“I can envision stopping because it would make life so much simpler, but the reason that every time I’ve stopped, I’ve started, is because it’s a missing piece. It’s a part of my mental health. This is better therapy than a therapist. It’s a catharsis.”
What’ s your experience when you’re on stage?
“The best of all worlds, there’s no thought at all. In the worst of all worlds, there’s mad conjecture and a lot of gut wrenching sweat. It also depends on the material: The newer the material, the more thought processes go on. ..making sure that you get the lyrics right… ok, there’s gonna be a part coming up that I know somebody has had trouble remembering… if it’s possible to make some sort of move, or nudge, or nod, or eyebrow raise, as a reminder of don’t forget this… except when it’s mine. I probably don’t raise my eyebrow at myself.”
“Best case scenario, I’m letting the emotional demands and responses of the music dictate my actions. If it’s a vengeful song, sounding vicious and vengeful, and meaning it. If it’s a sad song, having real tears in your eyes. When it’s funny, actually laughing.”
Do you feel more pressure as frontman?
“It’s not pressure; it’s responsibility. The pressure comes on when external forces come into play. It happens pretty rarely, but it does happen. Where I get in trouble with venues is not over money as much as respect. It was Beethoven who got musicians to come in the front door. Before Beethoven’s time, musicians had to use the service entrance. Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi all had to come in the back door. I still fight that. If I have a heart attack over music, it will be because of fighting with somebody about being respected.”
“I don’t remember being heckled in a bad way for years, but it has happened. That’s when it becomes more of a responsibility because it’s a pressurized situation. You can make it worse so easily, without even trying.”
Do you get frustrated?
“All the time. A perfect gig would be one with no frustration; everybody shows up on time; there are no oh-by- the- ways from management or staff, or parking issues, or any of that. It’s all supposed to be satisfying and fulfilling, but I think where the professional side has to come out is when it’s not fulfilling, and it’s not satisfying, [but you don’t] let anybody see it.”
“We’re the act that people paid to see, even when things aren’t going right.”
“I’ve said that this line up would last us the rest of our lives, Byrd saw that and said, ‘Does that mean I have to die to get out of this band?’ and I said yeah. But that was 9 years ago. Now, I wonder. I can envision stopping because it would make life so much simpler, but the reason that every time I’ve stopped, I’ve started, is because it’s a missing piece. It’s a part of my mental health. This is better therapy than a therapist. It’s a catharsis. It’s a cleansing process. It was the way, when I wasn’t near as professional, to exorcize demons and get rid of garbage that I just couldn’t deal with any other way.”
“I don’t think the music belongs to us. We belong to it.”
“It’s so important that it overshadows a lot of practical reality. And that has to be put into perspective. Sometimes I can do that, and sometimes other people have to do that for me.”
“I ran onto a friend of mine, and today was his last day in business. He needed to talk, and we’re not close friends, but we know each other. I was there just as a listener. When Lori and I got together, thirty years ago, she started calling me Father Paul. I always had the capacity to listen. God knows how many times she had to wait while I heard somebody’s confession so to speak, shared empathetic words and thoughts and all that.”
“I get that from my dad. Teachers, preachers, and musicians are what my ancestors have been for generations. I think to be successful at all that you have to listen. I’m sure, in your experience, if you have a student who is troubled, you probably feel some satisfaction if you can sit down and have a heart to heart.”
“So Father Paul got in the way, but I don’t think there are any serious musicians that don’t have that affliction. There are musicians that are assholes, and there are musicians that are difficult, but if they didn’t feel something, they wouldn’t do it. You can do it for a little while for the fantasy of making money, and you can do it for a long time for the reality of not making money but getting adulation, but after a while, that wears off if you don’t have a feel for it.”
“The real satisfaction is in the music. There’s no feeling in the world like ending a song or a set and hearing that roar of the crowd. It’s euphoric. That’s the payoff–we communicated. Someone heard what you had to say, whether they heard your lyrics, or the emotional connection in the music.”
“Maybe, it was a catharsis for them as well.”
“In all senses, it’s a blessing and a curse because if you’re into it that deep, the people who care about you pay the price.”
What do you listen to?
“Not near as much as I used to, but Pink Floyd, Beethoven, Vivaldi. I like to listen to classical music because it has nothing to do with my life. Those guys have to communicate.
“Most of the listening I do now is goal oriented which takes all the fun out of it. I listen to music for inspiration, to look for material, or to relax. It’s hard to find music that is relaxing. Maybe owning this studio is part of that. The more you’re around recording, the more you listen to music microscopically, rather than as a finished piece. I used to listen to Dropkick Murphys a lot. Now, it’s: Well they used more compression with that than I would have, or that guy really does sing flat, but nobody cares.”
“I used to listen to classical because it was fun. I thought it was really awesome that when my Dad and I would come in from plowing the wheat fields, covered in dirt, he’d put on music and listen. Now, I know that he wasn’t just a dirt covered farmer, but the juxtaposition of coming in covered in chaff, sweat, and grime and listening to classical music….wow.
“I think about my Dad a lot. He was a music teacher, and a performer, and a farmer. All of which are really similar. He performed at the senior citizen dances in Carmen, Oklahoma, a town of less than two hundred. He played every other weekend through his seventies, and the one thing I regret is that I never went. I wasn’t living there, but I had the opportunity, and I never took it.
“My mom always wanted us to do a duet at church, and I just refused. He was real intimidating vocally. He was a choir director, a teacher of vocal music…I was always real intimidated by that. Now, I say it was one of the dumbest things ever, but when I was in high school and started a rock n roll band, he also had some pretty disparaging things to say about my vocal abilities. I still carry that. He didn’t say I sucked, just, ‘Um, it’s gonna take a lot of work.’
“My one musical regret is never performing at a live show with him. If I could peel back the clock and get a Mulligan, that would be it.”
Does that make playing with Matt more gratifying?
“It does, and it makes it more poignant. It sure wouldn’t have killed me to go to church and do a duet with my father.”
Do you feel like he’s hovering around you when you step out on stage?
“Hovering wouldn’t be the word, but sometimes, he’s there. Matt’s white guitar was his. ..It’s been nineteen years…He lived a long time. We had a conversation about the belief in his religion that he’d see us again…that hope…”
“I have been religious in my life. I find that my religion is very much based on the person I depend upon, and I mean a pastor. The good ones are the philosophers. I certainly believe in Christian philosophy, but I also believe in Buddhist philosophy, and Jewish philosophy, and Muslim philosophy. Mostly, because the Old Testament is all of that, but I don’t buy that it rained 40 days and 40 nights. I buy that that was the expression for it-rained-like-hell-and-for-a-long-time.”
“I was almost to a preacher. It was close.”
Preacher or musician?
“Yeah, and it was because the preacher at a Congregationalist church up in Montana was such a very brilliant philosopher. I could see it, and I could feel it…[but] it’s hard…I remember going to Guadalajara in college and seeing abject poverty all around churches covered in gold. That’s one of the reasons that I’m not a fundamentalist. I don’t necessarily believe that the church is always right, no matter which church that might be. I think that in their essence, the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution are rooted in religious belief, and I can get with that, basic human rights.”
“There was a forest fire, Big Elk Meadows, in 2002. Three people were killed, two the first day, and one ten days later as they were mopping up. When that fire started I saw it in its first five minutes because some dumb shit had pulled off the road. He could have stopped at a pull off but he didn’t, and then he ran and they didn’t find him for several months. I was angry about that, and didn’t know how to deal with it. One of our neighbors was out putting up some sort of notice… I was all caught up in how useless it was for these three people to have died. I didn’t get on her case about it, but I was probably relatively negative about the fact that we were powerless. She said ‘That’s not true. I can do this.'”
“What she said, I interpreted it as, we can’t bring ’em back; we can’t undo the fire; we can’t undo all that damage. But I can do this, this one thing. The world is such a big place, and I have to be reminded pretty often, I can’t do anything about the universal part of it, [but] I can focus on that. So I went back home, asked Matt to get his pipes, and we went out on the mountain.”