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A Fireside Chat with Bill Frisell

By Published: February 21, 2004

AAJ: With all the benefits of fame and the lauding of notoriety, it seems there are unspoken sacrifices as well.

BF: Yeah.

AAJ: Are there days you regret your chosen path?

BF: No, not really. It just sort of felt like this is what I had to do. And then I've been really lucky with the people that, I've been married for twenty-one years and my wife has been, has stuck with it all this time. I wish I could have spent more time with my daughter, but then, sometimes I think, the times that I am home, I'm really home. I guess there's guys that you could work nine to five and end up seeing your kids less than I see my daughter in some ways.

AAJ: On your last handful of recordings, the steel guitar is a prominent voice.

BF: Well, it's definitely the instrument, but I was going to say that so much of it is the personality of Greg Leisz, the way his instincts work so well with mine. We can both play really freely and openly, like we don't have to hold back anything. Somehow it seems to fit together without getting in each other's way. It's almost like he's the other half of my brain working. He's just really easy to play with. So it is sort of like a sound, as far as it feels like he's being a continuation of my own sound or something. He's really fun to play with.

AAJ: It has been a while since you done an album with horns, which you do on your latest recording for the Nonesuch label, Blues Dream.

BF: Oh, I guess you just get that little extra charge from hearing everything all orchestrated out. It is really thrilling to hear stuff, ideas that you have and maybe you just play them on the guitar and then you get to hear them orchestrated in a bigger way. It's just really a thrill.

AAJ: Are you touring for the record?

BF: Well, not, we've done a couple things with that whole group, but my regular working group is with Greg Leisz, David Piltch and Kenny Wolleson, a quartet. We will be doing a lot of, we have been and we will do more, but probably less with the horn section, just cause it's so many people to try to get together. We did a few gigs last year with that whole group. We played at the Monterey Jazz Festival and Yoshi's in Oakland. So I hope we will be able to do a little bit, but it's really hard to do a whole, full blown tour with that many people.

AAJ: Is there such thing as a perfect performance?

BF: Oh, no (laughing). No, it's never close. Definitely, there's ones that feel great, but there is always something more to do. I can't even imagine how that could even be possible.

AAJ: Seems like you are chasing the dream.

BF: Yeah, it's always like that. Not to say that it's not like it's, there's definitely times when I really get excited and it feels great, but there's still, in the midst of that, there's still this struggle going on to.

AAJ: You are in the studio now recording your next Nonesuch project.

BF: Yeah, just finishing this thing. It's a thing I did with a banjo player, he's from Texas and he moved. I met him in Seattle. He moved up there. It's just banjo and bass. Keith Lowe is the bassist, who also lives in Seattle. I don't know how to describe what this is (laughing). We do a lot of old tunes and some of my tunes.

AAJ: Like many key figures in this music, you tend to polarize critics. Some praise you as the next principal voice on the guitar and others can't find enough about it that's wrong. Does that dichotomy weigh on you?

BF: I mean, I try not to, but I can't help but pay attention to the stuff actually, but I know that I'm really the only one that really knows how close I'm coming to getting at what I'm trying to get at. It can go both ways. You can have a really good, positive review, but they completely miss the point. I try not to pay too much attention to that stuff because I'm really the only one that knows if I'm getting there or not. It's nice to have people say nice things about you and it doesn't feel that great if they don't like it (laughing).

AAJ: Since at the end of the day, you are the only qualified judge to critique your work, is it difficult to sleep at night?

BF: Oh, no, not for that (laughing). I guess the times I get frustrated is when I'm not, if there's all kinds of other stuff going on and I can't get to just doing the work that I should be doing. I think when I'm most happy is when I'm really immersed in the music as much as possible.

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