Tim Harrington (guitar) and Paul Wright (cello) are Tall Heights. Their music is evocative. It grabs a hold of you and gently wraps itself around your heart and mind and allows your imagination to soar along with it. Their sound is contemporary, yet ageless. Tall Heights have become fan favorites in Boston and are currently touring to support their new CD, Man of Stone. Here’s a video of Tall Heights singing “I Don’t Know, I Don’t Know”.
- How long have the two of you been singing and playing together?
We’ve been performing as Tall Heights for three years, but we’ve known each other since childhood and did some singing together starting in high school, so it was a long time in the making.
- You spent a fair amount of time playing at the coveted spot near Fanueil Hall in Boston. How did you manage to nab that precious spot? It’s a tourist mecca!
- We signed up in 2010, and almost missed our audition slot. I guess they found our hectic performance charming, and we were lucky to come in at a time when they were looking to add some musical acts.
- How did the name Tall Heights come about?
- It just happened. We like that it means something different to everybody.
- Describe your songwriting process. Do you co-write all your songs or do you switch off?
- We find our respective muses in solitude, so each of us develops ideas on his own and then seeks help from the other in selecting the best ones, refining song structure, and building the harmonies and instrumentation.
- Who would you say are your biggest influences?
- We love Laura Marling, Anais Mitchell, Gregory Alan Isakov and Bon Iver.
- How would you compare Man of Stone to your previous two recordings?
- We’re really proud of this one. I think it carries and builds upon the haunting, shadowy vibe of Rafters and The Running of the Bulls EP, but it’s deeper, and at times, darker. We’re hoping that thematically there’s a lot for listeners to latch on to here. These songs deal with departure and return, living with uncertainty, and finding one’s place in society.
- What would you like to accomplish in the next year or two? Any musical aspirations that you’d like to share?
- We want to share this new record with a whole mess of people, continue to hone the songwriting craft, and keep playing with the artists we admire. And we’ll keep our fingers crossed for Newport Folk.
Zoë Lewis is one of the most unique musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness in concert. She’s full of life and conveys her love of music and, more importantly, she exudes her love of life from the stage. It’s impossible not to love her back. I dare you! Zoë is a most talented multi-instrumentalist and creative songwriter and makes fans wherever she plays!
To learn more about Zoë, visit her website. Check out this video to get a taste of Zoë’s music!
- I absolutely love the description of you as “a band in a body” that is included in your bio. You’ve been involved with music since you were a child. Can you imagine what your life would be like if you did not have music in your life?
- I would have a huge missing piece if I didn’t have music. I’ve always played music. Since I was little I was picking up things to play and writing songs. I simply had to! I used to take a picture of a keyboard on holiday with me and play fake keys because I would miss my piano so much. When I was older and traveled the world I started playing all sorts of portable instruments. I was in Africa and Latin America and there the people make music with anything they can get their hands on. I love this! If you have a gourd from a tree, some beans or and old piece of tin you can make music. Now I play over 20 instruments and keep collecting more.
- You’ve been called “Part Huck Finn, Part Julie Andrews.” So what attributes of each of these characters would you say inspired this description of you?
- I love both of these characters. I grew up with Julie Andrews films with her crisp voice and cheery outlook on life. She’s also quintessentially English. Maybe a little of her seeped in, throw in Huck Finn’s sense of adventure, add a little of Fred Astaire’s romance, some Noel Coward, a growl or two from Tom Waits and Louis Armstrong, some gypsy swing from Django Reinhardt, some words from Paul Simon and you’ve got me.
- I’m fascinated by the fact that you were a Hammond organ, piano and synthesize for a Latin jazz band in London. What was that like?
- In my first “proper” band I was hired as the keyboard player. This was great for me and got me much stronger on accompanying singers and taught me how a pop song was built. Latin grooves were hitting London at that time and we were trying our best to play them. I was blown away by the great rhythms I was learning. It was so different to anything I’d played before. I loved it!
- I’ve also got to ask about playing with an elephant orchestra in Thailand. That’s not something that you hear about every day. What in goodness sake is an elephant orchestra? And how did that come about?
- I love stories and when I hear a great one I head towards it. I try to follow my dreams as much as possible. A cellist friend told me about the elephant orchestra of North Thailand. I wanted to see it for myself so I jumped on a plane and suddenly I was jamming with 8 elephants on my ukulele as they played marimbas and gongs and even harmonicas! Most wonderful!
- You’ve been known to do a workshop called “Music in Our Pockets” which teaches people to hear music made by all kinds of things — including ordinary items found in your pocket like spare change, keys, etc. How is this received and can you describe the kind of music that was produced by your workshop participants?
- I believe music can change the world and it does all of the time. I love to encourage people to play music. So many people think they are not good enough but when they try, they have a fabulous time and it works! As I mentioned before, you can make music out of all sorts of non-traditional items. That’s what I try to show in my workshop. You can even make music from the percussion instruments you find in your pocket: your keys, coins or on your body. When I traveled the globe people would grab anything that was handy and jam with me. All it takes is the desire to do so. I’m very happy there’s a ukulele craze right now. I’ve been playing the uke for years and now people are discovering it and can’t put it down and strum with friends and learn tons of songs and forget about sitting at the computer for a moment!
- Tell us about your new musical called Across the Pond. How did that come about and what’s it all about?
- I’m very proud of this piece. It’s my second musical and now I’m bitten by the bug! Coming from England and having lived in Provincetown for the last 20 years, I often think about the meaning of “home.” I have traveled to so many places that I quite often feel at home wherever I land but then I have a strong pull to my roots too and a new anchor on the tip of Cape Cod. I guess this is common for expats but the more I chat with people they all have fascinating stories of what “home” means to them. This musical is set on a plane half way between Heathrow and JFK and a delightful array of passengers contemplate these questions high in the clouds. I have an amazing cast and Donna Drake, from the original cast of A CHORUS LINE, is coming from Broadway to direct. It opens on May 30th in Provincetown.
- You’ve definitely got a cabaret vaudevillian side to you. Have you always been a student of music that was popular way before you were born? Do you feel that it’s important to expose people to this kind of music lest they forget or lest they have never heard it in the first place?
- My ears go to music that moves me and I just swoon to all of the old 1920s and 30s tunes. They lend very well to the piano and I adore the sentiments, beautiful melodies and simplicity of the songs. We’ve been doing a show called ZOE LEWIS AND THE BOOTLEGGERS, a night of prohibition era jazz, and everyone dresses accordingly. I like to mix theater with music. It makes for a more entertaining show and I’ve been doing this more lately. I’ve been exposed to lots of cabaret in Provincetown and I’m sure it’s seeped in and I adore the old carnivals and circus times, working show men and vaudevillians and I like to embrace this in my show. It’s the “job” of being an entertainer. This is my profession, my bread and butter and I go around making people tap their feet and smile, tell a few stories and help them forget about their troubles for a moment.
For folk music fans, there is only one Cormac McCarthy. In this interview he discusses the “other” Cormac McCarthy, living and creating music in New England, his brand new CD Collateral, the creative process, and his old buddy, Bill Morrissey.
To learn more about Cormac McCarthy, check out his website. Here’s a good example of Cormac at his best.
- Does a week go by when you don’t get at least one person asking you if you are a) Cormac McCarthy the novelist or b) if you’re related to THAT Cormac McCarthy? I heard your radio interview in which you said that at least he’s a good writer! ;-)
- Yes, but, less and less, most of the people at my shows know the difference. Cormac has been an unusual name, tho, I did hear a guy yelling at his kid at the aquarium, “C’mon Cormac! Let’s go!” It got me a little riled.
- And occasionally I will sign the novelist’s books, “To so and so, this isn’t the best thing I ever wrote but, thank you anyways, Cormac McCarthy”
- New England has been your home for many years. What is it about this area that keeps you here? It can’t be the weather.
- I’ve been and lived in many parts of the country and I really like New England. The weather is great three quarters of the time. Winter is a good time to concentrate on projects. There are fewer distractions like going outside and having fun.
- And I like the quirky and irascible people who live here. The North Pond Hermit (note: a man who lived in isolation for 27 years in a remote part of Maine who recently got caught stealing some provisions) could have been lots of people I grew up with.
- I like the New England grit and opinionated attitudes. When I lived in California, I found it was very difficult to get into an argument. The response to a challenge or a disagreement never went any farther than, “Hey man, I can dig where you’re coming from.” Although, I have to say, I’m more like that now.
- I like the Portsmouth area, the music and arts scene is vibrant. And the area
is very tolerant of the eccentric. Last night they held the Spotlight on the Arts Awards. Collateral was nominated for album of the year and I won for Best Folk in the category of Folk/Roots and Reggae. It was very nice to acknowledged in your hometown. Very often you get appreciation everywhere but, your hometown.
- I’ve seen Portsmouth go from a tough, dirty seaport to a yuppie laden 4-dollar coffee bar. That is the way it goes. Artists and musicians gravitated to the seacoast because of proximity to the ocean and cheap rent. They created an arts scene and community and it made the area attractive and then raised the property values. Then of course, the artists couldn’t afford to live there anymore. I live across the border in Maine now but, spend my fun time downtown.
- So tell us about your newest CD, Collateral. For starters, what does the title refer to?
- Collateral is a re-entry into the roots of the music I grew up on. Ballads, blues, bluegrass and protest music.
- There are stories that could come from the dustbowl era, some gut bucket blues and even a bluegrass murder ballad. Along with the love songs that are the heart of all songwriting. All you could really want in a record.
- There’s a lot of talk about the middle class but there’s little talk about the great difficulty of moving up into the middle class — about the working poor. Many working people are just one minor disaster away from being homeless. The songs I write are inspired by what I’m seeing and what I’m not hearing.”
- Collateral is that thing of value, that thing you put up or gamble in order to get something else. It begs the question, not just of material goods but of things you’re willing to do spiritually, emotionally — what you’re willing to ante up and put in the pot.”
- Your songwriting reveals much about your understanding of the human psyche. Do you ruminate about people whom you meet day in and day out, on the road and at home and then think up song scenarios? Or in other words — what sparks your songwriting?
- Ruminate is a good word for it, like a cow chewing its cud. I try to make sense of things I experience and witness. I tend to mull over scenarios for story songs to try and find the logic of the moment, the things that make the narrative believable. Driving through Iowa is good for that.
- The songs I write come in about three categories: songs I want to write, songs I need to write and the songs that just drop into my lap.
- We all miss your buddy, Bill Morrissey. You knew him perhaps the longest of all his other songwriting friends. When you think of him, what comes to mind?
- I think of Bill daily, one of his old guitars is here by the computer. We grew up together musically and I knew him when the world was still new. We challenged each other and had some great times together. Mostly I remember the great abundance of humor and learning and discussing music and lots and lots of laughter. There are couple of songs on Collateral inspired by Bill. One about old friends and one called “The Crossroads.”