Judging by your impressive resume, you’ve had a stellar career as a solo artist and as a member of various bands. How has your music changed since you started out? How does working solo or as a member of a band change the way you write and perform your music?
EB: Music has become a more exciting and colorful expression for me. I love playing with a band for the mystery of the influence we have on each other. We all bring some ingredients, try to make them fresh and organic, then we all start cookin’. You learn something new and feel something different every time you play together.
I’ve become much more comfortable with improv as well. I had this fun experiment a while back where I tried to make up a little song every day, record it live into my phone and post it on my website. I did that for a couple of years. I realized there was always something there, endless ever-changing moods of expression. It made me feel like songs were in the air just waiting to be expressed…like spirits ready to be born into this world. So now I just let them come on through, excited to find out who they are, welcome them and kiss their weird little faces hello.
There was a 12-year break between Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’ album ‘Stranger Things’ in 2006 and your newest album ‘Rocket’ in 2018. Do you find that the prevailing sounds of the time have influenced the way you write your own music? If so, how?
EB: The prevailing sounds of the time, of all times, influence our music. You don’t stop hearing things even if you aren’t listening. The conscious, unconscious and subconscious expressions are always firing.
And we are all made from the same stuff, living every age at once, influenced by every era at any given moment.
You have an interesting history with the Grateful Dead and its band members. Back in 1993, you sat in with the Grateful Dead at Madison Square Garden, and in 1994, you and Jerry Garcia recorded together on Rob Wasserman’s Trios. What was it like to play with members of the Dead? Are you hoping to reconnect with Bob Weir at this year’s LOCKN’?
EB: Jerry and I hit it off improvising. We got together at his house the night before we recorded with Rob and just jammed until we settled on the idea of Zillionaire. After a few jams on guitar, Jerry wanted to see what would happen if he played piano. He said he was enjoying the piano and didn’t often write on it. When he played those first chords, I had this vision of a dog on the back of a whale and started singing about it. He chuckled and set his sparkling eyes on me so I kept going. Then we had a song. Laughter and sparkling eyes can relax the creative process and allow the imagination to break free fearlessly. That’s what I love about the people I’ve collaborated with, they laugh and put me at ease. The next day we recorded improv after improv, laughing and having so much fun all day in-between recording that song for Rob. American Popsicle was one of those improvs. Jerry loved it. I never know what to think about them because I don’t know where they come from, but I love the energy. I can feel the present-moment abandon of the expression. It was after those sessions that Jerry reached out and asked me to improv at Madison Square Garden and have NEWBOS (New Bohemians) open for them.
Later, Jerry asked if I would sing and tour in an all-improv band with him. That was the most exciting dream.
And of course, I’d love to see Bob again. We love every one of those guys, they’re very special to all of us. They’re fun loving, good hearted and soulful. You feel it playing music with them or just standing near them by a vending machine.
This year will be your first year playing LOCKN’! What have you heard about the festival and what are you most looking forward to about playing?
EB: I’ve heard that LOCKN’ has the best listeners and lovers of music of all festivals anywhere, ever. I hear they love improvisation. That makes me soooooo excited because I love improv. It’s my absolute favorite thing to do. It’s the most amazing feeling of being completely alive in the present moment, connecting with your band and the audience for a song that is only happening once right there for us all. Sharing a mystery that’s created with that collective energy of audience, environment and band is authentic music to me because it offers a feeling as it is felt with melody and lyrics, as they flow through, influenced by what is present. There’s a lot of trust involved and NEW BOHEMIANS and I have built that trust on decades of stepping into that mystery together.
We followed through on Jerry’s dream and started our own all-improv band called HEAVY MAKE UP and played a couple really fun, wild shows.
My new dream is to find our NEWBOS audience for improv so we can establish ourselves as the band who makes up songs at every show, playing what we really feel, offering melody, rhythm, and lyrics — right as they flow through to people who connect with that energy, and even influence it. We’ve always done that, but now’s the time we do it more and more, because that’s when I feel most alive, vulnerable, fearless and real. And the clock, she is ticking.