What did you do for "Off Stockton" that you have never done before?
I actually went into my friend David Houston's studio (Moon Studio, Sacramento) where I recorded it with a complete album finished and usually, I have bits and pieces of mostly finished songs and I just come up with the rest as we record. Initially, I had intended to release a record recorded entirely on my iPhone and iPad but once I went in and talked with David about it, I sort of decided that I should at least spend a little more time on some of the songs and see what I came up with. I'm happy I did because I love how the album came together and how it ended up.
What does the name, "Off Stockton" signify?
Stockton Boulevard is one of Sacramento's main arteries and it is somewhat controversial in that, some of the worst neighborhoods in the city are dissected by Stockton Blvd. It gets a bad rap because there is some prostitution and sketchy drug shit going down on parts of the street but there is also this really great little part of it with cool restaurants, cafes, a theater and 2 of the best punk rock venues in town, Cafe Colonial and the Colony. At the time, I was living just off Stockton and David's studio is just off Stockton and so...off Stockton :)
So many singers from punk bands like yourself, Chuck Ragan, Brian Fallon, Dave Hause, Frank Turner, have all gone and done the singer/songwriter style, leaving the band behind for a more personal sound. Why is this? Is this a trend we will keep seeing?
I have no idea. I started focusing on playing solo and on an acoustic guitar in the late 80's and began touring on my own shortly after that. In Sacramento, I have hosted several singer-songwriter showcases and open mics since 1993 and it helped me refine my songwriting and grow as a solo performer. At first, I was terrified. Just standing up their with my acoustic guitar feeling raw and naked and vulnerable. It took playing tiny
cafe and art gallery gigs to get up the gumption to take it on the road and I just never stopped.
I also never had plans to leave the band behind and I haven't. The other guys in 7Seconds have kids and job commitments and were unable to tour as much as we once did but I was still very much into getting in the van and playing all over so the solo thing enabled me to do that and do it fairly seamlessly.
After doing your thing with 7Seconds so long and releasing solo material, what is it about being a solo artist that you enjoy?
The independence. Not having to worry about other people and problems and attitudes. I also like to be punctual and I like to stop and smell the roses, so to speak, and sometimes with other people, you're limited to things by them. I also love that I can play literally anywhere. Bars, cafes, record stores, people's houses, on the street...I don't anything but me and my guitar. It's great!
Your wife sings and performs with you on "Off Stockton," what is it like working with your other half?
Allyson is amazing and makes me want to sing better because she sings so sweetly. We don't get to tour much together - not yet anyway - but we do play together often and it's always my favorite thing to do. She loves and gets my songs and her sense of harmony perfectly complements them.
The album is very lush and is more than just a folk record, was that your intention making it?
Like I said, I first thought it was a great idea to release a record I recorded on my phone...hahaha! But honestly, I just wanted to make something that people would immediately identify as folk music. I've shied away from that because I'm a punk rock kid at heart and for some reason, folk music is equated with hippies and Joan Baez - which, to be honest, does not bother me one single bit - but I listen to a lot of Woody Guthrie and Dave Von Ronk and the Carter Family and Townes Van Zandt and Phil Ochs and I just tried to make a stripped-down record with heart and soul. I wasn't concerned about punk rockers not liking it. I've been doing this long enough to know that most punk rockers out there don't like my solo stuff. So be it.
It has been nine years since the last 7Seconds record, will the band ever record again?
We will, indeed. We just spent the last couple of months recording a record in Southern California with Steve Kravac who produced and engineered our Good To Go album from 1999. We recorded 14 brand new songs and we have a new album coming out on Rise Records in late May. It's called Leave A Light On and personally, I think it's the best thing we've ever done. Does that sound arrogant? Hahaha.
Craig Finn of The Hold Steady once proclaimed in his band's song, "Stay Positive," that "It was the early 7Seconds that taught us some of life's most valuable lessons." Knowing that is directed at you, how do you respond to that?
It's very sweet. I've never met Craig or the band but we were honored by the mention. As a 'high five' back to the Hold Steady, I slyly name-checked them in one of my songs on my last solo record, Don't Let Me Lose Ya. See if anyone can figure out where it is.
Growing up in Reno, it had a tremendous impact on your music, all of these years later, does your hometown still influence you?
It probably would more if I still lived there. The other guys in the band still do. I moved back to Sacramento in 1988 so I'm only up there to play, practice with the band and see my Mom and family who still live there. Without a doubt though, Reno shaped 7Seconds as a band. In all likelihood, without Reno there would have been no 7Seconds. We're still a Reno band.
You have traveled so much of the world, where is your favorite place to play a show and why?
It still changes. Over the years it has been Trenton, New Jersey, L.A., Reno, Berlin, Sacramento, Austin, New York City, London, Boston. Lately, I'd have to say anywhere in Italy and Spain.
At 53, you are still hitting the road and looking like a non-stop train going at full speed. How long do you think you will keep going?
This last tour almost killed me. It's the first non-7Seconds tour where I actually felt like I had been taken out and brutally beaten for about 2 and a half straight weeks. I'm pretty sure it was because I traveled completely alone so I was doing all the long drives, through Arizona and New Mexico and Texas, by myself and getting shitty sleep, eating crappy food and playing every night. If I continue onward, I'm going to need to find someone to help me drive and maintain my sanity :)
From playing in bands to your solo work, what is your fondest memory as a musician?
Seeing so many beautiful places for the first time. From pulling up to play our first Sunday afternoon matinee show at CBGBs to traveling around on the bullet train to get from gig to gig in Japan. There are so many lovely memories, I'd feel weird about trying to nail down just one for you.