EB: Tyler, you are probably one of the most hardworking and consistent musicians that I know. How do you manage to stay so busy?
Tyler Westcott: That's very kind of you to say. Not too busy these days with the pandemic, not to mention not being able to do outdoor shows anymore with the change of weather. I'm interested and involved with a bunch different genres. So I have a few different groups to pitch for venues depending on what kind of music they want to hire. Whether it be a solo acoustic singer-songwriter, duo, trio, bluegrass old-time and folk, zydeco or Cajun, traditional jazz, gypsy jazz band, or a rockin' plugged in loud show. I give people options. I send a lot of emails. Do a lot of cat herding. Pre-pandemic I was quite used to travelling regularly.
EB: How has gigging fared for you during the Covid pandemic?
TW: I've been very lucky. I started doing livestreaming just before the pandemic/lockdown started. So folks were pretty used to seeing me going live busking virtually. I eventually turned into some sort of edutainment thing "Roots Music Wednesday" (which are on YouTube) to keep myself and my audience entertained and interested. Also to promote and perform music I love, Interview notable people, promote venues I love and make some tips! I did a few paid livestreams for some art galleries and other places. People were very generous. A lot of folks closer to me knew that I did music as a fulltime gig. Fortunate to have such a supportive network. Been doing lots of outdoor gigs and a few here and there indoors at the places I feel are taking things seriously!
EB: Could you talk a bit about The Folkfaces socially distanced music festival?
TW: We limited the tickets to 50 attendees. Really scaled back the number of bands and stages. Didn't have an artist village and multiple vendors as we did in the past. We did temperature checks at the gate. Everyone signed a waiver stating that they were aware of the risk, that they hadn't been in contact with someone who had covid, and that they wouldn't sue us if they got it there. Masks were mandatory. We treated it like bar rules, if you are not seated you must have it on. We hosed and bleached down bathrooms multiple times a day. We encouraged and enforced social distancing all weekend long. Two weeks after as far as we know, no one got sick at our event. I attribute that to the rules in place that were observed by the respectful attendees.
EB: How did you get your start in music?
TW: Playing recorder in elementary school, singing in chorus, and being in plays. Eventually playing trumpet in school band. My mother sang often and played a little guitar as well. My brothers father had a band that had me on stage with them!
EB: How did you get interested in the music you have come to play as an adult?
TW: I took a trip to New Orleans in 2010 which was pretty inspiring. Since then I have traveled many parts of the country. I'm interested in the history and culture as well as the music.
EB: What was your favorite music during those formative teenage years?
TW: I loved James Brown, The Stooges, Louis Armstrong, Brand New, and still do.
EB: How did the Folkfaces get going?
TW: I moved to Buffalo and was riding my bicycle to work (a short lived call center job) when I saw a few guys busking, playing harmonica and resonator guitar in front of the coffee shop. I stopped and said hey and got their contact info. Their band kind of fell apart and I picked up the pieces.
EB: What kind of things have you not yet accomplished in music that you can see yourself doing some day?
TW: I'd like to have my own studio someday. I've got lots of ideas for different projects. I'd like to start a super group and or a Tyler Westcott Band. Maybe have a jugband. Maybe start a regular old-time jam somewhere. I'd like to keep learning more instruments, travel to Europe, and other continents.
EB: Do you have any favorites among your own recording projects?
TW: I'm pretty happy with how Folkfaces "Fat Ol' Rat" came out.. and my newest too "Medical Record" with Dr. Jazz.
EB: What does the live performance aspect of a career in music mean to you?
TW: Everything. I'm a performer who records. I'm all about the live show. The banter. Energy. The give and take.
EB: Do you have some favorite gigs that you could talk about?
TW: I've always loved playing winter carnival at the Waterhole in Saranac Lake. The whole toen just parties down for a week. The waterhole has bands all week. It's freezing cold. There's a wild parade, ice castle, games, and more. The Jalopy Theatre in Red Hook is our NYC home. Visiting Brooklyn is always a treat. Hanging with the people at Jalopy. Exploring the city. Drinking til the wee hours with friends.
EB: In an ideal world what does your dream venue look like?
TW: Feed and water the band (often as necessary), put us up in a comfy cool spot (preferably on site)... listening interactive engaged audience that still knows how to party and dance! Fair compensation is nice too.
EB: If I gave you free access to the Evil Bubble Time Machine (copyrights pending) what would you do with it? If you could see one historic concert or artist, who would it be?
TW: Maybe see Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Leadbelly, and Sonny Terry playing together. Maybe Newport folk fest in the 60's to see Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James and etc. Maybe Louis Armstrong and Django Reinhardt.... or Blaze Foley and Townes Van Zandt together. Dave Van Ronk & Reverend Gary Davis... maybe go to the Ryman for the Grand Ole Opry in its heyday... or maybe seeing Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter.. so many people I wish I could've seen!
EB: What sorts of magic is missing from the music of today? On the other side of that coin, what about music today is better than ever before?
TW: Sometimes newer music feels faked. Forced. Contrived. I just want to be able to believe what the singer is saying. I like raw, organic, real people making music with real instruments... not to say that cool stuff can't be made on computers. Better than ever is... the turnaround. We can self record, release, extremely fast. We can find music we wanna listen to easily. There's so much at our fingertips. We've got more now than anyone ever has.
EB: What are some things you enjoy outside of music?
TW: Painting, drawing, cooking, hiking, swimming, spending time with my family and dog, playing cards, reading, learning, traveling, and collecting records and instruments.
EB: What are your plans for the future in terms of recordings and playing music?
TW: I'm currently working on a solo record. Also a record of Django Reinhardt inspired music with the Paper Roses. I'm hoping to release a live album of Banjo Juice Jazz Band very soon. I wanna do a historical folklore record. A new Folkfaces record is on the horizon eventually.
EB: If you could redo your music career up to this point, is there much that you would change? What would the Tyler with a few more years experience in the music field tell younger Tyler?
TW: I might've travelled more. Tried to learn more. Recorded more. Maybe ran off with some of the train hoppers I've met. Young Tyler don't buy that shitty van!
EB: On that same note, do you have any general advice for younger musicians looking to get started?
TW: Keep on writing, recording, touring and performing as much as possible.
EB: Is there a message that you’d like to put out to anyone reading this article?
TW: In the words of Woody Guthrie "Keep hoping machine running!"
EB: Favorite Star Wars movie?
TW: I always loved the Ewoks, So I guess Return of the Jedi. I've been really enjoying the Mandalorian during the pandemic!
As Tyler mentioned, he has a new record out with Dr. Jazz! We wanted to take a closer look at the record with him...
EB: How did you get your start with Dr. Jazz?
TW: I went and saw him play at Nietzsche's and I introduced myself. He often would call young long haired bar goers "bearded Bolsheviks" in good humor. He was playing at an art opening and I happened to have my guitar and we did a few tunes. I invited him to sit in with our trio on Wednesday night. And the rest is history.
EB: Can you tell us a bit about what led you to make this project?
TW: The doctor was scheduled for knee surgery. He was planning to be out of commission for a few weeks of our regular gig. We've built our repertoire and chemistry over the years of weekly shedding. I wanted to capture that momentum. We had no idea the lockdown/pandemic was coming (no one really did). We recorded this just before that. The Dr. aint getting any younger either, so it felt like good time to do it. The recording process was very natural. Ben Haravitch/Circus Tent Studio came to me. Ben is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and more. He plays in a few great bands like the Brothers Blue and the Crawdiddies. We set up a few mics and some baffles in the practice space at my home in Buffalo, NY. We recorded everything live. We only did a few takes of each song. Some we did just one. Ben was very professional, paying close attention to detail and mic placement, making sure it sounded just right. We did the whole record in one day. I should also mention the amazing cover art by Alison Coté (Rochester, NY) who did Folkfaces "Fat Ol' Rat" CD as well.
EB: What is the song selection process like for this project? Are they mostly standards, originals, or a mixture of both?
TW: All the tunes are covers. Some are standards in the traditional jazz world.. others are deeper cuts.. mostly I just picked the ones I thought we were strongest on. All the tunes are about 100 years old.
EB: You’ve spent what seems to be a large amount of time playing live with Dr. Jazz. What have you learned while playing music with him?
TW: Yes we've been playing together once a week every Wednesday for years. What I have learned from him is invaluable. He is so knowledgeable about early jazz and blues, always spitting out facts, dates and names. He tells lotsa jokes and goofs around with audiences. He quotes all kinds of cartoons shows, operas, and more. His phrasing is incredible and musical vocabulary is vast.
EB: Dr. Jazz never seems to run out of ideas, can you tell us a bit about him and his background?
TW: He's a bit of a local legend. He's the best trad jazz reed player in the area. His father was a musician. He has played music his whole life. Stayed away from drugs and alcohol. He has accompanied Leon Redbone, David Bromberg, John Hammond, Bonnie Raitt, Jim Kweskin.. he even met Bill Monroe.
EB: When I listen to this music it seems as if I should be hearing it in much lesser fidelity on an old 78 rpm vinyl. Is it safe to say that this record would not sound out of place much closer to the turn of the previous century?
TW: Yes that is the point! Dr. Jazz is an avid collector of 78's. It was fun to bring these old songs new life.