J.D. Miner is a B.C.-based acoustic folk trio comprising singer-songwriters Darryl Klassen and Joel Klingler and bassist Joe Worst. Click here to read the Mindful Bard article on their CD, Ain’t No Ordinary Hillbilly.
What personally brought you to the place where you could write about such serious subjects in such a lighthearted way?
DARRYL KLASSEN: There’s so much nasty stuff going on that you could get pretty depressed if you didn’t take a lighthearted approach to it. Without a sense of humour in life you could get pretty depressed.
JOEL KLINGLER: John Hartford. Surprisingly the bluegrass community hasn’t connected with him yet, but he has so much to teach us about treating serious stuff with humour. I think It’s a sign of maturity. I do spend a lot of time crafting my songs, but I craft them from my experiences of depression and pain and finding humour in funny, quirky situations. I’m true to who I am; I spend a lot of time laughing. A lot of time crying, too.
How do you market and distribute recordings?
DARRYL KLASSEN: We sell through gigs, eFolk, CD Baby, and friends. we’re not getting rich. If That’s what we wanted I guess we’d have to try to write rap or something.
Are you happy with Ain’t No Ordinary Hillbilly?
DARRYL KLASSEN: I am very pleased with Ain’t No Ordinary Hillbilly. It’s the fourth CD I’ve been involved in, and, in my opinion, the best by far.
JOE WORST: I like the CD although I’d always like to do some of the bass parts again because I’m never happy with them after I’ve heard them.
What do you like to do to unwind?
DARRYL KLASSEN: I love sailing, or just being by the water. I also build small sailing and row boats.
JOE WORST: I love being on the water, going on a long trip in my kayak, and, in the summer, a day trip by bicycle. In the winter when the weather isn’t conducive to these activities, I like to do the electronic repair work on instruments of students and friends, write and arrange music for bands, and look after my two cats.
JOEL KLINGLER: I listen to the wind in the hills, enjoying silence, meditating on silence.
Joel, what was on your mind when you wrote “Water Into Wine”?
JOEL KLINGLER: This song is about Mother Mary, who turned water into wine when she gave birth to her son. It’s a miracle that is ongoing.
I’ve never thought of that metaphor in relation to Mother Mary.
That goes back to having those inspired moments when you don’t know and you open yourself up to bigger interpretations. You can see through other eyes besides your own. Your pain and happiness become part of the pain and happiness of other people. Mother Mary’s perspective, her story, has been lost in a male-dominated history.
Darryl, tell us about ?The Atavist.?
DARRYL KLASSEN: I have no idea where this came from. Robert Service wrote a poem about an atavist. I guess That’s where I heard the word, probably 30 years ago. I liked it. Maybe It’s also a bit of a reaction to political correctness. Go out with the boys in a boys? setting and things become pretty apparent?at least with my friends.
Where is Fairview Town and what is its story?
JOEL KLINGLER: Fairview Town was in the back hills of Oliver, B.C., not far from where I live. It was a booming, busy, gold mining town. All the structures have been burned down now and all That’s left is a sign to remind us. I like the way the name Fairview sings and I like to write about ghost towns to perhaps make us think about why they exist and why other towns are not ghost towns. I like the energy and the stories from these ghost towns. Right now there’s a booming wine industry where Fairview once was and maybe this is our modern-day gold rush. Ghost towns can teach us that we shouldn’t rely on just one type of resource or industry or we’ll continue to create ghost towns.
Do you hold to any political ideology or religious doctrine?
DARRYL KLASSEN: Politically I’m less ?aligned? now than in the past. I think there tend to be good and bad ideas on every wing of the political spectrum. I am a disciple of Jesus. I’m not a very good one, and I’m sure as hell not very religious, but I think we live in a created, orderly universe. There is an invisible realm that surrounds us?call it spiritual if you want?and It’s somehow more important than this visible one. Its primary characteristic is love.
JOE WORST: I have no hard and steadfast political doctrine these days but we need to muster the political will to nurture and take care of the planet we’re riding around on. There are so many organizations now that are calling for better care of our surroundings that it saddens me to see the average person driving around in an SUV and just not getting it. Our leaders in every level of government aren’t going to get it until the people do?one of the great beauties of democracy and one of its great detriments.
Darryl, how can one be a disciple of Christ and not be religious?
DARRYL KLASSEN: I think religion has been added onto Christ, but I guess that depends on your definition of religion. Religion is made up mostly of ritual and doctrine. I hope it has something to do with everything I do. The song ?Mystery,? that kind of hints at something. It’s like that cartoon of yours where the two rabbits are looking at the moon and saying, ?I know I’m loved.? I think too much of Christendom is quantifying Christ and dogmatising him and completely missing the point.
Joel, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a love song quite like “Brown-Eyed Girl from Canada.? It’s so different from any commercially successful love song and yet It’s such a listenable song. Can you talk about where that came from?
JOEL KLINGLER: I must have been 21 years old when I wrote that tune. I had a huge crush on Sarah McLachlan at the time. That was before she was big. I was living in the same cabin I’m living in now out near Twin Lake. There was no running water and I was living as simply as I could. This song came out of nowhere. I don’t know if she even has brown eyes. I thought I would never do that tune or perform it or anything but Darryl suggested I do it. With that song it was written from a pure, inspiring moment. For a lot of my songs I just wait. I wait for them to come, and they come from some other place.
The intro on that?we’ve never played it the same way twice. That’s like all our music. We just had a gig on the 28th of December, and I think all our tunes were totally different. It’s all on the spot, you know, to keep it alive. That’s so important as an artist. I don’t feel like painting the same picture twice. Improvisation, that is the key, that is the soul of music. That’s the point of being alive and a musician, communicating. It doesn’t matter to me what skill level a musician as long as You’re partaking in the gift of playing. Basically choosing to live at that point means that things are going to change. I call it ?living creatively in a creative universe.?
You make a strong connection between your art and the world.
JOEL KLINGLER: That’s the key. As songwriters and artists, especially folk artists, we should be aware of what’s happening in our regions, in the galaxy, in the universe. we’re so arrogant as a species. We’ve got a craft that we’re putting out there. The stuff that we’re doing on this planet is having obvious effects universally. What kind of messages are we sending out? If I were observing Earth from another planet I’d say, ?Let’s just watch them self-destruct.? When I choose to live creatively I put out good vibes.
So you feel like You’re participating in something huge and marvellous. It’s not just you.
JOEL KLINGLER: My philosophy as a musician is that it doesn’t start with me. If I allow myself to be an instrument of something bigger than me, the universal artistic consciousness plays through me and through the instrument. Of course as a musician You’re constantly practicing, but personally I feel that I’ve become a transducer, channelling the voices of the past, like an old-time banjo from the hills back in Oliver, because I feel like it comes right through me. I open myself up to that.
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