But for Statz’s most recent record, Old Fashioned, he recorded at home, at a studio in Iowa City with producer Bo Ramsey. Ramsey also played lead and electric guitar on the album, and Ramsey’s wife, Pieta Brown, sang harmonies.
We recently spoke with Statz and found out how hometown inspiration propelled his current record, how he recruited Ramsey, and where he’s headed next.
The Pitch: Do you have anyone supporting you on this tour?
Statz: I have mostly local support for most of the shows. So in both Lawrence and Kansas City, I’ll be joined by Dollar Fox, a great, great Americana band out of KC. The Silver Maggies will also be playing with us in Lawrence.
How did you get in contact with Bo Ramsey?
Basically, I just sent him an e-mail. I never really thought that it would actually work out, but he is my favorite producer, and I’ve loved pretty much everything he’s done, so I thought it was worth a shot. I was pretty surprised one day when the phone rang, and it was Bo. He said he liked my last album (Ghost Towns) and was interested in the new project. He was the perfect man for the job, and knows just how to add the perfect amount to a song without overdoing it. “If you listen, the song will tell you what it wants,” he would say.
Who are some of the musicians you've worked with?
Well, on this album, Bo not only produces but also plays the majority of the lead/electric guitar. His wife, the amazing Pieta Brown, sings some beautiful harmonies. I was lucky that some of my old Madison, Wisconsin, friends were free to come down and join in the recording, especially my buddy Jeremiah Nelson, who is a great songwriter himself. Bob Black, who played with Bill Monroe back in the day, is a local Iowa City guy and also laid some banjo down on the new record. And I’ve been fortunate to share shows with some incredible songwriters like Jeffrey Foucault, Ari Hest, the Wood Brothers, Daniel Ellsworth, and Tom Rush.
What made you want to return to the Midwest for this album?
Well, I’m originally from Madison, Wisconsin, and moved to Denver about a year and a half ago. I started doing the demos for Old Fashioned in Denver, and was considering my options for recording out here, but I just didn’t feel the connection yet. Don’t get me wrong, I love my newly adopted city, but I didn’t have the circle of music folks that I had in Madison. With Bo in Iowa City, it wasn’t hard to pull some of those folks down. Also, the Midwest is real. I’ll always love and praise it. It may not by flashy or touristy, but it is full of real people and real places with history. I’m not sure what that means in the end, but it feels like a damn good place to make music.
Where's the next place you want to go? I assume the destination will help shape the next record.
A couple of years ago, I was touring Europe, actually did it in ‘09 and ‘10, and visited some incredible places over there. I’m planning on getting back over there in the fall of 2012, and I’m really getting antsy about it. It is hard to think about the “next record” at this point, as Old Fashioned is just released, but yeah, I think everywhere you travel helps shape your future. To me, travel is the biggest influence. I’m dying to make it back to Eastern Europe, in particular; I’ve had a blast playing places like Budapest and Prague.
Most influential place you've been to, to date? And do you find that the way basic human emotions are expressed around the world are similar?
In general, it would probably be the Balkans, and specifically, I would have to say Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I took a break from my 2009 European tour to visit that city, and it left quite an impression on me. Beautiful, warm, extremely friendly people, and a city full of history and culture. Juxtapose that with the bullet holes and bombed-out rooftops still found around the city from the 1992-95 war, and you have quite an interesting place. The cover photo from my 2010 album, Ghost Towns, was actually one I took in Sarajevo. It shows an old orange Yugo with a flat tire parked in front of a bullet-marked wall. I can’t really speak to the world outside of North America and Europe, as I haven’t been, but yeah, I think people are more similar across cultures than many realize. One thing that struck me all over Eastern Europe, where so many horrible things happened in the 20th century, is that people seemed quite possibly even happier than in many other places I’ve been, including the U.S. I think because the “bad times” are in such recent memory, especially in the Balkans, they really enjoy the moment and can’t be bothered to become bogged down by trivial things.
How have fans reacted to Old Fashioned thus far? Will you be selling it at either show this weekend?
I most certainly will be selling Old Fashioned at both shows this weekend. It is hard for me to gauge completely, as it has been out for such a short time, but people seem to be really liking it. I’ve been honored to have some great reviews from some blogs that I really enjoy reading, and it seems like the album is making the rounds on the Internet. I’m just happy that I was able to make it the way I wanted, with Bo Ramsey and everyone involved, a stripped-down intimate record.
Catch John Statz at either the Replay on Thursday (10 p.m.) or at the Brick on Friday (6 p.m.).