Robert Powell w/ Sukhawat Ali Khan & Sachiko Kanenobu

A Conversation with Robert Powell

Puremusic: How you doin', man.

Robert Powell: Pretty good. Just getting awake here, getting ready for the call.

PM: Great. Got a cup of coffee going?

RP: I had a cup of tea and I think I'll have another one.

PM: So is it Fairfax I'm calling?

RP: Yes.

PM: My old stomping ground.

RP: Don't you know Marcus McAllen?

PM: Sure! Are you a buddy of Marcus's?

RP: Yeah. I used to be in a band of his called Big River a long time ago.

PM: Amazing. I've been trying to get a hold of him out in Mendocino. Conrad did say that you were familiar with the Goodman Brothers.

RP: Yeah, I've seen you play a couple of times at least. There was one time when Steve Kimock was playing with you guys. And I'd gotten a tape, either at a gig or maybe I got it from Marcus, and I really liked the harmonies and the songwriting and the whole vibe. Then I heard you'd gone out to Nashville to give that scene a shot, and that's the last I heard.

PM: We were in Europe for a few years, and then I came to Nashville. Billy still lives in Heidelberg and is playing in Germany and around there. Did you and I ever actually meet in those days in Marin?

RP: I have a feeling not. You know, we might've met at a party or something like that. Around that time I got to playing with Kevin Brennan, who had a band called Claddagh.

PM: I don't think I know them, or Kevin.

RP: He's from Belfast, and then he married an American woman. And he had this thing where every gig would be a different group of people. I started playing with him just to get out and play, and then we tightened down a pretty consistent group of five players. He grew up with Van Morrison. So when Van's daughter Shana got out of school and wanted to sing, Van said, "Well, go look up Kevin." So she joined our band, then Kevin sort of fell out, then I was in a band with Shana for quite a while.

PM: Was that all around the Marin County area?

RP: Yeah. I was living in San Rafael in those years, that was about a three year stint. Then I quit her band and I was gonna work more on my own stuff. But [laughing] then I got involved with this internet music company, you know, trying to make a million bucks and that whole thing.

PM: Indeed. What kind of an internet music company was it?

RP: The company was called ArtistOne. And we kind of just put it in motion, trying to find the right way to do it as we went along. But we raised funds and got salaries, and I was the Executive Producer of Music. At first it was a really cool scene. It seemed like there were good ideas, forward thinking and all. We were trying to change the music business, but it turned into pretty much business building and going to an office every day and I really wasn't liking it--and then it folded anyway. We were relatively successful for the money we got, but I think it just wasn't time yet for a lot of those ideas. So I was very happy to get back to full-time playing.

PM: Is that what you're doing now, full-time playing?

RP: Yeah. I've got a studio, I produce people at my studio and at other places, and I do sessions, and I do production music here and there, work on my own stuff--various collaborations, like with Conrad--and I play in a couple of bands. So I've got a lot of irons in the fire.

PM: Conrad stipulates very emphatically that in Clothesline Revival you two are partners, definitely the co-creators and co-conspirators. And aside from how good both of you guys are, rendering this music and treating it in this very interesting way, a big part of the genius of the project is all the incredible artists you pulled into the mix. I've talked with Wendy and Tom and Sukhawat, and it's been interesting seeing pieces of the puzzle fall into place. I started on the Conrad side, and now, talking to you, I'm getting the other corner and edge of the puzzle.

RP: You know, I really appreciate the attention you're giving to all of this.

PM: We just think the project is amazing. The minute I got my ears on this music, I rang Conrad up and said, "Hey, hey, hey wait a minute! I hear this. This shit's great!"

RP: [laughs]

PM: In terms of both Receive and Of My Native Land, how do you and Conrad start to put the selections together? From your point of view, how does it generally occur?  continue

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