photo by Miguel Gutierrez
You’re currently based in Austin, but moved here from Athens, Ohio. What was the music scene like there? Did it help shape who you are as a songwriter and a musician?
Lots of music comes out of Athens, Ohio and the scene there is close-knit and versatile. On Monday nights, you’ll see the bass player of Rattletrap Stringband play at Casa Nueva and then a couple days later, you’ll see the same person performing at a rock show at the Union in a different band. It isn’t uncommon for a multitude of cross-over musicians to all interact and be friends within the scene, even though they are doing seemingly disparate things musically. Like most places, there are scene politics at play but because Athens is so pedestrian-friendly and is a city that prioritizes the arts, the atmosphere is overwhelmingly supportive, encouraging, and non-competitive. Living there for about seven years, I found it to be the best place I could possibly be to nurture my curiosities and development as a songwriter and a musician.
You’ve been playing lots of shows in Austin recently, your most recent being a sold-out show opening for Dana Falconberry at the Cactus Cafe on the University of Texas. Have you found a music scene in Austin that you feel a part of?
One of the things that I have found surprising about being an artist in Austin is that I will often meet incredibly talented, driven, and creative people who also are willing to help you out toward achieving your own creative ideas or goals. Obviously, Austin is a much more competitive place than somewhere like Athens, Ohio, but it’s nice to be surrounded by so much sweetness, too. I’m slowly starting to feel like I am part of a scene here but it’s taking some time. Opening for Dana Falconberry’s band at the Cactus has been one of the high-points of my time in Austin as a musician, for sure.
What are some of your favorite Austin acts?
When my wife and I moved here a couple years ago, we would go to house shows as a way to meet musicians in Austin and hear them share their songs. One of those people we first met when we moved here was Aisha Burns. It’s hard for my wife and I to miss any of her shows when she is playing because she is that good. I also feel similarly about a band called Cross Record, whom I have recently discovered and enjoyed a great deal. In general, I feel lucky in that most of the musicians I admire in Austin also happen to be friends — Boone Graham, Real Live Tigers, Dana Falconberry, Molybden, Jesse Wooten, David Israel, Julia Lucille, The Loblolly Boy, Monk Parker, Saint Clair, Lord Buffalo, Salesman, and RF Shannon to name a few. Each one of these people or bands have been very kind and supportive to me at some point or another and I am grateful for that.
One of your songs, “Where I’m Calling From,” takes its name from a Raymond Carver short story. How much of an influence does literature have on your songwriting? Who are some of your favorite fiction writers?
More than anything, literature can help me with expressing tone in my songs. I try not to re-contextualize a specific part of the story to a song that I am writing but it is easy for me to remember how I feel when I read specific stories and then translate that emotion into song and how it (may) relate to my life experience. That’s how it was with Carver’s story and some of my favorite fiction writers at the moment are Richard Fariña, Barry Hannah, David Foster Wallace, and Edward Abbey.
Misra Records, a label based out of Ohio, is releasing an album of yours from 2006 called Nostra Nova on vinyl for the first time on April 7. How would you describe the album to someone who hasn’t heard your music before?
When I put Nostra Nova out on a very small scale in 2006, a reviewer had written that the songs on the album were crafted in an equivalent way to how Frank Gehry designs and builds his architecture. My music is largely melody-driven but tries to explore alternative textures, themes, sub-themes and motifs that are under-explored in folk and popular music. This album was heavily influenced by the writing and thoughts of psychologist C.G. Jung, the art of Adolf Wolfli, and mindfulness exercises.
Do you have plans to release some newer music later this year?
Yes, I cannot commit to a specific date at this time but I am currently in the beginning stages of recording music for my next “studio”-quality album.
You have a couple tours in the works for this spring. Do you use playing live as an opportunity to try out new songs? Do your songs change the more you play them live?
Yes, I’ve been fortunate to find arrangements to play live shows more frequently and I am grateful for that. I usually try to play at least one new song that I am working on whenever I play a show and I find that my songs tend to morph a great deal after playing them live over time. It is not good to keep songs static as if they were in a jar. You have to let them breathe.