Image Credits: Corey Christiansen © Drew Stawin
With Lone Prairie (Origin Records, 2013) and Factory Girl (Origin Records, 2016) I really was exploring, putting the elements of the jazz language and harmony on top of American folk music, which was what I grew up and play. I grew up in the mountains of the northern Utah and there is a pretty strong background playing old cowboy and American frontier music. What I started to do is to arrange 5 tunes from the folk idiom and then I set down and felt very inspired to write my own music based on that arrangements. The next record is coming out in a very similar way. The funny thing about the audience of this project is that it doesn’t matter if they like jazz or not, they enjoy this music because the melody speaks to them.
I guess I really didn’t think about it, like maybe doing it on purpose. But one thing that I’ve been constantly working on in my playing is better phrasing and being more deliberate with the things that I play. I also think that spending so much time with folk music, which has a very open and airy quality, probably affected my improvisation as well.
Wow! That would be hard! A lot of time people want to go too fast, they listen to a record or they go to a workshop or to a concert and become very inspired, so they want to work on 10, 15 things at a time. And then it doesn’t never go anywhere. So if I have only one page it will be “pick a small number of things to work on, maybe only one thing, and get it good for a month, and then move on to something else”. So you don’t distract yourself with your own quest. Today there is so much information available to everybody in Internet, so it’s very beneficial to make a list of the things that you may not be very good and start to work on the easiest and then move to the more difficult one at a time.
I like playing with people that are better than me! That challenges me. I look for intuitive musicians that can see and understand my vision of what the music needs as a band leader. It usually comes by having similar backgrounds. But I like also when they bring really great opinions to my compositions. Similar and different skills, set together at the same time.
Some musicians are really upset about the loss of revenue that they might be experiencing from streaming, and I hope that eventually there is a way to include the musician more in the revenue than is built from streaming. But I don’t mind it as much as others, I kinda feel in some ways it’s being good for me, because a lot of people around the world that wouldn’t know my music if it wasn’t for a streaming medium, if they like it oftentimes they might buy the record or some of my books, and I’ve been lucky enough to be hired to a concert just because people found me through streaming platforms. Technology is here and it’s not going anywhere so it’s useless to fight it. Streaming is a new way for advertising yourself.