We continue in our series of asking K artists the same six (or so) questions (started a few weeks back with Emily Beanblossom of Ruby Fray (read that entry here)) with Kendl Winter, whose recent Mechanics of Hovering Flight [KLP238] record hasn’t stopped spinning here in the K office since it came out. I [Eric] sat down with Kendl this past week, and here’s what we talked about:
Eric: So you’re living in Olympia full time right now?
Kendl: Yeah. I love Olympia. I’m enjoying it quite a bit. I live on the east side, and the sun’s coming out now which means everyone’s outside. I just moved there in January—er, March—and I love walking around the neighborhoods and I know almost everybody and every house and it’s great; everyone’s growing food and making it cool for each other.
E: Do you prefer pie or cake?
K: Hm. I like pie. I’m a fruit girl, myself. I like more fruit and less bready stuff, but I like the bready stuff with it, but… Pie, for sure. Chocolate cake is also good. All cake is really good, too. But, I’m still pie.
E: What kind of shoes are you wearing right now?
K: I’m wearing these trailrunners, ’cause I ran downtown because I don’t have a lock for my bike right now, so I ran downtown, and I’m in my running gear.
E: What’s your favorite record?
K: I’ve been listening to a lot of Mississippi John Hurt lately; I don’t know the name of the record that I’m listening to. I’ve been listening to a lot of old country lately, like Hazel and Alice. Hazel Dickens is an old time banjo woman that wrote a lot of hard travelin’ songs, so I’ve just been trying to get my story straight on a lot of the old country music.
E: Do you typically listen to country and folk stuff?
K: You know, I didn’t used to; I used to only listen to my friend’s bands and the off band that caught my attention, but I’m trying to now.
I also just got a Sharon Jones album that’s awesome. She’s this soul singer that worked for 40 years in prisons—she worked as a guard—and I saw her in North Carolina at a festival we were playing at in Shakori Hills and she was badass. She just totally had the most awesome show. She had the… Who’s the backup band for Amy Winehouse? The Dapper…. The Dap Kings? She had the same backup band, and it was out of control, it was so good.
E: So, she was working as a security guard while she was playing music?
K: No, she used to work as a security guard, but now she’s this amazing singer. It’s really cool. She had on the most bedazzling sequined dress, and people were jumping up on stage and she just owned all the interactions.
E: What’s the last book that you finished?
K: I’m close to finishing The Bean Tree right now, by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s a book about this girl that grew up in Kentucky and moved to Arizona, and it just talks about things growing and hard times and immigrant laws and the difficulty of being an illegal immigrant in Arizona, or anywhere.
I like it, but I haven’t been reading a lot of fiction. I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction. I was reading a book about the Mississippi River called The Wicked River that was talking about the Mississippi River in the 1800s and all the cool pirate stories about it, and how it used to turn around—almost like an Anaconda—on itself and how it never was the same year to year. People would take boats down but it actually made more sense to take a barge that you could take apart at the bottom of the river. It saved like a year’s worth of work. Abraham Lincoln did it several years in a row. It was a cool book. I got it at the Book Zoo when I played there in California. They gave me a book off the shelf, and that was the one I picked.
E: Emily wanted to ask you—she picked a question for the next person—what’s your favorite place to play and why?
K: Ah, jeez. Um, I don’t know. I really like—I’m weird, because I play in lots of different places with different projects—but I really like farmer’s markets right now. It’s humbling, because you just kind of sit there and people are shopping and walking by you and you’re just part of this whole event—the community around markets is really cool because people are sharing the things that they’re working on, and I’m sitting there sharing the thing that I’m working on, and people are shopping and coming up and enjoying it, and kids are waving their hot dogs at you.
I really like festivals, too. The festival in Shikori Hills in North Carolina that I was talking about was one of my favorite festivals to play at—or Boats & Bluegrass in Minnesota—when there’s a whole weekend built around it, because you kind of get to know the other musicians, and there’s free food—good food—and good music and you get to do your thing but you also get to experience what other people are doing in this really casual way. I really like that.
E: You’ve been playing some interesting shows lately, between the Next 50 and that symphony gig and all that stuff…
K: Yeah, I had a really fun solo show with just Austin [Cooper] playing drums at the Northern about a week or two ago. Playing with Austin was so much fun, because I’ve been trying out different ways of going about doing my solo act. Like, in California I played three shows that were just me and a banjo, and that was the first time I’d really done that—without a guitar—and it was awesome. I got to take a train, and I got off the train and went to play a show. I didn’t take cords. It was just like, “Oh yeah, this is awesome, this is like, I can wear all this on my back and get to the show.” And the symphony was crazy. It was so scary. I worked really hard to learn that piece, and then I went and played it and that was it. It was a lot of preparation for that one moment.
E: Did it feel good to do it?
K: Yeah, it felt really good. It felt really scary, and a huge deal to me, but in the world it wasn’t a big deal. But I was like, here’s my moment, and if it’s screwed up then it’s screwed up. It’s not like I get another try. It wasn’t like we had a lot of practices. We had one run through and I messed it up, and then we had another run-through and I didn’t mess it up, and then we played it and it went well. It was really cool to be a part of that, where there’s so many sounds. I felt like I was a part of a cartoon kind of, like, “Now the chickadee! Now the rabbit’s over there. The snake slithers through.” I had a lot of respect for the conductor, because that’s a lot to be like, “Your turn, your turn.” It was fun… Fun and scary, and I’m glad it’s over.
E: What’s one question you want to ask the next person?
K: How do you like to feel good when you’re on the road?