An Interview With Dennis Taylor, North Country Primitive, 20th April 2015.
New age music is a much maligned beast. By and large, it has still to receive the critical reappraisal given to other styles and genres that developed in the 1970s. Maybe this is because its peak followed the year zero swagger of punk, and its expansive, meditative soundscape was the diametric opposite of punk’s short, sharp shock; or maybe because it was seen as the final swansong of the old hippies and baby boomers – mellow music for mellow people; or maybe because at its most soporific, it always contained within it the risk of moving a little too close to elevator music. Of course, such sweeping statements are patently unfair – the new age movement contained within its ranks many questing, exploratory musicians who were willing to incorporate the influences of Indian and world music, folk and minimalist composition into their sonic palettes. And by the early 80s, the new age movement was the natural home – in many ways, the only home - for fingerstyle guitarists influenced by Fahey, Kottke, Basho and the Takoma school of players.
Whilst John Fahey noisily denounced any attempts to include him as part of the new age movement, Robbie Basho found a home on Windham Hill, the leading new age label. The label’s founder, William Ackerman, was a fingerstyle guitarist whose debut album, In Search of the Turtle’s Navel, slyly acknowledges Fahey’s influence in its title. By the early 80s, American Primitive guitar was part of the new age pantheon, even if, as another Takoma alumnus, Peter Lang, has observed, the style was too folk for new age and too new age for folk. In any case, you only need to listen to the 2008 Numero Group compilation, Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli, where many of the featured artist were associated with or influenced by Windham Hill, to understand that the new age movement, or at the very least the acoustic guitar aspect of it, is ripe for re-evaluation.
All of which brings us to Dennis Taylor, whose sole album, 1983’s Dayspring, was released on CD for the first time earlier this year by Grass Top Recording, who have also brought us new editions of two of Robbie Basho’s later albums, as well as showcasing contemporary players with their roots in the American Primitive tradition. Dennis is unabashedly a graduate of the new age movement and over the years his music has incorporated many of the diverse strands that make up the new age sound, which is, after all, less a genre and more a statement of intent – he has incorporated fingerstyle guitar, wind synths, looping, Indian classical music and world fusion into his oeuvre. Dayspring, however, is a solo acoustic guitar album, and although it is clearly at one with the new age, it is also steeped in the Takoma tradition Dennis had been drawn to at the start of the 70s.
Dennis’s musical journey began in typical fashion for many young Americans growing up in the late 50s and early 60s, even in such far-flung corners of the States as small town Nebraska. “Like a lot of kids my age,” he recalls, “I first became aware of the guitar through the singing cowboys on TV and the early rock ‘n’ rollers. The Everly Brothers, with their twin acoustics, come to mind. I also saw Johnny Cash at my first big time concert when I was 8 years old. I think it was about that time that I asked my folks for a guitar and lessons.” By the time he was entering his teenage years, The Beach Boys and The Beatles were riding high, and he was caught up in the swell of excitement they generated. He adds, “I also had a love of pop guitar instrumentals, which meant The Ventures and surf guitar music were big for me. My friend and I taught ourselves to play with the help of a record and book set, Play Guitar with The Ventures. We learned the popular surf guitar tunes and moved on from there to starting a band and learning the rock songs of the era. I was also taking drum lessons, so I started in the band on drums, but then switched to rhythm guitar when we got a drummer with a full drum set. My main function throughout most of the eight years we had the band was lead vocalist. Instrumentally, I switched between guitar and bass, as members came and went.”
The People - Dennis Taylor second right
By the time Dennis was starting college, he was developing what was to become an enduring interest in acoustic guitar. “I became aware of the acoustic side of artists like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Crosby, Stills and Nash and the newer artists like James Taylor and Cat Stevens. So by now, I was splitting my time between playing electric music with the rock band and acoustic rock with my trio or sometimes solo.”
A pivotal moment came when he became involved in sing-a-longs at a local church youth group. He remembers, “It was there that an older friend taught me the basic ‘Travis-picking’ that got me started on fingerstyle guitar, although at this stage it was still as an accompaniment to vocals. I also had started listening to the acoustic guitar soloists I had discovered at a local record store, the Takoma guitarists - John Fahey, Leo Kottke and Robbie Basho. I learned a couple of their instrumental songs and started writing my own first guitar instrumental, the song that evolved into Reflection of the Dayspring. But mostly I was still writing singer-songwriter acoustic music with vocals.”
His rock band, The People, had folded by the time Dennis finished college. By now, he was married and had a child on the way. In order make enough of a living to support his new family, he began to seek restaurant gigs as a solo singer and guitarist, whilst playing in Top 40 club bands and teaching guitar at a local music store. “As it was, the only real steady money to be made was by going on the road with a band every weekend. I ended up doing that full time for the next few years. At the same time, I continued to pursue my acoustic music on the side and did occasional park and downtown outdoor concerts, keeping a hand in on the acoustic side, both solo and with a couple of friends.”
Life on the road became increasingly incompatible with family life. ”I quit the road band business in the mid-late 70s to be able to stay at home. I tried to do this by taking on guitar students at home and also teaching and working at music store. By now, I was seriously writing solo guitar instrumentals and I was starting to get enough original guitar pieces to perform solo at a few coffeehouses and concerts.”
Around this time, Dennis and his family moved out of the city for a quieter life in a small Nebraskan town, where he continued to teach guitar and work in a music store. It was whilst living in this community that several of the pieces that found their way onto Dayspring first emerged. “We had a small artist’s community,” Dennis recalls, “And I lived right across the street from a good friend, Ernie Ochsner, who was a visual artist. He was painting giant murals for a local museum and other landscape pieces, as he was getting pretty well known across the country through art shows and such. Ernie and I would hang out every day in his studio on the third floor of a downtown building in the town square - he would paint, while I would play the guitar. Many of the early Dayspring pieces evolved from those sessions. Before I moved back to Lincoln, I played my first official solo guitar concerts at the local art museum and the following year, I played my guitar pieces live on the radio for the first time.”
By 1979, following a spell developing his fretless bass chops with a jazz-rock band and by now living back in Lincoln and still working at a music store, Dennis joined The Spencer Ward Quintet, a band playing a hybrid of jazz fusion, world music, folk and semi-classical music. “It was all original music, written primarily by the leader, who was a nylon-string guitarist. The band consisted of classical guitar, vibes, flute, violin and drums. I sat in with them on fretless bass and convinced them that it would really fill out the sound of the music. At the same time, I was still pursuing my now all-instrumental solo guitar music, doing solo guitar gigs in many of the same clubs in Lincoln where the band would play. I was also still doing park concerts and outdoor downtown lunchtime concerts as a solo guitarist.”
Dennis with The Spencer Ward Quintet
The bandleader had visited Portland, Oregon in the Pacific Northwest, where some of the local musicians convinced him that their acoustic/electric fusion would find an appreciative audience. As they had already built a large and loyal following in Lincoln, the move seemed like the next logical step in the band’s evolution. “The band moved to Oregon in the spring of 1980. A couple of months later, in the summer, I joined them out there, but I was uncomfortable with the big city aspect. The other members all had day jobs, but so far, gigs were not happening. I made a quick decision to move down to Eugene, Oregon, a small college town that was more the size of city I was used to. As it turned out, there were a lot good musicians in Eugene, but work was very scarce, both musically and even for day jobs. Within a few months, my money had run out and I was not even close to gaining any kind of musical foothold. So, I packed up and headed back to Lincoln, a place where I had already established my self as a solo guitarist through clubs concerts and doing live radio at a local station. I came home to Nebraska determined to not get distracted musically again from my solo guitar work and to make a record of my solo guitar music before I turned 30 years old.”
“I started putting the music of Dayspring together, started teaching guitar at a music store again, played my solo gigs and also took the opportunity to put a jazz piano trio together with two friends, with me on fretless bass, working a lot of the same clubs and concerts I was playing as an acoustic guitarist.”
Encouraged by Terry Moore, the owner of Dirt Cheap Records, the foremost independent record store in Lincoln, Dennis went into the studio to record Dayspring. “Terry was an alternative icon in Lincoln,” he recalls. “He had also helped to start and mostly funded our local whole food co-op store and KZUM, our listener-owned, volunteer programmed radio station. He so loved and believed in the music I was doing for Dayspring, that after it was recorded and I had got to the point where I’d decided to release it independently, he offered to pay for a small pressing of LPs himself, which I would repay through sales. As it turned out, I was able to pay for the records on my own, but he helped promote Dayspring through his record shop and in fact had me do a release debut by playing live all afternoon in the front window of the store - a truly fun event for everyone!”
Spectrum, the studio Dennis used, turned out to be owned by musicians he knew from his garage band days, one of whom, his childhood friend Tommy Alesio, engineered the recordings. “They’d just opened the studio and because they were competing with the older established studios, their rates were very reasonable. I believe it was something like $30 an hour for recording, mixing and master tapes. Since I was doing a fairly simple project recording-wise and I was totally ready by the time I got into the studio, we were able to do the whole record in one session, mostly first takes. Once the session was set up, I had rehearsed and polished the songs at home non-stop for weeks, using my home cassette recorder to make sure the songs were ready to record, with the arrangements and song orders pretty much planned out. In the studio, we basically set up the mikes and let the tape roll. It was a long day, but we got the songs down in just one long afternoon session. The total cost was $150 and I had ready to press quarter-inch master tapes.”
Initially, Dennis attempted to get his music out by following the tried and tested route of sending a demo to the record company he felt was most likely to want to produce the album; in this case, William Ackerman’s Windham Hill, which by this time was the pre-eminent record label for new age and solo acoustic guitar releases. However, as he recalls, “It took several months for Windham to receive the tape, then it was lost for a while, then it was found, then it was listened to. I wasn’t that patient or that hopeful after reading about the glut of demos they had been receiving – up to 200 a month.”
Dennis decided the way forward was to put the album out himself in a limited local edition, with the help of How to Make and Sell Your Own Record, an illustrated step-by-step guide from Guitar Player Magazine. “I got so impatient, not getting a response on my demo tape, that by the time I finally got a ‘thanks, but no thanks and good luck’ letter back from Windham Hill, it was August of 1983, my own pressing had arrived five months earlier and was already selling in the local record stores and playing on local radio. I’m glad I didn’t wait to hear back before I went ahead on my own!”
Dennis called upon the talents of his friends in Lincoln to bring the album to fruition. The photos for the album cover were shot at a local park concert by his friend Lisa Paulsen, who was a photographer for the University newspaper. Another friend, Lauren Weisberg-Norris, worked as a commercial artist and took Dennis’s basic layout ideas for the cover and made them camera ready. He also took note of the experience of local musician friends who had pressed records of their bands. “I looked into the cost of using the same standard national pressing plants they had used. I was not happy with what I saw. Most of those plants were very expensive, wanted at least a thousand copies to get a decent price and the vinyl they were using was that cheap, thin, floppy vinyl: snap, crackle and pop. This was not at all what I wanted. I had audiophile pressings from Germany and Japan in my own record collection and I knew what good, quiet, heavy vinyl sounded like.”
Poring through the small ads in the back of music magazines, he came across a tiny advert for a small pressing plant in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Rocky Mt. Recording. “I thought, what the heck and I gave them a call. They were really nice people and they were really excited about the idea. Even better, their prices were half what the nationals wanted, with a very small minimum of 300 records. So I said sure, send me some samples. The album cover artwork sample was a little antiquated and hokey looking, but the cardboard quality was good. My artwork was camera ready, so no worries there. The music they sent was local country bands and not all that impressive musically, but the quality of the vinyl… heavy, virgin vinyl, like I hadn’t seen since the sixties. It seemed about three times the weight of what the other pressing plants were putting out and it was quiet, like a good audiophile pressing. Their little pressing machines were from the sixties. I had found my answer. The whole ticket for the 300 records, covers and even cardboard mailers and shipping was going to be $794.75. I would be bringing the whole project in for around $950.”
“The couple that ran the pressing plant loved my high quality masters and the artwork,” Dennis continues. “They said, ‘The tapes sounded so good, we didn’t have to do anything with them!’ They were used to local country bands in Cheyenne bringing cassette tapes, usually recorded live at a bar and then wanting the Rocky Mt. folks to make hit sounding records out of them.”
He reflects: “Comparatively, it’s a breeze to put out your own music these days, but of course there are also many more people with that easy access, so it’s a flooded market. A guy playing solo acoustic guitar, while there were quite a few of us, at least nationwide, was still a fairly unique entity in the recording world back in the early 80s. You just had to somehow get that music out there to the people who loved it. And for me that was on a local level, without huge life changing investments and with lots of immediate feedback from the fans of the music. For me, that was a better way to go.”
The local reaction to Dayspring led to an unexpected new venture for Dennis. “Shortly after it was released, I walked into a Radio Shack to buy a part for a speaker. As I was writing the cheque, the cashier’s eyes got big and he asked me, ‘Are you the Dennis Taylor? The guitar player?’ ‘Uh, yeah. I guess so.’ 'Wow! I play your record on my radio show all the time!’ He then asked me to come and play live on the show, Green Fields, which featured new age and jazz-fusion music. After I played, my new friend, Clyde Adams, who was also a drummer and like me was into Indian classical and fusion music, asked me if I wanted to come back and co-host the weekly program. I ended up doing this for the next six years. We were the only program in Lincoln at the time playing those kinds of music and the show was very well received.”
Around the same time, Dennis was also working on a local public access TV talk show, for which he had provided the theme music. The director, Doug Boyd, invited him to play some live performances of the Dayspring music for public access viewing. “I said sure, so using our same crew, we created two half hour programmes, Dennis Taylor Guitar Solos I & II. At the time, these were the only public access programs that were all music and no talk, the opposite of most of what was on the air on that channel. The shows were so popular, that they ran almost daily from 1984 to 1988. All of these things, along with downtown gigs, my yearly park concerts, various appearances at the University of Nebraska and sales at local record stores helped the original pressing of Dayspring to sell out locally in just the first few years. I couldn’t afford to repress the album, so essentially it became a limited edition. I was one of only two solo acoustic guitarists in the Lincoln and Omaha area that I know of, along with my friend Chris Griffith, who was pretty strictly a non-writer and a Leo Kottke 12-string disciple. It was pretty much me if you wanted that kind of music either for your club or park concert or wedding or whatever.”
The reception to Dayspring locally and the steady rise in stock of new age music nationally left Dennis with high hopes. “Being invited to the steady onslaught of Windham Hill and other new age artists coming to perform in Lincoln and Omaha, it seemed like the golden era for our kind of music had come. In our small group of musician, DJs, store owners and so on, we started to feel like we were definitely the happening thing in music. We thought that with the flood of national recognition, with major labels jumping on the bandwagon and signing new age artists and the emergence of the new age Grammy and even our local rock and oldies station, KLMS, switching to a new age and smooth jazz format, our time had come. That we were about to become the new rock 'n’ roll - the mainstream pop music. I became the go-to guy for downtown outdoor concerts, park concerts, the new separate quiet new age and folk area at annual Holmes Lake 4th of July event…a safe distance away from the main stage, where the classic rock acts were playing.”
As early as 1984, Dennis had intended to make a follow up to Dayspring. His idea was to expand the scope of the music – 6 & 12 string guitar pieces with the addition of fretless bass and tabla and percussion. He even started demoing new material, but the project never came to fruition. In the late 80s, he started working on a solo guitar album made up of a few new pieces and some of the Dayspring material slowed down to a meditative level. This project was abandoned when he concluded he didn’t really like the results of changing the mood of the Dayspring pieces.
Meanwhile, by the mid 80s, in order to make ends meet Dennis returned to playing in top 40 house bands churning out the classic rock anthems of the day, despite not being particularly attached to what was happening in the rock and pop worlds. In terms of his own musical interests, he had dived head-first into the new age. He explains, “I had already made my personal leap from popular music to what I liked to call un-pop music by the mid 70s. On the electric side, jazz-fusion… Takoma and Indian and world-based acoustic fusion on the acoustic side. When the 80s hit, I discovered labels like Windham Hill, Narada and Private Music and I jumped into the new age movement with both feet. I’d found the music that I most resonated with of all the genres I had been involved in or listened to up to then, whilst also maintaining a kinship with the funkier and less experimental end of jazz-fusion. I was in a world where new age was really starting to happen on a local level, with myself and a friend doing a new age and jazz fusion weekly radio program and my old rock band mate and childhood friend, opening a new age record and bookstore and doing a Hearts of Space type radio show on our local NPR affiliated University radio station.”
The high watermark of the new age began to recede by the start of the 90s. The major labels had oversold the movement: they had come to realise that the new age artists were generally not going to sell at the levels of major pop acts and had started dropping those artists from their labels. What remained, however, was a solid niche audience, both nationally and locally, which for a while kept Dennis and his musical fellow travellers working a few times a year at local concerts. He recalls, “In the end, the park and downtown concerts started to drop off. By a stroke of luck for my tabla playing musical partner, Dave Novak and myself, we came across the owners of the two Indian restaurants, one in Lincoln and then a second one that opened a couple years later in Omaha. Those owners loved the new age world fusion music Dave and I were doing and felt it was exactly right for the ambience of their 'classy’ dining establishments. It ended up that we were playing every Sunday in one restaurant or the other from 1992 until the Omaha restaurant changed hands and ended live music in 2003. Then it went back to once a month at the one in Lincoln until they ended live music at the end of 2013.”
He continues: “I actually did some live recordings at the restaurant, although these were not concise album-type pieces. Our job there was to stretch out and jam for three hours and many of the pieces stretched to ten, fifteen or twenty minutes each. Also whenever it was with Dave, he was miked, which allowed all the restaurant noise to come into the recordings. We joked about Kenny the Bartender doing his famous ice dump solo at the exact moment when the music got very quiet and meditative. Or the inevitable singing baby who would go on and on and never stop!”
From the mid 90s, Dennis began pursuing a new direction in his writing and instrumentation, acquiring a keyboard synthesizer/sequencer workstation, electronic hand drums, a midi-bass guitar synth controller and an electronic wind synth. The result of this new palette of sounds was a short series of concerts of pre-programmed synthesizer pieces around 1996-1997, where he used the bass synth controller for the melody and improvised element of the performances. When an inheritance from his parents meant he was finally able to give up the top 40 house band gig at the turn of the century, Dennis began to focus on melding his older acoustic guitar and tabla based approach with the newer electronic sounds he had been experimenting with. This in turn led him into the writing of new songs, using the acoustic guitar as the centre-point, but augmented with electronics and fretless bass, using live looping and on some pieces, Dave Novak’s tablas and percussion.
In 2006, the same Doug Boyd who had directed Dennis Taylor Guitar Solos I & II was asked to produce a feature length documentary of a five year Lincoln Arts Council programme he had been filming. He turned to Dennis to write and perform the soundtrack for the film, which was premiered at Lincoln University Movie Theatre in January 2007. Stories of Home paired twelve families in Lincoln with twelve visual artists, who created artworks based on each family’s story. Denis explains: “It involved families who had come to Lincoln from Africa, Vietnam and Mexico; a Native American family; a woman who had grown up in cattle country and was now marketing vegetarian desserts; a lesbian couple and a family that had escaped Iraq. All of them were families with a background story different to the usual home-grown families in Lincoln. I did the soundtrack with acoustic guitar, wind synth and electronic hand drum and recorded it in my home studio. The project was intended to be a model for other city’s arts councils, bringing diverse peoples together by sharing there personal stories of home and getting to know each other on a one to one basis, through art and music. It was a project I am incredibly proud to have been a part of.”
Dennis admits he was getting ready to call time on the more complex approach he had been taking to music making. “Around 2011-2012, I got the strong urge to quit doing the new set up. There was always a lot of preparation involved. I constantly felt like mission control - time to push this button, time to step on this pedal, time to switch to this instrument. I decided to just go back to where I started – live acoustic guitar, with or without Dave on tabla and percussion, as the occasion required. It was so relaxing, after all that experimentation and brain work, to just be able to float away in the sound of the acoustic guitar for the evening. And although people liked the new music, some of the fans and friends from the Dayspring era used to say 'That’s really nice, but do you still play the guitar?’ Or in the guitar and looping era, 'Do you still play any of the old guitar songs?’ Don’t get me wrong. A lot of people loved the combination of the guitar and looped instruments - it was not all that electronic. The wind synth was mainly used for melodies and improvisations, with very close to real sounding flute, sax, oboe and cello samples and the electronic hand drums were mainly used to get ethnic drum and percussion sounds. The Handsonic drum pads - essentially advanced steering wheel tapping - gave me access to nearly 600 wind and drums samples, without having to spend the many years Dave had spent learning real tabla technique. With all the sounds I wanted, several lifetimes of learning would have been needed to learn the real instrumental techniques for each instrument. Anyway, I eventually put those aside, except for the rare occasion, and went back to the simplicity of getting lost in the sound of the acoustic guitar.”
With Dennis rediscovering his solo guitar approach of thirty years before, the series of fortunate events leading to the reissue of Dayspring were as serendipitous as any new age musician worth his salt could desire. Record collector Michael Klausman found an old vinyl copy of the album in a record store in Denver and loved it. Dennis takes up the story: “I had no idea Dayspring had travelled out of state, other than to friends and family. Michael contacted me via Facebook for permission to post about it and use some of the Soundcloud clips I’d put up the previous year for the 30th Anniversary of its release. He told some friends about the album, who told some more friends, who brought it the attention of Kyle Fosburgh, guitarist and owner of Grass-Tops Recording in Minneapolis. Just two days after Michael posted about the record, Kyle contacted me wanting to know if I would be interested in having him release the album on CD. That happened the last week in July 2014 and it has now been reissued in a new deluxe package, remastered from the 1981 master tapes in high-resolution digital for CD and download. The tapes had been stored in my closet, sealed in vinyl bags, since 1981! The album was released on March 3rd this year. It really is a miracle rediscovery for me and my music.”
He continues, “Coincidently, my friend Benjy, from Lincoln group The Millions, messaged me that his nephew in Brooklyn was a big fan of my record and he knew someone there who would be interested in reissuing it! What a weekend! I had already started negotiations with Kyle at Grass-Tops and was very happy with what we were working out, so I had to say to Benjy, 'Man, had you told me this a few days ago, I would been on my knees bowing to you for such incredible news, but as it is, I’m already in negotiations to do just that with a company in Minneapolis, so I’m going to have go with that offer.’ Benjy was cool with that and very happy for me.”
It seems the relationship with Grass-Tops is far from over. “Nothing is set in stone, but Kyle and I have discussed the possibility of making a new record. At the time it we discussed it, we were both pretty excited about doing the simplest thing first - a solo guitar follow-up to Dayspring. It would focus more on the quieter, newer pieces I’ve written since then, and would tentatively be entitled Nightfall. Dayspring was a brighter, daytime type of record – Nightfall would be its late evening companion. There are no solid plans as yet, but what swayed me towards a solo guitar album, after all these years of promising a new record, was a combination of my recent rediscovery of the joys of the solo guitar as a complete entity in itself and the chance to give the fans what I’ve been promising them since Dayspring came out - more of the same thing they came for in the first place.”
He adds, “We’ve also had lots of requests from our vinyl-oriented fans for a new vinyl edition of Dayspring. There is also the possibly a DVD of my two half-hour solo guitar concerts that I taped for access television back in 1983-84, Dennis Taylor - Guitar Solos I & II: Music from the Dayspring Album. Kyle has copies of those shows, which I transferred to DVD from the old, almost gone, big videotape masters 10 years ago with great fragile babying of the old tapes. With weeks of meticulous work the shows were saved pretty much intact, with good quality video and decent quality sound. Anyway, these are all tentative future plans at this time.”
Dennis has given some thought to the place where Dayspring sits in his musical journey. “It’s an odd time trip for me, listening to this record by this 28 year old guy, thirty some years ago. I’ve noticed that my writing style hasn’t really changed that much over the years – melodically and harmonically, at least. I’ve changed more rhythmically - away from the 4/4 double-thumbing style of Fahey and Kottke and more towards the 6/8 ambient, floating style of classical North Indian music or the softer, jazzier styles of Ralph Towner, Pat Metheny and the European ECM jazz guys. The Windham Hill/new age guitar styles of Will Ackerman, Alex de Grassi and Michael Hedges had an impact on me, too. Dayspring was actually sort of a transitional record for me. The older songs were more in that traditional, folky style and the new songs were more influenced by Windham Hill guitarists, acoustic fusion like Oregon, Shakti and Ancient Future and the minimalist music of Steve Reich and Philip Glass.”
Reflecting back on his life in music so far, Dennis is contented with how things have turned out. “I never really tried for the big time with the record or with my career. From my road band days, I didn’t particularly like endless driving and staying in big cities. I was much more comfortable at home, working on a local level where I actually knew the people who loved and appreciated the music and were happy to come see me play and buy my record at a coffeehouse or a restaurant or a park concert. I really don’t think it gets any better than that. The artist and the listener on a real person, one-to-one basis. That’s really what the music is all about to me - that one-to-one communication. I’ve said before, but music cuts through all the crap and brings people together in a meaningful way. And it’s so much easier and enjoyable for all involved when you can do that on a small, personal level.”
He emphasises his perspective with an example. “In 1973, at our local auditorium, opening for Fleetwood Mac and Wishbone Ash, I sat on that big stage, the stage where I had seen most of my heroes perform, the stage that was my childhood dream to play a big-time concert on. I sat on that stage and when the lights went down, all I could see of the 3,000 people out there were the few that were hanging on the stage and all I could hear was the sound of my own voice and guitar whooshing through the huge auditorium. It was the most isolated sensation I had ever felt in my life, as if I was on some faraway planet playing into an empty void in space. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I’ll always remember fondly and a childhood dream come true, but give me the small audience and the personal sharing of the music every time. I knew that after that first night - and I was only twenty years old then. Forty years have gone by and I’ve never regretted not trying to go big-time once. Up close and personal - that’s what sharing music is all about.”
2021 Update: Unfortunately, Grass Tops Recording, the label that reissued Dayspring on CD in 2015, no longer appears to be with us. I do urge you to try to track a copy of the album down though - especially if you enjoy the sort of fingerstyle guitar released in the early days of Windham Hill Records.