Yeah, exactly. Do you remember the first time that I ever saw you perform?
I don’t remember...I would think that it was while we were in college, was it not? Was it with my old band?
No that’s right, it was during college. I think it may have been an open mic night or something like that, but I was on my way to a meeting and I stopped in and I didn’t even really know who you were at the time or that you were in another band, but I saw you play and it was just you and a guitar and I was like “Oh shit, who is that/what is this,” and I stopped and stayed as long as I could.
That’s so funny.
You’re disarmingly charming … the music you’re playing can have this inner turmoil, and you crack jokes in between, and as an audience member it takes you out of it in a good way, because you’re reminded of the artifice, you’re reminded of the craft, you’re reminded that you’re just some guy on a stage relating to the world and relating to people in the way that you do.
I think that part’s probably just luck. In terms of the performance aspect it was never so calculated that I’d be like, “Oh okay, well now I’m going to be intense and now I’m going to be funny.” It was like, “I’m just nervous, I’m gonna talk.”
When you were first writing songs and performing them in front of people, were there any specific artists that you had in mind who had inspired you?
Nina Simone—I was also listening to her a lot and her live performances. Ella Fitzgerald...Jill Scott! I was also listening to their studio stuff, but these are artists whose live shows I was pretty intent on studying.
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen you live, but no two performances are alike. You pay a lot of attention to reading the room, and as soon as you play a chord or start to sing, you’re changing the temperature of the room, and that’s always exciting to see.
That’s just jazz, listening to jazz and thinking about performance through the lens of jazz music. Even if it’s not jazz music that I’m performing, it’s the spirit of improvisation and the spirit of tuning a song to the environment that you’re in.