Originally appeared on Jambands.com
“I came to the conclusion that if I was going to make a living playing music and be happy with that life experience, I needed to focus all my energy into one band that played the music I wanted to play. That is why I quit Poor Man’s Whiskey, along with my other side projects, and formed Huckle.”
And so began the next chapter of Simon Kurth’s musical journey. Already a success in the eyes of many struggling musicians looking to make records, tour, and headline festivals, Simon (aka Huckle) searched for something more. As lead guitarist for Poor Man’s Whiskey, Simon, under the guise of Eli Jebidiah, had already accomplished many of the goals set up by back porch pickers and bedroom shredders searching for band mates on Craigslist.
But, playing in local bars and your buddy’s Halloween party isn’t the path to salvation for many who want to make a living playing music. This becomes especially true when the musician is trying to spread a musical idea based on social consciousness.
“I knew getting reestablished was going to involve tons of hard work, major time and financial commitments, putting together a great band, standing behind my artistic vision, and lots of luck. What made it all worth doing is my belief in myself, my music, and my community.”
In the beginning of 2012, worried about not having enough money to complete the album he was interested in making, Huckle turned to the community via Kickstarter.com. As a creative project funding platform, Kickstarter has helped fund over 30,000 ideas ranging from music to video to art. As a way to raise capital through the rallying of friends and supporters, Kickstarter was the perfect choice for Huckle.
“I am not one to ever ask for hand outs, so I was very uncomfortable with the idea at first. Since my music is community oriented, and I write songs about the things we all go through, I decided to see if they wanted to be a part of helping me realize my dream of sharing this music.”
And they did. In just over a month, Huckle surpassed his goal of raising $7500. Eighty backers pledged just over $7800 to the making of the first Huckle record, Wooden Melodies. But, perhaps more importantly, the successful completion of the Kickstarter campaign showed Simon his community was behind him.
“I was overwhelmed by the support I received. It was a very inspiring experience to see all those people help me get my footing under me with this Huckle record.”
“I had a very clear idea of the sound I wanted on this album, which was a product identifying the tones I wanted, and coupling that with the message I wanted to put out into the world. As far as the diversity within the material goes, some of that is due to some really good advice John Butler gave me. He encouraged me to embrace the musical diversity I felt within, and not to over think the process of what songs to put on or leave off the record. He said they all represent who I am, and people would appreciate that range of expression.”
Armed with instruments of sound and a desire to not have them stolen, Simon spent most of the spring living in his van and floating between his San Francisco friends‘ driveways. As the recording and mixing sessions stretched well into the night, the hourlong, late night drive to his Sebastopol home became less and less appealing. Luckily, the Southern California-raised surfer was no stranger to minimal sleep in the back of vehicle.
“I got really lucky in that the people I wanted to play and work with on the record all did, which I am so grateful for. The record was tracked on Jerry Garcia’s A-80 2” tape machine, then mixed in Pro Tools. David Simon Baker was a great engineer, and my rhythm section of Dave Brogan (ALO) and Murph really sounded great on the record. I was very lucky to have Tim Bluhm (Mother Hips) sing the harmonies for the record, and was stoked to have Nicki Bluhm sing on a track as well. Zach Gill (ALO) and Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz (ALO), also laid down some keys and pedal steel respectively that really made the songs come to life. The music on the record is about community, and I was really excited that the players on my record are from from my musical community. I think that vibe really comes through on the album.”
The basic tracking for Wooden Melodies was done in San Francisco at Lightrail Studios with the vocals tracked at Mission Bells Studio. Huckle mixed the album at Laughing Tiger Studios in San Rafael with David Simon Baker, while Mike Wells mastered it.
“I was conscious of the arc I wanted the album to have, and focused on developing the songs that needed to be on the record to make the overall listening experience complete. My favorite part of making the record was being deep within the process of assembling a song and then hearing it all together for the first time. For me, it is a divine confluence of action and intention.”
“It was clear to me that the only way forward in terms of growing as a musician, and as a human being was to move on and start over with a new band that shared my goals and intentions. Huckle is defined by my vision, but that vision is supported and in tune with why my bandmates play music. Their input and involvement are key elements to any success Huckle will have.”
It is this vision for making music with others that lead Huckle to assemble his traveling trio. On the road and in the studio, Simon is usually armed with a hard-case quiver filled with a 10 string acoustic guitar, a homemade Weissenborn lap steel guitar, as well as a banjo and other assorted instruments.
Contributing to half of Huckle’s powerful rhythm section is Murph on bass. Born and raised in Chicago, Murph started out playing piano and cello. An early move to bass allowed him to experience life on the road as a touring musician in The Freddy Jones Band and, after a move to San Francisco, Izabella.
“Murph has an enormous knowledge base of music. He is an incredible guitar player, and also tears it up on the keys. He has spent a lot of time on the road, and knows its rhythm well. I wanted a bass player who would play mostly upright, and develop a style of soloing with the bow. Murph was up for the challenge, and has really developed his own style within what we do. He also brings a lot to the table with his electric playing. It is great to hear him take bass solos in our song, House of Cards. I think playing upright for most of the night makes playing the electric feel fresh for him, and it is really fun to hear the stuff he comes up with in those moments.”
Sitting behind the drums for Huckle is Ezra Lipp. Ezra has been a freelance drummer, session player, and teacher since relocating to the Bay Area after completing a Music Performance/Jazz Studies BA from the University of Vermont.
“Ezra is a passionate person. When I met him, I noticed that right away. I liked the way he balances confidence with curiosity. He plays with a lot of intention, and that really translates in his playing. He has a great work ethic and truly invests himself into the music. I felt he would be a good fit in the band because I new he would be someone that could cultivate and develop the sound of the drums in a way that was in tune with what my vision for the band was.”
After the band was assembled, it was time to hit the road and spread the word through music. A a band, Huckle’s chemistry is immediately recognizable on stage. Molding their individual styles into a common vision, Huckle is able to combine the want of sharing music with their obvious enjoyment of performing for fans.
“We spend so much time together. We all share similar similar values and lifestyles, so we get a long great. I also think we each have our own way of pushing each others comfort zones in a constructive way, but know when to draw the line because we respect each other. We have a good thing going now. I told myself that whoever was going to be in the band needed not only to be the right musical fit, but they also had to be someone the rest of the band would get a long with. Good music comes from good connection on a spiritual level. Good friends make good music. It all starts there.”
Perhaps the most important thing to Huckle is making a connection with the audience in an honest way. It was this same desire that caused Eli Jebidiah become Huckle.
“I want to create an environment where people want to come together as a community and manifest positive intentions into positive actions and have fun doing it. It is my hope that my songs connect emotionally with people, and that my message in the music stimulates dialog and action in their lives. Life is something to be engaged, and I believe music is a powerful tool to connect with people. I like that music stirs up strong feelings in people, and it is my hope that the music I share with the world will have a positive impact on those it touches.
Connection means the world to me, and success or a ‘good show’ for me is defined by feeling like the music connected with the audience. When that happens, I feel like the band and the audience are one and the same, sharing an amazing moment.”
Music For Food
As part of the connection Huckle strives to make with the fans, Huckle started encouraging people to bring non-perishable food donations to their shows. In turn, Huckle would present the donated items to local food banks. Thus allowing them to complete the cycle of musician to fan to community.
“I did a ten day Vipassana retreat in Joshua Tree before I started touring with Huckle. It is a silent mediation, so I had a lot of time to reflect on what impact I wanted Huckle to have in the world. One thing that really frustrated me with touring in my previous bands was the interaction of playing and then leaving the town made me feel disconnected with people and the places were were traveling through.
Music for Food was a way I could contribute to the community of each town I visited by creating a system where the band and those that attended the concert could work together to help those less fortunate in their community. My idea was that if I gave away a free cd of Huckle music to encourage people to donate food, we could really engage local communities to raise awareness for those social issues of that community in a way that was fun and accessible for them. The idea is that bands all over the country will participate in the Music for Food program, so on any given night there could be 100 bands all hosting food drives across the nation, and connecting with local grass roots organizations to raise awareness for social issues.
“What has been really exciting is that I have recently partnered with the outdoor gear manufacturing Marmot. I was so inspired to see a global company like that take interest in this program, and want to get involved with it. We like to camp on the road when we can, because much of our tour routing is set up around the things we like to do during the day in the great outdoors (surf, ski, climb, etc). Marmot also reaches out to their community to help spread the word about the Music for Food program, and it has really helped raise the visibility of it. It all translates to more people donating more food, which is rad!”
Next for Huckle
“We are going back into the studio in December to record our next album, which should be released in March. I am excited about the process. We are doing the entire record on tape. No computers will be involved. I am also looking to release a live record in the middle of 2013. It is my intention to release as much new music as I can.”
Look for Huckle touring the West Coast supporting Wooden Melodies or camping along the way at some ridiculously beautiful locale. For more information on Huckle or the Music for Food program, please visit www.hucklemusic.com.