When I e-mailed Craig Carothers last week, the response was a unique glimpse of life as a traveling musician.
“I am on a drive-all-day road trip right now, Wednesday, Nashville to Kansas City, today Kansas City to Denver, tomorrow Denver to Wyoming, then South Dakota, then back to KC and Nashville.”
I know that many songs have been written about “life on the road” — but this answer reflected some pretty serious mileage.
I’m just hoping Craig pulled over to type the answers to this interview.
I’d like to see him get to Hood River in one piece.
Craig Carothers will be at the Columbia Center for the Arts on Nov. 10, 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 at Waucoma Bookstore.
Interview with guitarist Craig Carothers
1. I caught the snippet of "She Needs Me" on your website. Talk about how comedy/humor comes into play with your songs.
I grew up in a musical family, and I was always a sort of class clown in school, but it wasn't until I saw Steve Goodman live in 1975 that the idea of co-mingling music and humor took hold. I love sad songs, and I write a fair number of them, but I realized pretty early on that a whole night of sad songs had limited appeal.
2. I know you've been to Hood River several times in the last few years, and thanks in advance for coming back. How did you wind up on Paul Blackburn's House Concert schedule?
I love coming to Hood River, great audiences; and oddly enough I hadn't really played there but once or twice before I moved to Tennessee. I contacted Paul after a friend told me about his house concert series, but it was after I had already moved from Portland to Nashville.
3. You list a bunch of performers that you've opened for on your website, but I've got to ask: How did you get booked with Jethro Tull?
While I was living and playing in the Northwest I got a lot of calls to open for a lot of different types of acts. Romeo Void, Dennis Miller, John Klemmer, and of course Jethro Tull. It was not particularly memorable. I think we did the gig with an acoustic trio and left Roseland (back when it was still called Starry Night I believe) to play another gig before Tull even took the stage.
4. Describe some of the songwriting process for you.
Actually when I write alone music and lyrics often come at the same time. I also write words first, and from a title or plot idea, and music first as well. The biggest common theme is inspiration.
I am most fluid when I am moved by something — upset, or hurt personally, or maybe concerned or worried for someone else — if I have real feelings about something a song can come very quickly.
Often times an idea seems to be interesting, but it's less inspiration, and more of a decision to pursue it and see if can turn into a song. A lot of co-writing starts that way, a decision to try and write about a particular idea or title or plot and then in the best case scenario you get inspired along the way.
5. What is the song "Little Hercules" about?
A friend who had been an inspiration as a veritable dynamo in life was going through a tough time when all at once everything went wrong. It was very hard to see him struggling and the song was a pep talk of sorts.
6. How did you choose the songs for your new album "Inventory"?
Since 1981 I have made 12 records (counting the record I made for Atlantic that was never released). I decided to put together a compilation of many of the songs that I play on a given night that have also been crowd favorites, maybe gotten radio play, or been cut by other artists, or have been used in movies. A kind of a “best of” collection.
I also included a couple of songs that had never been released before, just for good measure, and newer acoustic versions of some of the songs from the older recordings. Part of the idea was to still have a CD to sell that contained songs that the original recordings of were no longer available except in digital download form.
7. In all of your travels, where are the nicest venues for singer-songwriters?
Well, it sounds so political, but I love the Columbia Center for the Performing Arts in Hood River. The Kennedy School McMenamin's in Portland is great too.
As for the rest of the country, I love the Bluebird in Nashville, The Barns At Wolftrap in the DC area, Anderson Fair in Houston, and The Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. to name a few.
And of course the explosion of house concerts has been a boon to touring acoustic musicians like me. I have had great house concert experiences all over the country with highlights in, (and no particular order) Birmingham, Des Moines, all over the Bay area, Houston area, LA, Denver, Salt Lake, NYC, Asheville, White Salmon, Hood River, and of course in Portland.
My pleasure, thanks for your interest. I hope to see you at the Columbia Center For The Performing Arts show on the 10th — CC