Before we get started I want to wish all ‘Skoped Out’ readers a very happy 2010! My first guest of the new year is a musician by the name of Chris Towzey. As a Buddhist and perpetual student of music and life, Chris Towzey offers amusing, insightful lyrics, stylized musical themes and passionate songwriting, to touch and inspire the listener. Chris recently put out an EP called ‘Same Dirt’ and is about to take his fans on the road with him aboard his new RV. Join me as Chris chats about all this and much more!
Stoli: Where are we talking from today and what have you been up to today?
Chris Towzey: From North Hollywood, Ca.. Mostly indoor stuff despite the nice weather today, and trying to avoid the crowds in the stores – which is not easy in LA! I was just working online to update various profiles with new info and song posts, and just started a new page on facebook for upcoming activities in 2010.
Stoli: How long have you been creating music and how did you get started?
Chris Towzey: I started playing fairly young while my dad was stationed at a military base in Italy. First made my rounds with the typical band instruments in fifth grade, ending with bass clarinet, of all things. I think I just liked the way it looked. But when I first got really excited I was eleven, and our Cub Scout Troop leader brought his electric guitar and amp to our meeting. I was enamored by his playing and the sound. I told him I wanted to learn. He even let me borrow it to show my parents what I wanted for Christmas. They weren’t so happy when they found out they’d have to buy an amp too, so I got an acoustic guitar for the birthday following that Christmas. My best friend got one too so we both began a fierce learning phase. Next thing I knew I was borrowing an electric and started a band with friends for a seventh grade dance performance. We must have sucked -all playing out of one amp!
As for how long..geez, now I’m really dating myself, let’s just say: when I was attempting to learn Hendrix tunes on the electric I bought a few years later, I was also going to see him play live. I was still just a kid but he made an indelible impression on me, to say the least. So I think I’ve been through a few different lives between then and now.
Stoli: You put out ‘Rockin At The Spotlight’ in 2007. How have you matured and grown as a musician from your new album, ‘Same Dirt?’
Chris Towzey: A good question. I’d have to say that I’ve changed perspective a bit because I had the intention for the music to be more accessible to a wider audience. Of course you don’t really know if you succeeded with that at first, but I’m hoping for that. Along those lines, I also kept the length of the songs -except one- to four minutes or less just in case I’m fortunate enough to get some radio play. Even though airplay is quite difficult to get for an independent artist, I didn’t want the songs to be ruled out simply because of length. Time will tell on that account as well.
Stoli: Track 2 on the new album is “same Dirt.” Why did you decide to make this cool song the title track and what is the meaning behind it?
Chris Towzey: I became intrigued by the many levels to this phrase. First, the purely physical one when a border is simply a post in the ground, which spawned the idea for the song while looking out the window of the train. We were traveling close and parallel to the Mexican border in Texas. But after reflecting on the conceptual side it began to suggest a more essential truth about the whole concept of borders and a host of related ideas. Personally, I believe that we are all connected to everyone and everything, and one of the root causes of many social and environmental issues can be directly linked to feeling “separated”. We put up borders all the time. We draw lines around everything so we can claim ownership. On another level it’s still just the “same dirt”, only with markers or fences. Recent discoveries have shown that the moon itself came from the crust of the earth. Even it has the same dirt! All our bodies are made of elements produced by exploding stars. It goes on and on…
Of course I’m not saying we should tear down the border. We have a long way to go before we ever become a truly “global country”, bridging cultures and living in peace. But the first step is always perception and dialogue. By now you’re probably sorry you asked!
Stoli: Although you live in california now you spent alot of years in Europe. What it is about Europe that helped contribute to your love & passion for music?
Chris Towzey: That was where my family lived when I started, as mentioned. But more than that, I fell in love with the history and art of Northern Italy, and many other areas we visited in neighboring countries. The people were very warm there, even to us Americans living on military bases. I loved it as much as any kid could. And the Italian electric guitars of the time really were the coolest. There was a “feeling” that went with that time and place for me. I’m not really sure I can describe it. It was similar to the feeling I get when I hear early Beatles music.
Stoli: I find most of your songs to be positive & upbeat. Would you say this is a direct reflection of your personality as well?
Chris Towzey: Well…at this stage that is where I’d prefer to be. There were certainly earlier times in my life where I was more rebellious and looking for faults in everything-found ’em, too. But I suppose all the years of “seeking” and asking the “big” questions led me to a place where my overriding intent is to try and provide value through songwriting -whether that be a different view to a common feeling, or a more complex perspective on a social issue. Most of all, for me anyway, it’s about trying to make a connection, inspire someone, maybe even hit a fresh perspective. But I totally love “groove”, and rhythm-for-rhythm’s sake, as well. But lots of artists are covering that quite well!
Stoli: You are doing a really cool & innovative campaign with an RV. Please explain what that is all about & how people can get involved with that?
Chris Towzey: Yes, I was super inspired last fall when I watched Ken Burn’s series, “The National Parks, America’s Best Idea”. Watching made me realize how important it is to connect to nature, now more than ever. I guess it kind of ties in with the feeling you get faced with amazing, unspoiled, monumental, park vistas we are so fortunate to have in this country. It brings to mind the real creative power behind all things -the Source. My immediate urge was to find an RV and go see them all!
It wasn’t long after when I started to imagine a tour that included doing performances and filming the sights and interactions along the way. Of course I have a ton of work yet to do but things are moving along and I’m planning to head out late spring. At this point my plan is to post “webisodes” to my facebook page as I go along, filming performances, views, UFO’s (you never know!), etc.. I think there may be some folks that will appreciate “riding along”, as it were. I know for sure my songwriting always benefits from traveling. Could be a win-win, I guess we’ll see. For those who are interested they can search on “Chris Towzey Music” to find the page. I may try to post on my myspace page as well, time and I’net connections permitting.
In addition, we have some preliminary interest from potential corporate sponsors and will be following-up on that level. For anyone reading this with biz interest please contact us through the links.
Stoli: I really love “Right For Us.” Is that track a real life song from a personal experience?
Chris Towzey: Yes, (mostly) because while it was inspired by real life events there were a few details re-arranged to help the story flow. And there were some aspects of other relationships that crept in. But I felt there was some universality to the theme. I don’t know if others would frame it the same way but I think there must be men, and women, who may feel there was “one who got away” in their past, and relate to it.
Stoli: You are a Buddhist. How does your faith translate into your music & songwriting?
Chris Towzey: It’s pretty pervasive. I don’t think I would have arrived at the “Same Dirt” concept if not for the philosophy of connectedness that underlies Buddhism. At the very least I would say that it influences how I see the world, which in turn influences how I write. I believe it gives me a strong desire to realize my potential as an artist. I believe every person has a passion and a special ability of some sort. The idea is to find ways to follow that passion and provide some value at the same time. Thus surviving, and maybe even thriving!
Stoli: You are 100% independent. How does it feel to have 100% control & freedom from the corporate game of profits over artistic integrity?
Chris Towzey: It is for sure a double-edged sword. There has been a certain way of doing things for a long time. It is changing now but isn’t settled. Gone are the days when a label, artist, or group, could control so much of what the public could buy. The record companies were the “gate keepers”. Now the playing field is more open but the artist (especially if they’re not in their teens, or already widely successful) has to come up with their own promotion and distribution plan. The internet is great for that but sales don’t happen without promotion. You have to be somewhat of a “sorcerer”, and wear many funny-looking hats.
Stoli: I love the Internet and digital age because it connects me with new artists like Chris Towzey everyday. How do you use the Internet and what do you find most effective for attracting new fans?
Chris Towzey: A nice segue! The various digital sales points are a big help for sure. I have a customized store interface on both the facebook and myspace pages. These apps are custom-built to securely access my fulfillment account. One couldn’t ask for a more flexible, safer, way to branch out into social sites, or even an “island” website. However, I think some are still a bit wary if it doesn’t say “iTunes”, but that’s changing as users get more sophisticated, and when they want a physical CD. I like to have both available.
I also maintain a presence on iTunes and CDBaby to offer more alternatives. I doubt there is anyone who would say the internet hasn’t completely changed the business model, especially where music and video is concerned. But as you well know, In this brave new world one still needs a lot of help to get noticed. I’ll have to get back to you regarding the most effective approach for attracting new fans on the internet. Doing live gigs is still big, and promotion is invaluable to drive people to any internet site. And who can predict the “viral” effect?
Stoli: You are preparing to head out on tour. Where will you be going and what do you love about being on the road?
Chris Towzey: The first trip is still in planning but I’m leaning toward the Grand Canyon. I was there once but didn’t get the time to really see much. I would like to film a short performance down in the canyon if I can locate an acoustically interesting spot that is accessible. Another possibility is higher up using the canyon as a backdrop. Should be fun in any case. I’m also looking at suitable venues in towns along the route. But unless I can secure a few more supporting players it will most likely be acoustic-style, smaller venues.
As for being on the road I think it totally depends on whether you are doing something you really love and believe in. I love traveling anyway and have traveled a lot with my parents, and as an adult. But this kind of plan really resonates with my soul so I’m really looking forward to it. I want to meet people and hear their opinions on music, nature, and life, while exploring ideas for new songs and making friends.
Stoli: Looking into 2010 what are you looking to accomplish both musically & personally?
Chris Towzey: My intent is to share discoveries, experiences, and views, of National Parks with fans who can also appreciate the music, and to promote the idea of maintaining an appreciation for the interconnectedness of our world. Collectively, it seems we need to make a huge leap in awareness at this point in history. Any small way my music mission efforts can contribute to that is what I seek to provide. Musically, I’m always trying to improve ability and technique, but now I also want to improve my connection with like-minded people through songwriting. I want to know what music inspires them and work to produce it.
Stoli: What is coming up for Chris Towzey and where can readers get more from you and pick up a copy of ‘Same Dirt’?
Chris Towzey: The immediate goal of course is the RV tour, as stated. And to write enough new material en route to be able to take the best songs and return to the studio to record and produce later in the year.
I thank you for the opportunity to share my plans with Skope. I would like to wish you all a great and productive 2010!