Interview with Tim Easton: Not Cool

Poetic Justice: Not Cool seems like a departure from your previous albums, in that it’s probably a more band orientated album. What was the reason for going in this direction? Do you think this line-up will record again?

Tim Easton: I think of all of my albums as departures because I’m not really into repeating myself, in as far as sounds or concepts go. Same voice, maybe a little wiser, but a different direction.  For Not Cool, I didn’t have a single person telling me what to do so quickly made the vintage sounding record that I wanted to make.  It took me five days. This line-up?  Not so sure about that.  We’ve played gigs, but I’ve already moved on to another concept for the next album.  I’m always thinking in terms of albums and sounds and ideas.  I put the titles on a page together and let a narrative form around it.

Poetic Justice: You released the Not Cool demos as part of a package for the album on your website. Do you always try material out like this first before going in to the studio? Are there any unreleased albums hidden away?

Tim Easton: I say that a demo is a demo until it isn’t.  In some cases, I need to record the song just so I can drive around and listen to it in my car to see if it’s going to stick. Other cases, like with “Gallatin Pike Blues”, I wrote the lyrics and then the song appeared in the studio.   It just so happens I had enough basement demos for this one to put out that demo collection, for superfan types.  It’s a bit presumptuous to sell your demos at the same time as the real album but certain folks may dig that.  There are most definitely more batches of un-released material in the vaults.  We all have something.

Poetic Justice: There was a violin on the demo for “Don’t Lie” which doesn’t appear on the finished album. Was this because you made a conscious decision to “go electric”?

Tim Easton: Not really.  I do like that demo version a lot.  It features Megan Palmer and if you come see us live as a duo, that is pretty much what you are going to get. When we recorded the album version, Megan was out of town.  We tracked it and saw no need for a violin.  Just the way it went that day.  If I’m going to put any overdubs on at all they are going to be to suit the track.  I won’t put an instrument on there just because I thought it might fit before going into the studio.  Things change inside those rooms….arrangements, lyrics, moods.

Poetic Justice: Why the title Not Cool?

Tim Easton: It’s an expression you hear all the time.  I thought it matched the cover image really well and I am really proud of the song by that title.  That particular track is worlds apart from the rest of the album, and I thought that too would be a fairly Not Cool thing to do….make a vintage Rock & Roll album and then put this folk ballad on as the title track near the end.  Keeps people on their toes.  I refuse to do what people think I am going to do.  At least, I’d like to think that.

Poetic Justice: I’m interested in how you started out making music; the sleeve notes to Before The Revolution suggest you learnt to play “while wandering around the world”. How did you set off on such a great adventure, and were the streets a hard place to learn?

Tim Easton: I was a busker, of course.  I played Tottenham Court Road Tube station in the ‘80s.  Spain, France, and then eventually over to Czechoslovakia after the Berlin Wall came down.  There were a lot of us very, very lucky buskers there at that time.  I made my first recordings with a Polish engineer who lived in Prague.  I covered Doc Watson, and had a few originals.  I was learning to write….and living the experiences that would lead me to writing.

Poetic Justice: Is travelling around on tour still a perk for you or does it just become a drag after a while?

Tim Easton: I love it.

Poetic Justice: You were associated with the “Alt-country” movement in the early days of your career. Did you see yourself as part of a generation of musicians, and was that association with alt-country useful?

Tim Easton: Now they call it Americana.  Such a better name, but still a title none-the-less, and you know how most art types feel about being lumped into a group.  I felt at the time is was a bit of a hindrance, but what can you do?   Ryan Adams really rebelled against it, as did Wilco, and that served them well.

Poetic Justice: You have a reputation as a literary type of songwriter. Where do you find your inspiration, and do you ever suffer from writer’s block?

Tim Easton: Not sure the block is part of my gig.  I read as much as I can.  Any songwriter of note, say, Jason Isbell, for example…I would bet that he reads more books than most people.  It’s simple really, you read and read and the more words that go inside your brain, the easier it is to have more words pour out.  It’s not always a waterfall, but the stream is always flowing.  I attribute most of that to reading.

Poetic Justice:  Has the internet and downloading made it more difficult for musicians to earn a living or has it changed things positively for you?

Tim Easton: Of course it has made things more difficult.  Of course, if you had a hit song and owned all the rights to it, then all would be fine wouldn’t it?   Unfortunately, the older folks haven’t really caught onto the internet song buying gig, but they will have to.  Why on earth would you buy a CD from a band these days unless it was at a show and you absolutely knew all of the money was going to help them continue on down the road?  You can listen to my album any time for free at a number of locations:  YouTube, Spotify, the list goes on.  I know that today when somebody buys a CD from me at the show, that they are telling me they care.  And if you are out there and reading this, and you have a young or struggling artist that you really care about, then go buy their album at the show, even though you can get it for free.   Or order it directly from them, if that’s possible.  I use and guess what, I don’t have a guy in a warehouse stuffing packages.  It’s me.  I do it.  And when you buy it from me you support my family.  It’s as simple as that.

Poetic Justice: If you had your time again, would you come back as a folk musician, a blues musician or a rock star?

Tim Easton: I’ll be alive forever because I learned about the people and folks that came before me, and I don’t just mean T-Rex or Nirvana.  I went way back to Mississippi John Hurt and Sonny Terry and Brownie Maghee and as far as I’m concerned the circle will in fact remain unbroken.  Plus, I put some of my music on vinyl, which cave men of the future will be able to listen to by using a needle and a funnel, while CDs will not mean anything at all.

Read our review of Not Cool here



Photo: Michael Weintrob