Tim Easton isn’t exactly the new boy on the block, he started his first band in college (Ohio State) called The Kosher Spears which featured a washboard as one of the instruments. In folk singer/songwriter tradition he then went on to travel and play around Europe slowly refining his playing and writing returning to the US with the intention of making an album based on the American Folk music he had come to love. On coming home however, he ended up joining a roots-rock band called The Haynes Boys and released an album with them. Finally in 1998, Easton self-released his first solo project, SPECIAL 20. The record was good enough to attract the attention of EMI records and finally New West Records, which has released Easton’s second solo album, THE TRUTH ABOUT US.
Produced by Joe Chiccarelli (Beck, U2) and backed up by Wilco, Easton’s album brings together traditional and contemporary American Folk and seasons it with just a touch of contemporary rock. From the first track, “Half a Day”, a warm but sad little song about missed chances and bad luck, Easton shines in his ability to make himself an every man, following in the footsteps of a long line of great folk storytellers. His ability to combine the old and the new is deft, and his choice of musical tone to complement the emotional energy of his lyrics is outstanding. On “Downtown Lights” the rhythmic wailing of his guitar, complemented by his smooth voice, take on a wolf howling at a faux moon in the form of city lights. Every track on this CD is worth listening to and that’s saying a lot considering the current “band of the week” phenomenon taking place in popular music.
Carlye Archibeque: Your musical style is very diverse, it’s like an amazing food dish where you sense a hint of this and a hint of that but the end result is so individual that it’s hard to say what you’re tasting, you just know it’s good (especially loved your dubbing of Half a Day as a power waltz.) I sense some blues, funk, even a little hip-hop? What would you say are your biggest style influences?
Tim Easton: I’m a huge Doc Watson fan in terms of taste and style, but I would still go to the Beatles for the biggest influence. It’s no real surprise, but that’s what was played for me as my sister’s babysat for me and so that is was seeped in the most. It just so happens that I went backward from there to Woody Guthrie and whatnot. Today, I would say Beck’s “style” is unequaled. He may be the last real rock star ever.
CA: What makes Beck’s style so unique? What constitutes a rock star for you?
TE: There just aren’t any artists around who cull from the past and present and turn it into something unique as much as Beck does. And he does it with such style and, for lack of a better word, comedy. I think he’s the last real rock star in as far as he’s not just a disposable, one hit wonder type that you see so many of these days. He’s going to have a long and influential career because he studied the past and had good influences around him as far as his family goes.
CA: What’s the best musical show you’ve ever been to? Not necessarily the biggest show, but the one you had the most fun at.
TE: Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff at the front row theatre in Cleveland was a big one for me; plus the pixies at Staches in Columbus. I also saw Queen in Cleveland once. I would say that was a pretty musical show of course, Merlefest is Doc Watson’s tribute to his son every April in North Carolina that’s a whole weekend of good music.
CA: Your lyrics are also fabulous (especially like the line, “he’s a shadow but he wants to be real) They seem to sit the fence between serious country and modern poetry Are you influenced more by music you hear or the stuff you read as far as your lyrics go?
TE: Funny that you would mention that line in particular because I borrowed it from a poem which I credit on the lyric sheet (This Life by David Whyte) on the record so, in that case I was extremely influenced by the stuff I read, however, a lot of it comes from things I overhear as well.
CA: What kind of books do you like? Are you a constant reader?
TE: I am really into short stories and essays right now my attention span or amount of time I have to concentrate between things I have to do have something to do with this. Also, I wish I was more of a constant reader one needs to be in order to write.
CA: What kind of order do you need? Under what circumstances do you do your best writing?
TE: Not sure I need too much order, just lots of yoga. I may be joking here. I do my best writing alone. I can sit in a noisy place and tune it all out for lyrics but with musical composition or whatever I need some peace.
CA: Also, about the liner notes for the CD, I love to read lyrics and the lyrics as printed in the notes are pretty hard, often impossible to read, did you do that on purpose?
TE: Well, yes I did actually, part of it was to place more emphasis on listening rather than reading part of it was to have fun with the text and images.
CA: How did you come to be the musician you are today? I read somewhere that it runs in the family?
TE: Two of my brothers taught me how to play guitar I wouldn’t say that music runs in my family, but creativity does.
CA: How does your family like your music? Are your brothers still into music or have they moved on to something else?
TE: It’s not very rock and roll to say it but my folks and my siblings all like my music. We get along just fine and I am proud of that. My mom even sends me lyric suggestions every now and then!
CA: You seem to have traveled around a lot, starting in New York, going to Europe and ending up in LA, where was your favorite music scene?
TE: Probably Athens, Georgia, it still thrives.
CA: Least favorite?
TE: Probably Cleveland, Ohio. They gave that city a complex with that rock hall of fame thing.
CA: How did you like silver lake?
TE: Silver Lake is excellent I should have moved there in 1990 when Beck first told me about it.
CA: You called “Soup Can Telephone Game Conversation” (which is an amazing title, you didn’t even need to write a song for it) “another bad man song,” which is funny, but what did you mean by that?
TE: Well, it’s evident to me that the subject of the song is some kind of asshole!
CA: Yeah, but what did you mean by “another” bad man song, it seemed so defeatist coming from a man, it made me laugh when I read it, but also gave me pause cause it was weird to hear from a guy.
TE: Well, just look how many songs there are about men abusing women or even killing them “down by the river’ etc, etc. There is pretty much a genre dedicated to it. I would like to thing my song was a bit more tongue in cheek but then again you don’t want to sing it that way. You want to find the character and stick with him for the narration no matter what. Some of those lyrics were spouted off the porch of my old neighbor’s house in Ohio.
CA: What does your title, “The Truth About Us”, mean to you?
TE: To me, it really means several things and that is the way I would like to keep it. I wouldn’t want to change anybody’s mind about what it means to them.
CA: If we looked in your CD player today, what would we find?
TE: In the van I have the new Outkast album and Neutral Milk Hotel plus Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” for late night driving. At home today for my one day off I am cranking up the Sonny Terry and Brownie Maghee in order to go through my emails and papers and what not. It sounds real good.
CA: What’s about when you were a teenager, what kind of LP’s did you listen to?
TE: Beatles and Stones and Beatles and Stones.
CA: What, if anything, has changed about your musical taste from then to now?
TE: Just a little more diverse. My heart is in the past but unlike many people I know I like to check out all the new stuff I can, it keeps the outlook fresh. My upright bass player is 21 and he keeps me informed if I happen to miss something tasty. I hate to mention Bright Eyes because you see his name everywhere but have you heard that music yet?
CA: No, what are they like, where do they come from?
TE: Bright Eyes is pretty much one guy from Lincoln, Nebraska. He’s sings some pretty sad songs for a 21 year old.
CA: Do you have a new project in the works?
TE: Just touring right now. I will turn in a few songs to compilations coming up but other than that just playing shows and traveling.