There are no worries about group democracy or lack there of when you're playing by yourself‚ I suppose.
Yeah‚ democracy's a bad idea in a band. It's a dictatorship in a band.
Yeah‚ and that has its drawbacks.
Like Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.
My inspiration for being a solo artist was Pete Seeger. And I saw him when I was 15 or 16 years old in Chicago‚ when he split from The Weavers. And I was a fan of The Weavers -- I'd gone to see him at the Orchestra Hall in Chicago with The Weavers‚ and then when he decided to go solo‚ I was a bit skeptical that he'd be able to pull it off‚ but I went to the concert and he divided the audience up into three parts and‚ you know‚ it's like a circus. I mean‚ it was like‚ I couldn't believe this guy was with four instruments and such variety of songs. And the stories he told! I went‚ "That's what I want to do." And ever since‚ I've been trying to do that all these years and I get into these band situations along the way.
What a great role model Seeger must've been for you in retrospect then. I've never actually seen him live‚ but I do recall seeing him on television and on video repeatedly‚ and I was always struck by the understated command he had onstage‚ how he could establish a rapport with the audience and really make it an intimate experience.
When I met him back when I was‚ I think I was 17‚ I asked him what the key to his popularity was. And he said‚ "I think it's because I get the audience singing along with me and they hear themselves singing and they like me!"
It reduces any level of self-consciousness on the part of the audience who are sometimes….
Well‚ once you get them over their sort of shyness about it‚ it's like you saidyou're your neighbor's not singing‚ poke him in the ribs! [laughter]
Right! There's nothing like a bond with the artist that's onstage‚ but it's probably no more satisfying‚ at least for me anyway‚ than a bond with someone that you don't know who's sitting right next to you and you can tell is feeling the same musical inspiration that you are.
It's that wonderful we're-all-in-this-together feeling.
Fortunately‚ over the years I've gotten to know Pete Seeger and go to his house‚ hang out and play and jam with him.
That's great. Although I've followed you sort of out of the corner of my eye over the years‚ being such a fan of the Byrds and only to a slightly lesser extent your solo stuff‚ to see how you've delved back into your roots in folk music‚ and especially the Folk Den project seems to be a very unique enterprise in that it's making use of the contemporary technology that you've always been enamored of‚ the World Wide Web‚ to distribute what's the most traditional form of music perhaps this side of the blues that America's ever known.
Yeah‚ well it is an interesting contrast to use the new technology to produce something very old. I noticed back in '95 an absence of the traditional side of folk music. All the new folk singers were all singer-songwriters‚ and they'd been inspired by Dylan and Joni Mitchell and they wanted to go that way‚ and they weren't doing the old traditional music.
Right. It's almost as if discovering Mitchell and Dylan didn't inspire them to go back and find out what inspired Mitchell and Dylan to begin with.
Right. And [Joan] Baez has still kept to tradition‚ although she has done the singer-songwriter thing‚ but she kind of does a balance about it. And even Dylan went back and did some roots music a couple years ago.
It's always interesting to watch and hear him as he reaches back into his own past and the past of the music to remind us what inspired him to begin with. Do you see him or talk to him much these days?
He's got a link to my Folk Den on his website.
I noticed that. That's why I ask this.
I haven't spoken to him for a while. We see each other when we're on the road‚ and if we're in the same town‚ I'll go over and say hi‚ and sometimes he invites me up. But it's just a very … I mean‚ he's on the road all the time‚ there's no … [laughs]