B&L: What animal do you associate yourself with (given our ties to oxen)?
Walsh: Being a transplanted Midwesterner I’ve got to say cow.
B&L: Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it? How’d it come calling to you?
Walsh: Music is a way to talk about life with out having to use words. Maybe it’s better than words. And it’s the best way I know of to find commonality with people, to bridge cultural, economic, age, etc. differences in the space of a shared moment and tune. And isn’t that more needed now than ever before?
Music just happened naturally for me: an old piano in my bedroom at five years started me off down the path of connecting what I hear in my mind’s ear with what can create with my fingers, and I’ve been relying on that skill ever since.
B&L: What was your introduction to Bluegrass music? How’d it draw you in?
Walsh: David Grisman. He was the intro to the mandolin world for so many of us. I didn’t think I liked bluegrass, but Grisman is the slippery slope: I started with the records from Grisman’s great jazz-string band the David Grisman Quintet, and his loose and charming records with Jerry Garcia, but before you know it you follow the trail to Old and in the Way, and then Doc and Dawg and then twisting on to Bill Monroe and the Stanley’s and all the rest. Not a lot of straight lines in my musical life, but I think straight lines choose to ignore the opportunity to learn as you go. And that doesn’t sound like fun.
B&L: Why mandolin?
Walsh: Doesn’t it just sound so great?!
B&L: How many people have asked you if you’re “that guy” from the Eagles?
Walsh: So, so many. People are funny: they try the same Joe Walsh jokes I’ve heard almost daily for a decade or two now, and they want me to appreciate it as if it never occurred to me. I always appreciate when someone finds a new angle on the joke, though: I met (the Eagles’) Joe and his wife once, and she had a new take on the joke. She said, “it’s nice to meet you, and it’s nice to be married to you!”
B&L: Let’s talk about your latest release, “Borderland.” What were your goals for this thing at the outset? It’s been out for a little bit now… How’s it been received?
Walsh: The records I like the most are ones where the live moment is preserved, and where the conversation and interaction are prioritized. There’s a trend towards making records as impressive as possible, with every moment micro-scrutinized, and the life edited out of it. I don’t like impressive records. I like records that make me feel something, and my favorite ones are the records where you can feel the way the players listen to each other, and the moment they (and we) share is unique.
As to reception, you never really know exactly. Radio folks are playing it all over, and people come up at gigs all over the world to let me know they dig the record. And I’ve come across various folks in Europe and here in the states who’ve learned the songs and tunes and want to play them. That might be the best kind of reception: when a melody you’ve created to lift some stress ends up doing the same for another human you’ve never met.
B&L: How do such things as other musical collaborations and the existence of your old band, Joy Kills Sorrow, inspire or inform the music you’re currently making? What sort of lessons might you have taken from these experiences and applied them to where you’re at today?
Walsh: I’ve been lucky to work with some very inspiring musicians, and still do, and the lessons are always ongoing. I hope to always be learning from the folks I play with. From the Joy Kills Sorrow days I always appreciated Bridget Kearney’s commitment to her own aesthetic. Joy Kills Sorrow was a great example of a string-band that chose to acknowledge the fact that we as modern string musicians have many musical influences, and to create a sound the reflects that. I still believe that’s the right approach: I don’t want to make music that aspires to fit neatly into a descriptive box. I want to make music that is led by musicality.
B&L: What’s the making of a great show? What do you look or hope for as the folks setting foot on that stage?
Walsh: For me the making of a great show is a band’s commitment to allowing themselves to take risks and chase ideas and moments. I’m lucky to play with some great improvisers, and what we look for is to make each moment reflect that circumstances of that day, that room, that crowd.
B&L: You’re a professor at Berklee. No big deal. What’s the importance of educating the next wave of musicians? How does educating fuel your own creative flame?
Walsh: Well, for me the important task in helping to educate the next generation is to empower them with all the musical skills they can muster (playing, composing, arranging), and to help them realize the value of their unique musical personalities. The beautiful thing about music is that it’s entirely doable, even if it takes a long time, and that there’s space for everyone to truly be themselves. Those are important lessons that I try to impart.
B&L: You’re playing the Stone Church on Friday, October 6th with Twisted Pine. What excites you about the show/bill?
Walsh: Twisted Pine! What a great band. I’m excited to reunite with them for this bill. And I love the Stone Church. I opened for Tony Rice there years ago, and have played there numerous times with my old bud Dave Talmage. I love that room.
B&L: What can folks expect when they come out to see you perform?
Walsh: Some exceptionally great fiddle, mandolin, bass and guitar playing, focused around some new songs and tunes built to allow space for improvisation.
B&L: Question number 12. If you could have a dozen of anything, what would that dozen of something be?
Walsh: Ha! Nice pairs of jeans. Wild hacky sacking has lately put a dent in my jeans supplies.
Joe K. Walsh and Twisted Pine will share the stage at the historic Stone Church on Friday, October 6th. Tickets and information can be found here.