Artist: Chase McBride
Hometown: San Francisco
Latest album: Pink Lemonade
Personal nicknames (or rejected band names): Montana Slim
Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?
I grew up with James Taylor’s music omnipresent in my life. Whether my family was relaxing at home or taking long road trips through Montana, his voice was always somewhere in the background. I remember my Dad drumming along to “You’ve Got a Friend” on the steering wheel, and singing the high-harmony parts, which is probably where I picked up on vocal harmonizing. Even as my musical tastes have expanded, I still come back to his music, impressed by the purity of his arrangements and lyricism. His album, October Road, is one of my favorites, and amazing because it was a late-career offering. Playing the song “September Grass” brings me right back to my old blue Subaru station wagon, driving down a tree-lined street in autumn, or going to visit my high-school girlfriend. Those formative experiences inform the way I approach storytelling. Nostalgia is a potent ingredient, when used effectively.
What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc — inform your music?
I went to graduate school for painting, and have been in or around the fine art world for most of my adult life. Though I’m currently a “dormant” painter, my partner Heather Day is a working artist so I vicariously live through her studio practice. One of my favorite painters is the late Philip Guston, I just love the way he talks about his work, and brings life to his images through his explanations. If my well of inspiration runs dry, I like to take the bus down to the San Francisco MOMA and visit his works. I usually come away with a kernel of inspiration to set off exploring through sound.
What was the first moment that you knew you wanted to be a musician?
When I was very young, maybe 7 or 8, I remember rummaging through my parent’s CD collection and finding a Beethoven disc. I put it on my Dad’s stereo system, and laid back in his reclining Dad-chair. Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” came on, and it gave me a rush of emotion that I hadn’t felt before or since. I played that song on repeat for three days until my Dad made me turn it off. I think I wore the CD out. I couldn’t believe that sound had the ability to elicit such a strong emotional response and I knew that I wanted to try to do that myself. Two decades later I’m still trying.
What rituals do you have, either in the studio or before a show?
The studio is a sacred space for me. I take studio time very seriously, and do my best to devote my entire attention and focus to the process. For my new album, Pink Lemonade, the studio played a very important role. It was recorded with producer-extraordinaire Andrew Heringer (Milo Greene, Avid Dancer, Madi Diaz) at his Beachwood Canyon home studio, known as Mirror Wall. Andrew has such great energy, and is such a positive person to work with. He’s a yes-man, but he also knows when to guide the creative process or make a suggestion. For this album, after working out the rough bones of a song, we’d take a break in the early afternoon and walk up to the local deli at Beachwood Market for a sandwich. We used those short walks to check-in and clear our ears out. It’s important to step away from the studio every few hours to reset your ears and your creative impulses. Perspective is everything.
Since food and music go so well together, what is your dream pairing of a meal and a musician?
I’m going to throw a curveball here and divulge the fact that I’m a huge fan of ’90s hip-hop. Souls of Mischief, from across the bay in Oakland, are one of my favorite hip-hop groups. I would love to host a decadent meal for my close friends with fresh nigiri sushi, a bottle of Krug champagne and Souls of Mischief’s song “93 ‘Til Infinity” on repeat.
Photo credit: Nirav Patel