Interview: Chuck Ragan

von am 18. Juni 2014 in english please!

Interview: Chuck Ragan
@ Lisa Johnson

Heavypop: So, how’s the tour been going so far?
Chuck Ragan: So far so good. We started off in England and the shows were all sold out there and we came over to Germany and all these shows…it’s kinda been overwhelming man. I mean like, the attendance is huge, way more than I expected, or any of us expected. We were excited and planning on having a great time anyway and when we came over and found out like the shows were just growing and growing and the rooms where getting bigger it was kind of like „Wow!“, you know, we had no idea. So, we feel very very appreciative, very lucky, and just very honored to be here.

I recently read an article in the Noisey magazine how you are probably the nicest guy in music…
Don’t believe it!

Actually I do believe it! [laughing] Anyways, the article goes on about how a lot of people have a so-called Chuck Ragan story, can you think of another one that might be worth telling?
I don’t know. I mean, there’s many of them, many stories. You never know what’s around the corner. You never know how you’re affecting people, and the things you do, how they affect people in good ways. And that’s why I think it’s important to just always be open-minded. And for a story, I remember a time in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There was a guy that came up to me and he was very stressed out, and I could tell he was very upset. And he said „Man, my brother’s car just got towed“. And normally I don’t carry much money, I never really have much money anyway, [laughing] but at the time I had a 100 dollar bill, for some reason. And I just said „Here man, give this to your brother, hopefully you can go and get his car back.“ And he was like „No, I can’t take that“ and I’m like „This isn’t a gift. You give it back to me, some day down the road.„, and I give him this 100 dollar bill and he says „This is great, thank you“ and he runs off. And then later on I found out that it was actually him who had to go get his car out of a pound. And his wife had to go to work and he had to go home to take care of their baby. He ended up making it home and all this worked out. He sent me an e-mail and said „Thank you, I hope to see you one day.“ It was maybe four years later that somebody walked up to me and I didn’t know who it was, and they said „This is for you“ and handed me a 100 dollar bill. And you know, I said „What is this? I can’t take this.“ And he said „You helped me get my car out of the pound four years ago.“ So I guess the moral of the story is what goes around comes around. If you treat people the way you wanna be treated, things will come back to you.

In interviews you’ve said a couple of time that your new album ‚Till Midnight‚ is about love, and I thought I might ask – do you know what’s your wife’s favourite song on the new record?
[laughing] No, I don’t. That’s a really good question. I think one of her favorites, for when I was writing was ‚For all we care‚.

You‘re doing „Rent-a-Ragan“ afternoon shows for your fans in random places before you play the actual venues at night – how did that come about?
Yeah, but we haven’t made it to one yet. We were waiting to hear back from our contact to tell us where this would be, so… um, yeah, it’s a good idea, but we’re waiting for it to work [laughing].

Is there any news about an upcoming Revival Tour?
We’ve been working on it and trying to figure out what we’re going to do with it, how we’re going to do it, you know, it’s such a huge undertaking, and yeah, I’m not sure when the next one is going to be. I just released this ‚Till Midnight‚ record and that was kind of gonna be our focus for a while, so the Revival Tour will come back here for sure. You know, it’s such a special tour, it’s such a cool thing and just great fun, so we’ll make it happen one of these days.

Since you’ve evolved from the punk rock-frontman you’ve been with Hot Water Music to the country-, folk- and blues-songwriter you are nowadays, there’s been a lot of guys in the scene who took a similar approach, like Frank Turner, Dallas Green, Brian Fallon or Chris Cresswell – do you see yourself kind of as a pioneer or perhaps even as a role model for that matter?
No, I can’t take credit for that. You know, a lot of us have been doing this for years and years before a lot of the people who already knew who we were, before people cared about it, you know what I mean? This is just the way we’ve always written music, shared music, played music and you know… I mean, granted, I think that anybody who is either in media or in some kind of spotlight may affect other people and affect choices or affect other musicians who may see somebody doing something, they see them in the media or in the spotlight and they think „Cool, I wanna do something like that too!„, but that doesn’t mean, that there isn’t a million other people out there doing it, that may not be in the spotlight or in the media, and that’s the case. There were thousands upon thousands people doing stuff like this way before any of us were even alive. For some of us we’ve been doing a lot longer than people have noticed. You know, I’ve sat down with an acoustic guitar and played in front of people for the first time 28 years ago, but now it’s kind of changed, a lot of people know what I do, it’s easier to find them and we’re very busy, but you know, in previous year, 10 years ago, 5 years ago, most people who knew of me or my friends, they thought of Hot Water Music, because that was our focus at the time. I played acoustic music and wrote acoustic music long before I ever met any of the Hot Water Music guys, but then when Hot Water came to be, that was kind of what we did, you know? And then when we kind of took this Hiatus, those guys started other bands and it was just me and a guitar again.

Talking about Chris Cresswell – only recently he recorded an album on Joey Cape’s record label One Week Records and the name of the label really kinda gives it away – he’s done it in seven days. Could that be an option for you too?
Um, maybe. But it’s not anything I wanna do right now. [laughing] You know, I mean like, with the way that I’m working right now and with all those guys and how we do things, I’m sure we could do a record within 7 days, you can do anything you put your mind to when it comes down to it, but to me, records… it’s so permanent, you know what I mean? When you do it, you’re carving something in stone, in a way. Once it’s down, it’s out there. That’s it man. So you have to love it. And there’s a fine line to me. Sometimes it’s good, I’ve always worked well under pressure, and if there’s a timeline and I find myself thinking „Alright, I gotta do it! I gotta do it!“ but at the same time it’s really cool to not have any timelines. And you go „You know what? It’s gonna be done when it’s done.“ And that’s a great feeling, and I kind of prefer that feeling over the other one. Because sometimes man, other things happen and you get busy and then when stress gets brought into a project, it’s over. It’s over. Because I think whatever energy we have when we’re playing, writing, recording these songs, with whatever energy we’re doing them, it’s gonna come through, you’re gonna hear it. I’d rather be relaxed, and fun, and full of good energy than too chaotic and speedy.

Is there gonna be a follow-up to The Road Most Traveled?
Yeah, I began a volume 2 some time ago, I just haven’t had a chance to finish it yet. We’re still collecting submissions, but it should be a very cool collection as well. Hopefully in the next year.

On both ‚Till Midnight‚ and on your last Hot Water Music album ‚Exister‚ it seems to me that there are bigger melodies and more hits too, if you will – was that a deliberate decision or did that derive from the music you listen to personally?
Define hits! [laughing] Because maybe hits means something different where we come from. [laughing]

Alright, catchy songs, let’s put it that way! [laughing]
Um, yeah man, I don’t know. Those melodies, who knows where they come from… these are the things that you think about when you’re walking around on your way to get groceries, or walking home from a show or walking with your dogs through the park and this melody comes around… and those melodies, they’re strange things, you know? To kind of think about where they originate, where they come from, how they come about. I think I’ve always kind of believed that all those songs, all these melodies, all these parts, they’ve already been written, they’ve already been there. Like the possibilities, they’re there, it’s just a matter of noticing them, finding them. It’s the same way when you’re looking at the fretboard of a guitar. All these notes, they’re there, they live, they’re alive, it’s just a matter of listening for it, and utilizing it. And I believe the same thing with writing melodies. Are we writing melodies or are we just noticing them, discovering them? It’s something that keeps me up in the night and wakes me up in the morning.

And for last – and I know you’ll probably hear that question quite often – but is there gonna be another Hot Water Music album?
We have some ideas for some stuff that we’re working on. That we’re not gonna announce just yet but just to let everybody know, this year is our 20th anniversary and we’re gonna be playing Fest in Gainesville and a few other places, but I’m very very excited. There’s some new stuff that we’re kind of messing around with, some of it are familiar songs that people know, and some of it is brand new stuff that no one’s ever heard. So it should be exciting.

I think that’s it really…oh wait, I got one more note – injured finger, question mark [laughing]. You’ve posted a picture of your injured finger on Instagram, what happened?
It’s better. I caught a runaway snare drum, it was coming down the stairs in the bus and it was bouncing down the stairs and I just reached out to catch it and it bounced strange and just hit me perfect and jammed my finger. But it’s fine, I can’t complain.

As long as it’s not the left hand, right?
Well, I already have problems on that hand. I’m all good. If I can play a few simple chords I’m happy.

Alright, is there something else you might wanna say?
I just wanna thank everybody for, like…people who are reading this, to the supporters who’ve been around for years, you’ve all changed our lives for the better. It’s been so amazing to be a part of the music community, your music community, that you’ve brought us into and have made us feel like it is our music community as well. And to do that so far away from home has just been the most glorious thing that anyone could ever experience in living a life playing music, so thank you for that. And for all the new people who have no idea who I am or who my friends are that we’re on tour with, I just want to say thank you for listening and for giving us a shot. There’s so much great music out there, and there’s so many great shows and everyone has a choice. And the fact that people are coming to see us for the first time, never seen us before, and see me play in any way, they’re spending their money, their time, their energy to come visit a show, it means the absolute world to me. And it’s a huge honor to me, so thank you.

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