Music Morsels - December 2000
|Crossroads.......... Steve Walsh by Mark E. Waterbury
Pivotal moments in musicians careers propelling them from obscurity to infamy
(As appearing in the December 2000 issue of Music Morsels.)
Perhaps one of the most quietly innovative and influential bands from the 70's era is Kansas. Born in the early 70's as a hard rock combo reminiscent of Led Zeppelin in some aspects, they added the extra dimension of violin and dramatic keyboards to their power punch and melodious vocals. While bands such as Yes and King Crimson may have a jump on them in that era's "prog" explosion, Kansas was very influential in weaving those classical stylings into their music to make it commercially acceptable without necessarily following the more streamlined radio format. Their exciting live performances greatly assisted in their rise to prominence on the heels of their huge selling late 70's albums "Leftoverture" and "Point of Know Return". The band continued to turn out popular albums and hit singles into the early 80's, in spite of a myriad of personnel changes.
Vocalist/keyboardist Steve Walsh, known as one of the creators of the signature Kansas sound, left the group for awhile, released a solo album, "Schemer-Dreamer" and added vocals to a solo album by former Genesis member Steve Hackett. The 80's were tough times as the disco era gave way to the glam metal epoch, which was in turn squelched by grunge in the early 90's. But as each new commercial music era is ushered in, the music of Kansas and their peers has endured. And to this day, with Kansas once again busy recording and touring, Steve Walsh, always looking to explore further musical boundaries, has released another solo effort, "Glossolalia".
Steve Walsh was one of those people who had grown up with music and knew he was going to be a musician from an early age. "It seemed a natural thing to do and be my whole life. When growing up, I listened to whatever other people were listening to in the 50's that was rock and roll oriented." In the early 70's, Kerry Livgren, Dave Hope and Phil Ehart formed a band called White Clover in Topeka, Kansas, later adding violinist Robbie Steinhardt. Ehart then left the band and headed to England, and when he returned reformed the band adding Steve Walsh and Richard Williams, and changing the group's name to Kansas. "We all grew up in the same area and we all played in different bands," Steve recalls. "We just decided to join them together, but when Robbie joined the band, the obvious different thing - his violin playing - really helped get the band noticed." The self-titled debut sold quite well, but because they decided not to rest on just their recordings, Kansas toured at a hectic pace, gradually building its fan base to a point where it exploded after the 1976 "Leftoverture" release , considered to be one of rock's all-time classic albums to this day. "The first album really set the stage for us. We did have some help because Don Kirshner had his TV show at the time and we were on that a couple of times. And the first album was on Kirshner Records so that didn't hurt any either." But as it happens with many bands, friction toward the end of the 70's started creating personnel changes. Steve recorded his first solo effort "Schemer-Dreamer" in 1980 and shortly thereafter left the band. "I had some music I wanted to do and some time to do it so I decided to record it. It wasn't really a bolt of lightning from the sky. That's what I do. I'm an artist and when I decide I want to put an album out, I go ahead and do it." Steve returned to the band Kansas five years later, in a revamped lineup with Ehart, Williams, bassist Billy Greer and another Steve, this one named Morse. They recorded two albums in the later half of the 80's with this lineup, but it would not be until the mid 90's when another Kansas LP would reach the masses. With Morse deviating to other various projects, they added violinist David Ragsdale and keyboardist Greg Robert, and recorded a live album at the infamous Whiskey in Los Angeles. In 1996, the follow-up "Freak Of Nature" was released, their first studio effort in seven years. Shortly after, Kansas recorded an album accompanied by an orchestra, and just this year original members Steinhardt and Livgren reunited with Walsh, Williams, Greer and Ehart to record "Somewhere to Elsewhere".
It was around that time when Steve Walsh emerged from the studio himself with a new solo effort "Glossolalia". "It wasn't actually my idea to do the solo album. The president of Magna Carta Records approached me about it to see if I was interested. I had about twenty-two songs that were not published yet so we discussed it further until we decided to involve Trent Gardner who is a really good keyboardist also signed to Magna Carta. We finished the CD earlier this year. And everyone is surprised at the direction, which is to be expected, I'm not sure what direction they thought I would go. But I'm going to try to do some unexpected things in my life and that is one of them, to stay an interpreter of the present. I try not to repeat myself. The lyrics are always the hardest thing to come up with, but the harder you work for something in life the more you enjoy it, rather than getting it handed to you." Currently there are no touring plans for the band used on "Glossolalia", as the members are busy with other projects. Kansas itself is busy, keeping Steve and Billy Greer, who also played on the solo album occupied. Steve also just recently produced a blues band in Atlanta, where he and several members of the band have been residing for many years. He is also shopping several screenplays and is just enjoying life in general now more than he has in years. "I put a lot of importance on a lot of the wrong things earlier in my life, up until about three years ago actually. I got carried away with a lot of things personally. But now I've got a daughter that is just turning one and a son who is twenty and a great marriage. Things are pretty cool right now, about as cool as they have ever been. So I'm enjoying everything in life right now, not just being on stage or doing recordings. I'm trying to fill up my life with lots of things that I missed in the past.
|Industry Profile - Entertainment Attorney Charles Driebe, Jr.
by Mark E. Waterbury
(As appearing in the December 2000 issue of Music Morsels.)
One of the main mediums used for people to receive their indoctrination into music is, of course, hearing it on the radio. That is just how a young Charles Driebe, Jr. first acquired an ear for music, but it was not from listening to the mainstream stations as it is with most people." I was born in a small south Georgia town, but moved to Atlanta when I was five years old so I basically grew up there. While I lived in Atlanta I was into the music on WREK, the college station of Georgia Tech. And I used to sneak into a lot of music clubs when I was under age, and when I became old enough, I would go to Alex Cooley's Electric Ballroom and The Agora. I always loved music and began to follow that interest." After high school, Charles would attend undergraduate school at Tulane University in New Orleans, a town well known for its own unique music scene. He was a D.J. on the college radio station there for four years, and became the program director in his senior year. He then went to Law School at the University of Georgia in Athens, where he once again DJ-ed at the college station. He also became friends with the members of a band called R.E.M. who had not yet started their rise to stardom - a rise that would also help to kick-start Athens' musical hotbed reputation. Through some connections of Charles, he secured some of R.E.M.'s first gigs in Atlanta. "One of my friends was the owner of a club in Buckhead called Hedgens, and I told him about this band out of Athens that I thought was great and he should hire them. And I talked him into a higher guarantee than he normally gave, and at that show it was my birthday. So it was me, my mom, Mike Mills' mom and her boyfriend were there...and about three other people! But it actually ended up well because R.E.M. eventually became the house band there. So even though the bar lost on the initial investment, they made up for it in the future."
After finishing law school, Charles, whose father is also a lawyer, joined a large downtown law firm as a "regular" lawyer. "I had a few student loans to pay off so I took the highest paying job I could, but it's not really worth it to make a lot of money to do something you don't really want to do. After five years of doing that, I got tired of it, quit, and started pursuing music and entertainment law, the original field I was interested in. I originally thought of going into radio, but I realized that what I really liked about radio was playing the music that I liked which was less commercial rather than playing the music that someone else was telling me to play. And there's not much future for that in commercial radio." To practice music law, Charles stayed heavily involved with the music scene, going to shows and buying records, and keeping in touch with the bands and people behind the scenes. He attended several seminars on entertainment law as well as meeting with numerous music professionals from all areas to learn all the aspects of the legal side of the music business. He went into his father's general law practice about ten years ago and gradually became more and more involved with the music and entertainment clients, reaching the point where that was basically all he did with the firm. "What the average artist and entertainer needs is a lot of education about the business of entertainment. Just the general rules of doing business, and of course part of doing business, are contracts so they need to know about contracts and how they work. There are many aspects of different entertainment contracts that need to be focused on. I see a lot of people put the cart in front of the horse. They try to do the business before they really know what the business is all about. They need to educate themselves and be better prepared on the business end of it." Currently, Charles represents about fifteen signed artists along with indie record labels, managers and others in the music business. Back in the early 90's, Charles' friend started an non-profit organization called Atlanta Lawyers for the Arts. His friend moved to San Francisco and asked Charles to run the organization for him indicating he would be back in a year. His friend has still not returned, so Charles eventually took over the reigns as Chairman of the group, which changed its name recently to Southern Entertainment and Art Law Center, or SEAL. "We try to educate artists and entertainers about legal and business issues. We have a library with a lot of books and copyright forms and contracts that artists can refer to and we also refer them to attorneys if they need attorneys." Charles also is a contributing writer for several publications and in the past couple of years, he has taken on the management position for the classic Gospel group The Five Blind Boys of Alabama. He also teaches a course on art law at the Atlanta College of Art. His slate is very full so Charles is not looking for any additional responsibility at the moment, but is very happy with how things are going. "It all revolves around my love of music and my desire to educate people so they may have the knowledge they need to protect themselves in the music business arena."
|Indie Artist Spotlights - Jonathan Moorehead of Mojosmoke by Mark E. Waterbury
(As appearing in the December 2000 issue of Music Morsels.)
Mojosmoke is the brainchild of two childhood friends from upstate New York, Jonathan Moorehead and Dave Skoglund. Two veteran musicians and songwriters, their 1998 debut "Pull" gained them notice, primarily with the use of cuts from the CD in the movies "Airboss II" and "A Killing" as well as commercials and pay per view TV. Their second CD "Time Bomb, Baby" has explored more areas of their songwriting abilities and they are currently working on a third recurring. Taking a look at how this act plans on carving a niche for itself in today's rock and roll scene, here is a chat with Jonathan Moorehead.
MM: What inspired you to pursue music?
JM: I wanted to be a musician since I was a real little kid. I have memories of being five years old and being really aware of the radio and where it was in the house. And while other kids were in their rooms playing this game or that game, I was in my room imagining that I was being interviewed on the radio, playing a broomstick for a guitar. I was always fascinated with music. And I had a sister that was five years older who was really into music so I got her perspective as well.
MM: When did you start actually playing in bands?
JM: Well if you count playing around with three chords being like "Joe's Garage" by Frank Zappa, I would say about sixth grade. We'd get together and play simple songs over and over again. Make up a few lyrics and pound them into the ground and try to impress the local girls who were walking by.
MM: So then did you start writing original music about the same time?
JM: Yeah, I don't think I'd consider it in the same light as what I've put out today but early on I had wanted to express myself through writing. Sometimes when you are a young musician and you don't have your chops yet, it is easier writing your own stuff with chords that you've learned than it is dissecting someone elses stuff and trying to cover it.
MM: Was Mojosmoke your first serious band?
JM: My first serious band with any kind of track record or notoriety was a band called Blue Law. We played on the blues circuit and Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash lived in the area. He saw us play and came up to us after the show and said he thought we were really good and if we ever lost our guitar player to give him a call. And lo and behold a few months later our guitarist through a job transfer quit the band. So we called Andy and he joined the band. We had horns with big arrangements and production, and when Andy joined we signed a record deal. We became pretty big over in Europe and we toured and did the concert scene over there and put out a record. But then the label that we were on folded up and everything sort of crashed and burned in front of us but I have some great memories of that.
MM: How did Mojosmoke form?
JM: Mojosmoke was actually a reincarnation of a childhood friendship. One of my very first musical explorations was with my childhood friend and neighbor, Dave Skoglund who was a guitar player. He had moved to France and raised a family there and did some recording for Virgin Records while he was there. We kept corresponding, and he came back from France just for a week about four years ago. We set up an impromptu recording studio in my basement and we recorded our first album in about four days over Thanksgiving weekend. We recorded all the basic tracks, and he took it back to France and did some overdubs and added some harmonies, and we mixed it all down. So it was basically a rekindling of a childhood collaboration.
MM: I see that you have sync licensing placement of your music in films and commercials. How did that all come about?
JM: It was just a sense of marketing. Aside from being an art you have to look at the business side of music. Especially when your band is in its infancy and you're doing everything by yourself. I'm a notorious networker. You try to be charming without being overbearing. You collect business cards and keep in contact with people. I'm a big person in sending out Christmas cards every year. Everytime you network you meet another contact, and you never know where it will lead. I mean Fiona Apple got her start through her babysitter. I'm always ready to follow-up any lead no matter how remote it may be, and through those efforts, I was able to reach people who would benefit me. I just let myself get out there and I've kind of got the reputation of being a guy who if you need a certain type of music, I'll go into the studio and do it for you, or I'll collaborate with someone to do it. If a film or commercial or whoever comes along, I can write something whether it is blues or Sinatra style music or modern rock or whatever.
MM: What sort of fan base does Mojosmoke have?
JM: Right now, it's not as big as I would like it to be. One of the things we need to do is start doing our live shows again. We're woodshedding right now to get our third album recorded, and the concentration has been placing our stuff in films and soundtracks and educational films. I'd like to get out there and get some notoriety as a songwriter and maybe get some labels interested and get a major release out. But as far as having a grassroots fan base, that is something we really have to develop. We've done some showcases and live radio stuff in the New York area. A lot of that has been with other musicians, so that is something that we need to do is get out and play live more.
MM: Do you feel that "Time Bomb, Baby" was a progression from your first album, "Pull" and that you are working on further progression with your next effort?
JM: It's evolving. With the input in life experiences and new music that you listen to, you can't really help but have a progression with each album. I think that "Time Bomb, Baby" has several directions to it. There is music that has a kind of country influence to it. There's some really hard rock, there's some sort of Beck influences with that studio wizardry. But still there was something that was identifiable as being Mojosmoke throughout the entire record. And that was a progression for us to stretch our legs a little without sounding like a band without focus. With working on the next CD, what will happen is a song sort of presents itself in our minds, and who knows what the magical forces are behind it? But when a good idea presents itself, we tend to work on it and do them one at a time. We work on it until it is done rather than having a bunch of rough ideas coming together at once. Instead, we'll finish one up and then concentrate on the next one. Then we'll choose the best of eleven or twelve tracks and release it.
MM: What are your actual tour plans once the new CD is released?
JM: We'd like to tour the whole country. In some ways, we envy the guys who are all twenty-one who don't have all the life commitments and are young enough that they can jump into a van and live totally for the music and make a hundred dollars per member a week and get tons of live experience under their belts. But we have families so we have to do it the other way around, but we believe that the real basis of the music industry is not the hairst yles or show or whatever but the songs. So we were hoping that if the songs themselves gain interest whether another artist covers it and uses it on MTV or they garner some interest from a larger scale publisher or label, then we would probably retool and tour on a larger scale rather than do the starving artist thing because we are not as young as some of the guys we are competing with.
MM: Do you think Mojosmoke has what it takes to be successful?
JM: I think every artist listens to the radio and thinks, "Who signed those guys? We're better than that!" Then you feel a little bit of envy, but that's a good thing because what it does to the open-minded artist is it reminds you that there is a market out there for everything. There can be stuff out there that you and I could never think about listening to that can become huge successes. I think Mojosmoke is commercial enough that we'll find our niche. You just do the best you can, put it out there and hope that it clicks. For more info on Mojosmoke, email them at Mojosmoke@aol.com
Indie Artist Spotlight - Country singer Ted Winn by Mark E. Waterbury
(As appearing in the December 2000 issue of Music Morsels.)
New Jersey's own Ted Winn has already garnered quite a reputation as being an excellent onstage personality. Ted started performing at a young age and has since those early days honed his craft to become a respected and enjoyable entertainer. His country show band Kentucky Rain has thrilled many an audience in casinos, festivals, clubs and other venues in various corners of the U.S. with their interpretations of modern country hits and Ted's incredible vocal range. Due to a demand from his fans, Ted has recently delved into songwriting, and is also looking for others to collaborate with him writing songs that he can perform in concert. When those songs reach the masses, it is sure to make this twenty-seven year old's future look rosy indeed. And now Ted talks about how he got where he is and how he plans to take the next steps to stardom.
MM: I know you've been performing since a very young age. Do you remember what really first inspired you to step into music?
TW: Probably Elvis. I used to listen to records and I listened to a lot of different entertainers but Elvis was the one that I really liked listening to in the house and singing along with music. My parents heard me and I guess they thought I was pretty good. They took me to take voice lessons and from there I entered several contests. That's where I got the hunger to perform in front of people. I really enjoyed it. I was more of a novelty when I was younger because they used to dress me up as Elvis when I was eight years old. People saw me and just by word of mouth, I started getting hired for events.
MM: When did you really move toward country music?
TW: I wasn't really big into country. I was into Alabama in the early 80's when it was kind of crossover music. And I always listened to Johnny Cash and George Jones, but I didn't get into performing country until I was eighteen or so - when Clint Black and Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks first came out and country really became mainstream.
MM: Are you a self-taught vocalist and guitarist?
TW: Basically self-taught. I went to a voice coach when I was younger, and he would introduce me to different types of music. I was also into Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdink - those big voices - and he was the one who introduced me to them. He was a member of the old singing group The Duprees. But with country vocals, I taught myself. I don't consider myself a great guitarist. I play rhythm guitar at my gigs just to accompany myself.
MM: When did you first put your country show band together?
TW: I started working in clubs in places like Wildwood, New Jersey (which is a big resort town) at age seventeen. When I was in college, I would travel to do gigs during summer break or during the holidays. My band became known as Ted Winn and Kentucky Rain, and we played covers and did lounges in Atlantic City and were the house band at Bally's in Atlantic City for four or five months last year.
MM: What do you enjoy the most about performing on stage?
TW: People's reactions. When people talk to us afterwards...we're entertaining people. I like to see their faces, if I can take their minds off of if they are having a bad day or something. If they tell me they like the way I did a particular song, and people ask me if I have any originals that they would like to hear. It's people's reactions that I really like. And sometimes they react better to my original songs after I announce that it is one of my own.
MM: When did you begin writing originals?
TW: A little over a year ago. I don't consider myself a prolific songwriter but I can come up with some good ideas. I think that the best thing I can do is come up with some people to collaborate with to write the music.
MM: Have you thought of going totally original, and then having an original band, but still perhaps working with the show band Kentucky Rain?
TW: Yes, that's what I definitely want to do. I don't think I can be totally self-contained, writing all of my own material. But that's the thing that I like about country is it's probably the only genre out there where there are artists who don't write a lot on their own. Tim McGraw and George Strait hardly write anything on their own. But I do want to continue to write. Like Garth or Alan Jackson, they write 40 or 50 percent of their music.
MM: What is it about your performance that people seem to like the most?
TW: People compliment the sound of my voice. I try not to sound like the people that I play covers of as a general rule, but it depends on the venue. If we're playing in the lounge and we're doing a song like "Chattahoochee", I could sound just like Alan Jackson. I don't always try to because I see that there could be a problem with trying to start a solo career. If I wanted to, I could sound like Johnny Mathis(laughs) but I do try to take an original approach to my songs. That happens sometimes when we do cover songs.
MM: Looking down the road when you release a full-length CD and start performing primarily songs you wrote or songs others collaborated with you on, do you feel that all the performing you have done in the past at casinos and revues are going to be beneficial?
TW: Definitely. I have performed material before that I had on my own demo, and when I do cover material, I try to make it sound like it's my own product. The performances help because I've learned how to read an audience and the fact that I have my name out already. People are always asking me if I have an original project coming out, so I'll already have that awareness. For more info on Ted Winn, please visit his web site at www.tedwinn.com
|To the Serge Home Page.
Back to the Music Morsels page.