A SPECIAL BLACKWING SESSIONS INVITATION FROM TED RUSSELL KAMP
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WHAT: A live-streamed concert and CD Release after-party.
WHO: Acclaimed singer/songwriter Ted Russell Kamp, his band, and other special guests.
WHEN: Thursday, November 29th. Streaming starts at 6:00 PM PST.
WHERE: Right here at Studio 602.
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Ted Russell Kamp is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer living in Los Angeles, California. His albums have seen widespread success in the United States and Europe, with his last album Get Back to the Land debuting at #1 on the Euroamericana chart. With some help from a Kickstarter campaign, he recently completed his most recent album Night Owl, which will be released on November 13th.
Ted is a Blackwing Featured Musician who will be performing at a special Blackwing Sessions event in November. Stay tuned for songwriting lessons and tips from Ted, as well as a Blackwing Sessions video from the event.
Where did you grow up and what schools did you attend? Was there a music program in place at your school?
I grew up in Hartsdale and Chappaqua, New York in the suburbs of New York City and then went to college at State University of N.Y. at Binghamton. There was a very good music program at my college but it was more geared toward music education so it did not appeal to me much. I double majored in English and Philosophy but I made more music in those 4 years than a vast majority of the music majors. I was in the school big band and orchestra, countless pit orchestras and put myself through school by playing in my rock and jazz bands on the weekends.
How did you get into music?
It was mandatory to start playing an instrument in the 4th grade at my elementary school so I played the trumpet. I really took to it right away. Then in the 9th grade I got a bass guitar and joined a friend’s rock band. When I finally made the connection that I could be creative making music that felt like my own I was hooked.
Did you always know that you wanted to be a professional musician? When/how did you make this discovery?
No. I was convinced that it was impossible or simply ridiculous to try to be a professional musician. My Dad used to say I would be broke and lonely and sleeping on my parents couch if I tried it. On a deep level, I was really convinced music was meant to be an extra-carricular. Then about a month or two before I graduated from college I knew I had to give it a try and that if I didn’t it was only due to fear. I moved to Seattle with my girlfriend and dove right in. I have been playing music for a living for almost 20 years and have not had any other job since the day I finished college.
Who are some of your favorite musicians?
Bob Dylan. Leon Russell. Delbert McClinton. The Beatles. Gerry Mulligan. Antonio Carlos Jobim. Paul Desmond. Bonnie Raitt. Ray Charles.
Your style of music seems to bridge the gaps between a variety of genres. How would you describe it to a new listener or someone who is not yet familiar with what you’re doing?
I usually say my music is a blend of classic singer/songwriter music mixed with the roots of rock and roll. It is basically rock for adults with a strong dose of classic country and soul.
Can you describe the journey/story of the new album? What do you think makes this an album, rather than just a collection of songs?
This new record has been in the works for a few years now. I wanted to make a record that was mellower than my last few records which were very eclectic and more honest and singer/songwriter-y at heart. I have always loved late night ‘vibe’ albums and it felt right that this is the time to do it.
Where was/is your favorite place to write while writing this album?
Either driving in my car or co-writing in Nashville. I have had a publishing deal in Nashville for the last 5 years or so and I really enjoy writing with some of my great friends there. We are professional songwriters so, of course, we write with mainstream radio in mind, but because I make my own records, it is nice to know that if a song gets a little too poetic or has a deeper resonance with me, it could see the light of day on one of my records. I think that is a liberating feeling for my co-writers too who focus so much of their writing on the next song for Kenny Chesney or Toby Keith. If we start getting inspired we don’t have to reign it in. We can just let the song be what it wants to become.
What is the pencil’s (or any analog tool’s) role in the songwriting process? Do you find that you can create just as easily with a computer and word processor as you can with a pencil and a notebook?
I write on my computer often because word processing programs are great for cutting, pasting and moving lines and ideas around easily. But there is no replacement for pencil and paper. That is how I have been writing since I started writing in high school. The act of erasing and replacing words or even re-writing the whole page helps me really clear the palette and start over mentally. The act of writing things out also gives me another chance to re-experience the lyrics and music. I often edit as I literally re-write and I feel this really makes the art better. I am also a pretty sentimental and old school guy, so knowing I am using instruments and tools that are older than me and that some of my idols have used is deeply inspiring to me: Blackwing pencils included!
What instruments do you play? Which is your favorite?
My main instrument is the bass, either acoustic or electric bass, so my real focus is on the the singing and storytelling and the underpinning that is the bass. The rest of the musical story gets filled in around that. I also play guitars and piano … and like I said, trumpet was my first instrument. On my records I usually cut the basic tracks of the songs with a 3 or 4 piece band so we can get a solid performance with an organic feel. Then I do most of the overdubs myself. I have played accordion, baritone guitar, hammond organ, lap steel, trumpet, trombone and mandolin on my records too. I love the arranging process – choosing what instruments to use and how much or how little they should play. They really encourage a mood and support the story telling inherent in the song itself. But in terms of my favorite instrument – I would have to cheat and say both singing and bass. If the 10,000 hour rule applies to me, it applies to my singing and bass playing.
Do you use any other creative outlets? Drawing, writing, etc.?
I write short stories from time to time. It’s nice to get away from songs and rhyming. But most of my short stories have a really good voice and mood but don’t go anywhere narratively so they end up being more exercises in developing an interesting narrator. I have written a few article about music for various music magazines too: not on a professional level but more to go along with a review of my record or some other type of feature. And for a few years I got heavily into designing and making stained glass.
Who are some of your favorite authors, artists and creatives outside of the realm of music?
Staying inspired is a key to staying happy so I try to read a lot and appreciate other art forms. Great art gets at what it is to be human so I can find joy and inspiration in almost any art. John Steinbeck. Carson McCullers. John Updike. Jim Harrison. Raymond Carver. William Shekespeare. John Milton. Chuck Klosterman. Malcolm Gladwell. George Seurat. Piet Mondrian. Jackson Pollack. Mark Rothko. Vincent van Gogh. Claude Monet. Martin Scorcese. Robert Altman. Terence Malick.
Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians or songwriters?
Read a lot. Listen a lot. Keep trying. and most importantly – keep editing. It is a common thing to write half a song and then get too self-critical and give up. You realize it is a rip off of some other song you love, or the lyrics are trite or the melody goes nowhere. So edit and improve on what you have. Sometimes a great song comes in 20 minutes but more often than not it starts as an ok song and gradually grows and changes to become a better song and then is finally finished. Edit. Edit. Edit. Erase and start over. Erase and rebuild. Erase and re-write.
[box_light]WATCH PART ONE OF THE BLACKWING SONGWRITER SERIES