Americana singer-songwriter Christopher Lockett joins us for a lovely egg-sperience at Los Feliz Cafe to discuss his third album release Between The Dark And The Light, how his live concert YouTube series Live At Lockett’s came to be, and bridging the gap between music and film.
So to start us off, you recently released your album Between The Dark and The Light. Wanted to say congratulations! And for those who have yet to discover it, would you care to share a little bit about the kinds of musical stories and themes in terms of the lyrics and instrumentation that the listener will be exposed to?
Christopher Lockett: Sure! So this is my third album, which is nice. Like I would listen to live albums or go see concerts in the past and they would be like, ‘Hey everyone! This is on with my new album!’ and I’m like, ‘That’s gotta be cool to say.’ I’ve gotten to say that a few times now and it’s been great! *laughs* It’s like, anybody could do one album. The second album is like, ‘Ok, that’s cool. I did another one.’ Third album is like, ‘Yeah! I really do this!’ *laughs* Anyways, instrumentation is primarily guitar, drum, and bass. My producer Fernando Perdomo, that guy is a mad man, and I say that with nothing but admiration. His studio’s amazing! Normally when you go to a studio, it’s like, ‘Oh Mr. Lockett, do you plan to record drums on this album?’ ‘Yes’ ‘Ok, well I’ll have to charge you for the two hours that I take to put mics around a drum kit.’ With Fernando, he knows there’s going to be drums so they’re already in his house and everything’s already pre-mic-ed. I’ll get to the instrumentation in a second because the process of it all kind of formed that. So I sent him two track recordings, just guitar and vocals, almost sounding like I just sat down and played a show in my little home studio. I said, ‘Alright, these are what I’m working with. This is what I kinda wanna do. Here are the influences that I want to bring into it.’ Had that whole conversation beforehand and then went into the studio to listen to the click track and work some of that stuff out in advance. For this one we booked two days initially, then two more days, and then he had to go travel so we figured we’ll do those four days and see where we are because we’ve never worked together before.
Actually, that was my first time working with a producer. I’d always done everything myself at home. I mean, I wouldn’t hire me as a producer or engineer, but I could afford me and that’s why I would do my own stuff in the past. But yeah, what we did was listen to a click track, played the song on guitar and vocal, and then he jumps behind the drums, listens to it, and just plays a rough version to start off with. Then he would sit in his engineer chair to play bass and then ask me if we wanted to keep going or come back to do all the acoustic parts later. So we did that song by song, and we finished all twelve songs including the instruments on like the first passes of everything in the first two days, which is insanely fast when you don’t have a whole band coming in to multi-track all that stuff. It was just amazing!
There used to be a thing in punk where you made your money off of touring. There wasn’t this broad network where people could buy your stuff because a lot of record stores just didn’t carry it back in the late 70s early 80s, and the mantra was “Don’t record something you can’t play live.” If you’re a singer-songwriter who mainly does solo and maybe duo gigs, you really have to live up to that mantra. When I talked to Fernando, I was like, ‘Ok, so because I have to go out and play, I have to make sure I can play it all live.’ I’m always so busy doing TV and film stuff that I don’t have a band. I’ve got hired guns that I call where I’m like, ‘Yeah, so I got a gig and it’s gonna be a loud show. I need drums, I can’t just do an acoustic guitar.’ You gotta know when to pick your battles, so I would always want to hear the acoustic guitar and the vocal loud in the mix all the time. And he’s not one of those dictatorial producers either. He’s very understanding because he was also a performer. That Echo In The Canyon concert film, he’s on almost every song on the soundtrack. He’s on tour with Jacob Dylan and Cat Power right now. They just did Mountain Stage and NPR. They’re getting these killer reviews and just blowing up everywhere. The guy’s just a nonstop machine! It’s absolutely inspiring to be around him because I’ve never seen anybody work like that. He hustles and he keeps it fun. You know the first time working with someone, I mean, I don’t intimidate easily, but it’s easy to see somebody freezing up.
It was just a natural fit!
Christopher: Yeah! So it was drum, bass, acoustic guitar, and then one special instrument. That was kind of the thing that we wanted to do, keep it pretty bare bones and then there would be a Hammond B3 organ or a fiddle on ‘this’ tune here because it worked with the song or the narrative. Like, “Old December” has this kind of a lap steel thing but it’s played on guitar. “Some Sharp Turning” has piano. “Jacarandas” has fiddle. It was kind of one of those things that was like having not too many brushstrokes on the canvas but not getting precious with it. With my voice and the way I write, it wouldn’t make sense to overproduce it, but I still wanted this album to have all the ‘I’-s dotted and ‘T’-s crossed and all the technical parameters corrected so if I ever got any radio airplay, at least it would sound okay and not like a home produced album. *laughs* And as far as the weird instrumentals like the jaw harp and the kalimba, I travel a lot, so I end up picking up instruments all over the world.
And that’s so cool that you wanted to include those types of different instruments while also setting up a foundation for your Americana style because it’s almost like a niche. While variation is good to have, I also I feel like sometimes we need a little simplicity in our lives because music, especially nowadays, is so saturated with a bunch of, well, everything. *both laugh* It’s nice to kind of have something that hones into the elements of a specific genre where you somewhat know what you’re getting, but also surprised by the little additions when you listen through a complete work.
Christopher: I had somebody who was a guitar teacher be like, ‘Yeah, it’s cool that all the songs are so different from each other.’ And then I’m like, ‘Really?’ To me they sound so similar because my voice is this big, heavy, narrow ranged voice. For example, if you hear one U2 song you’ve literally heard them all because of the delays on the guitar and because it’s been the same four guys who’ve played together for like forty years now. For me, I didn’t think of the songs as being radically different…
A slight difference is still better than no difference. *laughs*
Christopher: True. *laughs* And you know, I don’t know anybody else out there throwing down the jaw harp or the kalimba right now. *laughs*
And that’s the pleasant surprise! Like you were saying, you still had the standard guitars and drums because of course you’re going to have those kinds of things. But then you also include those instruments that you picked up later that are not necessarily standard.
Christopher: I can’t think of anybody who would say, ‘Yes this is Americana!’ and then include kalimba because it’s an African instrument. *both laugh* But I’ve done the instrumental breaks on all three albums and I listen a lot of singer-songwriters who we consider to have a ‘limited’ vocal range – Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon, Bill Morrissey. I love all those guys, and I think because they don’t have the ‘prettiest’ voices by the standard…
They end up being great instrumentalists.
Christopher: Or they’re great writers. So it’s one of those things that goes in line with being a former journalist, you naturally gravitate towards good writing. I don’t hate the ‘pop’ stuff, but I can’t listen to it too much. It’s a confection, and you can’t listen to too much of it. I need writing about life. When I went to play the album release party at the Hotel Cafe, someone came up to me and was like, ‘Wow. That’s a lot of heavy songs in a row.’ That’s the thing that Fernando and I talked about doing. Like, if you listen to old school, throwback country from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, there’s some really heavy lyrics there and some are just really depressing. The band was moving and super energetic, and you’re like, ‘These are really depressing lyrics, but I’m into this!’ *laughs*
It’s almost like the upbeat, happy instrumentation confuses your mind in a way, and I feel like a lot of modern music has been doing that. Actually, I did a pretty in-depth piece on when Foster the People first came out with “Pumped Up Kicks” where I interviewed a bunch of people at my college, and most of them didn’t know what the song was actually about, which is about going into the mind of a kid who wants to do a school shooting but then decides against it. Really heavy lyrics, but not not what you would expect when you listen to that song just from the instrumentals.
Christopher: It almost makes you think, ‘What happened to the idea of consequence?’ I know that everybody’s dealt with a series of heavy issues. That’s one of the things I try to do because the people I listen to have brought so much meaning in their songs and lyrics. I know people who don’t listen to lyrics at all, and it’s totally valid as to why they’re that way, I get it, but for those of us who do gravitate towards lyrics, I kind of want to at least try and get in the game with the masters in the genre. It’s a lot of effort to make an album and it’s a lot of effort to try and get it out there. You can always make one, put it on streaming, and walk away, and that’s if you’re rich enough to do this as a luxury hobby. I’m not, so it’s gotta be different. If it doesn’t resonate with me lyrically, then why am I wasting my time, you know?
And especially with an album, I mean, you’re looking at about thirty to forty-five minutes of your life dedicated to listening the whole thing that you’re not going to get back. I’ve stopped listening to albums like halfway through where I just wasn’t digging it, and I always felt bad about it. I’ll be like ‘The past work was amazing. I don’t know what’s wrong with this album.’ but then maybe later on I’ll go back to listen to it and think a completely different opinion.
Christopher: It’s almost like we bring our own baggage to the party.
That’s so true. We do listen to music because we have baggage. *laughs*
Christopher: Yes. *laughs* And you can’t be the kind of artist where you try to be the kind of control freak that’s like, ‘You have to listen this way.’ It’s like you made it, you released it, and everybody is responding to it slightly different. I remember I was playing a song that wasn’t particularly emotional, to me at least, but I guess it was to the woman in the audience who had to get up and walk out. Later on she apologized and was like, ‘I’m really sorry. That song just really hit me in a soft spot.’ And I was like, ‘Jesus, I just thought you didn’t like the sound of my voice.’ *laughs* A good song is similar to why I value good editors in cinema. I’m shooting the raw material for it, but I know enough about post-production because I sit with really good editors in my documentaries, which are made in post-production. You pull all these different elements, slap them together, and a story comes out. In my mind, the second I turn the camera off the film is done. But sometimes a song is really complete when it’s just a voice and guitar. I wouldn’t touch it or want to do anything to mess with it. But when you want more people to hear it, you want a little more beat to it. Sometimes you just want to make an egg sandwich at home and sometimes you want to do a dinner party. An album is maybe a little bit more of a dinner party because you’re sharing it with more people.
So that means that a single is an egg sandwich. *laughs*
Christopher: Exactly! *laughs*
As we’re sitting out here at this lovely cafe where we just had some lovely eggs. Just an inspiration. An egg-spiration!
Christopher: Oh my goodness that’s amazing! *laughs*
We love our puns here. *laughs* So which song would you say was your favorite to write and record? And these could be different songs, I know the processes are different.
Christopher: I would say that my favorite to record was “Shake It” because it was our New Orleans rump shaker.
I can imagine it was just so fun doing that in the studio!
Christopher: Oh it was a blast the whole time! Interestingly enough it was a low tune harmonica, like an octave or two octaves lower. It’s an A harp’ with the cross harps in ‘E,’ so when you exhale or blow through the harmonica it’s one note and then when you inhale it’s another note. Blues style harmonica is kind of hard to play because you have to really put a lot of wind through it to make it have any volume. I also have this one low-tuned harp that I’ve played for a number of years, and I just love it because it just hits you in a weird place. I didn’t actually work on this song to play to click track and I wasn’t sure how exactly I wanted to approach it. I was like, ‘Fernando, let me just do it first.’ and I started playing, and he was like ‘Yeah that’s probably about 80 beats per minute’ or whatever it is, so he throws the click track down, puts the one mic up, and I did the whole song on harmonica and voice as a scratch track to one mic. We kept the original take on harmonica and the original take on vocal, and just added in everything else, so the harmonica and vocal is exactly the way I would do it an a live show with no overdubs. And then he ended up playing this New Orleans almost quadruple beat with triangles and adding all this little stuff that just made it really satisfying when the whole thing was done. It was fun because I hadn’t been able to do anything that funky on an album yet, and Fernando is just one of those gifted multi-instrumentalists that helped bring everything to life. When we did the album release at the Hotel Cafe, he could have been on the guitar or he could have been on drums, but he was on bass and we just booked the rest of the band.
As far as my favorite song on the album to write, it’s like they’re your children, you know? It’s hard to pick a favorite. *laughs* It’s like when you ask me, ‘Oh, name your ten favorite reggae songs.’ If you ask me on a Monday it’ll be one list and if you ask me on a Friday it’ll be a different list. *laughs* But with the first song “Ashes,” that’s the only time I’ve ever written in the studio. On the first day of recording I had only one line written, which I had written down for years. I wasn’t sure how I was gonna do it. It was a blues thing at one point on harmonica like *blues-y harmonica example* But then after being in the studio with it I went home, wrote the rest of it that night, and came in to record it the second day. That was an interesting experience because I’d never done that before, and I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s sparse in terms of lyrics, like, it’s not very dense at all, but it was still really fun to do.
It was a new experience for you!
Christopher: Yeah! It was a new experience, it felt right, and I was like, ‘That’s a hell of a line to open the album.’ We talked earlier about instrumentation, and one of the things you do in cinema is try to not light and frame a shot as depressing. I’ve lit the song depressing, so now the strings are going to be depressing because it’s too much pointing the same direction. John Woo famously did a fight scene where a kid has headphones on listening to something like “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” and that’s all you can hear while there’s a bloody fight scene going on in the background. It’s really powerful to go against what you’re seeing sometimes. Another one of my favorite songs to write was “Jacarandas” because it’s the closest I’ve probably ever come to a pop song. I just really like the lyrical content of that song, it was a fun write. “There Is A Darkness” was not that fun to write, it’s also more of a self-pitying song. I can see people responding to that song when I play it live where people feel like, ‘Oh. Yeah, you get it.’ We don’t really have linguists believe in discussing a melancholy mood in the English language. It’s more like, ‘Everything’s great! Now I’m depressed.’
Yeah, there’s no in-between. We need that happy medium sometimes.
Christopher: Exactly. I think there needs to be more of that in the world, and I try to put some of that on the album. I wanted to give a gospel-like feel with choruses to pull it up out of the mood. But to answer the question, “Jacarandas” is the one I’m pretty happy with the writing on, and then “Shake It” was like the most fun to record ever.
It’s like, how can you top that one? *laughs*
Christopher: I don’t know actually. *laughs* I’m working on some stuff, but I haven’t started writing yet for the new one. After I released the album I got really sick because it was the tail end of four years of pushing insanely hard. I had the flu the week of the release and my wife Brenda was like, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to cancel the show?’ and I told her, ‘I’ve only got to be good for an hour and then you can carry me out of here.’ The next day I went into the hospital because it was a combination of being severely dehydrated and my electrolytes being all out of balance because of it, and then this weird bacterial infection in this pocket by like my diaphragm and pancreas. The doctors were like, ‘Have you been anywhere exotic recently?’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, only the last decade of my life.’ *laughs* I’ve shot on five continents, like places that are the middle of nowhere like minefields in Cambodia or the brush in South Africa or the rainforest in Ecuador. But after sitting there in a hospital bed feel like a marionette hooked up to all these IVs and antibiotics it got me thinking about what’s next. I just shot a TV show, then I have another TV show starting up soon, so I really needed to take a break to just move all my grip electric gear into a storage unit to free up my garage, go through a bunch of stuff I’ve had sitting around, take care of some backlog projects, all that stuff. It’s been interesting because I don’t do that much introspection except for maybe when I write. I haven’t been super productive in terms of writing, but I’ve got sketches and stuff so maybe I’ll be a little faster on the new album. *laughs* It was about six years between the last two albums. I want to learn more on my instruments and getting a better focus and concentration on that. I even took a break, like three to four months, from performing so I’m just starting to do that again. It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of all of this though. Will I bring a new perspective to the songs or will I be a better instrumentalist? Changes in our life, it’s always an experiment! *laughs*
I guess we will see! *laughs* Now we were already mentioning this with “Ashes” kind of being a little bit of a different songwriting experience, but overall, how was the recording and songwriting experience similar or different than that of your past work?
Christopher: Well, in the past everything was done totally at home. But when I did the first album in 2009, I went and toured a lot of these small studios and the home studio thing was really starting to blow up at that time. The big studios are starting to falter because they’re so expensive, and independent artists who self-finance just can’t get in the door at those places. It rapidly occurred to me that I didn’t know enough about what I was doing to even have useful questions for the people in the studios. *laughs* Do you know about Bobby Owsinski’s The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook?
I’ve heard of it and how beneficial it is to that aspect of the industry, but haven’t taken a look at it myself. *laughs*
Christopher: It’s great! Do you do you play music?
If you count pounding on my steering wheel like it’s a drum in order to not go insane while stuck in traffic. *both laugh* I am purely a lover and appreciator of music as a whole, including all the fun things that happen behind the scenes! *laughs*
Christopher: That’s where everybody starts, just loving the stuff. It speaks to you on some level. When I was trying to learn this stuff I was like, ‘Ok, a cheap studio would be like thirty five bucks an hour. I could see where I could just burn a lot of money and still not get anything from it.’ I just had to understand everything you know, and ended up just sitting there Google-ing stuff and wasting a lot of time before I found his book. Literally everything that I wanted to know was in that book, and, I think I spent like four or five hundred bucks buying a digital audio interface and some mixing monitors to basically teach myself how to produce and engineer stuff. So the first album was done totally at my house. The second album I kind of farmed out different parts. I would do the bulk of the song at home and then ‘this’ bass player, ‘this’ violin player, ‘this’ mandolin player would provide their parts from their own home setups, like I had a friend in South Carolina play mandolin, a friend over ‘here’ did ‘this,’ and so on. But the third album came about from talking to my good friend James Houlahan, who you interviewed and who’s also performed on Live At Lockett’s. I knew he had recorded with Fernando, and I was like, ‘How was it?’ And he just got this look on his face like, ‘Dude. I don’t know how to describe it, but it was amazing and I’ve never worked so fast in my life!’ He gave me a private link to the album, it wasn’t out yet, and it was just awesome! I know who James listens to and who is his influences are, so there was some Leonard Cohen and some Tom Waits, just all this stuff, but it was still clearly James and his voice in the mix of all this other production stuff. So I approached Fernando because I really wanted to take the new album to a different place I haven’t explored, showed him the two tracks to start with, took a tour of his studio, and it just felt like going to hang out at your buddy’s house. And Fernando has done a lot a Live At Lockett’s, so we already knew and were comfortable with each other.
It was a natural fit. A divine pairing!
Christopher: Yeah pretty much. *laughs* The recording process was really fun. I don’t rattle easily, but when I saw him work I was like, ‘Whoo! He knows what he’s doing! It sounds so good!’ *both laugh* I didn’t have to sit there hunched over a thing moving sliders or doing compression or reverb. He would pull something off and be like, ‘Hey, how about if we do this?’ and I would be like, ‘Oh yeah. That makes sense.’ I discovered in the process of recording with Fernando that my previous albums are very focused because I felt like they had to be due to my limited producing, arranging and engineering skills. I didn’t know how to do anything else. *laughs* But for this, it actually kind of opened up my thinking about not having to sit there and drive the whole thing on acoustic guitar. I could actually write a song with drum and bass and like a light piano in the future. It was liberating!
And what do you hope that your audience will take away from your music?
Christopher: First, I don’t know that I have an audience yet. *laughs*
Oh, you’ll be surprised! *laughs*
Christopher: *laughs* Yeah, that’s true I guess. And that’s not me trying to be minimizing or trying to be fake humble.I don’t know what traction I have in the world. I can kind of look at the analytics on Spotify be like, ‘Oh look! Somebody is listening!’ *laughs* Hmm, what would I want them to take away? You know when you read a writer’s work or hear a piece of music and realize they’ve been through the same thing you have? I want whoever is listening to my stuff to know that there’s somebody else out there who has experienced ‘this’ emotion or ‘this’ feeling or ‘that’ experience from a very plain, simple, not flowery, approachable way for them to digest. The other thing too is my wife and I don’t have kids, so there’s this notion of leaving a legacy in my photography, in the independent films that I’ve worked on, and in the music that I’ve made. It’s kind of like, ‘This is what I leave behind. This is what you get to know about this human who existed in this time and space on this planet during ‘these’ years.’ I want people to take away that there’s something of substance there, that it’s in a quality writing level without insulting the listener’s intelligence, and that it’s also approachable enough that you don’t have to you know go to a thesaurus or go to Google to look up to what I’m talking about. I have a vocabulary, I have an education, I have degrees, but I’m also not too precious about staying serious. I try to do high level, yet meaningful work. It was funny, I googled the album title Between The Dark And The Light before I had decided to even make it the title of the album. It was originally just the name of one song. I noticed there were a bunch of albums referencing between the light in the dark, which is more light before it gets dark, whereas between the dark and the light is more dark before the sunrise. I liked the latter concept a lot better. *laughs*
It speaks to our dark souls. *laughs*
Christopher: Exactly! *laughs*
So we were already starting to bring up some tidbits about Live At Lockett’s, which is a YouTube series that showcases a bunch of different artists in their most raw and natural performing states. Wanted to ask what inspired you to create the series?
Christopher: So In December of 2014, my van died due to bad mechanic work. Basically, I got it out of the shop after some basic repairs, the engine seized when I was going to see a friend’s band, and it pretty much blew up. The van had over two hundred thousand miles on it so there was really no way I could claim that it was mechanical failure because of a shoddy piece of work. Also, December is when freelance work is slow, so if you’re not already on a show then you’re not going to get on a show. Anyway, when you live really far away from home and you get a phone call from a number in the area of where you grew up, you kind of can’t help but be like, ‘Oh shit. Who died?’ It was my friend David’s little brother Tommy, who grew up down the street from me, hanged himself at age 45. It was just fucking horrible. And I’m over here like, ‘Great. I’m not going anywhere because my car blew up. I’m not working because freelance work has dried up for the season. And now my friend who’s literally a year younger than me is now dead.’ I started looking back into my childhood because it was very painful and upsetting to hear about what happened, and then because it was the end of the year I was thinking about the things I didn’t get to accomplish to make it even worse. I was like, ‘I need a project now!’
At that same time I had also played at a venue in Venice that charged me a hundred and fifty bucks, which is a reasonable price by the way, to do a multicam, live switched video performance. I looked at other performers who paid for the services and they all looked pretty good, like amazing high def videos. I must have got the guy who was just starting out or something, because what I got looked like a real estate seminar. The lighting was bad, the audio was out of sync and peaked so much that I couldn’t raise the volume without raising the noise floor. There was literally nothing useful to me from that video other than taking that anger from feeling ripped off in order to motivate myself to do something. My buddy Jordan was sitting there with his iPhone during the show, and no joke, it was better audio and video than what I had paid for. I’m like, ‘We live in Hollywood! Can we not do better than an iPhone video with someone cheering in the background?’ Apparently the answer was ‘No,’ so I was like, ‘Alright. Everybody’s doing house concerts now, a lot of singer-songwriters do anyways. My living room sounds pretty good for recording purposes. Shit, that would be the best commute ever!’ I ran the lights all down the hall. I minimized the light set up by shooting against my books, which was gonna sound good anyway because it breaks of the sound. I tire really easily of the notion that Boston has a literary singer-songwriter movement and that the West Coast is brain dead. We read books here too. I grew up on the East Coast. I live here for the reason that this city has real substance even though we get a crap for not having any. That idea is just utter garbage, so framing the sessions against my books was a very deliberate choice on my part. I wanted to have three camera coverage, but got concerned that if the other videographers get a phone call to shoot something that they’re gonna take their camera and leave, turning my three camera show into a two or single camera show. So I kept minimizing, minimizing, minimizing until I came up with the concept of using one camera, one lens, no zooms, no cuts, not even a mic in the frame, just as minimal as it could get. Having one mic overhead kind of made it difficult to mix when I had three and four piece groups in there, but I figured out a way to do it where it was a one man band pretty much. Hit record on the audio device, roll the camera, bang the slate, jump behind the camera, yell ‘action,’ and then just let them do their thing in front of the camera. I wanted it to feel as close to ‘Hey! I got a new song. Wanna hear it?’ ‘Yeah! Come on over and play in my living room!’ I have great quality artists in the series, some Grammy winners, a lot of people have come through there. It’s all just musician to musician handshake deals where nobody sees the videos until I put him on because we trust each other. I don’t monetize the content, I wanted it to be like a community thing that says, ‘Hey! Look at this stuff here!’ It’s almost like planning a dinner party where you’re like, ‘Hmm, who can I invite to this party? If I put these people in the same room they could probably have an interesting conversation.’ These artists may not be on the same bill ever, but if I put up on the same series, I feel like it showcases a little bit of a broader perspective on what L.A.’s music scene is about.
And that’s so awesome that your goal was to create it as a support system to the music community! I feel like the live music scene now is just very saturated. You can literally go and see a show every night of the week if you had the time/money to, and sometimes there’s like this competitive aspect to it. But it’s just so great that you’re bringing these artists together. Like you said, maybe they won’t ever be on the same bill, but they’re on this collective work together and that’s when you see that the music world is a huge entity.
Christopher: Absolutely! And while I was at it, I thought of the idea to include poets into the mix. Like I said earlier, everything is an experiment, and you just never know what’s going to come of things. I think that the people who have seen it dig it. A friend of mine who’s another documentary filmmaker goes, ‘I noticed that you’re posting the YouTube links and not posting it direct to Facebook video.’ and I was like, ‘It that an issue?’ and she goes, ‘Well, Facebook and YouTube are enemies. Because you posted it as a YouTube video, your numbers are gonna be a lot smaller than if you post it through Facebook because the algorithm throttles back to YouTube.’ I had no idea that’s how that worked. *laughs*
I didn’t either! Look at us learning things today! *laughs* So to keep on the topic of YouTube and social media and how learning things is a wonderful part of this crazy life we live in, *Christopher laughs* do you feel that those platforms are huge power players as to how musicians are discovered nowadays?
Christopher: Yeah totally! I mean, I know a lot of people have left Facebook because they’re just tired of the politics and the Russian meddling and the bots and stuff. There’s a lot more troll bots on Twitter I think though.
Christopher: Oh yeah definitely! I’ve run into a bunch of people who don’t have any posts but have five hundred followers because it’s one picture of a hot chick in a bikini. It’s like, that can’t be a good thing. They haven’t posted anything. Why are they following me? I kind of want to move to like a Mailchimp or the old school mailing list thing. That’s the other thing with marketing and figuring out what would work best, like, sometimes I’m too loud for the old folkie crowd because I can play at rock n roll volume with a punk rock kind of energy like. I don’t have that kind of folk music, especially when I have a full band. We fucking rock! *laughs* And even when it’s just me and a guitar, I just want to get it all out there.
You wanna get loud and proud!
Christopher: Yeah! And when I’m in close proximity of the mic I have effect where my voice is like this big rumbling baritone. The old folkies will go out and pay money to see shows and they’ll support those artists, and those artists will keep going until they fall off the barstool and can’t play music anymore. *laughs* That’s great, and that’s one of the reasons why I like that type of music because there’s a timelessness to it. Have you ever looked at the lyrics to Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry?” Holy shit! I mean, tell me that doesn’t resonate? It just stabs you in the heart when you listen to it! That’s a song that people are going to listen to in hundred years easily.
It’s a staple of his discography.
Christopher: Yeah. These song about bitching about losing Instagram followers is not even something that I’m feeling right now, so it might even never matter in the long run. I do think that social media is a double edged sword. I mean, I own everything that I’ve put out. I’ve got my own record label, I issue stuff out on CD Baby, I’m on all the streaming services, Bandcamp. They’re all wonderful for getting this stuff out and you keep a larger percentage of your sales than even longtime established artists. My problem with it is that you have no one in your corner trying to promote this stuff, and that’s what the record labels do really well, even today. It’s a vertical integration where all they do is basically hit a button and your digital files go out everywhere and the physical media goes out everywhere. But trying to figure out how to market yourself as an independent artist is a real drag if that’s not your mindset. For an introvert, performing is hell. I don’t really get stage fright, but I treat it like an athletic performance. You rehearse, you prepare, you get your gear together, you show up, and you know, you don’t win every race, but it’s still good training. I’m not a marketing man at all. I don’t like doing it, but I accept that it’s the new normal and that I have to figure it out somehow. I want to do it in a way that’s not completely obvious. We work in smoke and mirrors, we create illusions for a living, and most of us have pretty good bullshit detectors when you work in the industry that we do.
I think just living in L.A. forces you to start picking up on that kind of crap.
Christopher: Look, if you’re going to hustle me, man it better be cool. *both laugh* But anyways, I think I’m in this in-between state that’s somewhere between playing for the old folkies and then still enjoying playing bar gigs because they’re fun. I would love the graduate to just playing concerts though. I at least would like the experience just to see if I even like playing concerts and not just bar and cafe gigs or if it’s any different.
If we have any bookers reading, Christopher Lockett is available!
Christopher: Yeah! Is that a recurring theme that you’re finding all of us are saying the same thing about not understanding marketing?
I mean, I don’t even understand how to do the marketing half the time. *laughs* So throughout this, we’ve been discussing filmmaking and cinematography. If you could create any type of film right now at this very moment in time, which genre would you choose and why?
Christopher: It’s funny you ask because in this period of kind of taking a break and figuring out the next steps and doing a bit of introspection, there’s a feature film script that I’ve written that I want to bring to life. I won’t talk about it right now because it’s a very particular subject matter that not everyone is comfortable with.
It’s ok, I won’t force you. But I do think that we need to feel uncomfortable sometimes. That means it’s real.
Christopher: Oh, it’s definitely real. *laughs* I’m trying to get that film made, but there’s a lot of adult content. I passed out this screenplay to a bunch of people I went to school with who I thought had a more progressive worldview, but it turns out that people get real uncomfortable even just reading stuff like what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to put together a bunch of pitches for some documentaries for Netflix and Amazon, both of the recent documentaries that I’ve done independently, The Type Writer and Until They’re Gone, are on Amazon Prime and iTunes, and want to approach an agent I know to try and get them to accept the several documentaries that I want to do. I mean, if I won the lottery tomorrow, I know exactly what I’d do. I would just do them independently and I wouldn’t really care about the return on investment. The base level for the amount of funding to get a project off the ground is actually a lot less expensive now. Like, the ratio between expense and production quality has gotten narrower. You used to have to really spend a lot more to achieve more at a professional level.
I can imagine! And with film and music and the intertwining of the two, do you feel that soundtracks and scores can make or break a scene?
Christopher: Oh totally! I’ve sat in enough edit sessions where I’ve seen the work being done on the scene. Despite my experiences in making documentaries and making television, my training is in narrative storytelling, which is what they teach at AFI (American Film Institute). I’ve seen and shot tons and tons of short films and one feature, but I’ve seen the scenes without the music and then with the music and really bad music can totally ruin a scene just as easily as really good music can completely make it. And again it’s like, do you play to the same notes as the cinematography and the acting and the writing, or do you play against it? A lot of filmmaking is like cooking. You add a little bit of ‘this’ then you add a little bit of ‘that,’ and maybe it’s out of balance but you put a little more of ‘this’ in and the whole thing changes.
I love that analogy!
Christopher: Thanks! *laughs*
So how do you balance your personal life with your professional life?
Christopher: When I’m shooting, there’s no personal life. *laughs* When I’m on location, I fly out and then I’m there for two months working twelve hours a day, six days a week with one day off. Just way too many hours and not enough sleep. So in production, you don’t really have much of a social life. The internet has allowed us all to keep in contact with people, and it’s very useful when you’re on the road, but there are still going to be places where signals just don’t reach so you have to manage with what you have.
You do the best under the circumstances that you’re given.
If you could give your younger self some advice in regards to what you’ve experienced in your career whether it be through music, or through film, or even just some personal life advice, what kind of advice would you give him?
Christopher: Oh man, where do I start? *laughs* I would tell him to ‘recognize what you really value early on, keep what really works, and get rid of the other crap.’ Here’s the thing, I stopped playing music live for about fifteen years because I basically reached a point where I was a little ‘eh’ about doing it. I felt like I wasn’t really doing anything that original, you know? I was kind of like a jukebox who plays his influences. I needed to take some time off to find my voice, but I wound up just getting busy and being a little disheartened. But in all honesty, I don’t really think that it was necessarily a bad thing because I wasn’t ever making music that was supposed to be played to a popular audience. I would also tell myself to sleep more and to keep working out like I used to. *laughs*
You made it here so far and that’s all that matters! *laughs* So what are the big things should we be expecting from you? I know you said you’ll be traveling.
Christopher: Yup! Some light traveling shooting Big Brother, and then I’m home for the summer. I think what I’m going to do is to not really try to take on any other side project shooting so I can relax a little bit. I recently got my drone pilot’s license and I would love to do some music videos using it. There’s two that I want to do, the first would be “Ashes.” I also had this idea for “Shake It.” There was this band called Dirty Vegas and they had this song called “Days Go By.” The narrative for the video was so beautiful and fun and just a great short film. The band rolls up to a stoplight and the song is playing, the lead singer looks off into space lipsyncing, then it cuts to this middle aged black man dressed in a nice suit walking up with a boombox and a piece of cardboard. He folds it out, sets a boombox down on it, takes his jacket off, rolls his sleeves up, hits play, and he just starts dancing his ass off to the song! You never see the band again until the end of the video where they drive off when the light changes. I thought about paying an homage to that video because it’s just so fucking rad by shooting it Guerrilla style. And then with the jacarandas blooming I kind of also want to do something with that song. So maybe up to three music videos this year, but who really knows what life will throw your way.
Who knows what the future will hold, but we hope that it’s positive!
Christopher: At least productive. *laughs*
Check out Christopher Locket on his Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Spotify!
About Los Feliz Cafe:
Looking to recharge after a few rounds of golf, hiking through Griffith Park, or just touring around the wonders that East L.A. has to offer? Don’t worry! Los Feliz Cafe has you covered! Located pretty much on the outskirts of hipster-ville, it’s no surprise that there are a fair amount of vegan and vegetarian options on their large menu. And to play into the Los Angeles (or I guess California lifestyle), much of the menu also includes elements of the beloved Mexicali style that we are very much spoiled with. Stop on by for all day breakfast (the breakfast quesadilla is to die for!) or lunch and bottomless coffee for (thankfully) reasonable prices, and relax in your choice of three different seating areas of varying degrees of outdoor-y-ness.
Check out more about Los Feliz Cafe on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.