Interview by - Bob Olsen
Chris Hillman : Byrd Alone
An interview with Chris Hillman of The Byrds.
Bob Olsen took a few minutes to craft some questions that ask Chris about his train of thought with his latest album, where he's going, THE question, and advice for aspiring musicians.
We thank Chris for taking the time to answer our little Q&A and wish him the best for the future.
MusicTAP: “Eight Miles High”…on mandolin? It works, but what made you decide to lead with a decidedly different version of (perhaps) one of the greatest singles in rock history?
Chris Hillman : Herb Pedersen and myself were goofing around on it in live shows. A few gentlemen at Sovereign Artists heard it and said we should cut it. It was never meant to compete with the 1966 version. It was meant to show a different slant of the song and it was more of an acoustic slant and a focus on the lyrics that Gene Clark wrote.
MT: Your country and spiritual roots really shine through on “The Other Side”. Do you think that influenced your early development as an artist in the Byrds?
Chris: Well, having started as a traditional bluegrass folk musician, it was the kind of music that I loved then and love now and has always been with me over the last 40 years so my contribution to the Byrds came from that form of music.
MT: I can imagine that you still get pressure from fans for a Byrds reunion. While it wouldn’t be the Byrds-Medicare Tour (yet), do you still feel that you would like to record with the surviving members?
Chris: I have always enjoyed playing and singing with David and Roger McGuinn. Anything is possible but I don't think there will ever be a Byrds reunion as there are only 3 out of 5 members alive. We can't bring that spirit back anytime because of that but I will record with the (surviving) members anytime.
MT: Along that line, have there been any discussions of using technology to rework some of the Byrds solo contributions and/or unreleased material with McGuinn and Crosby?
Chris: What they've been doing is rereleasing, remixing and remastering old Byrds catalog material on Sony Legacy. Outtakes have been used and remastered. Regarding invidividual catalogs, it is up to each musician and would be approached by each musician's respective record label.
MT: What would you like to do with your next project?
Chris: I don't know yet. We might do an electric record with the band or do a live album with Herb. We would record it at Crystal Palace (Buck Owen's place) in Bakersfield. Or if I was asked to do a solo album, I would do it differently with country stylings or enlarge the band or do an electric thing.
MT: What artists are you listening to now? My son (now 21) who resents to this day endless hours in the car listening to Byrds (and related) music, is now educating his band members about the many bands that have been influenced by the Byrds (I guess its good to know that something stuck). What advice would you give to a budding musician today?
Chris: I am listening to - well, it varies. I listen to Sarah Vaughan or Frank Sinatra. I will listen to Ricky Skaggs or other new bluegrass artists. I was listening to an old Bruce Springsteen album just the other day. My greatest companion is XM Radio which gives me a nice collection of genres while driving in the car.
Advice: Get a bachelor's degree in some area other than music. If you're a musician, get the degree in music. Play the music - have a good time with it. It's not an easy situation to get into unless you have somehting to fall back on. Get a degree that you can always fall back. If something happens, terrific. If you have a hit single, the odds are against you. The attention span of the culture is the lifespan of a mosquito. Here today/Gone tomorrow. It's not the same business as it was when I started in 1963.