Eric Hutchinson: Uncorked and Uncovered

 

Artist: Eric Hutchinson

Playing at City Winery: October 29th, 2012

 

Emerson College is known for the focused environment it provides and driven mentality it encourages. Has this affected your approach to your musical career?

Yeah! I met some amazing people and was totally inspired by the Emerson world. I did my first official show on campus.

With so many colleges in Boston, house shows are very popular there. Did you ever go to house shows or play any?

I’ve played a few house concerts over the years. Good times, but I like a proper stage better.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

The Beatles were like religion in my house growing up. My dad used to play them every night during dinner and my mom would quiz me on which Beatle was singing each song.

Your voice has a real old-school jazz, blues tone to it. Did you grow up listening to that type music, too?

I love all kinds of music including jazz, but I tend to think my influence comes more from the soul records I love. Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, The Isley Brothers. All that classic soul.

Who are some musicians/bands out there today that you are currently listening to?

I love Vampire Weekend, The Black Keys, Frank Ocean, Fun & Gregory Porter.

You’ve lived all over the country, but you now call NYC home. How do you like it here? How do you think it has affected you as a musician?

I’ve been here for 6 years now and love it. I wrote my new album ”Moving Up Living Down” here and was really inspired by the city’s energy. Love doing hometown shows!

Have found any favorite spots in NYC that you now frequent?

TONS. But can’t divulge them. So I can still get a table.

This upcoming show is at the only fully functioning winery in all of Manhattan. It’s pretty cool, right? Are you excited to play in this type of venue? And to try the wine?

I love wine and I’m looking forward to seeing my face on a bottle of Cab Sauv. Hope I’m sober enough to perform!

 

Cary Pierce of Jackopierce: Uncorked and Uncovered

 

Artist: Jackopierce

Played at City Winery: October 14th, 2012

Q&A With City Winery

So you both went to school for theatre. In fact, that’s how you met. Do you both still act?

We both try to act cool on occasion but it rarely works out.

Jack did a stint with the Bat Theater Company, voiceover work, etc but was scared back into music eventually.

I quit theater my sophomore year at SMU and never looked back. Twas not my calling. My B.I.L (brother in law), James Moye, is a bad ass, though. He lives in NY and has been in many a Broadway production such as Urine Town, Million Dollar Quartet, etc. But the coolest thing lately is that he is the Crunchy Nut Cereal guy. My kids think he’s a real super hero. I can’t compete with that.

What is your songwriting process like? 

I gave my oldest boy a baby Taylor guitar at 10 years old. It’s half size and really easy to just pick up and play. I have a dozen amazing guitars at my studio, but I play that one about 95% of the time. Most all the kernels for new songs start there. I also go to Nashville a lot to write and always come back with 3-5 new ones cookin’. I keep TONS of ideas in my phone, on my computer, etc. If a guitar is in my hands, I’m usually writing something. Usually music first and then lyrics.

Have you ever been in any bigger bands?

Nope. JP may be the biggest band I ever get to be in. We toured for years with a full band. It was fun playing rock star – being on a major label  - and having a bus and crew, etc. Our roots were as an acoustic duo and that’s how we play most of the time now. I live in Dallas and Jack lives in NY so we fly in to city, meet up and go play the show. When we do a full band show – we’re hiring real pros that are great, love what they do and there’s NO drama. Jack and I got enough drama goin’ on… no need for more fuel on that fire.

You’ve worked with a lot of other musicians, writing and producing. What made you want to get into that?

It just seemed to be a natural extension. I like helping people get to the “next level.” I learned a lot about making records by being produced by heavyweights like T Bone Burnett, Stan Lynch, Rob Jacobs, Don Smith, etc. I’ve learned a lot about co-writing over the years, too. I’m pretty much a co-writing producer, helping write the songs and then producing them.

How is working with other musicians different/the same as working with Jack? Do you find that being part of a duo was helpful to the process of writing for/working with other musicians?

Yes, I’m a duo guy. When I enter into a co-writing/production situation, I basically become the other half for a minute and then I get to bid them well and set them free to go “do it.”

What was the recording process like? You both live such different lives now, how did you manage to come together and make the album and this tour happen?

The album is called Everywhere all the Time and it was recorded just about everywhere: Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, DC, LA, Minneapolis, Nashville, etc..

We tracked a lot of the bass and drums in Nashville and then I would grab Jack’s vocal and guitars in whatever city we were playing in. It was a lot of fun.

Do you feel that this album is more mature now that time has passed?

I just hope people like it. We’ve had a lot of people lately tell us that we’ve been the “soundtrack for their lives.” Wow. Mission is being accomplished. Just wanna keep that rollin’… I love writing and I love playing.

You guys mostly play acoustic together. Outside of Jackopierce, what do you like to play around with musically?

I have a James Taylor/John Denver side of me (like Jackopierce – Let Go of Me and Jackopierce – Lonely). But I also have a heavily 80′s influenced Smiths/Roxy Music/Tears for Fears/Police side of me that wants to make big, powerful compelling pop (like Jackopierce – Around Me Now). I also have a Mumford/Avett side of me that wants to bang on that acoustic hard and fast and kinda combine all of it. I have a fantasy of an acoustic trio or quartet a la Mumford. That kind of music is a big part of me – all acoustic. Love it. Have you heard the Punch Brothers? IN-SANE. Check this out. Humbling.

What inspires you? Both as a musician and as a person?

Art/museums/galleries. I love great design. I’m constantly saving design ideas – both graphic and architectural/interior design in Evernote. If I could, I’d probably be releasing a new Jackopierce shirt or piece of merch every week.

I love dreaming and scheming our Destination Shows. We are playing June 8, 2013 in Santa Barbara on a roof deck overlooking the ocean and the mountains. Gorgeous. And we are having a clambake dinner and concert on Martha’s Vineyard August 17, 2013.

I am also working on a book about being creative for a living. I post a new chapter most Fridays to my blog. It’s meant to encourage and inspire the same way I am inspired by so many great authors, speakers, teachers.

You guys are from Texas. Do you like the cooking down there? 

Of course. I love Texas. Love everything about it. Well, most everything. I went down to go to SMU and I’ve been there ever since. My wife is a Texan. All 3 of my boys are Texans. I love that.

You have a song called Vineyard and here you are playing at City Winery. What is the story behind that song? Are you wine fans? Do you have a favorite wine? 

Yes, Vineyard is actually about Martha’s Vineyard. I was heartbroken in college and went there to get away. I met a sweet gal and my 2 day trip turned into 5 or 6 days. That song seems to still be one of our most popular. We did a destination show in 2010 on the Vineyard and 400 people came from 36 States. We were glad to give them an excuse to come to one of the most beautiful places in the world.

We’ve done several destination shows in Sonoma County, CA. I’ve really fallen in love with Pinot Noir. When it’s good – its’ the best – but it’s a testy grape. I feel like I’ve tasted some of the best out there at Arista, the former C. Donatiello, Hanna, etc.

Best kind of wine is the wine you like. I’ve had friends open these fancy, expensive bottles of wine and they sit around and gush over it – and to me it tastes like it’s been open for a week. Mondavi has a great everyday Pinot now for about $6. Meiomi Belle Glose is probably my current favorite. They had it in several restaurants around Dallas and I was thrilled to find it in the grocery store for about $15 bucks. We’ve actually been in touch with them. They love our Destination Shows and we are hoping to partner up on something soon. I also love Willamette Pinots from Oregon and have discovered a great find: Merriman. I asked my waiter if I could see the bottle. There was an email addy on the back. I emailed them right there and it turns out the owner, Mike Merriman, is from Dallas and his winemaker sold me his house 15 years ago. Talk about small world and great Williamette Pinot!

The smell and taste of great Pinots take me to Sonoma (specifically Healdsburg) – a place that my wife and I could see ourselves spending

Grant Lee Phillips: Uncorked and Uncovered

Artist: Grant Lee Phillips

Played at City Winery: October 3rd, 2012

 

Q&A With City Winery

You’ve done a lot of work recently with comedienne, Margaret Cho. What role does comedy play in your life? Are there any other comedians you’d love to work with?

Margaret’s a force of nature. We’ve known one another for ages, but it was a huge treat to work with her on her “Cho Dependent” album. Comics and musicians are a bit like distant cousins, but there’s a crazy amount of courage it takes to be a comic and I look upon people like Margaret and Paul F. Tompkins with awe.

Do you check out any comedy shows? Any favorite places to check out? Do you ever think of getting on stage at an open mic or taking an improv class?

Largo out in L.A. has long been a hotbed for comedy. It’s a place where comics and songwriters mix and through Largo I’ve been able to explore the high-wire thrill of being onstage without a guitar.

You are very vocal about your Native American heritage. How has it informed your songwriting? What drives you to incorporate this into your music?

I grew up with an awareness of my Creek heritage. It was reinforced by my mother and grandmother. My desire to grasp the history of our country, one that’s often untold, has been a driving force behind a lot of my songs. Becoming a father has also compelled me to better understand where I come from, to honor my ancestry and pass that knowledge onward.

It seems like you have also been able to use comedy as a way of demonstrating your awareness of your heritage against a contemporary American backdrop. In the Margaret Cho video for “Asian Adjacent,” you appear as a Native American man when she says the word “Cherokee.” Something Margaret (and many comedians do) is poke fun at herself and address stereotypes that affect her on a personal level. Was this experience a first for you (as far as addressing it in a comedic way)?

Margaret came to me with “Asian Adjacent.” She’d written these lyrics inspired by our first meeting many years ago. For ages, she had assumed because of my features and the “Lee” in my name that I was Chinese. It’s not the first time that I’ve encountered this. When I explained that I’m actually Creek and Cherokee, it inspired the concept of being “Asian Adjacent.” In one scene of the video we did a take-off on “Miss Saigon.” I was portraying an American soldier, pursuing Margaret. The editor dropped me in on the Cherokee lyric, (the power of editing and suggestion). There’s something really incredible about her way of using comedy to challenge stereotypes.

You also combine your music and your heritage as a means of awareness and outreach. Though the Internet has had some negative impacts on the music industry, it has also been an amazing tool in expanding audience. Additionally, it has become a means of outreach and awareness. One platform this is possible through is PledgeMusic, which you are currently using; how has that been?

My new album, Walking In The Green Corn, is a Pledge Music project. I love the grass-roots connectivity of this approach. There’s something very hands-on about it that appeals to me. I’ve also become very informed in the ways of shipping these days and I have a greater appreciation for the US Postal Service.

Outside of your heritage, what inspires you as a writer/performer?

Songs are just the evidence of whatever life you live, the people you love, your desires, your fears and the rest.  I’m just trying to walk and sing at the same time.

I just wanted to mention that your website is incredible. How do you think that the aesthetic style and the design (interactivity, click-throughs) reflect you as a musician and as a person?

My website is one part American Pickers and one part Hoarders. I’m very at home there.

You’ve done a bit of acting work, even had a recurring role on Gilmore Girls. Is acting something you’d like to do more of, maybe having bigger, more prominent roles?

I’d love to do more acting. When Gilmore Girls ended I went back and studied some more. I’ve got a lot of respect for actors and all they have to put themselves through.

Do you have any favorite things to do in NYC? Are there any stores or restaurants you have to stop at when in town? Any other interesting spots along the road you love?  

New York, for all of the times that I’ve visited, still takes my breath away. I grew up in the country and learned to drive on one-lane highways out in the foothills so the city is little overwhelming. Still, on a warm night, with good friends there’s nothing like it.  New York is also a place where people still hold the door for each other. More often that you would think. ( LA is the worst for that). There’s a rhythm to this city. It can be tough to find the downbeat at first, but when you do, it’s an incredible place.

What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten? 

Depended how hungry I was.

If you could eat any meal right now, what would it be? Would there be a drink to go with it? 

I’m always up for a cup coffee and I’ve never pushed away a pecan pie.

Do you have any big plans for 2013? 

More music, more coffee, more pie. Let me get that door for you…

Shemekia Copeland: Uncorked and Uncovered

 

Artist: Shemekia Copeland

Played at City Winery: September 27, 2012

 

Q&A With City Winery

You have been newly crowned the “Queen of Blues.” Congratulations! How does it feel?

It was a total surprise and an incredible honor, something I try to live up to every time I perform.

You aren’t afraid to perform songs about serious issues and obstacles in life like domestic violence. Are these coming from first hand experience or knowing someone in these situations? Did growing up in NYC, seeing the constant class struggle and disparity have anything to do with your awareness?

I try to perform blues songs, but in a contemporary way. To make blues relevant for young people, especially women. So it makes sense to address issues like domestic violence and financial disparity. I don’t think these issues came out of growing up in NYC. They’re issues we all have in common everywhere, but you’d certainly run into them in NY.

Blues is one of those genres that kind of spreads out into a lot of other genres or at least influences and informs other genres/styles. Given that, is there anything you feel you’d like to do musically that you haven’t done yet?

I want to help this music evolve and grow, to reach young people and get them as excited about the music as I am. I’d like to expand the boundaries of traditional blues. Do a blues samba. A blues in French. New, different, and unexpected explorations.

 

 

Artist Spotlight: Mason Jennings, coming to City Winery NYC Mar 29 & 30, 2012

Artist: Mason Jennings
Playing At City Winery: March 29th & 30th – Buy Tickets Here
Q & A With City Winery

You were born in Hawaii and your music has appeared in the surf film Shelter. Do you surf yourself?

No, I don’t surf. Not much opportunity at home in Minnesota. I relate to the culture’s focus on simplicity and closeness with nature, though.

At a young age, your family moved to Pittsburgh and you began playing music. What was/is the music scene like in Pittsburgh?

I am not sure. I moved away at 19 before I ever got involved with a scene there. I came to Minneapolis following bands I loved like The Replacements, The Jayhawks and Prince.

You dropped out of school to move to Minneapolis to pursue your music career. What drew you there?

The bands I just mentioned. And I felt instantly at home in the landscape. I find the seasons intense and beautiful. I’m never in traffic. And there’s great public radio up there.

Your newest album is entitled Minnesota. Is this and ode, of sorts, to your home?

Sure. The theme is probably home but the most similar thing to Minnesota is how much variety there is on the record. The record feels like a collage to me, hence the cover art, and Minnesota has such contrasts as a place too. Freezing winters, hot summers, water and land, art world and back-woodsmandry.

Many of your songs are about love. In fact, on your website your new album Minnesota is described as “a collage of love trying to survive the transition into being a grown-up in a complex world”. What appeals to you about the subject?

Not sure any song about any subject is any good if it’s not about love. Or a longing. All longing seems to be about love in the end.

And how have your ideas about love changed and grown over the course of your songwriting career?

Oh, I’m just more open and hopefully more aware now. I love more deeply now. Being a parent there is much more at risk.

Artist Spotlight: Ben Lee

Artist: Ben Lee

Played at City Winery: February 25, 2012

 

Q&A With City Winery

Your music career took off when you were really young, 14 years old. Was age ever a problem for you? Were you at all overwhelmed?

Well, at the time I just desperately wanted to get out of school and the regular, mundane teenage life. But now, in retrospect, I think I was on the younger side to deal with some of emotional issues: the criticism and other pressures. But, everyone’s life has different challenges, so that’s where I dealt with a lot of stuff.

Were you ever turned away or not able to do something because you were too young?

Sometimes when I’d play in a pub I’d have to go in and out the back door, I wouldn’t be able to hang out in the dressing room at all. And there were some gigs with bands like Pavement in the 90s when I was so excited about the gig but I wasn’t aloud to watch them after we played. It’s kind of silly.

You got your start with the band Noise Addict. How did your ­­­­­experience with them affect and/or help shape your solo career?

I’ve never really separated the two. Making music, and just being a human being, it’s a daily learning experience. There’s definitely been a continuum, where each project and each experience has led to an appreciation or internal ripening that’s led me to the next thing. I’ve never felt like anything was wasted.

You grew up in Australia but you now live in LA. Do you consider yourself an Australian artist or an American artist?

I’ve always been more interested in boundlessness. I’ve never been a nationalist person, I’m more interested in experience, and connection, and emotion. So that’s not really a big question for me. People are obsessed with where you live and where you’re from. But, I could easily move somewhere else!

What’s your favorite song to play live?

It changes a lot, but the song we sound checked with today, “No Right Angles,” I always enjoy. There’s a song off the new record called “Lean Into It” that I also really enjoy.

Do you have a song that you always connect with, even if the crowd isn’t into it?

Yeah, all of them. I always cynically assume no one’s going to be into it, and I always try and connect with it on my own. There are a few, like “Catch My Disease,” that I do every night because it’s expected by the audience. So for those it’s sometimes a little harder to connect with emotionally because the rebellious side of me says, “Ugh, I don’t want to do something just because it’s expected. “

You put out a new album this past October, Deeper into Dream. It was a concept album of sorts, right? What inspired that idea?

For almost the last ten years, my central interest in my records and my music is consciousness, and different ways of interacting with it, and creativity and connection. And dreams come from the same place, where the psychological, spiritual, creative surges of inspiration come from. So for me it was just another way or examining what it is that’s making the motor run in this whole thing. I did a few years of dream analysis, and that really opened me up to looking at dreams as a portal into the unconscious. I always right what I’m interested in. I used them as a jumping off point to explore what we don’t know about ourselves.

Any big plans for 2012?

At the moment, I’m working on a musical of the book B is for Beer by Tom Robbins. And my new album’s almost finished, it’s called Ayahuasca: Welcome to the Work, which will hopefully be out sometime around September.

 

Artist Spotlight with Lucy Kaplansky

Artist: Lucy Kaplansky

Played at City Winery: February 10th, 2012

 

Q&A With City Winery

When you were 18 you decided not to go to college, but to move from your hometown of Chicago to New York to pursue your musical career. What inspired the change?

I met a guy who loved my singing and we formed a duo. I was 17, I was in high school and he had finished college, he was 5 years older than me. So he wanted to move to New York. And the other thing that happened was there was a huge article in the New York Times about a folk revival in Greenwich Village, this was 1977, and that’s really what propelled us to New York. The place was Folk City, which is no longer there. So I was 18 when we moved, and my parents were freaked out I wasn’t going to college, but they let me go.

But it felt like the right thing to do at the time?

I guess at the time it was the right thing to do. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but somehow I ended up OK and it all kind of worked out.

What made you then decide to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology?

That’s a long story, but I’ll try and make it short. So, I came to New York to be a singer and it was actually going really well. And when I was 21 I got a really, really good write-up in the New York Times. I could have really pursued it but I was too neurotic and too conflicted and decided I didn’t want to do music, and at 22 I quit and decided to go and become a therapist. I went back to college at NYU and ended up deciding to become a clinical psychologist because I thought therapy was interesting. I did that for a few years, got my doctorate, and then started therapy with a really, really good therapist and realized that I was running away from what I really wanted, which was to be a singer. And that’s when I came back. That was 1993 or so.

Were you still as involved in your music or did you have to put it on the back burner?

It did take a back burner. I didn’t pursue it in any kind of active way. People had me sing on their records, I sang on a Suzanne Vega album and Shawn Colvin’s, but I wasn’t writing and I definitely wasn’t performing.

You also perform with a group, Red Horse. How is playing with them different from playing solo?

It’s all the difference in the world. The trio is two of my old friends, Eliza Gilkyson and John Gorka, and we’re all singer songwriters. We’re taking turns singing lead, we’re doing lots of harmonies, and I don’t have to just front the whole show. So, it’s fun in different ways. They’re incredibly funny and we laugh a lot. I love singing with them and we’re doing mostly different songs than I do in my own show. But doing my own show is also really exciting, and much scarier.

Have you all written together?

No, we haven’t done that yet. We recorded an album of mostly each other’s songs, but we have not written together yet, although that’s certainly possible.

Has playing with them taught you anything that you’ve used when performing solo?

Oh wow. I guess I’ve been doing the solo thing for so many years that I kind of take the solo thing and bring it to the trio. The trio’s just very different because we’re playing off each other, and when I’m solo there’s no one to play off of, except the audience. So they’re really very different animals for me. Both fun in their own way.

In all your years here, what’s the weirdest/funniest thing you’ve witnessed on the streets of New York?

Wow, there’s an awful lot…You know, I saw the best Halloween costume ever in the Halloween parade, so that counts. It was a guy who looked like he was sitting in an outhouse. He had built himself an outhouse with fake legs and he was propelling himself down the street. And that was the best Halloween costume I’ve ever seen and maybe the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in the street. My daughter loved it too; she was seven at the time.

Where’s your favorite place in the city to go and relax?

Home. Home is definitely my sanctuary. Even in the midst of a loud, crazy city it’s relatively peaceful. And that’s where I do everything. That’s where I write, that’s where I practice, if I ever practice. That’s where I have my life, really.

Do you have a favorite wine?

I like Chardonnay. There’s a wine my husband and I discovered years ago, I think at the Union Square Café, called Vernaccia di San Gimignano, which is the best white wine I’ve ever had.

 

Artist Spotlight: Marc Broussard

Artist: Marc Broussard

Played at City Winery: February 2, 2012

 

Q&A With City Winery

You can hear all kinds of genres in your music: R&B, gospel, funk, blues, jazz, country, rock…who influenced you when you were young? Who did you play on repeat?

Well, my father is a musician so my father’s tastes in music were very influential on me. And he is predominantly interested in jazz, specifically jazz fusion. So, that can be maddening for a singer, because jazz fusion doesn’t have a singer. So it was a struggle to find a voice, to put my ear on something that really piqued my interest. And every time Stevie Wonder came on, or Otis Redding, or Marvin Gaye it was exactly what I wanted to hear. So those guys definitely influenced my heavily. You’re going to hear some country tinges just because of some of the co-writers that I’ve worked with in Nashville. And all the other stuff is just a personal preference.

On that note, your music has been described as “Bayou Soul.” How would you define your own music, and your unique sound?

I like the term Bayou Soul, mostly because it’s an invented term to describe something that’s unique, I think, and that’s me. So that’s kind of an honor that somebody would think they need to create a unique term for a guy like me. And I would describe my music as Bayou Soul. I think that’s a pretty accurate description in and of itself.

Your first studio album is entitled “Carencro”, after your hometown. How much does your connection with Louisiana influence your songwriting and your music in general?

It’s had a tremendous amount of influence. I live across the street from my parents on the street that I grew up, and my wife and four children are there and we’re a very close family. So, everything about me as a man stems from my relationships with my family. And that translates into my writing, so Carencro is hugely influenced by them.

You’ve also been really involved in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, including donating all proceeds of your 2005 release Bootleg to Benefit the Victims of Hurricane Katrina to the cause. Can you talk a little about your experience?

We started the Momentary Setback fund after Hurricane Katrina and we really didn’t know what was going to come about. But through some pretty small moves on our part, just simply turning the record button on at a show and putting a product out, we were able to raise substantial amounts of money. Almost all of that money went straight to United Way. Obviously, there was an outpouring of support from all over the world after that storm and luckily we were able to do our part in some small way to help people get back on their feet. It’s something that I think is very important for an artist. Whenever there’s a need that we can fill, I think it’s important that we step up. Philanthropy is definitely a huge part of who I am.

One of the first things that drew me into your music is your amazing vocal range. On Carencro, the difference between the lowness and grittiness of “Home” and the high, bright, catchy “Hope for Me Yet” blows me away every time. Is that your natural vocal range or did you have to work to acquire it?

I push it pretty hard. A lot of the songs I sing are probably outside of my comfort zone. I’m a baritone, but I often sing in the tenor range. I can’t resist it. I try to write songs in lower keys and everyone says I sound so good up there. So after years and years of that I’ve just resigned to the notion that I’ll blow it out on any given night and hope for the best.

This is City Winery after all…do you have a favorite type of wine?

Yeah! A Brunello.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re in New York City?

I like to eat anywhere, but I think eating in New York City is an adventure. I try never to hit the same spot too many times in a row. For instance, I ate here at City Winery for lunch and I had a lamb wrap that was so good. So yeah, I like to eat in this town.