RR: What is interesting, and the reason I asked that question, is that many guitarists are not able to define their sound in even one group. Yet, over time, you’ve been able to forge your own path in multiple projects. Let me take a broad stroke. What is different about your work with Lettuce, Soulive, and Chapter 2?
EK: Well, I think that Soulive was really interesting because I had never played that role. I was playing my Strat, playing more rock-based, or funk rock kind of music, and when I met them, I had listened to a lot of that music, but I had never been the guy playing it. I picked up a hollow body, really for the first time, and started playing that music, and I loved it. It was so cool to be able to do it. I wasn’t totally confident right off the bat with it. Actually, I was confident, but I wouldn’t say I was a master of it. (laughs) So I loved doing it, but I also, as time went on, with Soulive, I started incorporating the effects, the wah wah pedal, and the other stuff that I’d grown up doing.
I think with Lettuce, all that James Brown stuff, all that rhythm stuff that I was listening to, came out. It was really all about the pulse and the horns and about locking in and finding your place in this band where there’s so many different percussive things going on, and you want to just find your spot, and just nail it. I think that’s kind of a whole different side of things, too. Although, I try to do that with Soulive, as well. I’m covering such a large spectrum of sound because there are only three of us. Whereas, Lettuce is just this huge, massive train rolling. (laughs) You just gotta find your little spot and work it, and when it’s time for you to step out, you get out and do a solo, or whatever you’re going to do.
With Chapter 2, I think the guitar is the main thing. I’m doing the rhythm, I’m doing the leads, I’m doing the melodies—it’s all of that. And the other thing with Chapter 2 is that I’m writing a lot of the stuff, and writing a lot of lyrics. Even though there are only a couple of vocal tunes, with Chapter 2 live, you’ll hear a lot of the other songs that I’ve written with Nigel and the stuff Adam and I have written together. With Chapter 2, the writing covers a lot more stylistically. We’ll do a soul tune. We’ll do a rock tune in 7 (laughs). I’ll play slide on a tune. I’d say it’s a little bit more all over the place. The one thing keeping it together is my guitar and Nigel’s voice are present throughout.
RR: Well, your solo album, Reminisce also seems like an accumulation of all of your work, and where you are at now.
EK: Exactly. (laughs) That’s a good way to put it.
RR: A few years back, 2005 through 2007, there was more of an emphasis on vocal-oriented songs in your work with Soulive. You veered back into more instrumentals after that, and now, it appears like you are combining both approaches.
EK: Exactly. Well, you know what? I think I realized that when you are in a band for a long time, you want to branch out, and do different things. What we’ve allowed ourselves to do, especially with starting this label, is, rather than change the sound of each project, let’s just start new ones. (laughs) I think we’ve learned from that. I loved the record that we made with Toussaint [on 2007’s No Place Like Soul ], but I think it threw people off because Soulive has a very distinct sound that I love, you know, but I think now that we have other avenues like Neal [Evans, keyboards] is making a solo record, and Alan [Evans, drums] has his own studio where he records and produces all sorts of people…I had written a lot of vocal tunes which ended up on that record with Toussaint, and now that I’m also working with Nigel, and also producing a lot of other people, I have more outlets to do that kind of stuff.
I think that we’re in a really solid place now with having our own label and able to just branch out. As a musician, when you’re playing with the same people all the time, you just want to be able to try something different, especially when you grow up with so many influences like we have. We listen to so much different…when we’re driving around in the bus or van, it’ll go from Béla Fleck to Black Sabbath (laughs) to Lee “Scratch” Perry to Wes Montgomery. We’re all over the place as far as our musical tastes, so we like to mess around with that, especially since we have our own studios, and so many musicians to play with. We like to keep the boundaries open.
RR: Speaking of…let’s talk about the Beatles and Hendrix. Beyond the new Rubber Soulive album, there are two covers on Reminisce from those legendary artists—“Get Back” and “Manic Depression.”
EK: The Hendrix track—I’ve worked with Adam Deitch since high school. We produce a lot together, we play together all the time, we’ve lived down the street from each other, and he turned me on to a lot of Tower of Power, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and all of this funk stuff that we heard growing up. And I kept trying to get him into Hendrix. For a while, he wasn’t that into it. It took him a while. When he came around, he goes, “Dude, we’ve gotta do this version of this tune,” and he came up with that arrangement of “Manic Depression.” He said, “We’ll do it like this, with this groove” and I said, “Yeah!” I was super psyched about it. That was really his idea to do that one, and I was the one that said, “We’ve got to put it on the album.” He said, “Let’s jam on this,” and I said, “No, we’ve got to record this.”
“Get Back”—I had been wanting to do Beatles instrumentals for a long time. I had mentioned it with Soulive a few times. When we came to doing my record, we were in the studio and I think Deitch said, “Let’s do that “Get Back” thing.” We had jammed on that before. We were in the studio, and just spontaneously said, “Let’s try that.” Louis was there on bass, and Louis really setup that groove. That version—he just killed the bass on that. When we were playing (laughs), we were trying not to scream into the mikes because he was just killing it on bass. When everyone heard that, we all said, “We’ve got to do that Beatles idea.” So, a few months later, Soulive ended up recording a whole album of Beatles instrumentals [ Rubber Soulive ]. That idea has been thrown around for five, six years. I guess once we recorded “Get Back,” we started planning on some other ones, and that’s what sparked the whole thing. Ryan Zoidis happened to be driving through Massachusetts, and I made him come by. (laughs) He played the horn solo on that. Actually, Louis Cato, who played bass on it, also played trombone on the track [and tambourine, too, for good measure]. He is also an amazing drummer, too. Louis Cato plays just about every instrument there is.