BYU Radio

Recent Posts

Live Performances Offer A Unique Experience on Highway 89

Steven Kapp Perry, host of Highway 89 and In Good Faith, talks candidly about his experience as a host on Highway 89.  It may come as no surprise that he does his homework before interviewing a guest, but you might be intrigued to find out who’s on his bucket list of interviewees!

As a reminder, Highway 89 is recorded live! This adds extra energy to the show, giving our listeners a unique experience.

Learn more in Steve’s exclusive interview! Watch now.

Click here for more info about Highway 89.

Highway 89: Drew and Lacey Williams

“Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.” –Johann Sebastian Bach

Drew and Lacey Williams create real harmony together. It’s present in the twining of their voices through their original songs – the blend of bluegrass, country, folk and pop that comprises their repertoire – and also in the twining of their lives together as they’ve worked to nurture a family and a musical career. As Drew said in our interview: “The thing about music for Lacey and I is that you can never take it away from us. We use music as a way to reconnect.”

When they visited our studio, they impressed us with rich, candid talk about their journey as musicians, and also as spouses. People who know them now would be surprised to learn that they almost didn’t marry at all; they were both engaged to other people before they became interested in with each other, and even after they connected, Drew’s first proposal to Lacey (on a romantic trip to Nashville) didn’t hit the mark. Add to that the difficulty of living thousands of miles apart for a time (he in Utah and she in Hawaii) and it’s a wonder this story ever worked out the way it did. But like dissonance resolving in a lovely chord, they eventually found their way permanently into each other’s lives. Their sound is now even sweeter, having welcomed three beautiful children into the family, along with dozens of beautiful original songs. Drew and Lacey approach everything as a team, from songwriting to coaching their kids through music lessons of their own. Lacey said: “As humans we have to share in each other’s struggles, or else what are we here for?”

As our student assistant Victoria Hardy put it: “It’s the type of music that makes you feel happy and safe.” Listen to Drew and Lacey's full interview, along with terrific performances of some of their original songs, on-demand.

Highway 89: Portland Cello Project

Douglas Jenkins, Artistic Director. Group members: Skip Vonkuske and Kevin Jackson, Diane Chaplin, Sage Coy and Julian Kosanovick.

(Speaking with Douglas Jenkins)

SKP: Thank you so much for coming today.

DJ: Thanks so much for having us. It’s a pleasure to be here.

SKP: You know, you play such a diverse repertoire but you’re not throwing in pop songs as a gimmick or a shtick. It’s for real.

DJ: Well, it’s kind of both

SKP: (laughs)

DJ: (laughing) No pretense here.

SKP: But you bring all the technique of a cello.

DJ: Yeah, definitely. And we try to choose pieces of music, pop pieces of music, that will translate well, that we can bring something new to [and] make something new with.

SKP: Well we read an interview with a Chicago Tribune with one of the group members, Diane, and the quote is, “We found that everything sounds good on a cello”.

DJ: (laughing) Indeed

SKP: And really it does, with over a thousand pieces of music. Do you have some kind of music library or is it all on a thumb drive somewhere?

DJ: Well at this point they’re all on iPads. We read all of our music on iPads, which will allow us to play a completely different show every night. So one night we might be in a symphony hall, the other night we might be in a rock club and so we want to have all of our music with us. We used to carry around big binders full of music but that was not super practical so thank goodness for technology.

SKP: So do you e-mail, “Here’s tomorrows show”? And just send it to everybody?

DJ: Yeah pretty much.

SKP: So you’re not scrolling [through] a thousand pages 

DJ: No, no, nothing that bad.

SKP: Now, Bluegrass New Orleans. We read that one time you were thinking, “Hmm we haven’t approached that style yet.” Is that something that’s still waiting to happen or have you taken a stab?

DJ: We haven’t. You know, time moves so quickly. I’ve totally forgotten about that. But yeah, every time that we play in New Orleans, it’s a place we want to be, and the music – the culture there is so rich that yeah, maybe that’s still in the future.

SKP: Well let me ask about this – you played a piece by Elliott Smith. Singer, songwriter, lived ‘til 2003. I think six different songs on here are songs he wrote, but also you have taken some from song fragments. So how do you even have access to those and what have you done with them?

DJ: Well the idea with that was to kind of do an homage to Elliott – to his song writing, his composition style and you think, his lyrics are so wonderful and his voice is so wonderful but he was such a composer as well so we decided to try and take the music and really celebrate that compositional aspect of it. At the same time, we thought maybe a good thing to do with this record is to create something new as well. So to take little seeds from Elliott’s music and sew them elsewhere and see how they grow. So those song fragments are – you would never recognize them to go with the original piece. We look for the strangest part of the piece. Elliott always has these moments in these songs that just kind of make your hair stand on end and they’re usually very fleeting [and] very brief. But we tried to figure out what it is with that moment and we take it and make it as abstract as possible and then we give it to a composer. Most of them are northwest composers and say, “Hey, do something with this. We’re not telling you what it’s from but make a piece out of this.” Then we commission the pieces to be composed and record them.

SKP: So I am wondering just about adapting music in general for cello. I have to say, the violin is so often the star.

DJ: Yeah

SKP: But no one says, “I’d sure love to hear twenty violins.”

DJ: I wonder why that is

SKP: So why does that work with cello? Why does it work?

DJ: Well I think that we have such a large range, I mean we can get up into the violin’s range. We can also go very low. I mean the same range as the human voice is usually the cliché you’ll usually hear referring to the cello. So it allows us to get all the different parts of the orchestra in one instrument.

SKP: So what’s the biggest challenge when you take a piece and you know it’s going to be all cello?

DJ: Oh, what is the biggest challenge? There are many technical challenges with it. I mean sometimes with those really high notes - technically playing them really fast is usually difficult for us and it’s easier for a violinist. Luckily we have players like Diane and Skip who can just nail those high notes and they’re practically playing the violin on the cello for us.

SKP: So we heard that one time you started on some hip-hop arrangements and ended up actually just sort of throwing that out and starting again.

DJ: We did, we actually recorded a whole record of hip-hop arrangements and it just didn’t feel right. I mean, hip hop is the most vibrant musical culture in the country, if not the world, today. I think we just had to go through the process of thinking we could do it and then admitting we couldn’t do it and then going back and humbly re-figuring it out.

SKP: (laughing) what a great challenge though. So, we hear there’s no formal audition process.

DJ: Nope

SKP: Do you have to be a Portland resident, or what gets you in the group?

DJ: You know, send an e-mail and then say, “Hey I’m available.” Then maybe a couple years later we’ll say, “Hey are you still available?” (Laughs)

SKP: (laughing) “Yes, I’ve had no work and here I am still”

DJ: That’s about what it is. I mean you have to be able to read music, you have to have an open mind, you have to be able to be willing to sit in a tour van for long periods of time so it kind of self-selects at a certain point.

SKP: Well thank you.

---Song break

(Speaking with Diane Chaplin)

SKP: Diane, thank you for being here. Now, you moved from New York. You changed coasts, you changed the whole side of the country and you start playing with the Portland Cello Project and very soon you find yourself performing with the Penteras, this metal group.

DC: Yeah, you know my whole aesthetic of moving to Portland was to not continue what I had been doing. I was in the classical quartet world for so long and I really wanted to break out of that [and] do other things so I think I’ve accomplished that really well.

SKP: So you’re in this concert. It’s the 20th anniversary tribute concert, Vulgar Display of Power, and the crowd was very different than most classical-

DC: It was very different and you know it was one of the most wonderful and fun things I’ve ever done in my life. So it’s a very heavy metal, screaming kind of thing. I mean, we didn’t understand any of the lyrics. The crowd of four of five-hundred people screamed every lyric the whole time…

SKP: (laughing) while you’re playing

DC: …While we were playing, but one of the things about the whole cello sounding great on everything is all of that music, once you get out of whatever those lyrics are, sounds great and the energy and the drive of the music itself is what is fantastic on cellos.

SKP: I am just trying to imagine that much energy in the room. That’s exciting. Really that leads to another question. One thing that you do is you reach a whole other demographic than you would if you were the Portland Cello Quartet.

DC: Yeah, and I think that’s part of the appeal certainly for us as players as well as for the audience. There is certainly that idea that we’re going to play things that you don’t expect to hear on the cello. We really, really try to push that far and to surprise you with the variety. We’re playing a bunch of things today. They’re a little bit similar because we’re focusing on Elliott Smith but in a normal show by us, you’ll hear a change in music every time we do a new tune. It will be classical, it’ll be jazz, it’ll be hip-hop, heavy metal, all that.

SKP: Well you’re also the director of the Rose City Youth Orchestras where you conduct youth ensembles and you also do – with the Portland Cello Project you do some cool concerts.

DC: Right, I teach at a couple of colleges in Portland, but I am the Director of Educational Outreach actually for the Cello Project. I help organize and coordinate things that we do that are outreach concerts to school children. For instance yesterday in – where were we yesterday? Idaho Falls. It’s hard to keep track. We played for 700 school kids. We did a concert that morning for them. It’s just great because we’re building audiences of the future.

SKP: Really, you are. I am thinking that those people, for instance in Portland, the Rose City Youth Orchestras, that they’re also going to come out to your concerts.

DC: Well, hopefully. We hope they do. I think it’s really important – I think the enrichment to people’s lives, to expose them to music. You know, music is one of those basic human expressions. All cultures in the world do music in some way, shape or form. Whether they’re banging on sticks or singing songs, everyone has musical expression but not everyone can do it. They don’t feel like they have a musical soul in them. I think, for us to perform, we’re bringing that to people who maybe can’t do it themselves, but training children or even just playing concerts for school kids, helps them fulfill that desire for human beings to have music around them.

SKP: You know, one of our student producers for one of the radio shows for BYU Radio is from Portland and as soon as she heard, she said, “I heard them! I heard them, they came to my school when I was just a kid and I loved them.”

DC: Yay!

SKP: So, you’ve stayed in top of mind with her all this time. I want to ask - you said once that you had, “the good fortune to grow up surrounded by generous teachers and conductors.” Not every student and teacher are still on speaking terms by the end of the career.

DC: I had an amazing cello teacher, more than one actually, who gave me lessons either for free or a ridiculously amount of lessons when you’re supposed to be getting your one hour a week. In college [they would] give me three hours a week of lessons with no compensation, that’s what I mean by generous.

SKP: They believed in you or saw that you were serious about it?

DC: All of the above and that they were understanding that an hour a week of mentoring for a very talented student isn’t enough. I try myself to extend that same courtesy because it’s the only way that I can pay them back – these teachers that were so generous to me, who are all gone now. I do a certain amount of lessons either scholarships or totally free and let people come play in my youth orchestra. If they don’t have the money, that’s okay they can come play anyway because that’s how I give back.

SKP: That’s great. I think it’s pretty clear that you also have a lot of fun playing and I bet that gets passed on as well.

DC: Yeah, I love to play and I love to play in this group. It is so fun and it is fun in a different way. Classical music is fun also, in playing in a serious quartet or playing a recital or something. That’s fun but its serious fun. You have to practice really hard for months before and you feel like there’s an aesthetic of the way it’s done. The great cellists of the past have laid down this great legacy and we don’t have that here. We just – we’re the legacy. We’re setting the bar, we’re setting the legacy. So that gives us a freedom to just play our best and make it ours.

SKP: That’s actually a great introduction to this next song.

---Song break

(Speaking with Skip Vonkuske)

SKP: I wanted to ask about this whole opening your mind to new possibilities of what you could do with the cello. Obviously you had great technical training. Then, you found out what a loop-pedal was.

SV: Yeah, well it began even before loop pedals existed. When I was a teenager, I just wanted to take the cello where it hadn’t been before. The first thing I learned about were delay pedals, and I could get a two-second delay and play harmony above what I just played and that was such a revelation. I just wanted to do it all the time. Then one day I did discover the loop pedal. Another cellist was using one and that was our colleague, Gideon Freudman. I said, “What is that and when can I get one?” and apparently it was the next day.

SKP: (laughing) We read that you once said you were jealous of guitarists having this big, tunnel pallet and you were more inspired by Pink Floyd and Robert Fripp than Yo-Yo Ma and Mstislav Rostropovich. Here we’re quoting you from years ago and you could be in a whole different place, but it seems like you really are – do you feel like you are still exploring what a cello can do?

SV: Absolutely, absolutely. Although I would say that Mischa and Yo-Yo Ma are equally influential on me. Yo-Yo has done so many things since those early years when I was looking for something more and when I was drawn in to the tonal pallets of electric guitar players. There’s so much that you can do with the cello without effect and I do believe that the best effects on the cello come from your right hand and your left hand and what you have inside.

SKP: Well you’ve performed for a while - Celltronic, was the name.

SV: Absolutely. It’s my actual website name too but I still perform under the name Celltronic. That’s kind of a blanket term used to describe the music I make when I use the loop pedal and pick-up’s and [it’s] a different approach to solo work that makes it feel like ensemble work but is not quite the same as playing with other live people.

SKP: I think we’re used to seeing guitarists have five or six pedals but this is a new thing to see a cellist with an array like that.

SV: Well there are quite a few of us out there but everybody does it a little different and looks for a different set up and a different sound. You’re always attempting to unlock that thing that will inspire you to play something new that you haven’t played before.

SKP: Let me talk about collaboration. Obviously you collaborate within a group and influence each other and make suggestions but you work with a lot of outside musicians and I don’t know if you have a few favorites. One that really struck us was working with Buckethead.

SV: Well working with Buckethead was an ensemble experience and one that was very – there was a separate-ness to it. We were still Cello Project and he was Bucket and our paths crossed while we were on stage. His people talked to us for him.

SKP: It’s hard to talk through the mask? Or he just likes to remain separate?

SV: I don’t think he said a word to us or anybody as far as I know.

SKP: (laughing) A purely musical collaboration.

SV: A purely musical collaboration.

SKP: Well are there any other favorite collaborations? Maybe that have been a little more collaborative?

SV: We really enjoyed all of our work over the years with Laura Gibson. I’ve enjoyed our work with Patti King who ends up touring with us a good portion of the time when we need a singer that our audience will love. But I’ve loved – Blind Pilot, there’s more people that I could mention. I’m sure that as I drive away today I’ll remember – I should have mentioned all these other people.

SKP: That’s a good starter list, maybe we could find the rest online [or] other places. Well we want to hear another piece…

---Song break

(Speaking with Douglas Jenkins)

SKP: I wanted to ask you – you have such an amazing beginning to start. You didn’t even pick up a cello until you were a teenager.

DJ: You guys do all your research. You have quite a producer I think.

SKP: It’s her superpower.

DJ: (laughing) Yeah that story hasn’t gotten out very much but its true. I started later [when] I was about seventeen or eighteen.

SKP: Would some people say that’s too late to really get good at it?

DJ: Yes

SKP: So that’s amazing that you – you found a great teacher.

DJ: I was lucky to have really good teachers. Also, to be – I don’t know how much of the story to tell. I was in college and I couldn’t really afford college and I needed free rent or cheap rent. So this woman was very kind to me and basically gave me really inexpensive rent in her house and she happened to be the principal cellist in the symphony in the town I was living in. So I basically got free lessons for years, daily. She cracked the whip. She was a mean teacher and –

SKP: (laughing) So there’s a place for the task-masters of the world.

DJ: There can be. I think her theory of it was, “he shouldn’t be playing this late anyway, [and] he’s too old. So if he’s going to do it, he better do it right from the beginning.” So I lucked out.

SKP: Well we love the story of you taking an old vintage fender amp into Eugenes Buy and Sell Music Center-

DJ: (laughing)

SKP: So you [were] going to pawn this or just sell it. Then you end up with a cello.

DJ: Yep, that was it. I mean, like I said, it was hard to afford college so I had this – I was trying to pay rent. And then I was like, “maybe I shouldn’t pay rent this month, maybe I should get a job.”

SKP: But you had never played it before, you just saw one.

DJ: When I grew up, I grew up in Honolulu and the rehearsals of the symphony were free every Sunday. So the public would come in and just go sit-in on the rehearsals. For me it was, “I need a place to escape to,” and it ended up being my place to escape to. So I had, growing up, only listened to classical music and seeing the symphony every weekend that way. I loved the cello the whole time. It was always the one I wanted to play but you know, when you’re fifteen wanting to be a punk rocker usually takes precedence to that so-

SKP: (laughing) First things first

DJ: (laughing) Yeah

SKP: So do you ever do that? Do you ever have an open rehearsal?

DJ: I don’t think we have, that’s actually a pretty good idea.

SKP: That’s kind of a cool idea. Well you found a way to fit in with the cello it sounds like.

DJ: Yeah, I mean life takes all its strange twists and turns and ended up where it was.

SKP: Well I want to ask also about, – we also read about – you’re going to be like, “what? Did they examine my life with a microscope?” You’re an interesting fellow, let me just say that. So, we were fascinated that you were in grad school and then thinking, “do I even want to do this?”

DJ: Yeah, that’s right.

SKP: You’re not the first grad student to think that. It seems like what you did is you invented a job that didn’t exist, that was the job you wanted.

DJ: I don’t think it was, I think I just lucked into it. I think it was just something that was happening. There was a lot of people, I mean it wasn’t – playing the cello this way, playing in rock clubs is not a unique thing. I mean Matt Haimovitz was doing it before we were. I think a lot of it – there was a lot of people involved when Cello project got started and I think everybody was just on the same wavelength.

SKP: Okay, you’ve totally convinced me [that] you’re completely uninteresting.

DJ: (laughing) mission successful

SKP: (laughing) Thank you so much. The music is so beautiful and I’m wondering – you do combinations. We’ve heard a quartet [and] the last piece was five players. How do you decide that?

DJ: Usually it works itself out in rehearsal. If [someone’s] feeling there’s just too much in one place or it feels like it needs to have more of an intimate feel – and we really like that on stage, to have that variety of the bigger vs. smaller ensemble just to give a different change in texture and that kind of thing.

SKP: Good. Well we’re going to hear – we’re going to try some classical chops now here to prove these guys really did practice and go to lessons…

---Song break

(Speaking with Julian Kosanovic)

SKP: Julian, no time to give you the full FBI workup here but-

JK: Oh, darn.

SKP: But is it true? Are you the newest member of the group?

JK: That’s true. Just a little over a year now, yes.

SKP: And so, was it what you expected? Were you – maybe you listened to them enough that you knew exactly what to expect – but were you surprised by anything when you joined the group?

JK: Well before I joined I was very impressed with what they were doing. I was awe-struck every time I went to a performance and [was] just so into it. It was so fun to be in the audience. I feel so fortunate to now be part of it and there’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes that I never knew went on. Now I know a lot of the workings of how a tour is put together and how much managerial work goes into it.

SKP: Yeah, it’s not just playing beautiful music. Beautifully done, thank you.

(Speaking with Sage Coy)

SKP: Sage, I understand it was not too long ago that you graduated from college.

SC: Correct.

SKP: And where did you study music?

SC: I went to school at Louis and Clark college and I actually was a psychology major and was a music minor.

SKP: So you just flipped over. And what made the change for you?

SC: Well, you know, when I started school I had recently felt a little burnt out on classical music. I started playing when I was six. When I got to school I just started jamming and playing with friends and it became fun again. I started taking lessons again but decided to do the minor because it made it something that I had to practice and had to be really involved but it wasn’t my primary academic focus so it didn’t become something that I had to do.

SKP: So it sounds like you’re still jamming and still having fun.

SC: I am, yeah. I would say so. This is a great group to do it with.

SKP: Thank you for coming in and playing today. It’s been beautiful to hear you play.

SC: Thanks for having us.

(Speaking with Kevin Jackson)

SKP: Kevin, thank you too for coming in and playing today. Now I understand that you also write music for video games.

KJ: For the group, yeah, I arrange a lot of video game music, anime music, movie music.

SKP: Any favorite games that have the themes that you love the best, growing up and getting exposed to?

KJ: I mean they are definitely two different things. When you grew up there was like 8-bit music so these composers were working with a really limited scope.

SKP: Yes, yes.

KJ: Mario and Zelda, those were amazing games to grow up with and that just ring in your head. Then as you get older they get into orchestra, like Final Fantasy and all [that] sort of music has really [been] with me my entire life.

SKP: It’s really great that better music is getting put into games. There’s some real skill going into it now, not the, who could play something? Or, who could make an endless loop?

KJ: No, they hire full orchestras now. They spend as much as movies do.

SKP: Well I have to confess, me and my two youngest boys went to a recent Zelda orchestra concert and we were cheering there, we were loving it.

KJ: Right? They’re good!

SKP: Did you start off on the cello?

KJ: I did.

SKP: Just right from the beginning, you thought, “that’s for me.”

KJ: In fourth grade I was the only kid large enough to start on the full-sized cello.

SKP: (laughing) “Here dude, play this”

KJ: Exactly.

SKP: Kevin, thank you so much for coming in. The ensemble we heard today from the Portland Cello Project. Douglas Jenkins, the artistic director. We also heard Skip Vonkuske, Diane Chaplin, Kevin Jackson, Sage Coy and Julian Kosanovick. 

Highway 89: Vassily Primakov

SKP: I want to ask – [Schubert’s “Wanderer Fantasy” Op. 15] is such a difficult piece. I mean Franz Schubert was to have said himself, “the devil may play it,” meaning, “I can’t really play it, but somebody maybe,” and here you’ve done it for us today.

VP: The reason I picked it out for you guys today – well the story is simple. A few years ago in 2002, I was competing with it in Salt Lake City, it was one of my pieces. Back then I practiced it like crazy, sort of like a maniac, and I really loved it. To begin with, I chose to play that piece because I really loved it musically. But then after the competition process was over, I actually stopped paying it and I haven’t played it – well now it’s more than ten years, it’s more like twelve or thirteen years. Now I got back to it with a different agenda because I realized that I kind of missed it. I really wanted to play because the music is gorgeous. Yes, it’s extremely hard. I’m still trying to catch my breath (laughs).

SKP: (laughs)

VP: You know, I think it’s worth it. It’s just such a joyous piece, especially if you think of Schubert and it’s one of his early compositions where I think he is so full of energy and hope and joy. It’s fun.

SKP: You knew what you were getting into at a very young age. I mean, you weren’t just taking piano because music was cool, but you had the idea from a very early age to be a professional musician.

VP: Yeah, I consider myself very lucky that way because-

SKP: The actual quote we got from you was, “I have nobody to blame but myself”.

VP: Yes, and I stand by it because the reason I say I’m lucky is because I see a lot of musicians around, me and my colleagues, who were, I don’t want to say the word “forced” but they were sort of born into becoming a musician because they are from a musical family. I’m not saying I’m not. My mother was a pianist so obviously I grew up surrounded by classical music. However, my mom was not really keen on the idea of making me a classical musician. So, when people ask me, for example, when did I start playing, technically it’s 8 years-old but the difference is I was the one who approached my mother and I said, “I want to play piano”. I was very firm in that. You see, it was really my decision and I kind of right away envisioned myself, that I would just sort of draw myself in the world of classical music and practice. I never complained when I had to practice hard and for a few hours because again, I made that choice.

SKP: So was she hesitant because she knew what the life of a musician could be?

VP: Yes, yes absolutely. It’s very hard, you know, it’s very hard for musicians and I think – well as a mother I don’t think she wanted me to go through all of those struggles and ups and downs I guess you would call it. Once she realized that I was determined, she was of course extremely helpful in my musical upbringing.

SKP: So we read that when she was trying to find a teacher for you, she didn’t tell people that she, herself, was a teacher. Why was that?

VP: Well you know it’s very interesting. It’s an interesting lie because the first school I ever [went] to, my mom took me there and there was a wonderful music teacher. So she started me and was officially my first teacher even though my mom of course gave me lessons before. My mom obviously told her that she taught in an institute and she herself was a pianist and the reaction was kind of like, “Oh, since the mother is the pianist, she’ll do all the dirty work and I’ll probably do very little”. So my mom was very upset about it because she realized that the teachers were expecting her to do most of the work. So my next teacher – I don’t think it was an easy decision for her honestly – but she basically decided that she [wasn’t] going to say that she [was] a musician, you know. So she didn’t, she just said, “I’m just a mom”.

SKP: And maybe that’s good for family relations too, to have somebody else be your teacher.

VP: Yeah and it actually worked like a charm. My next teacher was very – I still remember it. It was wonderful working with her and she was very determined to get me going.

SKP: You have such an interesting life with ebbs and flows. You’ll have periods where you’re relaxing, you’re practicing and then we read about a recent time where you had fifteen concerts in thirty days.

VP: Yeah

SKP: So it’s all on, all off, feast or famine?

VP: It’s pretty much always like that, you know? It’s either there’s a lot or there’s nothing. When people ask me, “what’s your schedule like,” I say “it’s very chaotic,” because things come, concerts come, in packs I want to say. There is suddenly five in a row and then there’s a gap of three weeks of nothing. You know, I don’t necessarily like it because – I love being on the road and doing five concerts in a row – but then that three-week [of] doing nothing, I don’t like. Because, you know, I sort of start going into a little bit of a depression honestly. It’s like, oh there’s nothing to do.

SKP: (laughing) but practice for hours and hours.

VP: Yeah, but you know we all need moderation. You practice only for a specific date and when there’s no date looming, you are just, “oh I have time”.

SKP: (laughing) “I’ll get to it”. Let me ask you about Chopin. We’re so pleased that you’ll play a couple of Mazurkas for us, you really seem to have a feeling for this. You’ve recorded all of the Mazurkas.

VP: Yeah, I think – the reason I have the feeling is mainly because- well, [it was] one of my first series works that I played. I was ten years-old and it was a waltz by Chopin. To me, back then it was sort of something of a Mt. Olympus.  It really felt so hard and so complex in terms of – not just technically but also I realized right away that there was such an emotional world behind it. I was drawn to it. I was always drawn to challenges, not things that are easy. Actually in general, I choose my repertoire not – sometimes it’s a mistake to be honest with you – I choose a repertoire that challenges me. Not necessarily - you know, there are some pieces that are extremely easy for me to play and if I play them all my life, you know, I’ll be in good shape. But I don’t like that, I like to have a challenge. So Chopin, at the end of the day, is a challenge.

SKP: Well let’s hear this piece, Mazurka in A minor.

---Song break

SKP: When you’re playing these and you’re working with dancers, how does that affect your performance or interpretation?

VP: It actually affects my performance greatly, in fact. So there are ten Mazurka’s that they’re dancing to and I play all of the Mazurka’s but of course there are certain ones that are in my repertoire more than others. Out of the ten that they dance, I want to say about five of them I played a lot, a lot, a lot. I got a tape from them, the tape that they were practicing to and I realized the performances are so different. They’re more square. Not necessarily less beautiful, they’re just more square. I found it quite difficult for myself to sort of re-do my interpretation altogether. In a way sort of strip my interpretation, just strip it to bare bones and come to the first rehearsal, which was yesterday, with sort of a fresh stake on things and just sort of follow the choreography and help them to establish their choreography. Actually it’s already established, so that’s why it’s kind of tricky but I love the process. I [had] done this before, I worked with choreographers before and I think it’s an interesting collaboration for a musician because you’re no longer in the center of attention so to speak. You are actually accommodating this group of dancers, it’s fun.

SKP: As you play the pieces, are you able to see the dancers?

VP: I don’t. I mean, I see a little bit so I have my queues and that I am able to see. I don’t really see the full picture unfortunately. So I am looking forward to the set that - they are actually taping it so I will be able to see it afterwards.

SKP: (laughing) you’ll finally be able to.

VP: Yeah

SKP: This collaboration with the Salt Lake Repertory Dance Theatre, celebrating 50 year for them. So they wanted someone good and they got someone. I have to ask – you have a great story – about playing the piano and there was something very surprising about the piano when you were a very young man. You just went in and had to play on whatever the instrument was.

VP: Yeah, well in general this is part of our profession, you know, playing on different instruments all the time. Sometimes you don’t have time to really adjust so in Russia with my teacher, we used to travel a lot. There were those evenings like – professors evenings where basically all of her students got to play. We usually played in a small hall at the Moscow Conservatory, a quite prestigious and important event. So she used to do run-throughs in smaller towns. That one I will never forget because – well we played on all sorts of bad instruments. I mean instruments that had legs falling off, and keys missing. One time we actually had a performance, we arrived very late and the piano lid was closed, the lid that closes the keys, and the girl that was starting the concert goes out to try the piano to warm up. She opens the lid and there is no mechanism. There are no keys.

SKP: (laughing) No one noticed

VP: So apparently the technician took it home to kind of fix things but then, its Russia we’re talking, he probably got drunk and forgot to put it back in. So the concert was delayed by two hours. We were waiting for the action to arrive. My story however, revolves around the so-called “red piano.” I was very young and the town was Tula I think, if I’m not mistaken. So we took a train, the train was delayed also so we didn’t really have time. We had just arrived backstage and the concert had to start. So the announcer went on stage and announced me. I was the first person at that concert because I was the youngest. I played a few short pieces and I came out and there it was. The brand – I don’t think they make it anymore, it’s a very Soviet thing – Red October. They came in different colors too. So there was a Red October that was black, then there was a white one, there was sort of a midnight blue, and then there was red. So we got lucky. We had a red Red October. We’re talking about bright red, not like burgundy or anything, just pure red. I lost it.

SKP: (laughs)

VP: I mean, I played so badly because I could not concentrate, the color was so bright. And you know, it was a stage with big lights. So it makes it even brighter. I really remember feeling like the bull because – when you spent your whole life practicing on pianos that are either black or a very nice brown. The color doesn’t irritate your eyesight. So suddenly there is something like that. I mean the reason I would never forget that is because I remember playing so poorly and was so upset by that because that stupid thing just ruined my performance.

SKP: (laughing) you have to get special glasses for the red piano

VP: I know

SKP: But you made it work, mostly.

VP: I got through it, as they say, yes.

SKP: You’ve talked a little bit about performing – a lot more than just getting through and saying, “okay there were no wrong notes so it must have been good,” but there’s something else. What are you looking for in your performance?

VP: You know, I actually was thinking about it recently. I never consider myself this kind of pianist that is like a virtuoso pianist, you know? I cannot play, for example, Long Long Way by Damien Rice super fast and super clean. Because I never actually – as I remember myself as a child, I never had that trajectory. I always tried to find something in the music that I can sort of deliver to the audience. You know, the message that is in whatever piece I’m playing. My thing – actually it’s a good and a bad thing because I get so involved emotionally and spiritually, just connecting to the piece. I sometimes actually forget that there’s the virtuosic aspect. To me, honestly that’s the most important thing. As a listener for example - I got to a lot of concerts [of] my friends and other musicians – I’m never really fully satisfied emotionally if I got to a concert to hear a very well-taught musician who plays well, who plays clean and fast. I come out of that concert kind of feeling empty. I’m not saying anything against those kind of performances. As a matter of fact, they should be out there. I just personally don’t feel a connection. I start thinking about my laundry or the fact that I forgot to pick up my dry cleaning. Performers that are not necessarily the most accurate or the most virtuosic – most people who come on stage, we call them artists, they deliver a message [and] they kind of speak to the audience. That’s something that’s been my ambition I guess. I don’t know whether I succeed in it or not but that’s my – I hate the word goal but you know what I’m saying.

SKP: (laughing) Let’s hear one of these Mazurka’s.

--- Song break

SKP: Even though these are short, there is so much packaged in to each one of them.

VP: Oh I know, they’re incredibly complex.

SKP: Van Cliburn, when you competed, he said himself after watching you perform La Valse, “prestigious technique, really wonderful with a sheer look of rapture on his face”. It seems like you really have to feel a piece personally to enjoy performing it.

VP: Yeah, that’s one of the main factors I think. That’s why earlier I was talking about the challenge. Sometimes I take pieces that maybe at first I don’t quite get and I take on that journey to be able to understand. Actually Mazurkas is one of those journeys because I remember when I first was asked to play Mazurkas it was my teacher, Vera Gornostayeva, gave me an opus of Mazurkas and I kind of hit a dead wall. I really had no idea what to do with those pieces. It was a few years before I kind of came to realize what it was about for myself. I mean, obviously my teacher helped, but it was more of a personal journey.

SKP: You know, you mentioned your teacher, Vera Gornostayeva. You actually – I think this was even perhaps a prize to her that you found some of her recordings that were of performances [that] she didn’t even know existed in the archives of Moscow radio. Do you remember playing those for her?

VP: Yes.

SKP: What was her reaction to hearing her own performances?

VP: It was a very moving moment I think, in both of our lives. Actually I did surprise her because when Natalia and I – and Natalia Lavrova is my partner in a small record label that we run, LP classics. When we started the label we kind of right away thought we wanted to bring back some of the historical recordings from Russia, from the vaults of the archives. So I kind of went and dug up those tapes of Gornostayeva. Those were live concerts that were broadcast on the radio.

SKP: Were these on quarter-inch tape reels?

VP: Reels, mostly reels.

SKP: You may have saved them just before they degraded.

VP: Well I mean, I’m actually very grateful we have this archive in Moscow that I think is doing quite a good job trying to preserve all those materials so that’s a plus. They were actually very nice about collaborating with us but she had no idea that those were in existence and Natalia and I first got the materials and we put together the first disc and she said, “well when are you going to send it to her?” and I said, “You know, honestly let’s master it let’s get it in shape and then I’ll send it to her.” So basically that’s how it happened. I sent it to her and then I called her. I was in New York and she was in Moscow and I called her and I said, “Hi how are you?” and you know, we chatted for a bit. Then I said “By the way we are starting this series of CD’s where we’re going to release your recordings and live performances.” Then there was this silence. I think as a pianist I know what went through her mind. Of course one of the first things that goes through [is], “were they good performances? Did I actually play all the notes?” and you know, things like that. Then shortly after, I traveled to Moscow and I spent a couple of weeks with her because my then I had already about 8-9 hours of music, her performances, and we just sat down and we listened because of course we wanted her input, like what she thinks is good and what is not. I mean she didn’t know, for example, that there was a recording of her playing Mussorgsky Pictures or Chopin Fantasy. So it was a revelation, especially because, for example, Mussorgsky Pictures is a recording from 1959 and she’s listening to it for the first time in 2012. We’re talking about a major moment in one’s life. Especially because by then she was about eighty-one, eighty-two and she stopped performing. She was, at that time, only concentrating on teaching. So I think it was a very special thing for her.

SKP: To hear something from herself, in her prime that she didn’t even know had been recorded. That’s quite a gift, actually. The fact that her work can now be heard outside of – for years she couldn’t travel, we understand. So she wasn’t heard live anywhere else.

VP: Over 20 years she was so-called, “blacklisted.” It was a Soviet thing, it was many things, many aspects. At the peak of her career she did get invitations but she never got to the west. So, she played Soviet countries, she played Czech Republic and places like that. Mostly of course, her career was in Soviet Union and she did play a lot of concerts and she had a huge following. But unfortunately people, for example here, only knew her name as a teacher because her wonderful students were traveling everywhere and winning prizes and competitions. We were so determined to do this, to kind of shed light – not that she’s a great teacher but she’s also a great performer.

SKP: What is it you hear in those recordings that you like? That you think, “others need to hear this”?

VP: Well it’s a little bit personal for me obviously because I studied with her for 8 years so I hear a lot of things that she taught us. Mostly, of course, it’s the quality of sound that the piano has to send when you play Chopin or Schubert. The way the interpretation is structured and phrasing and just the architecture of the piece. I truly believe that her playing, for example, represents the best in Russian school. Just as we’re listening to Kilos and Vector, she was among them. I mean, she was actually very close with both. I’m not saying they are playing similar but it’s the same tradition, all fresh and plain.

SKP: So when you go to record today, when you know you have a recording date, how is recording different now than it maybe would have been – it sounds like they were just recording to have an archival copy back then. But what kind of mindset do you have when you go into a recording, to still get that live, that fiery, emotional connection?

VP: Over the years I’ve learned one rule about the recordings: if you want to make a good recording an actually feel good about it you have to take chances. So I think, for me, I use a recording as a tool basically, almost like a rehearsal to see what I can do with the piece. You know when you go on stage, you may take chances but less so because there’s this pressure for playing for the live audience and you are sometimes being a little careful. In studio, I feel that one needs to sort of go the distance and maybe sometimes do something crazy. You do have that notion of you have another take. It’s not like there’s one take and that’s it. I am not a huge believer in making a recording that is really nice and careful. What’s the point? If you’re recording, for example, a Beethoven sonata, there are millions of recordings out there of those pieces that are great. If you’re going into a recording studio to record that same Beethoven sonata, you might as well try to do something new with it. You have to deliver a new message. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.

SKP: We’ll we’ve enjoyed your one-take performances here today very much. Vassily Primakov you’re an excellent pianist, you’re collaboration with the Repertory Dance Theatre is what brought you here but we are so pleased that you would make time to play for our Highway 89 audience.

VP: It’s my pleasure, thank you

SKP: There’s information about Vassily’s upcoming tours and projects all online at Special thanks also to Joanne Rolan, the artistic lesion with the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition for helping arrange today’s performance, and congratulations to the Salt Lake’s Repertory Dance Theatre on 50 years of performance.


Highway 89: Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams Interview

SKP: Larry thank you for coming here today, Teresa glad to have you.

LC: Thanks for having us.

TW: Glad to be here.

SKP: So we read that that song is about your romance but it also reminds you, Teresa, of your parents’ love. You said that they’ve got a relationship that still has that spark sixty years on. 

TW: Yeah, they fight like cats and dogs but then the big, black storms blow over then we are all rolling on the floor laughing the next minute. You definitely can see the spark in them both of why they ever got together and they are eighty and they are going strong. I should be eighty, I’m telling you. They’re still growing their own garden and canning and harvesting and-

SKP: (laughing) That’s great, that’s great. Well we’re going to dig into your backgrounds a little more, we’ll talk to each of you separately but we had to have you together because this is a duet album. 

LC: Mmhmm

SKP: You have talked about blues, rockabilly, country, gospel, all that stuff comes out of human experience. You wanted to play music that you feel is completely honest. Is there some way that you define that? Or do you just have to hear it and know it?

TW: My father giving me the eye, to step back, drop down and [get] back to just playing emotion and not—don’t put any extra on it.

SKP: Mmhmm, was he a music guy?

TW: Yeah rudimentary, really pure country blues. But at home, you know, mostly at home.

LC: Sounds a little like Jimmy Rodgers when he sings, you know. 

SKP: Oh, nice

LC: Yeah he’s got that thing…

SKP: That old-time

LC: Yeah, yeah.

SKP: In the industry, country, has kind of gone thorough cycles where it’s gotten a little bit slick, a little bit shiny-

LC: Yeah, yeah

TW: It comes and goes, doesn’t it?

SKP: Yeah but it seems like it always comes back to where you’re talking about.

LC: Yeah, there’s always an appetite for that, you know? As big as these genres may get, because that expansion has to do with accessing the lowest common denominator in the listening audience and that’s bells and whistles, you know? That’s just human nature but also human nature--

TW: They’re making a lot of money off it now. A lot of money off the bells and whistles.

LC: Yeah, but also human nature is this desire to feel and to participate in honest, emotional expression and-- 

TW: That’ll never go out of style.

LC: Yeah

SKP: Oh no, because it reaches inside of us.  

LC: That has nothing to do with trying to make a hit record or trying to make money off of what you are doing, it just has to do with, you’re hearing this from me because I have to get it out y’know-- 

SKP: Because I’m thinking if you guys had been after money; you would have done an album together a long time ago.

LC: (laughing) Well…

SKP: Just because I know people love hearing you together but what was it that really kind of…You had your own careers before you got together and then you kept touring separately. So what was the thing that finally made you say, “Yeah, let’s try this”? 

TW: Just, when we both finished some kind of long-term projects, Levon [Helm] called Larry up about a month after he finished with Bob Dylan-

LC: Bob Dylan, yeah.

TW: And I was just finishing up my original Carter Family project. Then his daughter Amy called me up to join them, they were starting to work on [the album] “Dirt Farmer” and to work on the [Midnight] Rambles. And we weren’t really living together for fifteen years, we were just dating it felt like because ships passing in the night really--

SKP: Yeah

TW: That experience threw us together and were suddenly living, eating, sleeping, working together all day, every day. So we went from one experience, a totally different flip of the coin and working with Levon is kind of, what? Well, we were doing Under My Grandmother’s Tree down with the locals when we would go home, down in Tennessee. Levon needed us to step up more. In his show, everybody in the band would step up and do their own songs, he liked that ensemble-feel. So we were bringing some of the stuff we’d worked on before into that and then people started shaming us because we didn’t have a recording. 

LC: (laughing) They’d say, “I want the CD, I want the CD.” 

SKP: (laughing) Well, someone said, “Why don’t you have a CD?” Maybe this was you, but he said, “My brother has a CD, my cat has a CD, everyone can make a CD now.” I don’t know which one of you said that.

TW: (laughing) It’s true, they were shaming us.

LC: (laughing) Yeah, Teresa did.

SKP: I wanted to ask you one more question because I am talking about keeping it real and you know, this kind of music reflects every human emotion from happy to dealing with some really hard things. You both have had the loss of people very close to you. I am wondering, Larry you’ve lost a brother and a mother too and of course you’ve lost friends to cancer. And I wonder how that feels when something like that happens and, you go on stage always, except I think you don’t feel like the same person, something has changed. 

TW: Of course. 

LC: Yeah.

TW: When you lose somebody, people say well, “Time does help,” but you always live with that hole in your heart and in your life and you just learn to live around it. 

SKP: Well I wonder if somebody who wasn’t doing music emotionally would get up and wonder, “Why am I even up here, what am I singing about?” but I figure with what you’re doing, you can just get up and feel that more.

LC: It’s so cliché and I hesitate to even say it, but it’s an undeniable truth. Music is the most healing thing you can do. You can wrap yourself up in it, you know? So many people have said that to me and I’ve experienced it time and time again. When we sang at my mothers’ memorial service, Teresa and I did, it was the most cathartic thing I could have done to get through that grieving. And right after I lost my father I was on tour with Bob Dylan and we had to go to Japan right after we buried him. I had this big hole in my heart but getting on stage every night was the sanctuary. You can channel that emotion, that grief your feeling, and get it out through your guitar or your voice or instrument or whatever. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be sounds of grief, it’s sounds of joy but it is something that’s coming from you when you’re putting it out there.

TW: It is, it’s a place of refuge and I’m just going to hit this for a second. I am a real, we both are, advocates for music in the schools. I know in my home county in Tennessee, the public schools don’t have music and it’s such a place of refuge for kids and it will go with you your whole life, that place, if you can play an instrument or some facet of music, not if you do anything with it professionally but it is another resource--

LC: It’s such a release, yeah.

TW: And a resource for you in times of trouble to go and filter those emotions through an instrument. It was for me growing up and I think maybe if we could save a few, maybe they could filter it through music instead of guns and all this stuff that’s going on, you know?

SKP: Amen, well let’s let you work out a little more of what every you need to personally work through and we’re going to hear a song right now. 

-----song break

SKP: Larry is a three-time Grammy award winning producer, lifetime achievement award recipient from the Americana music association. You’ve also been complimented as one of the most likable people on the planet.

LC: (laughing) Yeah, well.

SKP: Now I have to say, because we do a little research when we know you’re coming in--

LC: (laughing) Yeah, I guess you do

SKP: We have never, ever found someone that so many people said, “Oh he’s really good to work with.” It’s like, everybody managed to work that in here. They complimented your talent, your work ethic and just your likability. You should give lessons. You could do that. 

LC: (laughing) Yeah, that’s real nice to hear. Thank you, thank you.

SKP: So we read from a cousin of yours, he says, “I still see my grandmother Margaret looking me in the eye and pointing her finger with fiery Scottish pride, telling me about what made her most proud of her nephew…” (that was you)“…that never took a lesson.” Now you play so many instruments: pedal steel, banjo, fiddle, violin, mandolin, guitar. You really never took a lesson?

LC: No, well that’s not entirely true, I did. When I was first learning the fiddle I spent about six weeks with this classical violinist trying to get bow technique so there was a little bit of that there. And then when I was first learning guitar I had learned a lot on my own too. But there was a day camp near where I grew up in New York and a wonderful woman there named Paula, I’m sorry her last name is escaping me now, but we’d sit and play folk songs on her little guitar class there you know. So you could call that lessons. It’s not a hundred-percent true but there were-

SKP: You probably had to throw your violin technique out the window anyway to do fiddle.

LC: Yeah, yeah. That’s exactly true!

SKP: (laughs) 

LC: But at least I learned how to hold the bow you know. 

SKP: So did you just learn by watching people? By listening to records? What?

LC: Yeah well I mean when I was first learning it was - you take a record and hopefully you have a record player that goes down to sixteen on the turn table.

SKP: (laughs)

LC: I would cut the speed in half and keep playing it over and over again and keep dropping that needle on the passage you wanted to learn.

SKP: Because that would that would be an octave different.

LC: Right, exactly. 

SKP: So you could still be in tune. Oh that’s great! What a great technique.

LC: Yeah, I mean that and then watching everybody and asking questions and books. You know I spent days at the Daniel Public Library in New York. You could borrow records – because I couldn’t really afford to buy a lot of them, you know. And I would just pour through them and wear them out and bring them back, you know, in the month I had to borrow them.

SKP: (laughing) With the grooves totally worn. Well, I have to ask, the Beatles--

LC: Yeah

SKP: Wouldn’t be an obvious influence, but that was a big deal.

LC: Yeah. I always say I’m of that generation you know--there’s 20 million people maybe that saw that show on February 9th, 1964. My experience, as it was for many others, was this was--well in retrospect, I didn’t even see it at the time but it was equivalent to the big bang, you know?

SKP: Uh huh

LC: Where there was this huge explosion that opened this whole universe of music to my ears. That had been there all along but watching those guys do what they did at that point in my life, it was speaking to me in a way that no other music had before. It put me on this path where I needed to find out--like I remember looking at one of their records and there was this song written by Chuck Berry and I’m thinking, “Well, who is Chuck Berry”? So I went and found out who Chuck Berry was. That opened a whole other bunch of doors, you know?

SKP: (laughs)

LC: Then you find out about B.B King and that opens a whole other bunch of doors. Then you find out about the old blues guys you know Robert Johnson and Son House and all these other people way back and then they do a song by Buck Owens—“Well, who’s Buck Owens?: And that opens this whole world of country music. 

SKP: Bakersfield…

LC: Yeah, right, exactly. And I had already absorbed - my mother’s record collection was ridiculous and when I was a kid there were records by Hank Williams and Jimmy Rodgers and the Carter Family. Then I’m hearing Buck Owens and there’s a direct line from that back to those people and it’s just this whole universe of music that expanded after but that I was open to explore because of that catalytic event. 

SKP: So that made a big difference to you, how did your parents feel about that?

LC: They were nothing but supportive.

SKP: That’s good because some people saw that and thought it was scandalous. I mean, their hair was like four inches long.

LC: Yeah, exactly.

SKP: (laughs)

LC: Well the thing is my parents were sort of on the fringe of that 1940’s bohemian movement in New York, you know the poets and the artists and all that. They were from, you know, she had every record that Woodie Guthrie cut and the Weavers and people like that--

SKP: They were cool with it.

LC: Yeah they were artistically inclined themselves and they were more- they saw that I had an interest in something that was going to keep me off the street and they were all for it.

SKP: So, one more question before we head back to more singing. Hank Williams had, when he died, in his car some lyrics that were not done.

LC: Yeah

SKP: You got to work on finishing one of those songs, “You’ll Never Again Be Mine,” what did that feel like, getting those, being asked to work on those?

LC: I can’t even describe it. First of all, there’s a song that says: written by Hank Williams, Levon Helm and Larry Campbell. I mean, okay.

SKP: (laughs)

LC: (laughing) Okay, mission accomplished in my life, you know? 

SKP: I was going to ask that, both of you have been there for so many events that if you talked about it, people would say, “You were there, you did that?” It sounds like it’s still important to you, it’s not passé. 

LC: Oh not nearly, no. I feel incredibly lucky to have had that opportunity. Teresa does that song now. She does it. Levon recording, Teresa sings it and does a beautiful job with it. So we’re trying to keep that one alive. 

SKP: Good, well we’re going to hear another one: “Sampson and Delilah” here. The song that we just were talking about, “You’ll Never Again Be Mine” with Levon Helm is part of an album called, “The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams.” You can check that out. Since Larry stopped touring with Bob Dylan’s band, he still made guest appearances with Elvis Costello I mean, Lou Harris, Phil Lesh, Rozanne Cash, Little Feet, the list goes on and on. 

---Break for music performance----

SKP: Teresa Williams, you heard her. She’s a powerhouse country, blues, gospel and honky tonk singer. She hails, as one reviewer wrote from, “a speck on the map in West Tennessee near Tipton County, known as Peckerwood Point, up the road from Lizard Lick and not more than a mile from Blue Goose."

TW: That’s right.

SKP: Those are such great names, those are such great names. Tell us just a little bit about the hometown you grew up in.

TW: Well it was Henderson County and we were kind of between the towns of Lexington and Henderson. It’s just cotton country. When I was growing up we were cotton farmers. All the generations back had been cotton farmers.

SKP: And they had their own land.

TW: Yeah, which distinguished us from the share croppers, a lot of share cropping. But we--

SKP: But the work was just as hard whether you owned it or not.

TW: Well you know, I guess they got that land when the government took it from first nation probably, you know. I don’t know specifically but the gravestones go that far back.

SKP: Wow

TW: You were mentioning earlier, of my great-grandmother, whom I knew, her husband passed away before her last child was born and left her with three children and one on the way. She pushed on with the plow and the mule while she was expecting and managed to keep her farm. They said, in her years of dementia, she would fret and say, “Oh I hope I can keep my farm, I hope I don’t lose my farm.” So it’s quite a story for me.

SKP: Yeah, what a powerful impression.

TW: Yeah.

SKP: Wow. Well you’re from some strong ladies.

TW: (laughing) Yeah, definitely. They let the men think they’re in charge.

SKP: (laughing) There’s a skill to that.

TW: (laughing) There’s a skill to that!

SKP: Okay now the very first chapter of Harry Potter is, “The Boy Who Lived.” But you were known as, “The Girl Who Sang.”

TW: Yeah, I kind of was.

SKP: Everybody called you that.

TW: Yeah.

SKP: So do you remember when you first started, or did you just always?

TW: It’s like breathing, I just took it for granted I’m ashamed to say. My parents both sang and they had me singing at church when I was four years old, that was my first public appearance. (laughing) They had to stand me up on a thing to be seen. I realized really early that that special bond between what you’re delivering, hopefully honestly, and the audience. It was like my calling, it really was. 

SKP: So that was strange because, for the folks around there, from what I’ve seen and some interviews we read, if you had started to think, “Well maybe I want to make it big,” people would tend to sort of push you down and not let you get bigger than your britches. What do you think?

TW: Yeah, don’t get above your raisin--

SKP: Too big.

TW: There’s actually a book with that title, which I own. I haven’t read it quite yet. Yeah, don’t get above your raisin. That’s kind of a common saying and, “Who does she think she is?” kind of stuff. But they would secretly be really rooting for you; but it was so much that I would be ashamed to admit to anybody that I did want to pursue it because it seemed to grandeous of a pursuit for somebody like me. Meanwhile, it wasn’t registering with me that people like Tina Turner grew up just within an hour of me. The Tennessee Plowboy, Eddy Arnold grew up thirty-minutes from me. Rockabilly started within forty-minutes of me. Elvis was from a cotton-picking family down in Tupelo, we had relatives down there.

SKP: So who could say, “people from around here don’t do this”? 

TW: Yeah, exactly. It just didn’t register, you know, at that age. I just didn’t know. And if you wrote your own song, I wouldn’t have considered that, I thought that would have been called a made-up song. (laughing) that wouldn’t have been a real song. 

SKP: (laughs) 

TW: I don’t know, hopefully I was real young when I had that notion.

SKP: Tell me about seeing Tina Turner and what you thought. 

TW: When I saw her on TV?

SKP: Yep, first time.

TW: I was just – because well we had on the radio, we had a lot of country and my daddy played a lot of country and country blues and my mother was practicing classical and trying to learn piano on her own with a home music course. She would teach me –she would learn ahead in the course and then teach me and my brother after that. She didn’t really like country but she liked stuff like Connie Francis. 

SKP: Mmmhmm

TW: So, Patty Page, that kind of--

SKP: “Lipstick on Your Collar” and some of those, yeah

TW: “Little Miss Brenda Lee” But for me, I am totally losing my train of thought here--

SKP: Just seeing Tina on TV.

TW: Yeah, seeing Tina - but we had top 40 coming out of Memphis and at night we could get WLS out of Chicago, for some reason at night we could somehow get it--

SKP: Must be the AM.

TW: They would have a lot of new kind of alt-artists at that time. So I got some stuff like that, and we did get to watch a little television- we didn’t get to watch a lot, and that’s when I saw Tina. And I would see Gladys Knight on the Dick Clark show and stuff like that (laughing)

SKP: (laughs)

TW: But we were at church on Sunday nights so we didn’t get to see the Ed Sullivan Show. Except I was home with the measles when The Beatles [were on]. My parents and my grandparents were not on the bohemian fringe, they were very conservative and you know, conformists sort of. My grandmother called me in and said, “Come see these long-haired boys.” That’s how I got to see the Beatles.

SKP: (laughing) Thanks to the measles!

TW: Tina Turner, I was just like, “Yeah, wow!” But I think she was a little scary for a lot of the parents. It still just showed a different level of expressing yourself, just a whole other level.

SKP: Yeah, yeah.

TW: And my brother and I would listen to the black churches on Sunday morning. We’d be sitting in the car waiting for my parents and we’d turn the radio dial over to the black preachers and the black churches and we would just be like, “Yeah!” And daddy would come in [and say], “Turn that off!” (laughs)

SKP: So you mentioned, singing in church as a little girl but do you sing some of the revivals, those kind of things as you get older?

TW: Well, the revivals were a big deal at the Brush Arbor meetings and all the churches had revivals. My mother would go to where she grew up and take us to that revival and then where her father grew up and take us to those revivals and where her mother grew up. They would just throw their heads back and sing. It was before air conditioning and the windows would be open and the church would be packed.

SKP: Yeah.

TW: We didn’t have all the entertainment that we have now, so it was an event, it was a real event. The homecoming days and decoration days – I don’t know if you guys know about that, but those were big events. They would have all-day singing and dinner on the ground after church--

SKP: Wow!

TW: And picnics, literally on the ground.

SKP: Mmhmm 

TW: Those were major southern events for us, and a lot of music. They had music schools where a person came around and taught. I actually had one myself. We didn’t have music at school but you got a lot at church

SKP: Nice.

TW: Yeah.

SKP: So from that environment and then the place to go, if it wasn’t Nashville, it was New York. But nobody was happy about you headed there were they?

TW: Well that was – I never dreamed of going to New York, I didn’t really understand or know about Broadway I don’t think. Or, you know the stuff most kids would say about the--but an advisor in high school knew what I wanted to do and because I wanted to do acting as well I took the music for granted. I was going to go to school to study acting, and she said, “You’ll have to go to Chicago or New York” and I said, “Well I don’t want to go there.” She said, “Well, you kind of have to,” and I got my brain around that.

SKP: (laughs)

TW: Yeah daddy said, “I’d rather be caught dead than caught in New York City,” but then they came around. You know, they wanted to support their daughter. 

SKP: I bet, I bet. Well let’s hear some more music. We’re going to hear one that Larry wrote. This is called, “Did You Love Me At All,” it’s a mournful ballad that Buddy Miller said sounds like it could have been sung on the Grand Ole Opry, like the Louvin Brothers, has that kind of timeless melody. Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams. 

---Break for performance---

SKP: “Did You Love Me At All,” great song by Larry Campbell. Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams in-studio six today at BYU Broadcasting. Coming to you live. They’re doing the singing, they’re playing the guitars and they’re doing all of the talking too. We’re making you talk a little bit. You can check them [out] online, at to find out touring and other information. Their album together, self-titled, is sort of a catalog, one-person set of everything they’ve learned from years of playing 20th century roots music. Sounds nice.

LC: That’s cool.

SKP: So I have to ask you one more sort of New York country question, Larry. Back in the kind of post-urban, cowboy era, you remembered in one interview, popular country fashion of the day was both beauty and horror” (laughs). 

LC: (laughing) That’s right, that’s good, yes.

SKP: What was that fashion?

LC: Well, you know, so country music became fashion in New York in that era from the late seventies into the early eighties. The horror of it was that it was so ubiquitous and commercialized, you know? The wrong people were wearing cowboy hats for all the wrong reasons.

SKP: (laughs)

TW: (laughs)

LC: That was a little hard to take, but the beauty of it was that it awakened a lot of the right people to the value of real country music, you know. It inspired a lot of people--a lot of musically inclined people-- to dig deeper than this façade of that fashion and really get an appreciation for where this music started and came from and why it is what it is. Another part of the beauty side as far as I’m concerned was there was a lot of work for a guy like me (laughs). 

SKP: (laughing) 

LC: During that era, you know, in the studios and live and some movies too, you know.

SKP: Yeah.

LC: I was playing in a band that was in a Peter Bogdanovich movie called, “They All Laughed”. That was made at the height of the fashion. This couple goes to a bar and of course there’s this country band there, because that’s what was happening in New York at the time-- 

TW: And you were in the country band.

SKP: Nice.

LC: Yeah I was in the country band.

SKP: Playing yourself, as a country musician.

LC: Yeah I guess, yeah.

TW: (laughs)

SKP: Teresa is that interesting to you, that so much music that came from that area, kind of in the south, just how it captured everybody’s hearts? Throughout the US, but even worldwide.

TW: Well it’s going so strong right now, I mean the country music festivals, they will have a regular festival and then a week later up around us, they have the country festival and it is massive. I think this is the only reason Larry married me (laughs)

SKP: (laughs)

LC: (laughs)

TW: Because I’m probably the real McCoy. All of these people that he named off, you know, were from the area that I grew up and I think that’s the only reason he married--

LC: (laughing) let’s just call it a big part of the attraction. 

SKP: Okay, you had to marry into the authenticity .

TW: Yeah, yeah. 

SKP: So you can say, “well my mother in-law is from such and such place.” 

TW: (laughs)

SKP: So now touring together, because you’ve done so much though the years, lots of really living on the road, not just a little outing here and there but really living for months and months, even years at a time. But now doing it together.

LC: It’s great, it’s great

TW: It is, it is great

LC: Just standing there doing that song just now – we’ve done it a hundred thousand times together. I still get the same thrill out of hearing her sing it, singing it with her and performing this together, you know. It’s so satisfying on so many levels, it’s just impossible to describe. 

SKP: That’s nice, that’s nice.

TW: We kind of do the best when we’re working together I think.

LC: Yeah

SKP: That’s great. If I had a hat now I would take it off and put it over my heart (laughs).

LC: (laughs)

TW: (laughs)

SKP: It worked out pretty well that you sound good together too, that was not a bad part of the deal. 

TW: Well the day we met we were playing together, that’s how we met. All the stuff you were saying about the country in New York, I didn’t think anybody in New York--that’s how prejudice I was--could be inside the music. They might play it, but to be inside it, and he was. I didn’t really see him. The first time we were playing together I was so nervous about what I was doing. I had the mic and I was singing and I realized this guy on the pedal steel was saving my life. He was the real deal and it was going to be okay and I just remember thinking, “How? Why? Pedal steel and you’re from East 64th street?” 

LC: Mmmhmm

SKP: (laughs)

TW: So he’s kind of told you how and why but I was grateful. 

SKP: I want to ask about the Midnight Rambles before we head to the next thing. This is Woodstock, New York. We aren’t talking about the famous festival but we’re talking about a bar there. We mentioned Levon Helm was a musical compadre--

LC: Icon, yeah

SKP: But really became kind of family to you.

LC: Oh yeah

SKP: So what were the midnight rambles and what were these concert series that you played in and performed together in?

LC: Well, if you watch the Last Walz, this is where the first record of Levon publicly talking about this notion of the Midnight Ramble, which is, you know, when he was a kid they’d have these tent shows, entertainment shows come in and then all the family would go home and after eight o’clock until midnight they’d have the, what do you call, “Hoochie Coochie Show.” The music and the blues bands would come and play and it would get a little wilder for the adults and that was called the Midnight Ramble with these tent shows. So Levon always had in the back of his head that he wanted to stay in Woodstock and have the people come to him and set up his own version of the Midnight Ramble which was, you know, without the Hoochie Coochie girls--

TW: Midnight rambles were very family-oriented. Kids would be sleeping on pallets at his feet. True. And the dog.

SKP: (laughs)

LC: It blossomed into this utopian, as Teresa calls it, music experience where everybody came to play music for the right reason, which is just for the joy of playing music. The audience came for the right reason because they wanted to hear some good music. It became--there was no separation between the band and the audience, we were all in this together. It was an event. Many people compared it to going to church where you are just, all having this common experience that lifts you up. It just lifts you up and--

TW: It really reminded me of the revivals when I was growing up because the windows would be flung open and there would be a lot of people milling outside, but the inside was totally packed and steamy. Yeah, it was a great experience for the audience and the musicians. 

SKP: Well, this last song we get to hear. This could be at a meeting like that. Tell me about this song. This is another one from Reverend Gary Davis.

TW: Yeah, Larry produced a record with a gospel singer Jorma Kaukonen that used to play with Sister Rosetta Tharpe and it was a record of Reverend Gary Davis’ songs. We’d play with Mcalkin and Jack Cassidy and Larry was going out there to do a concert with Maire and to teach out there and she became ill and Jorma asked me if I would pinch hit and I immediately said yes because its Jorma. Then I realized what I had gotten myself into. They’re expecting an elderly, revered, black gospel singer and they’re getting a chirpy little white girl. 

SKP: (laughs)

TW: (laughing) But you know I started digging in to Reverend Gary and it was not that different. It was the black version of the white churches I grew up with. It was really the same. The only difference was the color. Very, very, very similar so I was not as freaked out. I was just like, “Oh I know this,” and went down into that. I love it, I truly love it. If I need inspiration, I’ll go back and listen to Reverend Gary’s sermons and CDs, yeah.

SKP: This seems like a nice one to end with. I’m so glad you’re going to do this one. I’ll have you head over to the mics. This is, “Keep Your Lamp Burning and Trimmed”. This is a gospel blues song built upon the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins in the New Testament. Coming to you live on Highway 89

---Break for performance---

SKP: (laughing) Oh yes, “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning”. That’s Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams live, right now in-studio. More information about all of their concerts, their albums online at We cannot thank you enough, this has been so great. We’d love to have more hours to hear you and more hours of story, but we’re just going to be grateful we got what we got. Thank You. 

Highway 89: Interview with Samuel Adler

Highway 89 host Steven Kapp Perry (SKP) recently chatted with American composer, conductor and educator Samuel Adler (SA). This is a full transcript of their conversation; you can also hear the interview in the BYU Radio’s archives.

SKP: You have a long and storied career. 65 years of teaching music. So you know a lot about music in the US, I wonder if we can just start off in general. Compared with when you began teaching, and as you look at music education in universities and public schools now, what changes do you see in that time?

SA: Well in the first place we have to say that I get around the world a great deal.  And we, in America, have the finest higher education music system in our schools that exists in the world. That’s why so many people from all over the world, especially now from Asia, are coming here to study. Our standards are the highest in the world and I must say from a compositional point of view we have such great talent in our universities and colleges. I’ve never seen anything like it. But people don’t realize that because we push our popular music so much throughout the world that people think that’s the only thing we have, when the actuality is that we have in this country the highest standards of musical composition among our young people. I’m sorry to say that’s sort of kept as a wonderful secret—

SA: --nobody knows about it and people care less about it. And that’s too bad because what they would find is a treasure-trove of wonderful music being written by young composers today.

SKP: Are there places where communities are beginning to hear some of the current composition?

SA: Yes of course. Colleges are the places to hear them. For instance, here at BYU you have a New Music group, [and there are others] all over the place. I had a few stops on the way here. I was at Indian University where they have a huge New Music program.

SKP: The Jacob’s School of Music.

SA: And I was down at the University of Texas in Austin, they have a big New Music program [too]. The problem is that it has been so anaesthetized from the mainstream. For instance, I would rather have a piece of mine played between Beethoven and Mozart or Beethoven and Brahms or Mozart and Rossini than between Joe Blow and Mary Doe. Because in the 60s we started to put music by contemporary composers, by living composers let’s put it that way, in a different category from dead composers. Dead composers are okay, living composers are suspect.

SA: Because of the difference between music of the 20th century, which does not have one style prevailing, when you hear a piece by Mozart and you suddenly find out it’s Haydn, well you weren’t far from wrong. They have one style. It’s great, it’s wonderful music. And so it could be by either one or it could be by Paisiello or Salieri or anybody else living in those times. You can’t do that with the 20th century because there [were] so many different styles coexisting.

SKP: Is that because there were so many conventions at the time, of how it was to be done?

SA: Correct.

SKP: Have we let go of those conventions?

SA: Well it broke down with the breaking down of authority generally. I mean you have that in literature, you have it in art, you have it in every form of artistic endeavor these days because, you see, we don’t have a prevailing one-fits-all anymore. Which actually is very good because that happened in the late 19th century. Look at the difference between Debussy and Hindemith, or Debussy and Strauss who lived exactly at the same time. There was the Rhine in-between them [but] there is no explaining this. You have in the late 19th century a preponderance of nationalism and the rise of the nationalistic composer and we had that in America. As soon as our young men and women came back from France after the first World War they wanted to write American music. In my youth, since I studied with [him] Aaron Copeland for instance or Walter Piston, we wanted to write American music. It was supposed to sound like Aaron Copeland and Piston and people who used the vocabulary of American folk music as a basis.

SKP: And some of them had gone to study in Europe because that was what you did back then.

SA: Of course.

SKP: But what were they defining American music as? They were exploring to try and find that.

SA: Let’s take a man like Dvorak. The difference between Dvorak and Brahms is that Dvorak was wedded to his Bohemian heritage and wanted to incorporate that in every piece that he wrote. Brahms was wedded to his German ancestry [and] he wrote a lot of arrangements of German folk songs. I think there are 200 in a volume of Brahms songs that are folk song arrangements, but he did not use those except in one piece, the Academic Festival Overture, and he did not use [them] in his symphonic work. And that’s the difference between Dvorak and Brahms. [This is how you] take someone like Copeland who used vernacular, American work, especially in his great ballets.

SKP: Yes.

SA: Also in the 3rd Symphony which is, I think, one of the great masterpieces of the 20th century.

SKP: Where are the outlets for composers today? I’m aware of people being specific enough to say that they’re going into writing music for video games and some are going into music for film scoring. Where are the opportunities?

SA: Well there are lots of them. You just mentioned two outlets. The most important thing is that they learn the craft of composition. After that they can do whatever they want. The big outlet of course for composers is to teach at a university or college, and get the music played there, and also orchestras and chamber groups are very interested these days in playing New Music. Happily that is going on all over the world. You go to Europe or you go to Asia, I mean I’ve been in China four times and Korea and of course I had a course in Berlin every year for the past 11 years, and there’s New Music played all over the place. The audiences may be small, but many of the mainstream organizations are now featuring one piece of New Music with other pieces of the canon which is the way it should be done.

SKP: Just this year with the Utah Symphony’s 75th anniversary, I think I’ve heard three different pieces this year that were commissioned.

SA: And you see that’s an outlet for composers, and we have so many. People say “Well uh, there are so few” [but] that’s not true. There are hundreds and hundreds of composers. I started my career in Texas, and when I went to Dallas after serving in the US Army I was one of two composers in Dallas, Texas. Now I’m sure there are over a hundred there. There is this explosion of creativity all over the world and that, I think, is the most wonderful thing.

SKP: As we were sitting down and setting up the microphones and chatting, you mentioned people having a fear of New Music. Will you tell me about that?

SA: Yes. You see, our audiences are not educated like the audiences were in the 18th and 19th century. First of all, these people that went to concerts were the “upper crust” and they were also amateur musicians. Most of the people that went to concerts, by let’s say Beethoven, these people were also amateur musicians. So when he did something they didn’t understand, they loved it because it was something new. What happened is [that] they wanted something new. Today’s audiences that are not musicians themselves but are music lovers, which I think is wonderful, they expect to hear what they already know. And the fear is to be bored, or to be somehow aggressively…against their sensitivity [made to] hear something that shakes them up. I think people go to a concert to sort of be lulled into a nice euphoric state, which is the wrong way to go to a concert. You want to be moved to do something! And that is what I would expect from an audience that would hear music of mine. There’s a wonderful story I can tell: Aaron Copeland was the moderator for the Sunday concerts when I was a student in Tanglewood. And there was always a question period at the end. Of course they didn’t want to ask us questions, they wanted to ask him questions. A lady got up and said, “You know Mr. Copeland, I love music. I live in York and I come home at 5 o’clock and I lie down but I want to snooze a little so I put on [the local radio station] and they play Mozart and Haydn and Debussy and I can snooze. But when they play your music I get very jangled and very nervous and I can’t snooze.” And he [Copeland] said, “Madame, I’m very happy about that because I wasn’t snoozing when I wrote [it].”

SA: So, you know, it’s that way. Today we want to talk about our situation, the way we live. Well we live in a very, very powerful world. We live in a world that has terrific things happening scientifically, medically, technologically, and on the other hand we have the Bomb which could destroy the whole world. We have pollution that could destroy us. That’s what we’re dealing with. We cannot write music like Schubert who was living in a different age. He wrote the most wonderful music, but it’s different because he was talking about his age as we have to talk about ours.

SKP: You work with students so much, of varying ages, and even the very youngest. Talk about how we could educate our younger children so they could be open to all kinds of music.

SA: You’d be surprised. Younger children have no prejudice. When they hear a piece by Stravinsky, or by Schonberg, they don’t say “Oh I don’t like 12-tone music.” They don’t know! They just love it because it’s music. And if it’s done right, if it’s not put upon the like “you’ve got to listen to this,” it’s new for them. They don’t care if it’s Bach or Ligeti, for them it’s an experience. I have never found children who dislike contemporary music. They take it like all other music. Unfortunately we don’t expose them enough to it, and that’s why this program that they have started here [at BYU], the Systema Type Program, is so important. It shows these kids that music is all the same. It isn’t just one period of music, that you’ve got to love Schubert or Beethoven or Brahms or something like that, of course you should love them but it’s much easier because that’s the kind of music that they’re used to and they’re very excited about hearing something new. Especially when, and I always recommend [this], you let them write their own music. “That’s my song” is a very important part of it.

SKP: Samuel Adler is Professor Emeritus of the Eastman School of Music, retired in 2014 from Julliard although still teaching there until May. He’s in Utah right now working with students at the University of Utah, also here today on the BYU campus, and will be at Utah Valley University. You really have a passion for teaching and reaching students, don’t you.

SA: Yes I do, because I think that’s my mission in life.

Highway 89 is a live music performance program distributed nationally on Sirius XM 143 BYU Radio with classical format shows airing in Utah on Classical 89. Produced in BYU Broadcasting’s state-of-the-art recording studios in Provo, just 45 minutes south of Salt Lake City, Highway 89 features professional musicians in all genres. You can follow the show on Twitter @byuh89 and @byuradio. And you can contact the show producers by email.  

Interview with Bart Crow - Highway 89

Steven Kapp Perry (SKP) chatted with singer/songwriter Bart Crow (BC) recently during a LIVE edition of BYU Radio’s Highway89 show. (You can hear the full performance and interview here.) This is a transcript of most of their conversation.

SKP: This Texas town that you come from Bart, it almost sounds like someone had to make this name up. It’s just too perfect!...Maypearl, Texas in Ellis County, Texas. Population at the last census we saw [to be] a very respectable 934. South of Dallas summers are hot and humid and we thought, ‘Is this a real place?’ So we enlisted Google Maps and we just want to say, if you go to Google Maps and you zoom in, there are a lot of pickup trucks in the driveways of Maypearl. 

BC: Yes sir.

SKP: And the fields are not too far away from what you’d call the city center.

BC: Correct.

SKP: Even in high school you said your graduating class you’d been to kindergarten with everybody.

BC: Absolutely. We didn’t even do a preschool, but there was a daycare, ‘A’ daycare in Maypearl that everyone just went to. So then once we went to the daycare long enough then that daycare would march us over to kindergarten and we’d go to school from then on. So most of the people that I’m still really close with, we went from three to four years old [and] our parents were all good friends. And I mean, Maypearl’s a respected nine hundred and some change now, but I know when I graduated high school it was 492…? Almost 500.

SKP: Wow…so it’s like, doubled!

BC: Yeah it’s like, huge! There’s a road and they’re going to put a loop in before too long.

SKP: What a great place!

BC: Yes sir.

SKP: But how great to know people for that long.

BC: It is! It’s pretty remarkable. I’ve been gone for quite a while, I went to the service out of high school, and then I went off to college when I came back, then back to Maypearl having been gone since ’02. And all my family still lives there and it’s nice to go back and know that it doesn’t take you an entire week to see everyone, you can kind of knock it out in about an hour.

SKP: That’s good. Well, we printed up this picture—

BC: Oh no.

SKP: --from Maypearl. It’s the Busy Bee Café on Main Street, and it’s across from the baseball field. But on the red brick on the side, painted in these great big white letters, it says “Back of the Bee Live Music.”

BC: That’s it.

SKP: So did you go hear music there? Did you go play music there?

BC: When I was a kid they had that, and then it went away in teenage years…And then somewhere around [when] I’d gone off the college, I went off to college in ’02, they opened the Back of the Bee back up…so they started having music again. Coincidentally, I’d begun to play music 80 miles away where I was in school in Stevenville, and so since they had the Back of the Bee up and going I called Mark Gorman who booked that and he’s like, ‘Well, do you think you can put some people in there?’ and I’m like, ‘Well I promise if I can’t I should quit--

BC: ‘--because I’ve only been removed from Maypearl for a few years and all my best friends and family still live there.’ And so yeah, I spent a lot of time at the Back of the Bee.

SKP: Well we wanted to ask one more small-town-type question. You mentioned in some stuff we read that you felt like you had time to really dream and create partly because of being from a small place. Did anybody ever say, ‘No, you can’t do that. You’ve got to live in a big city to do what you want to do.’?

BC: No, no one said ‘you can’t.’ No one said ‘you could,’ either. Maypearl is a farm community. It is a working person, blue-collar, that’s that. And I’ve taken it upon myself to look in hindsight and with all due respect to the people I love from there, I just felt like no one dreams. I mean even I, before, had this tangled thing in my head where I already knew I was going to marry this girl I dated from Maypearl and we were going to live in Maypearl and then when I got like a year older I’m like, ‘What on earth am I thinking?’ And I mean, that’s the mentality. Most of my beautiful friends and my beautiful family do that. They’ve never left. And I just kind felt like I always had one foot out the door.


BC: That’s the Busy Bee. “Come Back Tomorrow” is 100% about the Busy Bee.

SKP: That’s so great. I love having a place in my mind that you’re singing about.

BC: I was curious if the Google Street Image showed when you walk out [of] the Bee, or if you’re looking at the front of the Bee, if you’re able to look 90 degrees to your right and left you would see each end of the town. There’s no stoplights, there’s no nothing, it’s just a two-lane blacktop that goes through there. So writing that song, there was a lot of movies filmed in and around Maypearl, and you just knew growing up in Maypearl when you’re at the café and somebody from the film crew [was there]. They just dressed ‘cooler,’ had cooler hair than all of us--

BC: --and you just knew who was on the film crew. And I’ve often felt going back home that’s how I’m perceived, even by people that know and love me. ‘Cause I walk in and, you know, I just dress and do things a little differently. And I’ve spent many nights leaving the Busy Bee, walking across that two-lane blacktop and stopping and looking both ways and just having a little nerdy moment like, ‘God, what a good place to grow up, what a great place to get out of.’

SKP: Well you did get out. You started touring and you started going all over Texas and Oklahoma for years.

BC: Yes sir.

SKP: Touring beyond that [in] Tennessee and Nebraska and now even to Europe.

BC: Yes. Those are the moments where, coming back from being rooted in Maypearl, nobody does what I’m doing. I even have multiple moments of pinching myself. I flew 25 hours to Italy and played a gig that night, and did 10 dates in Italy, then flew to France and played a couple of shows in France. I’ve done an acoustic tour in Ireland the last couple years. And those are the moments where I’m like, ‘All because I wrote some songs on a guitar, was too stubborn to get a real job, and a little bit lazy, and so madly in love with music, and I just haven’t given up.’ And I look up and it’s 13 years where I’ve gotten to do some really neat stuff.

SKP: We read that some of those what-were-supposed-to-be-hour-long gigs in Europe turned into 2 hours, 3 hours. So some serious fans!

BC: They were incredible. They were absolutely incredible. I had a little going for me because blond-haired, blue-eyed and from Texas. And the Italians were just like, “We’ve got to see this cowboy. Where’s your cowboy hat?’

BC: But I did an acoustic show on Romini Beach and had over a thousand people. And I promise you, if one of them said ‘I love this song,’ ten of them said ‘We just need to see the blond-haired guy from Texas.’

BC: So I’m like, ‘Cool, man!’

SKP: Whatever works!

BC: ‘I’m glad you’re here regardless.’

SKP: It seems like you must have been in shock when you actually got to do the Grand Ole Opry.

BC: Oh my goodness.

SKP: Ryman auditorium. This was something that had sort of been in your family. Both grandpas had been interested followers.

BC: Oh very much so. My late grandfather grew up in [the] Depression Era, and they all listened to the Grand Ole Opry. And my grandfather that’s still I alive, I mean it was just their thing. They just always, [from] barn dances…so getting to play it was very special because I felt like I took them with me. For me it was almost, leading up to it, I didn’t know what to think because it was never on my radar. It was just such an off-hand like, ‘oh yeah, I’m going to play the Grand Ole Opry one day ha-ha.’

SKP: As in, ‘I’m a dreamer but that’s just sort of beyond—‘

BC: Yeah! It really wasn’t in my collective idea of dreaming until I got it. Because even when my publicist called and offered it my exact words were, ‘Oh cool. Yeah.’ And when I hung up the phone I was like, ‘”Yeah cool?” That’s it?’ so I called her back and I’m just like, ‘Dixie. I have a tendency to have a pirate mouth and I’m really excited right now and you’re a lady and we haven’t been working together that long and I don’t know where “Yeah cool” came from but I’m ecstatic about this. I can’t breathe right now. And a little bit of me is making sure that we won’t get the call tomorrow like, “Whoops! Never mind, we found somebody else.”’

BC: So you know, it was magical.

SKP: So you walked out that night on the stage. Were you able to sort of forget all that and just perform?

BC: I was. I don’t know how or why. But I was in Nashville the whole week doing press, and I really believe [that] having talked about it so much it was kind of one of those things where I was at peace. Like, ‘God, I’m either going to bomb or do great. You know what’s happening, this is all I’ve got.’ Because we’d talked about it so much we’d talked the jitters away, then when we got to the Opry we were there so many hours before we played, we just got to get comfortable with the Opry staff and the band are so amazing and talented and so welcoming, so all the fears went away. I was even baffled by it. Because even walking out it was like, ‘What’s up, Opry?’

BC: I didn’t actually say that. I was very polite and very knowing where I was, but in my head that’s how I felt. And the weeks leading up to it I was like, ‘Oh my gosh I’m going to pass out on stage. What’s going to happen?’


SKP: You talk a little bit about ‘Searching for who you are’ and I love that you talk about going through pictures and saying ‘oh that’s who I was then.’ Sort of by what the style was, or if you had a skateboard, or something like that. Trying to figure out who you were in retrospect, I think that’s kind of interesting. And then looking ahead.

BC: Very much so. Again, all things go back to Maypearl. I grew up in a rodeo, hard-working, blue collar family. We lived in the country, so who gets a skateboard for Christmas? Me! But guess who has a 10x10 porch and then gravel and dirt?

BC: So then some buddies moved into town that were from other towns and they had skateboards so we’d go into town and ‘oh I’m skateboarding’ and then ‘oh I’m back to going to rodeos again.’ ‘Oh it’s summertime, I don’t want to rodeo I want to hang out with my buds and play baseball.’ Next thing you know I look up and I’m racing dirt bikes. Just constant trying to find out who I am.  Even at 39 I still do that. I’m certainly still searching for who I am.

SKP: Some people would say that’s well-rounded. You tried a bunch of things.

BC: I would say that. I think it’s cool to do that, to not be so limited and isolated. I come from a father who’s a 9th-grade dropout self-made multi-millionaire. Married my mother at 16 and blinders-on we work work work work work and build this drywall corporation. That’s the mentality that I come from. You don’t bounce around the world playing your guitar, being broke all the time. So me doing it, I still struggle with ‘Am I supposed to be getting to do this? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?’

SKP: ‘Am I allowed to be happy with what I love?’

BC: Exactly! It’s a constant struggle between artistry and reality and family and travelling. And, you know, the storm sometimes keeps me awake at night but I think that’s who I am, I think that if the road was paved out for me I’d go a little crazy.

SKP: I was going to ask about this, the 6th album: The Parade. That we’ve been talking about, that you’ve been playing a bunch of songs from. Do you feel like you’re in some sort of groove of album-making? It seems like it must have been intense the first time. ‘Will this fly, will this not?’ Are you past that? Or do you ever get past [it]?

BC: I don’t. I don’t have the confidence to go in and be like, ‘Hey Steve! Wow, you’re a producer? I’ve got ten songs, let’s go in and record them and make an awesome record.’ Mine’s more constantly searching. The first record? Just dumb college kids, barely had any money, made a $4,000 record that sounded like a $400 record.

SKP: That takes some skill! 

BC: We didn’t know what we were doing, ignorance was bliss and we were just having a good time. The second time I thought I wanted to be more rock-and-roll so we went down to this big studio in San Antonio and I just live in Austin, an hour away, but we didn’t even have the money to drive back-and-forth so we just slept in the studio. Then the third one I was with a guy and he was like, ‘You’ve got to make your record in Nashville. That’s where it’s going down!’ and I go make this big record in Nashville and I fly in and I get my car and it’s in this basement. In a house in east Nashville. So I’m like, ‘Okay, this isn’t really what I pictured but whatever.’ Then we made the live record and then we made Dandelion. Dandelion was the first one where I felt like I was with a group of dudes who brought me in their circle. Session players that tour in a band. And I didn’t know any of them, they were already rehearsing the songs when I got to the studio, but they’d been in a band together, the Pat Green band, for 16 years. This group of five guys. And then I walk in and they treat me like I’ve been there since day 1. And we make this great record. We call ourselves the A-Team Plus One.

BC: I reassembled the A-Team Plus One for “Parade,” and what was different is just constantly trying to out-do what you did yesterday. And “Parade” actually took 17 months to make without realizing ‘Oh my goodness we’ve been making a record for 17 months.’ And that was with me still writing. We’d record 16-hour days for 5 days, and then all the guys would go on the road with their respective bands and we wouldn’t see each other for months. Then we’d come back and we’d just hustle for five days and record more music. This went on like every third or fourth month—

SKP: So you’re still writing during the whole process?

BC: The whole process. Which is cool because look at this stuff, if we had come through and just knocked [the album] out in two weeks, these songs, we wouldn’t even have them. Would I have even ever written them? I don’t know. I was still trying to get material because I was still trying to outdo the last session of cool songs that we did. And at the same time, after we got to the end I was just exhausted. Just overstressing, overthinking. I wasn’t being creative, I was being forced. So now I’ve just begun writing again. As in, last night.

BC: And I feel great. I feel like I’m on this ‘Writer’s High.’ I’m also worried to death that I can’t write songs better than the ones we did on “Parade” so I don’t know what I’m going to do, man.

SKP: Well one song is called “One night With You” and we have to ask because, suddenly, a saxophone shows up!

BC: I know!

SKP: Not the most rock/folk/country of instruments!

BC: I wish that I could honestly look you in the eye and say, ‘Yes, I had that one up my sleeve,’ but no my producer Justin Pollard who produced “Dandelion” and “Parade,” I didn’t know him until that first moment when he came through the door. When I first got to the studio I walked in and I was like, ‘Okay, who’s Justin? Who’s that guy that I hate talking on the phone with because he interrupts me and won’t let me finish my sentences.’

BC: He’s like my best friend/brother now. And he talks kinda street and he’s like, ‘I’m gonna put a sax right here’ and I just gave him the most barrel-eye-roll because, with all due respect to saxophone players, I’m not a fan of the instrument. And he’s like, ‘Bro, trust me.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, man.’

SKP: Those are famous last words for so many situations.

BC: I know and I just said, ‘Okay dude,’ and he said ‘I mean we can do it your way,’ and I was like, ‘No don’t start this with me, don’t try to turn this around, just okay.’ And, man, when I heard it I was floored. I was absolutely floored. It works so beautifully and so perfectly. I have completely eaten my words and bowed to Justin more than once over that one.


SKP: That song [Life Comes At You Fast] was the most-played song on the Texas Country Music chart the year it came out. Was that a surprise to you—that it did so well?

BC: Oh absolutely.

SKP: It shouldn’t have been. It’s a great song.

BC: Well thank you. There’s a lot of good music, though. It was cool. I was very grateful. I don’t want this to come off like ‘ya ungrateful toot,’ it wasn’t that. I had no clue, I did not expect that.

SKP: I want to ask about family, and maybe this is a cliché to ask the guy who’s the ‘walkin’ man’ as James Taylor would say, the guy who’s out on the road all the time doing over a hundred shows a year, but you seem to work really hard on staying anchored to home. Even talking to kids, including those twins, things like Skyping.

BC: I think it’s a great time to be a kid. I mean a young kid, with FaceTime and Skype and things like that, if you have a working travelling parent. It’s a cool opportunity. If this is the way it’s got to be, then you have that means to see them at night, say prayers with them through Facetime and Skype and stuff.

SKP: And even reading books?

BC: Absolutely. I’ll tell you what I do, if I was going to brag on anything that I do, I work hard on being a good and cool dad. Full of discipline, but full of fun. I have a lot of friends who are like, ‘I can’t see how you can do it, how you can be gone so much,’ and my rebuttal is, ‘Well I don’t see how you get up at 4:30 in the morning and leave the house by 5:30 and don’t get home until 6:30 that evening and you have three hours.’ I have all day with my boys whenever I’m home. And when they’re not in school, especially the oldest, we’re connected at the hips. We do piano lessons together, we do karate together,

BC: All five of us go to the playground and swim together. I think the biggest, most amazing thing God has ever blessed me with is getting to be a dad. That’s the one thing I will not fail at. Preeeeetty sketchy on everything else—

BC: –but being a dad is the one thing that’s most honored to be.

SKP: Now I think I heard a lyric about Joshua Trees in that last song.

BC: Yes sir.

SKP: There’s a place that some people love, the Joshua Tree National Park, you go there all the time. Some people think that there’s nothing there. But what do you see?

BC: I don’t see, I feel. My wife and I used to go out there, we’re huge Grant Parsons fans. That was our calling to go out there and stay in the Joshua Tree. We went one time and it was just so magical. She paints, and she does poetry, and she draws,  I write songs and be goofy. Those are our things that we do and we go out there [and] it has a spirit about it. It has a feeling. And if you get it you get it and if you don’t, well, from my angle that’s unfortunate for you but it’s not for everyone. I was just out there earlier this month and I was out there shooting a music video. We shot in LA and shot in the Hollywood hills and shot three days in Joshua Tree National Park, Joshua Tree Inn, Palm Springs. It’s one of my place[s]. I can just go out there with pen and paper, it’s just a magical place for me.

SKP: I have a friend who says it’s the most beautiful place in the world. And the first time I went I thought he must have been someplace else.

SKP: And then later it started to grow on me.

BC: I don’t know if even as much as I love it if I would throw that strong of a statement but I still, yes, I love Joshua Tree and it was fun to work that into that song.

SKP: I’ve got that one of your grandfathers lived in Buffalo Springs Lake. The Oasis of Texas for 25 years, did I get that right?

BC: Yes sir you did.

SKP: WE read that you spent your summers out there and that he played music.

BC: He did.

SKP: What did he do? What did he play?

BC: My grandfather, his name was L. C. Crow, he played guitar and was in a band or had a band for all of my life until a couple of years before he passed away.

SKP: So when you were older and picked up the guitar, was that already in there because of him?

BC: I think a little bit. My dad also was a lead player just in a ‘weekend warrior’ band, they played some dance halls and VFWs, but that was short-lived maybe I don’t know [until I was] 4 or 5 years old and then he quit because he was working too much. But going out those summers and staying with my grandfather, he would draw chords on a piece of paper and I would play his guitar and we’d listen to any and everything that Bob Wheels and Lefty Frizzell and Ernest Tubb, anything they recorded, he had.

BC: Of course, I was wanting to hear, wanting him to teach me to play some Motley Crue or even some of the rap music I was listening to at the time and he was just like, ‘Go home.’

BC: But yes so I’d spend summers out there and it was a fun time. When he passed he actually left me his guitar that I travel and play with.

SKP: Oh my goodness.

BC: So that’s kind of cool.

SKP: That’s way cool.


Highway 89 is a live music performance program distributed nationally on Sirius XM 143 BYU Radio with classical format shows airing in Utah on Classical 89

Produced in BYU Broadcasting's state-of-the-art recording studios in Provo, just 45 minutes south of Salt Lake City, Highway 89 features professional musicians in all genres. You can follow the show on Twitter @byuradio and @byuh89. And you can contact the show producers by email:

H89 Studio Specifications

BYU Broadcasting (BYUB) is a television, radio and online media production and distribution operation serving international, national and local audiences. From the Provo facility, five television and two radio entities – among them BYUtv, BYUtv International, KBYU Eleven, Sirius XM 143 BYU Radio and Classical 89 KBYU-FM – are produced and distributed via broadcast, cable, satellite and the Internet. There is no other building like BYUB on any other campus in the USA.

HIGHWAY 89 is recorded in BYU Broadcasting’s new state-of-the-art performance studios, STUDIO 6 & its counterpart STUDIO 6B. Occasionally larger groups are recorded in STUDIO C with an audience.


Designed by Russ Berger Design Group

Length 22’ x Width 25’ x Height 12.5’

A selection of mics including: Neumann & Schoeps

Thiel CS2.4 speakers with Bryston amplification

7' Steinway Model B


24 Channels of ProTools HD

Avid D-command Console

Altiverb 7

Lexicon Plug-in Effects Suite

(3) Grace M801 (8 channel) preamps

Apogee Symphony I/O with resolution up to 24 bit 192k

Monitoring through a 5.1 Bowers & Wilkins system comprised of 800, 802 and 805 Diamond speakers along with a matching DB1 dual 12" subwoofer. The 800s and 802 center are each driven by a McIntosh 501 (500 watt monoblock amp). The 805s are driven by a stereo McIntosh 402 amp (400 watts per channel) 


Fully wired for radio and television production

4000 (sq. ft.) floor space

260 retractable theatre seats

27’ Stewart perforated movie screen

12 fiber-optic connections for studio cameras

Crestron Digital Theatre Control System

Christie 10,500 Lumen HD projector

90+ remotely controlled studio lights

Variable color LED floodlights

Applause signs

Sixteen 36”, high volume, ultra-low noise cooling vents

Full in-house audio mixing capability

JBL Professional Cinema Speaker System

18 individual speaker enclosures

7.1 speaker arrangement

8,700 watts of speaker power

Four 18” ported, subwoofer drivers

To contact show producer, send email to

Follow Highway 89 on Twitter: @byuh89

Oh, Snap!

We have a very special announcement: Highway 89 is now on Snapchat!  In addition to our active (and awesome!) Twitter and Instagram accounts,  make sure you’re also checking out our Snapchat Story because it’s full of content that you won’t see anywhere else. And because it’s Snapchat, it never lasts longer than 24 hours so don’t miss out!

We’re super excited to be expanding our social media presence to share even more of our show with you, our fabulous listeners. Find us now at username : byuh89 or scan our SnapCode!

With love,

The Highway 89 Team

Highway 89: Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing


SUNSHINE - Ryan Innes (listen)

“I love the way you look right now, it makes me happy for those clouds”

SEA BREEZE  - Tyrone Wells (listen)

“Soft as a whisper she’s calling me to her. These eyes have seen the most beautiful dream.”

YOU RAISE ME UP  - George Dyer (listen)

“I am strong when I am on your shoulders. You raise me up to more than I can be.”

WRAPPED UP IN YOU  - The Str!ke (listen)

“I’ve faced the fire and rain, I’ve broken every chain, and now I’m here to stay.”



LONG WAY HOME - Ryan Innes (listen)

“As the years went on, you knew they were right all along. Sometimes the heart takes the long way home.”

TO SAVE HER –Taylor Berrett (listen)

“I don’t want to lose her, but she’s already gone. Tell me, is this what love is, being moved and moving on?”


“By the way, how is my heart? I haven’t seen it since you left.”

I’M LEAVING YOU - The Str!ke (listen)

“There’s so much more in this life than your empty promises. It feels like we’re falling, hope that we can get out alive.”

What is love?

If your first answer is, “Baby don’t hurt me,” don’t worry, you’re not alone!

Love is music. From first dances at weddings to specially crafted mix-tapes and CDs and playlists for a special someone, to that one song you can’t listen to without being flooded by memories. Music is a huge part of falling in, being in, and falling out of love, and more songs in the past 100 years have been written about love than any other topic. Even before then, classical giants like Beethoven and Mozart found muses in love, and compositions like “Fur Elise” and “The Notebook for Anna Magdalena” are still cherished today.

On Highway 89, we’ve had our share of love songs, both happy and sad. We’ve compiled some of favorites from past episodes for whatever your relationship status is right now, whether love is lifting you up or love has let you down. We hope that these selections will bring you hope in the future, comfort in understanding, or simply remind you of the way things used to be.

All our love,

The HIGHWAY 89 Team

P.S. Because there were so many great songs sung by our fabulous guests over the years, keep an eye out for Part II coming soon! Links to all the full episodes can be found at the bottom of the page.

1 - 10 of 20 Results

< Page 1 of 2

© 2020 BYU Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved. A Service of Brigham Young University.