TO Jazz Preview: Interview with Eric Krasno of Soulive

Toronto – Today marks the start of the Toronto Jazz Festival. For the next ten days, the city will be teeming with fantastic musicians playing venues large and small. You can check out some of the highlights of the line-up here.

In anticipation of the festival, I had a chance to chat with the guitarist of soul/jazz/funk outfit Soulive, Eric Krasno. We talked about their latest album, Rubber Soulive, and also dove into how new technologies like do-it-yourself studios, grassroots record labels, and the internets are changing the the face of music.

Mark: Soulive has been doing jazz, soul and funk for over a decade. This latest album, Rubber Soulive, is a funkified Beatles tribute.

Eric: It’s kind of a take on the Rubber Soul album that they did. In London [white guys playing soul music was called rubber soul]. We ended up calling it Rubber Soulive based on the Beatles album, but ended up taking other Beatles tunes as well.

MJ: What was the motivation behind this album?

EK: We had talked about doing a covers album. At first we were talking about doing a British Invasion thing, where it was different British groups, this was right around when they did the re-master of the Beatles stuff. Originally it was going to be an EP. The first session we just sat and listened to a bunch of tunes and talked about which ones would translate best into our instrumentation and our style, and then we just recorded them live in the studio pretty quickly and organically.

MJ: Over the last decade, you’ve worked with a number of different record labels. You were involved in Velour, a couple of years with Blue Note, and a brief stint with Stax. Now you’ve gone your own route with Royal Family. I’m curious about how the record label has influenced your sound and how you make music over the years.

EK: We’ve been pretty fortunate that labels didn’t really tell us what to do. The difference really is when you have a big budget. As we decided to do it on our own, we had to be a little bit more aware of what we’re spending. We have our own studios now, so we’re able to record a lot easier, but we’ve been fortunate in that we could pretty much record and hand in what we wanted to put out and they’d put it out. It’s a lot different if you’re a pop singer on a major label where you don’t have a lot of influence over what you do.

MJ: So what was the prime motivation then to break out with the Royal Family?

EK: We had [wanted to enter into a subsidiary deal with labels, but it didn’t pan out so we started our own]. Now we’re doing all of our other projects as well. We can put out live recordings every night. We actually offer our recording of our shows live at the show that night, so you can leave with a copy of the show that was just played.

Things like that we weren’t allowed to do on major labels: being able to put out as much music as we want, and put stuff out for free on the internet. For the number of albums we were selling, it made more sense to do it ourselves.

MJ: Things are moving very quickly in the music industry with technology and the movement online. It sounds like with the Royal Family you’ve got a little more freedom to embrace the change.

EK: Absolutely, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.

MJ: How has the Soulive sound changed over the last decade?

EK: It has evolved in that we’ve got better as a group, as far as communicating and improvising, and [we’ve also] allowed other influences to seep in. It started out just organ, guitar, and drums, and now … our palette has expanded.

MJ: From a guitar point of view, what are some of your influences? I don’t want to load this question, but there are certainly some people that pop in my mind when I listen to you.

EK: I was a huge Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page fan; a big rock & roll fan as a kid. Stevie Ray Vaughan was a good one, and then later on I found Grant Green and Wes Montgomery. It’s a combination of all those things really.

MJ: I’m glad you said Grant Green, because that’s definitely what I had in my mind when I was listening to Rubber.

You seem to be doing a lot of studio work and live touring. Do you like the mix?

EK: I kind of need the mix. I’ve also produced a lot of records over the last ten years; everything from hip-hop, to pop, to African music. It’s nice because I can try all sorts of different things when I’m in the studio. But then after a while, I like to get out and play, and then when I’m out on the road, I get sick of the road too, so I definitely dig the balance.

MJ: So if you were heading to a deserted island and you had to pick one Beatles album, which one would you have to take?

EK: For me it’s Abbey Road, I have to say.

MJ: Nice.

Soulive plays this Monday (June 27th) at the Horseshoe Tavern at 9:30 and 11:30.

Soulive – Drive My Car – Rubber Soulive by royalfamily

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, interviews, Toronto Jazz Festival