Photo gallery by Anna Selle, Story by Lily Grant, Poster by Nick Howland
Sofar Sounds Kansas City had one of two April shows at Temple Sounds recording studio on April 13. Playlistplay spoke with each of the artists after their performances.
David Ryan Harris
Lily Grant: How are you feeling mentally right now?
David Ryan Harris: I get energized when I play my songs and meet people; it’s kind of my thing. I’m like a real-life customer service person. I’m a person that likes to meet people and feed off of other people’s energy, so I feel great.
LG: So what do you think of Sofar Sounds?
DRH: This is my third one. They’re great! They’ve all been completely different. One was in a warehouse with no PA. I was in the center of the room and people were all around, and that was cool because I like being close to people and being able to look at people. The other one was in a house, which has its own host of things. And this one was in a really cool studio space. They’re all great. For people who have never been before, they don’t really know what to expect, and you can see the lights go off in their eyes, like “oh, this guy’s doing his thing right in front of me in this super tiny intimate space.” I think it’s a great thing.
LG: What did you play for us tonight?
DRH: I played “Used to This,” “For You,” “Coldplay,” “Pretty Girl,” “Good Thing,” “I Can’t Wait to Meet You,” “Average Joe.” I just kind of wing it!
LG: How’s touring with John Mayer going?
DRH: Great! We’re halfway on this first run, then we’ll take a break for about a month, and then we’ll go back out again for another six weeks.
LG: What have you guys been doing in Kansas City since you’ve been here?
DRH: We got BBQ. Some people went to the Royals game today. I just shopped at the plaza.
LG: How’d you get into singing and songwriting?
DRH: I kind of just stumbled into it. I’ve always been a singer, since I could talk. When I was younger, I got really into people like Elvis Costello, who I thought told great stories. So that got me into the storytelling thing. Prince also told cool stories that weren’t super high concept, just very sort of plain speak stuff. I did it just like people doodle on their notebooks. It’s just like a natural thing to do, I just did it and I never stopped. I was fortunate enough to be good enough at it to make money doing it. I had some other jobs as a kid, but I’ve been a professional musician for almost 32 years. All my life.
LG: What’s the story that you want to tell?
DRH: I just want to tell stories that make people say, “Somebody feels like I feel,” or, “Somebody sees things the way that I see them.” I don’t want to change people’s minds with my music. I don’t want people to say, “Oh, I’ve never looked at things that way.” I want my music to be comforting. There’s a great deal of comfort in knowing that someone else in the world has loved the way that you loved, or had your heart broken the way that you had your heart broken, and is able to say it in a way that you couldn’t quite articulate. So I’m like an emotional translator.
LG: How are you going to spend the rest of your night off in Kansas City?
DRH: I’m going to see if my friends and my band mates are still having BBQ, hang out with them, and then I’ll go to my room and work on music. I do a lot of writing for other people, so I have demos of songs I need to finish work on. I have to type out some lyrics. Just music nonsense.
LG: Do you notice a different vibe in the Midwest?
DRH: Sure! There’s different shades of the Midwest. There’s actually part of the Midwest that I see in behavior in Long Beach, California. It’s also not a difficult transition from the Midwest to the South, or to a metropolitan city like Atlanta. There’s a certain pace, a certain earthiness. People aren’t looking to impress other people, generally speaking. There’s a certain warmth from people from the Midwest.
LG: What’s one random piece of advice you’d give to someone in the room tonight?
DRH: Music advice or life advice?
LG: Let’s start with life advice.
DRH: There’s only one you and that’s the best thing about you.
LG: Ok, now music advice.
DRH: If you’re an artist starting out, the most important thing is to figure out what it is that you like and who it is that you are. Just because I like Drake and Metallica doesn’t mean I am Drake and Metallica. A lot of artists are like, “These are things that I love so these are things I should do,” and that isn’t always your voice. And there’s nothing wrong with liking something that you don’t do musically.
LG: Final thoughts about tonight?
DRH: I love the Sofar thing because I kind of get a little local flavor. This isn’t something that I get to do when I’m playing with Mayer because we’re inside an arena and you don’t get to meet people, so I love doing this. I love the idea of being like a little troubadour who goes around in a puffy shirt playing my lute, and just walk in a room and do my thing. So I appreciate the opportunity to do it because it keeps me on my toes musically, because there’s no tricks, you’ve just gotta do your thing, and live and die on your own ability to connect with the audience. My currency is connection and emotion, so I get to spend my currency in rooms like this, that I don’t get to spend in the Sprint Center.
Lily Grant: What do you think about Sofar Sounds?
Brail: Man, it’s great! I did one in India and it was really cool, so I really wanted to try it again, and it was awesome here in Kansas City. I love how receptive the audience is and all the music is so diverse, but everyone is always so open to whatever. Everyone just wants to hear good music, and it makes for such a great vibe.
LG: How did you end up at the India Sofar Sounds?
Brail: I did a song for National Geographic and they wanted to shoot the music video out there. It was about conservation and wildlife deforestation and a tiger named Machali. Machali’s home is in Ranthambore, so we went there to shoot the music video. She passed away last year. She was a national icon. So I went out there to shoot the music video, and my friend there does Sofar Sounds and invited me to do it.
LG: Tell me about the songs that you played tonight.
Brail: I started with a little diddy called “Fifteen Minutes.” That’s kind of a warm up I do to get people snapping. That’s something I wrote about my girlfriend while I was in Spain. It’s really special to me and I like it so I always like to try and find some way to incorporate it. I started my actual full-on set list with a song called “Tuptim Thai.” Every song on Christ Crunken Commentary is based on a popular style of music that had content in it that I didn’t like. So that song was based off of “The Motto” by Drake, and I was like “Man, this song is so full of crap, but it feels good.” I want to take that vibe and talk about things that I think are important, and keep it funny and lighthearted. “Tumptim Thai” is one of my favorites to perform, so I always have to do it. Then I did a song called “Let’s Move,” off of a project called Brand New (The Director’s Cut). It’s fun and I like to get people dancing, and that one has a line dance so people don’t have to awkwardly wonder how to dance. The third song I did was “Waddle.” That’s my favorite song on the project because it’s crunk and hype but it’s also about my internal struggle I’ve had my whole life with alcoholism and my dad and learning that it’s ok to drink in moderation and it’s not as scary as it seems because of my past experiences. The one I finished with is “Jump Jeans,” which is the only song on the project that doesn’t have a deeper meaning at all, it’s just about women not being able to get into their jeans.
LG: It’s true, sometimes we have to do the dance.
Brail: It’s true! People gotta get into their jump jeans and do the wiggle. So I have to throw that one out there, plus I like to be funny, I like to talk about Jesus, and I like to get energetic and have a lot of fun.
LG: What is the most effective way to get people energized, up and dancing?
Brail: Tell them to do it. Someone once told me, “No one wants to see you fail. Everyone comes to a show to see you succeed.” And it’s true. People don’t know how to help you. So if you tell them how to help you, they’ll do it. So I’m like “Hey, stand up and dance with me, it’ll make me feel better!” And then everyone knows they’re free to dance and have a good time. So just tell them to do it, and make sure that what you tell them is specific. Just say “Stand up, and do what I’m doing!” Everyone’s doing it, no one feels left out, everyone feels included.
LG: If you had to give a piece of advice to one random person in the room, what would it be?
Brail: It’s so cliché, but be true to who you are in all situations. Not just when it’s convenient, and not just when it’s defiant, but be true to yourself in all situations.
Lily Grant: What did you play for us tonight?
Fritz Hutchison: I started with a song called “Movie Night,” then there was a song called “Happy Birthday,” and that song is by Josh Mowgli. The third one is called “Currach Mór,” that’s Gaelic.
LG: Is that an original song?
FH: Yes. The only cover was that second one. And then the last one I played is called “Powder Blue.”
LG: Why did you choose those songs for this audience?
FH: I have a song that starts identical to “Happy Birthday” and I was going to play it last time [I performed for Sofar Sounds], but then I flaked out on that idea and just played the original song. So I felt like I owed it to the song to play it this time. I wanted to do a cover today, and I thought about doing a Bowie song, “Quicksand,” it’s great. But I straight up didn’t learn the lyrics, so I did “Happy Birthday” because it’s a great song. And then I found that little toy piano.
LG: What made you want to use the small piano?
FH: It was there. I feel like if you’re going to be in a room with a bunch of stuff like that, some of it’s gotta get used. It seems like a waste to not incorporate it. I love those pianos, I love that sound. And they’re just fun to play little dinkers. That song is a keyboard song and the chord changes are kind of weird, and I feel like that song is supposed to be kind of ethereal and otherworldly a little bit. It’s about the fairytale aspect of romantic relationships, even though for whatever reason, there’s a big practical and logical reason why it’s not supposed to work, and that makes it more desirable. Wanting what you can’t have. So the song should be a dream, and I don’t know if I accomplished that, but it was a strange sound and I liked that.
LG: What do you think of Sofar Sounds?
FH: I think it’s cool. It’s like Balcony TV inside. It seems like a similar idea to that without all the wind. I like that sonically, it’s more controlled. I think it’s nice to have databases like this that are area-based, that don’t cater towards a certain type of music. I’m happy to see Brail do his solo hip-hop thing. The variety is cool. I’m super happy with the lineup tonight. It seems like this location is on its way to being something really cool and well-representing this big city. There’s a lot going on.
LG: Is there a central message you want to send with your music?
FH: I don’t know if this is something that my music says, but something that I want to be understood is that music is for and by everybody. Anything sonic… music is in the air. Think about the first people that were ever making music, like caveman era. The first songs that were ever written were interpretations. The word is failing me, but like regurgitating the sounds of nature, like a bird call. And then whistling becomes its own version with its own meaning and its own thing. Or like the sound of water in a brook. But today, in modern metropolis, someone driving down the street with jams blasting is no less of a natural sound to us than a babbling brook to someone in a pre-technological day. Music is all part of our natural environment and it’s all in the air. To try to tie into that is super essential to me. Everybody is there experiencing it together, and just because you’re on one side of a performance doesn’t make anything less important or valid.
car drives by blasting music
FH: That’s exactly what I’m talking about. And a kid hears that every day and that sound becomes ingrained in the subconscious and they can regurgitate that later on in life. It’s really a part of who you are naturally. It’s part of the natural environment. Music should be a constant flowing in and out of people’s consciousness and bodies as a part of the natural world. I hope that made sense.