Poppycock June/July 2014 - Page 33

home, it never really sticks. WB: So you went from waiting tables to breaking into the Portland music scene, meeting people, and then you started writing songs. How did Fluff and Gravy come together? Did you have this album before you connected with the label? AT: Kind of. I met Jeffrey Martin, who was living at John [Shepski’s] place from Fluff and Gravy, two years ago I think, and started playing fiddle with him and singing; then we did some touring together. He knew John, and was playing the Wildwood Festival out in Willamina. I went out there and met them. It’s the most wonderful family of people, musical people. They get together and have fires and jam all the time, and all their kids hang out. I haven’t been doing music in this way for very long. It’s just a search to find how to make it feel right. When you’re making an album, you’re starting out as a musician, it’s a lot of self-promotion. I’m never sure whether that’s alright with me, or how to put that in a box. Fluff and Gravy just feels right to me, the way they go about stuff. John wants to do only vinyl, ever. He never listens to CD’s or anything. He’s all about the integrity of things. He writes beautiful songs, their band [Vacilando] is one of my favorite bands in Portland. It’s just a good family. I’m really glad that I met them. WB: Obviously, from what it sounds like, they just let you do whatever you wanted to do on this album. There was no real direction or editorial oversight, is that right? AT: Yeah, I just kind of brought it to them. I really wanted to do it live, because I was touring a lot right then, so I was by myself and I don’t usually have a band. I had a couple of friends I wanted to chord with. Sam Howard on bass, Taylor Kingman played electric guitar, David Strackany played drums, and then Jeffrey Martin did harmonies. I just had this idea that it would feel really great to get together with them a couple times and just have a couple crash practices and record it live, all together in the room so we could feed off of each other’s energy. I respect them as players. They care a lot. I kind of wanted that feeling of a performance where you’re in the moment and everybody is watching each other for cues and the song takes on its own feeling from that. I brought that to John and in this tiny room in the studio they just made it work. They had never done that before. They just crammed us all into this room and rearranged things. WB: That was my next question: It was a very interesting decision on your part to do a rougher, less practiced album. Are you happy with the end product? AT: I’m really happy with it. I kind of want it to always feel like a real thing. Like right now, I’m learning so much and I’m sort of new to performing and songwriting and all that. It feels like a really rough thing to me. Everything that comes out is sort of raw and I have to work on it, shape it, and it’s not polished. That’s the best part of that feeling to me, is being able to write and not judge yourself or polish it too much. The way you feel playing with people when you don’t know the song, you just really connect with each other. I wanted to make that. You can’t separate the words from the song, because we do it all live. So I couldn’t sell it to commercials if they wanted; there’s all this businessey stuff. It’s not very clean, but it just feels good that way to me, I guess. WB: Is that something that’s possibly temporary just for this album or is that something that you think will permeate your style as a person and performer, not putting on any airs for your performances? AT: Yeah, I hope so. I’m definitely not a performer. I don’t say the right thing or dress the right way or anything. That’s one thing about this kind of music that I really like, or the musicians that I really respect. Their songs can stand alone, and I’d like to be able to get there someday. Where you could just be wearing what you’re wearing and you can stand up on a stage and really make people feel something. That’s what I’ll try to go for. WB: So you’ve been performing in the Portland area and the Northwest, and you said you’ve been on tour. Do you still get stage fright? Also, what do you hear from fans or first time listeners that really does it for you, gets your heart aflutter? AT: I guess if someone comes up and says, “This line made me think of this in my own life.” That’s like gold to me. It makes me feel like a million bucks for weeks. That they could take something that came out of my guts and it spoke to theirs. I still get terrified. I’m no good at giving speeches, and being in front of people has never been what I’m good at. It’s funny, there’s this tiny pocket of this way that I can share something with people. When you can explain it in an artistic way, the way your lyrics are, you don’t have to make sense, necessarily. Everybody takes from it what they hear in their own life, and I like that about it. WB: So you’re a bit of a shy person in general? AT: Yeah. WB: But you’re at the folk festival in Texas right now and you get up on stage in front of God knows how many people. Sounds like a little bit of stage fright. AT: Yeah, I guess. I’m playing some fiddle with Jeffrey Martin here and we’re not performing too much, but 33