Circe Link and Christian Nesmith, Part IV: Thoughts About Fans

One of my favorite parts of the interview with Circe and Christian was hearing them talk about their craft and their fans.  Some artists take their fans for granted, considering them “seat fillers” as it were, but both Circe and Christian genuinely appreciate their audience, and also have obviously thought about their fans a great deal, as is evident from their musings about the people who attend their shows, listen to their albums, and who interact with them.  Another fascinating aspect of this interview segment is their thoughts about fans in general: fans of The Monkees (and in some ways it’s inevitable that The Monkees will come up in an interview with Circe and Christian as Christian’s father is Mike Nesmith); fans in the 1960’s; fans today; fans who want a personal connection with their favorite artists; and lastly artists’ thoughts about their fans.

To those who are expecting a huge chunk of the interview to be devoted to The Monkees, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that isn’t the case. I made a very conscious decision to not ask about them. Why? Christian is not his father, nor should he be viewed and used as a conduit to Monkee Mike. He is an artist who is making quality, exciting, and original music with Circe. An interview about Circe Link is not the venue for a conversation about his memories of the group his father was in and occasionally still tours with. Were I talking to Christian after a Monkees’ show or at the Monkees Convention, that would be the more appropriate place for such a conversation. Sorry to disappoint anyone who is experiencing that emotion. However, if you are a Monkees’ fan, as Circe and Christian eloquently point out, you will really enjoy Circe Link and their albums, so don’t be a stranger, check out http://www.circelink.com today!

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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Me: I found it fascinating that at the Monkees Convention where I first saw you guys, you have a generation that grew up worshiping the anti-hero, who really seems to engage in and really seem to respond in a positive way, and still are, to what you’re doing on the stage. I was taken by the reaction you got from people who may not have grown up with that style of music, but who really found a real connection to you.

 

Nesmith: I think you have to define “anti hero”. At the time The Monkees were out, the anti hero was Easy Rider. You go 15 or 20 years on, and the anti hero is Pacino’s Scarface.

 

Link: I’m not interested in hanging out with that guy.

 

Nesmith: There’s a big difference between those two icons, and the latter I don’t hold with at all. I think crime, drugs, the abuse of women, homophobia, racism, or bigotry of any kind is inappropriate. I think it is tearing down our society. Again, I don’t want to be judgmental, but I do wish that people would make an effort to eliminate that stuff from their lives. It’s like how people would say in a tweet what they would never say to your face.

 

Link: It’s like junk food. Are you going to have junk food, or are you going to have something good for your body today?

     Those Monkees fans, a lot of them have a lot more experience with a more diverse type of music, having a Goffin and King song, or a Boyce and Hart, or a Nesmith song, so there’s a bit of a wider range of taste in those fans, so what we’re doing, if we do a swing song and then we turn around and do a pop song, they don’t worry about it because they’re used to that on the records they were listening to. The tone of what we’re doing musically, funny and the lyrics have enough content that there’s something they can enjoy, it’s not just a bunch of “baby baby”’s or pedestrian phrases that you hear in every song.

 

Nesmith: Also, those fans were listening to music at a time that was, in my opinion, the best time of music ever in the history of the world.

 

Me: Yes. Hear, hear.

 

Nesmith: From ’63 to ’77 or ’78, you had more diversity, more expression, more cultural, racial, sexual oneness, if you will, than ever before. We have XM radio in our car. I always noticed that the entire system of XM radio is divided up into micro genres, so if all you want to listen to is grunge from the early ‘90s, there’s a station for you to do that. If all you want to listen to is uber-gangster hip hop, there’s a station for you to do that. But when I grew up, when I was four, five, six, seven years old, the radio stations would play Elton John, and then they would play Sly and the Family Stone, and then they would play Helen Reddy, and you would have all kinds of music all going together.

     Being that The Monkees’ fans are of that generation by and large, I think that that’s right, that they’re accessible in their psyche to our diverseness of music.

 

Me: Yes, I think that’s right, and it’s a really beautiful thing to see that and experience that in person.  You grew up around a lot of those fans, too. Do you see any difference between fans of that generation and current fans, these rabid, pre-teen people who are foaming at the mouth for people like Justin Bieber or One Direction?

 

Nesmith: First of all, I have to dispel a little bit of a myth. I did not grow up around those fans. My mom and dad separated when I was six or seven, somewhere around there, so I grew up in the Valley. I was just a kid riding his bike on the streets. My mom worked hard raising the three of us, and it was a very normal sort of lifestyle. The fervor that was around The Monkees was around when I was one or two, and I was very insulated from that.

     I would say that, that Monkeemania that was out was, to a large degree, absolutely the same as Bieber mania. 13-year olds, 11-year olds, they all get excited by pop icons. They have their heroes and they latch onto music or film stars for reasons that are beyond explanation. Who knows? I still think that it all comes from the same place. Bobby soxers falling over themselves for Sinatra is exactly the same thing as the people that lost their minds over Rudolph Valentino. That’s never changed. It is what happens when you grow up and carry that with you, and how do you deal with that as an adult, that makes the difference. Hopefully one is able to see deep into the art their chosen artist has rendered, and whether that is substantive or not, and do they move on or don’t they? How many Monkees’ fans have survived 40 years? How many Justin Bieber fans will survive 40 years?  

 

Link: (laughing) That’s an interesting question.

 

Nesmith: Here we are about 15 years on from Hanson, and where are those guys?  And the fans that were absolutely out of their minds over that band, where are they now and how do they feel about Hanson now?

     I think it does say something about The Monkees themselves that they were really trying to, and I’m not just talking about the four guys, I’m talking about the entire creative team, the songwriters, the show writers, Bob and Burt, everybody that was involved with it, were trying to do something that was not done up until that point. I also think that the four guys knew very clearly that in the context of the show itself, the few things that were done just within the perimeter of that show such as Head or those early concerts, were very conscious of that being a universe unto itself.

     When my dad was out on the road just these last few times with The Monkees, he made no bones about saying, “Okay, it’s time to go play ‘Mike’ again,” which is a fun role for him to play, but that’s not him. It’s one aspect of a character that he brought to the screen that he holds dear, and if the fans have a problem differentiating between Michael Nesmith and Mike from The Monkees, then there’s something going on with those fans that maybe should be addressed.

     But at the end of the day, the fact that they’re showing appreciation and love in any sense is something to be truly grateful for, and bring it on all day long.  It’s very nice that some of those people have been able to transfer that love and really get into the art of Circe and what Circe and I do, separate from the fact that I happen to be Michael Nesmith’s son. Sorry that was a very long-winded answer…

 

Link: (laughing)

 

Me: No, I actually loved hearing it. It was really interesting for me. It’s funny but I was on Facebook yesterday and one of my friends who I met at the Monkees Convention met your dad at a concert recently, and she has pictures of her with your dad, who she adores, and the second-to-last picture is of your dad signing her lower leg, and the very last picture is of her in a tattoo parlor getting the autograph tattooed on her leg.

 

Nesmith: I’ve got to tell you, that’s a level of fan…I have my heroes. I love Jimmy Page, I love Paul McCartney, I love a bunch of people, but I’m not going to get Jimmy Page’s face or name or guitar put on my body.

 

Me: (laughing)

 

Nesmith: That’s just not me. But maybe that’s because I have an insight into what it’s like to create.

 

Link: Yes.

 

Nesmith: And that is something that has become more interesting to me of late is realizing that there are so many people in that audience that don’t create, and so it is through my or any artist’s creation that they get to feel that expression, they get to feel that elation and joy, and granted that it is only objective, but it is through the process of being a fan that it becomes subjective.

 

Link: I think, too, that an artist’s job, if it’s done well, is to give voice to the people who don’t feel articulate enough to express themselves on the level of sweeping emotion that they feel. There’s a non-verbal experience that they can feel in their bodies that the artists are working hard to get that experience out, to be the conduit. I have a song called “Bluebird Tattoo,” it’s interesting, and I’ve had so many women write to me about this tattoo song. It’s about if the fella you’re dating turns out to be not so loyal, and he’s a schmuck and “I’m going to get a tattoo and screw you, buddy.”

 

Me: (laughing)

 

Link:  It’s kind of an empowering song, and a lot of women have written me and said, “Oh, that song helped me get through my divorce,” or “For six months I listened to that song after whatever experience.” I think every human being is creative in their own way, but with music, some people who are in the audience who don’t necessarily express it in the same way, music gives them something tangible that they can express through, like a great pair of shoes, or a jacket, or something that they can embody and wear that is what they’re feeling right now.

  

Nesmith: Yes.  And a point that can be made just on the fan/artist relationship as it is confined to the performance itself, it’s helpful for the artist to realize that the fan wants to do their job. The people in the audience want to do their job, and their job is to come and yell and scream and cheer you on. They like doing that job, and as a reward the artist gives them great music, and the artist gets rewarded by that screaming and yelling. But I don’t think a lot of artists make the connection that the fan wants to do that job. I think that a lot of artists can be dismissive of that, and it’s very important to embrace that aspect of the fans’ expression and participation in the concert performance experience.

 

Me: That’s a very important distinction to make between the artists who connect with the fans and who are willing to do that, to take that extra step, and those who are there to just do their job, then leave and go to the next city. What does it feel like to know that you have that connection with fans, to have people write to you and tell you, “Your song helped me in this instance,” or “I was really feeling down and I heard your song and my life turned around.” What does that feel like?

 

Link: Sad. (Nesmith and Link laughing)

 

Me: (laughing)

 

Link: No, I’m serious. That’s one of the closest things that I can feel as to why I’m here. That’s going to sound corny to some people, and okay, then call it corny, but it’s so profoundly beautiful that I can’t describe it.

     I got a letter from somebody recently whose mom is dealing with cancer, and she got the new pop EP  [The Pop EP] and she said it made her mom so happy.  They were listening to it in the hospital room after her chemo treatment and she had been pretty sick, but the EP actually put a smile on her face. You know what? There is nothing that can describe that for me. That is so incredibly wonderful and joyful, and just because I wasn’t there and I didn’t get to see it, it still doesn’t make it any less real for me. That to me is so moving and so incredible. What else is there? (laughing)

 

Nesmith:  I mean, that is a hard place to be because many fans want to know you personally, but there’s no way that you can know thousands of people personally, or that they can know you, so there has to be a certain distance when it comes to a direct relationship to a lot of fans.  But when you get that kind of response that you hear about somebody who was helped through a tough time by what you do artistically, that is the most gratifying thing in the world. I’m not sure that all artists feel this way. Maybe they just know that once the song is created, then the chips fall where they may and dealing with the fans or performing for the fans is just obligatory, or that’s not even the point and they just want the money (laughing). There’s all kinds of ways of looking at it.

 

Link: Yes. It’s not my song anymore, it’s what that person brings to it. That’s the fan, that’s where they need it. It is their life now. It is how they represent those images in their mind and how they relate to it. The singer/songwriter who really wants the person to get it just like they get it may end up frustrated because the fan can only relate to it from their perspective, and the beautiful part is that they’re going to interpret it in their own way, and that’s what makes it magical.  It means one thing to me but it means something else to somebody in the audience that maybe I never thought that it was going to mean to them. I think that’s the beauty of art. The songwriter that doesn’t really want to engage the fans, that’s cool. There’s going to be all kinds of people that are going to be into that. Luckily we’ve been trying to interact with our fans as much as we can given the amount of time that we have in a day (laughing). It’s really rewarding.

 

Me: On the flipside of that, I’ve been reading some funny stories about fans from some musicians, for example one who said a fan had sent them a kidney stone…

 

Link: Ahh!

 

Me: …not that I’m saying you’ve had those kinds of interactions, but are there any oddball stories about fans that you’ve heard?

 

Nesmith: I don’t have any specific stories like that to relay, and I try not to even go down that road too much. Wanting somebody’s dirty socks or any part of them, that’s fetishism, and that tends to not be…

 

Link: It’s not healthy.

 

Nesmith: And that person isn’t paying attention to the art. If you’re sitting there and wanting Justin Bieber’s underwear because you’re a 13-year old budding…person, because we’re not going to limit ourselves sexually here [and say “girl”], if that’s what you’re after and that gives you some joy, okay then, rock out. But I would say that that’s probably not the point, and that only goes so far.

     If we back up a little bit, I was thinking about John Lennon.  He was having such a good time being obscure with a lot of his lyrics to allow the fans to interpret whatever they want and get what they need out of that art. But if what they need is to get some of my soiled clothing or Circe’s soiled clothing…ah, not so much. (laughing)

 

Link: We don’t have any unusual requests, not that I know of. I can’t think of anything.

 

Nesmith: If there was any negative aspect about fans that approach us, it is them approaching us solely for the reason of getting to my dad or any of the other Monkees.

 

Link: Those people tend to drop off pretty fast, though. You might get an e-mail, and they’ll say, “Can you tell Micky this for me,” or “Can you tell Nez this?”

 

Nesmith: I’ll get a one-line Facebook message, a personal message that says, “Hi, I’m a friend of your dad’s,” and I’ll go look at them and go, “No you’re not.” They’re not. I know you’re a fan of my dad’s and what you want to do is respond to you so you can…

 

Link: So you can marry him! (laughing)

 

Nesmith: …so you can marry him, or feel personally validated. Neil Peart, the drummer of Rush, one of his most quoted lines, because he’s the lyricist of Rush, is “I can’t pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend.” He’s uncomfortable relating to fans, and I’m not. I can smile and shake hands and give that person the attention that they need right then and there with no problem. It is the hope, and I think everybody goes through this, even though I’ve been exposed to some famous people and what have you, I still have some delusions of being best friends with some of my greatest heroes, because what that means is that they validate me as a person. Somebody that I respect then turns around and says, “You’re cool to hang out with,” so then that person then gets validated.

    Just by sheer numbers, if we’ve got 5,000 fans, there’s no way that we can be friends with every single one of those people, like I said before. That can be disappointing to some fans, and it can be overwhelming to some of the artists. So the best thing that we can do is just be in the moment and give them the love that we can give right then and there when they’re shaking our hands, or they’re going to a concert and say “Hi” after the show.

     The bottom line is we’re SUPER grateful that they’re there.

 

Link: I actually totally feel the counter opposite of what Neil Peart said. I do. Every time I look into somebody’s eyes I go, “Wow, this looks like my uncle,” “That looks like my aunt,” “They could be my cousin.” I feel like everybody is a distant relative in some way, and because of the human story I identify with every single person. The Monkees Convention, for me, was the biggest love fest. I was high for weeks from all of the hugs and smiles I got, and not in a cheesy way like, “Oh, don’t you think I’m great?” but in a way like “Wow, I met all of these beautiful humans!”

 

Nesmith: You wanted to know what I learned from Circe?

 

Me: Yes.

 

Nesmith: That’s it, right there. That extreme, embracing love of humanity of all kinds, of all things living, that’s what Circe is. What she’s saying to you right now is not a put-on. That’s the real deal, and if she had enough souls and enough arms and enough smiles to go out and kiss and hug and feed every single being on the planet in the universe, she’d do it.

 

Link: I would do it. Thanks, honey. (laughing)

 

Nesmith: So there you go. I wish I was that magnanimous, I’ve got to tell you. 

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~ by Jennifer Dodge on March 12, 2014.

2 Responses to “Circe Link and Christian Nesmith, Part IV: Thoughts About Fans”

  1. After one show in Los Angeles, I was chatting with Circe, Christian and the band and couldn’t help but wonder why these two audience members were going on about the Monkees (not at all in a pestering way, I have to add) and it took 15 minutes for me to go “The Monkees? But why? Hmm – Nesmith. Oh, wait…” In the meantime I was asking Circe if she was related to the photographer O. Winston Link. Whatta dork I was, eh?

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