Fred LeBlanc of Cowboy Mouth: For any musician, where they are in the note is who they are as a person. Where they are within the rhythm is who they are as a person being amplified… literally sometimes. And that's part of what makes music such an expressive medium. Choosing where you place what you do in the context of everything else and actually making it work… it's pretty miraculous.
Kryz Reid of Third Eye Blind: I think people respond to that (sense of) immediacy. Our shows are always different and they're always totally live. And Stephan's compelling to see live. He's very free on stage. There's just a sense like this motherf---er could potentially do anything up there. That's scary and it's awesome. I saw (another artist) play and it was just perfect. Everything about the show was perfect and I was totally bored. We're not perfect, but we are amazing.
Michael McDermott, drummer for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts: And you sort of see that also with the drum videos (people post). Where you're like, "How many times did you practice this song before you decided to record it? Sometimes you've got to practice it a couple more times. I'm just saying…"
But everybody's for the right now. And it's like, just slow down. It's not about how fast you can get that video out and uploaded and how many hits you get. Learn the song. Love it. Really get into the tune and feel it. And if you do that, you can see it. You can see when somebody is earnest about what they're doing.
But I mean with a lot of those kids (posting drumming videos)… it's slightly disheartening. You sort of want to shake them and go, "No! Just turn the cameras off. Turn the lights off. Just get in your room, put on your headphones, and shed. And then Friday night when your friends are like, 'Let's go party,' you go, 'No. I'm going to go up to my room and I'm going to shed.'" And just do that over and over. And not for the sake of anything other than you love the f****ing drums. That's it.
Fur Dixon: I just own my spot. Because who else is going to own it? It just took some years. I have some history and I accept that history now. For a while I wanted to sweep it under the rug or I didn't want to be associated with it. And (now) it's just like… I own it. I own it all. The good. The bad. Whatever. And that's a really comfortable place to be.
Cris Cohen: You have co-written a number of songs. What makes for a good co-writer?
John Hall: For me, a good co-writer is somebody who can help me finish a song I was having a hard time finishing.
Sometimes the match is so good that you go, "I want to write with that person again." Steve Wariner is one of those people. "You Can Dream Of Me," Steve's number one country hit… He and I wrote that together back in the 80s.
I had finished playing racquetball at The Y in Nashville. And I had a date to go to Steve's house and write after that. I was in the shower at the Y and had this idea. "If you're dreaming of someone, you can dream of me. I'm not going to follow through on it because I'm not available. I'm with somebody else."
I heard the music for the chorus and I sang it to myself the whole way there in the car so I wouldn't forget it. I walked in the door, sang it to Steve, and he said, "Great! Let's finish it." And we did in (about) an hour.
He's also really good at… I think of it like unearthing a fossil. If you find a little bone in the desert somewhere, it's like the foot of some dinosaur that's mostly buried. And you brush away with a paint brush at first to expose more of it.
Then you get to the point where you can pull on it. You don't want to break it by pulling too hard on it. The trick is to unearth that song and not destroy the vision of it or the initial inspiration.
Mike Vanderhule of Y&T: It is fun to be in a band like this. Because I've been in a lot of THOSE bands. A lot of my friends are in those bands… where you hear the horror stories. They meet on stage and they go their own way every night. We all hang together. And after a good 10- or 12-hour drive, sometimes we pull up to the hotel and it's like, "Alright, where do you guys want to go for dinner now?" That's really cool.
Cris Cohen: You said with your live shows that you have the goal of moments of ecstatic release. What do you guys do as a band to get people to that spot?
Robbie Wulfsohn of Ripe: I'm going to start by saying it is the goal. We fail. We fail hard. We're willing to fail triumphantly. It's not like we have the pride to say this is definitely going to happen. It is just that ideally we'd love you to walk away from the show feeling something like that. I guess what I mean by ecstatic release can also come from a place of catharsis. Like you're already happy, but (the concert) makes you happier. Or you come into a space low and it brings you slightly higher. But because of the distance traveled, it feels like you climbed a mountain.
Cris Cohen: You posted a video clip called “A Buffet of Ballads.” At one point, as you're playing the concert, you're in the middle of “She's Everything” and it gets into this kind of instrumental expanse. What I thought was cool is with your right hand you went on this little faster pattern with the ride cymbal. And it was much faster than what you were playing on the rest of the kit, but it still fit the ballad. And I'm curious, because I don't think that was on the original recording, how often do you go into experiments like that? And is it spontaneous? Is it planned?
Ben Sesar, drummer for Brad Paisley: It depends on the circumstance. Something will evolve in a live show. Because remember, we play these songs over and over. One night I'm in a creative place (play something different) and I'll be like, “Okay, that was cool.” And then it will become the thing I do all the time. I'll allow that to happen. I don't fight that.
And yes, it deviates from the record. Brad loves it when we're not like the record. The minute we start rehearsing a song, we know that it's not going to be like the record. And I like that. Because it gives it room to be spontaneous. Ift gives it that place where we can have fun with it live. So we're not just miming every night. We all want to play and be spontaneous… within the framework. We don't want to make the song unrecognizable. But it's not that hard to balance that.
There's really no limit. You find your place where you can loosen up and deviate from the script and you take those opportunities… if you feel like it. Some nights, I don't feel like it. Some nights maybe I feel a little tired or I'm not feeling so connected. And then I don't take as many of those opportunities. It all depends how you feel. Other nights I'm alert, I'm ready to have a good time, and it's just flowing.
I pay a lot of attention to how I feel before I play. I give a lot of weight to that. Because you can't force yourself to be in a great place, if you're in just a sort of average place. I try to honor that and not fight it by telling myself, “I have to be awesome tonight. My energy has to be great.” No, it doesn't, because I'm at a level where I can play with a lower internal energy and you still wouldn't know. The timing is going to be good. The feel is going to be good.
There's a base level that I can always count on, even if I'm not feeling great. And then there's that extra, heightened or elevated state, which I pay attention to.
And it's weird. I can have a great day, an awesome day -- beautiful weather, food’s perfect, plenty of sleep -- and then sit down to play and just feel blocked. I can't tell you why. So, what I try to do is just honor that and play. And then you never know. Sometimes in the middle of the show, because I'm not fighting it and telling myself I have to be awesome, then maybe I drift into feeling elevated. So I always pay attention to how I feel at the beginning and just play to that place.
But I'm always happy to be there. There are no bad shows.
Cris Cohen: With the live shows, you get an immediate reaction from people. But with your videos and your writing, there is a delay between when you release it and when you get a reaction from someone. Did that take some getting used to?
Stanton Moore of Galactic: When I first started writing articles and then wrote my first book, I was playing so many gigs that I didn't get that feedback right away. But once I started to get that feedback after years and years and years, you start to realize it's just a different type of connection. The instant connection playing gigs and having people moving in time to what you're doing, that's one thing. But even though the feedback and the reaction -- when people come to you about something that you demonstrated or explained or wrote -- even though that's a delayed reaction, it's also on a deeper level, because you know how much time they had to spend with it. Both of those types of feedback are cool. They're just different.
Cris Cohen: Patty has a very distinct voice. What is the key to supporting her as a backing vocalist?
Dwight Baker of The Wind and The Wave: I got good at harmonies because someone had to do it and that person just became me. The key to harmonies is phrasing the same as the singer and hitting vowels sounds the same. If you're getting the vowel sounds and phrasing it the same, you can really disappear into a vocal, which is what I'm looking for on a harmony. So I have sung higher than I've ever sung in my life to support Patty often.
And you know, I'm a giant man. I'm six foot four. I'm a big boy. And for some reason I can sing higher than a girl sometimes. So it just kind of naturally works with us the way we sing together. Our timbres seem to work well together.
But I did have to learn to (match her pronunciation). Especially early on in her career, she is saying really weird vowels. And she does have a unique voice. So much so that, in the last seven years, I hear the newer bands (with female vocalists) and I'm like, “They were fans of Patty.”
She's the most self-deprecating, humble person in the world. She would be like, “No one would ever copy my style.”
But they do. People do.
Cris Cohen: How come you go higher when you harmonize? Because you can be lower than the lead and harmonize.
Dwight Baker: Yeah. Occasionally I do that. But the problem with our music is, where Patty likes to sit in the vocal, which is not -- except for a few songs -- very high for a girl. She's more in the mid-range for a girl and sometimes low. It just kind of bottoms out. It makes a song sound heavier than it needs to be. So it made sense to me to be above her more.
Cris Cohen: And her different pronunciations, is she conscious of that or is it just what comes out?
Dwight Baker: She wasn't (conscious of it) until I would say record three. She was like, “Have you listened to record one in a while, ‘From The Wreckage’? I said words really weird.”
I was like, “Yeah, you do. You did.”
And she's like, “I don't think I do that much anymore.”
And then I started to notice and no, she doesn't. It has changed. And if you really listen to Robert Plant at the beginning and listen to Robert Plant now, great singers who can sing anything -- which Patty is one of those singers -- they just evolve. They just change the way they're approaching stuff. You don't know if they get bored or their voice just matures or changes, but they change.