A Conversation with Dave Clark
Mike Ragogna: Dave, it's the fiftieth anniversary of The Dave Clark Five, can you believe it?
Dave Clark: It seems like another lifetime. I always remember when I had the group, if we mixed with anybody in their thirties we thought they were old, and then when you reach thirty you don't think they are old. Fifty years is another lifetime.
MR: What is your perspective on the British Invasion, how it hit America and your part in it?
DC: I don't think anybody can answer it now, but at the time one never expected it, because everything that influenced me was American. We never thought it would be the other way around. It wasn't until Sullivan contacted me to do the show, I had no idea at all. Tom Hanks inducted us into the hall of fame, and he actually summed it up: as a teenager in those days the tragedy of President Kennedy being assassinated, America was in mourning. I think the difference with English music was that it was very free-for-all. I always believed it's because--and nobody's really addressed this--when I was a teenager, I automatically knew I was going to be put in the military. We call it National Service; you call it the draft. But we were the first generation, The Beatles, us, The Stones, and everybody else weren't drafted because they stopped it a few years before. I think that's the age, when you're eighteen to early twenties when your creative juices are flowing, you're a bit rebellious, whatever. But you go into the military and it's all knocked out of you. So we were the first generation that happened to. When it hit off in America, it was something fresh. I just think it was at the right time and it was different. I'll always remember Elvis Presley saying to me that they were always told what to say in interviews and what not to say and I think the reason when John Lennon was interviewed and they all thought he was very off the wall, he was just being himself. You weren't told what to say, you just answered it. I think that was the way. A lot of the music wasn't manufactured, it was very raw and earthy.
MR: And it's interesting, the "British invasion" wasn't viewed as such at the time; it was British music reflecting on American music. Yet when you see its influences and people's views on how it influenced the time, you realize it was probably the most important thing to happen to American pop music, and it seems to me that The Dave Clark Five were the initial flag bearers.
DC: Well, we were the first group to tour America. The power of Sullivan... we did it two weeks running and then went back and did our first English tour. In fact, the Kinks were the opening act. Eight weeks later we were touring America and playing packed-out huge arenas. That would never happen today. It was just the power of Sullivan, the excitement. We recorded Chuck Berry's "Reelin' And Rockin'" and I'll always remember the drummer of Cheap Trick [Bun E. Carlos] said to me, "I thought it was a fabulous original song, and then I looked at the label and it was an American writer, Chuck Berry. You reintroduced us to our own music!" That's what you've just said, actually.
MR: The mirror works both ways, it's really beautiful.
DC: It's not because I'm talking to an American, but bottom line, it was American music that made us want to play music. It was for me, it was Elvis, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, all these people.
MR: I've heard it said that if The Beatles hadn't happened in the United States, that spot would've been taken by The Dave Clark Five.
DC: What The Beatles did was phenomenal. They were first here and they deserved all the accolades and success they had. We were very blessed because we were the first English group to tour. For practically two years it was just us and The Beatles, which is exciting. It was wonderful.
MR: Can you remember some of your favorite moments from that period?
DC: Just coming to America. You didn't imagine it to be as big, and the sort of people who you meet. The opening acts on our show were my idols! We had Chuck Berry, Little Richard, The Supremes, Aretha Franklin, all these amazing acts that, to me, should've been top of the bill, and that's not being modest, that's being honest. It was a thrill. For Buddy [Rich? 9:00] to come to one of our concerts, he was my idol and I couldn't play one tenth or one hundredth as good as him. It was amazing.
MR: Did you get to jam with some of your favorite artists from that period?
DC: No, because our tours were non-stop. We were doing forty-six centers and we had our planes, as soon as we finished we'd be off to the next gig. It was so crazy that we had a thing, you'll see in the documentary, we water skied because it got us away from everybody, to switch off, chill out. There were lots of restrictions. I don't know how much of the documentary you've seen, but I did a motor racing course and I actually went in a formula two race at Brands Hatch which is in England. It was before sixty thousand people, I did the race and it made the front page of the big tabloid in England at the time called The News Of The World. Monday morning we got a phone call: "You're no longer insured if you do sport." So I was stopped from doing any sports, but they allowed me to water ski, otherwise we weren't insured. It had its down moments. If you watch the documentary and you see a lot of waterskiing, it's because it was the only sport I was allowed to do.
MR: All of a sudden you're famous. How did that affect you personally?
DC: Well I'm going to reveal all of that in my book, but I think what I said in the film is correct: You start to lose your own identity. But I've always been a firm believer that if you believe what the press writes, they want to make it jump off the page more so they give their own slant on it. I always believed we were as good as our next record. The bubble could burst tomorrow, and if you take that attitude you won't be sucked in believing it's going to last forever, and that's always a danger. When I sang about the press, sometimes they write really flattering articles and some people believe all their own press and that they're the next God or they're this or they're that. I'm sorry, but as soon as you do that, that is the kiss of death, I think. I had a good family and so did the boys, we were all very grounded. There was no big egos or anything. Looking back now at what happened to The Beatles, The Stones, everybody, I think I was very blessed because we never had one legal letter between us and now we're fifty years on. We're all mates, and it worked and everybody's contribution, however little or large made it work. It was a team. All of the boys made it work.
MR: That's a nice way to reflect on that, especially because I wanted to talk about artists believing their own press and you actually said it.
DC: Well they do! I've seen it. I'll tell you a little story: In England in '64 you didn't have commercial radio and the unions ruled the BBC as it was in those days. They were only allowed three hours a week needle time--that means playing records. If you wanted to get your record played you played live, but it didn't matter how successful you were, you had to go and audition. So we went to this audition and then another group came in and this little guy with a choirboy fringe, suit, white shirt and tie, butter would melt in his mouth and his mother brought him in. Three years later he was throwing television sets out of windows. That was Keith Moon, another drummer. He was a great drummer, my two very favorite drummers of that period were John Bonham of Led Zeppelin and Keith. But a lot of people felt it was sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. By all means have a great time, but it's sad when you think a lot have passed on because of it.
MR: You know, I think The Beatles were more sensational as far as press, the same for The Rolling Stones, The Who... But with you guys, it remained about the playing, the chops and hard work. Even Bruce Springsteen acknowledges that you rocked harder than The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
DC: It was because of the lineups. I was blown away by the people who we influenced. They were not the people that The Beatles influenced. It was really heavy metal groups, even down to punk rockers like The Ramones and people like that. I remember Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick said seeing one of our concerts was like being on drugs before drugs were invented. And yet, because I stopped in 1970, people who weren't even born then or never saw you in concert rewrite your history and put you down as being kind of pop whatever. We paid our dues, we've had beer cans thrown at us, we had pennies thrown at us--in those days they were huge--but then in the end we won over and we were playing the Royal Tottenham at six thousand people a night and we got the gold cup for being the best live band in the UK in 1963, and the Mecca Circuit, which was a huge ballroom that was in the documentary. They had them all over England, Scotland, Ireland, they catered to over a million punkers a week. That was the best compliment we could get paid. We had to play three and a half hours a night, which is a long time!
MR: It doesn't hurt that at time you were selling, as Stevie Wonder points out, a hundred million records. That's amazing!
DC: Yeah. It's pretty hard to take in when you do it. It's years after the even that you stop and looking back you think, "Wow, it was amazing." In the days when you sold records, [that's the reason all the fuss with us and the Beatles weren't poor, said it very clearly which was nice. 17:10] The whole Mersey sound, not just The Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer, all those were dominating the charts in the UK and we were the first London group that really took off. We were doing a hundred and eighty thousand records a day and we had to sell a million and a half to knock the Beatles off the number one spot because it was their biggest-selling single ever and we ended up doing two and a half million copies. But that was in the days where you sold records, because there were no other influences. There was no cable TV there were no computers, there were no videos, there were no DVDs. When you bought a record in those days it was something special.
MR: Yeah, and as this was happening, you guys must have been "Glad All Over," right?
DC: [laughs] Oh, well and truly, well and truly. And I think paying our dues, playing at the American army bases, which was tough and it was fun, and playing at the Royal Tottenham and the early clubs where they throw beer cans at you is paying your dues. It makes you work hard and makes you better. I think when it hits off for us it doesn't frighten us, playing for a quarter of a million people, which we did in The Philipines. Whether it was a few thousand or tens of thousands, it didn't faze you. It's very hard to explain, but once you've done the smaller things where you're paying your dues and people are throwing things at you and whatever until you actually win them over, it's good grounding.
MR: Dave, what advice do you have for new artists?
DC: Well, I think I've more or less said it. I think you've got to believe in what you do and just stick at it. In our business there are no guarantees. You're always waiting for the phone to go. I've always said if "Glad All Over" had been three months earlier or three months later it might have still been a number on but it would never have caused all that fuss. The same for The Beatles, it was being in the right place at the right time. But I always believed you should have the second string to your bow. I did film extra work and stunt work for a living, the boys worked in offices and factories. But it was just that until it takes off you need to subsidize it, and if you're lucky enough to take off, don't believe everything that's written about you, good or bad. Just believe in what you do, that's all. You can only do your best.
MR: Very nice, thanks. So other than your book, what are you working on?
DC: I originally started this--I said I'd never do it, but--when we did the Hall Of Fame, Tom Hanks has been a fan for a long while and he said, "Come on, you've got to write a book. You've got to do a documentary." Bruce and Steve Van Zandt and--sadly Mike [Smith] had just died a few days before the Hall Of Fame--they said, "You owe it to the boys, you owe it to yourself, you owe it to history." I thought, "Well...maybe I'm being a bit selfish," I was very proud of it, it was nothing to be ashamed of, so I thought, "Well maybe I should do it properly," but a book will actually get into the nitty-gritty which people often want to know about, but I think if you put it in a program it will slow it down. I wanted to make something that was entertaining, which was what the DC5 was all about.
MR: Beautiful. I wish you luck with that. When you saw the documentary in the end, what were your first thoughts?
DC: I was a bit embarrassed, actually, because of some of the comments. I said Elton John's comment shouldn't really be in there and he said, "I said it, and I meant it!" It was so complimentary. I know Mike and Dennis and Rick would be up there smiling, they'd be delighted. I know that for a fact. I felt embarrassed, and I'm not trying to be modest, but at the same time very, very flattered.
MR: I learned from the Elton quote that you had played The Ed Sullivan Show more times than anybody else. Wow.
DC: Yeah. There was one-act that beat us actually, Topo Gigio.
MR: [laughs] "Eddie? Keesa me goo'night!"
MR: Dave, you are awesome. Thank you so much for your contributions to the culture, this interview and your time. All the best, thanks so much.
Transcribed By Galen Hawthorne
A Conversation with Augustana's Dan Layus
Mike Ragogna: Dan! So what do you think of this new Augustana album Life Imitating Life, and in your opinion, how's it different from your previous ones? What's the jump like?
Dan Layus: I think that the biggest jump is that I focused a lot more attention on the structure of the songs, not sonically as much but I definitely put a lot more focus on the writing of this record. I spent a lot more time on it, really etched out the details and made sure that every lyric had a reason to be there in a three and a half-minute song. There wasn't any wasted breath, any wasted verbage or any wasted adjective, I wanted to really express my feelings about certain subjects in a more provocative and introspective way, in a way that's difficult to voice at times. I wanted to find newer, more interesting ways to say some of these very common fears, excitement, any kind of emotions, essentially. I'd say that was a big emphasis for me.
MR: Was this a "maturing process?"
DL: Sure, sure. From a songwriting standpoint, from a record-making standpoint, as a human, really, as a person I felt that the process of me going from age twenty-six to now twenty-nine has been a really positive process. I really like myself at twenty-nine. That feels good to say. I didn't like myself during a lot of my twenties, probably like a lot of people in their twenties. It can be a tumultuous time, so I'm very happy to have come out the other side. I'll be thirty next year and I'm feeling positive about my life and the choices I'm making and the things that I'm putting out there into the world.
MR: That's wonderful and don't be too hard on yourself, the brain doesn't stop forming until twenty-five, so everyone gets to be a crazy person until then. Nature's orders.
DL: [laughs] I absolutely concur.
MR: The name of this album is Life Imitating Life, which kind of implies you're hunkering down now, like taking things seriously. Is that what's happening with the band?
DL: Well, I hope so. I know it's kind of a stock answer, but it is true that you always want to be evolving into a more interesting place as a songwriter or performer or a father or a husband or just a citizen of the world. I think you just want to be observant, and that was something I tried to do, just get out of myself a little bit so that I could dig inside myself a little bit more thoroughly. I kind of envision "Life imitating life" saying a lot of what the record is saying, which is a positive and thorough spring cleaning, kind of asking, "Have I come full circle or am I just going in circles?" Or is this process chemical, like you were saying? Is it a natural, unavoidable process growing up and making mistakes and making good choices and bad choices and hurting people and yourself and all these things, is it unavoidable? It's like the famous quote, "Youth is wasted on the young." Can you even really say that you would do anything different if you had a chance, because did you know any better anyways? I think it's a question a lot of people bounce around. There were so many examples in front of me, generations of people know, civilizations of how we've known it for centuries, people have gone through the same issues forever and it's like, "Man, why couldn't I have learned from those examples and not gone down that road?" I think analyzing all that is essential at times, questioning whether it's fate or how much free will there is, all those things.
MR: And you touch on that, it even seems to be the basis of your first single, "Ash And Ember."
DL: Yeah, absolutely! That song is definitely questioning whether you can do anything about it at all and whether once you finally figure it out is it too late, have you already missed your potential? But I think it also says, "All I can do is focus on today and tomorrow and be the best person I can right now." There's sort of a full circle element to that. But it's definitely like a soldier running away from the ambush or readying the deck for a storm that's long gone, having anxiety about all these things that I really can't control anyways. That's an introspective thought process.
MR: Do you feel like the move to Razor & Tie from Epic was part of this maturing process?
DL: I think it all coincides. I don't know that it's a direct result of that, but I certainly learned a lot in the process of that label experience. I always try to take responsibility for myself and never put any kind of blame for any lack of success on anybody else but my own shoulders. Like we're saying, I can't control a lot of things out there, so I think seeing how a process can work better or worse at a label or any kind of business like that, I think it's a good learning experience. You bang your head on a mistake and you turn around and run into another one and learn from that one and turn around and run into the next one.
MR: You've been on Late Night with David Letterman, soon to be Late Night with Stephen Colbert. What do you think about that, by the way?
DL: It's funny, I had a question about that the other day, too. I love it, there's been some interesting talk about it, but I'm a fan of all the late night programs. I've loved David Letterman for years and I enjoyed Leno as well and I think Fallon is fantastic. I love Colbert's show, I think he's a genius, he's really special.
MR: It'll be interesting when you visit him next. I'm curious about this point forward. Where is this heading? What's the mission statement now?
DL: I don't know where this ends, and I like that. It's open-ended. I I'm open for anything. I actually probably have more passion for songwriting and performing now than maybe I ever had. I have a very clear vision of the kind of things I want to put out into the world, I want to put positive things out there and I want people to connect. If I can be a messenger of some kind of important connection within somebody, whether that's doubting something or being excited about something or love or fear or whatever that human condition is, I feel very fortunate to be able to be somebody who can convey those feelings in a song and through melody and lyric and that's something I've never flet so fortunate or clear about really how rare and special that connection can be.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
DL: I don't know if I have any, man. I hate to skirt around the question, but I don't have the answer. Everybody's experience is different. We started really young I was like eighteen when I signed the deal at Epic. It's been eleven years and my experience will vary from somebody else's experience, even at the same time. Everybody's different, so I can't think of any advice to be honest. I've just got to get my own thing order. [laughs]
MR: Is there anything from your creative experience or touring or signing that's worth passing on? A warning or an encouragement?
DL: I don't know if this is proven to be the right way to go, but I've always tried sincerely to just make sure that I'm putting these songs out because I believe in them. Especially on this record, but also on the last one. As soon as it's somebody else's belief and you're just going with it--although trusted advice can be incredibly important and I think it is important to have people around you that can steer you in the right direction, absolutely, but I do believe that it has to come from your gut because ultimately you're the one who goes out and plays it every night. People that are standing in front of you when you're on that stage, they can see it, man. They have a BS meter and they can see when you mean it and when you don't mean it, and when it means something to you and when it doesn't. I think that's something I've ultimately learned, you've got to put something out from your gut. I know that sounds really cliché, but I think it's the fact from my experience.
MR: See, that's perfect. That's a great answer. Passing on that knowledge is all about life imitating life.
DL: Very true, Mike!
MR: What does the future look like for Augustana? You're going to be on tour at least through may and maybe beyond that, right?
DL: We have nothing on the books for Summer and Fall but I have no doubt that we will probably be back out again. I definitely want to turn another record out pretty quick here, I don't want to go another three years. It was never my intention to go three years, I just had to find the right songs, you know what I mean? I needed to live some life and dig it out of a real place before I spit something out there. I've still got a lot going on in my head and I'd love to put out another record. I don't think it'll be too long before there's another one coming up.
MR: And you collaborated with John O'Mahony for this, was that cool?
DL: Oh it was fantastic, he's got a great track record, he's worked with some great artists and made some fantastic records, it was a great experience, man, he's a great producer. He's really got his finger on the pulse of how to blend indie rock influences with pop things. I think he's going to have a lot of success beyond what he's already had. He's great, man, it's a great experience.
MR: Nice. Is there anything else you'd like to say that we haven't covered?
DL: No, this was a fantastic interview, my favorite by far. Thank you, I appreciate it.
MR: Oh, you're awesome, thank you for saying that.
Transcribed By Galen Hawthorne
A Conversation with Jen Chapin
Mike Ragogna: Jen, what are you doing on the road? I hear it's three shows a day, with you guys setting up.
Jen Chapin: Yeah, and it's pretty epic. But it's better than not reaching people. I heard the number 2,000+ kids and grownups in that week, and we had many opportunities to connect. We had the grand finale concert at the River Music Experience in Davenport, which was a really nice show. I had reached out to Ben Kieffer at Iowa Public Radio; we had been on his show in the past at the coffee shop in Iowa City, and he was excited about taking his show on the road, so they did a recording of the concert at Redstone Room. There was a great audience! There was nice press and IPR gave us some plugs a lot of people heard, so it was this grand climax to a lot of work. They're going to broadcast that concert on IPR on May 19th.
MR: Since 2002 when your first album was released, it's like you've been living on the road, no?
JC: Well, not really, but the same thing happens to me--I look at emails from musician friends and see their list of tour dates and think "Wow, you guys are really on the road," but you don't list all the days when you're home, in your sweatpants. So I'm far from being on the road all the time. My husband Stephan is out quite a bit more than I am with his own group, with different ensembles, so a lot of times, I'm home with the kids. But this is a big trip. We're doing these three weeks, we had one long weekend in January and we'll do another long weekend in May again back in the mid-west; then we won't really be on the road until August. So it balances out.
MR: You have lots of things to juggle, including writing and recording new albums. What's your secret?
JC: I'll confess to being very far from the mindset of doing new music at the moment, and I think in the next six months I'm going to start freaking out and will need to focus on writing. But a lot of my creative energy for the time being goes towards putting together the patchwork of tour dates, working on some kind of promotion, thinking about music videos I want to produce, and things just in terms of selling the music I've made. Because of really believing in and investing time and money in the new album Reckoning, I've been at peace with the idea of giving up this year and following the album's release towards really giving it my best shot at putting it out there, playing the songs, making videos, and telling the story about the album. Then I'll start thinking about what's next.
MR: You ended up getting Kevin Killen to produce the album.
JC: Yeah, that was a big decision to go outside of our own little cozy circle and home studio, because I've made a number of albums over the years that I feel very good about that were produced by myself, by my husband, and a lot of time with a wonderful collaborator--who's very much off the radar--Rod Sherwood, who co-produced the albums Linger and Ready, which were my best known until Reckoning. But Kevin is the full package of recording engineer, mixing engineer, and producer, and his producer-vibe is very transparent; he wants to let the songs and the musicians speak for themselves, and his technical competence becomes this real liberating force for being able to focus on the music, just making the instruments sound as good as they can. He really had some fantastic ideas. He contributed really unobtrusively, kind of a low-key, "Well, how about if we try this?" He helped with song structures--little tweaks to the form and so on. He's so credible because he's been involved in so many hit songs and iconic and historic recordings like Peter Gabriel's So, and Unforgettable Fire. He's been witness to history in a way. And he's the nicest dude in the world, it was a pleasure working with him.
MR: You have a couple of songs, "Gospel" and "Let It Show" in particular, that seem to be aimed at having a kid and also singing to your kid before they were born. You were in that moment of impending "mommy-hood," weren't you?
JC: "Let It Show" definitely, and that's actually the older song on the album. All the songs are new except that one which had appeared on a previous album Ready, and that whole album, from the songwriting to the production of it, was traveling my due date, basically, of Maceo, my first son. But "Gospel" is one of the few songs that, thematically, is outside of parenting; it's very much a big-picture anthem of social movements and the questions of economic justice which were random in society.
MR: What have you been feeling very strongly about in the headlines lately, and are you involved in other kinds of social causes?
JC: For me, the questions of injustice are so completely connected to the key issues of our time. Like minimum wage. Basically, a living wage is the solution to hunger and there are 49 million Americans who are dealing with "food insecurities," where they're not starving, but they're dealing with a nutrition deficit. They might even be, in many cases, obese or suffering from diabetes. A lot of these people are working, and they're working in food jobs; they're working at poultry processing plants, they're farm workers, they're working at checkouts in grocery stores, and they're not being compensated for doing essential, honorable work. This is a key moral issue, it's totally unsustainable, and it's bad economics; multi-national corporations like Wal-Mart are squeezing their profits out of cheap labor, and are cutting into their own market because people can't afford to buy their products. And of course they're massively subsidized - one could argue that Wal-Mart might be the single biggest recipient of food-stamp money because they and other companies encourage their workers to get those benefits. So the taxes we pay are going right to the people who need it least, the most profitable companies. And there's climate change; industrial agriculture is one of the main contributors to global warming, as far as how it affects the quality of our air and water, the droughts that we're seeing across the west; and the farming system is an intensive utilizer of petroleum products, fertilizers, and water. And there's the immigration issue, where our food system basically depends of illegal immigrants, who are a massive class of people living in fear of deportation. The issues are all over the place, but for me, it's the coherence--the fact that all these problems are connected, and all these solutions are connected. At WhyHunger we strongly believe, and we learn from experience and scientific data that agroecology really is the future. Small, sustainable family farms and local food systems that are networked with each other and not networked with the global system of treating food like a commodity, but are more connected to "What are the needs of the given community?" This is the hope for feeding the world. We just spent a week in Iowa, and of course Iowa is a poster child for what's wrong; driving through certain areas, all you smell is the waste from pork processing plants, or all you see in the mono-cultures of corn and soybeans. But on the other hand, every little coffee shop we went to was highlighting that they were buying stuff from local farms. Really, there's a lot of hope, and there's a lot of exciting progress as far as people reconnecting. It's both the future and the past, because it's recognizing that we've lost a kind of primal connection with our food and with our communities, and I think beyond a physical hunger there's a spiritual hunger among Americans and people all over the world to get back to that.
MR: How do we turn it around? How do you get to the fundamentals of a human being to help them change their patterns? How do you turn around mentalities that have been a certain way for a long time?
JC: Well, let's take cigarette-smoking, which has diminished exponentially in recent years because the public information is finally getting out there, and people feel a sense of making choices in their lives. I was just reading an article about how the places where smoking is most prevalent is basically in the poorest areas where there's a sense of hopelessness, even though people know the information. But as a sense of empowerment, awareness and making your own choices is growing, and I think it absolutely is, people are making better choices. A 10-year study was just completed that saw a 33% drop in childhood obesity in kids under 5. Obesity rates have not only plateaued but they've gone down. It's hard to say what's causal and what's correlative, but you can guess that parents are starting to question the food choices that were ubiquitous. It's very small in the scale of the negative parts of our food system as far as people seeking out better options, which are often more expensive and not as accessible, but it's happening.
MR: I was a fan of your dad Harry Chapin and I especially admired his efforts and the energy he put into everything he did, whether it be a concert, WhyHunger, or just helping people. I'm not saying to speak for him, but what thoughts do you think your dad might have had these days about what's happening on those fronts you're talking about?
JC: Certainly my mother, who has never by choice been a public person, was really the instigating factor behind his advocacy, behind his thinking in terms of community and connecting with the place where we lived, and the issues of hunger and poverty being the most crucial issues of our time. I was proudly raised--as were my four siblings--in that context of questioning. So much has happened, and I can imagine that he would be disgusted with how far we've fallen politically and how far we've veered to the right as far as where the center is in American discourse. Obama's more to the right of Nixon, basically. But as far as what happening with real people, what we do at WhyHunger is we're a grassroots support organization that goes into communities not to tell them how to solve their problems but to amplify their voices, make connection, set up peer-to-peer learning networks and try to magnify the best and most innovative solutions to hunger and poverty, which are happening in small models all across the country and the world. There's a real food movement where people recognizing common challenges and common solutions, and he would have been totally excited by that. In his lifestyle, he didn't really take care of his body more than what was absolutely necessary, as far as sleep and food; he was certainly into American "convenience" habits such as grabbing junk food on the go because he just had so many things he wanted to do, so it would have been interesting to see how would have heeded the call of "slow food," because he didn't do "slow" anything. But it goes into the overarching theme that we're very efficient at doing emergency feeding programs, and shipping tons of processed foods to poor people; we're very efficient at harvesting millions of bushels of this and that; everything moves very quickly, but I think that's being recognized as part of the problem, and we're recognizing the need for a little patience, a little more care, and a little more sense of the external costs of our productions methods and consuming habits. That probably would have been a challenge for him to walk the walk in that sort of way, given his tempo. But then again, he'd be 71 at this time, so he probably would have slowed down at least a tiny bit, maybe.
MR: [laughs] I doubt he would have slowed down at all! So, what is your advice for new artists?
JC: What I tell people is that sometimes it takes a little bit of work, but spend the time, effort, focus, reflection and listening to dig deeper into yourself, and express who you are. Sometimes it takes really listening to your influences so then you can parse out "What part of myself comes from this person and how do make it authentically part of me?" etc. It can be a process, and it's sort of a never-ending process, but I think any artist of any medium needs to express themselves and not some external idea.
MR: Your outreach on this album was larger than it was on the previous albums.
JC: Yeah, and when it comes to spending the money, I call Bernadette [Quigley] my paid best friend. I've been in different mindsets when it comes to wanting to promote. It's natural and essential to my mental health to keep performing and touring, and keep the music going, and sporadically to have new songs, but as far as putting that energy and money into promoting, that's not a constant. But I got the energy back and it's been really rewarding, it's been a new kind of energy this past year, as a product of Bernadette's efforts, and my efforts.
MR: So this isn't just a passing phase, you're going to hang in there with this music thing a little longer.
JC: [laughs] That's what it looks like! And even though I'm not exactly a jazz musician, jazz is my reference as far as a lifestyle and a set of goals. It's not about being the most famous person selling out stadiums, but it's about making a living and continuing to grow, and that could be going into your 80s or 90s as your body allows. If you look around at the jazz world, so many people remain vitally alive in the music, so that's where I come from.
MR: Have you always had jazz in your life?
JC: Not always. My grandfather was a jazz drummer, and because of the era he grew up in, wasn't really out in the mix of playing jazz, and he became an educator. He wasn't part of my daily life until I started making music. And I came around to a peer group of jazz musicians and went to Berkeley college of music, that's kind of where that came from.
MR: Jen Chapin's future: what's it look like?
JC: I don't know if it's a lack of ambition, or personality, but I just want to do more of the same, but bigger and better. My priority has always been authenticity, and doing things that feel very real to me, and sometimes I think "Oh I should just do an album that's all dance music," or sometimes I'll have these ideas that I'll do some kind of a reinvention on a subtle scale. But things take their own evolution, more than a revolution, as far as what I'm producing. I just want to build my audience, basically. I think at some point we're going to ship out for a year in the next few years, and as a family we're going to transplant to Africa for a stage and dig into some music and a different way of living outside the American consumer world. So that will be an adventure, as yet kind of abstract in the planning phase. I've never gone more than three years without a new album, so something will have to come together before too long. I tend to be in the moment and focus on the immediate challenges of touring and so on, and all the sudden it's like "Okay, now it's time," and I get towards that planning stage.
MR: Nice. Is there anything we've left out?
JC: Oh, I can mention one thing which might be relevant. WhyHunger has been able to weather the economic storm since 2008, but this year's been a little tough. So it motivated me to start a new campaign for fundraising, which is rallying Harry fans to be monthly donors. The website is http://www.whyhunger.org/harrysgivingcircle. For $5/month you can be "Keep The Change," for $10 a month "You can always count on the Cheap Seats," etc. It was a fun collaboration with the staff to come up with that kind of framework for it, and I've been raising money on the road as part of our concerts.
Transcribed by Emily Fotis