Article Search...

Mark Farner Talks About Dying, The Pandemic, & Losing A Son

Posted June 2020

markfarner0005Nine years ago next month, I interviewed one of the voices who commanded a significant chunk of the soundtrack of my youth: Mark Farner, formerly of the iconic classic rock band, Grand Funk Railroad. During that chat, Mark was straightforward and didn’t mince any words when it came to speaking his mind whether it was with his relationships or his view of the world.

When the opportunity recently presented itself to chat with Mr. Farner again, I jumped at the chance and knew that it was going to be another candid (to say the least) conversation. In the last chat, Mark spoke extensively about the care he and his wife, Lesia, gave to their son, Jessie, who was totally paralyzed from an accident. Since that conversation, Jessie, sadly, passed away. As our conversation began, I started off by expressing my belated condolences on their loss.

“I thank you for saying that, Brother Randy. And you know, he's whole now. This is the only way we can really, in this earthly present tense, you know . . . what we are right now in this bone suit. . . because when you lose your child, it's like you have that big hole and it's. . . I heard it described very well as being "love with no place to go." And that's what it is. You love them but you can't show them. But we know he is whole. Now he is back where he came from.”

It was at this point that Mark shared a jaw-dropping story.

“I visited him when I had my pacemaker put in. I died, I left and I fought coming back, man. I come back into my bone suit kicking and screaming, five years ago. It was I think it was 2015 October 23. And my wife and I were at the Renaissance Center. We stayed down in Detroit; went down and did some PR, did some radio stuff. We got up in the morning and Lisa was in the bathroom washing her face and getting herself ready to go. She said when she stepped around the corner to check on me, that my arm had shot up in the air and my body was convulsing and going through some really weird stuff.”

“She got the paramedics and she called the front desk, they got the paramedics and they got me over to Harper in Detroit. I markfarner0013Mark Farner During The Grand Funk Railroad Daysdied on the emergency room table because they had me hooked to an external pacemaker and they hit me with so much voltage, it was like they plugged me straight into the wall. That's what it felt like. It hurt. Oh my god, it hurt. I died. I went right on into heaven. I was. . . I knew all things. I even, in that state of being, I even had the resolve of knowing what the purpose of these Earth years was all about. I didn't bring that back with me. However, when I did come back into this bone suit, I don't know if I got fit back into it quite the way I was when I left because now I can play slide guitar. I never touched the slide before. And one day here just a couple years ago, I slid a little bottle thing on my finger - it was like a medicine bottle - and I started playing it by just putting it on my little finger and I was making chords and still had that little medicine bottle on there and playing it with my pinky. And I'm going, ‘Where did this come from?’ I'm looking at it, I'm thinking, ‘Wow! I got it. I can play slide.’ I never played it before. Kinda crazy.”

Perhaps channeling some Johnny Winter?

“Yeah. I'm telling you, I don't know, but, back when we were doing Guitar Gods it was like. . . What's his name? The Canadian guitar player? Drinkin' Whiskey, Smoking Cocaine, or something like that? He took his own life. Ronnie Montrose . . . Ronnie really got the slide down just before he left his body. He was playing some slide, man. Really playing and I was admiring it. So, being that he's already checked out, maybe I got a little Montrose. . .

I knew that Mark was on a Montrose album that was released after he passed so I asked if Farner and Ronnie were close.

“We were when we were doing that tour. We were just like brothers. It was just like he knew me. I knew him. And we were cut from the same cloth. But I had no idea of his troubles. And, God rest his soul, he was a great man; a great musician. So, that's what I remember about him - my friend.”

Since we were in the midst of the pandemic when Mark and I talked, I asked him how it was affecting him and his.

“The "scam-demic" has been talked about quite a bit on public radio here in the state. And Governor ‘Witchmer’ has really kind of just popped up there and she's a talking head. But this is not coming from her. All these directives are coming from who she serves. This is not that woman. I keep that in my mind so I can't, like, bash her or anything. I just give her little jabs now and then because, you know, she didn't clear what she proclaimed as this. . . the lockdown. She didn't clear that with the senate here in the state. In order for it to be official, the Senate has to approve it. They shot it down, and she did it anyway. So, I don't give her any kind of cooperation, okay? I'm unlocked. Yeah, I did do one of those GoFundMes as Mark Farner's, mid-Michigan Flood Relief. You know, and I'm doing whatever we can do to help our brothers and sisters in the state here. But it's really, this thing, this lockdown, Brother Randy, it has messed with us. It has really messed with us. People are kind of . . . they've got cabin fever and their husbands and wives are fighting each other. I mean, crazy stuff going on. Crazy stuff.”

Our conversation switched from the pandemic to his 50th Anniversary in music. I asked him What thought 51 years ago when he was recording Grand Funk Railroad’s landmark hits, putting it out there, and performing it. Did he think it would have the kind of legs after all these years?

“Well, you know, as a songwriter, every song that you write - to you - is a hit. I mean, why the hell are you writing it if it's not a hit, ya know? So, in our mind, songwriters, we write hits. We think they're hits, you know, or we wouldn't believe in them enough to finish them. But, this whole process of the deregulation, you know . . . and the FCC, back in 1995, gave the ownership of all our - well, not all, but nearly all of our - terrestrial radio stations to the corporate conglomerates who control the playlists and who control the news, the fake news. It makes sure that the people are getting the narrative that they want to jam in their heads, in every open orifice on 'em, you know, to keep this myth going.

markfarner0001“But the music back when I was writing, you know, it was played on the radio, which was controlled by local families. There were patriots - grandfathers and grandmothers; moms and dads - people with a moral conscience over what our children were seeing and hearing. And until 1995, we had that safeguard, but that safeguard was removed under the deregulation of the FCC. Prior to the deregulation, you get on seven AM, seven FM, seven television stations, and you were limited to that ownership of seven to prevent a monopoly.

“Well, when they deregulated, guess what? Duh. We got monopolies. Holy crap! We don't have any influence on the people in radio anymore - terrestrial radio or satellite radio. I mean, you might find something that kind of sounds almost like it's friendly and real, but most of it just sounds plastic and fake. Just think of the minds it's coming from. The creative process has kind of stagnated. It's stalled out when the ownership switched hands from the people to the corporate conglomerates and the ones who fund the world and the countries of this world. Those families, they are controlling it all, those families. But the music, I hear some really good stuff, you know, people pass to me. Today, people are still writing it. You'll not hear it on the terrestrial stations. You might hear it on a YouTube channel or something or somebody sent you a link to. . . they were out in the club, you know, and videoed this song and it was killer. It certainly isn't in ‘lamestream’."

I was curious about what Farner was hearing from fans and the crowds now when he goes out and performs after all these years?

“Well, there's a lot of veterans that come to my shows and I always, when we play it live, it always goes out to our troops and to our veterans. We also put in kudos to our first responders, to our police and fire department, to the EMTs. It's something that everybody is concerned about. You're just so eat up with everything else that life is throwing at you. You kinda gotta sort it out and say, ‘Well, what am I gonna spend my time on that's gonna be meaningful and do something, mean something when you're finished doing it?’

What is Mark seeing in his crowds demographically?

“A lot of the fans bring their children. The older fans bring their kids, bring their moms and dads. I had - I think he's one of markfarner0004the oldest World War II veterans left alive - 94 years old - last year when he came to the show at the casino. His son brought him - a veteran - and I just, when I see people like that, my heart goes out, my love goes out to them. And the thing, for me, the exciting part is, his son brought him because he thought enough of my music to bring his dad to an experience, a Mark Farner's American Band show. That speaks volumes about. . . the young people that are showing up. I'm telling you, teenagers that are rocking with me, and especially when we do South America, oh my gosh! They come out by the thousands; the young people fill the places up and they rock American-style. They love me down there because I am who my songs say I am.”

With the pandemic affecting tours and live entertainment, I asked Mark if he had further plans to mark the 50th anniversary of any of his other Grand Funk Railroad work.

“Well, if I'm ever involved with anything like that. . . of course, I'm left out of all of the GFR decisions, corporate and everything, even though I wrote 92% of the music, that those guys are. . . Can I say shamming? Seriously? How can they say that they're Grand Funk without the guy that wrote and sang 92% of the stuff? It's just integrity, and there ain't much in this world anymore, brother. Seriously.

“The truth is, Don Brewer came to me after we had finished constructing the song in the studio. And I, I told them, I said, ‘You know, this song needs a cowbell.’ He didn't own a cowbell. I said, ‘It really needs a cowbell.’ He says, ‘I'll just hit the bell on my cymbal.’ I said, ‘No, dude, you need to get a cowbell, a real cowbell.’ And he says, ‘I'll pick one up tomorrow on my way to rehearsal.’ I said, ‘No, pick up six of them and let's pick the best sounding one for this song. We got to get something that's close to being in tune.’ It was like, man, that that cowbell fit that song so well. In fact, it was voted number two in Rolling Stone out of the top 10 cowbell songs. It's number two, only to be superseded by Honky Tonk Women.

“Yeah, but I forced that little cowbell thing. And I taught Brewer the drum lick that opens that record. He wasn't hearing it and I'm saying, ‘No, you got to kick it with the bass drum.’ The double kick is on the bass drum. And he finally he says, ‘Man, I can't do that.’ I said, ‘You can do that! Yeah, you can, man, are you kidding me? If anybody can do it, you can do it.’ And he finally did it. And . . .all the harmony stuff, all the guitar stuff . . . But he came to me after we were done with that session, Randy, and he says, ‘Mark, I've never had 100% right credit on any song. Do you mind if I take it on this one?’ I said, ‘Go ahead, Donnie,’ because, you know what? I'm a nice guy, and I'm not going to be. . . I'm not going to stop being a nice guy because I get screwed over. Jesus didn't stop being nice. And you know, he's just got to hang on to what you believe in and people try and steal it from you and try and discourage you from hanging on to it. But you just got to hold on through all things.”

markfarner0006The last time Mark and I spoke, he spoke at length about the relationship with the band. With what he just said, I said that I took it that things really haven’t changed much over the last nine years.

“No. In fact, they took me to court. They sued me over Mark Farner's American Band. They wanted me to stop using it and I had already applied for and received a trademark. That's my trademark. And it's obtained legally, through an attorney, my music attorney in LA. They got their asses handed to them, actually, in the courtroom. All of this stuff that they've been kind of throwing at me over the last 20 years and all these threats - they're gonna cancel my shows and all this stuff - I changed my name to get away from that; to stop using the ‘formerly of Grand Funk Railroad’ because that's where they would get me every time because there's always an internet violation and it was always a third party. It wasn't the party who read the contract and knew the contract and read the rider to the contract. It's some person at a radio station or someplace that they're making up an ad for this and they're just putting on what they want to put on. So that's how all the violations happened. Over the years, that stuff has just been going and coming and coming.

“Well, finally, that was turned around with this decision in federal court and they got beat. They were shot down. Everything they tried to do to me or put on me was shot down by the judge. It was just a no-win for them. And it kind of knocked the wind out of their sails there, which they need. They really needed that because I'm not going to lay back and take this anymore. This is just abuse. Why? Life is too short. Why people have to do things that are retaliatory and they burst in anger . . . and why all that debt has to be put on someone? I don't know if it's because they're hurting so bad that they think hurting someone else is going to relieve that pain in some way. I couldn't tell you, brother. But I am not a psychiatrist. Something in the milk ain't cream. . .”

I’m not naming any names but other groups besides Grand Funk Railroad have also experienced similar kinds of dissension. I asked Mark why he thought that was.

“Well, like I said, when the ownership of the terrestrial stations changed hands and all that stuff started, the people lost their markfarner0007byBrad ShawPhoto by Brad Shawinfluence. So, we are suffering from that corporate mindset that doesn't fit the family. It really does not fit a family structure. But people are bamboozled - they really are - with. . . fake news. People buy that, Brother Randy; they buy into it. And if they buy into a lie, what does that do for their credibility when they're speaking to someone else? And what if there's a bunch of them? This whole thing of the two parties and the hatefulness that's back and forth - that would have never occurred if the deregulation of the FCC wouldn't have occurred. If the families, the patriot families, still owned our terrestrial stations - television and radio - we wouldn't be under the pressure and this dark shadow of debt and indebtedness to an invisible monster. You know, that's all fairy tale crap, man. Jesus is bigger than all of that. That's unconditional love and we are made of it.

“We've been convinced of all this other crap that enters our mind and we've had to adjust our thinking for the situation we've been thrown into. And all of a sudden, you're reacting and life takes over. You can't hardly get to your heart anymore unless you go into your prayer closet. And that's hard to get to with all the commotion and noise in the flesh going on, you know. That's where it's really started - back then when they deregulated. And now it's like we’ve got the mind of the monster that we are reacting to. And all these puppets like ‘Witchmer’ here in Michigan that are anti-American, anti-constitutional. . . Anybody that's anti-gun - just think of this - if you're anti-gun, you're anti-constitution. The Constitution says that that gun is necessary for the freedom of speech. It's necessary. And nothing's going to change that. No matter how they lie and try to say, ‘Oh no, it's not necessary. We'll protect you.’ Oh, my God, forget it.”

As Mark Farner fans already know, after he left GFR, he enjoyed a successful career in Contemporary Christian Music. I asked him if he planned to re-enter the genre with new music.

“No. I'm open to my heart, what's coming into my heart. I've got a completely different view of the church now that I've died and came back to life, I'm telling you. You just have a different take on life in general. And the debt-consciousness that prevails in society is changed. When you start going to a church, all you do is you take on the church's debt consciousness. It changes from the world to the church, but there's debt consciousness and it's contrary to the word and contrary to reason.

“When you say unconditional love, there's nothing that love can't accept, can't pure, you know, can't change. There's nothing because it all came from there. It's just those evil people who have been planning this New World Order horse crap. They control the wars; they control the issuance of currency to all these various countries, not just the United States. Debt of the Federal Reserve issued to Mexico, Canada, South Africa. They issue to India, Japan; they issue to so many countries because they jumped in there and bailed them out when they were down on the ropes. And this is how these "banksters" operate.

markfarner0008byBrad ShawPhoto by Brad Shaw“But all the countries that they are issuing to will vote the same way they vote when they have that UN meeting and they say, ‘We're going to disarm all the countries.’ Everybody that's beholden to them is going to vote the same way they vote. And in 28 states here in the United States, there's like this big push to protect Israel, because now it's against the law to be critical of Israel. I mean, this is in 28 states and the President signed something to this effect. It wasn't the same thing that the states were signing but, why is that? It infuriates me because my mother's people, my grandmother's people, the Cherokee Nation should not be criticized. The Lakota Sioux should not be criticized. My Navajo brothers and sisters should not be criticized. Do you hear me, Randy? There's a lot of people that deserve that status if we're going to give it to anybody. There's a lot of people in front of Israel that. . . as consideration as Americans - there is a lot more people here, and this has to stop. I see it as. . . it's kind of chicken crap. It's like, this is cowardice to tell me I can't criticize you? Forget you. I got a First Amendment. It's called the Constitution of the United States of America, and the freedom of speech and that's where I stand, brother.”

What’s on Farner’s radar for the next year or so?

“We're gonna release the 2017 video of Santiago. It's ‘From Chile with Love - Mark Farner's American Band’; and we're markfarner0001working on another video with. . . Did you see the "Can't Stop" video, the YouTube "Can't Stop" . . . the same producer and same people are getting together; they want me to put my head together with them and come up with another video. And that's going to be within the next couple of months here.”

With our chat wrapping up and still getting my head around his back-from-death story, I asked Mark how he hoped to be remembered and what he hopes his legacy will be.

“Oh, yeah, you know, dying and coming back will definitely change your life around. Reprioritize. I want to be remembered as a farm boy with a big dream to save the world with a song and my guitar and go out there and spread love, peace; be used of the Great Spirit to make people smile and to bring light to the darkness. Because when I go to the prisons and play; when I go to the local jails and the drug rehabs and the juvenile detention centers and the prison camps that I've gone to, I'm taking the light. And, I'm telling you, it's not because I think I'm cool or anything, I think Jesus is cool. I mean, this light don't go out. This is the light we all come from, and it's real and it can't be put out. This is the rivers that flow from the throne, and that's what I want to be remembered as . . . that I'm a pusher of love, that I'm that guy on the street pushing love.”

Keep up on the latest with Mark Farner by visiting his website, MarkFarner.com.

Pam Tillis Is Looking For A Feeling

Posted June 2020

PamTillis2020HeadshotByMattSpicher croppedPhoto by Matt SpicherLike many of you Pam Tillis fans, I first became aware of her music in 1991 with the release of her album, Put Yourself In My Place. Being a fan of her famous dad, the late Mel Tillis, it was easy to become a fan of Pam’s. Talented, beautiful, and engaging, she made lifelong fans the world over.

Pam has a new album out entitled, Looking For A Feeling, that, once again, knocks it out of the park with great, well-written, genre-blending, and stretching songs that will have you slapping the repeat button on your media player countless times.

The new album afforded me the opportunity to chat with Pam recently for the first time. Connected by phone while she was out and about in the Nashville area, first and foremost to be talked about was how the recent tornadoes and the current pandemic were affecting her.

“The only effect in my neighborhood So, you know, when I go anywhere in my neighborhood walking or going to the store, whatever, I go by a considerable amount of damage. And there's been some of my favorite businesses impacted and then the crazy thing is that it rolled right into this pandemic. And so it's just been - pardon my French - a ****storm.”

Bringing our conversation to the subject of her new album, I shared with Ms. Tillis how much I love it and how great the songs are.

“I just I'm so thrilled to hear that kind of comment, because I kind of, I don't know, I guess in some ways unintentionally, but in some ways intentionally. I kind of live in my own little musical bubble a little bit. You know, I was on the road all the time and I get - it's funny, sometimes I'll get tired. I’m funny about listening to too many other artists, like when I go in and make a record, I don't want to listen to too many current artists because I don't want to be influenced. I've actually heard a couple of other people say that I want to be, I want to be unique and I want to, I want to try to do my own thing, but I did kind of pull from my influences of the past.

“But anyway, I worked really hard on that record and you don't know ever know how it's gonna be received. I was actually pretty nervous about it because it isn't like everything that's in style. It's just me doing me. I've been really thrilled with the reviews but it’s frustrating to not be able to get out there and promote it live. I think it will perform great live. I really do. I’ve some of it a little bit. I did have one concert with my trio and that was good. But, you know, it would just be so great to just do the whole record with the band. Hopefully, it'll find its way into people's hearts.”

I asked Pam which song on “Looking For A Feeling” would she point to as a calling card for the whole album.

“Wow. Well, I really love, ‘My Kind Of Medicine’. I really love, ‘Burning Star’. I think those things are kind of indicative of the breadth of the record; you know, the span of it.”

When I shared with Pam that I love, ‘Scheme Of Things’, ‘Looking For A Feeling’ and ‘Karma’, she chimed in:

“That’s great and it's funny, there's two songs on the record that are actually kind of polarizing. People either love ‘Karma’ and they go, ‘Oh, this is so catchy and I love it.’ Or they go, ‘Why is this song on this record?’ I have these songs and I'm like, ‘I'm not gonna wait till I think - sometimes you just gotta go with it! I mean, it's not a concept album. It's just a snapshot in time. I mean, it's always nice when everything perfectly flows and relates to each other. Every album’s not like that. As long as it felt strong, I went with it and that song is a good recording and I think it’s some of my best vocal work so I put it on there.

Pam said this about the feedback on the album, so far:

“A lot of strong, strong reviews. People are going, ‘This is genuinely good.’ I don't know. I mean, I always try to do the strongest record I can do but this one seems to have - people seem to think it's really credible and relevant. Everybody can tell that I didn’t phone it in.”

When I told Pam that the album cover was hot and that a lot of guys would likely purchase the album just for its cover. She laughed and said:

“Either that or Oreo cookie sales will go up! Ha! Ha! If it was the old days with radio, I’d send out a CD and a pack of cookies with it. Ha! Ha!”

As for what’s on Pam Tillis’ radar for the next year or so, she shared:

PamTillis2020HeadShot2ByMattSpicherPhoto by Matt Spicher“Honest to God, nobody knows. Nobody really knows. I feel like if you want to hang with your career, you find a way to connect. All bets are off; all guarantees are off. I’m wondering if even some of the smaller venues would become a thing; like where it would really be - I mean, we're talking about really select audiences. Or if there would be a thing where they would let people come in like at outdoor shows and they have little dots and you just stay on your dot. I just don’t know.”

At the time of our chat, there were rumblings about shows at drive-in theaters to which Pam said:

“Well, we’ve got parking lots. Why not set up there? They're just trying to figure out like the bathroom situation. I talked to my agent this week, and he mentioned that and I'm, like, ‘Wow!’ but you know, it's gonna take some figuring. To tell you the truth, I know our culture - we always try to live at warp speed but it's gonna take a little bit of time to figure this stuff out .”

Because Pam has a unique perspective of the music business not only based on her career but also on that of her dad’s, I asked her what she thinks the best and worst changes she’s seen in country music.

“I would definitely say that the protection of intellectual property got away at a certain point. The record companies and the performance rights organizations really let the songwriters down. They didn't get out in front of the streaming platforms. You know, you can't stream a video game for nothing. You got to go out and buy it. There are people that say, ‘Why should I pay for music?’ They act like it didn't take anything to write a song. You devote your life to writing songs. You write 1000 songs to get one good one. They just don't understand what goes into making art. I feel bad for the new artists because you know and now, until we can get back to working on the road, just the way the business deals are structured for new artists, the record companies want half of their merch or all their merch and they won't have their songwriting publishing, what's left of it. I mean, it is just really challenging for new artists; really, really hard. So, I'd say that those two things are the worst things.

“The best is there's a good side to all the technology. You can reach more fans. You can have an instant impact. Country music's bigger than it's ever been. I mean, it's so popular. It truly is America's music. I think that, in some ways, radio can be real restrictive creatively. But if you think about it, the boundaries are getting pushed creatively. A song like, ‘Down the Old Town Road’. I mean, that's, that's really defying genres. It's combining different genres in fresh ways. I think that's very positive.”

With that, I asked Pam what she would do to fix the music business if she was made Music Czar.

“I would make sure that songwriters got paid. I think that you know, even if they met people halfway with these streaming platforms, it would be a PamTillis 001game-changer. Pay people something! I mean, it's just hardly anything. It's just shocking.”

Wrapping up our fascinating call, I asked Pam Tillis how she wanted to be remembered and what she hoped her legacy would be.

“Wow. Well, if you're talking to artists to artists, it's a little different than the way you might phrase it to your fans. But to put the best, to give your best is, is an act of love. And to make music that has integrity and has meaning to people, that's a big deal. To make a song that means something to somebody and they've made it part of the soundtrack of their life, it’s a reason people show up at your concerts. And the things that they say to you about, you know, “You were my first CD I bought or my first cassette I bought, or, I wore this record out’. When it becomes a part of their life, that that's just an amazing thing to get to be a part of. And, you know, you can't let go to your head because it took a team to get you there. It took all the musicians that played on your record and all the songwriters that you co-wrote with or recorded with, you know? It’s very much a group effort that got you there. Just the willingness to show up in the world in that way. There's sacrifices involved. I learned that from having a famous daddy. But to just give your best and to really care because, just like this record, there's so many times I could have just taken the easy way out on something. And I didn’t. I just couldn't do that.

“I do some mentoring. There's a school here in Nashville - in Franklin - where I work with young people that want to be an artist. And that's one of the very first questions I asked them is, ‘Why are you doing this? What's your motivation?’ It's really important because, so often, it can be a parent pushing you into it, or peer pressure; something that you've seen somebody else do. You might be emulating somebody. As a young person, those are good questions to ask. And as an old person, those are good questions to ask. I ask myself, I'm like, there's a lot of - I call it noise that’s being put out on a daily basis. It’s like, does anybody need more of anything, you know? So, I have to be really clear on that.”

What is definitely clear is that Pam Tillis is still putting out great music worthy of our attention, in addition to our listening libraries, and airtime on radio. You can order Looking For A Feeling by clicking on the album’s icon. Keep up with Pam by visiting her website, PamTillis.com. Be sure to catch one of her shows should she be performing near you. If you do, tell her that Boomerocity sent you.

Felix Cavaliere Discusses COVID-19, Life After, Music & Its Future

Posted June 2020

felixcavaliere001croppedFelix Cavaliere Long Version If you’re a baby boomer (or, at least, love the music that baby boomers love), then you’ve heard – and loved – the music of The Rascals. Songs like “Good Lovin’”, “Groovin’”, “A Beautiful Morning”, and “People Got To Be Free” jammed the airwaves back in the day. Even today, we’ll stop and turn up the radio just a tad whenever those phenomenal songs come on our radios and streaming gadgets.

The Rascals’ contribution to the soundtrack of our lives was rewarded in 1997 with their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. More about that in a moment.

These days, you can enjoy the spirit of The Rascals by catching their keyboardist, Felix Cavaliere, who is wonderfully and brilliantly keeping the band’s spirit alive with a healthy tour schedule. I saw Felix work his magic shortly after I launched Boomerocity back in 2009 during a stop of the traveling show, Hippiefest. He held the Dallas crowd in the palm of uber-talented hands. What a night and what a memory!

When I was recently given the opportunity to interview Felix by phone at his Nashville area home, I reached out to Boomerocity friend and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Greg Harris, for comment about Felix.

“They’re just the ultimate Jersey soul. It’s a different vibe. It's a party time, good-time vibe . . . fun-loving, but serious, rock and roll; with Felix driving that organ . . . without Felix Cavaliere and the Rascals, you don't have Bruce Springsteen, the E Street Band.”

Reaching Felix at his Nashville home recently, I rang him up just as he was finishing his regular morning workout. Commending him on doing something that I really should be doing (especially during this pandemic), Felix replied:

I have no choice, man. I'm used to working out pretty hard. I haven't been doing it. I'm feeling it. Let me tell you.”

The pandemic was a natural first topic of conversation with me asking how it has affected him.

“We need places to work, man, I tell you, we miss it like crazy. And it's not only us. I mean, you know, I've got a lot of friends in restaurant businesses. They're really taking a hit, you know, and, of course, like the athletes, you know, I don't know what kind of contracts they have, but everything's closed. The Olympics are closed. The French Open's been moved. The NBA's been shut down. It's pretty serious stuff. Really serious.”

Asking Cavaliere what his guess was on what's going to happen with the music as we kind of stick our toes back in the water, he replied:

“As far as with my business? We have really no idea. I mean, there's a lot of theories as to what we're going to do. So, what we've been doing is preparing our guidelines so that when we do get back to work, at least they know what we're going to do, what we're not going to do. I mean, and basically, it's an interesting thing, because I carry a band with me when I travel. Some of the guys are a little squeamish to go out so we've got to make sure that they feel safe. And then, of course, I've got to feel safe. So, my manager's running a thing that would be our new . . . Whaddaya call that? . . . your backup plan . . . (contract) riders. It means is that we can't do meet and greets anymore, which is a major part of our thing. I mean, we can't have too much backstage interplay with people. He wants me to get to the show just before I go onstage. I mean, it's kind of like we're trying to make it easy for them on their side, and, of course, safe for us.

“We don't know. We have no idea. Believe me, anybody that tells you they know what they're doing or what's going to happen . . . The only thing that's come up is this drive-in thing, which is pretty interesting. But as you know, down here (in the south), man, you'd better wear some rainboots 'cause the drive-in's going to get a little sloppy. It's really funny, man. Going backward.”

Then, still giving it all serious thought, Felix concluded:

“Well, I mean, they got to do something and, as I say, the impact on people financially is pretty serious. And, of course, being from New York, I've got a lot of friends in New York that have picked this (the COVID-19 virus) up and they have actually gone through this Corona thing. It's not funny. They live in apartments there, these people and basically, if the filtration system is carrying it, you're going to get it. Simple as that. It's kind of really an interesting phenomenon that we've never, never experienced in our lifetime.”

Then, commenting about the confusing and ever-corrected COVID-19 virus statistics, Cavaliere added:

“But I'll tell you, if anything, they're being understated. They're not being overstated, believe me. When you close down New York City . . . think about that. I don't know if you've ever been to New York City. You close down New York City? Are you kidding me? I mean, that's like billions of dollars every hour. This is serious. This is not a joke. And they want to play with numbers. Trust me, we don't know all the numbers. The numbers are lower than they are because, first of all, it's so obvious that this stuff is spreading like wildfire, you know?

“But let's see, 'cause now we're starting to go out. Tennessee's still a little strict, but I believe it's up to the individuals, you know what I'm saying? Like, my wife, she really doesn't want to go out. So, guess what? We're not going out, you know? But it's up to the individual because there's no national guidelines here.

“And frankly, the way the United States is acting. I think it's a disgrace. I mean, seriously, I mean, people are rioting about, like we want to keep you safe, so we're gonna show up with guns? I mean, come on! What kind of country do we have here? Do you want to die? Go out and die, but don't make me sick or my kids sick. I don't understand it.

FELIX 319 1Photo By Leon Volskis“We should all be together on this. We should be united and say, ‘Look, here's what we're going to do. Let's see if we can lick this thing. How can we do it?’ I don't know. And they don't know. But I know at least you know what we can do, and that's to wash your hands, put the mask on, and that's what we're doing.

“I just did a session yesterday for the first time with (in a while). What I've been doing during this time is an album. I figured might as well utilize my time somehow, so I've been doing a recording. And, of course, it's been pretty interesting because we're doing it on our own online, with computers. But I'm doing it. I'm having a great time, man, and I'm really enjoying it. And you got to do something, right?”

When asked if he was using Pro Tools, Felix answered:

“Yeah, basically. We all have different what they call DAWS - digital audio workstations. It always ends up on Pro Tools. But, you know, it's kind of amazing because, first of all, it's fun. I mean, I just can't believe how much I miss playing, man. I mean, I've been doing this all my life and it's just part of your life. You don't realize it when you take it away. And it's really a withdrawal, you know?”

I latched on to his earlier comment about how VIP ‘Meet & Greets’ and I commented on how that will be a big disappointment to fans since it’s a rare opportunity to meet icons like him.

“Absolutely, well, it's fun, you know? And there's nothing like human interaction, there's no doubt about it; they're never going to take the place of that. But right now, we always shake hands with everybody when they come to the table and all that. Sometimes, God forbid, we even hug them. So, what do we do? I don't know. I mean, I really have no idea. But I think we're going to be okay here. You know, it's just a question of when and how. In the meantime, just to keep yourself in front of the public, I think it's important because you can disappear into thin air.”

All of this led to the bourgeoning concept of ‘home concerts’. Felix had plenty to say about this change.

“You know, the concept's been thrown around for a long time. I don't know that anybody's actually done it. It's certainly xpossible. It's not very difficult to do if you have the proper . . . again you have to have proper audio or proper cameras. You can't do it on, like, an iPad, you know. I mean, if, you watch a lot of these things that all of the new stations are having … and that's expensive. In most cases, it's pretty bad. The connections that they get, the pictures that they get, the audios that they get . . . they're terrible. We’ve got to do better than that. We've got to sound better and look better than that. And that's not free. I mean, they're going to have to perfect that a little bit, but I hope it doesn't come to that. I really do. I hope we're able to go out because I've been doing this all my life. What I know is that people who - you know, my peers, etc. - we love going on stage, man. I mean, we just . . . it's a gas. Anybody who's a musician will tell you the same thing. We enjoy it as much as the people enjoy it. You really have a good time playing. And now, we don't know. We don't know, man. We don't know whether that's gonna be around anymore. For the time being, it's not so it's very difficult. You don't realize how much you miss it until it's gone, you know?”

We shifted our talk to the album he mentioned earlier that he’s been working on.

“It's fun, man. We came up with an idea last year. I said, ‘Look, you know what? Why don't we take five songs that influenced you, re-record those kinds of like as a tribute to people like Ray Charles and Ben E. King and then write five new songs that shows the thread of influence?"

“We're having a ball. I mean, I'm just really enjoying it because I moved to Nashville in 1988 - 89 to write. I love to write. I love to use that part of my brain - the creativity part. So, I get a chance to do that. I get a chance to play because, as I say, we started this before this all happened so we got a good jump on it. So that's the concept. I don't know what we're gonna do as far as selling the product because we were counting kind of on the meet and greets and all that. But I also have a book that's kind of hopefully waiting to come out. We were also hoping to do something with the bookstores as far as maybe include this in a package or something like that. But the whole thing is, seriously, is to keep busy mentally and physically right now is really important. I was talking to you earlier about my exercise program. I'm really used to working pretty hard in the gyms and stuff like that. That's taken its toll. Well, it's the same thing for your brain. You've got to keep your mind going. Got to keep it going. Otherwise, you go to sleep, man. I'm not quite ready. I still enjoy what I do, tremendously.”

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I saw Felix perform in the Dallas area during the Hippiefest tour which included his peers like Leslie West of Mountain, Chuck Negron, Flo and Eddy, and himself. When I mentioned Leslie’s name, Felix pounced on it. “I gotta give him a call. I hope he's all right. I haven't heard anything about him lately. He had the amputation a few years ago. He's such a character, I've known him since he was a kid. I'll reach out... I'm glad you mentioned his name. He’s a trip. I guarantee you that. There's not too many Leslie Wests. He's a character. He's a great guy. I've known him since he was a kid. He's such a character. Oh, my God, when he had the bottom part of his leg amputated...the next day he went on Howard Stern's show. He says, "Man, I got to put this to some advantage." The next day! You don't meet too many guys like that.”

Just prior to my interview with Cavaliere, I also interviewed Carmine Appice, who I knew that Felix knows so I mentioned the chat with him.

felixcavaliere001“He's another guy that keeps busy, man. I mean, he doesn't stop and I think that's pretty cool. He's another old friend. I've known him for years. Matter of fact, we went out last summer to do a kind of like a, you know, sort of like a Rascals kind of tribute band. We had Gene in it, you know, and my guitar player, as you well know. He had a heart attack on stage and kind of interrupted that whole thing. It was September - I think it was the eleventh - and we were in Montana. Fortunately, he's still recuperating; still not doing that great. I got to give him a call also. So yeah, I was working with Carmine for a while and he's another character. I mean, there’s a lot of people around that should be in movies because they're so unique.”

When I mentioned that so many rockers, including my friend, Wild Cherry’s Rob Parissi, living in Florida, Felix piped in:

“Oh, yeah, I remember him, man. Wow, that was a long time ago. I met him when he just had his first hit record there – that ‘Play That Funky Music’ thing. I remember when he was lost in New York City. He was lost. I mean, he says, ‘I don't know what I'm doing here, man.’ And I said, ‘Well, you know, you had a hit record, didn't you? And yet that's why you're here, right?’ He was a character. That was a long time ago. Tell him hello, man; tell him hello.”

I brought up the body of work that Felix - especially with the Rascals – and his peers have recorded and that it has clearly stood the test of time while, seemingly, the more recent music seems to quickly fade from memory. I asked him what he attributes that to. “Yeah, there's a lot of reasons for that. First of all, the era that we were in. I mean, you have to understand that our competition, for want of a better word, were some of the best that ever lived. I mean, you got the Beatles in there, man. You got Stones in there. You got people like the Kinks and the Lovin' Spoonful. The musical level, the creative ability, was very high. Kind of like in the art world during the Renaissance in France when you had all these great impressionist paintings. That's what we were experiencing. So, the level was way up there and the products were way up there. That's the first thing and the easiest answer I give you.

“The other answer I can give you is the fact that we were on Atlantic Records which, I'm very proud to say. I understand that everybody knows they had to make money, but they had a very, very high kind of bar also for quality. They had some of the finest minds in the engineering world, with Tom Dowd and these people that were behind the scenes. Of course, in the musical world, Ahmet Ertegun - I mean, the level there was pretty high, man.

“And, you know, it's so many of the records that were made in those days... Aretha, you know, us, they're all there still because they commanded it and demanded it. They provided us with an atmosphere like a laboratory that was, at that time, state of the art. So, I mean, you're doing quality with quality and, basically, it stands the test of time.

“Today, unfortunately . . . it changed. I always find it interesting that people are so enamored with Woodstock. Woodstock, Woodstock, Woodstock. Well, let me tell you something. That was the end, as far as I'm concerned, of our creativeness. Because what happened is, the Wall Street guys found out how much money there was to be made from our generation. They came into our business. It's just like, ‘You think you can write a song? You think a computer can write a song?’ Try it. It could be done, but it stinks. I mean, you have to have that human element.

“So, anyway, they put the business aspect - it used to be music business - it turned out to be business music. Unfortunately, felixcavaliere002that's pretty much what you have now. You've got a business and it's okay because there's always bolts of lightning coming into our business. There's always the John Legends and the Elton Johns and the Billy Joels. There's always people coming in. But for the most part, it's just product. It's just product, let's face it. You know, how do I advertise this product? Well, that's another whole subject. It's very easy. Seriously. Basically, it just takes money. You want to advertise something, you pay for it. And now it's in front of the public. So, therefore, it must be good because it's of the public, right? Not necessarily. It's a different world. And you know, it's okay because we had our day and, basically, our time. I'm very proud to have been part of it. Let me just leave it at that.”

I was curious what Felix thought the best and worst changes have been in the music industry.

“Well, as I say, it's the whole kind of like monetary . . . how should I put? I'm trying to find the right word. I feel like I'm writing a lyric. The emphasis is on making money rather than on making art. That's the biggest change. In the old days, for example, there was a label, I think it was the Red Label on Columbia Records. They had artists on there, they were never gonna sell any albums. Like Ornette Coleman, they would do Stravinsky. They would do people like composers. They knew they were not gonna sell two billion copies of that, but they had them on the label because it was a prestigious thing to allow talent of that ilk, that magnitude, to be heard. That's gone. That's totally gone.

“Now, it's like, if you can't sell records, then get out of here. If you can't sell a product, get out of here. I mean, if I can't take your publishing - and it's all right. That's what it is. It's all money. It's all capitalist. That's what it is and that's okay because, as I say, there will always be a star shining in the middle of that pond, like a lotus flower, that stands out. But it's just that there are so many people out there. It's just unbelievable how many people are now making records because you can do it in your home.

“So, the good part is I happen to like the technology. I think the technology has made wonderful changes. I was talking earlier about me doing a CD. I could do a lot of that out of my home. I love it. Now it's like anything else, it can be used against you. You know what I'm saying? People don't realize, but, you know, when you do a Microsoft Word program, for example, we have what's called spell check. Everybody knows what that is. You can't spell? Oh, well, that doesn't matter anymore, does it? I can spell for you. Unfortunately, it's the same thing with singing and it's the same thing with playing. You can't sing? I'll fix you up, don't worry about it. Just sing into this box. I'll put it through my programs and you'll be fine. We'll make you sound amazing.

“That's the part that's really interesting. It's kind of like when our parents heard Rock n Roll, they said, ‘What is this? This is nonsense.’ It's the same kind of thing but that's the way it is. So much easier now to make music and make records. You don't even have to know how to play anymore.

“It's like I said, you know, I used to study many years ago with a guru, Swami Satchidananda. He was the gentleman that opened up the Woodstock movie and they'd ask questions, and he would make an answer like this - this is a perfect answer to your question. ‘Electricity. Well, is it good or is it bad?’ He said, ‘Well, if you plug in your toaster, it's good. If you plug in your finger, it's bad.’ And that's the truth. So that's kind of how I look at the modern thing. It could be used for good; it could be used for bad.’”

When I mused that the world is still hungry for great, musical art, Cavaliere said:

“I think so. I'm glad to hear that. I hope so. I think that that's what mankind needs to survive all this, is that yearning. Because I don't know . . . I mean, for example, if you're watching TV, I mean, can you possibly have more commercials on than are on? I don't think it's impossible to say, "What commercial am I tuning into this half-hour?" It's gotten to where it's taken over everything in our lives; this capitalistic, monetary, corporate identity. People think they like it, but are you sure you like it? I mean, do you own the company or something? I don't think so.”

FELIX 327 1I asked Felix what he would do to fix the problems in the music business.

“Oh, wow! I'd have to go find a magic wand. Remember that song," If I Ruled the World"? Well, you know, that's the thing. I mean, like, say, I can remember having this amazing skull sessions with my bands and my friends, where we were a little high or something like that, and we just solved all the problems of the world . . . and then we went out the door. We’re not in charge of those things. Again, going back to my teacher, my guru, he would tell me, "Look, clean your house first and then worry about the rest of the city." Clean your house, take care of yourself. So that's what I'm trying to do - mentally, physically, spiritually - trying to stay healthy in all those aspects, as much as I can. Kind of be an example to my family, my kids, that, when you go through something of this manner - a pandemic - don't freak out. Just do your thing; concentrate on, basically, yourself, your health, your family, and your neighbors. What else can you do?”

Who would Felix like to work with, musically, that he hasn’t, so far?

“Well, god, I don't know. That's a really good question because I've worked with so many people over the years, that I've enjoyed every bit of it. I don't know. I guess, like if you're talking contemporary, probably Pharrell. I really like the stuff he does because he kind of relates back to, my time in a lot of his productions. Probably Pharrell.”

Are you reading this, Pharrell?

I asked Cavaliere what was on his radar for the year or so after the lockdown is lifted.

“Well, we had a number of shows booked. We had about 30, 35 shows that were supposed to have been played between January and now which have not been canceled, per se, but have been postponed. So, if, with the luck of God, we still can do those, I'll probably be glad to do those. They've postponed them. However, I think it's a little bit of wishful thinking, but we'll see. August, September are still on the books. As far as I know, the NFL is doing the same. I don't know that's going to happen. So, contractually, I'm still committed to doing those shows, if, in fact, they happen.

“Second of all, as I say, I'm just going to keep writing and doing some new work as much as I can. I really enjoy it. And I've got a band that . . . they enjoy playing. So, we were able to make product. And just, as I say, really, really make an attempt to keep my sanity. I’ve got to keep my brain on here, you know.

Wrapping up my chat with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, I concluded by asking Felix how he wants to be remembered and what he hopes his legacy is.

“Well, I mean, basically, I want to be remembered mostly as a musician and positive and positive messages, peaceful messages, civil rights messages; and as a good father and parent and husband. That's fine with me . . . as opposed to, you know, oh, that devil, you know. I mean, you make a contribution and all you really want is people to realize that this happened; you were part of it; enjoyed it. That's what I kind of leave around, you know.” And that he definitely does.

Keep up with Felix at his website, felixcavaliereandgenecornishsrascals.com, and, while you’re at it, why not update your listening library with his – and The Rascals’ – catalog of music?

Carla Olson Discusses Music: New, Old, and Everything In Between

Posted June 2020

Carla and StepehnCarla Olson April 2020.m4a About six or seven years ago, I was searching on YouTube to see if there were any videos of the Rolling Stones performing their song, ‘Winter’, from their Goats Head Soup album. My search turned up an audio file of their former guitarist, Mick Taylor, performing it with a lady I hadn’t yet heard: Carla Olson.

I gave it a listen. Then I gave it another. Then, another. I wound up listening to it countless times that day. In doing so, I because a die-hard fan of Ms. Olson. I knew that I wanted to interview her but it wasn’t until recently that I could check that off of my interview bucket list.

The opportunity came about with the recent release of her latest album, ‘Have Harmony, Will Travel 2’. Because of the pandemic – and along with the rest of the country - we were sequestered in our respective homes – hers in SoCal and mine in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

I was curious about how the pandemic was affecting her and her husband.

“We work from we work from home. I mean, both my husband and I are producers and writers - he's in the music business. I generally am working at home or the studio or a combination of the studio - it's about three miles away. The studio is locked down, so he's doing one or two things if they want to come in and sing a vocal and they're not going to be freaked out by the tight space. It's not really tight, but you know how people are nowadays. It's like if nobody's been in the studio for three weeks, then there's no chance of really getting anything.

“He's been working with everybody from the Taj Mahal to the Railroad album that I'm working on - the Americana Railroad record. That was the last session that we did – actually. It was on March the 13th - that was our last session. At that point, California was in lockdown first, after New York. I'm pleased that what happened happened expeditiously rather than sort of being, 'Oh, gosh. We're California. We're perfect. Nothing is going to happen.'

“We're used to any kind of fire or earthquake. But this is really worrisome only in that it's world-wide and there's not really an escape from it.

“I just heard that, in New York, one in four people tested positive - of the people that they tested. So, I'm actually doing really well, being a Type 1 diabetic and over 65.

“I do constantly wash my hands. And if I'm taking public transit, I've always got my sanitizer on me. I don't drive much anymore. I do take public transit quite a bit. You just get in a routine and used to the routine. I'm just pleased that things are looking better for New York and hopefully will look better for California, too. I know that if you're watching an elderly parent - my mother in law's ninety-seven and she is going to get out. She's very active anyway. So, she's like, 'I don't understand why I can't go to Target and buy a shirt.' I'm like, 'Well, Mom, you better wait on that.'

“I also have, for the last, I don't know, twenty-five, thirty years, taken vitamin C. I have to take Vitamin C and D as a Type 1 diabetic because I don't get enough and if I don't get outside enough, I need to vitamin D. Generally, in the warmer months, I try to swim every day for about 20 minutes so I can get vitamin D and the exercise. I keep myself physically fit so I can go out and do the things that any 68-year-old person would think. 'Why are you still doing this? Why do you want still want to lift amplifiers.' But I digress.”

I shared with Carla that my sister and I keep a close eye on our elderly dad, to which she responded;

“I hope your dad does well because, as I said, my mother-in-law was in a nursing home - not a nursing home; she was in assisted living - for the last two years. She hates it. She's the only one without a walker and a cane. And she's like I said, she's 97, and she’s very kept. Her hair's done and her nails are done. She looks good all the time. This is one of those things that she's trying to figure out, 'Why am I with my son, my young son and his wife?' If she had it her way, she would still be living by herself.”

“We took her out of this home on a rainy, rainy, rainy night about five weeks ago and she was glad to get out of there because they had already had - last fall, they had the flu, you know, like you said, influenza that went around and they had to get all their meals - they couldn't go to the dining hall; they couldn't go to the TV room or do anything. They had to say in their room. So, she was glad to be rescued from that. And then, of course, the virus became public and she was like, 'Well, OK, yeah, I can go back (to the assisted living facility) now, right?' 'Well, no, you can't.'

“The assisted living facility that she was in was one of the ones that people died in. She just has to get re-educated on why things are the way they are. She's read like seven books since leaving. She's just an avid reader. She likes to keep her brain happening. She loves to walk and she doesn't get to do that now because it's kind of up in the hills where she is now.”

I shared with Carla how I came to be aware of her work. She shared the story behind the album that the cover of ‘Winter’ is on with Mick Taylor.

“We cut - that was the first take and it was a scratch vocal. I was guiding the band. Barry Goldberg was on piano, live; and Textones drummer, Rick (Hemmert) playing drums and Greg Sutton, who I've worked off and on for years and played in a band with Barry Goldberg - actually on A&M. He also was in Lone Justice years ago. We just had one other guitar player, Brian Brown. We just cut the first one, which is the longest one. And then Mick said, 'Let's do another one right away.' So, we started another one and that was pretty good. It was alright. And he said, 'Let's do one more.'

“We're all in this room and the headphones are just blasting. I mean, it was really, really loud and I don't care. We got a third of the way through that one or maybe a half and then Mick broke a string. So, we aborted that one and just put it - we could put it to bed at that point. We came out of the room and I said, 'The headphones are so loud! I get a lot of drums and a lot of bass and I got a lot of your vocals. I couldn't hear your guitar.' And he goes, 'But, you know, that's the way the Stones did it. That's the way it's to be done." I just thought, 'Well, we passed the Stones test so I guess we're okay!'”

Then, continuing on about ‘Winter’, Ms. Olson said:

“That's my favorite. That and 'Street Fighting Man' are my favorite Rolling Stones songs.”

I added that they also did an incredible job on another Stones song, ‘Sway’. “Well, you know why I wanted to do Sway even when we planned to do this show together. He (Mick Taylor) was still living in New York and he said, “You know, whatever songs we want to do from your most recent album’ - which was a solo album I put out in Sweden with a Swedish band called Wilmer X - a great band - and they just did a live show the day before yesterday, a live show on YouTube. You should catch it if you like the Stones. They're really great. They sing in Swedish, but they're such an amazing band. I did a record with them in ‘88 in Sweden, had a studio there and. But the reason I wanted to do 'Sway' was because Mick Taylor told me that there was about a five-minute outro on their studio version of that. But Mick Jagger decided to fade it early. You can hear him start to take off in the fade. Then, for some reason, Jagger decided to fade it and he said that at one point there was a cassette that existed of it. There was a cassette of the additional three minutes, but that burned up in Keith's house when he had a fire.

“When they did the extended version of 'Sway', I thought they would come up with it, but they didn't.”

I interjected that I thought that the closest they ever came to it was then when they did the live version of Sticky Fingers a few years ago. She responded:

Carla and Stephen“Yeah, but Mick Taylor didn't play on that so that's the whole point. I mean, that's the whole point between the strings. Nicky Hopkins, Mick Taylor not being on it. And when they tried - they actually contacted me about - when they were gonna do the tour with Mick in 2013 - they contacted me - or maybe it was 2012 that they put it together. They ask me to send him a CD from the Roxy. Why they couldn't go on Amazon and buy it. I don't know. Because what they wanted to hear was how did Mick sound on it. Okay, fine. Mick sounded great on it. And then they decided to include it in a couple of shows, not the one that I went to because they didn't play that one at the Staples Center when I heard them on that tour. Mick invited us and we had tickets to the first night only and they only did Midnight Rambler and he got to be at the end of the show, playing acoustic guitar on Satisfaction just so they wouldn't have to call. You have to do a curtain call. He'd be already on stage.

“To me, it was too fast. They played it really fast. And, you know, the thing about that song that's so interesting is the lyrics in Sway. I think it's I mean, obviously I love the playing, but the lyrics - there's some beautiful poetry in there. ‘Circular time.’ I mean, there's some beautiful, beautiful things on it. That was one of the reasons I wanted to do it and also to hear what Mick would play! We got a pretty good idea. We did three shows, actually four shows with that. I have a vinyl version of it - just the outros from it - coming out in, hopefully, by record store day in November, if it's going to happen, if we get the lacquer done - the lacquer’s done, the artwork’s all done. Yeah, it's all done. Everything's done. We just have to get the lacquer from the pressing plant and get it scheduled with Sunset Boulevard. They're putting it out. They're also putting out a reissue of the Roxy show that's 'Too Hot For Snakes' right now - a disc that'll come out simultaneously.

“But we now know what he played. We went through these songs twice, max, each at rehearsal. I mean, maybe we went through - with the vocal part - I mean, he didn't really stretch out until the show. Our rehearsal takes of it somebody has said, I think one of the vaults has got it. Somebody's got it in-house here of the rehearsals. Where he just barely touched on it, just, 'Okay, yeah, we know what we're doing. There' is another whatever, three, four minutes after that’, and a lot more than that. But at least we knew the arrangement. Everybody knew what they were supposed to do. (Ian) McLagan played piano on it. And, you know, our rehearsals were fairly short versions of songs. He got here.

“We did two rehearsals; one show down in Long Beach. It was good, but it wasn't the Roxy. When you get on stage at the Roxy, you better rise to the occasion. Well, it's an important room. It's not a big room, but it's an important place in history. Everybody and their brother has played there. When you play with Mick, I mean, I hate to say this, not that I'm a slouch, but if when he walks on the stage, man, I'm telling you, that's muscle and you've got to rise to that muscle; you've got to rise to that occasion. And I think my band did. I think we did. We tried to get up there with him as far as his ability to play improv. None of them was - all that stuff was improv. It was all him just going for it. He would tell me in the studio, 'I don't need to hear the song in advance', if it was something he didn't know. 'I don't need to know the chords. Just look at me when you're gonna change chords.' So, through the window, I would look at him when there was a change. If we're all on the same page. I was and there was a change and that he would know to take a pause. That's why you always hear the Stones - I'm kinda digressing, but you hear Charlie kind of plays a little behind Keith. There's a little - because he's waiting to see where Keith's going to go. And that's kind of how Mick Taylor was sort of taught was give him enough breath to where you're not rigid. You're not jumping the gun. You're waiting for what the band is going to present and, as a player, you're going to follow that.”

In the mix of things, somehow or other Carla and I got on the subject of Lisa Fischer, former long-time backup singer for the Rolling Stones.

“Yeah, she was working with Alvino Bennett, who is one of the drummers that I used on lots and lots of records as a producer and Alvino normally plays with Dave Mason. But he produced demos for her years ago when she was thinking of leaving the Stones, she started living out here a little while. Her stuff was really good. She's very talented. There were songs that he had written with her and they were damn good songs. It wasn't jazz or anything. It was kinda hip hop/funky kind of stuff. It's not my cup of tea but it was really good. You'll have to look up her.

Circling back to her work with Micky Taylor, I asked Carla how the two of them met.

“Did you ever see Bob Dylan video, “A Sweetheart Like You”? That's me on guitar on the video. That's Mick Taylor playing on the recording. I was asked by Bob Dylan's Road manager - who was a Textones fan – my band - The Textones from the 80s - if I would be involved in the video shoot that they did for that song. Bob had never done a lip-sync. This is his first music video – in 1983. I pantomimed Mick Taylor's guitar parts. The last 32 seconds of that video is me. Very generous. Bob was very generous to me. He also gave me an unreleased song called ‘Clean Cut Kid’ to record for my album with the Textones that came out in 84, which has Ry Cooder playing on that song, and how I met Mick was through the video shoot; I was asked about six months afterward. Maybe a little longer. They went and did a tour - Bob Dylan did a tour with Mick Taylor playing guitar in ‘84. You might be too young to remember this (Note from Randy: god, I love her for saying that!), but I remember 84, 83 - 84. They toured all over Europe. It was after the Christian material. He did the album, ‘Infidels’, which was produced by Mark Knopfler. And Mark and Mick are the two guitar players, and Sly and Robbie, the reggae rhythm section was the members of the band.

“Mick came to several of the Textones shows to see us play with Greg Sutton, who was the bass player on that tour - Bob Dylan's tour. So that's my Carla Olson Coverconnection with Greg. I mean, I've known Greg for years, but he brought Mick down to see us play in L.A. Mick was living in New York. He got in touch with me and said, 'If you're ever doing anything and you want me to play guitar, I'd love to be involved.' That's how we that's how it happened.

“And a wonderful, wonderful opportunity for me to be in the video, even though I did not play those parts. I learned them. I mean, some people say, ‘You know, look at all the comments in the video on YouTube, they go, 'Aw, that's not her playing. She couldn't play that!' Well, okay, maybe I couldn't play it like Mick Taylor but I did play the licks. It's a pretty convincing pantomime. Enough of a convincing pantomime to where Bob said, 'Yeah. Let's go with 32 seconds of the video with just Carla.'

“He's actually been very, very generous and very kind to me. A lot of people complain that Bob's kind of an asshole, but I think that, lately giving us two songs on the Internet during this whole pandemic thing - and heartfelt! One of the last couple albums, his voice was kinda shot. Can't sing. He did the Sinatra thing. But this is great. We've just got to remember why we listen to music. I'm a fan. I mean, this is the thing that keeps us energized and keeps us wanting to go buy records. I mean, we buy records. We're going crazy not being able to buy records right now. We're in a music store at least three times a week. And there's not that many in L.A. now that are worth their salt. But, you know, there are a couple that we are we're always going to buy records. I just got Gordon Lightfoot.”

Then, shifting briefly to comment on Lightfoot’s constant touring, Olson said:

“He's possessed. I mean, he's like all of us; he's on a never-ending tour. He cannot get enough of pleasing the audience and getting something - It's not just about the song, the writing, and the playing. It's the connection that you make with people and that keeps you alive and vital. I mean, Gordon Lightfoot, He'll die taking his last breath singing on stage.

“I'm doing a record right now - I'm producing a record, ‘Ladies Sing Lightfoot’, and it's all Gordon Lightfoot songs sung by gals. Some of it's rock and roll. Some of it's just acoustic guitar and vocal. But I'm a huge Gordon Lightfoot fan.

“Have you heard or do you know about ‘Have Harmony Will Travel?’ The first one? Well, the first one came out in 2013, and that was at a point where I was mostly producing other artists - Paul Jones from Manfred Mann, Telle Tavaris from the band Tavarez, Claire Winningham, I did blues with everybody and their mother; every guitar player you could possibly imagine. Some of them have departed, unfortunately. I was doing mostly producing at the time and I realized that I really wanted - there were songs from my childhood and songs that I had sort of in suitcases and drug along the life trip that I wanted to record. Singing harmony with people that maybe had never thought of singing the song themselves. I ask a couple of close friends, ‘Would you be interested in seeing a duet with me on it?’ For instance, the song, ‘805’, which is a song that was on a Moby Grape album, that was a ballad that I always loved and I always sang along the harmony parts with all these songs that were the songs of my childhood.

“Another one was the Pozo-Seco Singers - which had Don Williams in it - the song called, 'Look What You've Done'. The gist of the idea of ‘Have Harmony, Will Travel, is singing songs - the harmony parts of songs, with the lead vocal being done by someone that may be either didn't ever sing the song, never heard the song or never thought, 'Oh, wow! I could sing that song with my voice!' So, the first one has Peter Case, Richie Furay. He was great. It was the Gene Clark song that he did.

“The original idea was songs that I had listened to on top 40 radio when I was a teenager, which is the 60s. And obviously, Buffalo Springfield and different people, bands like that that I was wild about. I mean, you know, the Band, the Bee Gees; bands like The Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Who. Those were all my childhood Heroes. So, I picked a grouping of songs that I would ask people - like I asked Peter Pace - there's a Del Shannon song that I've always loved called, ‘Keep Searching’. And he goes, 'Oh, I used to rehearse that song. But I never cut it.' And I said, 'Well, you want to sing the duet with me on it?' So, he was the first person that agreed to sing a duet with me. I got like Scott Kempner From The De-Lords. I don't know if you know the Del-Lords. They were a great band from New York. I got him to sing a song and Ritchie Furay said that he would sing a song. So, then I had like half an album that was duets. And I just finished it off with - I had Juice Newton, who's a friend, and a couple of other people on it that just rounded out the record; a great record of songs that I love.

“I wrote the liner notes for it which kind of tells the story of the radio stations back when we were growing up. We'd play everything from A to Z. It didn't matter what kind of music it was; if it was country or pop or jazz or whatever. I mean, the pop station I listened to in Austin played everything from Paul Murray’s 'If Love is Blue' to The Zombies’ 'Time Of The Season'.

Carla Olson 0012 Cuff“So, we had all that great stuff and being a college town, Austin, we got a lot of the great music coming through because of the University of Texas and also because it was very hip - it was on the hip circuit. We were kind of the San Francisco of the South. A lot of LSD being made there - not that I cared about that. I never took drugs. But you know that it was - Austin was really was kind of the San Francisco in the south. So, this second album. We started it in 2013 and I thought, 'OK, well, the other album had already been out for a little while and I thought, ‘Well, I've got three people I want to do duets with who've said that they're in between recording and touring schedules; they would consent to do a duet with me.’ One was Timothy B. Smith from the Eagles and they were on hiatus. And Peter Noone, who tours constantly, as you probably know. Peter lives in Santa Barbara. He came down the same day.

“So, I organized a session the day that we started this - October of 2013. So, I had Timothy B. Schmit, Peter Noone, and my buddy, Ana Gazzola, who's a Brazilian singer, girl singer from Brazil that lives in L.A., and I, I wanted to cut ‘Uno Mundo’, which I love; a Buffalo Springfield, Stephen Stills song. I always wanted to cut that. So, I have these three people in the studio and this brings me to my story about the fan thing.

“Timothy got there first because he lives in town and it was a big enough studio where there was a waiting area and a big, big console room and then a big room to track in. I did a lot of work in that studio. And so, Timothy's standing in the hall and in the door walks Peter Noone and I could just hear his heartbeat just double. I mean, this is so bizarre because, you know, you'd think of Peter Noone - obviously is - I saw Herman's Hermits twice in Texas and they came through twice in Austin and I was at those shows. But I'd known Peter for a long, long time since the 80s. I've known him since the early 80s. And just as a side sidebar, Phil Seymour sang and did percussion on Peter's one and only solo group. Well, it was called The Tremblers. They did two albums. And so, when the door opened and I'm standing there talking in the hallway with Timothy, who I also knew from being a friend of Don Henley's. I'm from Texas. He and I grew up together.

“So, Peter comes up and says, 'Okay, everybody, we all ready to go?' You know? And Timothy goes. 'Um, um, Excuse me, Peter, I’m Timothy Schmidt.' And he goes, 'Ah! Great to meet you!' 'I, I saw you when I was fifteen in Sacramento.'

“Suddenly, he (Schmidt) became this child, you know, right in front of our eyes. Child. I say child. He became a teenager right in front of our eyes. And Peter isn't much older. Peter's 72, I think. So, Peter was really young when they were touring. He was still in his teens. But it was so sweet and how gracious Peter was to him because he was - he knows, 'Hey! This guy is with The Eagles!'

“So that was just my little moment of putting together two people that probably would never have gotten to see each other again because their world's - their paths wouldn't have crossed. That was kind of cool. Our little moment. Here I tossed around all these names. I bought the first Byrds album when it came out in 65, from the Columbia Record Club. So, to be able to record and perform with Gene Clark was like, 'What?! Wait!' You know? And Vince Melouney, who's on this album from the Bee Gees, he was the original Bee Gees guitarist who played 'New York Mining Disaster'. The first chords you hear, that’s Vince Melouney. Vince and my husband, Saul, have been friends since the 70s and Vince has done some recording with me for different things we've recorded.

“So, those names I toss around like confetti here. But those - that was my childhood, you know. And being a person whose father - my dad was a musician and he was also in World War Two as a pilot. But he was a musician; he was a piano player. I mean, my parents urged me - I'm so lucky. They urged me to continue with music from the age of five. I was playing classical piano by the time I was in the first grade. I was playing Moonlight Sonata - it was my first recital piece. I wasn't that good, but I was good enough to have gotten through it, you know? Those moments are what sustain us.

This album of other artists - 'A Child's Claim To Fame' - that song, a Buffalo Springfield song, a Richie Furay song - was meant to be a surprise to Richie and kind of a tip of the hat and a thank you for recording on the first album with me – ‘She Don't Care About Time’ - the Gene Clark song. It was a secret. We weren't going to tell Richie that we recorded it. Long story short, it took me forever to get the funding to finish the record. And when I finally did get the funding to do it, we got it done pretty fast, you know. And through the years, all the wonderful people I've gotten to perform with, I wanted to have on this on this album, like Mare Winningham. I produced her second studio album in 1999.

“And my buddy, Percy Sledge, who - Saul, my manager - Saul and Barry Golberg from Electric Flag, they produced Percy Sledge album here in 1994 - 94/95 - that was his first recordings in 30 years. First, new recording. He was in the studio and I was cutting a solo album in the studio next to him - the room next to him. And one night I drove him home to the hotel because he needed a ride. They were still working in the studio. And he says, 'You know, Carla, tell me, do you have anything I can sing on that I can put my vocals on? I'd love to sing on your record.' And I said, 'Percy, honey, you can sing on anything you want!' I gave him a couple of choices and the song, ‘Honest As Daylight’, that's the song that he picked and that's the song that I put music to.

“Rick Hemmert - the Textones drummer - he doesn't write music, he writes lyrics. He sent me these lyrics about someone who had been sent to jail for, I mean, a very minimal crime. But, you know, selling stolen goods basically was what the song' about and Percy just wanted to sing on that and Mick Taylor's on it, too! He's playing the side.”

When I shared that it was my favorite on the album, Carla excitedly replied:

“I'm so glad! That was on my second solo album called, 'Reap the Whirlwind' and came out on Watermelon Records. I don't know if you remember Carla Olson 0154 Icon CuffWatermelon. They, unfortunately, went bankrupt, but they did a lot. They did a lot of really good. They did some stuff with Hunter Escovedo, He's an Austin - a kind of roots rocker. He had a band called The True Believers in the 80s. They were, like a cowpunk band. It was a good label, a really good label. A guy from Germany that moved to Austin after going to South by Southwest, decided he was going to move to Austin.

“But that song has also Textones saxophone player, Tom Morgan is on it. And Rick Hemmert, the drummer, and George Callins from the Textones’ on it. Todd Wolfe is on it. It's really great. It was a great recording experience because, even though it was a solo record, I got to use all the guys I love playing with. The only reason I went solo is that the bass player moved back to England because of family reasons - from the Textones. Rick's wife got a job with Roku. Remember Roku? She got a job with Roku in D.C., so he moved from L.A. - went with her to live; lived in Reston, Virginia, and he was there for several years.

“George Callins - the guitar player from the Textones that I have been playing with since the 70s - he was working for Kodak, working the graveyard shift. He was never around, but he got this great job to do editing, you know, put sound to movies and stuff like that. He was making great money and he just stopped playing music for a while. He's back. He's back playing with the Textones. But that song was, to me, it had all the components of what I wanted to sound like - back from one of the Stax sounding recordings. Obviously, I'm not a Stax type vocalist, but Percy had that Stax component. And the lyrics being topical, people really seem to know what it's about.”

What song would Carla point as a calling card for the album?

“Well, it depends on their age. If they're a boomer, they're gonna like the Peter Noone track. It has that very, very English, British invasion sound. It's got a twelve-string guitar on it that sounds very, very - that song, ‘Goodbye, My Love’. That song was recorded by The Searchers. If you remember The Searchers. Love Potion #9. That song was a hit in England, but not in America. However, it just appeared in the movie, Green Book. The first song that you hear in the movie when they're driving. I guess they finally get on the bridge and they're going out of the G.W. Bridge in New York. They're going to south. They're actually heading north. I'm quibbling, It's something I noticed. They're heading south to play concerts. Don Shirley was a jazz pianist, a top jazz pianist in the early 60s and that's what the movie is about. That song is in the movie, not my version of it, but that song is in the movie and nobody knows that song in America. It's a great song. So, I think that's cool.

“But of course, I love all these songs. So, you know, Terry Reid, if you really love Terry Reid's voice, I mean, he has his own appeal. I saw Terry Reid open for Cream in ‘68 in Dallas and he damn near blew them away. His three-piece band - guitar, bass and drums and damn near blew them away. I was with Don Henley, he got us tickets because he lives in Dallas. And we drove up from Austin and Cream opened with White Room, which is another story altogether.

“But I mean, yeah, it's kind of a side bar. I'm writing with the guy who wrote the lyrics to ‘White Room’ and ‘Sunshine of Your Love’. I'm writing songs with him Pete Brown. He's 80 and he's living two hours south of London. His writing partner passed away last year and I got in touch with him about something different, something else. I got in touch with him about something unrelated. He says, 'Yeah, my writing partner died and I don't have anybody to write with anymore.' He's a lyricist. He's a poet. So, I said, 'Well, do you want to write with me. I'm up for it.'

“And now, of course, I've written four songs with him because of the pandemic. We’ve sat at home and finished four songs that I sent to my bass player in London. And he put a rhythm track down and sent it back to me. Believe it or not, I sang a vocal into my iPhone and emailed it to him and he put it into the track. He put a lot of wash on it; a lot of slap back on it. You really can't tell. But it's not a performance vocal, but it's a song running demo. But anyway, these songs - like Terry Reid - there was ‘Scarlet Ribbons’. That was a childhood lullaby my mother used to sing. Well, it was Jimmy Rogers - the Honeycomb guy. And the other track, which is kind of obvious if you are into my work with Gene Clark, you've already heard ‘Delgado’ because that was on my album, ‘So Rebellious A Lover’.

“So, if your friend is, like I said, depends on their age and if they like Johnny Cash kind of country stuff, ‘Shackles and Chains’. That song I did with Vince Malouney. He's playing some chicken pickin’ kind of Nashville - he's Australian playing some chicken pickin’ licks. Kind of James Burton stuff.

Carla Olson 0248 CuffWell, he was in a band called the Aztecs. Before he got in the Bee Gees, he played in the rockabilly band that was a huge band. Kind of like The Shadows or The Ventures that were instrumental; these guys were like instrumental rockabilly. Not totally instrumental, but they did a lot of instrumentals. Vince was a guitar player in the band before he moved to London to play with the Bee Gees. Vince is 70. He's older than Barry, so he's probably seventy-four. And he's still playing all year round with a group that tours - three brothers from Italy. They call themselves the Italian Bee Gees. He plays guitar with them. You know, as a sidebar and his playing - it's not ever been better and he's a great player. He sings, too, but he's not really a singer like the Bee Gees kind of stuff. I mean, doesn't sing like that. He sings rock and roll.

“But it's hard to choose. That's why I picked all these songs to do because they're all my favorites, you know. And the Gene Clark song I did with Mare Winningham, ‘After the Storm’, that's kind of a twelve stringy, Byrdsy, jangly kind of thing, too, if your friend is into that. Most of these songs are short so they can get into all these songs!”

On a dime, Carla shifts to her “Ladies Sing Lightfoot” that she mentioned earlier.

“If you get a chance to check out Natalie Noone. She's Peter's daughter. She's terrific. She's on the Gordon Lightfoot 'Ladies Sing Lightfoot' album and does Steel Rail Blues. I've got a label for it. It's going to probably come out on Sunset Boulevard because we really love them. Susan Cowsill is going to be on it. I've got the Kennedys. You know the band, The Kennedy's? Great band. She's on it. Mara's on it. And Darling West from Norway, they're on it.

“Peter Lewis from Moby Grape, his daughter Arwen, and he do a song together on that, where he's playing an overhand dobro and it's really cool. That album is going to be amazing. Hopefully, it'll come out this year. But Natalie, she lives in Nashville and she's got a couple of - did you ever know Duane Jarvis? He played with Lucinda for years. He went by D.J. Duane Jarvis but he had a band - like an Americana kind of band - called DJ's Back Porch. And he also played with Christina Amphlett from The Vinyls - an Australian band - The Vinyls. Great, great player. I put him together with Natalie because they were living in Nashville together and they were doing a little songwriter's circle at the Bluebird for a while and she's very good. She said she could sing like her dad can sing. And pretty. Pretty as the day's long. Beautiful. Beautiful voice.”

Then, almost reading the unspoken comment in my mind, Olson says:

“Everybody says, 'God, you're so busy', but I'm like, 'you know, life's short. I'm gonna be busy until I'm out of here! I'm like Gordon Lightfoot!'. I don't want to be a doomsayer or anything but, if I'm not here, I mean, if I'm not making music, it's because I'm either asleep, or I'm gone. I want to be making music.

Then, without skipping a beat, Carla segues to another project she’s busy with.

“This Americana Railroad album that I produced. I'm actually on a couple of tracks on that. That was Stephen McCarthy. We did, 'Here Comes That Train Again'. That was a song on the Long Riders' first album. We cut that together. Dave Alvin did a killer track for us for that. I mean, a beautiful song called ‘Southwestern Chief’. That's gonna be coming out on - BMG has a new label called Renew. They just launched this new label. It is an Americana label. They just announced it on Billboard - the release. So, I'm assuming it's all going to happen after the dust settles and everything. But that's got some really beautiful performances on it, too. And some rock and roll stuff.

“I did a track with some - you know Procol Harum's ‘Whiskey Train’? I cut that one with Brian Ray from Paul McCartney's band - the guitar player. He plays all the instruments. Well, the drums he didn't play but he played all the other instruments on it and I sing on it. I walked into the studio thinking he was going to sing it and I was producing it. He said, 'You're singing it.' I went, 'I'm singing it? OK.' So, I mean, I kind of had to, you know, grab that innermost screaming ability of myself to sing a ballsy vocal on it. It was kind of out of my range, but that's going to be on it. And we've got a couple of really cool covers; probably things that you know.”

Wrapping up our chat, I threw my last three questions to Carla all at once:

  • What does she hope people get from the album?
  • Are there any tour plans to support the album? 
  • How does Carla want to be remembered and what does she hope her legacy is?

“Well, what I would want people to take from this is that the joy of singing is only topped by the joy of singing with someone else. And if you play and sing alone - and that floats your boat and you really love it, okay. But when you hear another voice - the timber in that voice matching your own or complimenting your own, there's nothing better than that. That's one of the reasons I wanted to do is record these records - the duet records - is because of that. And that's a joy that I'm certain I share with many, many people.” “We did have plans to do some dates with Steve McCarthy and myself and a couple of other players around. That's obviously on hold.

“My legacy? She would play anywhere, any time with anybody because she loves to play. Playing live is the most wonderful thing in the world I really love.”

If you haven’t yet jumped online to check Carla’s work, do so now. I’m sure that, like me, you, too, will become an instant fan and love the kind of person she is. 

Follow Cara on her website, CarlaOlson.com.

Gideon King Unties Love Knot

Posted May 2020

 

gideonking001croppedAs readers of Boomerocity already know, we love letting you know about great artists and bands that are not yet “known” and are flying below the publicity radar.

Such is the case with a New York City band that recently appeared on the Boomerocity radar: Gideon King and City Blog. Think Steely Dan. Think Sade. Think Chicago. Then, you’ll have a very good idea of what kind of great band I’m talking about.

I wanted to chat with the band’s namesake after I heard the great music of the band so I recently reached out to Gideon King at his NYC area studio. The call took place a couple of weeks ago in the midst of the CORONA-19 crisis. I asked how it was affecting him.

“Well, you know, it's amazing. I grew up in New York City and I've seen a lot. New York City has seen riots and has seen blackouts and crime waves and economic booms, economic busts. But this is just incredible. It's like the whole damn city is just totally shut down. I'd like to see us all get back up and running again, but that's up to the geniuses who run our government.”

At the time of our call, I hadn’t known anyone who had the virus. I asked Gideon if he did.

“I got it. I had it. Yeah, I did. I was real sick. But you know what, man? I wasn't that sick. Like, I had really weird symptoms and symptoms I'd never had before in my life. But there was no point in time when I felt like my life was threatened. I was really out of breath or anything like that - which is the case for the vast majority of people. I mean, our press tends to exaggerate things for them. For most people, you just get some fever, which I had, but I'm pretty much back to normal now. But there were a few nights that were pretty f*****-up - for lack of a better expression. My rib cage was, like, freezing. My eyes hurt. I did lose my sense of taste. But it's all comeback and I don't have any fever now or anything like that. So, I'm actually pretty much all the way back. There is pressure in the chest. I had a positive diagnosis - 100% certain percent I had it. But, you know, honestly, not that big of a deal, really.

“The flu is probably more dangerous than this and affected fatality rates and confirmed fatality rates and stuff like that. This is a whole other discussion. I've done a lot of research into it. I do believe we've gone a little too far, shutting the economy down may have more serious and grave health consequences, both mental and otherwise, than the virus itself. I think we've gone too f***ing far. I'm not sure. That's an interview for another time.”

Shifting to the business at hand, I asked King to share his band’s story.

“When we walk on stage, it's eight people. It's three vocalists, Caleb Hawley, Alita Moses, and Sonny Step - three unbelievable vocalists with successful solo careers themselves. We have an incredible drummer, Jake Goldbas, and another drummer - they switch off drums and percussion – a guy named Zach Mullings. We have a piano/keys/synth guy, Bryan Reeder, the bass player, Jeff Hanley, and another bass player, Nathan Peck. This an interesting band. I mean, these are incredible musicians and are all trained jazz musicians. They're also really good pop musicians.

“The concept of the band really originally was inspired by my biggest influence, which was Steely Dan. They're probably my favorite band of all time, actually. I have - on and off - had members of Steely Dan in my band. Carol Lenhart and other people. So, our band is eight people when we walk on stage. I write the music; I write the lyrics. But I do bring that music and lyrics to rehearsal and that's when the tune really starts to take shape. Then all the cooks in the kitchen start sort of experimenting with things, different grooves, and different concepts and three-part harmonies. You have a musical director of the band whose name is Bryan Reeder. He sort of is the glue that holds everything together in terms of charting things and helping to write three-part harmonies. He's also a fabulous mother***er of a jazz pianist and classical pianist and pop musician as well.

“So, I write the music, I write the lyrics and I bring them to the band and we shape each tune together. I started as a studio band. Gideon King and City blog was a studio concept totally like Steely Dan, with a rotating group of musicians. I mean, everybody from John Scofield to Donny McCaslin to Marc Broussard to Greg Lamore' to James Genus, they're all on my CD. And it was just an unbelievable studio band.

“After my first C.D., Gideon King and City Blog, which got some pretty good reviews, I put out another C.D. and started to sort of toying with the idea of going live with this thing. That was about two and a half, three years ago. So, I started to hold auditions and conversations with different musicians. It took a while to sort of weed out the bullshit artists and get to the people who are killer musicians who came to rehearsal and came to gigs like professionals and were smart, funny, nice people. That process was a distillation process if you will. That's where we're at now, where we really have a very tight group of band members. We're friends. We hang out together. We drink together. We play tennis together. We take social distancing walks together in New York City. It's an unbelievable group. They're all technically trained. They can all read music. They can all write music. They're unbelievable musicians.

“I started going live about two years ago. We started with really small clubs. Places like the Bitter End. Places like Lockwood. Then, as we wrote more songs, we began to get a lot of traction. We started to get better lists on Spotify. We’re on the editorial playlist on Spotify now and some of the tunes have a lot of streams. We started to pick up a greater sort of New York presence. This is a very New York City-centric band. We were playing at the Blue Note. We did some sold-out shows at Joe's Pub and City Winery. We played in the Brooklyn Bowl. We’re just kind of growing.

“It's not really about a specific image that we're trying to project. But I do think that the music that we're making is unique. It has funk and jazz influence, but it is pop. The press has compared it to Steely Dan quite a lot because the musicians are so killer. I just continue to write away and continue to create and the band just grows tighter and we get better and better.

“We woke up sort of two and a half years later and now we have a presence. We have fans and we have followers and we’re on editorial playlists. So, it's growing. But, man, it's brick by brick. It's like building a business, to be honest. This notion of you write your song and there you are in front of 30,000 people - maybe that happens to some. Maybe that happens out there. But, you know, that's not how it's going for us. We build it brick by brick. We are releasing an EP now called, Love Knot, that's a three tune E.P. and I'm really excited about it. I don't know if you've heard it. The title cut is a duet. I really love duets - everything from the Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock duet, believe it or not, going back to Andy Gibb and Barbra Streisand on that tune, Guilty. Remember that one? Great f***ing tune. I'm a big fan of doing that so I figured I would do that. I've written a number of duets. Marc Broussard and Grace Weber sing one. Elliott Skinner from Third Story and Grace Weber sings one and now I have Alita Moses and Caleb Holly singing one.

“The title cut is a duet. I would describe this as kind of weird abstract love songs; sort of inside-out love songs is how I describe it. I'm not a huge fan of endlessly writing love songs. Most love songs - and most songs in general - lyrics kind of suck. The days of writing great lyrics like Neil Young and the Eagles, Steely Dan, not everybody writes great lyrics anymore. But I do try to hang together these abstractions that somehow people can relate to.”

Which song of the band’s would Gideon point to as a calling card for their entire body of work, to date?

“You know, I would say that would be two or three songs. I'd say there'd be a song called ‘Lady of a Thousand Sorries’, which has gotten a fair amount of attention on Spotify. That's one for sure that people really related to and they really like. For sure, ‘Love Knot’, which is the title cut of the EP; it’s a duet. Then, to be honest, there's the more obscure ones like, ‘Under My Head’, which features John Scofield. He plays a nice solo on that. That's Mark Burchard singing. For sure that would be one of them. And there's, ‘Upscale Madhouse’, the title cut of the last CD.

“So, here these tunes will feature piano solos and guitar solos and they will exemplify my lyrics, for sure. I guess I would mention one which is a more fusion oriented tune which is called ‘Broken and Beautiful’. That would be an example of more instrumental side of our music. But yeah, I mean, those tunes on ‘Love Knot’; the title cut for sure. Maybe ‘Lady of a Thousand Sorries’. People really like that song a lot. And ‘Gun To My Head’ is a tune that people really like. So, yeah that would give them a feel for the sort of pop, funk fusion style that we write - even with a touch of folk music; with a touch of Neil Young in there - one of the great lyricists. I was taking a drive yesterday to get out of the house. I was listening to that Neil Young tune, ‘A Man Needs a Mate’. What a great song. Neil's one of my greatest influences, not necessarily harmonically and musically, but I just think he's one of the great lyricists of all time. I love his music, too, and I am influenced to some extent by it. But I think he's one of the greatest. He's probably in my top five influences of all time.”

Wrapping up our chat, I asked what is on Gideon’s radar once the COVID-19 situation pipes down.

“Let's just kind of make a presupposition. As COVID goes away and our government lets us outside again, I guess I would say is we will, we will release our EP. We have another song coming out which is almost like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young tune called ‘Silent Sirens’. Beautiful. three, part harmony, acapella tune, with just piano. Really cool, man. I'd like to send it to you. But, you know, honestly, there is that old expression that man plans and God Laughs. So, we will just continue to craft really good tunes; tunes that we feel and we hope are different from what the maddening crowd is doing musically. We will continue to play bigger and bigger venues and we will continue to sharpen our game in terms of live performance.

“I don't have a specific guidepost. I don't have a number of streams on Spotify. I don't have a sign or signifier of a specific level of notoriety that I'm praying to. The only thing that I would say I'm praying to is getting better and better at writing songs that are harmonically sophisticated; relatable but also mysterious in their lyrical content so that people can project their own kind of psychic landscape onto it and make of the songs whatever they want. And just to grow like any band. More music, good music, more venues, bigger venues. Just try and try and really be creative. I'm the lead guitarist of the band and I'm always working on my guitar playing. That's not a very specific or exciting answer, but it's really the truth.”

Gideon King and City Blog really is a great, top-shelf band. Download their work. Follow them on their site, gideonkingcityblog.com. And, if you’re ever in the Big Apple, catch one of their gigs and tell them Boomerocity sent you.