Circe Link and Christian Nesmith, Part I: Musical Influences

When I first approached Circe Link and Christian Nesmith for an interview, I was a newbie to their musical offerings, but knew from the moment they ended their first song during their performance at the 2013 Monkees Convention that they would be an excellent interview. Their smart lyrics, catchy songs, and stage presence solidified them in the hearts and minds of my fellow audience members, but their down-to-earth and generous personalities when interacting with fans during those three days made me think that they would be gentle with me, a person who’d only conducted two interviews in my life at that point. I’m still learning the craft of interviewing, and it truly is a craft, but the person I am know, with 6 months of practice under my belt, is fairly embarrassed listening to the questions I asked, the stilted way I conversed with them, and the choppy flow to the chat that I created by being “off my game.”

In my defense, my landline phone had yet to be hooked up in my house at this point, so I’d spent a half an hour driving around neighboring towns, trying to find a locale that allowed my TracPhone to have decent reception, it was a cold November night, and I was sitting in a nearly-freezing car (No business in this area of Southern Vermont and New Hampshire would have extended the patience needed for me to sit for an hour on my phone and talk loudly enough for my recording device to pick up what I was saying.) as I couldn’t turn the engine on because I was barely able to hear Circe and Christian over the sounds of traffic.  By the time the interview started, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to transcribe the whole thing because of sound issues with the TracPhone, I was shivering, and I quickly started to realize that my questions weren’t going to adequately capture the unique quality of Circe and Christian’s music. In short, it was a train wreck in the making.

What makes the interview salvageable, though, and entertaining, is Circe and Christian’s answers to my questions. They were patient with me, kind in their responses to the bumbling questions, and also gave some incredibly well thought out answers. They are two intelligent people who are making catchy and intellectual music, and you can’t keep two people like that down, even if you’re a newbie interviewer. 😉  You can see from their responses to the first question I asked that they put a lot of thought into everything they do, and that is an interviewer’s, and a music lover’s, dream come true.

What follows should be a low point for me, but when you’re dealing with a couple who love each other so deeply, and who are bringing their craft to a level that transcends the genres that their music is being placed in, I can’t help but feel lucky to have been freezing in my car on a November night, being a witness to a couple who thoroughly enjoys what they do, and each other.

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(Photo by Jennifer Dodge)

Me: I’ve been throwing this out as what I thought would be the easy, ice-breaking question to an interview, and everyone has said it’s the hardest question of the interview (laughing). Let’s give it a whirl and see what happens with you guys! The question is: What are your musical influences?

 

Link: It’s probably hard for people because you’re asking musicians, right?

 

Me: Yes. I thought it would be in their wheelhouse to peel off musicians that they have been influenced by, but then I realized that it probably is a difficult question.

 

Link: Hopefully it’s been musicians who have been studying for a long time or following their craft for a long time, so they may be and probably have been inspired by a number of people. Depending on what kind of thing they’re after their inspiration will be different.  For me personally, lyrically, I’m pretty inspired by the greats like Joni Mitchell or Elvis Costello. Melodically, I’ll write in whatever style is in my head that day, so that could be anywhere from Bob Wills [American Western swing musician] to Patti Smith sometimes, or Ella Fitzgerald, or Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. You just never know. For artists who’ve been at it for a while, it may be like asking a woman, “What’s your favorite pair of shoes?” (laughing)

 

Me: (laughing)

 

Nesmith: I would have to say, barring the obvious, Frank Lloyd Wright, Fred Astaire, Francis Ford Coppola…

 

Me: (laughing) I like that quite a bit!  All good people to look up to for different reasons.

 

Nesmith: When you’re young…well Circe became a professional musician later in life. I’ve been doing it for my whole life. When I was young, there was all kinds of different music around the house, from Hank Williams Sr. to Stevie Wonder to Beethoven. If it’s musical, if it’s melodic, if it’s something that’s inspired, like Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture or Fred Astaire’s dancing, that’s inspirational.

 

Link: That influences the end product when you’re inspired by other artists, right?

 

Nesmith: Yeah. When you see somebody make a film like The Godfather, it just pumps up the creative juices. More specifically, as a guitar player, you look at Jimmy Page [Led Zeppelin], Aerosmith, Alex Lifeson [Rush], Leo Kottke [fingerpicker], Billy Gibbons [ZZ Top], Michael Schenker [UFO], Steve Morse [Deep Purple], and the list goes on and on. I take from all of those guys. But it doesn’t necessarily have to come from musicians. It can come from just a feeling of “I need to say something.” All of that music is fair game.

     It’s not that hard of a question, it’s just that in order to be a true artist, once you start naming your influences, you start pigeonholing yourself, and I think that both Circe and I are in a place that we don’t want to do that. All of that is lovely and inspirational to us. 

Me: I was talking in that vein to Laurence Juber, speaking of guitar players, and he was with Wings and Paul McCartney, and he tours right now, playing his acoustic guitar. I was asking him about how he puts on an over 1-hour concert without any kind of vocal, and yet people are still enraptured by what he’s doing on stage. He was telling me a story about how he was driving in his car one day and when he came around a corner, he saw this beautiful nature scene, and he wanted to put that into music. Through his guitar, he tried to describe what he had seen in front of him. Sunset, birds singing, breeze blowing through trees…I think that this goes along with what you just said.

 

Nesmith: You can be a filmmaker and try to represent that, or you can be painter and try to represent that, but if you look at somebody like Ennio Marconi, who was a famous film scorer, how do you set that in motion to music? How do you heighten it? Look at John Williams [film scorer], who’s done that for all of the movies he’s done. There are no limits to artistic expression, and all of art feeds all other art. 

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~ by Jennifer Dodge on March 9, 2014.

One Response to “Circe Link and Christian Nesmith, Part I: Musical Influences”

  1. […] Part I of the interview can be found here: https://mccartneyfans.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/circe-link-and-christian-nesmith-part-i-musical-influ… […]

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