Circe Link and Christian Nesmith, Part III: Performing and Fan Reactions To Their Music

     During the hour-long interview I conducted with Circe Link and Christian Nesmith, we touched upon a wide variety of topics, all related to their art. They had some rather intriguing and thought-provoking responses to questions about fan reaction to their music, and it’s incredible to realize that they had such very different beginnings to their musical journey, given that they’re so in synch with each other. 

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

Part II of the interview can be found here: https://mccartneyfans.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/circe-link-and-christian-nesmith-part-ii-working-with-the-one-you-love/

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(photo by Jennifer Dodge)

 

Me: It’s interesting that you guys seem to complement each other really well which definitely shows during your concerts. In terms of the concerts, what about standing on a stage in front of people is exciting and makes you want to keep doing it instead of just living in the studio?

 

Link: (laughing)

 

Nesmith: I’ll go. I started playing music when I was 5 or 6, but it wasn’t until I took up guitar around 12 or 13 years old and started seeing those guitar heroes that I got into in my youth. From about 12 to 16, I spent the entire time in my bedroom listening to records and learning how to play them. While you’re sitting there learning how to play these songs, you can’t help but, as a teenager, checking yourself into a fantasy of performing or being in that band that you’re playing along with at the time. So, when I finally got my chance to play in my first real band which was around 16, and those guys were a bit older than me, I just took to performing immediately. I loved showing off, and it wasn’t just about me, “You’ve got to tell me that I’m good,” it was about making the audience feeling what I felt when I played the music, and that’s the most gratifying thing. Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers had a great quote. He said, “I always wanted to make music that makes me feel like I felt when I listened to music when I was a teenager.”

 

Me: That is good.

 

Nesmith: That inspiration…we’re so clinical and we become so analytical with our music as we grow older because we’ve become more seasoned and we have a larger vocabulary. Just the ability to just bash on one chord because it rocks our world sometimes can slip away from us. That simplicity and the beauty of simplicity.

     The stage was always home to me, I always loved it. I got right into it from the first second. I don’t think Circe got into it that way.

 

Me: (laughing) It doesn’t sound like it.

 

Link: Sometimes I don’t love it, sometimes I do. It just depends on where I am, I guess. I did not grow up wanting to be a musician, and I never danced in front of a mirror with a comb or a hairbrush, so it’s kind of an alien thing to me (laughing). I think the first year of performing I probably cried after every performance.

 

Me: (laughing) That’s so sad!  Why did you keep getting up there even though it wasn’t quite the place you wanted to be?

 

Link:  Robert Heinlein always said, “A poet who reads his verse in public may have other nasty habits.” As someone who likes to write, that’s pretty much the only way you’re going to get anybody to listen to it is to get onstage, wear something attractive, and have a band behind you so you can get the message across, if you’ve got one. I think it was a means to an end. That’s part of the process of creating art is sharing it with others. This medium asserted itself to the forefront of all the  mediums I do.

 

Nesmith: You can’t say that you don’t get onstage and catch that wave and that note comes out of your voice and it resonates.

 

Link: Yeah, sometimes. Sometimes it’s wonderful. But it just was not natural for me. It took me a while to get comfortable, to cultivate a pleasure out of it. I enjoy it, but I do prefer writing, I do prefer the crafting, if I had to choose.  And sometimes performing is really beautiful.

     I would say that in Los Angeles, the crowd level that we have is not such a great experience all of the time, so often we’ll play places where the environments are less than listening rooms, so an artist is tending to compete with a lot of other things happening at the same time, and while we generally have a pretty good draw and have people who come specifically to see us, it’s not always an ideal environment. I would say that the songs that I find to be some of my more favorite songs, and more delicate, beautiful, tender things that in the studio I get to really stretch out and enjoy are things that you can’t do live unless you’re in a listening room, versus a song like “Hair Of The Dog” which is funny and is great to do live, because if you’re drinking, no problem. You can drink, laugh, and howl and enjoy that type of song, but I just think that there’s not enough emotional dynamism possible in club-level playing that a studio affords.

 

Nesmith: It’s hard to say something poignant from the stage while a guy’s trying to hit on the chick next to him, you know?

 

Me: (laughing) Yeah, I do. What sorts of reaction have you had from fans to your music? Do you think that people are getting what you’re trying to have them get from it?

 

Link: Yeah. Absolutely.

 

Nesmith: I would say so. It’s the biggest hurdle that we face because we’re hard to classify, it’s hard to get through some doors. What I always say to people is that once we get through the door and they hear it, everybody goes, “That was great! That was so much fun!” So really, it’s through people like you to continue spreading the word, “Give Christian and Circe a chance, you’re going to dig it.”

 

Link: I don’t have an agenda. It’s not like I want to tell the story of the racehorse necessarily, and are people understanding how important that is to me, because again, we’re rather eclectic and we write all kinds of different songs. There’s so many different aspects and muses. But if there’s one thing specifically that I think comes across is social conscience that I impart in a lot of lyrical content, and the people that seem to resonate the most with that music are people who are also wanting to make the world a better place in whatever way they can. They’re not necessarily going out and volunteering time out in India and on the streets like Mother Teresa or something extreme like that, but they’re people who really believe in something like a random act of kindness where you buy a coffee for the guy in line behind you, or you help a little old lady across the street.    

     As benign as those things have come to seem in our world of schadenfreude, that’s really important to us, and I think our fans that really resonate with what we’re doing are those kinds of people.

 

Nesmith: We want to be careful. We don’t want to be judgmental people, but at the same time there is a bit of disdain for that looking at the car crash for entertainment. We don’t hold with that at all, and we’re hoping that we’re bringing a quality of art that people don’t have to go and just see the guy wreck on a skateboard to get a thrill. Can we look a little deeper? Can we scratch beyond the surface of pratfalls.

 

Link: Dispelling the myth of the anti-hero as the ultimate metaphor for society, as cool as the anti-hero was when it first came out of the scene, human existence is so much more complex than that. We have so much more to say, and we can say it with humor, so I often try and find clever ways to say things that engaging to people and make people think about interactions that maybe they wouldn’t think about as having a different perspective. Like “Hair Of The Dog,” again, that song’s specifically about some people going out, getting drunk, and making some decisions that are not the best decisions to make, but it ends in a funny way. It’s not a “You people are going to hell, you’re bad people.” I’ve done stupid stuff, and luckily most of the time I can laugh about it (laughing). I think we can deliver those messages.

     I’ve always been a big Tom Lehrer fan. Personal messages sometimes can be so heavy-handed. I’ve always been reluctant to write any songs with those kinds of…

 

Nesmith: Finger wagging.

 

Link: My friend Danny is an amazing singer/songwriter, and he can just say stuff that I don’t feel comfortable saying, so generally if I have some sort of social commentary, it’s going to be couched in humor. I admire those people who can say stuff, like Billy Bragg, for instance. He can really bring some politics in that I don’t feel that I have a real ability to craft and take myself seriously. I think that’s really important for each writer, if they have a message, to find the best delivery method to get it across.

 

 Nesmith: To circle back around, when we started it was never about making the great record deal, or billions of dollars.

 

Link: And it still isn’t.

 

Nesmith: It was never about fame and fortune. That would be lovely and we would love to support ourselves full-time in a really comfortable way, making just music, or videos, or art, or however we do it. That’s not necessarily the case right now. But because that’s not part of the agenda, and because we don’t hold ourselves to that standard, we are allowed to say things that are more true to what we feel as artists and as people, and as just human beings how we would like to express ourselves to other humans if we were just having coffee.

 

Link: We don’t have to worry about putting on airs, and actually I think that’s one of the reasons social media has worked to our advantage as musicians is we’ve been able to really just be ourselves, and our fans really dig it. We’re accessible and we talk and interact with as many of our fans as we can. We’re just that. They love our stupid little couch videos as much as the more produced videos because they know that’s just authentically who we are.

 

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~ by Jennifer Dodge on March 11, 2014.

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