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  • Michele Blue

Getting to Know Jack Klatt: The Interview

A lot of times you have to catch a musician when they are on the road. I was able to get in touch with Jack Klatt for a quick phone interview when he arrived a few hours north of me in Chicago. It was after 10:00 PM and I did not want to keep him too long as it sounded as if he had been travelling all day. Michele: A lot of your songs you have a sort of an old soul feel. Do you feel like you connect better with a time when it was more about the love of making music and a little bit less of the industry telling artists what will sell? Jack Klatt: Ummm... I don’t know that I would say that totally. There is a lot of new stuff that I love like, Jenny Lewis’ new record is awesome and that’s by Warner Brothers. I hear a lot of honest stuff these days. But I do think it was a little more prevalent when recorded music was kind of a new thing and people didn’t really know what they were doing. Now we have an opportunity to kind of… we know what the end of the road is in a way. You can kind of manipulate the process more because it’s been around for what is it… like recorded music… coming up on about 100 years? Maybe? MB: Yeah, about that. JK: A little longer, maybe 110. I mean, I do like a lot of older music and I like the authenticity of it. That’s kind of what I always connect with is someone just being themselves. Maybe it was just easier in the past. MB: The song Prove My Love, that particular song caught my attention probably the most. JK: Really? MB: Yeah. I really liked the sound and I actually watched the video and absolutely loved the concept of it. Did you have a lot of input with the making of your videos or if you sort of gave someone else a sort of… Hey I wanna see what your idea is and then let them kind of have at it? JK: It’s kind of a mixture. My friend Eric Nelson who’s a director in town in Minneapolis where I’m from. He had this idea. And we’ve done some videos together before. I just kind of showed him the record and I was like yeah we should work together again. And it was all his idea. The flashlight and the dancing. I wasn’t even going to originally do it [laugh] yeah, I wasn’t even going to be in it, but it just kind of worked out that way. I really liked the idea and we had a lot of fun pulling that off. MB: It was really well done, and I really liked it. JK: Cool. I’m glad you liked it! That’s great to hear, thanks. MB: do you have any particular artists that stand out to you, or that really inspired you in the past to become an artists? JK: Oh boy. Yeah! That’s a big question… If I had to pick, God, I don’t even know who I’d pick. I’d think like one of the first bands is like The Clash. The drummer was a big hero of mine. Bob Dylan was a pretty big influence. I mean there are so many people. Tom Wise is really big for me when I was really young. There are a lot of people, and then I have friends too like my buddies in the Cactus Blossoms have been a huge influence on me as we’ve learned how to play music together. A lot of good people in Minneapolis and in the community too. Not just idols, or famous people, you know? MB: Yeah, of course. So along that same line. If you could work with any artist… dead or alive, is there one that stands out where you are like, man I love their feel and I love everything about them so I would love to just share the stage with them one time? JK: Oh God. I don’t know. I have no idea. MB: that’s ok. JK: Willie Nelson. MB: yeah. He would definitely be a good one! MB: Do you write your own lyrics? JK: Yeah… yeah. MB: Awesome. I got a storyteller vibe from the songs I was able to listen to of yours. Do you find it easier to write about love or heartbreak? JK: Oh, it’s kind of the same thing really isn’t it? MB: yeah it actually kind of is. [we enjoyed a good laugh here about that realization] JK: From one week to another… it’s like the chicken before the egg. MB: Yeah. I find that people can sometimes write better love songs while in love and a good break-up song after a break up, but sometimes it’s the opposite. I didn’t know if you had one or the other that was easier for you to write. JK: They just kind of happen. Sometimes if someone is heartbroken, maybe there is some kind of explosion of emotion that can happen similar to falling in love. That can be a gush of feelings that you can’t really control. That’s usually where I get my songs, from that kind of vibe. From something that just sort of happens. MB: Life in general. JK: Yeah, Life and love. MB: Looks like you still have a lot more touring to do. I read a lot about you online and somewhere it mentioned that in the past you had recorded live. Have you recorded any of your live shows or do you have plans to get back in the studio after the touring wraps up? JK: Probably. Yeah. I’ve gotta write some songs, but I’d love to get back in the studio. I don’t think we’re going to do any live stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever recorded a live show. The previous record I did was all a live performance… like performance in a sense that we were all playing at the same time, but there was no audience or anything like that. MB: Sorry about that. I must have misunderstood the article. JK: It’s all good. But yeah, the studio is really fun… it’s really, really fun and I wanna get back in. I’ve just been… you wear a lot of hats in this biz. And right now, I haven’t had my songwriters had on. I’ve had my truck driver hat on lately [with touring]. MB: So being from the Midwest, this sort of area that we find ourselves in… sometimes we’re sort of in that weird area where we don’t have a very direct pull to a certain genre. Like the deep south you’re sort of pulled to country music, and in the city, you sort of have an urban feel. Do you feel like your style, being from the Midwest, do you think you were able to find your style a little bit easier? JK: I don’t know. In Minneapolis there’s a neighborhood called the West Bank. Kind of a brewing hub for counter culture… a bunch of hippies there in the 60’s. You know, to go back to one of your earlier questions – one of my biggest influences is a guy names Spider John Koerner. Who just recently quote unquote retired from playing music. He sings folk songs and he’s written songs and he had a couple of big albums on electrode in the 60s that I really loved. He was also a Blues man before that. I guess I’m not really answering your question. MB: That’s ok. JK: I think there’s like a huge influence... in Minneapolis it’s kind of a songwriter’s town. At least the community I’m involved in. There’s a lot of people who are interested in making something new. I mean we’re all dealing with kind of a… tricky subject but you know… we all just cycling things in a way. A way to move the music forward, I think is the focus. That’s the sense I get of our little scene, you know, up in the cold north country. MB: Yeah. I mean… who would have thought that Grunge would have come from Seattle when it did. So, Minneapolis, hey… we’ll take it. It doesn’t matter where music comes from, when it comes from somewhere it’s just born there and that’s just where it’s born from. JK: Yeah. We’ve got the Mississippi too. The twin cities. John Koerner… he used to uh, there were a bunch of Blues guys that would come up and they’d set up shows for these guys in coffee houses in the West Bank in Minneapolis. Guys like Big Joe Williams and some Blues guys that were coming up from the south. But they loved that music. Then it got kind of put into the mix of our weird little… there’s like Polish – a lot of Polkas – stuff like that got around too. Kind of funny. MB: I have family from Minnesota and they’d always bring interesting music with them when they came to visit. It was very… almost Canadian sort of feeling. Very northern. JK: Yeah. Totally. MB: Definitely has its own vibe up north a little bit. JK: Have you heard of Kacy and Clayton? Like the Saskatchewan people? They’re really great. They’re north of us. MB: It’s a good mix when you blend the American and Canadian… their vibe sort of mix together when you get into the northern states. It’s a nice feel. JK: And there you are, you know… come on. [laugh] MB: you have a new album coming out very soon. JK: Yep! MB: I read several reviews from your previous albums. You had amazing reviews, so how are you feeling about the release of the next album vs the past… since you had such amazing reviews in the past or are you really comfortable and confident in this next album? JK: I feel good about it. I’m excited about it. Its good to be working with Yep Roc to put it out. That’s a big help. I just finished the music part, and I’m just kind of truckin along and away. You kind of forget… I totally forget that nobody else has heard this stuff really. Except me and my close friends. Which is kind of funny. So, yeah. I’m really excited to see how it’s received. And just get it out into the world. MB: Nice. So, which part of being a musician do you enjoy the most… the writing, the recording/producing… I read you also do a lot of producing… or being up in front of the fans and singing live? JK: I like it all. It’s all fun. It’s a weird job… and I love it. MB: There’s not a lot of people who do their own producing. I used to work for a music producer from San Francisco California. He was sometimes a little controlling in a way, so do you feel like you have a little bit more control over what you are doing since you are producing it? JK: You know, I know that’s been put in the press release. It should be used loosely... the term. Because there were so many people involved. I feel like most of what I did in terms of producing was that I just got a really solid crew of people together that gelled. And we all had fun. And we all had ideas. Like it was a very collaborative effort. I mean, Alex Hall who engineered it… it wouldn’t have been the same record without him. John James who played guitar and Steele… if he wasn’t involved it would have been different. I did produce it… but in kind of an anarchistic sense, you know? If that makes any sense! I just got a good crew of people together and I had final say. And everybody had good ideas. I brought some songs and we all worked on the arrangements together. It wasn’t like I gave them sheet music and had a specific… I didn’t have a total vision, you know? We just kind of let it happen together. MB: Right. Very nice. Do you have any songs that are sort of stuck in the back of your head all the time that you’re still kind of working on that will come out in the future, or once you put pen to paper you just see it through to the end? JK: A little bit of both, I guess. There’s some that I work on and labor over for a while. Like change the words around a bunch. I’ve got some songs that I think are done, and then I realize that there are actually two songs in there. I don’t know. The process is sort of always evolving. MB: that leads me to my next question… what is your writing process like… Do you keep a journal, or have you sort of evolved into using the memo on your phone to record ideas? JK: I keep a journal nearby and usually when I’m gearing up to write, I do a lot of free writing kind of stuff. And for melodies I will definitely record. Like if I am working on something and I feel like I’ve got something worth working on, I’ll put a little voice memo down or whatever. At the end of the day, it really just happens when it’s ready to happen. It’s kind of a weird mysterious thing that… I dunno… I heard an interview with Tom Petty where he was talking about how he wrote songs and he was like, “I almost don’t wanna talk about it because I don’t want it to go away.” I don’t want to understand it. MB: Yeah. I totally feel that. I actually write poetry and I don’t really share it with a lot of people. People think I should share it, but I feel like it will go away if I share it. So, yeah. I get that. MB: I read that you travelled around the country backpacking. Sort of an adventure that would be a fun experience for anyone. Do you think you would ever try to attempt that sort of same path that you took, but only this time while touring with music in the areas that you had stopped along the way when you were younger? JK: Oh, wow. I don’t know. I was a young man then. A lot of it was just… I was really poor. I don’t know. [laugh] I don’t know if I’d ever do that again. I used to walk a lot. Now I like driving. I still like walking, I shouldn’t say that. That was just kind of a… I don’t know… something to do. MB: You also made your way overseas with your travelling. Is there any place in particular that you would absolutely just love to go back to as an adult…or more adult that you are now… just a different standpoint that you have now and see it from a different perspective? JK: Yeah. Definitely. When I went to Europe, me and my buddy just one-way tickets. I think it was like some country airlines for like $400. And we stayed there for about 10 months. MB: wow! JK: we didn’t have any money, but Barcelona was the city. We flew into Madrid and stayed there for a while and then wound up in Barcelona. And I met a dear group of friends that I think about all the time. If I could ever… yeah… if I could ever go back to Barcelona. There’s a piece of me that’s still there. For sure. It’s a beautiful city. MB: I’ve never been there. Paris is my city in Europe. JK: I never got to go to Paris. I never got up there. I was pretty much in Spain and Italy. Then my brother had a kid, so I had to go home and meet my niece. MB: Nice! So, when you were in Italy, did you ever make it all the way down to Rome? JK: Yeah, I flew out of Rome actually. Yeah. Spent a night in the Vatican drinking a box of wine while waiting for our flight at like 5:00 in the morning. MB: Hopefully you will make it back over to Barcelona. JK: oh yeah! I hope so. MB: that was my last question, but I look forward to hearing you play this Sunday night in Indianapolis at the Hi-Fi Indy. I’ll be there to take photos. JK: Cool! Make sure you say hi! MB: Thank you so much for your time. JK: Yeah. Thank you for the thoughtful questions. See ya on Sunday!

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