Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Standing “O” Artist Kevin Dooley while he was at SWRFA in Austin, Texas. We discussed his recent release “Treehouse”, his songwriting evolution, and the creative process. Read below for an excerpt of our conversation and listen to the full interview here. You can also listen to Kevin’s full Treehouse CD—along with two other CDs on his Standing “O” page here.
Kevin: I’m down in the hot and humid Austin, Texas at SWRFA conference, the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance conference. Getting to hang out in the room here for a little bit right now but having a great time in Austin.
Katie: Your new CD is “Treehouse”, right? Let’s talk a little bit about that.
Kevin: The title “Treehouse” is what my friend’s call the place that I live in Longmont, Colorado. It’s an old farmhouse and I have the upstairs and it’s kind of funky and character-filled place and it feels a little bit like a treehouse. This one, I’ve done and produced some in-studio stuff that was my 9th CD, but this one we recorded pretty much in the living room and a couple tunes in the kitchen. It has just a really comfortable, nice feel and some great musical friends including the Subdudes, Alex Johnstone from the Rapid Grass Band, and Eric Drobny playing bass and harmonies, he’s played with me for a long time. So it’s a real nice comfortable recording and great sound. James Tuttle from eTown and Airshow did the mixing and mastering for it. I’ve been really actually very pleased. Just been out for a month, but I’ve been getting really great radio play and I just got word this morning that the box of CDs have landed over in Scotland, which I’ll be heading over there again (I did a tour over there a couple years ago) but working with Rob Ellen and the Medicine Show and booking some stuff in Ireland, Scotland, and the Netherlands. So it’s fun that music can take you all those kind of places. This one’s all ten original tunes. The last one I did, “Moonlight Highway”, which did really well for me, which was a little more produced and had great players like Gurf Morlix and Casey Driessen playing on it. It’s a little more mixture of other people’s tunes that I keep on my set list and original tunes, but the new “Treehouse” project is all nice personal tunes for me and to get it out the way I did, I’m just really pleased and excited to be working with you guys at the Standing “O” Project and helping you get it out and get more people to hear it. So it feels great to be part of the community that you guys are building there, so I’m appreciative of that.
Katie: Talk to us a little bit about your songwriting process. When you sit down to write, do you sit down at the same time every day or is it just kind of when inspiration strikes? How does that come about for you?
Kevin: It’s a little bit of a combination. It’s certainly a process, but I do an everyday thing. I noticed on your website that you have Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way and that’s something I actually taught at a couple song schools and, in my early days, it was like everybody I talked to has sort of had that book in the background. Especially for me, finding original voice, and being kind of creative, but half of the time feeling a little like a monkey with a lightning rod racing around trying to catch that little moment. What was so wonderful about that for me was the whole Morning Pages was doing the thing and having the time. The morning is the time that I usually write, the time that’s available to me. So I do make myself do that every day. It’s a muscle or something that you need to exercise and word using and wordsmithing and that kind of stuff is always good and then after a while you go back and steal from yourself rather than stealing from other people. That feels a little more comfortable or something. There are occasions, and now that I’ve done it longer, songs starting to come out a little more in whole cloth, sort of as one piece. I said earlier I was a drummer so, really, the time I learned guitar I was borrowing my sister’s guitar in high school and just locking myself in the room because I didn’t want anybody to know the first time I played that I wasn’t as amazing as the other people I saw playing, so I basically taught myself guitar and so I have my own style and feel with it that’s morphed over time but it’s distinctive but in some ways it’s a little longer road to finding things. There is a point to actually being taught and learn that I understand. So I think as that has come along my songwriting has come to the point where, by exercising it every day, sometimes there are some songs that just plunk and not take that much time to do. It’s always a spot that singer-songwriters, or at least I do, want to find myself in between being thoughtful but I’m also, since I play a wide variety of things, and play a lot, I also have to be versatile and remember the entertainment aspect of what’s going on at the same time. So I try to tailor a live show that sort of has some peaks and valleys and different kind of things in there.