For those of our readers that haven’t heard of you before could you tell us a little bit about yourself your story?
Sure. I was born, grew up, and still live in Manhattan––Greenwich Village in fact. I’m a singer, a songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist, a record producer, and a label owner. That’s a mouthful, so I usually just say “I’m a music maker,” and that seems to cover it. I’m proud that I’ve been able to be a music maker my whole adult life. After scoring a big record deal with Phil Ramone at the beginning of my career, I branched out to form my own label, ECR Music Group. Almost all the music I make (whether I’m producing and recording other artists, or making my own records) is released through ECR. The past two years however, I’ve been on the road touring to the tune of close to 70,000 miles on both sides of the Atlantic. I am, in fact, doing this interview from the airport, and I’m soon to board a flight to London for a five-date UK Tour. It’s a busy, beautiful life I seem to have created for myself.
Who inspired you to get on stage and perform?
I can’t remember a time when music––either the making of it or the performing of it––wasn’t a part of my life. I grew up in an artistic household (my parents are both writers), so I don’t know if there was one particular inspiration to get on stage. But, I can always easily credit The Beatles for making me want to be the music maker I’ve grown up to be. How can you watch them on Ed Sullivan and not want to do that too?
What are some of the artists that have influenced you and have really stuck with you throughout your career?
Well they’d be at the top of that list, along with Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, Beck, Radiohead, Bjork, and most recently Punch Brothers. Tom Waits’ work is another life-long love affair for me. In fact, he’s said “anything you absorb, you will eventually secrete.” In that spirit, I wonder if you put those influences into a blender, whipped up a smoothie out of them, and then drank it whether it wouldn’t taste a lot like the work I’m trying to do myself. I’d love to think it would. It’s certainly a smoothie I’ve drunk a lot myself.
Could you tell us about your upcoming UK Tour?
Definitely. I’m so excited about this run. I’ll be performing a lot of new songs, and some fan-favorites too. It’s my third trip to Britain this past year, and this time I’m going to Brighton, Manchester, London, Birmingham, and Bristol. I’ve performed in London and Birmingham before, but the other cities will be new for me, and I’ll be making my debut in each. I’m touring with acclaimed singer-songwriter Julia Haltigan who will be opening for me on the tour. She’s also a New Yorker, and a good friend. She’s nothing short of spectacular. British artist Charlotte Carpenter will also be joining us for the final three dates of the tour, opening as well. She opened for me on the last tour, this past Spring. She’s great.
You’ve recently done a run of sold out shows at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City, performing with a variety of special guests could you tell us about some of the shows?
This run at Rockwood in New York has really kind of changed my life. It started as a three-show run, with the idea that I’d be able to perform solo and try some new things. I never imagined it would sell out as it did, nor could I have imagined it would continue to do so for over two years. The success of the run has also attracted some extraordinary guests, each of whom join me on stage to trade songs, and together, we create unique collaborations right in front of the audience. The guests have become a who’s-who of NYC music: this third season includes Grammy-nominated and Grammy-winning guests Jesse Harris, Tracy Bonham, Michael Leonhart, and Chris Barron. The success of the run has fueled all this touring I’ve been doing simultaneously, and I model my touring show after the show I do at Rockwood. I tell stories, debut new songs, reimagine fan favorites, and at the end of the night, the audience and I feel like we’ve old friends. It’s an experience that’s become really dear to me, and special.
You have played shows all over the world, do have favourite venues or favourite countries to visit?
Well venue-wise, Rockwood is certainly one favorite, Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles is another. I just performed in a beautiful little theater in Seattle called The Rendezvous. Amazing place. And there’s a little vaudeville theater in San Francisco i played at earlier this year called The Lost Church. That place is beautiful. In terms of destinations (and this may sound like I’m sucking up a little since I’m heading there now, but it’s simply true), I have to say the audiences in Britain have been incredible to me. I’ve been an Anglophile my whole life (history, literature, music, you name it) but the experience of touring and performing in Britain has exceeded my imagination. The audiences have been so great, so engaged and engaging, so memorable. I haven’t had a bad experience yet in the U.K., and I can’t see having one on this upcoming tour either. Not everywhere is like that, you know. Someday, ask me again and I’ll tell you about touring for a month in Germany. In the winter. Yep.
You are also one of the Founders & CEO of ECR music how do you balance running a music company and performing live?
I’m not one of the founders, I’m the founder. I launched the label from my laptop in 2002, and we’ve grown into a global music company since. I still can’t believe it. In terms of balancing everything, I always say this when asked about the time it must take: I say yes, running the label, being a record producer, and a recording artist each take time, and time away from each of the others. However, none of them take up as much time as someone else taking and then screwing up the music you’ve sweated blood to put into the world. It’s actually an immense time saver to do all the things I do. And surprisingly, it’s made me a much, much, better musician in the process.
What do you think is missing from today’s music industry?
I launched a campaign called #IRespectMusic three years ago, whose sole ethos is fighting for music makers to be paid fairly for their work. It’s grown to become the largest grassroots campaign in the history of American music. Music makers not being paid fairly, whether it be because of streaming companies, piracy, radio conglomerates, or unethical music professionals, is what’s wrong with today’s music industry. Musician, friend, and advocate David Lowery often says, “the new boss is worse than the old boss.” I couldn’t agree more. The good news is that I believe the tide is turning now, and music makers––and music lovers too––are on the move. It’s starting to change, and it’s going to be changing for the better.
At Artistic Echoes we are always on the look out for new artists is there anyone you can recommend?
Definitely check out Julia Haltigan and Charlotte Carpenter, and check out the band Everything Turned To Color whose debut album I produced and recorded. It’s called “Life Imagined,” and it was just released this summer. It’s terrific.
What plans do you have for the rest of the year and 2017?
I’m going to enjoy the hell out of this tour, and then upon my return to New York I’m going to start work on two new projects in my newly-renovated recording studio in Greenwich Village. The next show in my series at Rockwood Music Hall is on January 17th, so that’s right around the corner as well. Oh…and there’s Christmas, right? Ah…Christmas and New Year’s in New York. Heaven.
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