Monday 5/30/16 time 12:46 PM - interview and photo by Terhi Dahlgren


How did you end up choosing your media? Best/worst sides of it?

Music started out as a very constant source of curiosity growing up. I was always encouraged to be curious and the interest always developed and progressed in a very natural way as I got older. I think that desire to expand and learn more while exploring new ground is what really drives the whole creative process to begin with. Once you have the curiosity, the rest of the details seem to choose you. Music was something I was just always drawn to and the guitar became a tool to help discover and experience it.

Having the opportunity to get close to music or musicians that inspires you is a really important thing to experience. I think that’s how I fell in love with the steel and slide guitar later on…just sitting in front of really good players in a really quiet room and thinking “Wow, that’s what I want to do now.” Those are the times that stick with you. Hearing and feeling that raw, acoustic, physical, and emotional side of simple wires and wood is where it all starts for me. All of a sudden good music feels so ancient and mystical and powerful.

The pedal steel guitar is maybe not the most typical instrument but I’ve been lucky to meet and play with many different musicians over the years. I love the invitation to sit-in with a project I’m not too well versed in for a recording project or a festival gig, whatever. You can meet all sorts of great friends and connections that way. That’s one of my favorite parts of what I do…the spontaneous improvisatory aspect. You call tell a lot about a person from playing music together and I’ve made some life-long friends that way.

Hmmm, the worst part is…you have to carry all this heavy gear everywhere! It can feel like a lot of work to get everything ready on a stage somewhere for a gig. The pedal steel weighs about 60 lbs. and then there’s the amplifier, speaker cabinet, sound processors, cabling, power supply, chair, and all the maintenance that those can require! It’s all worth it though. It’s all just part of the process.

-What do you find as the best and worst sides of being an artist?

The best side is there are no rules to it! It’s completely detached from the world of mindless tasks and social distractions. I think the challenge becomes not just being driven but staying driven and always chasing.

The world of pop culture doesn’t really nurture the mind of a creative thinker or an innovator. There’s a lot of self-motivation and a strong work ethic required to push the envelope and keep the ball moving.

At the same time, I try not to take myself too seriously and know I won’t feel fulfilled if I put too much pressure on myself. There’s the inevitable crippling-self-doubt from inventing too much expectation. Having patience and working hard seem to be the best combination to staying on track.

-Is this your first time in Finland? What kind of expectations did you have about Finland/ Joutsa?

This is my first time in Finland. It’s been wonderful. I think if anything, I was expecting more of a big city feeling in Helsinki once we arrived there. I was shocked the city center isn’t flooded with a mass of neon billboards and bad traffic. For some reason I was expecting more of this “hustle-bustle” vibe but was pleasantly surprised by it’s eclectic nature yet down to earth feeling. Everyone seems so laid-back and patient which we don’t always experience back in America. It’s amazing how clean everything is; no trash anywhere.

I had heard only a few things as far what to expect like…it’s not typical to greet strangers in public and everyone loves milk and fish, haha. I don’t know, maybe there’s some truth to a few stereotypes sometimes, but everything makes sense after you’re here awhile. It’s an easy adjustment to be here and feel comfortable.

-How's your average day in Joutsa?

I’m usually one to wake up a little later than the others (laughing). I definitely take my time being lazy in the mornings. I have to check the baseball scores from back home, make coffee, and respond to e-mails. After breakfast, I’ll go to the Fanstasia house and work on a lesson plan for the day. After a few hours, I’ll come back inside and maybe take a walk with Melanie or ride to the market.

I enjoy breaking up the day of working by moving around and coming back to the guitar throughout the day. We like going to the Kellari pub to watch a hockey game or sitting in the sauna at night. There have been a few BBQ’s with the other artists here too which is a fun time to relax and tell stories over beers and dinner.

-What are the best sides / opportunities in having an art residency? 

You can do things however you like here! It seems like the easiest place in the world to reinvent your sleep schedule or deviate from your normal routine back home. It’s rare to be an adult and feel such few responsibilities!

Everything is Joutsa is very close on bike and it’s like a little utopia commune here where everyone does their own thing yet still makes time to hang and socialize. It’s a good balance to be in.

-How does Haihatus meet your expectations

Well, it’s funny...I really tried to not have any expectations before arriving! I didn’t want to invent Haihatus or even Joutsa in my mind before I got here and be discouraged if it has somehow different. I knew there would be enough space around to not feel cooped up in a tiny room all day long so I wasn’t too concerned with other details as long as I could get this heavy guitar here in one piece! I am happy to have this experience. It’s been a great place to retreat in.

-What are your plans after Haihatus?

I’m heading back to Asheville, NC where I live with my wife Melanie. There is work at home waiting for me when I get back. I’ve made really good progress here and can’t wait to take what I’ve been woodshedding and apply it this summer and beyond. Time to turn the page! It will feel good to get back into the swing of things after this time here at Haihatus. We hope to finalize on buying our first home together when we return as well! It’s an exciting time.

Leave a comment


Website address:

E-mail address:

Notify me about comments made to this blog post

Site Meter