We're psyched to have you play at Soco Gallery/Tabor next Saturday. Can you tell us how that gig came about? What kind of set do you have planned?
I’m looking forward to it as well! I’ve known Chandra Johnson (of Soco Gallery) for a long time now. We even started a record label together called The Village Label a few years ago. She asked me to do a playlist for a show she had in the gallery with the artist Liz Nielsen and she asked me if I’d want to play the gallery some time. I’m always looking forward to a reason to get to Charlotte so I jumped at the chance.
It’s a great space with a good feel. I’m going to play solo, just me and a guitar, and I’m planning on playing a lot of newer songs for the first time. I’ve been writing a new record, so I haven’t been playing my own songs out much this year. I haven’t really shown them to anyone yet, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fly.
What have you been up to recently in terms of writing, playing and recording music? Have you been on tour or sticking close to home?
I’ve been working on writing a new record and keeping things fairly close to home so far this year. Writing and demoing new songs. I did a few tours and festivals as a guitar player for Martin Courtney, who is the main singer in the band Real Estate. He released a really great solo record this year and I’ve had a blast playing with him. [Saturday’s] show actually kicks off a pretty busy Fall. Right after the Bungalow Social, I am heading out on tour on guitar in Real Estate. Their guitar player had to be out of the country for a period of time this fall so I’m filling in. Then I get home from that and head out on tour opening for Damien Jurado, who on top of being a great human being, is also one of my favorite current songwriters. Then I’m hoping to record in December, but the logistics for that aren’t all set yet. I’m looking forward to all of it though. It will be good.
Even though you live in Brooklyn and are from the Midwest, you have some strong ties to North Carolina including friendships or working relationships with Chandra Johnson and Brad and Phil Cook. You also recorded you last album at Echo Mountain Studio in Asheville. How did those relationships develop and what is your impression of the North Carolina music scene?
North Carolina has one of the best music scenes I’ve ever experienced. I’ve mainly been exposed to the music that’s going on in the Triangle, but the music that I’ve heard coming out of Charlotte is great, too. Same with Asheville. I’m tied to Brooklyn for a while, but I’d like to spend longer stretches in NC. There are great people all over the state. I have a lot of friends there. Chandra and her husband are old friends of mine. My wife and Chandra have been friends for a long time and I met them through her and we all just hit it off. The Johnsons are the nicest people I know, hands down. I met Brad and Phil Cook on the first tour I ever did as a member of Sharon Van Etten’s band and we just hit it off. I love their playing and approach to music making in general so it seemed like a natural fit. Then when I moved to guitar full time in Sharon’s band, I recommended Brad for bass and so he toured with us in that for a while which was awesome. Echo Mountain was actually recommended by the Cook brothers and then my friend Adam Granduciel (of The War on Drugs) had recorded there and seconded it and recommended an engineer. I had a blast making my record there and I ate like crazy - great food in Asheville.
You spent a good deal of your life in Minnesota, and I read in an interview where you said you used to collect First Avenue calendar. So I've gotta ask the obvious question: what's your favorite Prince record? Do you have any good Prince stories?
Ha, I am a huge fan of Prince and I wish I could say one of his lesser known records is my favorite, but truthfully, Purple Rain is absolutely untouchable. It is just hit after hit after hit and if you haven’t yet, you should check out one of the 10+ minute live versions of the song “Purple Rain.” It’s an incredible tune. They recorded a ton of that record live at First Ave actually. I don’t have any personal good Prince stories, but I’ve heard a few from friends and all of them sort of give him this otherworldly vibe. That guy was vibrating on a different plane, you know? Quite a loss on many levels.