Which singer-songwriters influenced you?
One of the first albums I listened to as a kid was Hank SnowÕs When Tragedy Struck. I canÕt say the writing on the LP influenced mine, but the thematic overtones may very well have colored my perception of the world. (Marnie tells me IÕd better not play it for our son.)
I got to see Townes Van Zandt six or seven times, and his songs and onstage presence were a huge influence. I never have seen Tom Rush, but I like to think I learned a lot about vocal delivery from listening to his recordings.
And Kevin Gordon . . . first time I saw him, I came away from the show itching to grab my notebook and pen, pick up my guitar, and start writing. In my book, thatÕs about the highest praise one songwriter can give another.
But IÕm not sure I can point out a specific influence on my songwriting style. I guess thatÕs not such a bad thing, is it?
Is there any advice you could give someone interested in becoming a singer-songwriter?
Yes, but itÕs really from someone else. Dave Van Ronk once wrote, ŅI can tell a lie, but I canÕt sing one.Ó I think what he was getting at is that whatever you sing, make sure itÕs something you can sing honestly. That doesnÕt mean you have to believe it or that you would do it, just that youÕd better sing it as if you might. And if youÕre writing, the standardÕs the same: after all, chances are that if you write it, youÕll sing it, too.
What kind of gear do you use?
Ah, the question that gets non-gear-heads nodding off quicker than a Mickey Finn. If youÕre still awake and really want to know, follow this link to see what gear IÕve got in my kit bag.
If you could have just one album in your collection to listen to, what would it be?
Other than WantanabeÕs Japan Philharmonic recording of SibeliusÕs 6th and 7th Symphonies, MaazelÕs Wiener Philharmoniker recording of SibeliusÕs 3rd Symphony, or anything Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony recorded of Bela Bartok, IÕd probably choose Dana Falconberry's Leelanau. Understated but sumptuous, pretty much close-to-perfect album.
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People whoÕve never heard me play sometimes ask, ŅWhat kind of music do you play?Ó ItÕs a tough question to answer, and usually I take the easy out and just say IÕm a folksinger.
But folk has a wide range of definitions, so I suppose I could say my music is essentially folk, with dashes of country, pop, and Americana tossed into the mix to varying degrees from song to song. (No wonder I usually fall back on plain olÕ ŅfolksingerÓ. . . .)
HereÕs a list of other frequently asked questions, along with brief answers:
YouÕve got an accent . . . youÕre not from Wisconsin, are you?
Nope. I was born in Massachusetts, carted off to North Carolina when I was 11, and pretty much lived at various elevations in the Carolinas until moving to Wisconsin in 1996.
How long have you been playing?
I started playing and writing in 1974--thatÕs when I graduated from R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC. I got a Goya CG-10 classical as a graduation present, taught myself to play, and started writing. (The truly talented folks at R.J. Reynolds, Peter Holsapple and other dBÕs, were already gigging at Rittenhouse Square by this point.) Not long after that, I started playing gigs with Trey Caldwell, and later, at UNC-Greensboro, with Elizabeth Dumbell Clarke. But it wasnÕt until the 1990s that I started performing regularly.
These days I mostly play in southern Wisconsin, though IÕve been seen a fair piece from these parts, and wouldnÕt mind playing further from home.
Do you have a favorite guitar?
I still have my Goya and a small steel-string I built, but I suppose my favorite is my Õ57 Gibson LG-1. I've been playing my Ibanez AF105 hollowbody electric a lot these days, too, but IÕd love to find a smaller, lighter archtop electric thatÕd be gentler on my back and shoulders.
Who are your favorite singer-songwriters?
Lately IÕve been listening to a lot of Kevin Gordon, Erik Koskinen, and Molly Maher. Other favorites, in no particular order, are John Prine, Richard Thompson, Bill Morrissey, Sandy Denny, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Malcolm Holcombe, David Olney, Warren Zevon, Dana Falconberry, and Michael Hurley.