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Artist of the Month for January 2003: Kerry Kling

Name: Kerry Kling
Age: 45
Town: North Branford, CT.
Hometown: Branford, CT.

At what age did you start playing guitar?
It was somewhere around my late teens, I don't really remember. I do remember going along for the ride with a friend to pick up his new acoustic at a music store in New Haven. I watched a guy who worked there (Tom Meccariello) do a demo for a customer. He was playing a bunch of James Taylor stuff on an Ovation acoustic thru an MXR stereo/chorus into a little Mouse amp. It was the first time I saw anyone play the guitar really well, up close. You know, not just strumming it. I was captivated. I saw the repetition of the patterns, the hammer ons and pull-offs, and finally decided...hell I can do that! (well after many years of course). Around the same time, one of my sisters was taking guitar lessons on a Martin OM copy. I learned all the basic chords on it and somehow figured out James Taylor's lick to "Country Road" had a drop D tuning. I remember my father coming in the living room after about four hours of me playing the same lick saying "Okay! I think you have it...next". At some point I ended up getting an Ovation acoustic. They were the flavor of the month back then and very easy to play and they could also double as a canoe paddle. Tom Meccariello (an amazing player) would show me a few more licks here and there over time when I went into the store. I guess you can say Tom inspired me to start playing. Thanks Tom.

First guitar:
A Martin OM copy

Early Influences:
Most of what you would call traditional country and pop vocalists. Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Flatt and Scruggs, Jimmy Dean, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Roger Miller, George Jones, Charlie Rich, Ray Price, Patsy Cline, Johnny Horton, Don Gibson, Stonewall Jackson, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, etc... My Dad worked as a salesman for CBS Records in New York when we were kids. It seemed like every week he'd have a box with a dozen records arrive in the mail. (They all had "Demo Not For Sale" stamped on them). Every weekend music was cranked throughout the house. We had the best stereo in the neighborhood. We even had speakers out on the patio! Christmas time the family would take the train into N.Y. and go to the CBS Records Christmas party. Mitch Miller would come around to all the tables and give out presents to the kids. My father has home movies of Marty Robbins and a few other country stars swimming in the pool at the old Americana Hotel in N.Y. After that, my older sisters were into FM Radio so they'd come home with all the albums by James Taylor, Carol King, Karla Bonoff, Buffalo Springfield, Poco, Bonnie Raitt, Pousette-Dart Band, Jackson Browne, CSNY etc...

First gig:
Ha! I've actually never played out. I'm your standard issue closet musician. Music is therapy for me. I was never attracted to the notion of playing in front of people. I'll play or jam with other musicians. I just don't have the attention span to commit myself to "having" to play for an extended period of time. When I'm tired of playing, I stop. Its kinda of that making your hobby a job thing for me. I love to watch others play though. I like being entertained. I just don't have the entertainer thing in me. Every once and a while I think... "Maybe I'll work up a couple sets." Then I think... "Naaaah." I guess I'm getting enough from what I'm doing. My brother Chris is the entertainer. He has played guitar and keyboards in local country bands for years where he lives with his family in North Carolina.

Acoustic Guitars you own:
It depends on what week you talk to me. I've owned a number of Martins, Taylors and Bourgeois'. Right now I'm down to a '95 Taylor limited edition Grand Auditorium. It has a cedar top and mahogany back and sides. I recently sold a few guitars to order a couple Bourgeois'. I'm waiting on a custom dreadnought. And soon will order a JOMC. Both will have 1 3/4" necks at the nut with more of a "U" shape. I have a Gibson 'Scruggs Standard' banjo (and my eyes looking for an open back), a Flatiron 'A' mandolin and I also have a couple beater guitars: A no name solid spruce top parlor copy and a Yamaha nylon.

Favorite Guitar(s):
Bourgeois dreadnought and his JOMC. But there are so many nice guitars being made these days. I like Flammang, Tippin, Collings, McAlister, Santa Cruz... (God help me if I ever win the lottery).

Your Style, and how you developed it:
Fingerstyle, which most closely resembles James Taylor I guess. We seem to lean toward who imprinted us first I think. At least thats what I've noticed with my friends and their playing styles. Given my early exposure to country influences, I relate to James Taylor because a lot of his stuff has that rural feel to it. You can play his stuff without singing and it still impresses people because there is lots of little stuff going on and its always melodic. I can play most of his songs verbatim, (kind of an obsession) but when I'm noodling around with my own stuff somehow its my own. My first CD had more of a New Age feel to it. My new CD will have a more rural sound to it. I've always listened to and love Bluegrass. So if you can imagine fingerstyle meets bluegrass thats a clue to what the new CD will be like. More banjo for sure ("Cold In The Cabin" mp3 on website). Most of my stuff is slow to medium tempo. Kind of just laid back walkin' down the road stuff. No flash here, but I try to keep it interesting detail wise. I really strive for melody. I fingerstyle with ProPik metal picks. The ones with the open finger pad on them and the split wraps. They also double as banjo picks. I've tried all the other things and these work for me. I get lots of volume and tone without having to pick too hard and I can still feel the strings.

Practice Regimen:
I play almost everyday. Sometimes for ten minutes. Sometimes for three hours. But on average I'd say about thirty minutes everyday between the guitar and the banjo. I don't practice scales or any anything like that. I only know two or three anyway. Usually I'll just play along with various CD's I've compiled with guitar and banjo songs that I know, just to keep the fingers moving. If there is an acoustic song or riff I like, I'll sit down and stay with it like a Pit Bull until I've got it. I've learned through osmosis. Learning other artists songs and riffs, just adds to my knowledge base. I don't consider myself a musician in the true sense of the word. I can't read or write notation. I don't understand theory... it makes my head hurt. I think it was Willie Nelson that said "I'm not a guitar player, but I play guitar." I wish I could just pull stuff out of the air instantly, be a better improvisor, but I can't. I'll start a chord progression and hum a melody in my head. Then I have to struggle to find the notes on the guitar. Technically though I consider myself a good fingerstyle player. I probably represent most of the players reading this. I'm just passionate enough to keep playing, without making a job out of it. I have to hear and feel the guitar in my hands. Its just a comforting thing to do. You have this whole visual thing of a finely crafted and detailed instrument making great sounds and the feel and touch of playing it. It hits most of your senses. When its new, it smells great too (maybe thats why I keep getting new guitars). I can't sing, or speak another language but look... I can play this thing pretty well...cool huh? Its just a wonderful distraction for me.

Favorite Artist(s):
Lots of Bluegrass bands. Alison Krauss and Union Station just blow me away. I've seen her at festivals for years. This past year my daughter and I saw them with Jerry Douglas at the Shubert Theater in New Haven. What a well rounded bunch of musicians... it doesn't get any better. They are the closest thing to acoustic nirvana for me at this point in time. Then of course there is James Taylor, Livingston Taylor, Tony Rice (get his "Backwaters" CD), Jim Messina, Jorma Kaukonen, Earl Klugh, Gordon Lightfoot, Tom Rush, Russ Barenberg ("Moving Pictures" CD), Sean Watkins, Bryan Sutton, Ron Block...

Is there anything else you want people to know about you, your playing style or your views on today's music in general?
I've been married to my wife Ellen for twenty two years. I have a daughter, Sarah (twenty one). I was in construction for almost thirty years. Half of which was spent as a cabinet maker. Over the last ten years I made a few connections with people in the music and pro-audio business. I ended up building a dozen or so project studios for various people (some notable). These were basically very elaborate basement studios. (There are a couple shots on my web site of some of the studios). Unfortunately the Arthritis in my back, hips, and knees have gotten the best of me so my construction days are over. One of my past clients (you hear his voice on movie trailers and TV everyday), took me under his wing and trained me on Pro-Tools to produce Radio and TV spots for him soon after my back crapped out. I did this for a few years. Some of my music was used on several local radio spots. Its a very interesting part of the music/recording business. These days I still do a few freelance spots as well as graphic and web site work out of my own studio. I have been blessed with making some great friends as a result of getting involved in this part of the business... (I have access to lots of very expensive German microphones!).

I think music is one of life's great distractions. Especially if you learn an instrument(s) and generate the sounds yourself. So many variables and possibilities for creating. Never a dull moment. As I said before, I've never had a lesson. I can't read notation. I don't understand theory. Everything I've learned was from visually watching other players or laboriously figuring things out for myself. I've only learned what I had to in order to play a particular song. When I hear a new song that I just have to be able to play...its like someone drawing a line in the sand daring me to learn it. I haven't ventured into other tunings yet other than drop D and partial capos. My song Northern Dream (web site) is drop D partial capo EADG strings 2nd fret. Thats about as far as I stray from standard tuning. I have a large capo collection. Some people collect old toasters. I collect capos. How many different ways are there to capo a guitar? Apparently lots.

At some point you sit down and noodle around with all the components you've acquired and try your hand at writing your own stuff. Eventually something starts to sound like a song. So you just start to build on that. Just like building a house. You know what sounds bad, so you steer away from it. You eventually end up with a song that is your collective unconscious. Now you have another set of challenges apart from learning other artists songs, and thats creating your own. One of the things I like to do is take a song of someone else's and replace chords somewhere. Now I have different foundation. Then I'll take the riffs they use and change them somehow. Maybe change some of the notes and play them in another octave or played on keyboard with counter melodies etc. Its like taking a recipe and screwing with the ingredients. You end up with your own song with the help of another song to jump start you. Its a great exercise. Like the kid learning to be a writer in the movie "Finding Forester".

The state of today's music... awesome. Because of the internet there is so much more to be exposed to. Practically every musician has his or her own web site and they all have their own slant musically. I found that selling my CD's wasn't as daunting as I thought it would be. I basically just walked into small Earthy/Crunchy gift type stores that had a small selection of CDs for sale. You know the kind of store that features the music "now playing"...and asked them to give mine a listen. They'd either put it on right then, or I'd come back later. Nine times out of ten they'd buy five CDs and I'd give them one to play in the store. Then I'd have friends of friends who would buy ten CDs to use as gifts. I think in four months the cost to have them made was covered. The rest is gravy. But again its all for fun. I didn't expect to sell any. I thought I'd end up handing them all away. Its kind of cool when people, especially strangers compliment you on your music, and then pay for it.

There are plenty of data bases to search out any genre of music that you want. You have online streaming radio stations (which is where I get most of my exposure to new artists), Satellite Radio which is a great concept. Both Sirius and XM have Bluegrass stations no less! Non stop commercial-free radio in your car, where ever you go...what a concept! There are lots more festivals of all kinds cropping up more and more every year. Who needs record companies when you can start your own...unless of course you want to be rich and famous.

Visit Kerry's website at www.kerrykling.

AOTM Archives:

August 2008 - Danny Combs
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June-July 2004 - Charles David Alexander
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December 2003 - Ernie Hawkins
November 2003 - Keith Knight
October 2003 - Jaquie Gipson
September 2003 - Chuck Durfor
August 2003 - Cathy Horner
July 2003 - Art Edelstein
June 2003 - Muriel Anderson
May 2003 - Clarelynn Rose
March-April 2003 - Steve Wildey
February 2003 - Rick Ruskin
January 2003 - Kerry Kling
December 2002 - Tim O'Brien
November 2002 - Howard Emerson
October 2002 - Dennis Roger Reed
September 2002 - Larry Pattis
August 2002 - Paul Asbell
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