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Artists on Trial: Doby Watson





Artists on Trial: Doby Watson

(Photo by Alison Claire Peck)
 
Doby Watson has been writing songs since he was a child. His songwriting invites—or rather, pulls the listener in to the miserable but beautiful world in his mind. Though sparse in instrumentation, his music is poetic, shrouded in a dense fog of melancholy and pain. A young but seasoned songwriter, Watson has gone on numerous US tours and released several albums. With his next album, Live-In Son, being released in October, we asked him a few questions about what he has happening.
 
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?
 
Watson: One of the only things keeping me from killing myself.
 
The Deli: You mainly work solo, but do you collaborate with other musicians very often?
 
Watson: I’ve historically avoided accompaniment (with the occasional exception of my dear friend Austin Swearengin). However, lately I have been lucky enough to play alongside Adam Brumback (guitar, vocals, percussion), Grant Buell (keys/piano) and Chad Toney (bass) live. And on record Grant Buell (My Oh My, Kansas City Bear Fighters), Jerad Tomasino (Everyday/Everynight), Chad Toney (Hidden Pictures, Leering Heathens), Lennon Bone (Ha Ha Tonka), Ryan Brewer (Hank., Good Night & Good Morning), Richard Gintowt (Hidden Pictures), Austin Swearengin, Matt Dill, Margo May, and a multitude of others have joined me. There are countless other folks I’d love to work with, as well.
 
The Deli: What is the heart of your songwriting all about?
 
Watson: Just a beer-soaked, privileged white guy complaining about his relatively nice life, I suppose.
 
The Deli: You're releasing Live-In Son on October 17. What can we expect from this?
 
Watson: Imagine the emotional equivalent of locking yourself in your parents’ bathroom for 5 years, filling the tub with terrible beer, getting in said tub while chain smoking, occasionally letting loved ones in and asking them to hold your head down in the tub until you drown in beer, but instead of helping you drown (or lifting you up from the tub), they simply walk away in disappointment and shame.
 
I recorded the songs live in Ross Brown’s basement about a year ago here in KC. The following day, Grant Buell (Rhodes) and Jerad Tomasino (vocals) came in and improvised over the live recordings, having never rehearsed with me or each other. Hannah Jensen added some viola drones at Ross’s, and Richard Gintowt added additional vocals at his home in San Francisco. The songs sat for some time until Ryan Brewer was kind enough to mix them and add some electric guitars, field recordings, and auxiliary percussion, etc., in Champaign, IL. Finally, Cory Schulz has been kind enough to beautifully master the results in Milwaukee. Essentially, I’ve been riding on the backs and good will of my talented friends to piece together a slow, creepy, sob-fest about some of the most unpleasant years of my life (so far).
 
Not to mention the visual side of the record, which has been/is being put together with help from Alison Claire Peck, Adam Brumback, Tim Williams, Megan Inghram, as well as my parents.
 
The Deli: You are releasing the album on Error Records and Double Shift.
 
Watson: Error Records is an amazing record store, venue, and DIY label based in Champaign, all masterfully run under the ironclad beard of Nathan Landolt. Double Shift is a new label based in Queens, NY, operated by Cameron Matthews (as fantastic a journalist as he is a musician) of which I am lucky enough to be the flagship artist. The two labels are working together to release a cassette and digital version of Live-In Son.
 
The Deli: You're kicking off an extensive tour soon. What are you looking forward to most?
 
Watson: Seeing all of the wonderful friends I’ve made over the years and miss dearly. At that, making new wonderful friends as I get back on the road.
 
I’m also thrilled to be accompanied by Adam Brumback on this tour. He brings a lot to the songs, so much so that I wish he was around for the recording sessions. I’m equally excited to be joined by ZXO on this tour, a new solo project from Ryan Brewer, who was also heavily involved in the completion of the record.
 
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
 
Watson: That’s a hard question for me to answer. I don’t feel like I’m very involved in much “local” music or go to enough shows in KC. I should fix that.
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?
 
Watson: There are so many. I feel like Kansas City is in a bit of a renaissance. I have so many amazingly talented friends and am introduced to countless wonderful performers I was previously unaware of every time I go to a show. So, really, anyone who is trying and cares about what they are doing is my favorite. That being said…
 
Manipulator Alligator (Matthew Hoppock). He doesn’t play much, if at all anymore. But he’s one of the only artists I have ever covered and has remained one of my greatest influences. I sincerely believe he is one of the greatest songwriters to have ever lived. It amazes me that I am able to call someone so talented a friend as well. Honestly, that goes for all of my musical friends, local or not.
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?
 
Watson: Again, there are so many. I will simply list what I’ve most recently listened to: Mandarin Dynasty, Pill Friends, What Moon Things, Blood Orange, Shahman, Gem Club, Stars Of The Lid, Temple, Year Of Glad, Inc., Nevada Greene, The Body, Portraits Of Past, CJ Boyd, Brambles, FKA Twigs, American Football, ZXO, Scott Walker, Olive Drab, and Grouper.
 
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
 
Watson: Well, considering I don’t want to shatter the deity-like status I have attributed to most of my favorite artists... I would love to play a show with myself from 10 years ago and myself 10 years from now. I guess I could also just masturbate in front of a mirror while holding up old pictures of myself. That would probably be more entertaining.
 
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why? 
 
Watson: John Prine. Just four giant sculptures of John Prine’s face. Listen to John Prine and you’ll know why.
 
The Deli: What other goals do you have for 2014?
 
Watson: Not die. Get sad about more sad stuff. Make more sad songs about being sad. Repeat.
 
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
 
 
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
 
Watson: Don’t talk during anyone’s set. Ever. They worked very hard to share something very important to them with you. It means a lot if you pay attention. If what you are talking about is so important you can’t shut up long enough to watch a set, go outside. If you simply don’t like what you’re hearing, leave. Don’t be the asshole who fucks up the show for everyone else.
 
Also, fuck the police.
 
 
The next time you can catch Watson will be this Friday, September 5, at Prospero’s Books. The show starts at 8 pm. He’ll be performing with Shahman (Toronto), Nevada Greene (Columbia), and Not Like Igor. Facebook event page. Then, on September 13, he’ll be at Art Closet Studios with Temple (Milwaukee) and Riala. Facebook event page.
 

--Michelle Bacon

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