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A Dirty Dozen with KEN WILBER – May 2021

 

According to a recent press release: “Ken Wilber was born in Oneonta, NY on October 29th, 1980. His earliest musical influences were Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, George Jones and Johnny Cash. His family remembers him at a young age staring at the records as they played, trying to understand the music he heard. Ken learned to sing by trying to emulate the people he heard on the recordings and would keep at it, until he could copy every little inflection of the vocal performance. In high school Ken discovered his second love, theater. He made his theatrical debut at the age of 14 in a high school production of “Fame.”  The band Fly By Nite was formed with Ken as lead singer where they played locally every weekend at a local watering hole called “Babcocks.”  Fly by Nite played together for a little over ten years, before dissolving in 2012. Ken Also sang with the southern rock Group J.D. Mistress.  Ken was brought in by guitar player Rich Rogers.  He played with them for about six months, where they played several dates locally and had the opportunity to open for Molly Hatchet and Blackfoot in Albany, NY. After Fly By Nite dissolved, Ken and Kerry Fallot set out to begin writing and arranging music for Ken’s first album “Rollin’ My Own,” and the album was completed in 2017.Ken had the opportunity to play country music Legend Hank Williams in a local theatrical production of “Hank Williams: Lost Highway.”  Tony Cottrill mastered the first project and shortly after the mastering was completed, Tony contacted Ken to come to Nashville to record a demo session for Sonny LeMaire of Exile fame. As a result of the demo sessions, Ken decided to record his second album in Nashville in October of 2018. New Album projected release 1st Qtr 2019 produced by Tony Cottrill and Sonny LeMaire.” We get Ken to discuss new music, influences, and more…

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?

My latest release Ran Out of Sky will be out this July.  I think one of the things that will grab people about this record, is that it represents several different styles of southern music.  There are some traditional country numbers, some songs that fall more into the southern rock vein, some roadhouse stuff, some gospel flavored material and even a number that has a jazzier flare to it.  We really didn’t put much on this record in the line of hidden nuggets, but I would suggest listening to it at least once on a good set of headphones.  The mixing engineer, Tony Cottrill, added some really nice effects to the record that really stand out when listening on headphones.

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

I pretty much knew from the time I was old enough to contemplate such things that I wanted to be a performer.  I would stand in front of my grandmother’s turntable and “absorb” the sound.  I spent many hours trying to sound just like the singers I listened to.

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

I was heavily influenced by so many people.  Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty and George Jones really stand out.  I spent so much time listening to Conway Twitty and Merle Haggard LPS and trying to sound just like them.  I think, in the end, that Merle Haggard influenced my songwriting, with his simple lyrics and complex themes.  Conway was an amazing vocalist and he put so much heart and soul into every note he sang.  I think learning how to wrench all of the emotion out of a song is something that I absorbed from Conway Twitty.

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

I would love to do a duet with Patty Loveless.  I just love her voice, it’s so raw and so country.  I’ve always loved the harmonies that she did for other performers as well.  I would also kill to get to sing “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” with Loretta Lynn.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

I’m a huge vinyl collector.  I spend a lot of time cleaning records and organizing them.  It’s mindless work, but it puts me in a happy place.

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 would describe my music as a melting pot of classic country, southern rock, blues and jazz, with a hint of modern country.  I’ve always felt that artists should be free to make the kind of music that they want to make, but for me I want people to instantly recognize that they’re listening to a country record when they hear one of my songs.  I think the craziest thing anyone ever said about me in a review was that I was too country.  I honestly don’t even know what the hell that means.  That’s like saying “Bartender, my whiskey tastes too much like whiskey, take it back and give me a beer.”

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?

I’ve always loved cooking, so I’m usually the one who fires up the grill or decides to make a big sit-down dinner.  I’m also probably the first one to get the drinks out.  I’m a big bourbon guy and am always looking for a good excuse to have a nip or two.  I’ve always loved sitting around a campfire with a group of people who play guitar, just kind of trading songs back and forth.

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

I think the last time I was truly starstruck was when I met Merle Haggard.  I was much younger and I got him to sign one of my CDS after a show, I could barely get the words out to ask him.

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 is making people feel happy.  Music can do so much to help people get through the troubles in their lives, or just to set the tone for a good party night.  It’s nice to be able to help people forget about the daily grind for a little while and just have fun.  If I wasn’t able to play music anymore, I would probably focus on acting.  I’ve been involved with theater in some form since I was a kid and have always loved it.

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’m pretty much open to whatever people want to ask me.  I’m always thrilled that folks are interested in what I have to say.  I will confess that I am a little tired of the “what record would you bring with you to a desert island” question.  The answer of course would be, all of them.

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?

I don’t think that I can recall any single major misstep, but I would like to tell the younger me to be more confident in my abilities and to not let other people control what I was doing with my music.  I would have probably spent less time worrying about hurting people’s feelings and more time focusing on what was best to move my career forward.

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?

Wow!  Honestly, I think I’d like to have been in the studio with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band when the cut the Will the Circle Be Unbroken record.  So many legends in the room at one time for that show, so much knowledge of the music business and of life itself.  One of my favorite things about meeting heritage acts, is listening to their road stories and the stories they tell about their lives.  There’s gold in that, so much for up and coming musicians to learn.  I can’t get enough of that.

KEN WILBER LINKS:

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

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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