Artist of the Month for January 2003: Kerry Kling
Name: Kerry Kling
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.
A Martin OM copy
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
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.
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
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
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.
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?
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.