Monday, December 1, 2014

Style Weekly: Q&A with Leo Kottke

I love it when I find myself.

This has happened a few times: I do a Google search on a completely unrelated topic and somehow one of my old stories pops up -- usually a story that I had completely forgotten about. This thrills me to no end because that means I get to read it "fresh," as if someone else wrote it. 

The other day, researching a potential feature on astrology (don't ask), the search engine coughed up an interview I conducted with the legendary folk guitarist, Leo Kottke in 2009. In the introduction to the Style Weekly piece, titled "Dreams and All That Stuff," I write that "I'd always heard that Leo Kottke was a tough interview -- when you could get him on the phone, that is. What a crock. Calling from a tour stop in El Paso, Texas, the finger-picking specialist is gracious, funny and forthcoming with details surrounding his still-evolving career in music."

Here's an excerpt from the interview:
Q: You say you were self taught.
When I was 13, I got sick… Once I got sick, I got sicker. After a couple of months I was in bed and not allowed to sit up. So I'd been on my back for two months. My mother brought home a toy guitar because you could play it on your back. I was a trombone player. I didn't really think that the guitar was a musical instrument. It was invisible to my ears. I was into marching bands and wind ensembles and stuff like that. So I was lying there and really sick, all screwed up, and the guitar had a little -cowboy stenciled on it and it was garbage, I can hear it really well and it was junk, but I didn't know that. I made what turned out to be an E chord and strummed it. I don't know how I got it in tune.
And that was it. I can still remember it – the sun was shining. I was out of bed in a week, never wound up back in bed. I knew exactly what I wanted and that was the guitar. I didn't dream that it would become a job. I couldn't have cared less and, in some ways, that is still true. The job is a distant second to just being allowed to get my hands on the guitar every day. I sat up immediately and I remember everything about it, beautiful weather – big cumuli out the window, blue sky. It was a happiness that I had never met and it's still like that.
Q: Has your romance with the guitar ever worn off?
It never did wear off. But I did notice that some behavior of mine would cloud it, so that was it for the behavior (laughs). Dizzy Gillespie talked about that, he wrote a great memoir, "To Be or Not to Bop" He said that you have take care of [your art], to be a kind of a monk, otherwise it won't sustain for you. That's the trick. You'd give up anything for it.
And for more on the evocative folk guitar of Leo Kottke, take yourself here

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