John McEuen talks music
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” John McEuen, 61, has spent most of his life on the road. In 1966, the singer/songwriter was one of the founders of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, an eclectic blues, rock and country group, steeped in Americana. After 40 years, 30 albums and countless awards, the group is still touring around the country, going as strong as McEuen himself. Living between Hollywood, Calif. and New York City, he now spends his days touring, writing, recording and scoring an occasional film or two.
In a recent interview, he joked and spoke openly about his life and career from his East Coast home.
Describe your life now. What are you doing these days? “I am going around the world, trying to get as many people to listen to me as possible. I would say I’m living my teenaged dream of being a performer.”
What first brought you to music? “I just wanted to get out of Orange County somehow, and I didn’t want to be a salesman. I wanted to sell notes.”
He described how, when he worked as a magician at Disney Land, he realized how much he liked being on stage. After seeing the Dillards (a bluegrass band, prominent in the 1960s), he felt moved. After hearing the first single by the Byrds (a popular 1960s folk/pop group) on the radio, he felt it was time to take action. He knew one of the members and saw that maybe the dream was attainable after all.
“Hey, If he can be on air, then so can I.”
Though he’s many decades older now ” he was 20 at the time ” he said he still goes about making music as he always has.
“If I don’t pay attention, it works out better. If I start to think about it, I’m going about it the wrong way. I have to let the music play me. If you can take those people (the audience) and make them forget where they are, then you’re doing your job. It’s about transporting people.”
What keeps you in the music business? “No matter what’s happening out in the world, we can walk on stage and play. The integrity aspect of that and keeping the audience’s attention is what keeps me there.”
“It works and people want to see you, and that helps. (Chuckling) In a good way, I feel like my career is just starting.”
“I can’t think of anything more fun to do. It’s called playing. I look at the options. Looking around, traveling, I’m always saying “I’m glad I don’t do that job.”
“I feel like it’s a responsibility. I’m one of the people who can do this, so I should do this.”
What are you most proud of in your career? “Getting the first Emmy nomination for music for the National Geographic special called “Braving Alaska. The other thing that I’m really proud of is a Sesame Street special. I did “Oh Susanna” with 50 goats, a cow and about 30 kids.”
He said that a 4-year-old girl came to see him in concert with her parents after watching that special. It blew him away to have a fan so young.
How do you deal with the whole fame issue? “Oh, I don’t know if it’s fame. I’m more of a garage name than a household name.”
“I just try to make things people like. I try to make things I like.”
When he was younger, a journalist told him that all show business news was fluff. He said that comment has always stuck with him.
“People always go ‘are you a celebrity?’ and I go ‘not if you have to ask.'” (Laughing)
What do you want for your career, your future?
“I like doing what I do. I like exposing more people, people who like what I do. I want to find more of them.”
He said he looks forward to his new spoken word album and hopes to score more films in the future.
“I’m really into what I do. And, personally, I’d like to be closer to my kids. I hope to be a retired kid when I grow up.”
What is the most important thing in your life?
(Laughing, pausing) “I would say the actual most important thing is feeling good. Health, so I can serve myself and serve others.”
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