Interview from January 2010

Fellow guitarist/songwriter Tony Kellogg sent me some interview questions recently for his blog. I’ve taken the liberty of inserting the results here as well… thanks again Tony.
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At what age did you start playing guitar? Do you remember your first instrument?
I started guitar (self taught) when I was 15. I was anxious to start writing songs, so as soon as I could move back and forth between 2 chords smoothly I wrote my first song. The first guitar I played was an atrocious 12 string that I strung as a six string. It was in our basement – my brother Jay referred to it as the “baseball bat”. A very fat neck for a beginner! About a year later I got a Martin/Sigma for Christmas. It was great because all the work I did on that awful 12 string paid off when I strummed my first E chord across that REAL guitar neck! I still have that guitar; it saw me through high school and college.

What made you want to pick up guitar playing?
I was a huge CSNY and Neil Young fan at the time. The drive to play guitar came primarily from my interest in songwriting. I was pretty young though, so the songs I wrote were atrocious, but you have to start somewhere. I actually focused on drums from the age of 9 and took drum lessons for years, so I was a drummer first and foremost. In fact my college degree is in percussion. Guitar was always secondary for me until about two years ago; now I focus most of my time on guitar.

What artists, if any, influence your music?
Well, I have a huge music collection of about 1500 LP’s and about 1200 CD’s, mostly rock and pop from the 70’s and 80’s. I was listening to Pink Floyd, Zep, Beatles, Stones, – stuff everyone else was listening to. But as I worked more on my own songwriting I came to appreciate lyric writers like Dylan, Don McLean, Dan Fogelberg, Jimmy Webb, Paul Williams, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie. Now that I’m older I really appreciate the work a lot of folk artists did to craft their stories into music. Right now I’m really studying what Jack White has done recently, especially the Raconteurs record; I think that’s a phenomenal record.

What is the biggest venue you’ve played in?
As a drummer I’ve played clubs all over the Pittsburgh area, but as a performing singer/songwriter I’m just getting started, so no large venues to speak of as yet. It’s cool feeling like a novice though – I love to reinvent myself, so hopefully 2010 will be my year to nurture an ever larger audience for my songs.

What was the worst gig situation you’ve ever found yourself in?
Wow! Lots of great stories for this one! The one that pops into my head though is a gig in Washington PA at a Ramada Inn. I was playing drums in my brother’s band; we were a popular top 40 cover band in the area so we worked a lot. This bar was always packed when we played and there was quite a bit of hmmm, cross dating shall we say? The gig I’m thinking of wasn’t bad per se, but the night ended with a surprise. We loaded out after the gig and hit the highway in my Ford Torino (ever see Starsky and Hutch?). Anyway, we must have pissed off a patron at the bar that night..I’m guessing it had to do with a girl… at about 50 MPH, one of my rear wheels comes flying off! Not good. So at 3AM we walk back to get the wheel/tire and borrow one lug nut from each of the other wheels so we can reattach the renegade wheel and get home. Yes, someone had removed all the lugs from that wheel. I’m amazed how far we got – we were about 3 miles from the hotel when the thing flew off. Happily, no one was injured.

Tell me the story behind one of your songs.
A current favorite among my faithful fans is a song called ‘Outside And Smile’. The seed for this one came when I focused on my own inner dialog while waiting in line at the grocery store. Everyone can relate to that; you look at stuff people are putting on the belt, or how they talk, or what they say; and in your own head you hear yourself say stuff like “gosh they’re not very nice” or “you mean someone really eats THAT?” or some other nonsense.
I love the fact that you can’t turn that voice off; we are always assessing our own place in the world by comparing our lives to the people we see and hear around us. I now make a concerted effort to force that inner voice to say NICE things; but I think it’s pretty common for most folks to focus on what’s “wrong” with other people first. Luckily we have that luxury because no one can HEAR that voice but you. So ‘Outside And Smile’ is my invitation for the audience to hear some of the kinds of things that race through my head when I unleash the voice. Oops, did I say that out loud? Well, in this case, yeah, I did.

What are your future goals as a musician?
I really want to improve my guitar playing and my songwriting chops. After years of “noodling” at it, I plan to push my self in practicing more and gigging more. I’ll be focusing more specifically on the folk/Americana genre. Folk is a great style/genre because you can create amazing music with one guitar (or zither, autoharp, ukelele, fiddle) and one voice, but it’s easily adaptable to additional instruments and voices; and you don’t need electricity to perform it!

What comprises your dream equipment?
I’ve had a recording studio for over 16 years and I own over a dozen guitars, so my gear lust is pretty well satisfied. My new purchases will be custom made acoustic instruments for live performances.

Where are you playing next? Do you have a CD?
Next gigs are the Main Perk coffeehouse in Girard on Saturday, January 9 from 6-8Pm, and Eclectic Etceteras coffeehouse in Edinboro on Saturday January 23 2010 from 1-3PM. You can always check out my current gigs by visiting the links at my website!

Tom’s current CD is called ‘Glimpses’ under the band name Jangle Pete. It’s available by visiting http://tomhitt.com. Its very catchy and I listen to it all the time!

END

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