Weird flattery will get you everywhere, or at least a mention in this blog. But maybe only when the temperature is such that I am forced to dress like Sookie Stackhouse in order to leave the house.
Let me clarify.
Melancholy-voiced Matt Campbell, a self-declared troubadour, wrote me another e-mail yesterday, and because he opened by calling my surname the “best of any press person yet,” I decided to write about him. I tolerate my last name, but cumbersome and easily mispronounced, on my worst days, it even makes me feel fat. (These are obviously different from the days on which I dress like Sookie Stackhouse.)
I get stupid-hundred e-mails a day, but Campbell’s comment caught my attention. Having educated myself about his nimble, ruminative music and subsequently interviewed the guy, I’m glad it did.
Now if someone can please turn the weather down, on my honor, I’ll blog about you too.
Our Town What does it mean to be a troubadour?
Matt Campbell Outside of the romantic notion of a wandering bard singing stories of life and love, it does require leading an examined life; attempting to tap into something inherent in our human experience, and reflecting it for others to hear. Growing up, I found great comfort and enjoyment in music. My mom would listen to the classic country station and on Sundays they played the country gospel stuff from the 40's and 50's. She knew all the words. My Dad played the guitar and banjo, and had a great collection of records heavy on 50's rock n' roll, songwriters and country music. The covers of those albums were amazing, those guys were always in suits and hats. When they showed up to play, they were dressed up, like they were paying respect to their music and to the audience. Always gracious.
OT You’ve lived and performed on both coasts. Why Chicago?
MC I came to Chicago for love, first and foremost, prompted by a feeling that if I didn't I would regret it. [Also] I am always drawn in by a challenge. Chicago is the one of the few great American cities. This is a tough town to live in and to make it through is going to take some backbone. But there is a spirit of opportunity for theatre and music here that may not exist anywhere else. It's almost like the ultimate "put-up or shut-up" place. What a great environment to build something from the ground up. I suppose the short answer is, I'm always looking for more, and Chicago was more.
OT What prompted you to form The Chicago Talking Machine Co.?
MC A "production" company, CTMCo. is the entity I created as a platform for anything I do creatively. The name is a throwback to early recording on "talking machines." In one year The CTMCo. has produced two short films, two recording projects, and through shows and residencies has helped to produce opportunities for others. Not bad, so far.
OT You call “Miles Apart” a musical short story.
MC A narrative unfolds throughout all the songs; they are all related. Because recording and distribution have changed so much, the LP idea is in a state of flux. Singles and EP's are really prevalent now. I have always been into concept albums, but instead of using ten songs to get there, I used five. I still wanted to give the listener a complete picture. It's the perfect recording for fans of concept albums who ride the train; it's only about fifteen minutes long.
OT Any musical influences?
MC This always makes me think of the Onion headline, "Area band sounds nothing like its influences." Many people for a variety of reasons: Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, and others in the classic American vein. I appreciate that they had huge aspirations [which] they didn’t shy away from. As an aside, check out Willie Nelson's string of concept albums Yesterday's Wine, Phases and Stages, and Redheaded Stranger. Incredible songs.
OT You offer tour sponsorship.
MC I keep it really simple. You can go to the site and order a copy of the disc and a t-shirt for $25, or you can sponsor a day on tour for $100. That's about the daily cost of being gone. It is sort of built on the idea of how non-profits raise money, but I am a for profit venture. The response has been great. My barbershop sponsored a show! Like I said, I'm trying to build a viable business and I'm happy to have others along who feel like I can help them as well. Eventually I hope these small sponsorships will lead to larger partnerships.
OT Who is your dream listener/audience member?
MC The next person coming through the door. I feel fortunate to have an audience. That being said, I wrote a song once for John Prine called "Your Own Bad Day," and it would be great to play it for him.
OT What’s next?
MC I am looking forward to the release of the record and the subsequent tour. It's a 30-day barnstorm across the country via Amtrak. I have long wanted to tour by train. I'll be documenting the trip through pictures, video, sound recordings and journals. This is a formative time in our culture. I simply do not believe that we are destined to be worse off than other generations. We forge our own fates. The header on my website says "The New American Knows No Fear." I see an opportunity for the revival of the American spirit, and I'm seizing it. I hope that my own enthusiasm for lies ahead can help.
Campbell performs at Fitzgerald's on July 28 at 9 p.m. and the release of "Miles Apart" will take place July 31 at Uncommon Ground on Clark at 7 p.m. A full show schedule can be found at www.chicagotalkingmachine.com
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," is forthcoming from Counter Point Press. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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