Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chicago musician Kory Quinn bringing honest songwriting to scene


Americana artist Kory Quinn continues to receive critical acclaim for his fresh, honest approach to songwriting.

Quinn, who is calling Chicago home these days, will perform Feb. 8 at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., Chicago, as part of the Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Fest,

The Lawrence Peters Outfit is also on the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are available at

The show will also be a part of the vinyl release party for Quinn's latest album, "At the End of the Bar." I had the chance to talk to Quinn about the upcoming show.

Q - Great talking to you. Of course, you will be playing at The Hideout next month as part of the vinyl release party for your latest album, "At the End of the Bar." Do you think your music is well suited for vinyl? Why do you think vinyl has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years?

Thanks. I’m truly excited about this show. Finally after years of talking about it and trying to make it happen, Lawrence Peters and I will share a stage!

I’ve been a big fan of his since I supplanted myself in The Hideout scene a handful of years back. On to your questions…my brand of Americana was conceived in the crevices of ol` dusty saloons and then born into this world on vinyl. 

It only felt proper to convey these songs through this medium. Of course not everyone has a record player so you have to plan for that contingency in the contemporary market with CDs and download codes, etc. 

If I had my way, I’d release this record only on vinyl but I’d be shooting myself in the foot in the long term. In that way, though, the whole industry has seen a shift to niche marketing and vinyl is a symbol of that. 

I saw somewhere, in "Tape Op" magazine I believe, that vinyl sales grew by, like, 33 percent in the last year. Although it has its work cut out for it in terms of the grand scheme of things, it’s been one of the few mediums where true growth has been recently seen in the industry and will continue as such. 

We are in the midst of a new American renaissance in terms of our culture as a whole and what's more American than vinyl?

Q - In sitting down to record the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

First and foremost, it’s all about accurately capturing where you’re at in your life. Then you balance your efforts in making the best possible recording you have ever made with the resources available to you at the time.

All my favorite records were recorded in a few days with little to no overdubbing and very limited production. I wanted that and I think we achieved that. Although if I was to do it again, I’d approach it much differently in terms of pre-production and production schedule.

Q - I understand you are dividing your time between Chicago and Portland these days. What made you want to do that? How do you think the music scenes in the two cities differ?

At the moment I’m a victim of circumstance. My good friend, Ryan Sweeney (the booker at Uncommon Ground), likes to mention how I left Chicago five years ago for a tour and never came back. 

I come home only for the winter holidays but this time I didn’t get a return ticket. I'm in Chicago for an undetermined amount of time right now, so the tour continues. 

Both cities are world class in terms of culture and civic mindedness. Of course there are things to nitpick about both "scenes," but I like to focus on positives. 

Portland has just started to develop its street cred; it’s got some work to do but the seeds have been sown. Its definitely here to stay. 

It’s the New-America out there. On the other hand, Chicago feels like it’s at a point where it needs to reassert its authority as a musical hub. 

It seems to have lost some of its mystique. I have been to a dozen shows in a dozen venues since I’ve been back and only a few of those to me stand out as worthy of support: David Grisman’s Folk Trio at City Winery, Robbie Fulks at The Hideout and Henhouse Prowlers at Martyrs'. 

I understand that that’s my brand of music and it isn’t for everybody, but deep down I feel I'm being called back like the Prodigal Song to lend a hand in reestablishing this. At the end of the day, though, this is just one man’s opinion.

Q - Some people might describe your music as Americana music. How would you describe your music and who are your biggest influences?

I'd label it "sincere." At this point, you can’t get away from genre. 

It's good as a placeholder during conversations. Shortly thereafter, though, I find myself, when trying to describe someone’s music, comparing him or her to other bands, not genres. 

It’s another shift we're in. It feels like we are striving towards singularity and away from blanket ideas/statements. I read an article the other day about my favorite Portland band, The Blue Cranes, and how in [the writer’s] opinion (and mine) that they are one of a very few bands that have completely done away with genre and just are "The Blue Cranes." 

They are wholly and completely themselves. There is no genre other than "The Blue Cranes" that could encapsulate what they do. I strive for that but also I don’t work within their box. 

Therefore it’s hard to achieve that within the well-worn tradition of 1-4-5.

As an artist/songwriter, you have to constantly evolve the idea of “song.” As in “every song!" 

The Blue Cranes do that. I guess my evolution is attempting to twist and tangle “twang.” My biggest influences are the people I surround myself with, especially my family. 

They are my support, my lifeline, and my blood. They introduce me to everything I have and will ever know. 

My stories and these characters are what I choose to write my songs about. In terms of my musical life, I listen to everything under the sun but at the present moment I’m into Aloe Blacc, Topher Jones and The "Inside Llewyn Davis" soundtrack.

Q - Why do you think there has been renewed interest in Americana music the past few years?

Once again, we have been lost in complacency in the last 10-15 years and we need to find what it means to be an American again. This renewed interest is part of the journey. 

Therefore, what’s our new crusade? The occupy movement was an outburst of that. 

I think there’s more of that to come, in many differing ways, and it’s scary to think about but somewhat necessary. The roots of selfishness and corruption run deep throughout our institutions. 

We certainly aren’t out of the woods just yet, but there is a new horizon on the rise. In that same way, our culture as a whole has deviated so much from what is important in life. 

Therefore, to me, Americana is my generation's version of the youth and rebellion that occurs in every musical revolution. I mean, if you don’t know the words to “Wagon Wheel,” you’re either too old or too young. 

It’s the sound of our generation. We need to own these colors and carry that flag.

Q - Of course, next month's show is part of the Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Fest. Have you been able to catch any other acts that have played as part of the fest? What do you like being part of a festival like this?

Yeah. I’ve been to a handful of the shows and plan on going to a bunch more. Most of them lack any semblance of either genre but like I mentioned just above, what’s in a genre anyway. 

Personally, I think it should be called the “Chicago Americana Festival.” In that same vein I like the diversity that the festival has provided. It’s been a great learning experience watching all these successful and accomplished musicians/songwriters perform. 

I’ve been able to take away a lot of lesson and stories. 

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

Yes, There are two [dream projects] in particular. There's a bunch of great songwriters out there and I'd like to co-write then record a different tune with them all. 

It's a long term project that essentially would have no end, just volumes, and [we would] release them as we go. There's also this little project/event that's more short-term that I've wanted to do for a while and that's a "Sock Hop for Homelessness" and hopefully I’ll get to do it this year. 

The night would be a set of doo-wop street corner singers and two sets of early rock and roll classics. All the proceeds will go to a program that provides shelter and awareness for the needy. Give Us Your Poor,, is a great one. 

Not sure how either would play out at this moment; still in the infancy [stages].