Interview with CD Woodbury: World’s Gone Crazy: Video, Photos


Interview with blues, roots, and rock musician CD Woodbury: Northwest’s best kept secret.

How has the Blues and Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

OK, before I get started on this question, this is a collection of some really heady and heavy questions, and I thank you for that… but some of these seem a bit out of my element, or at least I may be having trouble finding the context, bear with me… Let me refer to this one – “blues and rock counterculture” and “how it influences my views of the world.” …It’s 2020, eight years ago, just prior to being nominated Vice President, Paul Ryan listed Rage Against the Machine as his favorite band. He was nearly immediately reminded by Guitarist Tom Morello that he represented the machine they were raging against… but I bring this up in the context of the question because during my adult years I can think of few relevant rock bands that tried harder to represent any type of counter-culture, and few things more establishment than Republican Vice Presidential nominee.

So then, rock as an extension of American counterculture generally is thought of as the 1960’s to 1970’s with some extra years before and after. Rock and Roll itself is defined as an appropriation of the evolution of music from an oppressed minority in my country emerging from blues music, which I also have to address and acknowledge as a culturally appropriated style – any mention of which makes some people emotional and uncomfortable, and in mentioning may probably make my still barely emerging career more difficult, but here we are… I was born in late 1969, and I feel every bit my age. I began listening to music of the 60’s and the 80’s blues revival as something I found a bit more interesting than the corporate pop and rock between the emergence of MTV and the dawn of the Grunge era, but as a tie in to world view? This was either the music from the culture politically of the parents of kids my age (not so much mine, my Dad was into Swing and Country, my Mom into early 60’s Folk) and the music with deep and direct cultural ties to 400 years of black folks’ experience in America.

All that to say, while I love the music, it touches me deeply, and I’ve spent my life crafting my own art as influenced by it. If rock music were ever countercultural, it certainly isn’t today. So, I am an outsider of time for one, and an outsider of the culture of the other. I can talk about how deeply these styles touch me, and how I tie it into my own experience and by extension my own art, but I feel any commentary or observation from that viewpoint is a bit embarrassing and irrelevant in the face of anyone with a direct experience. It’s a long way of saying that while I’m proud of my art, I have to be aware what portion of it I’m a tourist, and this is right at the center of it.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

… music paths… important lessons… “Don’t let your dingle-dangle….” OK, I don’t know how to elaborate on getting near constant reinforcement of “be yourself” and “be true to yourself.”

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I sometimes point out that if I tell someone that I’m a blues artist, especially if they see me as a white guy, your typical immediate reaction is that either I’m a musicologist or I’m playing “biker butt rock” (Okay, less snarky: throwback, 60’s influenced blues-rock). I like listening to skilled traditionalists and I like listening to quality modern blues-rock and I have a deep respect for those artists who do it well. But I try to be neither, because I only know how to be me, and I’m not certain I’d really stand out and get anywhere near my potential as an artist focusing on that.

I believe that a big part of “keeping the blues alive” means keeping the blues a living music. I’ve spent some time in music school, and certain styles, like classical and jazz, are overall not considered “living” forms of music, even though new compositions are created all of the time. It comes first from “only this… can be this…” and from that point both can no longer grow, and starts to be learned in schools rather than on bandstands. I like to “fold in” influences from styles that have grown out of the blues – jazz, rock, country, funk, the music of New Orleans, back within a framework of the blues… and try to find ways to either add on or completely abandon standard forms like twelve bar blues.

Perhaps because of who I am, I might call what I do American Roots, but whatever you call it, American music is centered around the blues. I present myself and call myself a blues artist or “contemporary blues” because that’s the closest “pigeonhole” the music industry will offer me, and where I seem to find the most audience interested in what I do. I never know how to describe my creative drive or where it comes from. I often repeat the cliché “you don’t choose music, music chooses you.” Certainly, a part of that drive is that I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I love performing, but I have a hard time meeting people, and just “reading” people to know which personal interaction was formative or helped my career as an artist the most. Best advice… so much offered. The one bit of advice that comes immediately to mind was from my days in the US Army, where a sergeant marching my training platoon said “Don’t let your dingle-dangle dangle in the dirt. Better pick it up before it starts to hurt.” And I have to say, that’s one bit of advice I’ve had no trouble following.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Geeze, if you think my answers above have been long… I better pass on this one. As I am writing this, With COVID-19 raging, and my country’s complete lack of agreement even on the fundamentals of realty based on their tribal political associations… I’ve sat at home with no gigs for four months now. The only gig stories I want to talk about are “where and when in the world will I see one again?”

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Hmm… I make new music inspired by sounds of past eras. I’ve lived in a world where recording have existed for over a century with massive catalogs no one could ever listen to in a lifetime, and I believe good new music is being created all of the time. I don’t know what’s being missed when anyone is brave enough to search it out. I guess my hopes and fears surround whether artists outside of the mainstream, most successful, can survive and live. That the art of making organized noise is valued enough that people can dedicate their life to that craft.

What would you say characterizes Pacific NW blues scene in comparison to other US local scenes and circuits?

It has the advantage of Seattle and Portland both making strong arguments of having the largest Blues Societies in the nation, if not the world. Being real and honest, a big disadvantage to the region’s “scene”: it has to deal with being historically the whitest/least racially diverse section of the country, and how that relates again to more than 400 years of race in this country and the culture of this music. Being in the upper corner, geographically it’s harder to break out of or tour from.

Musically, it’s a good scene for innovators and people seeking a contemporary, hip sound: Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Cray, Curtis Salgado… In my opinion even the more “traditionalist” artists of the area like Paul DeLay from years gone by, or Johnny Burgin today have a certain more hip and urban vibe to what they’re putting out there. I would say whatever flavor of blues you do, the NW is Drums, Bass, Guitar trio central, too. Polly O’Keary and the Rhythm Method, Too Slim and the Taildraggers, my touring act…

What is the impact of Blues on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

The impact of The Blues on the socio-culture implications of what? I, uh… I’ve been to college, taken some psychology, some anthropology, some ethics 101 level philosophy; I think even if I guess and correctly parse out the question, I wouldn’t come up with an answer that makes sense.

How do I want the Blues to affect people? I want them to feel. Maybe want them to think a bit as well. Think is a nice bonus, but definitely feel. How would you want any form of music, or really any form of art, to affect people?

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I don’t know if I would, anything from “A Sound of Thunder” by Bradbury, to light entertainment like “Back to the Future” would be a big ass warning not to go tramping around anywhere. Then there’s the whole “Terminator” style time travel, where you can’t even send clothes with you… not doing that either. Can you guarantee no Ill effects? Can I bring anything in and take anything out? Let me take ten thousand dollars back to 1959 and let me go guitar shopping for a day.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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