Artist: Thomm Jutz
Hometown: born in Neusatz/Germany, living in Nashville, TN
Latest album: To Live in Two Worlds Vol.2
Personal nicknames: TJ
Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?
At this point in my life, I’d have to say that Norman Blake has influenced me the most. Not just as an instrumentalist, but also as a songwriter. When he started writing original material in the early ’70s he came out of the shoot with a distinctive songwriter’s voice. Unlike Kristofferson, Hartford, and Dylan, all of whom he had worked with, Blake’s focus was not on his inner world but on the old rural America that he’d grown up in. He applied his huge knowledge of railroad history to his writing. His songs were based on local characters that he’d grown up with or places that were meaningful to him. I like to write about historic events or characters from the past and I owe the inspiration for that to a large part to the great Norman Blake.
What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc — inform your music?
Literature has a great influence on my music. I read all the time. I try to keep something historical, a story and something philosophical or inspirational going at all times. The more I read, the more I write. Sometimes images from books come to me after years and I start writing about them. I also love to read cookbooks. In recent years I’ve really been into the novels of North Carolina writers Ron Rash and John Ehle.
What was the first moment that you knew you wanted to be a musician?
When I was eleven years old I saw Bobby Bare on TV. He hit me square between the eyes with his singing, the way he held the guitar and his cooler than cool attitude. My soul connected with the archetype of the wandering minstrel at that moment and has not let me go since. I never felt like I wanted to do anything but a musician and songwriter. I got to work with Bare a couple of times. He was every bit as great as I wanted him to be.
What’s the toughest time you ever had writing a song?
I can’t say that I struggle too much with songwriting. I believe that if you have a good idea and put in the time and co-write with the right people, your craft should make it possible for you to at the very least come up with something decent every time. One song idea that I had and didn’t know how to approach for over a year was for a song called “Help Me to Hold On” that I co-wrote with Milan Miller and that was recorded by Balsam Range. Every morning when I walked with my dog that idea was in my head, but I couldn’t some up with an angle to approach it. I still remember where I was out here by Percy Priest Lake when all the pieces came together. We wrote it the following Saturday and it didn’t take more than an hour to get it done.
Since food and music go so well together, what is your dream pairing of a meal and a musician?
I listen to a whole lot of Norman Blake’s music when I’m cooking dinner with my wife every night. Another really good pairing is when my friend and fellow songwriter Jefferson Ross comes to visit from Atlanta. We stand around the kitchen or the grill with a beer, cook together and talk about books, music and vintage guitars.
Photo credit: Jefferson Ross