A CONVERSATION WITH JORMA KAUKONEN
Puremusic: Good to see you, Jorma. I was looking at your picture in the press kit, thinking "Geez, this character is looking awfully good for the Rock & Roll life he's led."
Jorma: So far so good. I don't stay up as late as I used to, you know. Creak a little bit more when you get up in the morning, but hey, that's okay.
PM: It's a beautiful life you got going on.
JK: Yeah, we do, couldn't be better. This project we're doing in town with the boys, it's been a slice of heaven.
PM: It's so interesting that, at the age of 61, you get a new contract with Columbia Records, to record songs of white Country guys from the 20s and 30s, Jimmie Rodgers and Gene Autry, among others. How did that come about?
JK: It really had to do with Yves Beauvais [a rather famous A&R person in NYC, formerly with Atlantic Records]. Yves knew our Public Relations person, Diane Connal. When I was playing a solo show at B.B.King's a couple of years ago, he came down, and heard something he liked. You never know who's going to like your stuff or why, you know how that is. I like what I do, but I'm not an A&R guy. He was with Atlantic at the time. We hit it off, talked about a few things. Some time went by, next I hear, he's with Columbia Records. Now we really start talking. And he's really been behind this project, it's remarkable to me. He's a really rare guy.
PM: Is he producing?
JK: No, Roger Moutenot is the producer of the album, but Yves has been involved in the recording. He's a real A&R guy, old school. I'm not gonna name names, but when I was with CBS in the late 80s, we did that record and the A&R guy coulda cared less. But here we've got people like Yves Beauvais and Roger Moutenot. And the players are fantastic: Jerry Douglas, Byron House, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, come on. We cut everything live, 15 songs in four days.
PM: When something's not cut live, I'm less interested.
JK: Especially with this kind of music. It's not about bricklaying, who cares? But this has been great, Byron and Sam sang backups, we just had a great time.
PM: Your earliest records were Psychedelic Rock with the Jefferson Airplane, and you've been a huge proponent of Country Blues through your life. Is the interest in early Country something relatively new?
JK: Actually, I started out playing Old Timey and Bluegrass. I was never really any good at it. But the influence was always there. All the musical influences have been important in my life, I like so many styles. The Psychedelic thing doesn't really mean much to me now, but I don't regret any of it. When people ask me what I listen to now, I surprise them if I say "Well, I really like the new Lee Ann Womack record." That's a great record, and Jerry has some really good stuff on it. I like to listen to the player oriented stuff. Alison and Jerry, I have all those records.
PM: Are you a Gillian Welch fan? Buddy and Julie?
JK: I am, though not a real aficionado. I like David Rawlings' playing a lot. Buddy Miller, yeah, he's terrific. When I saw Buddy play with Steve Earle's band in Columbus, I told him he was playing notes that aren't even on the guitar.
PM: In my interview with Buddy, we talked about you. He surprised me when he said that he was a huge fan of the San Francisco Rock scene. Garcia, Jorma, Jerry Miller...
JK: And [bassist] Byron House too, you know he has many musical personalities. One of them is his Dead cover band.
PM: Dead Set, sure. I go out to see them once in a while. One time I was out, Donna Godchaux [former singer with the Grateful Dead, while she was married to the late keyboardist Keith Godchaux] and her bassist husband David McKay were the featured guests. continue