A Conversational Interview with Jeff Pearce by Michael Debbage
I have found that the best interview candidates are artists who are willing to converse when we begin to discuss the possibility of reviewing their music. The conversation flows and has the appearance of being almost a face to face conversation. This then transcends into me inviting and then sending questions via email and then awaiting the artist’s responses and for the most part it flows quite well. Jeff Pearce, just like his music was just a little different. Not only did the conversation flow over a number of months it appeared that our conversation back and forth in Facebook was not only engaging but personable and warm. Like his music, Jeff marches to his own unique drum.
After an engaging and flowing conversation that took place through June of 2011 through September of 2011, I asked Jeff if I could do something just a little different and with his permission asked if we could use our conversation as the foundation of our interview and add a few additional questions to get up to date on his current activities. Being the free spirited artist and person that he is, Jeff granted me such authority to share those moments. Here are those conversations as well as a few additional questions covering material such as the albums Rainshadow Sky, Lingering Light and The Provision Series as well as insight on his unusual instrument, the Chapman Stick, and his recent exploration of the piano.
Click the cover above for Mike's review of "Rainshadow Sky".
Click the cover above for Kathy's review of "Lingering Light".
Mike: Thanks for accepting me as a friend on Facebook. I am not sure how I missed your music. Would you be interested in sending a disc so that I may review what appears to be your latest disc Rainshadow Sky and if you would like that review to be a little more comprehensive send Lingering Light too. Let me know if that interests you.
Jeff: Thank you for getting in touch. It's pretty easy to miss me in this day and age. I'll admit that I'm not terribly much of a "self-promoting musician" and we're certainly living in those times!
I've enjoyed your reviews on Mainly Piano for some time now and you certainly have command of the language! I'd be happy to send you some cds. Just send me an address and I'll pop them in the mail to you!
I'm enclosing a link to something that was just released today- an incredibly talented visual artist (Chris Bishop) in the UK has been doing some very cool things with some of my piano pieces, but he went absolutely over the top with this one- the visuals are so wonderful:
Mike: Actually the link is what prompted me to touch base with you as I am FB friends with Heidi Anne Breyer and I noticed the link via her so inquiring minds surfed the net. So is that you on piano too? Nice stuff though your guitar/Chapman Stick work is on level with Tony Levin. Command of the language? Not so sure but I certainly try to give a visual picture especially considering my total lack of musical experience. Can't read or play music but I can hear and attempt to write what I feel.
Jeff: That's about as high of a compliment you can pay a Stick player, invoking the name of Tony Levin! (a good "alternate spelling" of his name is Tone 11. Say it fast J )
Yeah, that's me on the piano. I've been studying music (long-distance via Skype) with Philip Aaberg for about 4 years now. He is truly an amazing player, and his lessons have affected every aspect of my playing whether on Stick, guitar, or piano. I'd dare say he is as good of a teacher as he is a player.
In many ways, I think reviewers who are also musicians have a disadvantage when it comes to reviewing. I know that, sometimes when I listen to music, my mind unwittingly switches into "analysis mode" and I start figuring out what chord changes are going on, which ones are likely to come up and all of that. And it's not exactly fair to the performer, in that I'm not listening with "listener's ears" at that point.
Mike: Nice to see you stretch yourself. Do you plan on exploring the piano on your next project?
Jeff: Each time I do a project, I try REALLY hard to stretch myself. The thought of doing a "part 2" album doesn't really appeal to me. I know I should probably not use the world "album" anymore, and replace it with "cd" but it's ingrained in my head, probably because I bought albums as a kid!
Now you ask "Do you plan on exploring the piano on your next project?" In order for me to answer that question, I'm going to have to ask you to sign a non-disclosure statement or something like that... :) I've read your reviews for quite some time, and I believe you're a trustworthy fellow, so here's the answer. Short answer is yes, I am. The long answer is yes, I am, but my next project will not be a cd. Starting in July, I'm going to release one mp3 a month for a year via iTunes, Amazon, etc and 30 cents from each sale will go to a different charity (12 months = 12 songs = 12 different charities).
Being that I'm not an "official" piano player, I feel pretty hesitant to release a cd featuring my piano playing. However, I think there's something of musical value there, not to mention the gentle prodding of Philip Aaberg to "do something" with the piano pieces. Add to that the very sobering landscape in the economic realities facing charities, and I thought it would be nice to do something that might actually matter to someone.
The best part about this whole thing so far has been getting our kids involved. Both of our daughters have found tons of charities, and most of them are very good and deserving ones (unfortunately, there are some scam charities, but there are so many internet watchdog sites, that the good ones pretty much rise to the top). The first one will probably be for St. Jude's Children's Hospital. My wife is a big supporter of the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation, so that will probably be one of them as well, at some point.
I truly doubt if any of these organizations will be swimming in money because of what I'm doing, but maybe me doing this might cause other musicians to think "Hey! If HE can do it, I bet I can get WAY better results!" And then everybody wins.
So I'll be dutifully recording improvs and such, trying to pick the best ones out. My 14 year old daughter Thalia is a bit of a wiz with photography and graphic design, so she'll be doing the "covers" for the singles (iTunes and Amazon and all those other places require SOME sort of visual image).
So that's what I am going to be doing for the next year and I hope some good will come of it. But I'm only going to officially announce it when the first "single" is ready to go.
Mike: I appreciate you sharing and first and foremost it will stay here as requested until you tell me otherwise. Though for a self-confessed non-promoting musician I would say you are doing pretty well here. Jeff, it is these kind of easy going conversations that prompt me to ask an artist if they are up for an interview. Is this something that might interest you, say later this year?
Jeff: Of course, an interview would be just fine. And later in the year would work better, since I'll probably have the charity songs going full swing by then. I've done quite a few interviews over the years, and as far as I know, no one has lost their job because of it. :)
Mike: So I have finally started your review and I see that the Chapman Stick comes in an 8 10 and 12 string. Which one do you prefer and more specifically what was used on Rainshadow Sky and Lingering Light?
Jeff: What I've used on both recordings was a ten string Chapman Stick. Eight strings would probably limit what I do melodically while twelve strings would probably cause me to add a lot of unnecessary notes.
Mike: Jeff I have just posted your review.
Jeff: Michael thanks so much for taking the time to write it! I appreciate anything that is well written and from an informed opinion. I also appreciate very much the mention of the Provision Series in your review. So far, all is going well with it.
Mike: I am listening to the September release and it sounds really good and I absolutely love the artwork. I remember when we first spoke that mum was the word on the Provision Series but I saw that you had not only announced it but were also in full swing so I figured it was a great way to tie up the review and give out new information.
Your music requires a little more patience than others which is my excuse for missing you this long. I won't make the same mistake.
Jeff: Thanks for the kind words about the September song. I just uploaded the October song, and it should be released a week from today!
I do not consider it at ALL an insult to say that my music requires patience. In fact, I can think of no nicer compliment! "Patience" is something that is lacking in this world, and is, sadly, lacking in the music world. I have a feeling that you have heard enough cd's, to where you are listening to a song, and find yourself thinking "ok, he played something that sounded like this, so he's about to play something that sounds like THIS" and it happens.
Years ago, when I was shopping some of my music to different labels, one label head said to me "your music is good, but you need to make things a little more predictable. Musically people like predictable music; it's like a pair of comfortable shoes". I found myself thinking "Just how many shoes does one person need?" So, whether I'm playing guitar, or Stick, or piano, I tend to go down the odd road here or there. I rarely lose sight of my final destination or I just may turn on to a hidden road here and there!
Mike: It has been a few months since we last spoke back in September. How is the Provision Series going?
Jeff: So far, everything has been a series of pleasant surprises! I've been pleased with how the sales have been going, and the charities I've been in touch with seem genuinely grateful that someone is thinking about them.
Musically, I've been surprised by a couple of songs- specifically October's song, “Autumn and Regret II”. I recorded “Autumn and Regret” and released it on my cd “Bleed”, which came out in 2002. It had been probably 8 years since I played that song, but in early October of this year, I thought I'd give it a try on the piano. The original was an electric guitar piece with a lot of digital delays and reverb, so trying it as a solo piano piece was a bit of a challenge. Eventually, I found something that was a bit of a “second conversation” happening in the song- a conversation I hadn't found in the original version.
Mike: Any thoughts on releasing a full length cd project that will feature you on piano? If not, after the Provision Series wraps up what next?
Jeff: I was fairly dead-set against that idea of a cd release when I started the series, but there have been a lot of people writing to me and asking if I'd at least consider making a cd of the songs available. I usually write back with “but you've not heard the rest of the songs in the series, you might hate them! :)” I will definitely give it consideration, however. I'm also pulling together songs for what will probably be my first “official” ambient guitar cd since 2002.