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A Dirty Dozen with KEN FRANCIS WENZEL – June 2020

| 23 June 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Arlington, VA-based Americana/roots rock singer-songwriter Ken Francis Wenzel has released a new single, “Healing Heart,” today, his first new music in almost six years. Written in late April and recorded at Sucker Punch Recording Studios in Bethesda, MD, the song is available at all digital outlets today, with a video premiere at Americana Highways on June 26th.” We get Ken to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

Photo Credit: Robert Everton

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

“Healing Heart” is a song about trying to cope with, and live through, these unprecedented times we find ourselves in. The title “Healing Heart” has a double meaning. First, it’s us wanting someone or something to swoop in and cure COVID-19 quickly, and make it all go away. Second, it’s we as a country and society, stepping up and helping others, and acting to get one another through this pandemic.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I started playing saxophone in 5th grade, and never stopped. I was a flighty high school student, and music was the only thing that kept me grounded. I sealed the deal by junior year.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

So, so many. My first concert was Huey Lewis & The News’ Fore! tour, which featured the Tower Of Power horn section. They opened with “Jacob’s Ladder.” Still remember it. I was equally into Duke Ellington, Sonny Rollins, Van Halen, and Metallica in high school. So I guess I had a lot to work through.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Five? That’s not nearly enough. I’ll do ten, but that’s not enough either: Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Branford Marsalis, Michael Brecker, Prince, the Eagles, Wilco, Joni Mitchell, and Rhett Miller.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Prince. Obviously that will never happen, but he was just the best.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I don’t really know how to answer this… Roots rock with a good dash of ’70s Joni Mitchell?

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Who cooks? You mean the spoon? Ha. We do takeout. We’re not doing singalongs before a show – we’re getting ready for the show.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

It’s been long time since I’ve been starstruck. I met Mercer Ellington as a kid – he was so nice, but yeah, he definitely got me. He was living history.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The best part of being a musician, for me, is twofold: playing a  completed new song for the first time, and hearing it out in the world; and then, really, fully connecting with your audience at a live show. That’s the best. If it all went south, I’d like to be a pilot.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I’ve always wanted an interviewer to ask how I integrated saxophone and that musical mentality, with songwriting, singing, and roots rock/alt-country. The answer is, it wasn’t easy. It took a while. I had to effectively start over, and it took a lot of exploration. I learned so much more about myself in that process, and I’m a much more well-rounded musician now. And I get really tired of being asked for “favorites,” or “bests.” There’s so much great music out there.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Not really. Everything happens for a reason. I’ve had my fair share of teachable moments, shall we say, and they’ve been quite valuable in shaping who I am as an artist today.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

This is a great question. It’s hard to pick one. I’ll pick two: Duke Ellington’s historic Live At Newport, which revitalized his career, and etched Paul Gonsalves and “Diminuendo and Crescendo In Blue” into my brain forever. The second would probably be the sessions for Prince’s Purple Rain, or, at least, the live performances on it of “Purple Rain,” “I Would Die 4 U,” and “Baby I’m A Star.” I was a kid when that record and movie came out, and every note of it is etched into my musical DNA. The extended guitar harmonies on “Computer Blue,” and the vocal backups behind Dr. Fink’s organ solo on “Baby I’m A Star,” that are sung like horn section backups behind a soloist in a big band. Not to mention the Linn drum machine programming he came up with, which defined his sound throughout that period of his career. I would have loved to be there for those moments.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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