Tuesday, June 3, 2014

One More Night: Five Minutes with Musician Lonnie Knight

A couple weeks back Lonnie Knight helped make A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan a memorable event for everyone present. This Friday Lonnie will be at Amazing Grace in Canal Park for an intimate evening of original tunes and select covers from 8 to 10 p.m. He always brings something special to his solo acoustic guitar work and vocals and the $5 cover will be worth every penny.

EN: Do you make your living as a musician? If not, what do you do primarily to support your family/yourself?

LK: I do make a good portion of my living as a musician. I am also a graphic artist and web designer.

EN: Are you also a songwriter or do you primarily play covers?

LK: It depends on the gig. In my shows, it's usually a 60% original 40% cover blend. Some venues don't pay the BMI-ASCAP licensing fees, then it's all original. I've always loved arranging and interpreting other people's music, and I think it gives the audience a frame of reference. Throwing in a few covers gives the listener a comfort zone, particularly if they've never heard you before.

EN: Who’s songs do you primarily like to cover? How do you choose?

LK: I don't have a set method... the song has to speak to me, and it has to challenge me. Sometimes it's the lyric, sometimes it's the melody. I tend to choose songs that fit well with the original stuff that I do, so I gravitate to the writers who have inspired and influenced me.

Besides just being great songs, I do "Still Crazy After All These Years" by Paul Simon because it's one of the most intelligently crafted chord progressions I've ever heard, "Walking in Memphis" by Marc Cohn because I wanted to see if I could interpret that piano part on guitar. Townes Van Zandt taught me "Pancho and Lefty" in Dallas decades ago, I recorded it on my first album, it's still in my repertoire and it's one of the most requested songs I do.

EN: What is it that turns you on about performing?

LK: When I'm working in an ensemble, and the band is clicking, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. We establish a groove, the groove becomes an entity, and then we're just along for the ride... thought gives way to feel, it's a transcendent experience.

Working solo is similar, on a more subtle level. On a good night, if the audience engages, they become as important to the music as my guitar, my voice and the song. It's difficult to explain the feeling, but there's a synergy that ties everything together.

EN: Do you have a website where people can follow what you’re doing?

LK: All of my music, photography, etc. is at lonnieknight.com, some of my design stuff is at www.lonnieknight.net (the site really needs to be updated, I work for other folks and tend to forget about my own site)... I just set up a site for my quartet, Mosquito Shoals, www.mosquitoshoals.com (it's still under development, but there are a couple of audio and video things there)... then there's Facebook, and a YouTube channel.

EN: Looks like you're not too hard to find. What has been your personal career highlight?

LK: I've been lucky, there are a lot of them... working for a week with Townes Van Zandt, touring in Japan last year (we're negotiating for a second tour this October), recording in Nashville with Pig Robbins and some of the top Nashville session players, working in Don Nix's band with some pretty heavyweight Memphis guys... I was staff guitarist at Sound 80 Recording Studio for a number of years, I've been fortunate to play with a lot of the best musicians to come out of Minnesota... the Dylan show we did at Sacred Heart the other night ranks right up there, the audience gave back so much. I'm still spinning from that one.

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