Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"I never set out to be a musician; I just set out to a “good man” Q&A with TED GARBER, Singer/Songwriter

TED GARBER is a local musician who's been strumming and singing for as long as he can remember.  This self proclaimed Blues Americana Rock musician has a lot of heart, soul and fellow musician-friends ready to sit in to be part of the sound that is Ted Garber.  Get to know him and the new album he has coming out. 

Q.  Blues-Americana-Rock ("leaning more toward the Rock Side!") is how you describe your music.  For those who've never experienced one of your shows how does this translate?

A.  This is the best name I have been able to come up with for  describing my “sound” and my influences.  I grew up idolizing my late country-folk singing father, who taught me my earliest guitar chords, solos, and songs.  That’s the “Americana” end of things.  Additionally, like most kids growing up the 80’s and 90’s I consumed a healthy diet of the pop-rock of the day--that, along with a hearty portion of 60‘s and 70‘s classic rock (I wore out my parents’ “Woodstock” album).  However, things really came together when I went off to college in New Orleans.  All that NOLA old school rhythm and blues resonated with me in a profound way, and it brought out and continues to bring out some of my favorite compositions.  It only occurred to me after the fact that my self-styled classification spells “B-A-R,” which, coincidentally, is where I spent most of my 20’s (gigging and “socializing”). 


Q.  You have a CD Release party happening at The Mansion at Strathmore Hall on May 13th!  Congratulations!  Tell us about it..

A.  This coming Friday, May 13 at 8pm I am throwing a CD Release Party at The Mansion at Strathmore in North Bethesda, MD.  The album is called “Live at Strathmore,” and like the name suggests, the songs were recorded at two SOLD OUT shows at Strathmore’s Mansion on January 12 and February 22.  There will be a $2 PBR Happy Hour from 8pm-9pm.  The Strathmore Fine Artists in Residence are decorating the hall special for the show.  Tickets are $15, available at www.strathmore.org and by calling (301) 581-5100.  Parking in the Mansion Lot is FREE for this show. Strathmore Mansion is at 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, MD 20852. 

Q.  You said that this album, Live at Strathmore, "is an album of firsts", tell DC Setlist readers what you mean by that.

A.  This “Live at Strathmore” album is the culmination of my year spent as a “Strathmore Artists in Residence, from May 2010-May 2011.  The first “first” is the fact that the album is recorded at Strathmore.  Until my residency began, I had never performed in that venue.  Also, the songs I wrote especially for this album pushed me in new directions, even ones I did not anticipate.  I wrote and recorded my first reggae song, “Hula Hoop Girl.”  The same goes for my first-ever duet, “Third Time’s A Charm,” which I wrote specifically to sing with a fellow resident artist, Chelsey Green.  There is my first rap song, “I Don’t Wanna Make A Baby, Baby,” my first commissioned work, “Keep It Movin’,” and this is my first live album of original material.  Last but definitely not least, this marks my first time working with my Strathmore mentor, the multi-Grammy winning, Jon Carroll (Starland Vocal Band, Mary Chapin Carpenter), who helped me arrange some of these songs, and who played absolutely stellar piano on all the tracks.

Q.  Tell us who your collaborators are on this album.

A.  I had an amazing team for “Live at Strathmore.”  My principal band members are some of the area’s best talent:  the aforementioned Jon Carroll, the multi-Grammy nominated Scott Ambush (Spyro Gyra) on upright bass and the ever-popular Eddie Hartness (Eddie From Ohio) on drums and percussion.  I also had some guest artists on some of the tracks including the multi-Grammy winning Cathy Fink, who plays ukulele on “Hula Hoop Girl.”  My live audio engineer, Trevor Higgins, did an amazing job capturing the performances because we worked without a net.  Normally, when a big band like John Mayer or Dave Matthews record live, they’re on a tremendous stage that allows for track separation, so little mistakes can be edited later.  Our stage was so small, we did not have that luxury.  We rehearsed our asses off, and any mistakes we made are on the record.  And that’s fine with me--it proves we played this stuff live.

Q.  You are an Artist in Residence (AIR) at Strathmore. Tell us about this program and how you got involved.

A.   Each year since 2005, The Strathmore Performing Arts Center  located in North Bethesda, MD invites area musical artists to submit their recordings and applications for consideration as a “Strathmore Artist in Residence (AIR).”  Following that process, invitations to audition are mailed, and dozens audition for the program.  Six acts are chosen annually.  The program is aimed at fostering creative collaboration among emerging artists and to increase the artists’ education through workshops and connection with veteran musicians who serve as official mentors.  Each artist must give two public concerts, an educational workshop and compose a commissioned work.  I’m extremely grateful for this program.  It really lit a fire under me.  I have had the opportunity to work with a group of incredible talents who have all inspired, encouraged and supported me this last year.  I hope I have done the same for them.  And, I hope we will continue to work together and remain good friends going forward! 
Q.  Congratulations on winning a WAMMIE this past February! For those who aren't familiar, what is a WAMMIE and what category did you win?

A.  A “Wammie” is the affectionate name for a “Washington Area Music Association” award.  Like the Recording Academy and “The Grammies,” The Washington Music Association (WAMA) holds an annual awards show called “The Wammies,” and local artists receive recognition for their work.  WAMA is a great organization because it recognizes the achievements of unsigned artists who would never even land on the radar of the National Recording Academy, even though they’ve sold thousands of albums and their work is outstanding.   Another “first,” I won an award this year, “2010 Pop Rock Recording of the Year,” for my 2009-2010 studio album “American Rail.”  I am also proud to have been nominated for the overall “Album of the Year” award and for “Pop Rock Instrumentalist of the Year” recognizing my guitar and harmonica playing.

Q.  You have a real connection with the people who come out to your performances and during the course of our interview said, "the audience is the uncredited participant in the shows."  What does that mean to you?

A.  The audience’s reactions on “Live at Strathmore” are actual.  The laughs, the coughs, the screams, the clap and sing-alongs.  It’s a VERY realistic and believable experience, and it’s a very, very entertaining album.  But, it’s more than that.  I said that the audience is the “uncredited participant” on the record because I am an entertainer who directly feeds off of the audience’s energy.  My best performances often come from an enthusiastic and eager group of particpant-observers who inspire my music in real time.  Having a sold out room that’s packed (literally) full of people rooting for you to play and sing your best--that brought out wonderful performances and a highly-charged dynamic.

Q.  We recognized some of the names of the members in your band, introduce the band and tell us about all of them. 
A.  Jon Carroll Piano, Backing Vocals and Guitar on “Sunshine in Fog”: --multi-Grammy winner, founding member of The Starland Vocal Band  (“Afternoon Delight”) and currently touring with Mary Chapin Carpenter. 

Scott Ambush Upright Bass:  Multi-Grammy nominee for his work with internationally renown jazz fusion band, Spyro Gyra, and like me, Scott is from Frederick, MD.  

Eddie Hartness:  drums/percussion:  Eddie is the namesake of the intensely popular NOVA-based folk-rock group, Eddie From Ohio.  Eddie recorded my first original song demo for me in late 2003 and has been my go-to guy ever since.

Guest Stars:
Cathy Fink:  ukulele--multi-Grammy nominee and mentor, it was Cathy who gave me the idea to make the album (and pushed me to do it!).
Jason Ager:  rapper--Jason and I have done several shows together.  He’s a super-talented singer-songwriter in his own right.  
Max Kuzmyak: trumpet:  Max and I know each other from Church.  He said he could play trumpet, but he never said he could play it SO WELL!  He’s also a singer-songwriter, and he’s opening the CD Release Show with his band.
John Penovich:  lap steel:  John actually ran front-of-house sound for the show (and did a wonderful job). But, he mentioned he could play lap steel, and he wasn’t kidding.
Chelsey Green:  duet vocalist:  Chelsey is the other half of my duet, but truth be told, her voice carries the song.  She’s amazing, and as a Strathmore AIR, she was brought in to play violin.  We only “discovered” she could sing. And she sings her ass off.

Q.  Music runs in your blood, your father was a musician.  Did you always know growing up that you would be in the music business? 

A.   As a boy, I wanted to be just like my Dad in every way.  He wasn’t just a musician, he was a community activist--mowing the lawn for the church and looking out for elderly neighbors, and shoveling snow for old ladies, and announcing at little league games.  My Dad’s music came from his humility, his gentle soul, and his profound love of people.  I never set out to be a musician; I just set out to a “good man” like him.  But, one day, he called my younger brother and I into the family room, and sitting next to my Mom, he told us that he had cancer.  Over the next 18 months, I watched my hero--a 3rd Degree Black Belt, Marathon running, non-drinking, non-smoking, 6’4” athlete--disintegrate into an emaciated melanoma victim.  I felt I needed to carry a torch for him.  Music had always been my passion and my first love, but it became a mission, a vain attempt to keep him alive.  It took me a long time to start playing and singing for myself, but I think he would be proud of the man and the musician I have become (and continue to become). 

Q.  What are the 5 songs & artists that have been looping on your iPod this week?

A.   This is going to make you laugh, but I almost never listen to artists who sound similar to me, so here is what I have been jamming to this week:
  2. “NO HANDS”:  Waka Flocka Flame
  3. “JUDAS”:  Lady Gaga
  4.  “FORGET YOU” Cee-Lo