MUSIC AS MEDICINE: Q&A with singer, songwriter Craig Honeycutt
In catching up with Craig Honeycutt, the former lead singer for the band Everything, he talked about his years in Hollywood, a painful back injury, Obama, Community Service and how all things came full circle, making life more productive and Tranquillo! See what new projects he's working on and what else he had to say...
Q: Last April you completed a year long project on YouTube called COMMUNITY SERVICE. That project began in LA & ended right here in DC with a great show at BloomBars. Please tell us what it was, how it came about & what you learned on the road.
A: Yes, and what a journey! It is so difficult to talk about the beginning and the end, because it's all a continuation really. I had been in LA for 5 years creating music for various projects. An amazing experience, because of the level of production and process is awesome. But I was far away from the songwriting that I had started as a kid and what has always been my go to place creatively. I was sitting on about 4 years or demos that I wasn't really finishing; just experimenting with. Using my creative mind, full time in Hollywood really bunt me out in terms of adding more time in the process to further the songs. Luckily, in November 2008, my back went out to the tune of 11 MM's of disc sticking into my siatic nerve. Which is crazy really. I literally could barely get out of bed everyday. Somehow I managed to get it together to come back home for Obama's Inauguration in 2009. IT WAS SO INSPIRING! I spent a week at all the events and hobbled down town to the mall for the big event. I was so moved that 2 million people could make an event like that happen; and that law enforcement was there to make it smoother. Everyone worked in concert together. I realized it wasn't about a president, but a mass of people; a creative group think/group action to make that day come to pass. The day happened peacefully, and I thought to myself that I had a responsibility to use my talents to their fullest. Songs have always been my home. So I went to the studio at Monkeyclaus in VA and started work on an EP. It was then that I headed back to LA to try to figure out the path ahead, whilst trying to deal with a hugely injured back. My friend Larry Weintraub, who I knew from the record business saw a YouTube video I'd sent him, and threw out a challenge. He challenged me to start a channel on YouTube and do one song per day for a year. I thought it was suicide! After much thought, I decided to put my self on notice and do it. Change my life through music. One thing I have noticed is that playing music is a very healing endeavour. So I decided to use this project to play myself back to health. So on April 8, 2009, I started the COMMUNITY SERVICE CHANNEL on YouTube. Community Service itself as a name is actually a bit of a joke; because it refers to what happens when you get in trouble in your hometown as a kid. I was really interested in learning lots of covers, because its a great way to learn how great songs are written and it gives you lots of songs to play in various situations as icebreakers. If you play a song people love, then you become friends. Unless of course you butcher it! The journey started in LA, and I decided that I would leave Los Angeles, travel across the U.S. and see where I ended up. The trip spanned from LA to Hawaii, New Orleans, NYC, cross country and places in between. On APRIL 8, 2010, I did a free show at BLOOMBARS in DC, it was a lot of fun. It was my first full show in about 5 years. My back is strong now, no surgery necessary. MUSIC AS MEDICINE!
Q: Left coast vs. Best coast.... Now that you've lived & worked in music on both coasts, what stands out to you as the quintessential best both have to offer.
A: Hmmmm, that is a difficult one. Both have good things. One thing about the West Coast is space. There is a lot of space throw really amazing events. Burning Man, Lightning in a Bottle, Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival.....I also think there is a little more openness in terms of laws that allow for a little more......well........something. The proximity to silicon valley and all of the new thought and technology is also amazing out there. Hollywood is great for process and production value. The east coast for me is home. I love the roots of it. The seasons and the traditions, and the old world touch on music. So much soul and real, deep groove comes from here. DC is such a great hub for so much of the roots of american modern music. And, you have NYC, which of course, is NYC. No need to go into that one! It stands on its own... Sometimes I felt very far away from the stuff happening in europe in LA.
Q: Can you describe your writing process?
A: It's constantly evolving really. I get lots of little threads in my mind and try to put them down. You can build a whole symphony off some of the little threads running around up there. Sometimes it's just on guitar. I also right a lot of music electronically. The computer is a great tool to think like a proper composer with various elements at your finger tips. Then basically, i just start freaking out on stuff until it sounds the way it should. It either happens super fast, or it takes years. Who knows really!
Q: We understand that you recently reunited with Jim Ebert, a local DC producer who worked with you (on your hit, HOOCH in the late 90's with your former band, Everything) to produce a tune called TRANQUILLO. How was it working together again?
A: I had started writing the tune in 2008 while I was living in LA. I was really wanting to write a simple tune about living in Southern California. The sun, the beach, the traffic, the glamour, the hardship, etc... I finally finished the song in April, and wanted to start recording and releasing songs again. Jim Ebert, who has been living in DC, produced "Hooch". One of my goals in all of this was to bring things full circle and work with people I know and love again. Sort of a new start, a new chapter; shaking hands with the previous chapter and seeing where it lead. The other reason is that I think Jim Ebert is one of the best Producers for recording Pop Vocals in the music industry. So, I wanted to really get back in the studio and start digging in, and make a simple pop tune with some honesty and soul. Jim is great in the studio, and has a great process. I am going to give it away to people and just see where the song goes.
Q: In addition to all the song writing you've been doing, you've also taken on an amazing project involving the Shenandoah Music Trail! The SMT is a non-profit organization that is "dedicated to preserving, promoting and maintaining the integrity and roots of the Shenandoah Valley's Mountain Music Making traditions and its various configurations." Please tell us about your role in the project, and the big festival happening next 4th of July!
A: Thank you for bringing this up! I went to school at JMU and have been lucky to have Dr. Ronald Carrier as a mentor for many years. Dr. Carrier was President of JMU from 1970 to 1998 and is still very active at the school. He brought me in to this process. The Shenandoah Music Trail is a cultural corridor stretching from Winchester, VA to Roanake, VA celebrating all of the traditional music of the Shenandoah Valley. It is a big project, and one that I am excited about, because I am learning a whole new musical language. Our big launch is next July 2, 3 and 4th in Luray, VA at the Ground of Luray Caverns. We are throwing the 50th Anniversary of the World's First Bluegrass Festival which was held there in 1961. It is going to be a historic event for sure. Bluegrass and Mountain Music is an amazing form, and is really something to experience live.
Q: Congratulations on your new release SUN WU KONG! Describe this funky & adventurous, studio project that you worked on at MonkeyClaus, a studio in southern VA.
A: Yes, yes, yes......I love and make a lot of music of different types. Sun Wukong is a project out of MONKEYCLAUS STUDIOS in Nelson, VA. It is a duo with my friend Abel Okugawa. We really just wanted to make some "Life Sountrack" Music. Moody, worldy music that has no real lyrics. Just grooves and sounds. The first EP has turn out pretty cool I have to say. We already working on our second EP. You should give folks a link to the site. We are letting people download it. Will also be available on iTunes as well very soon.
Q: What are the 5 songs (& artists) looping on your iPod this week?
A: Great question.
#1 I have been listening to JAMES ZABIELA's new mix for MixMag. James is an amazing DJ and Producer from the UK who is managed by my friend and former "Everything" manager, Randy Reed. I love dance music, and James is super talented.
#2 I have also been recently turned on to Sleigh Bells. Super dirty!
#3 Ali Farke Toure is always in my playlist.
#4 DJ Luciano "Tribute to the Sun" is one that has been getting steady play as well.
#5 K'Naan is a good one right now as well.
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