Kelly Joe Phelps


PM: But you know, it's not only your prowess as a player that separates you from the field, but now it's your approach to lyrics, which I think is really something. Some people's songs are like photographs, but yours are getting more and more like paintings.

KJP: That's very nice to hear. I appreciate that.

PM: And on this new record there's only one song under four minutes, only one with a chorus.

KJP: [laughs] Thank you.

PM: [laughs]

KJP: My proudest achievement.

PM: For many of us who really dig your music, it's interesting to see you hook up with Lee Townsend of Berkeley. He's a fascinating character, to be both producer and manager to several key musical guys. (

KJP: Right.

PM: Tell us about him, please, and how your relationship and your deal with him came together.

KJP: That developed over a couple of years. He had evidently been a fan of what I was doing. And years back, maybe '97 or something like that, he called a booking agency I had then--if I remember right--and wanted to relay a message to me just to say that he really dug my stuff, and if I was ever looking for production help that he would love to do it. And along the way we had a couple of phone conversations. But other things were going on for me at the time, so we didn't hook up. And then somewhere along the way there I met Bill Frisell, as well.

PM: What a trip he is.

KJP: Oh, yeah. And he's got a tight connection, of course, with Lee. And that kind of tightened the circle up a little bit. Then Lee was producing a record by this Canadian band, Zubot and Dawson. It's been out now for maybe six months or so. But anyway, they wanted me to come up and sing a couple of songs on the record and play a little bit, so I went up there to do that. And after spending a couple of days up there working with Lee, that really supplied the fuel for me. I thought, "Man, this would be great." So consequently, not only did Lee and I end up working together on Slingshot, but I also used that band for my band.

PM: Zubot and Dawson.

KJP: Yeah.

PM: And you're doing dates with them to boot, right?

KJP: Right.

PM: Amazing. It's very unusual in the business that you hook up with somebody--and he's done this with several guys--not only hook up as producer, but, "Yeah, I think I'm going to have this guy manage me, too."

KJP: Yeah, well, Lee's an amazing guy. He's a sweetheart, for starters. I mean, he's got all the qualities you'd ever want in just a friend. He's a great guy, you can trust him with your wife. [laughs]

PM: That's getting right to the point.

KJP: [laughs] And he works hard. He's got a lot of integrity, and his taste is impeccable, I think.

PM: And he's a player, or not a player?

KJP: He actually does play some, though I don't know if he would readily admit that. But he does have a guitar or two, and he plays.

PM: Phyllis Oyama has been really good to me, trying to help line this up and line something up with Frisell. What's she like in person?

KJP: Same thing, man. Yeah, she's great. She works very, very hard, and takes care of her artists, that's for sure.  continue

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