Q: Do you have a favorite album?
A: I do. It's the first Trio album by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt. I love the second one, too. The first one came out when I was 10. It was in some ways the first Americana-type album, at least the first to have such success. The song selections could not have been better, and the arrangements, vocals, and production were fantastic. It's a perfect record.
Q: Is it true your parents used to make you sing for company?
A: It is. They would stand me up on the kitchen table and have me sing for friends and relatives when they visited us. I remember an aunt who would give me dollar bills. I suppose that could have led to a much different career and lifestyle path!
Q: Besides Dolly, whom you've mentioned twice, and the artists whose songs you covered on Points of Interest, who are some of your other favorite artists?
A: Oh, gosh! I love so many. I am a huge fan of Alison Krauss (with or without Union Station). There simply is not a better musician alive, and I would fist fight anyone who tried to argue with me about that. I am also a big Beatles fan, even though at this point that's rather cliché. Their influence just cannot be overstated. I love The Beach Boys, too. Oh! And I can't get enough of Carpenters. Karen's voice was incredibly lush and wonderful. More contemporarily, I really like artists like Fleet Foxes, Ben Folds (fabulous pianist!), Diana Krall, Michael Bublé, Lauryn Hill, Steven Curtis Chapman, Sturgill Simpson--the list just goes on and on. My tastes are varied but picky.
Q: What is your approach to putting an album together?
A: Well, I think thematically. I like albums that tell a story from beginning to end. I don't mean an album where every track sounds the same. It's not that. I just mean that I like songs that fit together as a set. For example, I read a review of Alison Krauss' album Windy City in which the reviewer referred to it as a carefully "curated" set of songs. I thought that was so smart...and accurate. I think it's a matter of writing or picking really great material and telling a story--taking listeners on a journey from start to finish. That's what I try to do.
Q: What do you think you'll do next?
A: I've written some songs that I've not recorded. Some of them are sort of an extension of Small Town Scars. Others go in a different direction. So, I'm not sure if I have another project in the making or two. I hope to work on those. I also think at some point I'll post some karaoke-type tracks just for fun, the idea being that listeners could sing along with me singing along to karaoke tracks just for kicks. I already have a few of those recorded, and I had a good time doing that because they're different from what I normally do. I won't say what they are just yet, but I think that's probably the next thing you'll hear from me. But you know what? I've never actually sung karaoke anywhere.
Q & A
Q: Who is your biggest musical influence and why?
A: Dolly Parton. Her song "Coat of Many Colors" was the first song I remember learning as a kid. I've always loved that she writes so many songs about her life, and she does it in a way that's very specific to her but relatable to everyone else, even to me as a 3-year-old little boy. I always say she does as much with 3 chords as Mozart did with any score he ever wrote.
Q: There are 19 songs on Points of Interest. Why so many?
A: Because there are so many songs and writers that I absolutely love. I have a massive record collection and music library. At one point, I had about 50 songs on my list of possible songs for the album. Typically, I record more tracks than I need. At some point, it becomes apparent which ones fit together the best as an album. In the case of Points of Interest, the magic number for me just happened to be 19.
Q: What are some of the songs you considered recording that didn't make it onto the album?
A: Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice did an album in the late 1970s or early 1980s of traditional music, and it's one of my all-time favorite albums. I had thought about doing something from that: "Bury Me Beneath the Weeping Willow" or "Talk About Suffering." I also thought about doing some songs from my high school and college days, like Stevie Wonder's "Lately," which I used to sing a lot, or even the cranberries' "Ode to My Family" or "1979" by The Smashing Pumpkins. I think I just dated myself!
Q: So, why didn't you record any of Dolly's songs?
A: I probably will one day. It was a matter of me trying to decide which one might be a good fit for me and for the album. It's not that I felt her songs were forbidden territory, although I do hold them in high regard. I just love her singing so much that it was difficult for me to hear them any other way than her versions. I will say that I love Joan Osborne's version of "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind" from the tribute album. But, why copy Joan?
Q: Why don't you record more often?
A: Well, for one thing, I don't have a band. So, it takes me a while to record all of the instrument tracks then do all of the vocals. For another thing, I'm not entirely comfortable with recording. It's so different from performing live. I had a music professor in college who told me I couldn't play and shouldn't sing, and I've never quite gotten over that. I never questioned myself, musically, before that, but I've never not questioned myself since. Had I felt he was saying that constructively, I may have taken it better. But I couldn't not play and sing, regardless of what he said or how it made me feel. Music is tremendously important to me. I only started recording because I needed to. I need something to distract me from other areas of my life, and doing something creative makes me feel like I'm being productive and contributing something to the world. But it's not something I can churn out like cookies from a factory.