Erik Koskinen: Playing music for a living is a highlight, so nothing gets taken for granted
Photo By Nate Ryan/The Current
Erik Koskinen | Turf Club | Thursday, August 28
On any given day of the week, Erik Koskinen is either leading his own top-notch band through a set in town, or lending his skills to a friend's performance or recording session. The talented singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/engineer makes everything he touches better in his own distinctive way.
Earlier this year, Koskinen released his newest solo album, America Theatre, a record that was three years in the making and was entirely worth the wait. Give it a good listen and you will agree that it is one of the best Minnesota releases in a year chock-full of local gems.
Koskinen is set to play the Turf Club's grand reopening tonight, along with Frankie Lee and Dead Man Winter. Ahead of the big show, Gimme Noise asked Erik a few questions about his plans for the rest of his year, and the projects he's been working on.
Gimme Noise: So, you've had a pretty active summer, performance wise. What are some of the highlights for you?
Erik Koskinen: A barn show at Guy Waymore's Boat Storage and Music Emporium. I think the highlights are coming up in September, with Boats and Bluegrass, the Rock Bend Festival, and Festival Palomino. Playing music for a living is a highlight, so nothing gets taken for granted.
Have the America Theatre songs taken on a new life now that you've been playing them live for a while?
For sure, especially the songs that I played all the instruments. The band plays them smarter than I did on the record. Those versions were probably just demos and two of them ("Six Pack," "Blood and Money") have changed numerous times. I wrote them nine years ago.
How have the wide array of talented musicians you regularly perform with inspired and influenced your own songwriting?
Listening and watching are the most important things to do when you're trying to learn both what to do and what not to do.
You've also been quite busy behind the boards as an engineer on some truly wonderful records, including Haley Bonar's Last War and Dave Simonett's Razor Pony. What were those experiences like for you, and how does your engineering work satisfy you creatively that differs from recording your own material?
Each record I do is individualistic in many ways. The people, the songs, the approach, the timing, the method and so on ... so I get to see a lot of creative people work at it their own way. Like I said before, watching and listening is learning. I never signed up to be an engineer unless I was going to have some creative input into what I was working on, so I get to learn sound, arrangement and production from different people and direction.
How has having so many great rooms to play in -- each and every night, if you wanted to -- helped you hone your own talents and artistic vision?
Well, we had a great seven and a half year run of a weekly gig that made us good live. Those shows were in a small venue with basically just a microphone for sound reinforcement, so we learned how to mix ourselves and be dynamic with our instruments, and that will translate on any stage.
You're playing the grand re-opening of the Turf Club on Thursday with your friends in Dead Man Winter and Frankie Lee -- that must be an honor to reopen such a legendary club?
Yes, it is. I'm speechless and humbled.
What memories of the Turf have you acquired over the years?
Too many to count. Playing at the Turf before I moved here from Michigan -- with Molly Maher backed by some of the Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls -- pushed me to get here sooner.
Have you seen the Turf at all while it's been under construction? I saw they discovered this old '40s mural behind the stage, and that is now going to be the backdrop, which is really cool.
I saw a distant photo on someone's phone. I can't wait to get there and view it in person.
What does the rest of the year have in store for you? I see that have been working with the 4ontheFloor, Barbara Jean, and Ray Barnard -- how are all of those projects going?
They are all just about done. Some mix fixes is about it. Otherwise, I'm working on a Randy Weeks project, and an Ashleigh Still project. Both I am really excited for. Hopefully by Christmas I'll have all the broken parts of my truck fixed. Oh, and I'll be recording a new record, but I have no idea how long that will be. Last time it took three years.
With everything else you're involved in, how do you find the time to write your own songs? Or does sitting in on other recording sessions immediately inspire you to begin your own songwriting?
I write a lot in the fall and winter when the gigs slow down, and people start saving their money for Christmas and taxes, not making records. Inspiration shows up whenever it wants. You have to be ready for it at all times.
Erik Koskinen. With Dead Man Winter and Frankie Lee. Sold Out. 8 p.m., Thursday, August 28 at Turf Club.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.