Sunday
Oct272013

Interview with Peter Bruntnell by Paul McGee

Your new release Retrospective, is a collection that spans almost 15 years of recording. What motivated you to look back at this particular point in your musical career?

The idea for the retrospective was not mine, it was suggested by my new manager and sounded like a good idea at the time.

When you started out as a recording artist, who were your musical influences?

Neil Young, Nick Drake, Tim Harding, Acetone and Uncle Tupelo.

How has your song-writing evolved over the years?

It’s become more English as a result of the realisation that an English/Welsh songwriter will always suffer if they are trying to be Americana. I don’t consider my songs to be Americana even if some journalists or punters do?

You lived in Canada for a period of time as a younger artist. Can you talk about how this influenced your music?

Living in Canada was great, I met a chap called Bill Ritchie, who I write most of my songs with. These days over the phone.

You have steered a path that did not include major recording contracts or major labels in your past and I wonder if this has added to your reputation of being ‘under the radar’, but held in high esteem by many within the industry?

I don’t really know about that, perhaps it has though.  Artists on major labels have bigger marketing budgets so that would obviously help with radio awareness. I can’t listen to the radio, it all stinks, as far as I am concerned.

Would commercial success earlier in your career have altered your world view to any great degree?

Yes, but I’m not sure how though, other than I would have a bigger house, more guitars and my wife wouldn’t give me such a hard time for being a loser piss poor musician?

Eight releases over 15 years are reflected on the current Retrospective release and I wondered if the process of looking back revealed any unexpected insights?

Listening back was interesing and brought back some great memories. I had a great time in the recording studio with the players and the producer Pete Smith.

What does it take to write a complete, fully realised, song in your view?

That depends, some songs happen straight away and others can take a month.

Have you ever had the offer to place your songs in a movie/ TV series?

A song called Ghostdog was in something, I can’t remember right now.

Did you ever tour America to any great degree, given your connections with Son Volt?

I’ve toured a fair bit in America with Son Volt and Jay Farrar solo, also the North Mississipi Allstars.

What is your view on the changes in music distribution today?

Nobody is buying much, so touring is essential. The majors still control the radio and press.

As an essentially independent artist, does the new environment of downloads, YouTube and a return to cottage industry herald a new dawn to you?

The internet is good for gig awareness.

What continues to motivate you to write and perform?

I still love playing live and retain some interest in writing songs. I also like the recording process and have started recording other songwriters in my studio which is something I will probably continue to do.

Friday
Oct182013

Interview with Yvette Landry by Stephen Rapid

 

 

Yvette Landry grew up in Louisiana she is a musician and writer playing a variety of instruments in several Cajun bands, She is also an educator and teacher. Yvette released her debut  album titled Should Have Known in 2010. She also fronts her own band. Yvette has played numerous festivals and played and toured outside of the U.S. She has performed with the Red Stick Ramblers, Pine Leaf Boys, Bill Kirchen, Cindy Cashdollar, Darrell Scott and many more. Yvette co-produced her new No Man’s Land with some of those friends including Bill Kirchen, Cindy Cashdollar, Geno Delafose, Dirk Powell, Richard Comeaux, and Joel Savoy. Not content with that Yvette also published her first children’s book The Ghost Tree. She kindly agreed to answer some questions for Lonesome Highway.

It says "Musician, Author, Educator, Interpreter" on your website. That sounds like a pretty rounded full on life style. How do you make them all fit without compromising any of these aspects of your life?  

It's not easy, but if you keep things organized and learn to manage your time wisely, it's very doable.

You grew up in Breaux Bridge in Louisiana and growing up must have absorbed the music and atmosphere of the area which has filtered through to your music. What was the overriding influence and how did country music fit into the overall scheme of things? 

Well, growing up, I was involved in music in school. I took piano lessons and played in the school band. Unfortunately, my parents were not into the cajun music scene. We mostly listened to records and the radio. The one record that my parents played over and over again was Willie Nelson's Stardust album. I guess that's where I my first taste of country came from. 

The songs on Should Have Known and No Man's Land have a pretty timeless quality that suggest you have listened to the some classic songs. How do you set out to write your songs?  

Interesting question.  I don't really "set out" to write songs, they just sort of write themselves. It's hard to explain, but I get this feeling and when it comes, I pick up my guitar, grab my paper and pencil, and before you know it, I've got a song.

Do you have a preference for writing over performance or as you do both is it more of an integrated process?  

I love the performance aspect of music. It's something I can sort of control. Writing just comes. I never know when it's coming or even what is coming!

Did you find writing your book The Ghost Tree very different from your song writing?  

The story about "how" the book was written might be even better than the book itself! Short version, I told a story to the four-year-old son of a friend.  Just sort of made it up on the spot. I never had any intension of writing a book, it was just a story - but before I knew it, I had an illustrator, a publisher, and this thing was going to print!

You produced both your albums Joel Savoy and used some fine players. Where both what you expected them to be or did the process change the songs in any way? 

For the first album, I had no expectations. Matter of fact, I never intended to record an album. I had written some songs and had played them only for my parents.  My dad was battling brain cancer at the time and he would always tell me I needed to record the songs, but I insisted that I didn't know what I was doing and was not going to record. A couple of months later, he passed away and in his memory, I recorded the album. I just phoned a few friends, explained the situation, and we went into the studio, unrehearsed, and laid down the tracks. It was magic! For No Man's Land, I was scared to death! I knew that this album needed to be a strong one to follow up Should Have Known, but I didn't really know how to do that. So I took my ideas, called up some friends and thought, "well, if it worked the first time, it'll probably work again!"  Went in with no expectations except for wanting to do my best. I figured if I had that attitude, then I couldn't be disappointed with the product.  Most of the songs came out just as I had heard them in my head. The one song that changed was "Yea, You Right." Once we got in and started recording, I knew that I needed Geno Delafose and his bass player Pop Esprit to lay down the grove. Other than that, not much changed.

Your albums are self released does this give you the freedom to record and release exactly what you want with the obvious financial constraints? 

Pretty much. Because I work full time as a teacher, I don't go on tour. I think most labels want someone who can be on the road to "market the product" so I really didn't focus on that too much. Just wanted to put it out there as quickly and easily as possible.

You play locally and have toured internationally. Do you find the audience reaction and expectation changes with the territory?  

Yep. At home, we're a dance band. People come out and dance, drink, talk, have a good time. It's very social. When you get outside of our little area of "Acadiana", especially out of state and overseas, people tend to sit and listen. It's got more of a concert feel. That's a really strange feeling for me, to have people just watching. But, the more I do it, the more comfortable I get doing those type of shows.

Having played with other artists do you enjoy the break of being less in the spotlight as happened when it's your show?  

Absolutely!  I love the variety that I have playing with different bands. When I'm playing bass, I'm just sort of along for the ride. I love holding down the rhythm section. When I'm on accordion, I'm sort of in the front, but my guitar player does most of the vocals, so they're the ones in the "spotlight." Then every once in a while, I get to be up there.  It's scary, but I love being able to have my own voice.

As a teacher and as a musician you have exposure to different aspects of life. Do you draw on that for your songs? 

A friend of mine once told me that song writing was easy - all you have to do is pay attention. I took those words to heart. It was absolute genius, because if you truly open your eyes and pay attention to everything that's happening around you daily, you have plenty to write about. So whether it's in school, or in a bar, or walking to the mailbox, there is always something happening that you can potentially draw from.

Perhaps the best know country musician from your home state is Webb Pierce is there a lot of country music there now?  

There's a small country scene around my hometown, but as far as the state, not so much.

When you record your next solo album will you continue in the direction of your two albums or do you see yourself moving from that?  

Wow, that's a tough one. I take things day by day, so we'll just have to wait and see on that one.

Do you see your music as a reward in itself or is there a desire to reach a wider audience. If so would that make you compromise given that mainstream radio is moving towards a heavy pop/youth bias?  

When I started playing music, my one goal was to play at Mulatte's in Breaux Bridge (my home town). It's a famous cajun restaurant and I thought, "Man, if I could just play there..." With that said, (and I did play there), everything else is just lagniappe! I'm along for the ride. I make music and play music because it lights up my soul. I love seeing the smiles on the faces of people who come out to dance or to listen. If my music reaches a wider audience, I would be ecstatic for sure, but I can't see me changing what I'm doing.

With all that you have done and achieved what's next for Yvette Landry?  

I never know what the universe is going to throw at my doorstep next. I do have another book in the works, I'm continually writing songs, trying to be a good mother, daughter, sister, friend and teacher. Right now, that's enough, but I'm always ready to travel along new paths, so time will tell.

Finally, who are you favourites artists from the past or present?  

Right now, I just can't get enough of Darrell Scott and Tim O'Brien. I was fortunate enough to play with Darrell several years ago and have been a huge fan ever since. As for Tim, well, who doesn't like Tim O'Brien?!  

Sunday
Sep292013

Interview with Joe Henry by Paul McGee

Thank you for taking the time to speak with Lonesome Highway and your fan base in Ireland?

My pleasure to take a few moments with you here, truly. Thank you for your attention.

When you started as a musician who were your main influences?

I was obsessed with songs long before I ever thought of that as something one might choose to be. I just recognized songs to be my language, and saw myself within them –did not see in them where I wanted to go, but saw in them, in fact, who I was. We are all most vulnerable to influence when we don’t know we are being influenced; and as such, when I first heard Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Glen Campbell, and Dusty Springfield as a young boy of 7 and 8, I was completely seduced and accepting of their collective version of reality. Not to sound overly dramatic –though it was-- the atmosphere their music created was the air I breathed.

Did you find it hard to gain a foothold in the industry at the beginning and what was your first big break?

It is still hard, and I am not sure I have ever had what one might refer to as a “big break.” I still operate very much under the radar –not exactly by choice; but I do recognize that what I do is not for everyone, and am at peace (most days) with that. There is a lot of freedom that comes along with my low-grade recognition: I feel I have no one’s expectations but my own to serve, creatively-speaking.

With 12 studio recordings, spanning 20 plus years, what subtle changes have you noticed in your approach to song writing over the time?

Well, the most notable change for me might be that I used to be concerned with whether my songs, lyrically speaking, might be too obtuse and abstract for some listeners; and now…I don’t give that much of a thought. I don’t ever mean to be difficult; but at the same time, I don’t ever deliberately shift my direction on behalf of what I imagine might be more “accessible” to others. I offer what I have open-heartedly to whomever the song might speak. We are all called to own our voices and to offer what we each can most uniquely offer; and I am trying to be less fearful about doing exactly that.

Do the early recordings stand the test of time or do you wish to revisit them and bring the perspective of an older view to bear, in hindsight?

I rarely listen to my old records on purpose; and if I did, it wouldn’t be as entertainment. I did the best I could at every juncture, but I have no illusions that I would be satisfied with them from this vantage point –or even if I am supposed to be. I am proud of the work and the accomplishment that it all represents; but I happen to think I am better at my job now than I used to be. Hearing an old recording is like looking at your junior high school year book picture: I know that that’s me; I just don’t know why I was dressed that way on picture day.

You have produced many recordings for other artists; Solomon Burke, Loudon Wainwright III, Rodney Crowell, Salif Keita, Bonnie Raitt, Mary Gautier, to name just a few; tell me about the challenges here and how you got started on this road?

My professional godfather is songwriter/producer T Bone Burnett; and he was the first person to encourage my work as a producer alongside my work as an artist. But I never decided to be a producer, consciously. I just…found myself being asked to assume the position. I was as surprised then as I am now by the work that continues to come my way, and am grateful for it. I love making records –for myself and with others.

The goal is the same, on my record or anyone else’s: to make something meaningful come out of a pair of speakers. And the challenge really comes down to allowing a song to dictate policy…to not being married to an idea beforehand, and letting the song identify itself and be the compass blade. If I am ever at a difficult moment with an artist on my watch, the solution more often than not is to remind the artist that it is all about “it” –the song/recording—and not about them. As soon as we are serving the song, not an artist or an idea, problems vanish.

I have heard that some of your earlier recordings were described as "idiosyncratic broadmindedness” – is this a view that you subscribe to?

I am not sure what someone meant by that, exactly, though I think I am broadminded, musically-speaking. Anyone growing up roughly when I did has been exposed to a wealth of music from across time and distance. And all of it is fair game; all of it is valuable as human expression; ad I have been influenced by everything I’ve heard.

I have also read a quote from you that states; ‘If you are being honest, you are being entertaining’ - can you elaborate on this please?

I have never said that, but have said the exact opposite, when talking about the so-called “confessional” songwriters: I said that it is foolish to ignore song craft in favour of believing that just because you are being “honest” it is automatically meaningful –or entertaining—to others. I have also said that in this context, I believe honestly to be wildly overrated. Just because you are willing to rip a page from your diary and set it to music doesn’t make it a good song. Further: just because you made up a story in song from thin air doesn’t mean it isn’t “true.”

Eclectic is a word that describes your muse and the reach that you have into the creative firmament. So many artists have wanted your guiding hand and your particular take on song arrangements and melody – is this ever daunting?

It is daunting and flattering in equal measure; but I am very wary of trying to direct anyone else’s songwriting, as I hold that statement to be very personal. If someone asks for songwriting help or opinion while I am producing, I will offer it; but I would never volunteer without being invited that someone else’s song needed my help. I might decide a particular song doesn’t speak to me, but that doesn’t mean I should manipulate it so that it might.

One of the great unsung bands, in my opinion, is Over the Rhine and I know that you have produced some of their recordings. What does it take for artists like this to break through the queue of talented hopefuls to sit at the commercial table for the feast?

I have no idea, truly, what it takes to “breakthrough” commercially, at any significant level. But I do think that the best gamble is deep and generous writing, and soulful singing; and Over the Rhine are heroic in that regard. I can’t say enough about them.

Lisa Hannigan is an Irish Artist of great talent that you have worked and performed with – can you speak a little about this special bond and how it ended up with you playing your first show in Dublin recently?

Well, Lisa in not only one of the greatest artists I have ever worked with, but she is quite honestly one of my favourite people I have ever met. My entire family loves her as I do…she’s a remarkable and –I don’t use the word lightly—a special person; a truly great singer, a gifted songwriter; a generous, open-hearted, and egoless collaborator; and she will only get better, I am quite certain.

When I first worked with Lisa on her album “Passenger,” I was warmly embraced by her whole band, and I have become more than casual friends with most all of them, sincerely. I had never been to Ireland, but there was nowhere else on earth I more wanted to visit. I feel deeply connected to the creative landscape there, and always have. Anyway…my relationship with Lisa’s world convinced me that the time was right; and that whether invited or not, I was going; so I accepted a well-paying date in Switzerland with the notion that it would facilitate, at long last, my arrival to Dublin.

Were you surprised with the reaction that you received to your body of work at the show?

Yes, I was surprised to be so warmly received; but then again, Lisa and her camp –most notably her dear friend and tour manager Una Molloy—went to great lengths to see that my inaugural visit would be a satisfying and successful one –and it was in every way.

You were very generous with the inclusion of songs from Lisa and I wonder what you see for her into the future?

I wasn’t being generous, but selfish: I wanted Lisa onstage with me, and wanted to sing with her. Period. She was the generous one, letting me ride her coattails into Whelan’s as she did. As I said above, she will only get better. She has that kind of voice, that kind of soul: I believe ten years from now, her voice will take on some additional overtones, and there won’t be a better singer on the earth.

I was interested in your encore of a Jackson Browne song and I wanted to ask if he was a particular influence on your approach to song-writing over the years?

Jackson and I have been friendly for two decades; but I must say, he’s a bigger influence on me now than he was during my formative years.

When Lisa and I was touring in America last summer –and with John Smith and Ross Turner in our company—I invited Jackson to come to our show in Los Angeles, and mentioned it in passing to Lisa and the boys; and once I had, I realized what a significant thing it was bound to be for them to have Jackson there. That led to us listening to and talking a lot about Jackson Browne as we travelled, inching our way toward California. And out of that, we began singing “These Days” together as an encore, just because we all have a mutual love for the song. It feels great to sing it together in 3-part.

Once we finally arrived in Los Angeles, I told Jackson we’d been performing “These Days”, and asked if he might care to sing it with us, which he did –and it was a highlight of the tour for all of us; and as such…we have continued to sing it --Lisa, John, Ross, and I—whenever we perform together.

Finally, having teased your Irish fans with a premier performance, can we expect a return visit in the near future?

I would love to come back –and sooner than later. I am discussing with Lisa now how we might collaborate on a full tour of Ireland. I am not sure when it can happen, but I am committed to the idea.

Sunday
Aug042013

Interview with The Kennedys by Paul McGee

 

 

Thanks for taking the time to talk with Lonesome Highway and your fans. May I start by asking how you reacted to the recent Ireland/UK tour which saw you play a punishing schedule of 24 dates in just 30 days?

Maura: We love to play, so a gig every night would be ideal! This was our first UK tour without the benefit of Nanci Griffith's crew and bus, so it was a challenge, but an enjoyable one, to get ourselves around "low to the ground". We loved it.

What were the highlights of the recent tour – people, places, reflections?

Pete: Driving all the way west in Ireland and playing Listowell as the first show of the tour was a quick plunge into the real culture, distinct from American influence, although our presenter there loved to shout "rock'n'roll" in an Elvis Presley voice, so we felt somewhat at home! After the show, we went down to the John B Keane and were treated to an informal session that covered everything from traditional songs to Tom Waits, many of them sung by random patrons.

You’re presently based in New York and I wanted to ask how easy it is for you to run your affairs from a big city, as opposed to being based in a more rural setting, where your music is not swallowed in the daily rush.

Maura: In New York City, especially where we live in the Village, you're constantly aware that Dylan, Kerouac, Guthrie, Holly, Coltrane, Miles, Ellington, Armstrong, Holiday, Leadbelly, et al, walked the same sidewalks, and did much of their greatest work right here.

The new album is your first in four years. Can you fill us in on what caused the break in momentum that had seen, pretty much, ten releases in the previous twelve years?

Pete: Maura cared for an ill family member (who is now totally recovered), and produced a solo CD, and that was quickly followed by our reunion of sorts with Nanci Griffith, which involved many trips around the US, Ireland and the UK, as well as the production of Nanci's CD, Intersections, which we handled, so all of that was time consuming, albeit in a creative way.

Your first release in 1995 ‘River of Fallen Stars’ was partly written while touring with Nanci Griffith in Ireland. How big an influence was she in getting you the initial recognition that your career needed?

Maura: We credit Nanci for getting us started, because you can't just say, "we write songs, and we're great". If you are coming out of Nanci's band, you have her imprimatur, so to speak, because she will only work with people in whom she strongly believes, so that's the foundation of the whole thing. Working with her was also a chance to work on various occasions with Dylan, Emmylou, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, John Prine, Lyle Lovett…the list goes on and on, so watching those people up close was like getting an advanced degree in contemporary folk.

Can you talk about your early musical influences and what it was that got you started on this road in the first place?

Pete: I grew up partly in New York and partly as a "townie" or native of Arlington Va., just outside of Washington DC. The townies don't participate in national government, and we had our own music scene that was drawn from a cultural diaspora from the deep South to DC, where there was work. The migrants in the 1940's brought with them blues, gospel, jazz, honky tonk country and bluegrass, so I heard all of those things every day when I was growing up.

Pete, can you tell the readers a little about your guitar technique; when did you begin to include classical pieces into your playing and was there a specific player that influenced your unique playing style on the fret board.          

Pete: I never fancied having one style, because the players I liked; Doc Watson, Chet Atkins, and local guys like Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton, all combined different styles in a way that kept the music interesting and fresh. Gatton was my roots music mentor, but I also learned to read music after hearing Segovia play "Bouree".  I figured out the first half, and realized that I would have to learn how to read (music)and understand theory to play the second half! So that set me on my way.  Reading (music) enabled me to do gigs with artists like Leonard Bernstein, Charlie Byrd and Burt Bacharach; something that never would have happened if I hadn't kept exploring and learning.

Maura, were you always drawn to singing. Did you learn guitar as a natural extension to your joy of singing?

Maura: I've always sung, and I've always had an ability to absorb lyrics and melodies, especially from my idols growing up; Sandy Denny, Patsy Cline, Emmylou and Nanci, too. Learning their phrasing and melodic sense was the foundation of my own vocal style. My goal on guitar is to be a great rhythm guitarist!

Is your time spent in the studio the key to on-going creativity between you both?

Maura: We not only spend time in the studio; we have literally lived there for two decades, since we set up our first home studio back in 1994, before Pro Tools etc., when that was considered very pioneering. We record as soon as we get the inspiration for a song, so it's a different energy than "formal" recording.

Does the live experience give you a new energy or do you question the treadmill of touring; another town, another sound check, another travel commitment?

Pete: Bruce Springsteen said, "It's the OTHER twenty-two hours that are hard!", and he's right, that the travel and logistics are tiring, but the energy of playing for a great audience really sustains you. No plans to ever retire!

Can you tell us about playing in the White House in front of the President of the USA twice!?

Maura: We were hoping that Clinton would sit in and play some sax, but I think he was a bit busy being feted at his inaugurations! He has great taste in music, so were on a long bill that included Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Aretha, Dylan, Al Green…wonderful to be lost in that shuffle!

What are the key lessons that you’ve learned over the years of being professional musicians?

Pete: Tell you own story through the music and support others when they tell theirs. That makes the whole experience sort of a village culture in which you are constantly interacting with friends, both on stage and in the audience. That's paramount, more important than having a great voice or instrumental technique. Dylan tells his story in a different voice than he did in 1963, but it's still a great story...

Has the business side of being a musician changed so much with the Internet and free downloads, that it is easier to reach your fan base than before, but more difficult to earn a proper living with music treated as a commodity?

Maura: You have to adapt to a paradigm shift just as musicians in the 1920s had to adapt to radio and recording. The notion of selling discs will probably die out with our generation, but the notion of promoting your music around the world with the touch of a button was unknown just a short while ago so there is a certain freedom in no longer needing corporate entities to market you, but as with all freedoms it comes at a price.

You have always been generous in your recognition and support of other artists. Many cover versions of songs appear in your live shows and on disc. Can you discuss what moves you to pick one particular song?

Pete: When I was a kid, I saw Hendrix. He opened with "Sgt. Pepper" and closed with "Wild Thing". When I saw The Beatles, they opened with "Rock'n'Roll Music" and closed with "Long Tall Sally". So there is merit in honoring your influences. Shakespeare's plays were based on earlier plays and stories, so we all take part in "the folk process" and we love to acknowledge our sources, rather than try to conceal them. It's a celebration, so to speak.

What are your plans for the immediate future?

Maura: We will be playing a special Nanci tribute show, with a full set of her songs, in Southport, England on 22 September, followed by another of the same show at the Greeen Note in Camden Town, London, on 24 September. 

Is Life still Large?

Pete: We get to live our dream. It doesn't get much larger than that!

Photograph by Ronnie Norton

Wednesday
Apr172013

Interview with Rose's Pawn Shop Paul Givant by Stephen Rapid Photography by Ronnie norton

 

Based in Los Angeles, Rose's Pawn Shop is a five-piece  band who play roots rock incorporating elements of both acoustic string band and bluegrass music with an upright bass and fiddle which can shift those elements around. Guitarist John Kraus moves from Gretsch lead guitar to banjo with ease, his skill on the former helping his playing on the latter. The band is led by singer/songwriter Paul Givant who has listened to a lot of music but found a special affinity with bluegrass and American folk music.

The band’s name came about after Givant's former partner, following their split-up, took the band's instruments and sold them to a local pawn shop. After a period of live performances they went into the studio to record their debut album The Arsonist which was followed in 2010 with Dancing on The Gallows, produced by Ethan Allen. Only Givant and Kraus survived from the first album so the current line up now also includes Tim Weed on fiddle and mandolin, Stephen Andrews on bass and Christian Hogan on drums,  all of whom also add vocals to the sound.

Prior to this extensive UK/Irish tour,  the band finished off their third album. On this tour they played many  venues that had free entry. This was the case on their Dublin date as they playied in the relatively cramped quarters of the front bar in Whelans. The two-part set showed the band's skills and strong songs. The mix of guitar and banjo as lead instrument colour the tone of the song while the bass and drums are in tune with both textures. The fiddle touches on traditional as well as Celtic and gypsy jazz tones that give the songs depth. Paul Givant is a strong singer who was fighting a sore throat but still managed to sing out and the band gave vocal support with John Kraus singing lead on the traditional tune Sam Hall with its "God damn your eyes" refrain. While they held the attention of some casual barflies and the few who had come along especially to see them, the band will be better served next time by playing the upstairs venue. 

Right before we left for this tour we hit the studio for the last month and a half and we finished what will be our third record and it's being mixed by the producer right now. We couldn't get it out in time for this tour. So we decided to tour on Dancing on The Gallows which hadn't been available over here before. It will be new to most people over here. 

This is your first European tour?

Yes, this is our first time to come over. So we're finishing up the first week of the first tour over here. It's been great. We've been playing places big and small including Edinburgh and Bristol and some small places like one in Shropshire. We sold out three shows and all the others have been well attended. Not big rooms but to have over 100 people come to a show when we've never been here before is great. I hope that we can get back on a regular basis. We were told that Dublin's a little hard if you've never been before so that's why were playing here (in the front bar) to get a foot in the door the first time out. So hopefully we can build on that.  

What direction will the new album take compared to the previous two?

There's many of the elements of the last record in the new album but it is a bit of a departure. It was produced by a gentleman by the name of Ted Hutt. He's worked with bands like Old Crow Medicine Show, Gaslight Anthem and the Dropkick Murphys. He was one of the founding members of Flogging Molly. He was great to work with the songs. Dancing On The Gallows pulls from a lot of styles, which is what we do; we have rock and country and bluegrass and Celtic, all of which are a part of Rose's Pawn Shop,  but I think this record is going to be a little more narrow in focus. Its going to be more our own sound,  a more unique signature than what we have previously put out. I mean I love our first records but I think they're more derivative sometimes than this new record will be. 

How much are you directly influenced by the Californian country-roots rock tradition?

Growing up I listened to so many different types of music and in this day and age it's hard not to be exposed to a lot of different things. When I was very young I listened to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone and bands like that. As time went on in my late teens and early twenties I got more into folk and American roots music like Woody Guthrie and Bill Monroe. As a band we come from different backgrounds and from different places but we all meet in Los Angeles. That's where I grew up myself. California is a real melting pot with so many different musical styles and cultures; a lot of fusing different styles together which is what we tend to do.

On the more contemporary side?

I remember listening to Gillian Welch, The Revelator album, and something about that record really struck me. I loved the way the songs sounded really old (but) are all current at the same time. They had a timeless quality and her writing was really straddling that line. She was writing songs that could have been written 100 hers ago. But they also seemed very relevant to people's lives. That record made me want to try and write songs like that, so that record was a huge influence on me. I mean we're not trying to sound like that album but rather more current but still with sounds that are sonically old.

Is the writing generally a solo concept or more of a group effort?

The general process is that I will write these song on my own,  then I'll bring them to the guys and they'll help me flesh them out. They like to say that I start the song and then they'll fix it (laughs). I want to say finish it,  they want to say fix it. This recent record has been a bit more collaborative. I started the songs but we had more time to work together from that starting point. Some of the songs we started at moment one together. 

A lot of the album is acoustic based but there is still that rock element; a lot of banjo and fiddle with acoustic guitar and stand-up bass. Then we have the drums and electric guitar thrown in here and there. It's still very much acoustic based. We hope to have the album out later this year. It's being mixed right now. A lot depends on whether it goes out on a label or we do it ourselves. 

Would a label be something that would be your first choice?

We have never released through a label yet. We've always done things independently. That has its benefits,  but a label can help a lot in other ways. It tends to lend some level of credibility to what you're doing. They have the money to do more extensive marketing. We're open to working with a label if it's the right fit. 

We have a manager who will be shopping the album around. There are some pretty good connections between our producer and manager and some labels that seem initially interested. We had just recorded the record and had one day off before we got on a plane to come over here. We haven't even heard it. So I don't know what it sounds like (laughs). I heard some playback in the studio but barely anything. Ted, our producer, is a really smart guy so I'm excited to her the final mix. 

Do you tour a lot in the current climate?

We have kind of turned ourselves into a touring band so we tend to play mostly outside of LA. We tour at least 100 days a year and probably then play LA two or three times a year. Some bands play there every week but that is not us. We've been lucky over the last couple of years to get more and more festival opportunities, some of the Americana roots festivals.  We've got some great ones coming up including playing with the Del McCoury Band. One is called Old Settlers Music Festival which is held just outside Austin, Texas. We have also done some dates supporting bands like Reckless Kelly and Railroad Earth and we recently went out with Bighead Todd and The Monsters. We’re getting more of those opportunities now. 

There are a lot of festivals that do a pretty good job of mixing the new acts with the more traditional ones. We've played them with people like Sam Bush and Old Crow Medicine Show. We kinda straddle the line with some of the more underground bands too. Bands like Hillgrass Bluebilly are good friend of ours. There's something honest about putting down the electric guitar and picking up a banjo. There's a band from LA, Old Man Markley,  who are from that background, they have that punk/bluegrass thing going on. Compare this to most of what is getting country radio airplay now, which is either pop or mainstream 80s rock. On the other hand, while Americana is a broad thing there are many traditionalists who get real uptight if you move away from what they think bluegrass should be.