Far and Wide: A discussion about the impact of fathers on musicians

By Dylan Michael Bentley

In recognition of Father’s Day 2014, Vocals on Top granted me the honor of interviewing some highly skilled musicians and songwriters about their fathers. Each interviewee generously answered the same six questions about the role their father had in the development of their art.


 


 

Chicago Famer

Chicago Farmer

Chicago Farmer carries on the Folk tradition. A disciplined and consummate wordsmith with a hauntingly distinct voice, he deftly encodes complex themes into plainspoken story-songs that capture the essence of the working-class and life in the Midwest. His latest release, Backenforth, IL, is dedicated to his father.

What is your father’s name and what is/was his primary profession?

Kevin Diekhoff- Salesman

What were the styles of music and some of the artists he favored and how did they affect and impact your musical upbringing?

My dad loved Rock N’ Roll and even sang for a while in a band called Remedy. He loved The Doors, Stones, Zep, and his favorite band of all time was Ten Years After.
The attitude and freedom of this music definitely rubbed off on me and my musical journey. Like him, I didn’t take too well with being told what to do, what to wear, and when to be somewhere. We both chose a path of being our own bosses, making our own rules, and being able to express our individualism. He encouraged me to be my own person and to pursue that freedom. I think it comes across in the music I write and create.

What hand did he have in nurturing and developing your talent, and how big of a proponent is/was his support to you?

When most teenagers tell their fathers they want to write and make music for a career, the normal response is either “you’re absolutely crazy,” or “do it in your spare time as a hobby and have something to fall back on.” My Dad said, “Go For It and Go All In.” Not only did his words inspire me then, but they continue to inspire me today. He was definitely my biggest fan and supporter from day one. Whether it was the first days screaming off key in our basement with an electric guitar and half stack amplifier rattling the house, to performing at a large theatre acoustically in front of 300 people who could hear a pin drop, his encouragement has always been with me. As he traveled from town to town, working his job, he would play my songs for everyone he met and make sure they were aware of Chicago Farmer.

How have his teachings and life informed your art, if at all?

My Dad always taught me to be kind and to respect people. You never know when your next best friend, band member, partner in crime etc… is going to walk around the corner and come into your life. It’s the relationships you build that last a lifetime.

Whether it’s work ethic, philosophy, character, confidence, pragmatism, etc… what do you think is one of the most important attributes you take from him and how do you apply it to your profession?

My Dad believed you could be a good guy and still finish first, you just have to work a whole lot harder than the pricks out there. Being a Salesman, he also always said you have to really believe in your product if you’re going to sell it. This also rang very true to me. The first few times I went into the recording studio I recorded music just to do so, and although I thought the outcome was good, I didn’t believe in it enough.

In closing, is there anything specific about your father-a story, advice he gave you, etc…-you would care to share with us?

Now I’m always sure that every recording, every song, and everything I do when I travel from town to town is something I’m proud of and something I believe in. If not, you might as well just stay home.



Grayson

Grayson

Grayson is an Australian indie-folk, alt-country musician currently living in Nashville, Tennessee. A gifted live performer and emotionally perceptive songwriter, he supplies delicate vocal deliveries on top of bright, memorable compositions.

What is your father’s name and what is/was his primary profession?

Desmond Edser – Retired football player and car salesman.

What were the styles of music and some of the artists he favored and how did they affect and impact your musical upbringing?

He liked classical music as well as the whole love-song generation from America in the 50s and 60s. He liked great vocals

What hand did he have in nurturing and developing your talent, and how big of a proponent is/was his support to you?

He could strum a few chords. He didn’t push me into music but supported me all the way.

How have his teachings and life informed your art, if at all?

His stories and the lessons he taught me have always inspired me both as a person and as a writer.

Whether it’s work ethic, philosophy, character, confidence, pragmatism, etc… what do you think is one of the most important attributes you take from him and how do you apply it to your profession?

To be on time. Always be 5 minutes early.

In closing, is there anything specific about your father-a story, advice he gave you, etc…-you would care to share with us?

“Work hard. Don’t do drugs. Always be good to your mum. Never share your money, girl or car. These are the things that get you far”



Michael McFarland

Michael McFarland

Michael McFarland is an indie/alt-pop musician living in Asheville, North Carolina. His latest release, A Sarcastic Tango, is an impressive set of songs comprised of hyper-articulate lyricism, charming melodies and memorable hooks.

What is your father’s name and what is/was his primary profession?

John Woolman Watson, Professor Emeritus of Nuclear Physics

What were the styles of music and some of the artists he favored and how did they affect and impact your musical upbringing?

Growing up, my dad’s record collection was comprised mainly of 60s folk artists – Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Peter Paul & Mary, John Denver, The Kingston Trio, interspersed with a solid collection of Tijuana Brass and Harry Belafonte records. I know for sure that a lot of the focus on melody and harmony in my songwriting came from those sources. On top of that, the experience of listening to music on vinyl – sitting on the floor next to the record player with my headphones on – greatly particularly, and again when I was 13 or fourteen, with his Alvarez Yairi steel string guitar. He showed me how to play four basic chords – G, C, Em, and D – and let me pursue it on my own from there, so he really was the one who started the ball rolling. Another thing that has been essential that he instilled in me was the idea that if you put your mind to it, you can teach yourself almost anything – but there’s nothing wrong with asking for help along the way.

What hand did he have in nurturing and developing your talent, and how big of a proponent is/was his support to you?

My father’s always been supportive of me following a path that would bring me fulfillment and happiness. When my passion started leaning towards music in my teenage years, he always supported my efforts, but not at all in a stage parent-y way. He would drive me to band practice, give constructive feedback on my songs and performances, but didn’t do the work for me. Practicing, booking shows, creating merchandise, recording – those were all my responsibility, and costs came out of my own pocket. I can’t think of a better preparation for how things are in the music business, and I’m grateful for that.

How have his teachings and life informed your art, if at all?

Dad was the first person to put a guitar in my hands – initially when I was probably about 10 or 11, with a small classical guitar, which I didn’t take to particularly, and again when I was 13 or fourteen, with his Alvarez Yairi steel string guitar. He showed me how to play four basic chords – G, C, Em, and D – and let me pursue it on my own from there, so he really was the one who started the ball rolling. Another thing that has been essential that he instilled in me was the idea that if you put your mind to it, you can teach yourself almost anything – but there’s nothing wrong with asking for help along the way.

Whether it’s work ethic, philosophy, character, confidence, pragmatism, etc… what do you think is one of the most important attributes you take from him and how do you apply it to your profession?

One thing that I learned from my father, through actions as much as words, is that it’s ok for a man to have emotions, and to express those. Seeing my father’s eyes well up with emotion when discussing the death of his sister, or the crack in his voice when telling me he’s proud of what I’ve done, showed me that there’s nothing wrong with feeling boy joy and loss deeply and visibly. As a songwriter, I lay the full range of emotions bare for all to hear. I’m thankful that I learned early on that’s not something that you need to hold back.

In closing, is there anything specific about your father-a story, advice he gave you, etc…-you would care to share with us?

I love Dad’s ability to seamlessly associate the high-minded and the mundane. I recall riding in the car with him at some point in my early teenage years, and we were talking about the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. I put forth the idea that what made Calvin so fascinating was that, while he’s a hellraiser much of the time, tormenting his parents and babysitter, when he’s off in the woods with Hobbes he becomes quite philosophical. He responded, “Mao Tse-tung, in spite of the atrocities he was responsible for, was also known as a poet and a philosopher. Does the latter negate the former?



Michael Adams

Michael Adams

Michael Adams is an indie-folk musician from Normal, Illinois. In the vein of Josh Ritter, his delicate compositions are complemented by thoughtful songwriting.

What is your father’s name and what is/was his primary profession?

Ronald Lester “Leck” Adams, retired union painter.

What were the styles of music and some of the artists he favored and how did they affect and impact your musical upbringing?

WMAQ, Merle, Willie, Johnny, George, Conway, Oak Ridge Boys, Statler Brothers, could sing every word to all of it at a very young age, nickname growing up was Freddy, after Freddy Fender.

What hand did he have in nurturing and developing your talent, and how big of a proponent is/was his support to you?

He encouraged me to perform at restaurants and bars when I was 5, I had a routine to shaboom shaboom. He bought my first guitar and supports my music till this day.

How have his teachings and life informed your art, if at all?

Just knowing that I come from the cotton fields of Arkansas through him, makes it feel a little more authentic to me when I reach back to grab some of that dirt to throw in one of my songs, he always told me to be honest.

Whether it’s work ethic, philosophy, character, confidence, pragmatism, etc… what do you think is one of the most important attributes you take from him and how do you apply it to your profession?

Work ethic.

In closing, is there anything specific about your father-a story, advice he gave you, etc…-you would care to share with us?

He has a birthmark that covers most of his left arm, and is the toughest son of a bitch I know. I received flowers from a girl once when I was thirteen, feeling pretty good about myself. I asked the old man if he ever got flowers, he said “no son, I got blowjobs.”



Chris Corkery

Chris Corkery

Chris Corkery is a singer-songwriter from Lexington, Illinois. An inexhaustible talent for jumping from genre to genre with precision and ease, he has experimented with honky tonk, rock n’ roll, folk, blues, country and americana.

What is your father’s name and what is/was his primary profession?

My father’s primary profession is a physician, neurologist to be precise. He deals with diagnosing and treating problems with the spinal cord and brain.

What were the styles of music and some of the artists he favored and how did they affect and impact your musical upbringing?

Does WBBM 780 News Radio count? Dad never listened to music. I mean he liked the Stones’ “Cant Always Get What You Want,” (because he would say that to us all the time) and the Beatles’ “Get Back.” And some blues when it would come on the radio when he was in a good mood, but otherwise, nothing. We had no vinyl in our house. No music playing. Zip. Zero. Nada. Everything I learned about with music I had to seek out on my own.

What hand did he have in nurturing and developing your talent, and how big of a proponent is/was his support to you?

Nurturing. The only thing that really sticks out was when I was living at home during college, and he and mom were pretty rocky, this is right before the divorce. I was playing acoustic guitar in the living room, trying to learn a Beatles song. He came in and said, “’Is this ever going to make you any money?” With a smirk on his face. So it wasn’t until years and years later when I started gigging out more and actually making money at it that he saw, “Oh, ok maybe he’s got something with this.” But to this day, music shows just aren’t his scene. So it was actually a way of me asserting my individuality by just throwing myself into music, especially after my parents’ divorce.

How have his teachings and life informed your art, if at all?

His love for history I share, so when I started getting into the Dylan and Townes’ style story songs about the Civil War or 20th century America, I loved it. Old sea shanties that Jerry Garcia would do, stuff like that. I loved songs which had a historical theme to them, and still do.

Whether it’s work ethic, philosophy, character, confidence, pragmatism, etc… what do you think is one of the most important attributes you take from him and how do you apply it to your profession?

His work ethic, and more so, his craving for learning. His curiosity, really lead me to, and continues to lead me to, discover new music, new artists, new songs, new ways of playing and writing. I think that’s the biggest thing.

In closing, is there anything specific about your father-a story, advice he gave you, etc…-you would care to share with us?

 I think it was the fact he thought the idea of playing music was kind of bullshit that made me so driven. I wish he could see me out there now; it’s just not his scene. But I think he’d like some of my songs, I know he’s proud in his own way. I don’t come from a musical family. I really just dove in all my own, and am glad it turned out that way.



Dylan Michael Bentley is a pretty fine singer/songwriter and is an occasional contributor here at Vocals On Top and always provides a good perspective on other artists music. Here he went above and beyond to honor some great fathers. This artcile is pretty damn cool, you should share it and give Bentley’s facebook page a like: https://www.facebook.com/dylanmichaelbentley


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