Archive Page 2

10
Oct
10

The Original Dawg

David GrismanThe number of decades that mandolinist David Grisman has been creating music is only rivaled by the number of genres that his brand of acoustical music spans. Grisman is the original master of “dawg music,” and it has nothing to do with hip hop or rap.

Grisman began piano lessons in 1952 at the age of 7. After three years, he lost interest in the piano and his attention swayed toward the mandolin. Like many budding folk musicians in the late 1950s, Grisman discovered folk music through the Kingston Trio and the lively Greenwich Village music scene. Grisman started his musical career in 1963 as a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band. His close friend Jerry Garcia gave him the nickname “Dawg” in 1973. They first met in 1964 at a Bill Monroe concert.

“Dawg music” is what Grisman calls his fusion of bluegrass and Django Reinhardt/Stéphane Grappelli-influenced jazz, as highlighted on his 1979 album Hot Dawg. It was Grisman’s amalgamation of Reinhardt-era jazz, bluegrass, folk, Old World Mediterranean string band music and modern jazz fusion that personified “Dawg” music.

In 1975 Grisman got together with guitar virtuoso Tony Rice, multi-instrumentalists Mark O’Connor, Mike Marshall, Darol Anger — and featured guests such as violin genius Stéphane Grappelli — and formed the David Grisman Quintet. Although the lineup has changed through the years, the DGQ continues to produce music with the same confidence and finesse as it did 35 years ago.

This article was originally published in Eugene Weekly, October 7, 2010

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16
Sep
10

A Wild Ride — No Bull

Ryan BinghamRyan Bingham’s smoke and whiskey etched voice is quite deceiving. You might think you’re listening to some dusty, middle-aged, leather-faced guitar slinger instead of a brooding, good-looking 29-year-old former bull rider. If his rusty-saw of a voice sounds familiar, then you probably saw the film Crazy Heart. Bingham penned the film’s theme song, “The Weary Kind,” for which he received both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Original Song this year. That’s a wild ride for a guy who didn’t pick up a guitar until he was 17 years old.

Bingham’s work on the Crazy Heart soundtrack brought him together with producer T-Bone Burnett, who produced Bingham’s latest album, Junky Star, a vehicle for his ever-improving songwriting skills and his raw out-in-front vocals. It also has all the markings of a Burnett project, giving it a stripped-down, timeless sound. The unobtrusive acoustic accompaniment of Bingham’s longtime band, The Dead Horses, never overdrives the vocals.

The 12 tracks of Junky Star are populated with characters from the harder side of life — junkies, murderers, strippers and thieves — clinging to a slender glimmer of hope. Bingham’s vocal style ranges from the Dylanesque “Direction of the Wind” to a Nebraska-era Springsteen on “Yesterday’s Blues,” with others bringing Steve Earl or Tom Waits to mind. In the standout track “Hallelujah,” a man robbed and shot to death tells one of the most compellingly tragic tales. He unwillingly wanders between life and the afterlife, refusing to abandon his passion for life and the lover he left behind.

This article was originally published in Eugene Weekly, September 16, 2010

10
Sep
10

What’s Become of the Bus

After Jerry Garcia died in 1995, the remaining members of the Grateful Dead officially decided to break up. Over the years, there have been a few reunions of the surviving members involving a variety of additional musicians. In 1998, former Grateful Dead band mates Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart formed a band called The Other Ones, which later became The Dead; they went on hiatus in 2004.

Ken Kesey with the original "Furthur" bus in July 2001. Photo: Brian Davies

The latest Weir and Lesh collection of musicians, Furthur, formed in 2009. The band’s name comes from Ken Kesey’s prankster-filled bus of the ’60s. The bus’ name placard, designed by artist Roy Sebern, gave inspiration to carry on whenever the bus broke down. The bus died shortly after a trip to Woodstock in 1969. It currently rests on the late Ken Kesey’s farm in Pleasant Hill.

Acid Test Poster 1965

The ties between Kesey and the Grateful Dead go back beyond the beginning — before Jerry Garcia picked up that old dictionary in search of a new name for their band, turned to Phil Lesh and said, “Hey man, how about The Grateful Dead?” Before they were The Grateful Dead, they were The Warlocks, and they played at many of Kesey’s parties during the mid-’60s. Their first performance as The Grateful Dead was on December 4, 1965, at one of Kesey’s Acid Tests. From there, The Grateful Dead — with an eclectic style that fused elements of rock, folk, bluegrass, reggae, country, jazz, psychedelic and space rock — took that long, strange trip into rock and roll history.

Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and Furthur

In addition to Weir and Lesh, Furthur has a strong lineup: keyboardist Jeff Chimenti of Weir’s band RatDog; guitarist/vocalist John Kadlecik of the Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra; drummer Joe Russo, who first played with Lesh in 2006; and backing vocalists Sunshine Becker and Jeff Pehrson. The Grateful Dead’s music remains the same, but the Deadhead has changed quite a bit over the years.

"Old Joe" O'Hara

"Old Joe" O'Hara - Click picture to watch video of Widespread Panic performing "Old Joe" at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee, WI.

I spoke with a longtime Deadhead, Joe O’Hara, also known as Old Joe. For you Widespread Panic fans, yes, he’s that “Old Joe.” O’Hara has been going to concerts since the mid-’60s when he was about 6 years old (thanks to his older cousins), and he’s seen the Grateful Dead countless times since the early ’70s. Regarding the Deadhead scene, he told me, “Before ‘Touch of Grey’ came out [in 1987], it was a very kind, peaceful scene. We were family; we helped each other out. I would make big pots of stew or chili and feed others and sell some of it. I’d sell beer and tie-dye too.”

O’Hara continued, “After ‘Touch of Grey,’ — which, believe it or not, was their biggest hit with that MTV video — all of a sudden, the scene filled with a bunch of wanna-bes. We, as a family, would try to help those that looked like they needed help. Did they appreciate it? No, it would be, ‘Thanks, what’s next?’ They didn’t get it. It lost a lot of its appeal. It was that way until Jerry died.”

O’Hara assured me, “Now it’s come back to calmer people at the shows just enjoying the music.”

This article was originally published in Eugene Weekly, September 9, 2010

25
Aug
10

Tyler Fortier – The Next Big Thing?

The Next Big ThingI became aware of Tyler Fortier a few months ago while doing an article on an act for which he opened. Honestly, after going to the show, I liked Tyler’s music much more than the headliner. That’s just me.
I interviewed him and I’ve been enjoying his music. I’ve had an in depth article about him on the back burner for a couple of months now (that I promise will be my next entry).

In the meantime, Tyler is in the running for the “Next Big Thing” that is sponsored by Eugene Weekly. His entry is the very timely and driving  “Fear of the Unknown”. “Fear Of The Unknown” is a not-quite, almost finished version of a song that will be found on one of Tyler’s future releases. For a not-quite, almost finished version it sounds damn good. Go listen to it (you can click on the song name or on Tyler’s picture to go listen to it and vote). If you like it even half as much as I did, vote for it!

Tyler Fortier, at the age of 25, has released 4 CD’s and proves to be a consistent presence in the NW as a prolific singer/songwriter. With the release of his new record, This Love Is Fleeting on April 15th of this year, Fortier embarked on a 2 month long/40 city tour throughout the NW (OR, WA, ID) and has been playing shows and festivals in the Eugene area throughout the summer before he heads back out on the road in September. Since Fortier’s return home, he’s recorded 15 new songs and declares, “ he has many more to go,” already planning the releases of his 5th and 6th records.

Much more on Tyler Fortier coming to OKOM very soon!

20
Aug
10

Robert Earl Keen Interview – Part 3 of 3

On August 18, 2010 I was given the opportunity to interview the legendary singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen. In Part One of this three part interview we talked about a variety of subjects – a burning car, Todd Snider, and Robert’s not-so-traditional love songs. In Part Two of the interview we explored some of his more bizarre recordings and one of his somewhat unorthodox songwriting methods. In this final installment, Robert tells us some more about his songwriting methods, some of his thoughts on mainstream country music, and an interesting side-story about a song that is probably his most popular – “The Road Goes On Forever.” Enjoy!

Robert Earl KeenOKOM: Okay, you’ve already mentioned one of your methods of songwriting – lying naked on the floor with your guitar –

REK: [Laughs]

OKOM: [Laughs] So, I don’t even know how to ask this next one. When it comes to songwriting, when compared to mainstream – oh hell, I can’t compare you to mainstream, I can’t even listen to that shit – anyway, you seem to get it so right when others seem to be getting it so wrong. I guess the question is – how do you approach a song? Is it story first, lyrics first, melody first, or does it vary?

REK: Because I’m not a genius musically, I really like to latch on to some kind of music that stirs me or something that piques my interest. So, I do kind of just strum guitars. My God, when I really get set up to writing, I set about five, six, or seven guitars around me. I’ll strum on one for a while, and maybe I’ll feel like it’s kind of dead. So, I’ll pick up another one until I sort of get a vibe. What happens with me is that the music will bring out some sort of image. Then I’ll take that image and try to describe it. Maybe it’s a car in a parking lot under a street lamp, or maybe it’s a girl in a doorway – any kind of an image. That’s where the beginning starts to blossom a little bit. Then once I describe it to my satisfaction, then I’ll try to create a puzzle. And then I’ll try to solve the puzzle.

OKOM: That’s really interesting. That’s a cool approach, I mean, starting without knowing the ending.

REK: Yeah, I know. I like to read. One time I went on this Leon Uris jag where I read all his books. Then I read some of his biography stuff, and when I read that he’d started with the ending, I went, “Well shit, that’s cheating!”

OKOM: [Laughs]

REK: You know? [Laughs] Anybody can work backwards. Let’s work forwards and find the mystery, you know? Where’s the mystery? So, I’ve never been much on starting with the ending. I don’t know why. It’s just one of those things. I like to stumble onto the ending, you know?

OKOM: Yeah.

REK: It’s more why I don’t write from titles much. I’ve written a few songs from titles and they’re never as good as a song that I write from an image. So people will give you those – “Hey, here’s a good title for you!” – shit, I don’t know, man, I can’t write from a title. It’s a tried-and-true method; it’s just not my tried-and-true method.

OKOM: So, where do you do most of your writing? Do you do it on the road?

REK: No, no. I have this place; it’s a little shack on a side of a hill that I’ve owned for about twelve years. I do most of my writing there. I used to say that I didn’t write on the road. But, I’ve got where I’m on the road so much that I’m working on that. I’m working on getting over that whole fear. I’m not saying that it works all the time. It seems to be harder to really kind of mine some serious lyrical pay dirt on the road. However, I do try a lot more than I used to. I’m on the road all the time, so I got to write something.

The Rose HotelOKOM: Hey, one of the songs from Rose Hotel – “Village Inn” – Have they ever called you and thanked you for their increase in business since that song came out?

REK: [Laughs] No, they never did. But I haven’t been back. So, if I go back, I’m definitely going to hit them up for it!

OKOM: Yeah, they should at least put you up for free, right?

REK: Yeah, yeah.

OKOM: So you actually did write it there?

REK: Yeah, I wrote it right there. Even though there was some tongue-in-cheek stuff going on there, it truly was an inspiration. I was truly inspired. As a matter of fact – and I’m not a big [guitar] tuning guy but – I found a tuning on that, I swear that it was just because of where I was and what was going on. That’s how I ended up writing the song. Like I was telling you, I have to find some type of music to follow. I found this little weird small change in tuning that just made that song happen. That was what it was.

OKOM: Another song on Rose Hotel – “Wireless in Heaven” – You haven’t caught any heat from the Vatican over that one yet, have you?

REK: No, I don’t even worry about it anymore. [Laughs] Actually, I was worried more about heat from Starbucks.

OKOM: [Laughs] Yeah, they’re pretty tight with their trademark.

REK: Right, they are.

The Road Goes on ForeverOKOM: Okay Robert, this next question comes off the Todd Snider Listserv – they call it The Shithouse Wire. [Robert laughs] I put this question out there – “If you had one question to ask Robert Earl Keen, what would it be?” So, this comes from Eric Kincaid in Grand Rapids, Michigan – damn, I sound like Casey Kasem…

REK: Yeah. [Laughs]

OKOM: Anyway, he asked, “Have you ever been approached about making a movie based on the song ‘The Road Goes on Forever’?”

REK: Well, that one – I used to have a stack of screenplays that people used to send me based on that song.

OKOM: Really?

REK: Yeah, yeah, and I was always like, yeah, go ahead and write this screenplay or go ahead and make this movie. And I read some of them, and they all really just pretty much reflected the song scene for scene.

OKOM: They didn’t expand on it?

REK: No, not much, not importantly. Then, this girl from somewhere around Dallas wrote one and won some kind of little local screenplay writing contest with it. They sent it to me and it was great. It was really great! It was sort of Smokey and the Bandit meets The Road Warrior [Mad Max 2] sort of thing, and it was really interesting! It clipped along and filled in lots of stuff. It had some exposition and it had a lot of back-story for the characters. It was great! So, William Morris – I don’t know whether they’ve optioned or something – there was no money, of course, that changed hands – but it’s been sitting on somebody’s desk somewhere for the last couple of years like that. But, that was cool.

OKOM: Yeah, that is cool. I’ve got to ask you about a trilogy on Walking Distance – that pretty much makes Walking Distance one of my favorite albums of yours – and that’s the trilogy of “Road to No Return” – with “Carolina,” “New Life in Old Mexico,” and “Still Without You.” Do you do those much live?

REK: No, I did when I first [released] it. It’s not what you’d call a crowd-pleaser. I did it back then because I really loved doing it, and it was fun to do. I’d have to dust it off; we haven’t done it in a long time. It was a lot of fun but it took eighteen minutes. So, if you have a crowd full of beer-drinking screamers, it didn’t hold their attention very well.

OKOM: Do you have a preference when it comes to types of crowds? Do you like a crowd that really listens?

REK: I love a crowd that really listens but you have to be on your best behavior and you got to keep moving. You’ve got to be a little bit more on your toes with a crowd that really listens. Since I’ve been playing with this band for the last fifteen years, we’ve played so many crazy, rowdy, drunk crowds and stuff; I’d have to say that getting up for that is a little more difficult than riding the wave of a crowd of screaming, yelling, happy people.

OKOM: Do you have to sometimes adjust your set list on the fly?

REK: Yeah, I do. As a matter of fact we have – what is called in the band – The Secret Mike that’s located in front of the drums where I run over to Bill, the bass player, and tell him, “Alright, slash this bunch of stuff, and we’re going to go to these songs!” Then he’ll tell the rest of the band.

OKOM: Yeah, I can imagine that the crowds can really vary so much.

REK: Yeah, they really can.

OKOM: Robert, thank you very much for your time. I’m really looking forward to seeing you in Roseburg.

REK: Great!

OKOM: I really appreciate your time, Robert. Damn, I could go on for hours about your songs but I know you’re busy. I’ll see you in Roseburg.

REK: Well, I appreciate it, too. Be sure and say hi!

Note from author: I didn’t make it to Roseburg BUT I did go to Robert’s show the next night (8/25) in Portland, Oregon. What a great show it was, too! It’s always a treat to see him with a large group of true REK fans.
Some personal highlights – hearing “The Great Hank,” “Farm Fresh Onions,” “A Border Tragedy,” “Feelin’ Good Again,” and the tattooed girl in the baby blue dress who danced non-stop for two hours in front of my cousin Brian and me.
Thanks for an unforgettable night, Robert!

Go back to Part One

Go back to Part Two

20
Aug
10

Robert Earl Keen Interview – Part 2 of 3

Robert Earl KeenOn August 18, 2010 I was given the opportunity to interview the legendary singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen. In Part One of this three part interview we talked about a variety of subjects – a burning car, Todd Snider, and Robert’s not-so-traditional love songs. In this portion of the interview we explore some of his more bizarre recordings and one of his somewhat unorthodox songwriting methods. Enjoy!

OKOM: Now, going back to your What I Really Mean album – There are two songs on there that I love, that’s “The Great Hank” and “Mr. Wolf and Mamabear.” Both of those make me want to ask a two-part question – Where did those stories come from, what were you smoking at the time, and where can I get some?

REK: [Laughs] Well, “Mr. Wolf and Mama Bear” has to do with a personal small-town politic thing that I got involved in. Well, I didn’t get involved in it; I got sucked into it. I didn’t ever want to be a part of it.

OKOM: Wow, really?

REK: Yeah, and it [the song] was my vindication.

OKOM: [Laughs] That’s great.

REK: That’s how I vindicated the entire scenario, to be able to write something in kind of a puzzle form. What do they call it? It’s kind of an allegory without any religious overtones.

OKOM: I’m assuming that you can’t say where that took place.

What I Really MeanREK: Yeah, it was where I was living there in Bandera, Texas. It was all pretty well documented. It was in all the papers and all kinds of stuff. My thing was – because I tried to really hold the noble and gentlemanly line on the whole situation – I never felt like I got my true emotional indoctrination out there. I never really let them have it like I wanted to, so I did it in a song.

OKOM: So, that was your payback.

REK: Yeah, that was my payback. [Laughs] Oddly enough, I have a few songs like that, and every time you sing those kinds of songs, you kind of get your own inner-grin going about that kind of thing.

OKOM: Yeah, I can imagine.

REK: And “The Great Hank” was kind of a combination of some long thoughts on Hank Williams and his career, the strangeness of it, and the shortness of it. And I was in a play in Philadelphia about fifteen years ago that had some elements of Hank Williams. I was truly trying to do one those things that was really interesting and really sideways. I got naked and laid down on the floor in the shack that I write in –

OKOM: [Laughs] You’re kidding, right?

REK: No, I’d lay on the hardwood floor and I’d play the guitar until that kind of popped out. Once it popped out, it was all there in front of me like a hologram. I thought, “Wow, this is it!” So I just stayed with it. I even thought of changing the end but it came out so smooth and beautiful that I didn’t even want to mess with it. I could have tweaked the end a little bit because it does kind of fade off into the dust.

OKOM: Yeah, it does.

REK: I could have come with a little bit more of an impact or something like that, like I like to do, but it just fell out so great – I left it alone.

OKOM: The first time that I listened to it, I had to back it up and listen again where you have that line about him being in drag.

REK: Yeah.

OKOM: Plus, the visuals of him sitting there under the glow of the TV with mascara running down his cheek – it’s just priceless.

REK: Yeah [Laughs]

OKOM: [Laughs] It’s just great, man.

REK: Well, thanks. Yeah, I love that one. That’s fun, but it’s hard to do on stage though, because there’s a bunch of words, a lot of words. It’s almost a tongue twister. If I get started and I stumble – I’ll stumble big time.

OKOM: So, that’s one of your personal favorites?

REK: Yeah, I like to do it. It’s fun to do. It’s more of a performance piece than it is a song.

Gravitational ForcesOKOM: Another one of yours – that just popped into my head – that’s along those lines is “Gravitational Forces.” Were you actually in a club like that?

REK: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah. That was all, like I said, more journalistic. I was pretty much talking and telling what I thought. But what I wanted to do with that was the music gave it that spaceiness, gave it the total weird vibe that was really occurring at that place. That was a nightmare from start to finish. I could write another song about the gig itself.

OKOM: Wow, so that actually did happen.

REK: Yeah, oh yeah. It was this place called the E9 Club in El Paso, Texas – the worst place ever. I mean, I’ve played worse places, but that was one of the more bizarre bad places.

OKOM: Man, that’s great. I thought – as bizarre as it sounded – this place can’t really exist. If it did, that’s really something.

REK: Only in El Paso, basically.

OKOM: I guess anything goes there.

REK: Yeah.

Go read Part Three…

Go back to Part One…


19
Aug
10

Robert Earl Keen Interview – Part 1 of 3

As I waited for Robert Earl Keen to call, I calmly went over my notes and made sure that the recorder was set up and ready to do its job – all was cool. The phone rang, I hit the record button, and hit the talk button on the phone – I had nothing but a dial tone. What the hell? The phone rang again, I hit the record button again, and hit the talk button on the phone – again – nothing but a dial tone. Then I remembered – hit the talk button first, then hit the record button. Damn, I hoped that Robert wasn’t too pissed. I was no longer calm. I waited for what seemed like an eternity (it was only about thirty seconds) for the phone to ring again – and it did. My anxiety faded after the first few minutes talking with Robert. It was a lot of fun. Here’s part one of that interview.

Robert Earl KeenREK: Hi, I’m calling for Blake. This is Robert Keen.

OKOM: Robert, how are you doing?

REK: Fantastic.

OKOM: Sorry about the phone problem. I, uhh, dropped it… twice.

REK: No problem. [Laughs] Don’t worry about it!

OKOM: First off, I want to thank you for taking the time out for this interview. I really appreciate it.

REK: Sure!

OKOM: I wanted to ask you about a few things. I’d like to talk about Rose Hotel, and I’d like to go back a few albums as well.

REK: Okay.

OKOM: You know, you and I are the same age, and I also had a car go up in flames back in 1974.

REK: Wow. Now that’s worth going over, huh?

OKOM: Yeah, but I’m SURE that your story is much better than mine. Do you mind telling me about that car of yours in flames on the cover of your Picnic album?

REK: Yeah, It was at Willie Nelson’s [1974] picnic that I went to. I had a date, which was really rare for me.

OKOM: Really? [Laughs]

REK: Yeah, so, I had a date, and I took her to the picnic. You know, I guess it was sort of on the final days of free love, braless girls, and all that great stuff. We just kind hung out at the picnic. The day was a little bit hazy; I’d say a lot of it was fuzzy.

OKOM: Well, it was the seventies.

REK: Yeah, some self-induced and maybe some of it was the weather. But the car caught on fire out in the parking lot and I didn’t have anything to do with it. But you could see the big huge plumes of smoke behind the stage. They came out and they explained how they had this fire out in the parking lot. They called out my license plate number, and I just happened to know it. I remember just running and running through all the people hollering that my car was on fire. People were laughing and pointing. I finally got out there and it was really, truly just burnt to nothing.

Robert Earl Keen's PicnicOKOM: Yeah, in the picture it’s totally engulfed in flames.

REK: Yeah. I just literally sat down on the burnt grass there and started weeping. My girlfriend, my date – she thought that it was the funniest thing she ever saw. So, that was the kind of the end of that relationship, I think.

OKOM: Oh, man! [Laughs]

REK: No, man, it was. We had to hitchhike back. It was some kind of deal.

OKOM: That’s a great story. Hey, I’ve been listening to you for a long time –

REK: Uh-huh, good.

OKOM: – and your songs, your lyrics tell such vivid stories full of out-of-the-ordinary characters. Do these stories sometimes stem from personal experiences and people you’ve met or known?

REK: Well, I think that every good piece of fiction stems from a true story. I always get a kick out of how movies always say it’s from a true story. Well, hell, it’s all from some kind of point of truth. It just depends on how much your imagination kicks in. So, it really varies with me. It can come from something small – me seeing some kind of scene or scenario in my imagination, and then taking it on from there literally. For instance, the song “Gringo Honeymoon” that we still play is almost a true journalistic telling of an exact story.

Gringo HoneymoonOKOM: Really?

REK: Yeah, so I try to go from being as imaginative as I can, to sometimes trying to write down exactly what happened because – to be cliché – truth is stranger than fiction in some instances.

OKOM: That’s true. You know, one time I was talking to Todd Snider about his song called “You Think You Know Somebody” from his first album. I was asking him what inspired him to write that because I thought maybe it was based on someone he knew. He told me he was trying to do what you did with “The Road Goes on Forever” – and that’s to tell a story with an ending that you don’t see coming.

REK: Really?

OKOM: Yeah, and I thought that was pretty cool. He told me that he really worked hard at it too. Was that your intention [with “The Road Goes on Forever”]?

REK: I always feel that I have an inner need to have some kind of wrap up. I don’t know, some sort of dramatic ending. I like drama – in movies, in books, in songs – in any kind of narrative. So, yes, that’s almost always my intention. Moreover, in the world of Todd Snider, Todd has taken it and gone beyond. I mean I’m completely amazed with what Todd does, how brilliant he is with not only his songs, but his storytelling, and his whole show. I think that he’s a talent that has separated him apart from all the others. I think that he’s almost created his own genre.

OKOM: Yeah, and in a way, you have too. But yours goes back so much further and there are guys like Todd that look up to you.

REK: And that’s quite a compliment to me, but he took it on and moved it to something else. It’s nice. I’m just glad that I know him.

OKOM: It has got to be a great feeling that you inspired guys like that.

REK: It is. Sometimes I’m surprised when Todd gives me credit for anything, but he’s just very magnanimous in that way.

OKOM: You’ve never really been mainstream country. You do things your own way. Was there ever a point in your career where you’ve thought, “Maybe I should be more mainstream?”

REK: Well, I don’t know. Yeah, I guess there were times when I’d think that I’d want to be mainstream, you know, written mainstream kind of songs. But it really never was meant to be. I haven’t spent a lot of time worrying about it. But I certainly have wondered what it takes to be mainstream, because I’m not really sure what that is. Just about the time that you think that you’ve figured things out – it changes. You know, I see people with songs these days that I wrote fifteen years ago, basically the same song, that’s now mainstream. I had people – in radio and stuff – back then tell me that’ll never happen; we’ll never play that kind of stuff on the radio.

OKOM: Now they’re playing something that’s damn near the same thing.

REK: Yeah, but you know, we all have our own destinies and I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with that whole idea. So, I just like to write what I write.

OKOM: Right, right, [Laughs] which a lot of us appreciate.

REK: Well, good! I’m glad that I do connect with people. That’s the main thing. If I didn’t connect then I wouldn’t be doing this.

OKOM: I think it comes back to your style of storytelling is what people connect with. They can visualize those settings.

REK: Uh-huh, good.

The Rose HotelOKOM: There’s also another group of your songs that I kind of categorized as non-traditional, sad love songs like “Broken End of Love” and “For Love.” The title track of Rose Hotel is another one of those types of love songs.

REK: Right, right.

OKOM: You know, the two characters never meet; they never come together.

REK: [Laughs] Yeah, right.

OKOM: Do you put a lot of yourself and your own experiences with relationships into those types of songs?

REK: I think the only way you can tap into some kind of an emotional well is to be putting yourself into that situation. I’m always feeling like that – even in the smallest of relationships – sometimes there’s that inner need to really, really have some kind of touchstone or some sort of a connection with that other person. And many, many times you just barely miss it. Those sleepless nights that you can’t figure things out, you try to work out – where did I miss that connection? Why did it dissolve? Why did it not quite come to its fruition?

OKOM: That’s interesting.

REK: Particularly because I don’t feel that it’s my strength as a writer, you know the emotional song or almost even the spiritual song. I think about those a lot more than I do on any kind of a narrative song.

OKOM: So, is it more work for you to do that?

REK: It is more work, yes it is. Because I think that you have to peel back the layers. I always wonder if I’m just emotionally bankrupt or can I just not peel back the layers and be more honest with myself.

OKOM: But your goal is to really hit that vein and hit the emotions.

REK: Yes, very much so, yes.

Go Read Part Two…




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