Thursday, June 16, 2011

Local musician Greg Boerner coming to Blues on the Fox festival with new album in tow


For those Greg Boerner fans who had been wondering when the Naperville musician would release a new album, they have his wife Rebecca to thank now that his fourth CD "Prophetstown" has become a reality.

Rebecca gently asked her husband when he was going to book some studio time, and even gave him some "Cow Bucks" for Apocalypse Cow Studios in Montgomery to help him along in the process.

He is one of several local musicians that will perform at the Blues on the Fox festival Friday and Saturday at the North River Street Park on the banks of the Fox River in downtown Aurora.

Boerner will perform with another local musician, Noah Gabriel, for a 15 minute set before harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite hits the stage Saturday night.

Boerner and Gabriel also recently appeared on the "Made in Aurora" album and CD benefitting the Paul Ruby Foundation, a charity focused on Parkinson’s research. The album was released this past April on Record Store Day.

Fifty veteran local singer/songwriters, bands and band members contributed to the 16-song project, which was recorded over a three-day period at Backthird Audio in Aurora.

Other artists on the album that will appear at Blues on the Fox include Dave Ramont, Dave Nelson, the band Hoss, Jeremy Keen and Kevin Trudo, with a cameo by Rich Van Ham and Dave Glynn of the Empty Can Band.

An entry fee of $5 per day will cover the cost of admission to the festival and a wristband for the consumption of alcohol at the festival. People are welcome to bring lawn chairs to sit in.

The festival will kick off with festival favorite Eric Lindell taking the stage at 6:30 p.m. Friday followed by Robert Cray at 8:30 p.m.

The lineup on Saturday includes The Hix Brothers Junior All-Stars, featuring local students of the blues, taking the stage at 2 p.m., followed by Chicago-based Billy Branch and the Sons Of Blues at 3 p.m.

Louisiana native Kenny Neal will take the stage at 4:45 p.m. and Charlie Musselwhite will perform at 6:30 p.m. Buddy Guy will close the day when he plays from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m

For more information about the festival, visit For more information about Made in Aurora, visit

I had the chance to talk to Boerner, an Augusta, Georgia transplant, about the new album.

Q - This is your first CD in more than five years. Are you just pacing yourself?

I wish it were that simple. It's a couple of things. It's money. It takes money to do a CD, even if you do it kind of sparsely and in kind of a bare bones version. It's still quite expensive. Studio time adds up.

You can spend a couple of hours just trying to get the right guitar sound or vocals, not even the performance, just the sound.

And also, I've never been as prolific as I've wanted to be. The songs that I have on the CD are the batch that I have written over that amount of time.

It's ridiculous to have only written, if you want to think about it, 12 new songs since 2006, but I think I am particular. I really like them, and I think they hold up.

Q - But you're in good company. Peter Gabriel doesn't put out a new album every year.

Some people just seem to churn them out. I think I am still trying to find my way with my writing. And it takes discipline. You have to sit down and do it. I can't say that I always do that, sit down and try to write something. Usually I only sit down to write something if something has come into my head.

Q - "Prophetstown" was recorded locally, at Apocalypse Cow Studios in Montgomery. What do you like about the studio?

I've done my last three CDs there. I like the sounds that we get, which is certainly the number one thing.

I trust them there. They know me. They know what I am trying to do, so they don't try to influence me in a direction that I'm not interested in.

They get me, so that eliminates a lot of discussion about things we don't need to discuss. They understand what I'm trying to do.

I just know them. I feel comfortable there. And I think for most of us, being comfortable in the studio is 99 percent of it. If you are comfortable, you can perform, and get your best effort. If you are uncomfortable, it's going to show.

Q - The CD is dedicated to your wife, Rebecca. I understand she prodded you a little to get the CD done.

I think so. She asked me an innocent question, "So, are you going to book some studio time?" She was interested in me getting in there and recording.

For my birthday and for Christmas, she gave me "Cow Bucks," which are Apocalypse Cow gift certificates.

I think I needed that prodding. The studio scares me. For me, you are naked in there. Every time I go into the studio, I test myself, to see if I've got the chops, to see if I've got the songs, to see if I've got the performance in me.

I'm really my worst critic. To set myself up for that, I almost have to be pushed into it. For me, there is a lot of pressure. You want to do it right. You want to hand somebody a CD you don't want to make any apologies for.

This is my fourth one, so  people are obviously going to compare it to the others. I didn't want anybody to get this one and say, naw, not as good as your others. And that's always the fear.

Q - The title of the CD is "Prophetstown." Have you been to Prophetstown? How were you inspired to write that song?

I was on my way to Iowa, and I saw a sign that said Prophetstown, and I thought, "Man, what a great name." I thought, what could I do with that?

I did a very similar thing for the third CD. I saw a sign for Marywood, and just all of a sudden had this little melody in my head.

Neither one of them are really about the town at all. It's just something that gets you going.

As a writer, I look for anything. A sign, a menu, something somebody says. I will take the creative influence from any where I can grab it.

Q - It seems like musicians are inspired by anything, just from living.

But I think you have to be open to that. Earlier in my writing, I probably wasn't as open to that. I was looking for very specific things to write about.

Now, I like the idea that I can see something, hear something, and have one word, Prophetstown, be able to take off on that.

Q - Have you tried contacting the town leaders? Maybe they would want to adopt it as their town song.

No, but I had a lady from Prophetstown become my friend on Facebook. She would at least like to have the CD in their town hall or museum, or whatever they have.

As it turns out, her son had been coming to see me perform at the Potbelly in Warrenville for probably a year. One day, I asked him where he was from, and he said, Prophetstown. And I got this shocked look in my face.

The CD was getting ready to come out. So he told his mom, and she is trying to brag me up out there.

Q - Wow, it is a small world. The stars must be aligned right or something.

I just couldn't believe it. I think it would be fun to go and do a show there.

Q - What does the Potbelly restaurant think about the song "Potbelly Blues" off the album?

I gave one of the CDs to one of the managers, and he said, "Oh, what's this 'Potbelly Blues?' '' You never know, if someone ended up liking it, it could end up being a little theme song.

Q - And it could be played while people are eating their sandwiches.

Or something, yeah. I wrote that while playing at Potbelly. I just had this opening number that I kept doing, and it grew and grew.

On my first CD, I had a song called "Seven Gables Stomp." There was a place I used to play called the Seven Gables restaurant in South Carolina.

Q - Your music can't be pigeonholed into a particular genre. How would you describe your music?

I say that it's blues, folk, roots rock 'n' roll, and everything that comes in between. But I always say southern style. I have a southern take on things.

It's just from my upbringing. I think I look at things, and write and sing and say things differently from somebody up this way. I'm different from a Minnesota songwriter, or a Wisconsin songwriter, or a Illinois songwriter.

Boerner will perform at a CD release party for "Prophetstown" from 3 to 5 p.m. June 26 at Kiss The Sky, 301 W. State St., Geneva.

For a full schedule of his upcoming shows, go to

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