INTERVIEW: CORBY LUND
Originally from Taber, Alberta, Corb Lund is the principle singer/songwriter of the Corb Lund Band. Now based in Austin Texas, Corb spent over ten years as bassist for the Alberta rock legends, the smalls and is presently writing songs for his 3rd Corb Lund Band CD, to be produced by legendary Nashville country musician, Harry Stinson (Steve Earle, Marty Stewart). Highlights include: 35,000 records sold, Much West Showcase, 2 Alberta Recording Industry Nominations --- and the best is yet to come.
About the band:
Kurt Ciesla, raised in Lethbridge, Alberta, is the electric
and stand up
bass player for the Corb Lund Band. He is a former member of Blue Locutus
and is a familiar and respected musician in the Edmonton Jazz music scene.
Ryan Vikedal, raised in Brooks, Alberta, plays the drums for
the Corb Lund
Band. Ryan is a member of EMI Canada and Roadrunner Records recording
artists, Nickelback and has toured extensively across Canada and throughout
the United States.
Q:Why do you write songs, Lund?
A: Im driven to do it because I think I am able to communicate feelings I have that I wouldnt be able to express any other way. Communicating these feelings to others helps me to deal with the painful things in life that I experience and see around me and makes me feel not quite so alone in the world.
Q: What makes you think anyone will care about what you write?
A: After awhile you start to know that they will because they have in the past, that is, you know there is an audience for what you do. But when you are just beginning, you dont really know, and I think this is a delicate time for people who write. Because you never really know at first if people are going to appreciate what you do or think it sucks, or whatever. You might be ridiculed. However, people who end up being serious writers are mostly driven, I think, from the beginning by a need to write what they write, regardless of its acceptance.
Q: Do you feel, as is widely argued, that writers and\or singer songwriters live on the fringes of mainstream society and have a grudge against mainstream society?
A: I think that in most cases they should live outside the mainstream, and in fact, I think the job requires it usually. I cant see how you can be an artist and just take the party line on everything. Writing is constant questioning, and doing that for long will place you outside the mainstream. As far as carrying a grudge over it, I dont think thats true all the time, nor should it be. Things are the way they are, people are the way people are, for all time. Having a grudge against society because youre a writer and outside of it is shallow thinking. Its like having a grudge against the temperature because sometimes you feel cold. That doesnt mean you shouldnt criticize when you see the opportunity, and be angry sometimes, but the world owes us nothing.
Q: Do you think anyone has time to listen to your work or accept any new material in the flooded music marketplace?
A: Yeah, theres always a place for a new, genuine voice. People are drawn to sincerity in art even if they dont know why. And in spite of the fact that they are continually having mediocrity shoved down their throats. Maybe because of it.
Q: How do you, as a Canadian living in America feel about the Canadian Music? Have you left home out of frustration and a feeling of having to forge your own path because Canadians are followers and not leaders?
A: Canada produces some excellent and exceptional music. But the way the recording industry is set up in Canada doesnt really showcase it. And it hasnt worked for me so far. I may be alone in this, but I very rarely find a Canadian artist that I enjoy and/or consider world class primarily on a Canadian label. Nearly always they are on an American label and have been back-promoted to the Canadian market. The United States is the originating point of most popular culture at this point in history. So thats the way it goes. Most of the big name Canadian artists heard on Canadian radio I dont enjoy. I love Neil and Joni and Ian Tyson and Grimskunk. And John Candy and Dan Akroyd and Martin Short and Rick Moranis and Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin and Jim Carey and not Celine Dion.
Q: Do you think that a singer song writer can live a happy and fruitful life?
A: Yes, but you have to keep your edge. Cant get too comfortable. And keep digging. You always have to keep digging artistically, or youre done.
Q: Lund, as principle singer songwriter for the Corb Lund band what comes easily as a writer and what do you think is your artistic weakness? How do you work on improving it?
A: The first germs of songs usually come easily, effortlessly, even. The hard part is hammering them out into workable formats and translating thru many levels of arrangement and production, the feeling that I have by myself in a room playing the song. Sometimes it can get lost along the way. A weakness of mine is that Im a control freak and dont trust others to do anything, so I end up trying to be responsible for everything and spreading myself too thin. Im trying to learn to trust that the music will come thru without as much bloodletting, and that I need to mellow out with the whole thing sometimes. Relax the laser-like constant focus that we have discussed in the past.
Q: You mentioned that your Dad helped you with some specific parts of a song, recently. You were at the house and you said 'My Dad got the words right.' What did you mean by that? Also you recorded a Daws, Tim Dawson, song -- Engine Revver, on the Unforgiving Mistress CD. After spending so many years with the smalls, how much do you collaborate with others and what is your creative process in laying the words down for the Corb Lund Band?
A: Id had a stew of ideas and images and lines to fit into a the third and final verse of No Roads Here, a new song, and Dad was fooling around with my ideas and some of his, and was the one who ended up coming up with just the right combination for the last verse. Thanks, D.C.!! I dont collaborate well with others. A weakness discussed above. But Im learning. I think the smalls (my previous rock band) experience sort of soured me on it, because some of our methods were sort of dysfunctional I think, looking back on it. And thats a Kris Dawson song, not a Tim Dawson song. Tim and Kris are brothers.
Q: You mentioned that working with Harry Stinson was one of the first times that you have felt confident in the hands of others. Why was the experience of recording the two demos so good?
A: His ideas were very good, and he immediately struck me as being very capable. Its like getting in a plane with a pro pilot. You know in minutes if the person is together or not. And Harry is very together with arranging and producing and writing and playing and singing and the whole bit. He seemed to intuitively know where I was coming from with the songs and to know how to get them to where I heard them in my head. And he listened to me and treated me as an equal, though I am much newer at this than he. Hes an old pro.
Q: A poet has to rely on the words on the page, or perhaps, a speaking voice to transmit a feeling or mood. My argument is that a musician has more tools to work with. Is the challenge greater in singer/songwriting and the work harder to synchronize? I mean singing, fingerpicking, interacting with other members?
A: Its true, we do have more tools, but the expectations of us are higher. People know what the potential of music is, and expect you to measure up to it. But it seems a little easier to get a gig as a musician. The arrangement of the songs and the synchronization, as you call it, are very important and elusive skills as well. There are a bunch of elements that have to be in place to make a song work. Lots of layers, from the lyric, to the rhythm, to the band arrangement, to the track order on the album.
Q: I have a feeling that you are trying to document your background, your cultural heritage, and so how do you get the band to interpret what you are trying to relate?
A: I am often trying to document my background. Im proud of it, proud of where Im coming from. Both of the band members are Southern Alberta boys as well, so I think that they have an instinctual feel for what Im trying to get across. I try to let them come up with their own stuff as much as I can, and incorporate their parts. Though often my songs pretty clearly dictate what should be played underneath. But they always bring a twist Im not expecting into the mix, which is always an added bonus. Both Kurt and Ryan are phenomenal musicians, and very sensitive to my songs.
Q: How much of your time is spent on the words, and whom do you admire in terms of craft and writing ability?
A: It depends, on occasion a song falls out nearly complete, but more often my lyrics tend to be highly rhythmic and fairly involved, big mouthfuls of syllables, so that takes some time to put together. I really like 100 Years of Solitude by Marquez; I love the rambling. And I love Willie (Nelson) for his ability to be succinct and extremely, accurately human in his lyrics. And of course, everybody loves Townes. I like Freddie Mercury for the way he can get into character. And I love Hunter Thompson. Hes the most perceptive writer I know of in terms of instantly cutting to the bone about his subjects personalities.
Q: The creative process can be freeing and fun and spontaneous and totally enervating. In my opinion, it can also be a gross out. Over stimulating, I mean. How do you strike a balance, keep your sanity and focus on the next project, when you tour constantly, stay up till four in the morning and entertain interested parties, constantly?
A: I try to work sanely every day, and a challenge for me is balancing between being disciplined and being spontaneous. The former can burn you out, but the latter sometimes makes you not get the job done. Its just a dance that I do with my own brain; doesnt matter, as long as the songs come. And I have tried for years to master the ability to function in chaos, and be able to turn to the songs and write in any living situation, no matter what seeming crises seem to be coming down around me. If youre not careful you can spend all your time reacting to perceived problems and never get anything written. Entertaining interested parties is a whole nother matter.
Q: We have talked of crossing lines before, artistically. I speak in terms of my writing some rather harsh, graphic stuff that my Dad said was, 'depraved.' Is this a concern of yours, crossing the line, writing about some of the fucked up rock and roll stuff? Do you worry about alienating your family?
A: Yeah, I do worry about it. Because they know me as a certain person, which is not always the same one that I am. And Im afraid of scaring them. I mean, no one is who their parents think they are, but as a writer youre putting it out there, whereas in many walks of life the discrepancies and the role stress can be brushed under the rug. But sometimes I feel like I cant sing what I feel because I dont want them to stop liking me. I mean, thats not likely to happen, but thats the underlying fear people have I think, when they deal with their families.