really his thing. He's a great singer, great guitar player, but ultimately, he will be known for his songs. I stepped right in and had the ability to play his songs and sing harmonies with him. My record making experience prior to that all came in handy. 

With Chris (Robinson), it was the same thing. He's a singer and a songwriter. That's what sets us apart from some of the other jam bands out there. We're really a song and harmony band. All that stuff from the 90's, it keeps informing me now. It informed everything I did with the Hardworking Americans as well. Same thing. Todd Snider is a songwriter. I know how to play with singer songwriters, because I learned to be one when I was younger. 

It's strong foundations to work from. I've become sort of known as this guitar player over the last few years. Being a part of this scene with Phil (Lesh), CRB, and Circles Around The Sun, but I'm not a virtuoso guitar player. I never have been. I was never known as one. I can't compete or keep up with a lot of these people I've gotten to play with and come to know. Jimmy Herring, Scott Metzger, and all of these really great guitar players on this scene. I don't consider myself one of them really. 

I'm a good guitar player for sure, but I come from a different background. More of a songwriting and singing background. Just being in a band, you know? Rock bands, really. 

Well let's talk about Circles Around the Sun. I was lucky enough to attend Fare Thee Well in Chicago. There was already a buzz about the set break music by the time we got to Soldier Field. How did this all come together?

Neal: It came together over a series of events that took a few years to gestate. It came about through a guy named Justin Kreutzmann, who is Bill Kreutzmann's son. Bill is obviously the drummer for the Grateful Dead. Justin is a great filmmaker, and he was put in charge of the visuals for the "Fare Thee Well" shows. This meant that on each side of the stage there were those big screens. They showed archival Grateful Dead footage and psychedelic montages going down to keep the audience entertained while the band wasn't playing.

I was asked by Justin to create an instrumental soundtrack to go along with those images. The reason he asked me is because we first met back in 2012. There was a film project called Move Me Brightly. It was done for what would have been Jerry Garcia's 70th birthday. That was done at Bob Weir's TRI Studios. Justin and I became friends at that point, and a few years later, he asked me to score Bob Weir's film, The Other One

That went well, so Justin and I had been building on this relationship for a few years. He asked me to step in and do the music for the Fare Thee Well Shows. So, I put a band together. I asked Adam (MacDougall) from CRB, as well as Dan Horne and Mark Levy. We had very little time to prepare. We had no time to prepare, actually. We didn't write anything ahead of time. We just stepped into the studio and did everything on the spot. 

We just tried to imagine the kind of music that we would want to hear if we were at a Grateful Dead show and hanging out at intermission. So we just imagined it and made it up on the spot. Just improvising a bunch of music over the course of two days. We got very lucky in the fact that people liked it.  

Amazing. From what I recall, that ultimately led to the band's formal announcement and first performance at LOCKN', right?

Neal: Our first performance was actually at LOCKN' the following year (2016). But yes, when we did the music, there was no band name or intention of releasing it. It was music made for the purpose of those shows. People got really into it, and then Rhino approached us about releasing it. It all took on a life of it's own, because people liked it so much. We had no idea that people would like it at all. We didn't know that it would ever get that type of reaction. It was a huge shock to us, as a matter of fact. I wasn't sure if anyone would like it or think it was any good at all. We weren't sure if it was good. The fact that people flipped out the way that they did was an amazing surprise and a great bit of serendipity, you know?

The band released it's second album, Let it Wanderback in August. I've read that you guys feel like it was more like your first release. Can you elaborate on that a little more?

Neal: When we formed the group for the project, we had no idea if it would work. Would we have any chemistry? There wasn't much thought of it going past that Fare Thee Well project. As it turned out, we really sounded and felt like a band. There was really no reason to let it end there. That first batch of recordings went so well. Then we started doing shows, and those felt good too. We started coming up with song ideas and sound checks, and it just seemed natural that we should try it again and make another record.

As good as the first record was, it was actually really rushed. We did it in two days, and we didn't really mix it properly. It felt like just the beginning of something, so we decided to see if we could take it further and make an even better record. We went back to the same studio, wrote a bunch of material, and did it. 

Honestly, I think it is superior to the first record. I really do. I think we furthered our ideas, refined them, and honed them in a lot better. I think this is a much more focused record, and sonically, it's a lot better as well. The first one was really just introduction to what we could do. We want to take it as far as we can. Take expectations and smash them through the roof, you know?

Watch the music video for Circles Around The Sun's "One for Chuck" here:

 

Absolutely. So you've continued to be one of the busiest guitarists in the scene, leading this band while also touring with CRB and formerly Hard Working Americans. I know there are other projects in there as well. Where do you begin when balancing your schedule?

Neal: It's gotten a lot easier, because now it's just CRB and Circles. Hard Working Americans made it really hard for a few years. That made it tough, because CRB and HWA were both playing a lot of the same venues and touring all of the time. That was really difficult, but now that that has ended, at least for now, CRB and Circles are much easier to manage. Having that third band in there made it tough. 

Two bands...I can handle that. I'm in another band called The Skiffle Players with Dan Horn, the bassist for Circles. Skiffle Players are an amazing group, but we don't play a whole lot, so it's not that hard to navigate. 

Well, just to finish up, soon you'll be gearing up for a big January run with Greensky Bluegrass. How valuable will this exposure be for you guys? What else can we expect from CATS in 2019?

Neal: Well, we're going to have a very short set each night. 45-50 minutes each night, which will be interesting. Circles music, as you know, takes a long time to unfold, so it's going to be interesting to see how we can do our thing within a really condensed amount of time. We've never had to do that before, but we're very excited to play with that band and get in front of their audiences. Hopefully, it will be a good fit. We're honored that they're taking us out. Hopefully, we can make us some new fans and generate some momentum for more shows and recordings.

I'd like to get back in the studio and make another Circles record next year. I just want to keep pushing this thing as far as it can go. I think we have a lot of music in us, and I love the idea of being in an instrumental band that can just weave these sonic tapestries of people. After years of being just a singer songwriter, it's really interesting and challenging for me to push myself in this direction. 

Mark, Dan, and Adam are such amazing players. It's just a great opportunity to make these interesting sounds for people. They either pay attention or forget about it. Use it as background or foreground music. Maybe go to sleep to it, or wake up to it. Whatever you feel like doing. It's cool music. I just find it to be an interesting concept. There is something very satisfying about our sound. It lets me play guitar that I never have before. Those guys support me in a way that I've never experienced, and I hope I do the same for them. It's a cool group. We're just gonna keep going until we've said all that we have to say, I guess. 

I couldn't agree more. I loved everything from the first release, and I'm getting much more familiar with the new album. It's great to hear more about the band's vision, because there is a tremendous amount of potential. 

Neal: Yeah, there is a lot potential. There's some Krautrock influences that we didn't really have at all the first time. Creating music for the specific purpose of getting people to dance is really cool. I like having a direction in that way. We're not out there to give people our message through lyrics. It's only a rhythmic and energetic message. I'm really into that. It's like sign language or something. It's a different way of communicating.

That's really interesting. I've never thought about it from that perspective.

Neal: It's a way of speaking. It's a different language. You're not doing it through singing or words. You're doing it through this other means. It's cool to see if you can get through to people in that way. I like it. At Circles shows, when things are really going right, everyone gets into this sway. I can look at the audience and see them moving back and forth. If we can sustain that motion for an entire show, then we have succeeded. There's just a feeling about it that when it's working, there's this particular motion that I notice in a crowd. It's a really positive feeling. It's something that I want to do more of. 

I can imagine that's a pretty rewarding feeling.

Neal: It's cool, for sure. 

Watch the music video for Circles Around The Sun's "Gilbert's Groove" here:

 


CukoRakko: The Southeast's Best Kept Secret October 12, 2018 12:00

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography 
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If you've paid the slightest bit of attention to this website in the last three years, you're well aware of my affection for CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival and Horse Pens 40. I was fortunate enough to cross paths with the Cuko team in early 2015, and it didn't take long to realize the impact that this festival would have on my life. What once started as a tiny, grassroots festival featuring predominantly Alabama-based bands has evolved into a bi-annual showcase of incredibly diverse talent from across the southeast and beyond.
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Each year, I leave that beautiful property thinking, "How can this weekend possibly be topped?" and the bar continues to be raised. I'll be the first to say that the team at Big Friendly Productions absolutely crushed it yet again, and their work never ceases to amaze me. And I would be remissed if I didn't mention that this festival would not be possible without the support of the title sponsor, Land Rover Birmingham, as well as Birmingham's Avondale Brewing CompanyTrimTab Brewing, and Cahaba Brewing Company.
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We should probably start off by talking a little history on Horse Pens 40HP40 is a privately owned outdoor nature park located in St. Clair County near Steele, Alabama. The park is situated atop Alabama's third-highest mountain, Chandler Mountain, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The park is known among the rock climbing community as a premier bouldering site in the American Southeast
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The natural rock shelters located in Horse Pens 40 have seen over 15,000 years of human habitation. The park contains ancient Indian burial grounds dating from the earliest inhabitants of this area, all the way up to the time of the Cherokee removal known as the "Trail of Tears".  During The American Civil War, the site was used as a hiding place for horses and their owners wishing to avoid invaders from the north and the Confederate recruiters and "bushwhackers". Once it was discovered by Confederate forces, Horse Pens 40 was then used for the storage of supplies to be used by Confederate troops as they passed nearby.
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It was home to one of the first outdoor bluegrass music festivals in the country, and by the 1970s had grown to be one of the largest in the world. The park served as a venue showcasing many legends of the bluegrass genre including Bill Monroe, Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs, Lester Flatt, Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, and Norman Blake. Emmylou Harris made her first public appearance at Horse Pens 40, "standing barefoot on a wooden door propped up on the rocks." During this period, the park was designated by the Alabama State Legislature as "The Home of the South's Bluegrass Music".
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Now, let's get down to the nitty gritty. Those who were lucky enough to make the Thursday night pre-party witnessed something truly special. Winston Ramble and The Pearl each laid down powerful thirty-minute sets, before joining forces for a full hour of blazing hot Grateful Dead covers. The level of collaboration was borderline overwhelming, with special guests such as Davis Little (Little Raine Band), Desmond Sykes (Tragic City), and Connor Broome (The Broomestix) joining the party early and often. A tremendous amount of Alabama talent was on hand for the opening set, only to be followed by Doctor Ocular of Johnson City, Tennessee. I was shocked to learn this band formed in late 2016, as their combination of acid jazz, jamtronica, and roots rock had a very cohesive feel all night. 
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Watch Ramble On Pearl perform "Shakedown Street" here:
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Video by Home Team Photography
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The Jauntee and Skydyed made the trek all the way from Colorado, and it's safe to say that they both left their mark on Alabama. Many of us had gotten our first taste of The Jauntee the previous weekend at Saturn Birmingham with Twiddle, and thankfully, we got 90-minutes this go round. A product of Berklee College of Music, it's clear that these guys will continue to climb the ladder of the festival scene.
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One of the most dynamic sets of the weekend came from The Fritz. This was just an all out dance party from start to finish. Frontman Jamar Woods straight up owns the stage and works a crowd about as well as anyone I've seen. It's rare to see the front man standing up behind the keys and synth, but these guys are far from you're average band. A combination of fresh originals, as well as covers of Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime," Michael Jackson's "Black or White" and "Don't Stop 'Til Ya Get Enough," and Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" will certainly remembered for years to come.
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Watch video footage of The Fritz performing "Life During Wartime" here:
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Video by Isom Morgan Photoraphy
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Friday night was capped off with a surprise late night set from The Illuminators, a brand new band out of Birmingham. You wouldn't believe it if you were there, but this was the band's first official public performance. These spontaneous late night collaborations will be amongst my best memories of the weekend. Members of The Fritz, The Jauntee, and the Tragic City horns even joined in on what seemed like a three-hour dance party.
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Saturday began with Huntsville's Lamont Landers Band, a recent finalist on 'Showtime's Live at The Apollo'. I had heard a fair amount of hype about these guys, and festival attendees were buzzing about their performance all weekend. Early James & The Latest was one of the more intriguing acts on this lineup for me. I can't get enough of their sound, which has been described as "a mishmash of blues, country, folk, and jazz with crooner-esque styling." Whoever came up with that hit the nail on the head. You've got to hear the pipes on (Early) James Mullis. You won't forget him.
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After catching Steady Flow at the CukoRakko Fam Jam back in May, there was quite a bit of anticipation for this set. This band hits you with an onslaught of upbeat funk from start to finish, with some of the funkiest riffs you'll find. It would be impossible to make it through 90-minutes of Steady Flow without a little movin' and shakin'. Guitarist Tanner Brown's use of the talk box adds an especially fun element to the table, as seen during the band's creative spin on Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." Thankfully, this wouldn't be the last time we saw Brown on stage shredding. 
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Watch footage from Get Rhythm's drum circle here:
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Video by Home Team Photography
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I try my best to stay in tune with as many bands as possible, but there are always going to be a few that slip through the cracks. The New Orleans Suspects were a perfect example for me...until Saturday night. They're easily one of the most seasoned, accomplished groups to play this festival, and I haven't stopped listening to their music since leaving. Specific highlights came in the form of songs such as "Let's Get It Started," "Cocaine Jane," and a cover of The Wild Magnolia's "Peace Pipe." Do yourselves a favor and give those tracks a whirl.
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Following the Suspects, Skydyed took the festival in an entirely new direction, and I couldn't have been more impressed. While one could classify this band as 'jamtronica', a simple term couldn't possibly do them justice. Their placement as the final band on Saturday night couldn't have been more fitting. As I stood in front of the stage and looked around the amphitheater, hundreds of people were getting down in ways I can't even describe. It was a perfect picture in many ways. 
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Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend came from The Talismen, the youngest band to ever hit the stage at CukoRakko. The Montgomery-natives are scattered across three different colleges, but you would never know it. The original plan was for two thirty-minute pop-up sets under the pavilion, between sets on the main stage. It didn't take long to decide that these guys deserved an additional late-night set. Word quickly spread across the festival grounds, and the band took full advantage of the opportunity.
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The level of improvisation displayed on The Rolling Stones' "Loving Cup," Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle," and Phish's "Chalkdust Torture" was ridiculous. Tanner Brown, Wildman Steve, the Tragic City horns, and others joined in for Kool & The Gang's "Get Down Tonight," which was sandwiched perfectly with Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing." Equally as impressive were a few Talismen originals: "Strange Man" and "The Lawnchair Song." Get ready, because you'll be hearing a lot more about this band in the future. 
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Watch The Talismen performing "Chalkdust Torture" > "Whole Lotta Love" > "Chalkdust Torture" here:
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Sunday started off with one of Birmingham's hottest acts, The Brook & The Bluff. This was a new band for me, but after hearing of their recent signing with The Paradigm Agency, I knew that we were in for a treat. This band's unique sound and beautiful harmony vocals made for a perfect early Sunday set. Another Birmingham act, Eat a Peach, would take the stage next and lay down a scorching 90-minutes of Allman Brothers Band classics. All five members of this band also perform with the Black Jacket Symphony, and I can't imagine there is a better ABB tribute out there. You can see for yourself with the video footage of "Melissa" below. 
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Watch footage of Eat a Peach performing "Melissa" here:
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The living legend Charlie Hunter would then close out the weekend with his amazing trio. I had been waiting to see Charlie perform live for many years, and he was even better than expected. Watching this guy essentially play bass and lead guitar simultaneously is nothing short of mind blowing. For this performance, Hunter was joined by Grammy Award winning drummer Derrick Phillips (Hank Williams Jr.) and Ms. Dara Tucker, whose vocals had all of Horse Pens 40 melting. This was yet another Sunday that we'll all be talking about for years to come. 
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At the end of the day, I just can't say enough about this festival and the team behind it. I consider it one of my greatest honors to be involved with CukoRakko. Having the ability to live out these magical experiences at Horse Pens 40 is something that I will never take for granted. I can say "thank you" enough to the Schultz family for their willingness to share this magical property with us. The CukoRakko family is beyond special, so I won't even try to cheapen it with words. You know who you are. And for everyone else, if you ever have the opportunity to witness live music at this incomparable venue, I advise you run, not walk, towards that opportunity. Until next time...
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Oteil Burbridge: The Luckiest Man Alive October 09, 2018 21:00

Interview by Brett Hutchins

The rumbles of the Allman Brothers freight train and the ecstatic bliss of the Grateful Dead have had one singular common thread - low end master Oteil Burbridge. As bassist for the final edition of The Allman Brothers and now the ever-popular Dead and Company, Burbridge is well aware of his place in jam history and how lucky he is. But these gigs didn’t just happen. They’ve been stewing together since birth, immersed in a musical childhood, and pried and prodded by jam philosopher-in-chief, Col. Bruce Hampton. In front of a headlining gig at this weekend’s Suwannee Roots Revival, Burbridge dove deep with Live and Listen about Col. Bruce’s life lessons, fatherhood, the similarities of church and the Grateful Dead experience, and the importance of, at the very least, remembering to always try. If luck is when preparation meets opportunity, Oteil is its preeminent example.

You were immersed in the arts as a kid. How important was this to your future success?

Oteil: Absolutely crucial. Some of it you have to realize was necessity. It’s a good thing they looked at it that way. They were trying to keep us off the street. They threw everything at us - music, art, dance, acting, visual arts. They wanted to see what stuck and what we liked most. We were enjoying all of it. But for me and my brother Kofi, music was the strongest one. I also learned from my mom that your job was going to take up a huge chunk of your life time wise, so you should make it something you love. Mom enjoyed her work, and my dad not so much. I learned what kind of toll that can take on a person.

Were you and your brother having musical conversations as soon as you started banging on those instruments?

Oteil: He’s older than me, and it took me a while to be able to play anywhere near his level, which I’m still nowhere near. They discovered he had perfect pitch when he was seven years old, so he was someone that excelled at a really extreme rate. That was good for me because A - I thought that was normal, and B - it’s the mark I was shooting for. It helped me to push to where he was.

So it’s always been aspirational from you looking up to him?

Oteil: It still is. I’m still trying to catch up. By the time we were teenagers, we were starting to play together, so it took me a while.

Your name means explorer and wander in Egyptian. Do you ever feel like you were meant to play this type of exploratory music from the get-go?

Oteil: Oh yeah. And be on the road all the time. The African tradition is that your name has something to do with your destiny, so in my case, it was dead-on.

Talk about the Atlanta scene that got you started.

Oteil: When I moved to Atlanta with Kofi, we were just playing in cover bands, wedding bands, jazz bands. Anything to make ends meet. We had a rough time financially, but fortunately I met Col. Bruce, and my whole life took a complete left turn. I couldn’t have even begun to predict or envision how far to the left my career would go after meeting him. It was a great preparation for the Allman Brothers and Dead and Company. We had so much fun in that band mixing funk, bluegrass and blues, rock, everything. It was crazy. And more importantly, fun. That’s another lesson from Bruce - always have fun.

Was that relationship electric from the get go? He seems like the type of guy that as soon as you shook his hand, you knew something special was going.

Oteil: I’d say within 20 minutes of meeting him, I knew I was going to follow him.

What were the most important things he taught you, either in life or music?

Oteil: So many things. He taught me a new way of listening to music. I listened to music as a musician, but he taught me to listen as a human. He always stressed that in my playing. He wanted to hear all the other sides of you. He wanted music that sweats and bleeds and isn’t all dressed up and perfect. He liked that too, but you have to have both sides to really make it work.

You get that from a lot of folk , bluegrass, country, and blues. It does sweat. It does bleed. It’s like life. Sure you sometimes laugh and get all dressed up and perfumed up, but he wanted the pain, too. That’s something I now listen to in other people’s playing. A lot of the music I used to listen to doesn’t do it for me anymore, because it doesn’t sweat or bleed. I can’t smell it. I need more of the whole package.

So more feeling vs. thinking?

Oteil: Yes. I love intelligent playing, but if all I hear in someone’s music is how clever they are, it just isn’t enough for me anymore. When you’re a musician that’s just starting to play, and you came up in jazz and classical and all that, you’re focused on the mechanics and making sure you can actually play it. But that can quickly become the sole focus. When that happens, it’s a narrow vision of what music is capable of.

Watch Oteil performing w/ Col. Bruce & Aquarium Rescue Unit (1992) here:

You mention that back in those days you were super snobby about what you were listening to. What would Oteil from that era think about a pop star like John Mayer joining your band?

Oteil: I wasn’t even aware of him back then. I was deeply immersed in what happened in early recorded music. I had gone back to the mid to late 40’s and once Col Bruce came on board, we went back to the 20s and 30s and started studying classical as well. I had zero idea of what was going on on the radio.

Even at my age of 50, when I heard John Mayer was going to be a part of it, it surprised me. But I’ve learned you never know what’s going to happen and to never prejudge. Of course in being in the band with him, I was hoping people would give me, and us as a band, that same chance. If it wasn’t happening, it wasn’t happening. People can tell if the magic is there. We felt it as soon as we started rehearsing, but we didn’t know if the fans were going to buy it. Fortunately, they were feeling the same thing that we feel.

Was there a bit of a brotherhood between you, him, and Chimenti because of not being part of the core original members?

Oteil: Of course, as much because of our age than anything.

Is there a concerted effort by the three of you to inject some adrenaline into the shows sometimes?

Oteil: Yes, but it’s nothing that’s intellectually premeditated. We have a lot of energy, and that’s naturally going to happen. It’s not something we think about, in fact, it’s often times the opposite in that we have to force ourselves to reel it in or curtail it a little bit and not go off all the way too soon.

I’ve been following John for a while, and I know how excited he can get, not only when something’s clicking musically, but also how intensely he studies it.

Oteil: It’s good to have that tension. It’s good to play with cats that are older than you, and it’s good to see both sides of it with your own eyes and feel it. It’s good for us.

How intimidating were those first days of the Dead and Company experience, and how did you conquer those fears?

Oteil: You don’t. I tell my students all the time. You have to embrace doing it afraid. That’s another thing Col. Bruce used to always talk about. He called it embracing the mirror of embarrassment. You’re essentially getting naked on stage. It doesn’t matter how you feel about it. You have to be vulnerable and be willing to let the world see everything up there. I get nervous before I play. My stomach will be knotted up, but once we’re into a few songs the joy will rise up and obliterate the nerves.

Listen to John Mayer discuss playing w/ Oteil on 'Tales From The Golden Road' here:

Did you spend any time in the church growing up? Do see much of a connection between the secular musical experience and the church?

Oteil: I didn’t grow up in church. My parents were really scarred by the church, so much so that my dad was heavily against it. I had a very spiritual experience when I bottomed out at around age forty, and that caused me to investigate it. I’m sure I’d be considered a heretic now, but I do see a great correspondence between improvisational music - the dancing, the ecstatic nature of the beast - and spirituality of all kinds, whether it’s in church or not. When you get into this trance that music will get you, then your awareness is heightened. When you do it all together with a bunch of people, you achieve this group consciousness that really has a lot of what I believe is supernatural power. I do see a lot of correspondence. Probably more of the Pentecostal churches, where the music is a huge part of it, and it’s not subdued. It’s jammin’ pretty hard.

Especially in these big crowds with the Dead and Company shows. It gets stereotyped, but the energy is there. It’s palpable. You can feel it.

Oteil: It is, and it’s not like any other crowd. I’ve seen so many different bands and crowds, and this is a whole different animal. It’s a real positive time. We’re in a stadium playing a "Bird Song" or "Dark Star" that reminds me of a Miles Davis ballad for 20 or 30 minutes, and people are really listening. That’s something. People are really tuned in. It’s a different thing that I am super fortunate to experience from the stage.

How does being a new father approach either life or music?

Oteil: It’s changed everything. Every cliche is so true. He’s three and a half, and I can’t wait for him to get home from school so we can play. You always hear that you can’t imagine the quality of love that you will feel for your child. You won’t know until you have a child. It’s different than any sort of love - mom, dad, brother, sister, even your spouse. If you embrace it though, it can even deepen your love of your spouse. When we’re together, I’m like he’s part me and part her. It’s nuts. I had him late. I had him at 50, so my mind is at a better place, so I know to savor it and how quick it’s going to go.

You’re back at Suwannee Roots Revival Thursday with Oteil and Friends this weekend. Who are your friends?

Oteil: Scott Metzger (JRAD) on guitar, John Kadlecik (Further) on guitar, Jay Lane (Ratdog) on drums, Weedie Braimah on percussion, Alfreda Gerald on percussion, Jason Crosby (Phil & Friends) on keys, who used to play with me with the Peacemakers. It’s going to be smoking.

What makes the Suwannee grounds so special?

Oteil: I’ve always loved it. I’ve played there before the Allman Brothers, maybe five years before the Allman Brothers started playing there. The very last Wanee we did with the Allman Brothers, my wife and I camped there. I don’t even know if the moon was full, but the trails were so lit up even at night that we could see how to get back to the tent. All those trails were so lit up, and it was so mystical. I just remember being like “WHOA,” this is why they call it the SPIRIT of Suwannee. I could totally feel it. After all those years playing, I finally got the full taste by camping and got the whole shabang. It’s so beautiful.

In watching you play and reading your interviews, you seem like you are extremely in tune with the beauty of the world around you and how lucky you truly are. Do you have any sort of routine to keep that positivity flowing?

Oteil: It’s a constant fight on this planet. I’m trying to embrace all of it. I always say that the key to my happiness is getting closer and closer to radical acceptance. You can’t have peace all the time. It’s like the sun being out all the time. Night has to exist. I get better at not dealing with the negative stuff, but accepting it for what it is. I fail all the time. Try running through the airport with a three year old. That little guy knows he can work us. He wins sometimes, and I lose it. I try to do my best, but I’m just average.

It’s also realize easier for me. I play music for a living. I’m not driving hours to the office to a job I can’t stand. Life is going to challenge you, so just try. Trying counts for something.

Despite Hurricane Michael, this weekend’s Suwannee Roots Revival is still on at the beautiful Spirit of Suwannee Music Park.


The Road to CukoRakko: Scott Ferber of The Jauntee October 03, 2018 17:33

 Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

If you're a music lover in Alabama, you've more than likely heard about an amazing grassroots festival known as CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival. Founded in 2014, the festival has been held twice a year at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL. As we prepare for another unforgettable CukoRakko weekend on October 5th - 7th, we're sitting down and getting to know a few of the performers on the 2018 Fall Festival lineup. For our fifth and final installment, we caught up Scott Ferber (drums) of The Jauntee, who will be performing at 7:45 PM on Friday, October 5th. See below for the full interview, as well as video footage of The Jauntee performing live. 

Click Here: Purchase Tickets to CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival

So the band has recently relocated from Boston, MA to Denver, CO. Tell me a little about how you guys got started and ultimately made this move.
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Scott: Well all four of us went to school in the Boston area. Three of us studied music at Berklee College of Music. John (Loland), our bass player, went to school for pilot mechanic work. Me and Caton (Sollenberger), the guitar player, we were the founding members of the band. We met during the fall of 2010, during his freshman year there, which was my junior or senior year. 
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We had a great connection musically and shared quite a few similar interests. We formed the band in late 2010. There was originally a different keyboardist and bassist, and John joined in 2012. Tyler (Adams) joined in 2015, but we had known him long before then. Tyler was a fan of the band, and he actually went to school for guitar. He's a really well rounded musician, and he plays keys for us. John and Caton had known each other previously which is how he came to join the band in 2012.
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That's how we formed, and we moved out to Colorado this past summer. The band was in Boston for seven or eight years, and we had been touring out to Colorado for five or six of those years. We toured pretty hard from the start. We've always loved Colorado as a place to live, and after touring there for a while, we started to do really well out there. Growing quickly and making fans that would spread the word. It seemed to be growing faster than other markets we played. 
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That was all a big factor in the decision to relocate, and there is just a really vibrant music scene in general. Another factor was our desire to get to the west coast, which is much more difficult to do from Boston. Now we're a little more centrally located. We've done one west coast tour, and we just announced some more dates today. That's the summary for you. 
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You're fresh off the release of your first live album 'Always Never Knowing'. How did you guys decide on this collection of tunes? 
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Scott: It was a pretty unique experience recording this album in the way that it came about. It was last summer right before we moved. This was recorded at The Bridge Sound & Stage Studio, but it had an area with a stage. We set up for two full nights and had about 70-100 people. Most of them came both nights. We played two full set shows; straight through without stopping. 
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It was pretty much a live show with a lot of our friends and fans. It captured that live energy, but it was all recorded in studio quality. We had four full sets to work from, and kind of dwindled that down to what we could fit on two CDs. It's a double disc album, which turned out to be able 160 minutes worth of music. It was no where near all of what we played, but we hand selected our favorite moments. We then used to studio magic to make it flow as if it was a cohesive show. We're really happy with how it turned out. This is the first record we have with Tyler on keys. 
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You've previously released two full studio albums, Excelsior and Enjoy The Ride. I'm sure there has been plenty of new material since. Are there any plans in place for the next studio work? 
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Scott: We definitely have the songs for it, and it's definitely being talked about. We don't currently have anything setup, however, it's something we want to do. We haven't had a chance to think much about it, because we've been concentrating on this release. Hopefully we can get back in the studio within the next year. We have a plethora of material that hasn't been released. Especially songs we have written with Tyler. 
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The band just completed a big five-night run supporting Twiddle. This was obviously great exposure in the southeast. What did you guys take away from this experience?
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Scott: Oh man...that's a good question. First of all, we had an awesome time. This was a really big opportunity for us. Twiddle is doing well right now, and I can see why. We had met them before, but this was our first chance to really get to know them. They're just a great team of people: both the band and the crew. They were super nice, accommodating, and supportive of us. The whole experience went really well and smoothly. I think that has a lot to do with them being super easy people to work with. 
 
We've worked with a lot of other larger bands that aren't necessarily like that. Sometimes there is friction with the crews, or maybe all of the band members don't get along. I think we learned how important it is to be easy to work with. Just be nice. It goes a long way in this scene. Making friends and building relationships with other bands. It was amongst the most solid five shows we've ever had. 
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I would definitely agree there. Those guys are amongst the nicest of any band I've had the chance to interact with. Did you have much history in the Southeast market prior to this?  
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Scott: Yeah...we've played in the southeast a few times each year. A few of the spots we did with Twiddle, specifically Nashville and Birmingham, we had never played before. Those were two spots that were great to break into in front of such a great crowd. We had a fair amount of experience with Chattanooga, Greenville, and Atlanta. 
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What do you guys enjoy most about coming down to this area?
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Scott: It's just a good energy out here. I feel like southern hospitality is a real thing. It's nice to experience that down here. Coming from New England, it's a little bit of a slower pace, and I like that. It's just fun to see these new places and make new friends. 
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The audience seems to be growing, which has led to more touring and festival plays. Can you share a few of the bands highlights from this year?
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Scott: There seems to be a number of them. More and more standout shows in general over the last year or two. Especially with the move out to Colorado. There are so many opportunities, as there are so many venues out there. So many bands that we've linked up with as they come through Colorado. We started playing with Leftover Salmon a little bit. We've had fairly regular shows at The Fox Theatre in Boulder and The Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins. 
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This run with Twiddle allowed us to play rooms like the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta. We aren't exactly accustomed to playing some of these big rooms regularly. When we do, it's such a treat to have that awesome sound, gear, and crew that work there. Opportunities like that really stand out. We've also played with Ghost Light and Consider the Source. The opportunity to play with some of these bands has been great for exposure and a lot of fun. 
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You're hitting the stage at CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival at 7:45 PM on Friday night. For those catching their first Jauntee set, what would you say they should expect from a full 90 minutes with you guys?
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Scott: Yes sir. It's going to be a great time. They should expect to be taken on a musical journey. That's what we try and do. We go through a lot of different genres: rock, funk, bluegrass. We like to extend things out a little more at festivals. We like to get weird. I think people should anticipate sitting back and enjoying the ride. See where the music takes them. It's unknown for us a lot of times. We don't always know what's going to happen, so it's fun for everyone to be along on that musical journey. 
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Right on. Well thanks again for your time. Looking forward to seeing you this weekend. 
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Scott: Absolutely. Thank you. We're really looking forward to it. We've heard some really great things about this festival.
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Watch The Jauntee perform "Puppy In My Pocket" here:
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Simplicity in Song and in Life: Lessons from Edward David Anderson October 02, 2018 15:03

Interview by Brett Hutchins

Photos by Kim Anderson

Simplicity in Song and in Life

Lessons from Singer-Songwriter Edward David Anderson’s Trek Through the Appalachian Trail

My mind’s been playin’ tricks

When I’m out here in the sticks.

It’s like everything is right

And nothing’s wrong.”

-EDA, Only in My Dreams - Release Date: 10/19

There’s an independent streak that runs through everything you do - whether it’s the nomadic lifestyle or the “pick up and play wherever you want” attitude of your music. Where’s that come from?

EDA: Well, I've never been a fan of being told what to do and have always liked the idea of controlling my own destiny. It could have something to do with my dad not really digging his career choice and being around that scene growing up. He certainly never dreamt of being a union plumber in city of Chicago, but he did what he did to take care of his family. I've never really thought about it, but looking back, I'm thinking I decided at a young age that I was going to do something that I loved.

And now, being solo has allowed my wife and I to experience a whole new level of independence. We're able to spend winters on the beach, play/travel as much or as little as we desire, we've started our own Black Dirt Records label, we handle my management and bookings; we're actually completely self-contained!

So my father, who taught me the chords on guitar, showed me what I did and didn't want to do.

What initially sparked the idea of leaving the snows of the Midwest for the shores of Alabama. It had to have been more than just the weather. How many years have you been doing that now?

EDA: This'll be our 6th year migrating south. First and foremost, we didn't want to face the brutality of another Midwestern winter. Period. It gets in your head. For real. It's psychologically debilitating.

And we were looking for a change after losing both of our mothers within a year of each other. Kim quit her job, we sold our Rock School, I made my first solo record, we bought a 1986 Nu Way Hitchhiker (the Cadillac of RVs in 1986) and headed to Lower Alabama.

Was Alabama the desired destination or was it more of a “let’s see where we end up” kind of trip?

EDA: Yep. I had visited Gulf Shores many years before while on tour with Backyard Tire Fire. We had a couple of days off in between Tallahassee and NOLA, so we stayed with a friend and discovered the beaches of LA. We also found that there was a lot of music happening in the region, lots of venues, writers, pickers, etc.

So we were very aware of our destination when we set out for that RV park in Elberta, AL 6 years ago. That said, I had no real contacts for shows, so it was a hustle from the get go. I hit open mics for the first time in years, took all sorts of gigs all over the place down there, and figured out how to make it swing. We were lucky to meet great folks within the first week that are still our friends today.

What’s so special about Alabama? Both Muscle Shoals and Lower Alabama have been good to you.

EDA: The people. Lower Alabama was welcoming from Day 1. We arrived on a Saturday that first year and went out to the Frog Pond in Silverhill on that Sunday to see South Memphis String Band (Jimbo Mathis, Luther Dickenson, Alvin Youngblood Hart). The music and vibe were amazing and the people were genuinely interested in who we were and what we were doing in LA. We were overwhelmed (and still are) by how accepting folks are down there.

And then in Muscle Shoals, again, the people. I've always wanted to make a record there, but it needed to be the right batch of tunes and it needed to be with the right players. I wanted to record with folks that live and work in the Shoals. I wanted the personalities and experiences of the musicians to come through in their playing on the songs. Jimmy Nutt and I were fast friends and the folks he brought in to play on the record were awesome people and musicians. 

Listen to Edward David Anderson's "Only In My Dreams" here:

One of my favorite lyrics off the new record is from “Only in My Dreams”:

My mind’s been playin’ tricks

When I’m out here in the sticks.

It’s like everything is right

And nothing’s wrong.”

It seems to point to your Appalachian Trail adventure. How did that journey come about?

EDA: Ah yes. That tune is actually about a dream I had where my mom was still alive, and smiling and talking. And shortly after we embraced in the dream, I woke up, and wrote the song. So "out here in the sticks" is actually referring to the back woods of my mind/consciousness.

As for the Appalachian Trail, we first set foot on it shortly after we were married in 2000 and living in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Hot Springs, NC. We would do day hikes with our doggy, but never really understood what it was to spend weeks out there.

Flash forward 18 years. I was laying on the couch reading something about the AT and as I stood up and walked to the kitchen, I handed my phone to my wife and said something like, "You wanna do this?" And she said, "Hell yes!" So we decided to postpone the release of the record and began researching and reading and acquiring gear. I think we both were craving the challenge, the change, the isolation, the detox, etc. The never-ending hustle of the music biz, the dangers of travel, and the partying had all worn thin and we needed a reboot before launching Black Dirt Records and releasing Chasing Butterflies.

What kind of planning did you do for it and how much of the trail did you tackle?

EDA: We read tons, talked with folks that had done it, and did a few shakedown hikes. That's really about it. We had no real experience backpacking or remote camping and we were in the worst shape of our lives, but we are both notoriously head strong, and that worked to our advantage.

The original plan was to take 3 months and try to hike the first 1,000 miles to Harpers Ferry, WV. Pretty lofty, but you gotta think big, right? We ended up completing the first 200 miles over the course of a month, when I got a text from my friend in the band The Record Company asking if I wanted to come out and play some shows with them. At that time, Kim was going to continue on and I was going to hop off, do the shows, and meet back up with her.

But the Smokies were crowded with weekend warriors and the rain was incessant, so we decided to "tap out" at Clingman's Dome with a feeling of great accomplishment as we stepped off at the highest elevation on the AT. We went out on top!

We're hoping to pick it right back up where we left off at Clingman's Dome next May.

What are some of the most important lessons the trail taught you?

EDA: First, I'm capable of a whole lot more than I thought. I hadn't exercised in 20 years and went out there and climbed up and down mountains with 35 lbs on my back, 10 miles a day, through heat & rain, sleeping on the ground, hanging my food in a tree, eating tuna & mashed potatoes, pooping in the woods, pushing through blisters and general ongoing pain. It took about 10 days to get my lungs and legs back, but I felt relatively strong after the initial shock, and began to thrive.

It is beyond liberating to simply focus on walking. Just putting one foot in front of the other. Block everything else out. You get into a groove; a rhythm. All you have to think about it how far you're going to hike that day, where you're going to sleep, what and when you'll eat, etc. I loved it and have said many times upon returning that if we had stayed out there for the 3 months, I may never have come back.

We have always been aware of the fact that we have more than we need and have discussed downsizing at length. The AT experience really drove that home. We survived with next to nothing for a month. Do we really need this 3-bedroom house? I carried two pair of underwear, two t shirts, two pair of socks on the trail. Do I really need this dresser and closet full of stuff I don't wear? So I think we came out of it wanting to live more of a minimalistic life and eventually I think we'd like to live in the woods.

How do you see that experience influencing your songwriting?

EDA: There is a journal full of stories from our time out there. I've talked about turning it into a book. At the very least I'm certain some of those experiences will become songs. I've always subscribed to the "less is more" approach to writing and music in general, and I think the AT really hammered that ideology home. I'm feeling like my next album will be a more stripped down, bare bones recording; and the songs are some of the simplest I've written.

One thing that backpacking and hiking has taught me is the truth of the less-is-more philosophy. This comes through on your records. Is that a conscious effort by you?

EDA: I think my natural musical tendency is to want to "trim the fat" as my friend and Grammy winning producer and member of Los Lobos would say. It's not really a conscious effort, it's just how I want to hear things. I grew up on Tom Petty, Stones, Neil Young, etc. When you listen to those tunes, they are perfection. Everything is in its place and serves the song. It's all about the song.

Whether you know it or not, we first chatted years ago on Pensacola Beach about the Grateful Dead and all things in between. It’s interesting to me that a fan of the most gloriously meandering band of all-time is so invested in artistic simplicity. Where’s the connection?

EDA: Ha! I love the Dead. In fact I was just stuffing envelopes and listening to them yesterday. It may as well have been 1996. I've been stuffing envelopes while digging the Dead for more than 2 decades. Some things never change.

I think what originally drew me to the Grateful Dead was the improvisation and freedom of play between the musicians. I was 17 and my sister took me and a friend to Alpine Valley in 1989 and I was changed forever. First, I had never seen a scene quite like that. I don't think I knew what I was getting in to. It was a time warp and I dug it. And then the jamming and improv blew my mind. We didn't listen to jazz in my house growing up, so I wasn't really familiar with that kind of energy. I went home and started listening to Miles Davis and John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk and it opened up a whole new world of music.

So it was initially the improvisation that turned me on, but ultimately it's the songs that always bring me back. They have great songs. Simple tunes with melody and message. And there is a looseness that is endearing and human. I think that's what it is that gets me with the Dead; those songs and that loose vibe. They resonate with my heart and soul.

Watch the official promo video for 'Chasing Butterflies' here:


The Road to CukoRakko: The Brook & The Bluff October 01, 2018 23:46

 

If you're a music lover in Alabama, you've more than likely heard about an amazing grassroots festival known as CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival. Founded in 2014, the festival has been held twice a year at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL. As we prepare for another unforgettable CukoRakko weekend on October 5th - 7th, we're sitting down and getting to know a few of the performers on the 2018 Fall Festival lineup. For our fourth installment, we sat down with John Canada (drums) and Joseph Settine (vocals / keys / guitar) of The Brook & The Bluff, a Birmingham-based band who is catching major national attention. You can catch these guys kicking things off on Sunday, October 7th. See below for the full interview, as well as video footage of the band performing their tune "Are You Lonesome?"
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So you guys originally started as a duo and expanded to a four-piece in 2016. Let's talk about how that evolvement took place. 
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John: For sure. The Brook & The Bluff started as an acoustic duo between Joseph Settine and Alec Bolton towards the end of their time at Auburn University. The two had previously played in a full band called “The Freewheelers” while attending school. When that band eventually disbanded, Alec and Joseph decided to keep making music together as a duo. 
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In the fall of 2015, I noticed the talent and potential of the guys during a gig at Moe’s BBQ in Auburn. Shortly after, I offered to turn the duo into a trio and play drums. By early 2016, the trio had resolved to start recording original music and make a serious attempt at a music career. After playing with couple different bassists for about a year, Fred Lankford joined the crew in mid-2017. 
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The band has had some amazing success since then. Charting on Spotify US & Canada's Viral 50 playlist, performing at NAMM shows in Nashville and Anaheim, and selling out shows in the Southeast's biggest markets. Where do you credit this success?
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John: We have definitely experienced some encouraging successes over the past couple of years! I think it comes from a combination of an energetic live show, genuine songwriting and the necessary discipline to work on the band every day. Starting out on your own, we had to figure out how to do a lot of things, like booking shows, recording music and effectively promoting the band. I think we did a pretty good job of that!
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The band recently signed on with one of the premier booking agencies in the country, Paradigm Talent Agency. What type of impact has this made on you guys?
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Joseph: Signing with Paradigm has been a huge benefit and we are already seeing the impact that our agents, Joe Atamian and Jeffrey Hasson, are having on our career. For one, it gives us more time to focus on making music now that we don’t have to book shows ourselves. With Paradigm, there are so many more opportunities for us, like opening for bigger bands and securing festival slots that we never could have booked on our own. Joe and Jeffrey are experts at overall strategy and get the most out of our live shows. 
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We're living in a much different musical era. Things have changed quite a bit since we were kids. Tell me about the advantages and challenges this presents to a young, up-and-coming act.
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John: Nowadays, anybody can record a song, put it out in the world and see what happens. The barrier to entry of being an artist is super low, but that presents the challenge of having much more content to “compete” with. One platform that has worked to our big advantage is Spotify. This music streaming service makes discovering new music extremely easy for listeners. In a way, they have given the power back to the people to determine what music becomes popular. Much of Spotify’s listening experience is algorithm based and we have been lucky to have songs featured on many algorithmic playlists. 
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What's on the horizon for the band as you look towards closing out 2018?
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Joseph: We are currently recording our first full length album, so we’ll be spending a good amount of time in the studio. We also have some exciting live dates as we wrap up the year (e.g. a headlining show at Saturn on November 21st). In early 2019, we are going on an extended tour up the east coast and will be releasing new music simultaneously, so we are extremely pumped for that.  
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You'll be kicking off the day on Sunday, October 7th at CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival. What can attendees expect from you guys? 
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Joseph: If people are still asleep at 11:30am, we’ll be sure to get them out of their tents. Our shows are super energetic and people can expect a lot of singing from the four of us. We’ll be pulling out some covers by Fleetwood Mac and SZA in addition to our original tunes. 
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Watch Brook & The Bluff perform "Are You Lonesome?" here:
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The Road to CukoRakko: Lamont Landers Band September 28, 2018 13:24

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Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
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Photo by James Champion
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If you're a music lover in Alabama, you've more than likely heard about an amazing grassroots festival known as CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival. Founded in 2014, the festival has been held twice a year at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL. As we prepare for another unforgettable CukoRakko weekend on October 5th - 7th, we're sitting down and getting to know a few of the performers on the 2018 Fall Festival lineup. For our thirdinstallment, we caught up with Lamont Landers, front man of one of Alabama's hottest acts: Lamont Landers Band.  You can catch Lamont and company kicking things off on Saturday, October 6th. See below for the full interview, as well as video footage of the band performing their tune "Into the Fold."
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Lamont Landers Band got rolling back in 2014, correct? Tell me about how this thing came together. 
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Lamont: Yes sir. Back in 2014, most of us we're going to the University of Alabama. A mutual musician friend of Kevin (Canada) and mine had asked me if I would be cool with him putting a band together, and of course, I jumped at the chance. He got Kevin on a gig and since then, other members have came and gone, but Kevin was day one. Kevin knew our drummer Bowen (Robertson), and I met him out and about playing around Tuscaloosa.
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We stayed there for a couple of years; playing every bar in town, I moved to North Alabama...eventually landing in Huntsville. Kevin moved to Decatur. Bowen moved to Nashville. Somewhere along the way, we met the final piece of our band, the glue, the x factor: Jaraven Hill, our bass player. 
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I see you guys are from Decatur. North Alabama has certainly been known for it's musical roots. How much of an impact did the whole Shoals scene make on you as a young musician?
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Lamont: The Shoals had an indirect influence for sure. The music that came out of that area and the impact it had has resonated with me my entire life. It certainly made the dream of having an impact on the world through music, even while being from Alabama, seem entirely possible.
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The band recently made a big splash on 'Showtime at the Apollo'. How did you find yourselves in that position? What type of impact has this exposure given the band?
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Lamont: It was a surreal thing. It all happened through e-mails and stuff behind the scenes that led to us getting picked to be a part of it. It has provided us with some level of credibility, in the sense that if you can play the Apollo Theatre and walk away unscathed, then you can play just about anywhere in the world.
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We're living in a much different musical era these days. Things have changed quite a bit since we were kids. Tell me about the advantages and challenges this presents to a young, up-and-coming act.
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Lamont:  You're 100% right. Times have changed. I sometimes feel like I was born in the gap between generations as far as the music business is concerned. The advantages are: you have every tool at your disposal to try to make it, the business is decentralized, and if you can make it on your own, you hold all of the leverage.
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The disadvantage is that when everyone is making noise, literally and figuratively, it's hard to filter through that. There are no barriers to entry now. You don't have to be a musician to be a "musician." Sometimes all it takes are streams of consciousness or a slew of disingenuous Instagram posts and, you'll be lauded as some visionary.
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This was supposed to have a point, oh yeah, to the kids who are up and coming. Just stay true to yourself, play the game the way you want to play it, and if you make it you make it. If you don't, you can at least say you really lived life and had fun doing it.
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What's on the horizon for the band as you look towards closing out 2018?
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Lamont: The good stuff. We are finally releasing our debut album, by the end of November at the latest. We are extremely proud of it. It's been a labor of love, and I think displays our growth as a band over these last four years. 
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You'll be performing on Saturday, October 6th at CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival. What can attendees expect from you guys?
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LamontAttendees can expect some of the finest funk & soul music in Alabama, paired with a dash of tasteful musicianship. They should expect a good time. 
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Watch Lamont Landers Band perform "Into the Fold" here: 
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Twiddle's Zdenek Gubb Discusses Songwriting, Southeast Tour, & More September 26, 2018 12:43

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Denis Semenyaka

With 12 years of relentless touring behind them, Vermont-based rock band Twiddle has built an impressive resume spanning Red Rocks to Bonnaroo, and multiple sellouts of historic rock venues including Port Chester, NY’s Capitol Theatre, and Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club. And with the second half of the band’s third studio album, PLUMP, on the horizon, the band’s career continues to catapult forward. Buoyed by the generous support of 359 Kickstarter donors, the 27-song album does more than showcase the group’s beautiful music, but also tells an important story, comprised in PLUMP Chapters 1 & 2. We recently caught up with Twiddle's Zdenek Gubb (bass) to discuss songwriting, characters, future recording plans, and much more. 

Share this article from the Live & Listen Facebook page and tag a friend in the comments section for a chance to win a pair of tickets to Twiddle's show at Saturn Birmingham on Saturday, September 29th.

Twiddle has been officially rockin' for twelve years now. When exactly did you join the band, and how did that all come together? 

Zdenek: I'll give it to you from my perspective. I was actually introduced to the band by a couple of friends when I was a junior in high school. My friends were like, "Hey, you look like the bass player from this band," and they were actually a really great band. I decided to check them out, and I fell in love with the music. I slowly met the guys, and a year later, when I was halfway through my senior year of high school, they asked me to join the band. 

It worked out perfectly, in the sense that it felt like old friends coming back together, even though we didn't know each other that well. So before all of that, I was sneaking out of my parents house and trying to get into shows that were 21 and up, and I was only 17. I've been doing it ever since, and it's been a slow build and an awesome journey of discovery between ourselves. Developing these relationships with the band and people around us has been special. 

I did not realize that. So you jumped in straight out of high school?

Zdenek: Yeah. You could say that I was lucky in the sense that I got injured really badly playing football. I would have had to continue doing that, but because of my injury, I had to stop doing that all together. That made it so when they called me, somehow I had the time to actually make it happen, and it worked out.

That's pretty wild man. Very cool. How do you guys go about the songwriting process?  Any particular pattern or structure over the years?

Zdenek: Well, it's been different through the years, but originally it was a lot of lyrics written by Mihali (Savoulidis). He would bring the song to us, almost completely finished, and we have proceeded to write our own parts to all of the songs. That goes for everybody. We'll bring together a song, the lyrics, and everybody writes their own parts. I've had a couple of songs where I would actually write all of the parts and have to perform it. The thing that makes it unique is that we all get to do our own part and create something individually. That's what makes the music special, because we're all from different backgrounds. 

That's how we did it originally, but now, we're starting to do it more cohesively and writing the parts all together. For example, "Orlando's," you had three of us writing our own parts and then smashing it all together to see what it sounds like. It worked out to be the sort of epic tune that we all had a big part in. 

That leads perfectly into my next question. I've always loved the various characters involved in your music. Frankenfoote and the Jamflowman come to mind. Both are revisited in "Orlando's," along with references to several other tunes. Is this a story that you're continuing to develop?

Zdenek: That would be really cool. It's definitely something we've thought about. As the years have gone by, more and more characters come into fruition and turned into songs. It was just an idea we had to not only bring those characters together, but it made since that it would be at a bar. 

We used our ability of writing it together, so that it's not just written by one person, but all of the pieces of ourselves put together into it. It actually feels like it is everyone being put together. I can't say that there is some grand scheme of something bigger than this, but that sounds like a pretty cool idea. Maybe in a year from now we'll do something bigger.

Last year marked the release of Plump Chapter 2, while Chapter 1 was released back in 2015. What was the strategy with this body of work as opposed to your previous albums?

Zdenek: Well, the general strategy was that we were going to put out a double disc, immediately (laughs). In the time that we put out Plump 1, that's the amount of time we were hoping to have put out the entire thing. It wasn't going to be a Chapter 1 or 2. We just didn't have the time, and we had all of this music that we wanted to put out. 

We had to break it into two parts, and that's just how it went. Luckily, everyone was patient and thankful enough that we took our time on it. I think that was really important. Chapter 2 is only as good as it is because we took the time to focus on it. 

Anything you can share regarding future recordings / releases?

Zdenek: Some people have asked about a Chapter 3. I don't think it's going to be a trilogy, but I would like to do more double disc albums. I guess the only thing I can say is that after the experience of Chapter 1 and 2, we realized that there is a whole other spectrum of genre, sound, and music that we can go into. I guess all I can say is that people should be excited to hear something new and different. We aren't going to go too far from the path we're on, but we're definitely putting out some new, unique stuff. 

The stages, venues, and festival spots are continuing to get bigger. What do you guys do to stay grounded, focused, and motivated to keep building on this success?

Zdenek: You know...hmm...it's tough to answer that because I don't think we've ever even thought about it. We keep ourselves grounded by little things like playing Super Nintendo on the bus and keeping things chill. We don't think of ourselves like...how should I put this? Just continue to play like the underdog and work on yourselves. We're almost playing to the sense of never thinking that we're as good as we really want to be. So, that kind of grounds us in the sense of striving to get better and better. It's never a thought of  "Man, we're the shit!" It's more like, "Man, we sound like shit! Let's get better." 

That's the right attitude. With success comes positive attention, as well as critics. I think it's important not to get too tied up with either side. 

Zdenek: True, but it's always good to have your ear to the ground and respect that come of those criticisms has a little bit of knowledge that you can learn from. So, we don't ignore all of the criticisms, but you have to take everything with a grain of salt. 

Absolutely. So more specifically, the band is back in the southeast for the first time in a while. How has this run treated you guy thus far? Have you felt the southern hospitality?

Zdenek: Everybody has been really cool. The shows have been great down here. The numbers have been great. It's our first time ever doing five shows in a row down here in Florida. It was great. The only thing I have to say is damn was it hot! Sweating so much. That was brutal. Everyone was nice enough that they still wanted to give you a hug when you got off stage and you're soaking wet. 

It's been absolutely brutal down here this summer. We're all anxiously awaiting for it to cool down in Alabama. 

Zdenek: Oh yeah? Are you going to be in Birmingham?

Yeah. I'm planning on driving over on Saturday. 

Zdenek: Dude...I am pumped about that show. Last time we played Birmingham was one of my favorite shows we've ever done. The whole group felt that way too. There was just something about it. We're pumped. It's gonna be something special.

There is a really great music scene in Birmingham right now. I've only been to this venue (Saturn) twice, but it's a really unique, intimate spot. 

Zdenek: That's another nice thing. You mentioned us playing bigger shows. The nice thing about us doing this run down south. For me, it's just really fun. With the big shows, there is some pressure. Not too much pressure. It's exciting, but to go back and do these smaller shows really reminds you where you came from and how fun it's been. 

Love hearing that. Before we wrap up, the calendar is stacked through the end of the year. What's the latest news, and what can fans expect from you guys in the coming months?

Zdenek: It will be our first time playing House of Blues in Boston, so I'm really excited about that for New Year's. We just booked Halloween. Have you heard what it is?

I have not. What's the word?

Zdenek: We're announcing on Wednesday that we're playing as 'Phiddle" with Phil Lesh at The Capitol Theatre's 'Phil-O-Ween'. 

Wow. I've loved seeing the recent collaborations with Phil. 

Zdenek: That's gonna be something special. I'm really excited about it. Aside from that, we're busy with shows, but we're really excited to start working on the next album. There's already some new material out there, and that's what we're really focused on and excited about. 

Watch Twiddle's official recap from Red Rocks 2018 here:


Chachuba Kicks Off "Lost the Mountain" With Album Release Tour September 26, 2018 10:58



Phish Confirms New Year's Run at Madison Square Garden September 25, 2018 12:13

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Photo via AZN Pics
Press Release via Phish.com
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 Phish will be celebrating New Year’s Eve this year at Madison Square Garden in New York with a four-night run beginning Friday, December 28th through Monday, December 31st. This will bring the band’s total plays at the Garden to 60.
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A ticket request period is now underway attickets.phish.com (ending Monday Oct 8 at 10AM ET). Tickets go on sale to the general public beginning Friday, October 12 at Noon ET atticketmaster.com or charge by phone at 866-858-0008.
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Phish and CID Entertainment are also offering travel packages for the New Year’s Run (which include hotel and tickets). Phish will be donating their proceeds of these travel packages to the WaterWheel Foundation. Travel Packages go on sale Friday, September 28 at at Noon ET a tbit.ly/PhishNYE18_TP.
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Watch Phish perform "Soul Planet" on New Year's Eve 2017 here:
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The Road to CukoRakko: A Conversation with Charlie Hunter September 24, 2018 20:49

 Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

If you're a music lover in Alabama, you've more than likely heard about an amazing grassroots festival known as CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival. Founded in 2014, the festival has been held twice a year at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL. As we prepare for another unforgettable CukoRakko weekend on October 5th - 7th, we're sitting down and getting to know a few of the performers on the 2018 Fall Festival lineup. For our second installment, we caught up with famed jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter, whose trio will close out the festival on Sunday, October 7th. See below for the full interview, as well as several videos of Hunter performing live. 

Share this article from the Live & Listen Facebook page and tag a friend in the comments section for a chance to win a pair of weekend passes. We will announce the winner on Monday, October 2nd!

I always like start these by getting some background info. How did you first get started playing guitar and enter the world of music?

Charlie: Well, I grew up in Berkeley, California in the 70's. My mom played music and repaired guitars. I spent a lot of time growing up around music in general. I was around some amazing musicians, and I guess I didn't really know any better. That's just how I ended up in that universe. You definitely have to have an affinity for it, and you have to have a calling to do this as a career. It sure ain't a hobby, 'cause there are much better hobbies. (laughs)

Was there a particular experience or 'aha' moment that made you realize the potential to play professionally?

Charlie: No...for me, it's just all about the work. You know what I mean? That's the glory. Performing is awesome, and that's where you prove whether your work has had any success. I love playing and communing with the audience, but really, the joy for me is in the community and in the work. When I was a young guy in my teens, I was playing a lot of gigs with older guys, and that's just kind of how it all started.

Your debut album 'Charlie Hunter Trio' was released in 1993 on Les Claypool's  Prawn Song Records.  How'd you get hooked up with Les? 

Charlie: The drummer that I was playing with, Jay Lane, used to play in Les's band Primus. I knew Les from when I was playing in a band called Disposable Heroes of Hyphoprisy. Primus opened for U2 on the same tour that I was on with Disposable Heroes, so that's how we initially met. He's just a real good dude. He's always trying to help people out and go to bat for others, so that was nice. 

Speaking of Jay Lane, I was curious about how the lineup has worked with the trio over the years. Has there been much consistency with the lineup?

Charlie: Oh I'm always changing it around, just depending on what direction I'm going in. I usually have a trio. It's the biggest sound you can get, with the least potential for losing tons of money on the road (laughs). For this specific gig, I'll be playing with Derek Phillips, who I've played with for many years, on drums, and a woman named Dara Tucker from Nashville will be singing. It should be a grand ole time. 

You've become well known for your unique style with the seven/eight string guitars; playing bass lines, chords, & melodies simultaneously. What led you in such a unique direction?

Charlie: That's a great question. I was a street musician in Europe for a number of years back in the 80's. I really just fell under the sway of people like Joe Pass and Tuck Andress and that real self sufficient type of playing guitar. That just tickled me, and I felt like I really needed to learn how to do this. I also played a lot of drums and bass guitar. It just kind of made sense. Then I went down this road of figuring the whole thing of my own out, and I'm still kind of figuring it out. 

Click Here: Purchase Tickets to CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival

You were a co-founder of Garage a Trois, back in the late 90's, right?

Charlie: Well I didn't found it. I was really just one of the guys. Skerik and I went there because we were playing on Stanton's (Moore) record back in the late 90's. It kind of grew out that. 

I know there have been some great players involved. I saw the band with Marco Benevento in Atlanta back in 2010.

Charlie: Yeah, yeah I kind of left around that time and Marco joined. 

So originally that was you, Skerik, Stanton Moore, and who else?

Charlie: Mike Dillon on all kinds of percussion.

That's right. How could I forget Mike Dillon?

Charlie: Yeah, right? He's an awesome dude. 

You've had the opportunity to collaborate with such a wide variety of world class talent. Looking back, are there any moments in particular that stand out?

Charlie: Not really. I think the stuff that people know, like D'Angelo's Voodoo  and (writing and recording with) John Mayer...those were just really quick days in the studio, you know? Then you have the people who you're on the road with year after year, learning a lot...those are the things that last with you a lot longer. Again, it all just has to do with feeling like it's an honor to be able to do the work and be on the path at all. That's kinda what keeps me going. Knowing that there is always another experience down the road with someone who knows something that you don't know, and you can learn from them. 

Absolutely. I think that's something that can be applied to all walks of life. There's always more to learn, even if it's how not do something. 

Charlie: Amen. Exactly. Yes. (laughs)

You've definitely linked up with some killer drummers along the way. Stanton Moore and Jay Lane, just to name a few...

Charlie: Yeah...and those guys are my peers, but the really, the heaviest experiences have been with guys like Bobby Previte, Idris Muhammad, Bernard Purdie, Mike Clark, Ed Thigpen. Those have been the real incredible experiences.

That's amazing. Did I hear that you're getting ready to record a new album in Nashville?

Charlie: Well yeah, interestingly enough, it's not my record. Dara Tucker, who's singing with the trio, I'm going to be producing her record. We're going to do that right after the Alabama gig. In November, I'll be recording an album with Lucy Woodward and Derek Phillips, the drummer who's playing with me this tour. All kinds of shit is goin' down.

It appears so. Looking at all the albums that you've been a part of, there is a wide variety and quite a lengthy list. 

Charlie: Yeah...I really feel lucky to have been a part of it all. Again, I'm just juiced that I get a chance to do it all. 

You're closing out CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival in Alabama on October 7th. For those who haven't seen the trio before, what can they expect?

Charlie: Oh man, I don't know. I guess I'd just tell them to get on YouTube and check out some of the recent stuff. 

That's a great answer in 2018.

Charlie: Exactly, exactly. 

Well thanks so much for your time Charlie. Look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.

Charlie: Sounds great man. Thank you. Take care.

Click Here: Purchase Tickets to CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival

Watch Charlie Hunter Trio perform "Spoonful" here:

Watch Charlie Hunter Trio's full performance from The Acoustic in Bridgeport, CT here:

Watch Charlie Hunter's "No Money No Honey" here:


The Orange Constant Dips Toes Into “Jamtronica” With New Single September 20, 2018 12:37

Photo by Shane Nelson
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Athens, Ga.-based rock outfit, The Orange Constant has released an instrumental track that nods to its electronic contemporaries. Nearing seven minutes long,  “Prisoner Reprise” captures melodic synthesizer lines, soaring guitar harmonies and explosive transitions that all dabble with the spirit of danceable, digitized music yet remain true to the group’s vintage sound.
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The single was recorded with hometown producer John Keane (R.E.M., Widespread Panic) who previously worked on TOC’s debut album, Time to Go, (2015).  Arriving roughly a year and a half after the release of the group’s second LP, Point of Reference, this new song embraces an area of the band that its members say is underrepresented in current discography. 
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“We just wanted to show everybody where we’re at and the last album didn’t have an instrumental” said Nickalous Benson, guitarist for The Orange Constant. “It’s a song with a hook but it goes through all these different phases. I think it’s really representative of where the band’s at right now.”

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Formed in the college bars of Statesboro, Ga. in 2012 and transplanted to Athens, The Orange Constant has spent the past six years performing across the southeast with national and international acts such as Perpetual Groove, TAUK, Ripe and CBDB. The band says it is eager to spread its sound to music fanatics across the country. 

Stream The Orange Constant's "Prisoner Reprise" here:

Watch The Orange Constant perform "Red Rider" at The Georgia Theatre here:


We Are The Good People, The Ones They Told You About... September 17, 2018 23:18

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Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
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Words by Erika Rasmussen
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We are the good people, or so we say. However, even the best among us periodically need a reminder of what that means. Sometimes it’s hard to see our best selves on display. “The ones that disappeared, Behind the calling of the sun…”. In St. Augustine, when everyone was hot and grumpy, it felt hard to see the good people around you. It could feel like we’d just come to the beach to have a good time and taken it too far in the unbelievable heat. And people were touchy. “Like footprints to the sea, They dance upon the rising storm. Ten thousand voices singing, Hardly thrills our soul.” I wasn’t sure, on Saturday night, if the good people philosophies that we profess still thrilled our souls like we say they do. I saw people arguing over petty disagreements and crowded ground space at the show. I watched a former member of our community, who’s supposedly no longer welcome, be treated neutrally. And not completely banished and handled the way everyone had theoretically planned.

“Louder and louder, Hear the engines roar. Faster and faster, Fables overturned. Tighter and tighter, Oh the lightning flash. Closer and closer…” But as I became even more bothered, I realized that this weekend of heat-induced frustration didn’t define us. It’s our good works, like volunteering in 100+ heat at the PanicStream Helping Hands Charity Golf Tournament, that represent who we are as a group. It’s women, like myself and other Gretas I know, that speak up when need be. (This ain’t no flower child.) It’s the real men among our group, who step up to represent what is right and what is strong about this whole idea of a touring, jamming community. It’s the sweet volunteers at the venue, that smile and make a joke with you. It’s the band playing a special song, for a fan lost too soon. It’s that friend that brings you an extra drink so you don’t melt in a puddle on the St. Augustine Amphitheater lawn. “Here are your waters, so drink and be whole again.”

So, yeah, we all experienced a little drama in the sunshine state this weekend. But we also saw that human magic that keeps this whole machine moving forward. And keeps us coming back on tour. I’ll see you there. On my best behavior. *wink*


Bands You Should Know: Ben Sparaco & The New Effect September 17, 2018 15:33

 

Photo by Andrew Sarta

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen 

Ever since the inception of Live & Listen just four years ago, our primary focus has been to create a valuable platform for up-and-coming bands to reach new listeners. After publishing countless random interviews, we launched a regular series simply titled 'Bands You Should Know'. After an extended hiatus, we've decided to revive this interview series, and that begins today with Nashville's  Ben Sparaco & The New Effect. See below for the band's official bio, which is followed by our complete interview.

Ben Sparaco and The New Effect formed in 2017 when Florida-born singer, songwriter, and guitarist began playing with drummer Anthony Quirk and bassist Adam Discipio. Now based in the flourishing musical oasis of Nashville, TN, Ben and the band have maintained a massive touring schedule, cutting their teeth playing coast to coast in clubs and festivals.
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Sparaco spent his teen years playing with Florida’s Crazy Fingers, and making a name for himself in the jam band scene of the southeast, playing with members of the Allman Brothers Band, Dead and Company, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and more before he had even turned 20. This included a touring stint in late Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks’ band. After recording his 2016 release “Bring the Jubilee EP” with a Florida-based group of musicians, he moved to Nashville. There, he amassed a group of some of Nashville’s finest to record his debut solo record “Wooden” with producer Ross Holmes (Mumford and Sons, Bruce Hornsby, Warren Haynes), which also featured a guest appearance from Luther Dickinson.
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After finalizing The New Effect’s powerful lineup with Berklee College of Music graduates Quirk and Discipio, Sparaco’s songwriting started drifting from his southern rock roots, showing indie rock and pop influences, evident on their new EP “Greetings, from Ben Sparaco and The New Effect,” available now.
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You recently relocated to Nashville, where Ben Sparaco and The New Effect has really begun to flourish. Tell me a little bit about this project and how it came to life.
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Ben: I moved here in 2015 to go to school but dropped out in the spring of 2016. Once I put out my first record, Wooden, I needed to find a Nashville-based group of guys to tour with, instead of using guys from Florida, where I started. I found our drummer Anthony Quirk in a Facebook group for musicians, and he introduced me to our bassist Adam Discipio, who he met at Berklee. He flew to Florida to meet us on tour last year and has had the gig ever since. It’s been really nice to play with guys my age and really become a collaborative band, instead of just using hired guns. 
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Your musical roots and general background are an interesting as anyone's. You spent much of your teen years playing with Crazy Fingers, South Florida's premier Grateful Dead tribute act. How did this experience come about, and what type of influence did the Grateful Dead have on you as a musician?
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Ben: I grew up loving the more improvisational side of rock music, like the Allman Brothers, Band of Gypsys, Live Cream, and stuff like that. I didn’t have much knowledge of the Dead when I started playing with Crazy Fingers at 17, but they knew I could understand the improvisation, even when I was basically learning songs on stage. That really trained my ear, but I got really into the Dead in the beginning of 2017. Since then, I’ve been obsessed. Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter have affected me as a musician as much as anybody. 
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I've read that you had the opportunity to play with members of The Allman Brothers Band, Dead & Company, and Tedeschi Trucks all before you turned 20. Can you elaborate on these collaborations?
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Ben: I grew up in South Florida playing at a venue called The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton a lot. It is basically the main club for good music in that area, and I was really lucky to sit in with great people there as a kid and keep those connections. My first solo band, The Ben Sparaco Band, opened for Butch Trucks, and I ended up doing a tour with him. That led to playing with Jaimoe, Oteil Burbridge, Luther Dickinson, and a bunch of others. Beyond that, just being in the right place at the right time with a guitar has paid off a lot. 
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You've obviously been focusing on your own original music in recent years. In January of 2017, you released your debut solo album 'Wooden'. How long had this material been in the works? What did this recording experience mean to you?
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Ben: I wrote two of those songs in high school, probably when I was 16. The rest were written during a four month break from touring in 2016. I made that album pretty soon after dropping out of college, and it was a weird, kind of lonely time for me. It’s sort of an emptying out of songs that needed to come out to make way for new ones. It was also my first experience really being a musician in Nashville, and it couldn’t have been a better way to do it. We had so many incredible players on that record. It felt good to make a more acoustic, less guitar-heavy record. 
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I'm sure there is much focus now on touring, playing new markets, and hitting as many festivals as possible. As a young band, what is The New Effect's strategy towards balancing out the calendar? 
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Ben: We spent the last year and a half touring the entire country twice, hitting every new market we could. It was so much fun, and we learned so much, but after almost four months straight on the road earlier this year, we finally started to feel it. We’re ramping up to get back into tour mode and do it a little smarter this time around, but we’re also preparing for our first full length recording. I feel like I’ve finally figured out how to write songs that sound like me, and they’re much different than anything I have done before. We’ll hopefully spend a good chunk of time working on this record. 
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What can fans expect from you guys as you round out 2018 and start looking towards 2019. Is there anything that has the band particularly excited?
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Ben: Towards the end of 2018, we'll be spent doing a couple regional runs through the southeast and east coast. We also have a few really cool support slots in the works that we can’t say anything about yet. Then we’re shooting for a record release in the spring of 2019. 
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Click Here: Follow Ben Sparaco & The New Effect on Facebook
Click Here: Follow Ben Sparaco & The New Effect on Instagram
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Stream Ben Sparaco & The New Effect's latest release on Spotify here:
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The Road To CukoRakko: Beck Hall & Taylor Goodwin of The Pearl September 11, 2018 23:04

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

If you're a music lover in Alabama, you've more than likely heard about an amazing grassroots festival known as CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival. Founded in 2014, the festival has been held twice a year at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL. As we prepare for another unforgettable CukoRakko weekend on October 5th - 7th, we're sitting down and getting to know a few of the performers on the 2018 Fall Festival lineup. For our first installment, we caught up with Beck Hall (bass) and Taylor Goodwin (lead guitar) of The Pearl. See below for the full interview, and make sure to catch The Pearl supporting BIG Something at Zydeco on Friday, September 14th. Stay tuned for further exclusive CukoRakko preview coverage!

Click Here: Purchase Tickets to CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival 

While this band is newer project, you guys have been active members of the Birmingham music scene for years. How did The Pearl ultimately come together?
 
Taylor: We met each over the last couple years through our friends in the music scene at jam sessions and pick-up gigs. Beck has also been putting on these warehouse parties for the last few years, inviting local players to come collaborate with one another. At last years Annual Christmas Jam, we really started noticing a connection.
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Beck: Taylor was starting his final semester in Nashville, while I had started booking gigs as The Pearl as well as Honey & Pop, just using them as excuses to play with different people (often with Devonte on drums.) I think that big "AHA" moment occurred the first time we played together as a trio in March. After that, every gig we booked as The Pearl was the trio were are now.
 
You can tell that there is a strong chemistry amongst the band already. What type of playing history is there amongst the three of you?
 
Taylor: We’ve all known and listened to each other for a while now, which makes it a lot easier to understand and meet somebody where they are, musically speaking It helps that we're all really tight friends, so honest communication comes easily. 
-
Beck: It also helps that we're all practice junkies.. so a lot of work normally done in rehearsal is ready at the start of practice. So, although we haven’t played together exclusively for an incredibly long time, the chemistry came pretty quickly.
- 
You guys have a notably upbeat, powerful presence. How is the song structure working for you thus far? What is your approach to improvisation?
 -
Beck: Glad our presence comes across this way! Seems like the key is never taking the music too seriously to laugh at a flub or take risks, while at the same time doing all we can to prepare. 
-
Taylor: Regarding song structure, it’s sort of case by case… our originals have lengthy through-composed forms and are probably the hardest songs we play, whereas some of the music we play is a simple vamp/groove that we sort of use as a departure point to improvise from. 
-
Beck: In terms of our approach to jamming, we really don’t talk about it very much at all or plan our jams. We try to just let things happen naturally, which has been feeling great so far. 
- 
Have you made any plans to hit the studio?
- 
Taylor: Sooner than later, hopefully. We’re currently focused on broadening our original repertoire and putting together the best live performances we can. We’re also doing our best to capture these live performances, which we might could use to put together our first release. 
-
Beck: We've been writing a good amount of material though. I think we wrote four full compositions in two weeks during July. So, yeah, the live shows have been a big focus, because everything's been happening pretty quickly. It's good to know that we can crank out (what we consider to be) quality music at such a consistent pace. 
-
-
Tell me about the general grind associated with starting a new band at this point in your lives. What all goes on behind the scenes?
 -
Beck: Well, frankly there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes when compared to starting a band from scratch, say, ten years ago. For one thing, just getting all the social media started takes quite a while, as you have to have original content (both audio and video or both covers and originals), create an in depth Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, and Twitter page. There are lots of things you have got to have these days that, in past, weren’t quite as important. Also, practicing twice or more a week is a pretty heavy investment, considering we all have side gigs on top of this one. It’s a labor of love to get a serious new project started, but definitely worth it.
 
There seems to be a nice buzz surrounding The Pearl already. You've played quite a few rooms around the city in a short time. How do you see the schedule progressing in the future?
 
Beck: The local scene has really showed us some serious support for being so new to the scene, and we can’t thank them enough. Hopefully we’ll continue to grow at the rate we have been. We have all been playing around for quite a while and we chatted at the beginning about how easy it is to get stuck in that bar circuit, which happens to so many groups.. so we opted to really work hard to have a product ready and worthy of the the bigger stages as to start there instead of in bars. It’s been working out great playing the club/theater size venues from the get go. Bands tend to gain momentum much quicker from those shows. In terms of the future, we have some incredible shows coming up, but really plan to hit the ground running, in terms of touring more, at the beginning of next year.
 -
I know you have quite a few things cooking for the later part of 2018. What can fans expect and what are you guys most excited about moving forward?
- 
Beck: I’d say the thing we’re most excited about at the moment is being welcomed so warmly into the amazing crew surrounding the CukoRakko Music and Arts Festival during the first weekend in October. It’s one of our favorite festivals, put on by some of our favorite people. We’re going to be opening the festival this year with a very special set and playing some shows to get people warmed up for the event. It’ll be amazing playing alongside such acts as The Charlie Hunter Trio, The New Orleans Suspects, and many many other amazing national and regional acts.
-
We’re also excited to be playing this Friday night (9/14/18) with Big Something at Zydeco. We also have some really awesome Halloween and Holiday plans that we can’t quite talk about yet, but please stay tuned, as more dates will be released in the coming weeks!
=
Listen to The Pearl's "Pudding and Pie" here:
-

- 
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Pearl Jam Delivers Powerful Performance in Missoula September 05, 2018 14:49

Words and Photos by Kinsey Blake Haynes

Pearl Jam performed their first “Away” show to a [sold-out] crowd of 25,000+ on Monday August 13th, in Missoula, MT - the hometown of bassist Jeff Ament.

This particular concert was a charity even for the band’s Rock2Vote Initiative which strives to help Montana residents register to vote. It was also a campaign rally for Senator Jon Tester, who is running for again for office in November.

Washington-Grizzly Stadium was packed to the top with fans screaming as the band walked out the 1994 Vitalogy track “Aye Davanita.”

Ed Vedder graced the stage wearing a white leather “Evel Knievel” jacket, (which appears to be an homage to the legendary stuntman who is buried down the road in Butte, Montana.)

The band started off slow with tracks “Pendulum” and “Low Light” before launching into raucous, fan favorites “Go” and “Do The Evolution” followed by Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros’ “Arms Aloft” and “Mind Your Manners.”

“Music brings people together and we are glad that everyone came out for a very important reason,” said Vedder. “Jeff, thank you for organizing this and inviting us. It is nice to be back.”

The crowd started cheering “Jeff! Jeff! Jeff!” which was a beautiful sound echoing across the Montana mountains.  

Vedder told a story about Paul McCartney playing in the same stadium a few years prior and started playing a few seconds of The Beatles’ “Blackbird.”

He mentions The Rolling Stones have played there as well, which inspires lead guitarist, Mike McCready, to play a note from “Jumping Jack Flash,” to which Vedder had the idea of all members of the band playing a different Stones song - at the same time.  

Ed makes a comment about being the first band to play this stadium twice.

“A person who brags about crowd size isn’t really a good guy,” said Vedder. Without naming anyone, it was obvious who Ed was referring to, since he made a comment about this person breaking Elton John’s records. Ed said he would only brag if Montana had its largest voter turnout in the election. “That I would brag about all day,” he said.

“Corduroy”, “Pilate”, and “Even Flow” followed his ramblings and he proceeded to tell an appreciation story about drummer Matt Cameron.

“How about a little history,” asked Vedder. “We were on campus 21 years ago today. It  was the first real show we played with Matt Cameron was right here on this stage.” The band played the Cameron drum favorite “In My Tree.”

The show progressed with “Down”, “Lightning Bolt”, “Not For You/Modern Girl(tag)”, “Daughter/It's OK(tag)”, “Setting Forth”, and “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town”

Ed points out a couple in the front row wearing matching t shirts that say “I <3 Sex & Beer.”

“I am glad you found each other,” said Vedder. “Now, I am gonna give these to you and I want to watch you enjoy them.” The couple, Keith and Angie Torgerud from Wisconsin, drove in two days before the show to wait in the 10 Club general admission line with several family members and  friends to ensure they were front and center. Keith and Angie were high school sweethearts and were 17 and 15 when they met.

Pearl Jam recently released their first single in five years, the politically charged “Can’t Deny Me” and Vedder had some intriguing thoughts on its content: “I want to say before the next song that election day should be a national holiday,” he said. “The best thing is on that day we are all equal. It is a right and a responsibility. “We need to vote in big numbers because there are complications like big money, corruption and Russians. Voting is the Antidote. It is your vote they can’t deny.”

They played the new politically charged anthem with a raw energy that was remnant of their early days playing in small clubs (See Vancouver, 1991) and closed out their first set with “Porch.”

The second set began with two songs Vedder said were “ones for the serious collector.” The songs were “Bee Girl” and “Fatal” which has only been played eight times total!

After the initial excitement of rare songs, Pearl Jam continued with a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, then played fan favorite “Given To Fly”, followed by the Neil Young song “Throw Your Hatred Down.”

“Better Man” was tagged with U2’s “With Or Without You”, The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”, and the classic “Save It For Later” tag which is now a staple in the song.

Their popular hit “Jeremy”, a cover of Joe Strummer’s “Know Your Rights, “Alive”, “Rockin’ In The Free World”, and “Indifference” closed out the evening and left fans satisfied with the performance.

Ed’s final words were thank yous to Evel Knievel, the band, and Jon Tester “for being someone we can believe in and trust.”

For two hours and 46 minutes, fans were singing, crying, laughing, chanting, and existing together for a common reason: music.

Setlist: Pearl Jam - Missoula, MT - 08.13.18

Pendulum
Low Light
Go
Do the Evolution
Arms Aloft (Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros cover)
Mind Your Manners
Corduroy
Pilate
Even Flow
In My Tree
Down
Lightning Bolt
Not for You (with 'Modern Girl' tag)
Daughter (with "It's Ok" tag)
Setting Forth (Eddie Vedder song)
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
Can't Deny Me
Porch

-
Encore:
Bee Girl
Fatal
Imagine (John Lennon cover)
Given to Fly
Throw Your Hatred Down (Neil Young cover)
Better Man
Jeremy
Know Your Rights (The Clash cover)
Alive
Rockin' in the Free World (Neil Young cover)
Indifference

*"Green Disease" and "Got Some" were on the setlist, but not played.


SunSquabi Releases New Single "Chrysalis" August 31, 2018 12:04

Colorado based trio SunSquabi released its newest single ‘Chrysalis yesterday in anticipation of their upcoming full-length record.  Chrysalis is the second stage in a 3-part series that started with the track ‘Caterpillar’The band has been focusing on biology and evolution as themes for inspiration during their writing process. The way the music is coming to fruition has changed recently with the addition of Josh Fairman (bass/synth) into the band and the metamorphosis between Caterpillar > Chrysalis > Night Moth are symbolic of this change. “Capturing the live element in the studio is really something we have been focusing on and we feel like this is the best representation of the band to date.” says Josh Fairman  

The metamorphosis becomes more evident as these stages are revealed. It's been a really fun process to work on.” says Kevin Donohue. Chris Anderson’s (drums) brother Spencer Anderson is also featured on the violin in the trackThis one was memorable for me. We flew my brother Spencer Anderson out to record violin on Chrysalis. You can usually find him on stage with his orchestra at Skidmore College, but this time we wanted to explore strings in the context of SunSquabi tunes. Collaborating with family is so special,” says Chris Anderson.  

Stay tuned for the final stage of this metamorphosis followed by a full-length release from the band in Fall 2018.  

Stream: http://hyperurl.co/sunsquabichrysalis  

About SunSquabi 

There’s a place, deep in the cosmos, where jam bands and electronic dance music intersect with rhythm-driven funk. You’ll feel like you’re floating here but not lost completely to the atmospheric elements. Instead, you’re tethered to an avant-garde spaceship with Colorado-based SunSquabi on the frequency. This cosmic wonderland is a melting pot of a variety of musical genres and it represents the future of music. 

A three-piece suit - SunSquabi has been catching the eyes and ears of music fans around the world with their ever-evolving sound in the studio and on the live stage. SunSquabi has gained national attention for their unique way of producing music. The band’s live show can be described as an ‘Electronic Hydro Funk Experience’ that is different every single time out. SunSquabi continues to break down and analyze the expectations of what a “Live-Electronic” band should be. The band unveiled their debut EP with All Good Records, titled, ‘Odyssey’ which featured artists GRiZ and Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic. Their 2nd EP ‘Deluxe’ was a sophomore success with the label that continued where Odyssey left off. The band has now released 2 singles ‘Just A Little’ and ‘Caterpillar’ ahead of their upcoming 2018 release. 

Combining the talents of Kevin Donohue (guitars/keys/production) Josh Fairman (bassist/synth) and Chris Anderson (drums). This project is a disciplined and structured group. It takes a seasoned musician to stay in the pocket for the sake of building well-developed lines and climaxes. To do that seamlessly requires patience and skill. “It’s kinda like breathing, honestly. We can communicate directly with each other both verbally and non-verbally, onstage and off.” That connection will take the music collectively where we all want to go.” – Kevin Donohue 

Follow SunSquabi 

www.facebook.com/sunsquabi 

www.soundcloud.com/sunsquabi 

www.instagram.com/sunsquabi 

www.twitter.com/sunsquabi  

Spotify 

Tour Dates 

Sep-15 Denver, CO Grandoozy 
Sep-20 - 22nd Thornville, OH Resonance 
Oct-4 Kansas City, MO Crossroads KC w/ Umphrey’s McGee 
Oct-5 Madison, WI Orpheum Theatre 
Oct-6 Chicago, IL Concord  
Oct-12 Santa Fe, NM Meow Wolf 
Oct-13 Durango, CO New Animas 
Oct-14 Phoenix, AZ Crescent Ballroom 
Oct-18 Houston, TX Last Concert Cafe 
Oct-19 Dallas, TX Deep Ellum Art Co 
Oct-20 Austin, TX Mohawk 
Oct-25 Baton Rouge, LA Varsity Theatre 
Oct-26 Birmingham, AL Zydeco 
Oct-28 Live Oak, FL Hulaween 
Oct-31Charleston, SC Pour House 
Nov-1 Greenville, SC The Firmament 
Nov-2 Asheville, NC Asheville Music Hall 
Nov-3 Richmond, VA Broadberry 
Nov-8 Fayetteville, AR George's 
Nov-9 Tulsa, OK IDL Ballroom 
Nov-10 Lincoln, NE Bourbon Theatre


Funk You Prepares For Latest Album Release 'What's On Your Mind?' August 29, 2018 13:23

Funk You's upcoming release, Whats On Your Mind, simply put is an honest album. After several years of touring the country and fine tuning their talents, Funk You settles comfortably into their own identity with this album. A strong and vibrant energy keeps the listener engaged throughout their listening experience without slowing down. Whats On Your Mind? has soul, authenticity, and everything else that we have come to expect from a band establishing themselves as a national presence like Funk You. 

You can catch Funk You in action this Saturday night (September 1st), as they'll be playing their official album release party at Terminal West in Atlanta. Special guests Andy Frasco & The U.N. will be providing direct support, while local five-piece Zale will get things started.

We're giving away a pair of tickets to the show, and it couldn't be easier to enter the contest. Simply 'share' this post from the Live & Listen Facebook page and tag a friend in the comments section. 

Check out the exclusive stream of "What's On Your Mind?" here:

We recently caught up with Funk You lead guitarist Evan Miller to learn a little bit more about the band's new album. Check out the conversation below and stay tuned for further updates.

Tell me about the overall recording process of this album. Any change in approach from previous recordings?
-

Evan: This record was made in a very similar way to our last album, Apparitions. Everything was tracked live in the studio as a band. After we got a good live feel with the energy we wanted to capture, we would go back in and overdub/add parts as needed. Our drummer, Will Clark, owns the studio (Prana Recording Studio), so it's very comfortable in there for that. 

How did the songwriting balance out this go round? Has much of this material been in the existing live rotation? 
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Evan: The songwriting for this album was spread a little more evenly than the past releases. A few of the songs were old songs we had put on the shelf. Once we played them in the studio we realized the potential and went for them full force. I think those decisions paid off with a lot more input from everyone reworking those tracks. Most have been in rotation over the past year or so which allowed us to figure out which direction we wanted to take them. 

How does this album reflect where you guys are as a band?
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Evan: I'd say we've really gotten a much more mature sound out of our writing and performance in the studio. 
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What can fans expect at the album release party on Saturday night?

Evan: I'd say be prepared to expect a little bit of everything. But mainly, one big party with a bunch of friends. We are really excited for this show!


Nashville's Tom Galloway Releases Debut Solo Album August 17, 2018 12:59

Nashville singer/songwriter Tom Galloway has been a staple in the southeastern music scene over the past decade. While many know Galloway as the frontman of rock bands Mama's Love and Maradeen, his latest work portrays a fresh yet diverse look into the artist's catalog. Cross Currents represents Galloway's first full-length solo release, featuring previously released tracks such as "Old Black Dog," "Our Due Time," and "Red Whiskey & Wine." Combining the sounds of americana, alt-country, and southern rock, Cross Currents provides a tasteful blend of nostalgic, conspicuous tracks that make for an excellent listen from start to finish. Find out for yourself and stream the album in full below. 

Born in Georgia, raised in Texas, and currently a songwriter in Nashville, Galloway combines roots of folk, bluegrass, classic country and rock, to form a unique blend of expression and storytelling. Developing his craft for years, strong hooks and captivating lyrics have been the mission. Galloway has been the frontman and principal songwriter for the rock bands Mama's Love and Maradeen, touring extensively across the country. 

We recently had a chance to catch up with Galloway, who provided some extensive background info on the new release and latest step in his already decorated career:

"I wrote most of these songs at our family cabin up in North Georgia between my move from Athens to Nashville. It's hard not to be affected by the feel of the Appalachian country writing up there alone. It's definitely my favorite place to write. The sound of the nearby river was always running low in the background and that was the initial inspiration for the album title. I was also reflecting on the current that was pulling me to Nashville during that transitional time. 

The album also has aspects of loss and redemption and the cross relationship between dark and light. "Poorhouse of Sin," probably the darkest tune, is followed by "Lean Into the Light" which is probably the most positive song, yet they're both beautiful to me in different ways. The crossing of genres too became interesting as the album progressed because I set out to make a singer/songwriter Americana album, but there are a lot of different sounds going on with some interesting sections and driving rhythms.

It's hard for me to define the genre, but we really tried to give the album its own sonic atmosphere. There are sections that are thick with layers but also exposed sections, and I guess it's all based on serving and building each song. The songs are diverse, but I do think we were able to maintain a cohesive characteristic to the album, which is good.

One of my favorite parts of the record is the very last minute, because every band member and guest musician trade licks over a climactic swing as the record fades out.We thought a lot about the track order as well because we wanted a lot of the songs to kind of flow into each other, for the whole album to hold up together as one piece...so I'm serious when I say you need to spark up that doobie, put on some headphones, and let it roll from start to finish."

Stream Tom Galloway's Cross Currents in its entirety here:


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. 

(laughter)

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...

NANCE: No...

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". 

NANCE: (laughs)

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?

JN: Yeah

What is your weird and freaky “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” instrument?

JN: I don't know...I have an electric sitar.

Really?!?

JN: Mmmm-hmmmmm.

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.

Oh, right.

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-

HUTCHENS: Yeah.

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. 

Oh really?

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. 

Good! Okay.

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.

Right.

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? 

Right.

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...

Mills: Yeah.

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.

A contractor. 

Mosier: I’m a hired gun.

Martinez: He's our gunslinger. "Banjo...Banjo..." (sung in a western tv show style)

(laughter)

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?

Mills: Yeah.

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.

Oh, good.

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:


Umphrey's McGee and Spafford Deliver Sold-Out Sunday Special August 13, 2018 16:20

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Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
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While Sunday afternoon would see heavy rains roll through early on, the skies would clear just in time for a rock show that Birmingham will be talking about for some time. Jam veterans Umphrey's McGee always bring a special show to The Magic City, but there was a notable buzz surrounding this particular date. The opening gig for Umphrey's has been a highly coveted spot for years, and I'm not sure that role has ever been filled by a hotter band than Spafford. These two seem like a match made in 'jam band heaven', and Sunday night's sold-out show at Avondale Brewing Company was everything we could have hoped for. 
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Spafford has quickly become one of the hottest rising acts in the jam/festival scene, and the showing of fans for this early 5:30 PM set was a direct indication. This would be just my third opportunity to catch these guys, with the first two coming earlier this year at SweetWater 420 Festival. The band came out firing with an 18-minute "Windmill" to open the set, showcasing their brilliant approach towards improvisation early on. Next up was the beautifully melodic "Slip and Squander," one of my favorites from the band's latest release For Amusement Only. This one captures the essence of keyboardist's Andrew "Red" Johnson's vocals as well as any tune in the bands arsenal. Heavy jams within "Lovesick Melody" and "Soil" would round out one of the stronger 45-minute sets of music I can remember. While we were all hungry for Umphrey's, Spafford left one hell of a mark on Birmingham. We'll all be anxiously awaiting their return, which will undoubtedly be a hot ticket. 
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Umphrey's took the stage shortly after to the first sold-out crowd that I've witnessed in quite a few shows at the brewery. This was a night that featured a heavy dosage of UM staples, starting off with a rocking "August." The set continued with "Day Nurse" > "The Linear," only to be followed by one of my all-time favorites, "Mantis." I can't help but throw my hands up in celebration when the chorus for that one comes around. The jam would ultimately segue into "Draconian" and one of the band's newest tracks, "Forks," would follow. Frontman Brendan Bayliss then called on "local up-and-comer" Taylor Hicks for the band's debut of Dobie Gray's "Drift Away" to close out the set. If anyone hadn't been singing along by this point in the night, they surely chimed in for this moment. Video footage from "Mantis" and "Drift Away" can be found below.
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Speaking of all-time favorites, the second set was about as strong as a long-time Umphrey's fan could ask for. "Ringo" lit a fire in the rowdy Birmingham crowd and a massive "Cemetery Walk" > "Cemetery Walk II" made for a super funky, electro dance party. Keyboardist Joel Cummins would continue to shine as he led the way into "2 x 2," another UM ballad which just resonates with a beautiful, peaceful vibe. "Bridgeless" provided some of the evening's heavier moments, as it tends to do, before a nice segue into "Seasons," a newer tune from the band's recent surprise album it's you. "Seasons" ultimately led back into the unfinished "Mantis" from earlier in the night, which made for an emphatic end to the second set. 
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The encore would point the spotlight on Cummins yet again as he sparked the intro and led the way through "Kimble." Just when I was thinking we might get another big cover to close out the night, the band ripped back into "Bridgeless" and finished in appropriately raging fashion. It had been about a year since my last non-festival, two-set Umphrey's show, and this was just what the doctor ordered. This band operates like a well-oiled machine, and they continue to raise the bar like very few have ever been capable of doing. We'll be anxiously awaiting their return, and speaking of which, would it be too much to ask for a two-night run in Alabama?  You know what they say...you can't get a hit unless you swing the bat. 
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Spafford - Birmingham, AL - 08.12.18

Set: Windmill, Slip and Squander, Lovesick Melody > Soil

Umphrey's McGee - Birmingham, AL - 08.12.18

Set 1: August, Day Nurse > The Linear, Mantis > Draconian, Forks, Drift Away[1]

Set 2: Ringo, Cemetery Walk > Cemetery Walk II, 2x2, Bridgeless >  Seasons > Mantis

Encore: Kimble > Bridgeless

Notes: [1] debut, Dobie Gray; with Taylor Hicks
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Watch a clip of Spafford performing "Soil" here:
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Watch a clip of Umphrey's McGee performing "Mantis" here:
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Watch a clip of Umphrey's peforming "Drift Away" with Taylor Hicks here:
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Phish Announces Free Webcast in Raleigh on Friday August 08, 2018 12:41

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Photo by Nicholas Lintz
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If you're looking to catch a Phish show this weekend but can't make it to North Carolina or Maryland, we've got great news. The band just confirmed a free webcast this Friday, August 10th at 7PM EDT from Phish's show at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek in Raleigh, NC. Tune-in to the FREE webcast at webcast.livephish.com.
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The band will continue to Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday - Sunday (8/11 - 8/12) before heading up to Watkins Glen International Speedway for their Curveball festival the following weekend (8/17 - 8/19). For those wondering how the band is sounding this summer, go ahead and check out the HD video of "Bathtub Gin > You Sexy Thing Reprise" from Atlanta on Sunday night below!
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Watch "Bathtub Gin > You Sexy Thing Reprise" here:
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CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival Confirms 2018 Lineup August 07, 2018 16:20

 

Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Festival organizers have revealed the initial lineup for CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival, which returns Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL for the fifth consecutive year on October 6th - 8th. This annual, grassroots music and arts festival has seen tremendous growth with each year, and 2018 looks to be no exception. The Fall Fest lineup includes veteran nationally touring acts such as The New Orleans Suspects, Charlie Hunter Trio, and The Fritz, as well as Steady FlowThe JaunteeEat a Peach (Allman Brothers Tribute)The Brook & The BluffLamont Landers Band, Early James & The LatestSkydyed, and The Pearl

Advance general admission tickets and VIP packages can be purchased at CukoRakko.com.  Stay tuned for info on the official Thursday night pre-party, future updates, exclusive artist interviews, and everything you need to know about CukoRakko. See below for further info on what to expect from this year's lineup.

As part of our CukoRakko preview coverage, we're giving away a pair of weekend passes to the festival. To enter the contest, head over to the Live & Listen Facebook page, share this post, and tag a friend in the comments section. Make sure your settings are designated to public, so we can see the shared post on our end. 

Artwork by Mike Sears: Light Train Studio

The New Orleans Suspects

New Orleans Suspects began playing together in 2009 as a pick-up band at the Maple Leaf in New Orleans. Comprised of some of the most seasoned, highly respected players in NOLA, the group called themselves The Unusual Suspects. Their chemistry was undeniable and by the summer of 2011 they decided to tour full-time, renaming the band New Orleans Suspects. They quickly began attracting large crowds from San Francisco to New York. They've released four CDs and established themselves as one of New Orleans’ best supergroups.

Charlie Hunter Trio

With a career spanning 16 years and almost 20 albums, Charlie Hunter consistently ups his game as an innovative writer and bandleader. He has worked with the likes of Norah Jones , Mos Def, John Mayer, D’Angelo and countless others. He is widely considered the authority on the seven and eight - string guitar, and continues to stun audiences with his ability to simultaneously bust out tasty bass parts, melodic leads and swinging rhythms.

Hunter has previously recorded for the venerable Blue Note label, Concord, Ropeadope, GroundUP and others. His recent independent venture is steered by his motivation to release music that most inspires him. Critics have touted his genius technique, but it's his profound artistic sensibility that propels his original music. Hunter's signature style of writing and performing has secured his place as one of today's great guitarists.

The Fritz

The Fritz is a soul-driven dance rock band hailing from Asheville, NC. The group’s aggressive approach to funk, soul, and rock creates a sound that is uniquely their own. Their high-energy, danceable songs provide a platform for each member to shine. With powerful vocals, climactic solos, and tight grooves, The Fritz has built a devoted following and is captivating audiences everywhere.

Originally formed in the rehearsal spaces of University of North Florida's School of Music, The Fritz discovered an immediate chemistry. Drawing on influences such as Prince, Talking Heads and Jimi Hendrix, the quintet integrated their diverse musical tastes and began writing music together. 

With their college days behind them, the Fritz soon set their eyes on the mountains of Western North Carolina, eventually settling in Asheville in July 2011. After the release of their 2012 debut album, Bootstrap, the band launched into a near-constant touring schedule. With appearances at festivals such as Hulaween, Wakarusa, and Catskill Chill, the band quickly gained a reputation as a live act not to be missed.

Steady Flow

From the Heart of the Midwest, Steady Flow brings a unique style of powerful funk music like you've never heard it before. Formed in 2012 by 18 year old, soul guitarist extraordinaire, Tanner Brown, and his older brother, Ky "Goonie-Mom" Brown on bass guitar, the group has now transformed into a six-piece funk-powerhouse, quickly claiming their spot as one of the best live acts around.

In Steady Flow's short existence, the group has taken on music festivals such as North Coast, Summer Camp, Phases of the Moon, and the list goes on. The band is constantly turning heads at every performance as their hard hitting Funk Rock compositions shake the room and force all audiences to dance, rage, & simply feel good.

Steady Flow released their first EP, "The Oneoff Sessions" in 2013, and their debut album, "Loud." in June 2015. The band released their newest full length album, "Do You Like That?" in April 2017! Do not miss a live show near you. Steady Flow is "The Future Of Funk."

The Jauntee

In a world filled with instant gratification, gimmicky over saturation and a lack of true improvisation, The Jauntee pays tribute to music’s ability to transcend simple entertainment and cultivate a truly distinctive experience. The Jauntee has fostered a musical community based on a breadth of original material that engages fans through nightly exploration and risk taking. Averaging over one hundred shows a year, with each containing a unique set list and their own special improvisational moments, the band is constantly expanding upon what defines them and their live performances.

With almost a decade’s worth of touring experience; appearances at major festivals such as Peach Fest, Catskill Chill, and Resonance; and 36 states toured with stops at national touring staples such as Brooklyn Bowl, Georgia Theatre, and the Paradise Rock Club, The Jauntee have been nurturing a fanbase of dedicated followers who are inspired by their music and willing to travel to see what the band has in store next. Fans that thoroughly analyze their music, track their set lists and passionately promote their music. The Jauntee makes each night an exciting prospect of a new shared experience with bust-outs, fresh jamming, poignant covers, and accessible songwriting.

Their upcoming live album “ALWAYS NEVER KNOWING” is a quintessential selection of live works from the band’s 2017 two-night-run at The Bridge Sound & Stage in their hometown of Cambridge, MA. It features 16 tracks that were professionally recorded, mixed, and mastered by sound engineer Alex Allinson. It showcases the band’s masterful playing and inspiring ability to take their original music and create something uniquely theirs night after night. It also features nine previously unreleased tracks that have quickly become staples of their live show. Experience the band in their purest element, pushing the boundaries of their sound while sharing that trip with their fans.
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Eat a Peach (An Allman Brothers Tribute)

Eat A Peach consists of five guys from Birmingham that share a mutual respect for the Allman Brothers music. With Will Cash on guitar, Matt Casey on guitar, Peyton Grant on keys, Mark Lanter on drums, and Aaron Branson on bass, what was once just an idea in high school came to life in the summer of 2008. All the members found their way back to Birmingham and back out on the music scene again. After a lot of rehearsing and learning tunes, the boys were ready to take the classic songs to the stage. With a great deal of local success, the band decided to hit the road playing college towns, private events, and festivals. Keep your eyes peeled for Eat A Peach in a town near you! Anyone who is a fan of the Allman Brothers Band is sure to have a great time at an Eat A Peach show.

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The Brook & The Bluff

Established in Birmingham, AL, The Brook & The Bluff is a four-man band that has been traveling and recording music since late 2016. The group consists of frontman Joseph Settine, drummer John Canada, guitarist Alec Bolton and bassist Fred Lankford. 

The guys have quickly become recognized for their evocative blend of instrumental talent and vocal harmony. These elements are readily apparent in the band's first single, “Masks.” Released in September of 2016, the song has helped spur the band forward in their musical pursuits. 

The group's first year as a full band has been widely successful. From charting on Spotify's US and Canada Viral 50 Playlists, performing at the NAMM shows in both Nashville and Anaheim, and selling out shows in Atlanta, Birmingham and Nashville, the band has had an exhilarating 2017. The band will be releasing a variety of new music in 2018!

Lamont Landers Band

Born and raised in Alabama, Lamont Landers grew up absorbing the soulful sounds of the south that surrounded him. At the age of 14 he taught himself how to play guitar, and at the age of 19 began singing. He spent years quietly honing his talents behind his bed room doors, listening to records by Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Sly & The Family Stone, and Ray Charles on repeat. At the age of 22 a candid video recorded by his sister of him performing the Ray Charles’ classic “Hit the Road Jack” went viral on YouTube, and with the help of Reddit.com garnered over 400,000 views overnight. His YouTube channel now has over 11,000 subscribers and over 1.9 million views, and his four-piece outfit, The Lamont Landers Band has since become a staple in college towns and perform across the southeast bringing their joyful noise of Soul, Funk, and R&B to audiences of all sizes.

And now with their crowd-pleasing performance on Showtime at the Apollo, the Lamont Landers Band is destined to become a household name.

Early James & The Latest

Birmingham based Americana band that attempts to re-spin what has been spun before. A mishmash of Blues, Country, Folk, and Jazz with crooner-esque styling.  While drawing influences from both old and new, we attempt a unique spin on something that has been spun many times over. A combination of genres that will not only knock your socks off, but put them back on for you afterwards.

Skydyed

Skydyed is a three-piece band that blends cutting edge electronic production with live instrumentation from Fort Collins, CO.

Featuring Andrew Slattery on bass synths and bass guitar, Max Doucette on guitar and keys, and Craig Babineau on drums, the band integrates generations of the state’s extensive musical heritage with their own deep-seated ties to the electronic music scene. With roots in rock, funk and jazz, Skydyed has created their own, diverse sound that intertwines organic live drums, bass and guitar through soulful jam, hard-hitting bass and profound break-beats.

With their unique and advanced production, Skydyed has established itself as a can’t miss performance that bridges the gap between EDM and live music.

The Pearl

The Pearl is a product of collaboration... a natural progression of musicians playing next to one another in different settings with different people, starting in 2016. All three members are quite good at keeping themselves musically busy, so as the gigs began to overlap, side projects and pop-up shows, typically featuring a mixture of this trio with other local talent, starting becoming more frequent.

As musicians, they also share a common thread in that all three work exceptionally hard between shows to practice and grow as musicians and people. Each member, even before they had met, had developed borderline excessive practice routines so, in hindsight, forming a trio was the move to make. 

Finally, in the Spring of 2018, when Taylor moved back home from Nashville to finish his masters in music education from Belmont, all it took was one trio gig for The Pearl to start writing, booking, and practicing together many hours a week. 

Here we are, just a little ways down the road, with full sets of original material + pages of cover songs, pulling crowds to some of the areas most popular venues & festivals.
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The Future of Guitar: A Conversation with Brandon "Taz" Niederauer August 07, 2018 12:01

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few years, you have most likely heard about teenage guitar prodigy Brandon "Taz" Niederauer. Taz has taken the jam scene by storm, appearing at many of the nation's most prominent music festivals, and sitting in with the likes of Gregg Allman, Col. Bruce Hampton, George Porter Jr., Widespread Panic, The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey's McGee, and so many more. Last Friday, Live & Listen's lead photographer, Craig Baird, had a chance to sit down and catch up with the young superstar. See below for the full conversation, as well as various video content and a photo gallery from the Terminal West show. 

Interview by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Let's talk about how this all started. I've read that your musical journey began after watching School of Rock when you were eight. At what point did you really start focusing on playing?

Taz: Watching the School of Rock is definitely what started it all. I started taking the guitar seriously as soon as I picked it up for the first time and played my first couple of notes. I knew I loved it and wanted to pursue it. 

It wasn't long until you were cast as the principal guitarist in the broadway  musical (School of Rock) at age 12. How was that experience, and what type of opportunities came from this role?

Taz: Many opportunities came from that, I mean...it was an amazing experience. I loved every second of it. One experience that came from that was I got to play in Jesus Christ Superstar live on TV. An Andrew Lloyd Webber live production so that was amazing. So many opportunities have came from that production that I can't even name them all. I'm so happy, and I'm so grateful for all of these opportunities.

Wow...I read that almost 10 million people tuned in to watch that.

Taz: Yeah, it was really cool.

Your rapid popularity certainly steered you to a unique lifestyle at an early age. How vital has your family been through this experience, and how do you guys go about balancing things out?

Taz: We have family dinners. We're just a normal family when I'm home. They're just so supportive. My mom, dad, and my brother are just the most supportive people I know, and I can't thank them enough for that. I'm so grateful for them. When I go home, my brother and I are playing football and basketball outside. We play video games together. It's very much a normal family when I'm home. I still go to school, so I'm at home most of the week, and then I do shows on the weekend. I'm just so grateful to have a super supportive loving family. 

It seems like each year, the momentum continues to build. Who were some of the early big name artists that invited you to play with them? Are there any in particular that stick out the most?

Taz: As far as the notable artists that I've played with, I can't thank them enough for the opportunity to play. I definitely can't pick a favorite. Every single person I get to play with, I'm super grateful for the opportunity. I guess I'd say the more notable artists I've played for would have to be George Porter Jr, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Col. Bruce Hampton, Lady Gaga, Slash, Dr. John, Warren Haynes, Umphrey's McGee. Those are the first few that come to mind, and I can't thank them enough for the opportunity.

That's amazing. I'm no musician, but I know that comprehending and writing original music is no easy task. Not many have reason to do it in their early teenage years. What is your current approach, and how do you see things unfolding moving forward?

Taz: It's either things that happen in my daily life, or I'm writing a story about a certain character, or I'm writing about something that everybody experiences. I hope that the audience, at least one audience member, every night, can connect to what I'm singing, because I really do mean it. Even through my playing, I hope that I can touch one person in the audience, move them, make their day. I can't thank these people enough for coming to my performances. I mean...they could have stayed home or done something else. To spend that night with me is just mind boggling. The band...we spend many hours a week rehearsing, and I hope our hard work pays off, and they love what we're doing, because we love them. 

I know this city brings a whirlwind of memories to mind. Most recently, performing with Umphrey's McGee, String Cheese, Tedeschi Trucks, and so many more on at SweetWater 420 Festival. There was also the Hampton 70 show. How would you describe your relationship with Col. Bruce and his lasting impact on you personally?

Taz: My relationship with Col. Bruce was special. He was such a mentor. He was probably my biggest mentor. Not just to me, but to everyone in the music world. I mean...everyone has been touched by him. He's given me so much advice. To always play with the utmost intention. Always be humble. Love your fans. Make them the number one priority. He was an amazing guy. He's brought up so many amazing musicians. The time that he devoted to helping me out is just again, mind boggling. The fact the he would even consider taking me under his wing. The Hampton 70 show, of course it was a whirlwind of emotions. It was an amazing time and unfortunately was the day of his passing. Once you get past the horrific part...I say this all the time, but if he were to write his own story, his own life, that's the way he would go out. 

I agree. My friend and I right in front of the both of you during that encore and his passing. It was truly an emotional night. So let's switch gears and talk about Brooklyn Comes Alive, which is coming up this September. Tell me how that came about.

Taz: Well, they asked me to lead a set focusing on the artists that we've recently lost, including Col. Bruce Hampton, members of the Allman Brothers, and a whole bunch more. I said that's something I would be delighted to do, so I got some of my favorite musicians in the world, including George Porter Jr. (The Meters), Adam Smirnoff (Lettuce), Jeff Sipe (Aquarium Rescue Unit), Peter Levin (Gregg Allman Band), and Elise Testone (American Idol). I asked them if they could come play and they said yes. All of these musicians that I'm playing with for this special set have influenced me, so the fact that they said yes to play with me is an amazing thing. 

I know that will be a special experience. Your calendar seems to be as busy as anyone these days. Before we wrap this up, I'm curious to know what can we expect from Taz and Co. the rest of this year? What has you most excited?

Taz: I'm going to Japan this October. I've got jitters for that. I can't wait to go and play four shows, so that's gonna be awesome. I can't wait to go to new states that I've never been to before. We're going to Illinois and Indiana soon. I'm looking forward to meeting those folks over there. Every single state has a different way of life. Different culture. Even every city. The crowd is even different, so I can't wait to feed off the energy of the different crowds and meet all the new people. 

That will be an amazing experience. It's been a pleasure watching your story unfold thus far, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds. Thank you so much for your time today Taz. 

Taz: Of course. Thank you and hope you enjoy the show.

Watch Taz perform his new tune "My Revival" at Chicago Music Exchange here:

Watch Taz perform "Statesboro Blues" with Tedeschi Trucks Band at SweetWater 420 Festival here:

Craig Baird (Home Team Photography) and Taz at Terminal West