I loved the Heal tour, but I didn’t want to do that again. I do love the idea of learning how to be not just the sweaty uncle on stage getting people to clap.
The last time we talked with Tim Showalter, the illustrious singer/songwriter behind Strand of Oaks, we said that it was our favorite interview of all time. The why is a blend of content, mixed with a complete lack of ego and unbridled openness on the part of Showalter, topped with an easy going nature that turns 10 minute phone interviews into half hour musings with what feels like your long lost best friend. Even in typing these words, we realize that they do not encompass the ease with which all conversations, whether via email, in person or over the phone, come together.
We caught up with Tim at his show in Nashville on Sunday night (April 3, 2017) at 3rd and Lindsley for Lightning 100‘s Sunday Night radio broadcast. After finishing his set, which featured a sit in by My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel, he joined the crowd for nearly an hour just for a hang. His bubbly personality makes it hard to walk away.
Tim: That was a big deal for me. Even though I got to tour with them a bunch. I reached out to Carl and said, “you want to jam with us?” I thought it was only going to be one song. Leave it to Carl, he came back and said, “I learned all of your songs.” (Laughing) The dude’s a beast.
I love seeing people’s faces after it’s done. There were probably ten people with My Morning Jacket shirts on, and their mouth were open. And whats funny, is that is exactly how I feel. I’ve been to just as many shows as you guys, it’s just those experiences.
Another example with My Morning Jacket is, I saw those guys in 2001 probably in front of twelve people and they put on just as good of a show as they did when I was playing to them in giant theaters. They gave us their all every single night. Those are my heroes. That’s who I look up to.
(All Photographs by Matthew C. Golden Photography)
GSLM: (Laughing) I think a lot of people thought that it would only be for one or two songs. He wasn’t going anywhere.
Tim: I like it too that he decided to use the pedal. That pedal steel was transcendent. That whole night…I will not forget that night for a long time.
GSLM: I think it’s fair to say, that after Heal came out, your style live has evolved over the last couple of years. You have become more jammy and nothing feels rushed. Like, ‘We’re going to get there when we get there.’ There are slow builds. It’s like, ‘let’s just get this sonically right.’
Tim: You’re speaking my language. I think that’s what my main goal is right now. I think its’s personal too. I want to feel real satisfied, and I want all four of us to feel real satisfied, when the show is done. Like we really accomplished something. I feel like this tour, that I can go to sleep at night and feel really satisfied that I gave the fans as much as we can give them. I loved the Heal tour, but I didn’t want to do that again. I do love the idea of learning how to be, not just the sweaty uncle on stage, getting people to clap. I’m kind of excited about having a band and playing my guitar a little get better. It’s new to me, and it’s new to my fans, but it’s exciting right now.
GSLM: When we talked a few years ago, you said something along the lines of, ‘I hear this in my head and I just have to get better, so that I can play this myself.’ Your chops have gone through the roof. You can tell that there have been night after night after night of grinding away on the stage.
Tim: We have kind of a funny thing that we say about my guitar playing. We call it “Sherlocking.” The guitar is still kind of a mystery to me. It’s never going to sound the same, because I can’t make it sound the same.
GSLM: I read this thing that Clapton said about guitar playing be mathematical. Like, if you understand math, then you will be good at guitar. And I’m terrible at math, but I love guitar.
Tim: (Laughing) And if you have a combo of both, a lot of times, you become like elevator music.
GSLM: Hard Love is like you are pulling a Ryan Adams, or a Bob Dylan. Heal was the softer side, and now it’s time to rip this shit.
Tim: Just like with the guitar, I feel like the record is getting closer to what I always wanted to do. I’m just understanding how it’s done. I have the greatest respect for, but have no idea how bands like Television have their sound from the gate. They’re just arrived. For me, I think it will be like an evolution, I will always figure out more with each record and with each show. That makes it a career for me, because it will always be new.
I think it’s finding that good balance between having a professional show, but also having a bit of chaos thrown in there. Like how Phish or Grateful Dead did it. We’re going to play this song, but we don’t now how it’s going to start or end up when it’s all said and done.
GSLM: When you start off in the garage, playing with your friends, it’s like, ‘let’s just jam, and something will happen.’
Tim: I don’t like to practice before tour. It’s just not my thing. We learn the songs and the chords, but I think it’s better for a band to do it honestly. If you’re in a garage, it’s just the four or five of you, and you’re looking at each other. It’s a different feeling than facing people and the reaction. I think it’s similar to how a stand up comedian writes jokes in his living room and then goes and gets in front of a crowd. Even Chris Rock goes to an audience of 50 people to see if it works and that energy is being delivered correctly.
GSLM: It’s funny that you say Chris Rock. He played Zanies, a little comedy club in Nashville, and we got tickets. He did a 2 – 2 and 1/2 hour set.
Tim: No way! You are kidding me!?! That is insane… And then he’ll go do Madison Square Garden. I like seeing how it develops. If you see this band in a year, something completely new will be happening. It may not be the smartest move to the pathway of success, but I don’t know what that means anymore, and frankly, I don’t really care as much.
GSLM: Pearl Jam and My Morning Jacket are my favorites. And some of that is their connection to their fanbase. People that come to their shows might not get it when they get there, but they get it when they leave.
Tim: What I like about stretching things out a little bit more, is that bit of wandering that you do in a set only makes songs like “Shut In” or “Goshen 97” or “Rest of It” feel sweeter. Because if you do twelve bar rock, straight forward songs, maybe I’m wrong, but I feel they lose their impact by it. And then, when you get to that point when you can really boogie, it just solidifies it.
GSLM: Like when you closed with “Goshen 97” in Nashville, it’s like all right this is when you release the energy. And go.
GSLM: Two years ago, you played an afternoon set at Bonnaroo. When it was over, you called everyone back and said something like, “I want to stage dive.” And everyone came back to the front, and you jumped out into the crowd.
Tim: Actually, I just jumped out after we finished jamming, and this dude was down in the front, and I’m 200 pounds and not used to people picking me up. I was literally going out to shake people’s hands. And some huge dude picked me right up and put me out to crowd surf. I had never done anything like that in my life.
A lot of times, I get excited and just want to shake people’s hands and some guy the size of an NFL player hoisted me up like nothing. I was worried that there was some weight restrictions for crowd surfing. Like, ‘I’m going to hurt some people. But that is the beauty of a place like Bonnaroo, everybody’s sweaty, everybody’s hot, feeling good, and you’re all kind of in it together. And that’s my favorite kind of show. That show…that was one of my favorites. That was something else.
I remember, after our set was over, I got on a golf cart and went and watched King Gizzard and the Lizzard Wizzard, and it blew my head off. That festival is special.
GSLM: In the vein of sit-ins, do you have anyone, or any band, that if they were to walk out or ask you to join them, would be a bit of a freak out? Like, ‘Holy shit, this is happening!’
Tim: If any of the dudes in Pearl Jam ever wanted to come out, that would a highlight. If Stone (Gossard) wanted to come and shred, that would be a highlight.
One time, we were in contact with Kirk Hammet about maybe coming out and jamming. I think some of those bigger artists, it feels good for them to just come down and play that daytime slot and remember what it’s like to see people and sweat with them. I think that sometimes they get just as much excitement out of it as the band that they’re playing with.
GSLM: I didn’t think about that. If you are headlining a major festival, you can see about ten people out, at best. You’re barricaded back and playing to darkness.
Tim: I don’t know if you ever saw her, but I’ve got a personal soft spot for Adele. I think she is a wonderful person. Did you see Glastonbury performance? The first thing she did was walk off the stage, walk through the mud in her fancy dress and go right up to everybody standing at the barricades and just talk to them all. It’s one of the most amazing music moments the I have ever seen. It was incredible. She spent more time in the mud than she did on her million dollar stage. And there were 100,000 – 200,000 people there.
GSLM: She is great. And she way more foul of a mouth than I thought.
Tim: Oh yeah! She is the real deal.
GSLM: I actually shot some video from her Sunday night show when she played Nashville and the next morning ABC News and Good Morning America picked up the videos. I was like, ‘no way!?! From my camera phone? Yeah, run with it.
What I thought was funny, is she says ‘fuck’ so much. And I wondered how they would air it on Good Morning America. Is it just a stream of beeps?
Tim: She’s my crush man, she’s my crush. My wife knows about it. I told her that I have a crush on Adele. It’s no big deal. (Laughing)
GSLM: And she just said that she may never tour again.
Tim: She probably doesn’t need to. She can probably buy an island somewhere.
GSLM: I’m betting that someone would give her an island if she would just advertise that islands were for sale. I don’t know if that is the dream, but it’s not a bad dream.
Tim: No, not at all
Check out one of our videos from Strand of Oaks in Nashville with Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket below. We have every song on video.