I caught up with The Pines at the Redstone Room in Davenport Iowa at a free concert featuring; The Pines, Joe Price and Dave Zollo. the concert was after a book signing by Sandra Dyas who published a book of pictures featuring Iowa musicians called Down To The River. This book is a great look at Iowa music. The feel of the music is present in every picture. It is available through the University of Iowa Press.
Billy Rose: Thanks for sitting down and talking to me guys.
I’d like to start out with your main influences as far as your writing goes.
Dave Huckfeldt: Oh, I think my main influences are the large body of traditional folk songs, blues songs. Public domain songs…Doc Boggs, Mississippi John Hurt…the early blues songs. I think they had some of the strongest poetry…imagery and the prettiest most long standing melodies. I draw a lot of influence from those kind of songs.
Billy Rose: How about you Ben?
Benson Ramsey: Uh mostly Iowa songwriters…Joe Price, Dave Zollo…Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey, Pieta Brown and Dave Moore. Those are my biggest influences as far as songwriting.
Billy Rose: So you guys switched from Trailer Records to Red House Records. That’s quite a jump. Red House is a very well know label around the world. How are you getting along at Red House?
Ben Ramsey: Great, I mean it’s been very easy…very exciting for us to be working with people who are very active in the music world today. They are very much into the idea of making records that you can hold in your hand. Which Dave and I are both very much behind. We love that idea…sort of like a book. You can download songs but Red House Records are very much in love with music and artists. And when you want to make a record that is congruent in songs and art and putting together a package that you can take home with you and hold on to.
Billy Rose: I know exactly what you mean…I never heard it put just that way…but i work with a lot of kids and almost none of them even have a CD player…but they are all into music.
Ben Ramsey: They tried to make books downloadable…but I guess nobody wants to read a book on a computer screen. I think it will come that way in music. It’ll take a while but I think eventually it’ll come back. I mean it’s not the oldest thing on the planet either. The CD or record…the art work…it’s a beautiful invention and there’s a cool art form in itself. I don’t think it’s gonna go anywhere. I think there’s a connection where you have something that you can hold in your hand. You know how you retrieve the information…or the substance…that you can have in your home…it’s been sort of cast aside but I think it’ll come back.
Dave Huckfeldt: Not to mention how it affects the recording of a record. Songs you put together and how you put them together. If you think that somebody’s gonna download one of them, then you do it in a certain way. But if you hope people listen to the whole record then you put it together in a way that makes them want to listen to the whole record.
Billy Rose: That’s a good point. Doing a radio show…radio is notorious for taking one song and playing it to death. On Midwest Revue I try to play several songs from the same record so people can hear more of the artist and their whole approach to making music. Ben I heard you talk about your grandpa on stage. Did you ever get to hear him play?
Ben Ramsey: Well I never got to hear him play…when he was playing out and performing. I would give anything to have been able to have been there…but that was a long time ago. He played in a big band.
Billy Rose: Does he still play today?
Ben Ramsey: No. But I learned a lot from him. He taught me a lot…as far as structure of a song…and playing a song all the way through. Knowing the infrastructure of a song…and it goes from that old jazz standard of playing where the guitar played a different role then it does today. What he taught me was priceless…and for a kid growing up in the ninetys…it doesn’t come easy or natural…not like you see on TV. So I have deep respect for him for that.
Billy Rose: Where did you two meet? In school or what?
Dave Huckfeldt: No we met…well we knew each other in Iowa City…only in passing. Each of us independently of each other moved across the country to Tucson Arizona. About five years ago we literally ran into each other in Tucson. We recognized each other and the very night we met we started playing some songs…ya know two or three in the morning and we had a gig in about three or four days after that. So it happened accidentally and really quick
Billy Rose: So you both lived and grew up in Iowa City but you didn’t get together until you met in Tucson.
Ben Ramsey: Ain’t that funny, way out there.
Billy Rose: You guys have been playing around the Midwest a lot…where are you going next?
Ben Ramsey: Well we’re kinda all over the place. Kinda non-stop for us…we work everyday. We love the Midwest, we love playing for our friends. People that love Iowa music and it’s kinda where our heart is…but we’re playing all over…we play all over Minnesota, Iowa Wisconsin, Missouri.
Dave Huckfeldt: Occasionally we stretch out and do shows on the coast. Whatever comes up…we do it all ourselves…we book ourselves and promote ourselves with the help of Red House. We’re always in the Midwest but you can catch us in Denver or Washington or something like that.
Billy Rose: So you book yourselves?
Ben Ramsey: Yeah we kinda like it that way. It’s getting busier now and getting harder to maintain everything. Our main focus is songwriting…but we like playing regionally.
Billy Rose: Do you write on the road while you’re traveling?
Dave Huckfeldt: Ideas come up…while we play shows…songs change and hit a new groove and new songs begin to form…and if you give us a day or two days where we don’t have to play we can put those ideas together. That’s kinda our goal to give ourselves time right now…to get to the point we can be creative.
Billy Rose: I really like the new disc…being on Red House do you notice anything different with the radio airplay you’ve been getting compared to being on a smaller label like Trailer.
Ben Ramsey: Absolutely, we’re getting things from all over the world now. The record is doing good in England. We’ll probably go to England…we’ve had offers and we very much want to go.
Dave Huckfeldt: And all the folk music shows around the country. They all got copies of the record and have responded to it really well. They listen to it because it’s on Red House…and they like it because of the music.
Ben Ramsey: It’s one thing to write music and stuff but if you want to play music professionally…it’s all a big machine. Everything plays it’s part and everything’s gotta be greased up and oiled so it works together. It seems like Red House has more parts and can go further and it can reach more people. And that’s a great thing. It’s all about getting your music heard.
Dave Huckfeldt: In the month of September we had 27 web site visits from Iran. And I attribute that to Red House really…Iran, I don’t think they’re a terrorist state…they listen to The Pines (laughter).
Billy Rose: You guys are both Iowa boys…Minnesota isn’t to far away…what do you think of Minneapolis?
Ben Ramsey: Oh, I think it’s Iowa. It’s the same thing…there’s an imaginary line there. I love the north. I love the cool breeze that comes down from Canada. It’s got a great feel and great people, a great art scene, great theatre scene…it feels like Iowa to me.
Dave Huckfeldt: If there’s any difference I think coming down and playing Iowa…we played three shows in Iowa this week. We played with Dave Zollo and Radoslov Lorkovic and Joe Price and I think that maybe as you get further up north people are a little more reserved. Not as willing to emote and let you know what they’re thinking. We come down here and see Dave Zollo and see the music that comes out of the gate.
Billy Rose: Is there anybody out there that you would really like to play with someday?
Dave Huckfeldt: Out there in the world?
Billy Rose: Yep, anywhere.
Ben Ramsey: I mean there are the big people. I’d love to play with Bob Dylan. But there are people we would definitely like to play with. We would love to do something with John Truedue…I think Dave and I both.
Dave Huckfeldt: Yeah! That’s a dream of ours. We’re real big fans of Colexico, one of our favorite bands. We get excited about playing with Spider John Koerner…Kelly Joe Phelps…we live in a world where some of our heroes are not that far away. If we could play with anyone in the world it would be with Joe Price and Dave Zollo…I mean really!
Ben Ramsey: Yep!
Dave Huckfeldt: I would be just as happy to play with Joe Price as I would with Dylan. I would feel more at home.
Billy Rose: I’m sure that’s true. You know Joe personally and he’s a great guy.
Ben Ramsey: Yeah and Joe is immensely talented.
Dave Huckfeldt: As many places we go in Minneapolis there’s nothing better than what goes on down here…this is special.
Ben Ramsey: If Tom Petty was playing across the street and Joe Price was playing here…
Dave Huckfeldt: Oh, tough call (laughter)…never get to see Petty.
Ben Ramsey: I would probably…no I would come over here.
Dave Huckfeldt: I’d check out Petty for a little while and then come over to finish out the night. (laughter)
Billy Rose: Well that’s good enough for me. Thanks guys and best wishes for whatever you do and wherever you go in the future.
The Pines: Yeah thanks Billy!