Wednesday, December 7, 2011

my new fret-less cigar box guitar is on the way

I will soon have a custom fret-less 3 string cigar box guitar made by Bobby Bergland of  Bobby Taylor guitars in Austin. It is in the mail now.  I can't wait to play it. This came about because I was thinking I wanted a 3 string fret-less instrument with a square body to use in creating some new music. I suddenly realized that the instrument I was envisioning was none other than a cigar box guitar. And Bobby Bergland  of Bobby Taylor Guitars (named after him and his former guitar making partner Taylor Green, who is my wife Kate's cousin) was the one to do it. 

Look for a few pieces of music in the future by the WALKING WILLOWS featuring this guitar:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

the WALKING WILLOWS at the Doe Bay Cafe on Orcas Island, Washington

The WALKING WILLOWS took a ferry to the San Juan Islands in early October and performed at the Doe Bay Cafe on a Friday night at the beautiful Doe Bay Resort. We then stayed for the weekend and worked on new compositions in a cabin that the resort provided for us. While trying things out on a new guitar piece I presented, Rich had a musical breakthrough of sorts, coming up with haunting sounds on the upper registers of the double bass that he had not explored before (and perhaps sounds few others, if any,  have explored).

The Doe Bay Cafe has fantastic food, using local ingredients including produce from the Doe Bay Resort garden. This was different for us, playing in a restaurant situation with people eating and talking, different from the concert situations I have been playing pretty much exclusively for the last 20 years. It did however turn out to be a good experience for us, and there were nice, interesting people both working and eating there. We even met Doe Bay Joe. This all reminded me a little bit of the experiences I had at a restaurant I used to play many years ago in Newport, Oregon, the Whale's Tale.
We were done playing, unplugged, and waiting for our dinner when a couple asked us if we could play them one more song. I decided to oblige them, picked up my guitar, walked over to their table and serenaded them with one more song  ("I woke up this morning, woke up this morning, woke up this morning and went back to sleep").

Monday, October 17, 2011

What led up to the WALKING WILLOWS? The Tree People interview with Stephen Cohen in "It's Psychedelic Baby" Magazine

Here is a nice interview in It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine with Stephen Cohen about the Tree People, which tells the story of some of the things leading up to the current day WALKING WILLOWS :

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Tree People interview with Stephen Cohen


1. Thank you for taking your time to do this interview about The Tree People! First I have to ask you about your childhood and teen years. Where did you grow up and what were some of your influences?
I grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island in the United States. I taught myself how to play guitar at the age of 14 and soon was composing music and writing songs. Just exploring the six strings and the many frets of the guitar was, and still is, where it all starts for me.         As a teenager I went to the Newport Folk Festival and saw all kinds of wonderful performances there. I listened to all kinds of recorded music, everything from folk, to rock, to jazz, to classical. I attended Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts for 3 years and saw all kinds of wonderful local performers and bands fill the small Brandeis University Coffeehouse with some great music. But I have to say my biggest influence was, and still is, all the emotions and surprises found in daily life.

2. Were you in any bands before forming The Tree People? Any releases from then?

I left Brandeis University after 3 years to travel, guitar in hand, across the United States, hitchhiking, living in several “hippy” communes, and having all kinds of adventures, until settling in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I performed solo regularly at several restaurants. No album releases from that time.
The Tree People, recorded in Eugene, Oregon soon after I moved there, was my first full length album release.

3. Why the name The Tree People?

Once sitting under a tree in New Mexico, I got the inspiration to write a short, illustrated children’s book called the Tree People, and the name for the group came from that book.
I never published the book, and I have no copies of the book, just a few of the illustrations.

4. So how did you guys came together to form the band?

I performed regularly at a place in Eugene, Oregon called the Homefried Truckstop, a coffeehouse and restaurant close to the University of Oregon that had live music 7 days a week and was quite a local hangout for musicians and music lovers at that time. I saw a wonderful musician playing recorder and percussion there a few times with several different folk bands and felt what he was doing would work well with my music. When I saw him at one of my performances, I asked him if was interested in playing music with me. His name was Jeff Stier. He had a friend, a classical flautist named Rachel Laderman, who starting rehearsing and performing with us, and the original Tree People ensemble was in place. 

5. In 1979 you released your debut. I would like if you could share a whole story about the LP. What are some of the strongest memories from recording and producing this LP?

My debut album, The Tree People, was recorded in a studio in the woods outside of Eugene, Oregon called Rockin’ A Ranch. It was all done in a single weekend with most everything recorded live and in one or two takes, with me on acoustic guitar and voice, Jeff Stier on recorders and percussion, Rachel Laderman on flute on a few pieces, and James Thornbury (a local blues musician at the time who later toured internationally with Canned Heat and now lives in Austrulia) sitting in on electric bass on a few pieces and on slide guitar and back-up vocals on Bring in the Water.
    My strongest memories from that weekend were the bond I felt with the other musicians and the studio owner/engineer while making the music, and the feeling that being in a studio was home for me. And when the engineer’s wife brought us some fresh baked cookies during a break I knew for sure we were in the right place. 

Where did you record it?

Rocking’ A Ranch in Greenleaf, Oregon.

What can you say about the cover artwork?

The cover artwork was the cover of the Tree People storybook that I mentioned above.
I drew it after napping under that tree in New Mexico and imagining what the Tree People might look like. 

This was a private release, right? What more can you tell me and how many copies were made?

1,000 vinyl copies were made. We sold most of them in Eugene, at local stores and at live performances.

6. Did you play any shows?

We played just about everywhere you could possibly play in Eugene: at coffeehouses, University events, at festivals, and in concerts at art galleries and small concert halls. . 

7. A few years later you released another album called Human Voices and a year or so ago you released a new album called It's My Story, which is really amazing! In the meantime you had a solo carrier and you released four albums from 1995 to 2006. Would you like to tell me about this period of your carrier?

Soon after Human Voices was released (another private release, this time released only as a cassette with 300 copies, all sold in Eugene), Jeff moved to Washington, D.C. to work in politics and that phase of the Tree People story came to an end. 

I continued composing music, writing songs, performing and recording and also started making my own original sculptural percussion instruments, which I used in my performances and recordings along with my guitar and voice. I moved to Portland, Oregon in 1996 and did many performances there and also performed in concert and at festivals across the United States. I also did workshops and residencies at schools and museums and recorded several albums, including a children’s album called Here Come the Band (suitable for adults as well!). 

8. What are some of your future plans?

I am now performing and recording with Rich Hinrichsen, the double bassist who played on the 3rd and last Tree People album, It’s My Story, and we are now called THE WALKING WILLOWS (you might say an offshoot of the Tree People). Future plans include a releasing a new album by the WALKING WILLOWS, and producing and creating some creative videos of some of our new songs to put up on the web.
I am also working on a project called the Cistern Symphony, where I am putting music, photos and video created in a cavernous Cistern with incredible echoes together into a multimedia website.
But most of all, I just plan to create, perform and record music for as long as I can. 

9. How do you like Guerssen re-release of your albums?

Antoni and his staff at Guerssen did a fantastic job with our albums and it was a pleasure and honor to work with Guerssen. I have nothing but good things to say about Guerssen!
A highlight was going to Spain to perform at the Musique Disperses Festival (a festival that Antoni and Guerssen Records produce) this year!

10. Thanks for your time, would you like to add something else, perhaps?

Thank you for your time. Music is a great form of communication. I am always happy when my music can reach some far corner of the world from my little corner of the world. 

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 201

Monday, October 3, 2011

The WALKING WILLOWS Creative Residency at Centrum in Port Townsend, Washington

    The WALKING WILLOWS, Stephen Cohen and Rich Hinrishsen) had a wonderful Creative Residency at Centrum (an arts organization in Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend, Washington) from September 24th to September 29th, 2011.
    We worked on musical pieces, new and old, and enjoyed the beautiful environment.
    We had a successful second descent on September 27th into the cavernous Dan Harpole Cistern (see a video from our first descent into the Cistern), where we recorded music with acoustic guitar, voice, toy piano, percussion and guest musicians didgeridoo and bass trombone player Todd Johnson and vocalist Selah Martha. Portland photographer Julie Keefe documented the proceedings with photos and video. We will post the results of our Cistern Symphony whenever we are finished going through and editing all the sounds and sights of our Cistern adventure. Stay tuned!
     Then on September 28th we went into Synergy Sound, a recording studio in Fort Worden run by Neville Pearsall, and recorded 6 new studio pieces, including a  few pieces with guest back-up vocalist Bruce Cowan, which we will post in the future as well.
      We capped off our Creative Residency the evening of September 28th with a house concert in our residency cabin. It was a fantastic evening of music with the WALKING WILLOWS and several local musicians. We filled the cabin with people and filled the cabin with music. Life should always be this good!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

the WALKING WILLOWS do a house concert in Seattle, overlooking Lake Washington

the WALKING WILLOWS performed at a house concert in Seattle in a beautiful setting overlooking Lake Washington. There was a wonderful audience of nice people, along with great food and drink. Here is Stephen doing a solo piece.       
 On the evening before Father's Day, it was a special thrill to have Rich's son Christian sit in with us on cello on a few pieces, playing parts written out for him on It's My Story, Thomas, and Melody for 3.
Christian opened an evening of music with a solo piece. Rani Weatherby then sang a few songs accompanying  herself on ukulele. Rich's friend Brian then did a wonderful Steely Dan arrangement on voice and guitar accompanied by Rich on double bass. Then the WALKING WILLOWS did an hour set, performing many of the songs we did on our recent trip to Spain, as well as a world premiere performance of a new song, Mathematics. Rani Weatherby did back-up vocals on It's My Story and Living with the Animals, and took these photos as well. When the music was over, Stephen drove into the night, heading back to Portland, while Rich and others took a walk around the neighborhood.
the WALKING WILLOWS are finding the house concert concept to be perfect for our music and our personalities. We hope to do many more house concerts in various locations, East,West, North and South, in the future!

Friday, June 10, 2011

WALKING WILLOWS works in progress; until these are completed, order music of Stephen Cohen and the Tree People on CDbaby

The WALKING WILLOWS are at work on several projects: 1. The Cistern Symphony, which we will complete this fall, deep in the Cistern at Fort Worden, during our Centrum Residency in Port Townsend, Washington. 2. A WALKING WILLOWS album of original music, some of which will be from live performances. 3. We also are beginning to conceptualize several video and film pieces featuring WALKING WILLOW songs. Until those projects are completed, you can order music of Stephen Cohen and the Tree People at CDbaby:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

the WALKING WILLOWS at Cafe Allegro, May 6th, 2011

the WALKING WILLOWS returned to Seattle's oldest existing coffeehouse, the Cafe Allegro for a performance on May 6th, 2011. The Cafe Allegro has special meaning for double bass player Rich, he came here many years ago while he was attending school. They have an upstairs room where live music can be heard every Friday night. Opening our show was Rani Weatherby, who played a short set of songs with voice and ukulele. Her music was whimsical and wonderful. Dane Euland then did a moving set of music of original songs, some of which I would call epic poems, featuring beautiful and heartfelt vocals with musical acoustic guitar. Then the came us, the WALKING WILLOWS, and we were very happy to have great sound with Dane as the sound guy, a nice listening audience, and good feelings all around in an evening to remember.

Stephen and Rich at the Cafe Allegro

a smiling duo of WALKING WILLOWS- a good evening all around!

jazz singer Rani Weatherby opened the show on voice and ukulele, and then later did some backup vocals on a few WALKING WILLOWS songs, It's My Story, Living with the Animals, and Rain, Rain, Rain

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Who are the WALKING WILLOWS? our story, with links

The WALKING WILLOWS are the new band of acoustic guitarist, vocalist, award winning songwriter and composer Stephen Cohen and double bass player, pianist, vocalist and arranger Rich Hinrichsen. They perform melodic, “emotionally gripping”, creative acoustic music. The two started playing together in 2007, when Rich joined Stephen's legendary ensemble, the Tree People. The WALKING WILLOWS also feature a rotating roster of guest musicians on cello, voice, percussion,  mandolin and other instruments.

the cover drawing (by Stephen Cohen) of the 1979 vinyl album, The Tree People 
   The Tree People were a creative acoustic music ensemble originally formed in the late 1970’s in Eugene, Oregon.  Founding members are composer, songwriter, acoustic guitarist and vocalist Stephen Cohen, and Jeff Stier, who plays recorders, flute and percussion. They performed, at times with third and forth band members, at concerts and festivals in the Eugene area for 7 years. They recorded two albums, The Tree People, in 1979, (which was recorded at Rocking A Ranch, a studio in the woods near Eugene), and Human Voices in 1984. 
the cover (drawing by Stephen Cohen) of the 1984 Tree People album Human Voices
listen to Grandfather, from Human Voices 
      After the Tree People disbanded in the mid 1980’s, founding member Stephen Cohen continued his music career, moving to Portland, Oregon in the mid 1990’s, composing music, writing songs, and performing at concerts and festivals across the United States, including the Philadelphia Folk Festivalthe Long Island Children's Museum and the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas (where he was an award winner for songwriting in 2000).  He recorded three albums during that period, including his nationally acclaimed 2006 album Here Comes the Band, a children's album, which includes a 20 page illustrated booklet with paintings and drawings by Christopher Shotola-Hardt and lyrics and activities, and which features songs that Stephen performs in his interactive performances for children.  
   Stephen's CD, Stephen and the Talk Talk Band , was released in 2004.  Stephen's song It's My Story, from Stephen and the Talk Talk Band, is the closing piece in the sound track of the Freedom Center video which was featured on the Forbes Magazine web site. The song was also the closing piece in The Story Pouch, a computer animated film by Todd Kesterson. 
     Stephen all the while was creating visual art and original sculptural percussion instruments using used guitar strings and other found objects, along with woods and metals.
     He was featured in a story on Oregon Public Broadcasting's Art Beat show in 2002 about his residency at Wilsonville High School, where he worked with a special education class and several music and art students to produce a CD, Junk Jam and a performance at the Wilsonville Festival of Arts. One of the songs created was You Need to Get to Know Me.
Meanwhile, the first Tree People album, originally released in vinyl and sold only in Eugene, Oregon, somehow appeared across the ocean, and was discovered worldwide by record collectors twenty five years after it was first recorded. Stephen was contacted by several record companies, leading to CD and vinyl reissues of the first two Tree People albums by record companies in Japan, Tiliqua,and Spain, Guerssen Records, and Stephen’s solo acoustic guitar piece from the first album, The Tree People, "No More School", was included in an acoustic guitar collection, Wayfaring Strangers, Guitar Soli, by the Chicago record company The Numero Group. The Tree People, whose original music was hard to classify the first time around, were now being called “Fathers of Freak Folk” and “Psych Folk Pioneers”.
        And then the second life of the Tree People began. Stephen and Jeff, with new Tree People member, Seattle double bass player Rich Hinrichsen, (Rich is not only a talented and creative double bass player, but is also a wonderful piano player, arranger, and composer himself, he is also a mathematician, and on top of that he produces a Beatles night every year as a benefit for the Elizabeth Gregory Home) began rehearsing, making new arrangements old material, creating and recording new music, and performing in concerts and festivals throughout the Pacific Northwest, including performances at the Mississippi Studios, the White Eagle and Performance Works Northwest in Portland, the Matrix in Chehalis, Washington, the Upstage in Port Townsend, Washington, and the Arts in Nature Festival and Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle. They have done two Creative Residencies at Centrum, an art organization in Port Townsend, Washington where Stephen and Rich have started work on the Cistern Symphony, a symphony being created deep underground in the Dan Harpole Cistern in Fort Worden, where Centrum is located. Guerssen Records, of Spain released CD and vinyl editions of a 3rd, new and last Tree People album, It's My Story. Jeff Stier retired from the group after playing on the new album and taking part in his last Tree People performance at the It's My Story release concert at the Old Church in Portland on November of 2010.  

The cover of the 2010 Tree People album, It's My Story
listen to the title song, It's My Story
Stephen and Rich, with two wonderful Spanish musicians, Jordi Gallen on cello and Hector Beberide Farrus on mandolin, did their last performance under the Tree People name on March 12th, 2011 at the Musiques Disperses Festival in Spain. But the music of the Tree People will live on through their recordings, and with their new band, the WALKING WILLOWS, (you might say an offshoot of the Tree People) Stephen Cohen and Rich Hinrichsen are creating, performing and recording new music (with many Tree People songs thrown in for good measure), and adding new musicians along the way. The story continues!     


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Musiques Disperses Festival in Spain- Stephen and Rich's last performance as the Tree People

Stephen Cohen (with hat and scarf) just after arriving in LLeida, Spain via train from Portland to Seattle, airplane from Seattle to Amsterdam to Barcelona, and high speed train (Rich Hinrichsen and Stephen in high speed train in photo above) from Barcelona to Lleida, Spain, finally meets Musiques Disperses Festival director and Guessen Records executive Antoni Gorgues in person, after years of corresponding by e-mail and phone and releases of 3 Tree People albums by Guerssen Records.

Antoni works tirelessly to promote the music he loves through the festival and his record company. It was a highlight of the trip to meet him.

This photo was taken in front of the festival site, Cafe del Teatre.
 all photos on this post by photos by photographer Ben Sussman. Thanks Ben, for joining us on our great adventure in Spain, and documenting it all with your wonderful photographs! 

Stephen Cohen and Rich Hinrichsen, happy to be in Spain, happy to be performing later that evening!
noon rehearsal at the festival site, Cafe del Teatre, on the day of the concert
   from left to right: Hector Beberide Farrus, Stephen Cohen, Rich Hinrichsen and Jordi Gallen
We had corresponded by e-mail weeks in advance of the concert with Spanish musicians Hector and Jordi, sending music, mp3s, and talking about musical arrangements. Now we were rehearsing in person. Hector and Jordi are fantastic musicians. One observer said it sounded like we had been playing together for years.                                                                                
Hector and Stephen in rehearsal
Hector, Stephen and Rich in rehearsal
Stephen, Rich and Jordi in rehearsal
Stephen, Rich and Jordi in rehearsal

After the noon rehearsal, an afternoon break, and a sound check, Antoni 
took all of us, including Douglas (of Yoga Records, visiting from Los Angeles), Alex of Guerssen Records, the sound man, all the musicians (and our photographer) to dinner. The food was delicious, the conversation lively. We then made the short walk to the festival site, Cafe del Teatre, ready to play music.
Performance time! Stephen and Rich enjoying the moment.

4 musicians in the spotlight

Hector, Stephen, Rich and Jordi get into it!
Here we are performing "Hearing Test", with Hector on wooden flute, Stephen on acoustic guitar and panpipes, Rich on double bass and Jordi on cello. It was a real thrill to play in Spain, where the language of music was understood by all. 

 The best thing about it all was meeting people in a far away land, playing with one great musician from the United States and two great musicians from Spain, and sharing the language of music with a wonderful Spanish audience.We did two curtain calls and signed many autographs after the concert. A wonderful experience!

Rich, Mary and Stephen
Our friend Mary, originally from the United States, but living in Barcelona for years, was a real angel to us, helping us get to the train to LLeida from Barcelona, translating for us along the way, sharing her knowledge of  Barcelona and the customs to be aware of in Spain, and having us over to her alley apartment in Barcelona for dinner. 

Stopping at the Placa de Sant Joan on the walk back to the train the day after our performance in LLeida,
Rich and Stephen stop to rest, Stephen plays a song on his guitar, and some children stop to look and listen.

       Here are the songs, in order, that we performed at the Musique Disperses Festival:

It’s My Story, Sliding, Pot of Gold, Let’s All Root for the Home Team, Thomas, Melody for 4, Living with the Animals, Hearing Test, No More School, More Than Yoko, The Change in Kate, Grandfather, Walking Willow Tree, Legends of the Tree People                                                     
 curtain call:            Rain, Rain, Rain, Space Heater
 2nd  curtain call:    Goodnight, goodnight 

the concert was recorded and filmed- video will be posted when available  

Stephen and Rich in alley courtyard in LLeida on the way to the train. Rich has his double bass bow in a case. The festival provided a vintage double bass for Rich to play, since, or course,  his own double bass would not fit on the plane.

Below: Bigott at the Musiques Disperses Festival:

The Musiques Disperses Festival is not a one day affair, but rather a series of concerts that takes place on weekends over a period of 3 or 4 weeks. The night before we performed, we were able to see and hear Bigott (which loosely translated, means "mustache"), a band from southern Spain. They are a lot of fun, featuring guitars, keyboards, two drummers and a lead singer who breaks into hippie style dances during performances. I had a chance to meet them at the hotel brunch Saturday morning and they were a very nice group of people. We exchanged albums.
One of the highlights of touring for me is seeing and meeting other musicians from all over the world.