Interview: Leo Kottke

Leo Kottke is an extraordinary acoustic guitar player, with a style that draws on folk, blues, and jazz, but comes together in a way all his own. His musical career took off with his 1969 album 6 and 12 String Guitar, and since then he has released dozens of albums and entertained countless audiences with his guitar prowess, singing, and hilarious stories between songs.

This interview was conducted by phone on 11/18/11, and was the basis for a preview article on his 12/2/11 concert at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara.

UPDATE: At the end of this post, I’ve added Kottke’s email replies to questions that were the basis for a preview article for his 11/8/14 concert at the Lobero Theatre. They were received on 10/28/14.

Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at your upcoming concert in Santa Barbara?

Leo Kottke: I never really know. It’s two guitars, and whatever comes next. I’ve learned that it’s best not to plan. If you get a solo act up there and he’s following a setlist, you can smell it from a mile away. I just wing it.

JM: How do you decide what to play? Is it what you’re in the mood for, or what you perceive that the audience wants?

LK: No, it’s neither one. I know what tune I’m going to play when I walk on, and after that you just kind of, I don’t know how to put it, you just sort of look for it. The reason that I talk to the crowd is… in the beginning I didn’t speak at all. As a matter of fact, I never even looked up. I just played and ran away. One night I wound up talking without having time to think about it, and I discovered that it’s a great way to find out what to play next. And why it works, I don’t know. But it’s important what follows what. All you can do by figuring it out is to screw it up. Just saying a few words seems to open the way to the next tune.

JM: I certainly enjoy the words you say between the songs as much as the music.

LK: Sometimes it works, you know, but sometimes it’s just some clown opening his mouth. I don’t what that’s going to be either. It can be a grocery list or something else.

JM: I’ve seen you at various venues. I’m curious, what are some of the strangest venues that you’ve played at?

LK: You know, if I were a responsible performer in the world of show business here, I probably would keep track of that. But everytime I get the question I have to stop and think. Part of the reason that it’s hard to pluck them out of the past like that is that if you’re aware of the room when you’re playing, it screws everything up. So you try to forget them. A good room is one that can be forgotten, I mean, when you’re there. As a result, you don’t really see any difference between them. None of them are any stranger than the last one, because you’re just not tracking that. If there is a strange place to play, it’s something that you notice ten years later, or twenty, or thirty. You know, I’ve been doing this longer than I ever thought I would. I’m really grateful for that. It’s a privilege to play. And it does open up a perspective that you don’t have without putting in a lot of time.

JM: I remember when I saw you at a show, I think it was at a fair, between songs you mentioned that you had played a show where you looked over and an emu was looking at you.

LK: [laughs] It was actually not an emu, it was a gnu. G-n-u. But I have stood eye to eye with an emu, and you don’t want to do that. They’re taller than you are. I’m six feet, and they’re nasty. Well, you know they have the potential, for one thing, they could disembowel you with a flick of their wrist.

But the gnu, yeah, that was the first zoo I ever played, and it was one of the first zoos to do this. They all do it now, to put on concerts. I was in Oklahoma City, and, like I was saying, I pretty much forgot where I was, and fell into the music, and find myself eye to eye… well, I was a little higher up than the gnu. To be looking at one in the middle of going to the next tune, it was a shock. I thought we had an understanding, too. I thought maybe there was a little communication going on, but I think that’s delusional.

That actually happened to me in a restaurant on Ventura, just over the hill there from Hollywood. I guess it was a Thai restaurant, and I was sitting at the long end of a rectangular, very large aquarium. And there was a peculiar kind of fish in that thing. The way it works is it scoots along, it looks sort of like an eel and it’s big, and it scoots along just under the surface. And it has a couple of protuberances that stick straight up and grab stuff that falls on the surface. I guess it’s kind of a river fish. So the aquarium was about seven to eight feet long, and I was at one end waiting for this food, or I had the food, who knows. And I looked on my right, and at the far end of that aquarium one of these fish was coming my way. Now it moved very slowly. I suppose they’ve seen it all before [laughs]. And again, I thought maybe I had eye contact with this creature, and I sat there and sort of watched the fish. By the time it reached my end of the aquarium, I think maybe months had passed – it took forever – but I wasn’t aware of it until I kind of came to at my end of the aquarium. It was a really peculiar experience, and a little embarrassing, because I think if there was any kind of a contest, the fish won. It did something to me. I had to kind of tear myself away and re-enter the restaurant.

And the gnu had a little bit of that quality. Anytime you see an animal out of context…

Now, this sounds like it sounds. I was in Auckland one year, and I’d brought Leon Redbone over to open the shows there and in Australia. We were sitting in a hotel room at some kind of jet-lag hour, and it was dark out. We hear this scream, and it was a horrible scream. It was up in what I would call a feminine register as far as screams go. It was sustained, and it repeated. I jumped up and ran to the window, and Leon, as he would, just stayed where he was. It takes a lot to get him moving. I stuck my head out the window – now this is downtown Auckland, you know, a big international city, and we were maybe six to ten floors up, in a really solid urban environment – and there was a thing down there that could not have been, it’s not possible that it was a panther, but that was exactly what it looked like. A black panther, that tail sticking straight up in the air, and kind of swimming along the ground the way they move. It didn’t scream anymore, and I’m assuming that’s what screamed, there’s no way of knowing. And I yelled at Leon to come look at this thing, because it made no sense and it still doesn’t. And the memorable part of that night for me is that Leon looked at it and just went over and sat down again. He didn’t give a shit.

But as far as strange places to play. There are a few I can’t mention actually, because it doesn’t ring right. There is one… maybe it will come to me as we go along.

JM: Can I ask you reflect on the album that I guess launched your career, the 6 and 12 String Guitar album which was released over 40 years ago?

LK: Well, it took, you know. And that was a real surprise. I had an idea in my head at the time. That came out in ’69, and I’d been performing sporadically since about ’65. My first job was in ’64. I had sent a tape to John [Fahey], and very slowly we got to the point where I made the recording. I wasn’t interested in going on the road, I thought I was going to get an ordinary day job. I was, and I still am, happy with a guitar without having a job behind it. It just clicked. There was kind of a process to it that, step by step, came into play. It was just interesting how it happened.

The record still sells, and I still play some of that material. But the thing that’s important to me about it is mostly that that’s how John and I got together. I went out to meet John, and we played three jobs together, and I spent a lot of time with him back then. We got to be friends. He was a very interesting guy, very highly educated. He was one of those self starters, and went his own way all the time. So anything about that record is wrapped up with what I know about John and the stuff that we did. We played jobs off and on over time after that, but it gave me my whole adult life really. And that’s due to John putting the thing out. Nobody else would have bothered. And it did so well that I had to do another one, and everything just sort of brought me to talking to you on the phone today.

JM: [laughs] Could you describe the John Fahey that you knew?

LK: [laughs] Some of these are hard questions, and that’s a very hard question. It’s hard to capsulize John. There were two or three of him that came and went, and, you know, the last one went for good.

I met him at a point where there was a lot of change going on for him, and the best way I have of describing anybody is just to try to find what Truman Capote called “frames”. He would walk into a given room or a situation, or whatever it was, and in order to orient himself and in order to have a handle, he’d find some small feature within the whole picture that he could frame, that embodied at that point everything that he knew about it, or could imagine about it. He’d narrow his focus, in other words, in order to expand his possibilities, I guess. And I think that’s the best way to describe John.

The one that I like to mention is that he was the official turtle catcher for the Swami Satchidananda Society at that time. As I understand it the Swami kind of faded into some ill-repute. It was part of John’s witness, he claimed to have found the Swami under his desk with one of his acolytes, which apparently was forbidden within the society. There is one thing about John that I don’t know if anybody could quite figure it out or not, and that was whether he was taking you on a trip, or recounting something that had happened. And most of what I heard from John, and most of what I knew about him, that was verifiable, and from my own experience, it turns out that it really is that way. So I suspect that happened.

But at any rate, he was their turtle catcher, and he said, “do you want to come see the place?” So we went somewhere in L.A. and they had this big park with a pond in it. I had asked him why they needed a turtle catcher, and he said that at their meditation pool there’s a crowd of snapping turtles, and they’re harassing the monks. They can’t get into their groove with these snappers there. I think it’s actually the opposite, that you should be able to get into your groove no matter what’s there. But they were worried about it. So we went to the pond and John showed me the places where he would find them, and he said, “Over there”, and he pointed to the other side of the pond, “there’s a big one”. So we walked around the pond and stopped, and right where we stopped he said, “See there”, and I looked for a while, and there was a huge turtle. He grabbed it. He got it out of there, and showed it to me. Boy, ugliest things I’ve ever seen. And he said, “I leave this one here, so that I can keep coming back. But I think that it’s good for the monks.” That was John. I wouldn’t have that experience, any part of it, with anyone else.

He recorded a bridge. I think that was in Tennessee.

JM: Yeah, I have that album [The Yellow Princess, the song is called “The Singing Bridge of Memphis, Tennessee”]

LK: He was a little upset because his wife had signed a guy named Charlie Nothing to the label, who played what he called a psychedelic saxophone.

I was always really happy to see John. There’s a pile of stories. If you want know about John, though, the guy to talk to is Peter Lang. Peter spent a lot of time on the road with John, and he knew him really well.

JM: This morning I was listening to your next album after 6 and 12 String Guitar, Mudlark. I couldn’t help but think that this must’ve been a much different experience to record than the first album. It has the vocals…

LK: Oh, it was a nightmare.

Jesus, you’re asking some broad questions, and I’m talking too much.

It was very different. The Takoma record [6 and 12 String Guitar] was made in a warehouse. It was all live. I don’t think I re-took anything. And there was no time spent setting up the microphones. It was two mikes. I just sat down and played everything I knew, and we sent John the tape. There was no mixing, since it was live to two-track. And there was no sequencing. The order they are in on the record is the order that I recorded them in, except that John lifted two or three because there was too much time for one vinyl record. And he put those on a compilation record later.

But the first Capitol record [Mudlark] was in an actual studio, and it had a producer on it, and a label on it, both of which had been signed into me by one of the producers Denny Bruce and John, who was the other guy. John wanted to have a production company, and Denny was part of that. They had to sign the company to get me. I was their act. But the first day in the studio John quit and walked out [laughs] with a look of pure horror on his face, and it went from there.

We wound up finishing the record in Nashville. Had a lot of fun down there, because I met a bunch of guys that I had heard of, and got to play with them. We recorded there in Wayne Moss’ garage, and that was a lot of fun. And there are things on that record that I like, but it was the first time that I’d recorded other than live vocals, I’d never used cans, I’d never dubbed a vocal on, which nobody should ever do, etc. But I got away with it, and Capitol was a great label.

JM: This is a question about your songwriting approach in the context of a specific song. My favorite album by you is Guitar Music, and there is “Side One Suite” on that is a multi-part song. How did that come together?

LK: The record was recorded by the same guy that recorded the Takoma record, [catalog number] C1024, and he’s an engineer that I wish I had done a lot more work with. I don’t know why, I really don’t know why, because he was very fast, and is very good. Still working, I’m sure. And that may be part of what appeals to you, because he has my kind of understanding of how the guitar works. There’s a whole sympathy thing that you will have, if you’re lucky. It’s easy to have that with Scott, his name’s Scott Rivard.

Most of the guitar was a [Gibson] J-45 six string. It was a deliberate attempt to get some of the sound of the guitar that was on the Takoma record, that was stolen the first night that John and I played together. It was a unique sound. Guitars aren’t built that way. They’re built toward a different point than that guitar was built. More to do with flat-picking. Bluegrass had a huge influence on the development of the flat-top, and I tend to be drawn to the parlor guitar that preceded that. So that record had that kind of…

I mean, it wasn’t thought out at all like that. None of this is thought out, they just all fall together and take a shape that you seem to have invented, but you didn’t have anything to do with it. It’s kind of like arguing backwards to do a proof of intelligent design. Just because I’m here doesn’t mean that somebody put it there. It could be anything else, whether somebody designed it or not. It’s an assumption that can’t be made, is all.

So it was pure chaos like all of them, but it did have some natural coherence that I like about it as well. The trouble with that record is it’s hard to broadcast. It’s hard to get it out on radio because of the way it’s recorded. It sounds much better in phones or with bookends in the right place.

How I wrote the “Suite”, I couldn’t even tell you. All the tunes just sort of come and get me. If it doesn’t take, I don’t force it.

JM: Another of my favorites is the album after that, Time Step, which was again a bit of a change in direction. That album has a song that has personal significance to me, “Rings”. I put that on a mix tape for my girlfriend at the time, who became my wife and we played it at our wedding.

LK: That’s nice.

JM: I’m curious, was the change in direction for that album a deliberate attempt at anything, or just following your muse.

LK: This sounds kind of cold, but it’s following the contract. You sign a contract, you owe them X amount of records, and they decide when you’re going to record. If you say, “I’d like to record now, because I’m ready and I have the situation I want” and it’s not on their release schedule, they will tell you not to do it. It always seems to come up that you have to do albums in the least propitious sort of location on your timeline, you know, personally. You like to feel like it when you’re going to do this, but almost always you don’t. It’s a lot like performance on a night when everything has collapsed for you, and you’d rather just hide your head and get depressed and think about ropes, and jumping off of buildings and stuff. But you have to go out and play. And what happens is that the guitar will take over, and you forget all of that other stuff, and you have a fine time most of the time.

That record I made with T-Bone Burnett. Once I had been forced into it by the market, which was the market interpreted by the record label, what was demanded was that I sing and that I use a rhythm section. So all of those early records are part of a learning curve, except for the Takoma record, and the learning curve is really around how to deal with the sound problems and, musically, the challenges of playing with a rhythm section. I’m a solo player, so I’m not really playing the right way to be in a section. And it’s a challenge, mainly for them. But I’m aware of the same thing, because it can be really difficult to sort it out sonically.

We were into that, and I really liked playing with the two Daves, Dave Minor and Dave Kemper the drummer. Later, on a record called My Father’s Face, which T-Bone also produced, we tried voicing the bass so that it was always below the guitar, so that we never met. That works, but it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for the bass, the guy doesn’t have much to work with. So we were doing that kind of thing. And the drummer was a ball.

Also, I remember the coffee. I didn’t drink coffee, but I thought I’d have some coffee. We were mixing, and I remember yelling that this shit was legal. I was amazed. I was totally fucked up on two cups of coffee. Studio coffee, but still. I had six cups, and by that time I couldn’t listen to these drums that I loved. They hurt. Everything hurt. And I ran, I left. I don’t drink coffee anymore. Stuff like that that doesn’t mean anything is what sticks out.

Emmylou [Harris] came in and did some harmonies with me, and that was wonderful. On one of them she said, “This is my favorite song.” It was a Lefty Frizzell tune “Saginaw, Michigan”. She went in and did these harmonies. She did two voices. It really needed something, and she was it, as it turned out. Everybody was very happy with it, and I was too effusive and probably embarrassed her, but I said, “How did you do that? It really changed everything.” And she said, “Well, when you go flat I go with you, just not as far.” It was a great lesson, and one of this first that I got in what singing was really about.

The other thing she said was that she did that Everly Brothers thing, and I thought I knew what that was, which of course I didn’t, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking that I do know. But she knew I didn’t know, and she said, “You know, where they trade their parts.” So the parts stay the same, the harmony stays the same, the upper and lower voice are still doing the same thing, but different guys will be singing them. And it gave me goosebumps because I realized what that means, it’s so super-musical that it just gives you chills. And I never knew it. It’s absolutely why they’re the Everly Brothers, why that sound happens. I mean, of course it’s everything else as well. It was great.

I met her when she was an opening act at D.C. for the Seldom Scene, and we hung out over at her house a little bit. So it was nice. Every now and then I bump into Emmy and we kind of catch up a little. Nice to see some continuity in a job that doesn’t have any.

JM: Here’s something I found interesting… Shortly after the reunification of Germany, I visited a very distant relative I’d never met before, who had grown up in East Germany. We were talking about music, and I said that I play guitar – not nearly as well as you do – and he said there’s this phenomenal guitarist you have to check out, his name is Leo Kottke. And it amazed me first of all with him being from East Germany that he knew about you, and also that we’ve never met but we share some small amount of DNA and we have similar musical taste. At any rate, I’m curious, where is your international following strong these days?

LK: If you drew a map of the music business in Europe, Germany would occupy most of the map. And around the corners you’d have the U.K., Scandinavia, Italy, and so forth. Germany is where you need to have an audience, or you’re likely not to have one elsewhere. It kind of translates that way.

My records were being pressed in the East. I didn’t know that. When the Soviet was still in place, I did play East Berlin, and found out that I had had an awful lot of airplay in Poland, through a guy in East Berlin. And then when the Wall went down some years later, I went back and got further in, I played Magdeburg and some other places, I started to see some of the records that had been released there. Or bootlegged, I’d have to say.

I’m going way off your question.

JM: That’s fine.

LK: There was a television show called Der Jugendclub, which was out of East Berlin. I did it once, and it had a huge reach. It reached everywhere in the Eastern Bloc. And it was OK to watch it, to listen to it. On that show the Eastern Bloc got exposed to the same stuff we were being exposed to. But they didn’t see the acts. The acts didn’t get through very often – it was hard to do that. And radio had a big reach and was very important. So I got to the whole country, and it was fun to find out that I was there without knowing it. I was in Poland without knowing it.

I’ve had wonderful times in Germany. I still do. I love playing there. I love the language, and I’ll never be able to speak it. So it’s nice that that’s where the bulk of it is for me.

JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

LK: By aspiring do you mean someone who’s trying to learn how to play their instrument?

JM: It could be someone trying to play their instrument, or someone who is trying to make it as a musician. Either way is fine.

LK: So it’s really two questions, because they really aren’t the same thing. I don’t know what to tell somebody who wants to play. All you have to have is the desire.

But as far as people who want to make a living, I think they’re asking the wrong question and taking the wrong approach. It’s more that you… Well, before I turn into the Grand Poobah, I only have my experience to go on. If you like to play, you just play. It’s as simple as that. But in the last ten years, I’ve started asking people who want to know “how do I get into the business”, what jobs they might have turned down in the last few years. And there will be one or two things they’ve turned down. And I’ll point out that that’s how you do it – you never turn anything down. You play everything you can, and you just keep doing that. If it’s going to happen, it’ll start there.

The rest of it is just dumb luck. It really is. In a sense talent won’t get you anywhere. It’s nice once you’re somewhere if you’ve got a couple chops to bring to it, but they aren’t required. They are if you want to stay there and keep growing. But to get into the business, the best you can do is to just play anywhere. Funerals, weddings, library openings, burials, burn wards, volunteer at schools, prisons, and hospitals. Actually, I’m not so sure about prisons but those last three are all the same. Well you can play federal prisons, but you might want to wait to play a state prison.

JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future?

LK: I don’t really ever plan. It’s about time I’ve recorded something. I’ve been talking to Mike [Gordon]. I love playing with Mike. The two records we made almost happened on their own. The first one certainly did, and the second one we actually rehearsed. That would be a lot of fun, but I don’t think either one of us would say, “OK, let’s meet on this date, let’s deal with some material and we’ll record this.” It doesn’t work that way. But I notice that we’re kind of inching in that direction.

I’m really interested in making some vinyl, because I like independents, and the only thing they’re selling is vinyl. They have their own labels now, independent record stores. Toward that end I left my label owing them two records and they’re very kind letting me go, and so I’m wide open. I can do just about anything I want. I’m aware that I have to do something. You really need to put stuff out fairly often. That’s part of the deal about getting into the business. Still trying.

JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about your music or your career?

LK: No, it’s funny you’d ask that, because YouTube is a big challenge in that direction. There is an urge to overcome misunderstandings, to go back and fix something you did. That happens just in mixing, it happens in playing itself, it happens in the press. But YouTube is a great capsule version of what you have to do, which is ignore all of it and don’t fix anything. If it can’t work with all of the cracks showing, it’s not going to work for long anyhow. So I don’t have anything that I would want to address.

There is at least one thing that I’ve noticed, and that is that some people have a second life. Some acts. That is really facilitated by this whole digital revolution, which in general I don’t like, but there are some features to it that are remarkable. I can go on and find Jimmy Raney, for example, who would be lost to me otherwise. And John Fahey, there’s just been a big box set, have you seen it?

JM: I heard it was out, but I haven’t bought it yet.

LK: A friend of mine mailed me one. John is in better shape than maybe any point in his career. And he’s dead. But he deserves it. That box set handles him properly. Because the thing about John is that he was always difficult, you couldn’t pin him down. And he was always noticing things that nobody else noticed. The setting in that box set gets that exactly. I’m looking forward to it. It’s nice to see so much of John these days.

JM: I know that you were born in Georgia and moved around a lot, and typically you’re described as being from Minnesota. I’m from Iowa originally. I’m wondering, can we claim you as a Midwesterner?

LK: That comes the closest because most, but not all, of the places I grew up in were the Midwest. I spent very little time in Minnesota. I didn’t really move there until I got out of the Navy and I got married to a Minnesota woman. And that was it. So I’ve been there ever since.

I probably actually feel more like I’m from Oklahoma or Wyoming, because Oklahoma’s where I started the guitar, and Wyoming’s where I abandoned the violin and started the trombone. And my time with the trombone is really central to the way that I play the guitar now. I owe it a lot. And the teachers I had on the trombone, I didn’t have any for the guitar, so I used what I learned on the trombone.

JM: I guess that’s not obvious to me. How did that affect your guitar playing?

LK: The trombone, as all the instruments are in a band or an orchestra, they’re all subordinate to the whole. You learn in that sense, and in the sense of sensing it, you learn of hearing it, or sense memory and sense recall. You learn from the inside out. That’s inspirational and invaluable. And the music I play now is really a part of something else, but I don’t know what the something else is anymore. But I still play the same way.

Also, you learn that Western music is written in sections, and not really movements or anything like that, but that it has structures, and they’re invisible if the music is good. If you know the structures, it’s like having a really good guide. It’s not why you write the way you write, but it gives you a way to… You know, the snake can’t swallow whatever it’s swallowing all at once. So it gives you a way to do that. That’s a horrible comparison, but I can’t think of anything else.

JM: Fair enough.

LK: If you do it wrong, you’ve got this big bump in the middle. It’ll be really obvious and you can change things, unlike the snake.

JM: We’re very happy that you pass through the Santa Barbara area quite often, it seems. I hope you continue to do that.

LK: I do too. I’ve been allowed into the sound stream. It’s the first thing you notice when it takes off. You’re walking on stages that people you love have walked on, too. It’s a great, great feeling to be part of all this.

The Lobero is one of my favorite theaters, by the way. It’s not one of the strangest, but it’s definitely one of the finest.

Here is the new email interview, with answers received on 10/28/14:

Jeff Moehlis: In addition to your original songs, you’ve done a number of wonderful covers, my favorites being “Eight Miles High”, “Embryonic Journey”, and “Sleepwalk”. What drew you to those songs?

Leo Kottke: There are many tunes I’d love to cover but can’t. They just won’t fit inside my head, or on top of it. It’s like Robert Goulet doing Son House, or vice versa. (I do wish I’d heard Mr. House doing Robert Goulet.) But the three you mention have major thirds in them. I am not afraid of a major third.

JM: You’ve also recorded a couple of pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, namely “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and “Bourree”. It’s been claimed that Bach’s music is so exquisitely beautiful that it is proof of the existence of God. Comments?

LK: Bach is God.

JM: When I interviewed you before, you told me a great story about John Fahey working as the turtle catcher for the Swami Satchidananda Society. Are there any other John Fahey stories that you’re willing to share?

LK: Many, but I feel anymore like I’m milking him when I do. I’d rather just say I’d be a beggar if it weren’t for John.

JM: Another guitarist on Fahey’s Takoma label was Robbie Basho. Can you tell me a bit about him, both as a guitarist and as a person?

LK: There were two of him. I knew the guy in DC who was into Japanese movies and wore cowboy outfits, drank a lot, sang HEY JOE, and ONE GRAIN OF SAND. An amazing blues voice. The second Robbie, who I spoke to on the phone a couple times, insisted that the first did not and had never existed. I really believe that HE believed that. Fahey knew the first Robbie but would only countenance the second Robbie…. who kinda bugged him. The first Robbie was pretty amazing on the 12.

JM: Any other guitarists that made a particular impact on you? Sandy Bull? Davey Graham? Peter Lang? …?

LK: All guitarists do. Sounds glib but that’s it. A guitar sounds good if you drop it on the floor. I’ve never wanted to BE another guitarist but I wish I could play like a lot of other guitarists. That’s a very long list.

JM: What are your views on nature versus nurture when it comes to musical talent?

LK: It’s not nature OR nurture. It’s luck. After that, if you have either, you’re a step ahead. Having said that, there IS something ineffable about it. My son has a sense of time I can’t come close to. It was in him by the time he was about four years old. He was apparently born with an understanding that none of his relatives have.

JM: It’s been a while since you’ve released a new studio album. Is another one in the works, or are you happy to keep the focus on live performance these days?

LK: It’s always the live stuff. There are two records in the works but I can’t really talk about them yet. It’s too soon.


2 comments for “Interview: Leo Kottke”

  1. Outstanding interview. Amusing as wel as revealing. Gives a bit of insight into the mystery, while still inviting the reader to revel in the realization that music is inexplicable.

    Posted by Rae Claire | November 26, 2011, 3:34 pm
  2. This is the best interview with Kottke I’ve ever read. I’ve been one of his fans since ‘6 & 12’ and I love how so much of his history is referenced here. I saw him play with Emmy Lou in a gymnasium in Long Beach (a strange venue, for sure)and it was great to read him mentioning her. Can’t wait to see him again at our Lobero.

    Posted by Kirk Taylor | November 27, 2011, 12:31 pm

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