Thomas Kivi talks Wisconsin protests, songwriting, and future plans

A few days ago Thomas Kivi arrived at my door with a guitar in hand ready to chat. The songwriter had been making frequent treks to Madison, Wisconsin after the release show for his debut LP  Crying Child  to attend the union protests, and is now gearing up to do some regional touring.

We talked for a healthy chunk of time on the latest Radio Noir podcast, and the topics ranged from protesting and politics to songwriting and the internet. Here are few choice excerpts from the conversation.

I haven't seen you since the big release show, how have you been?

Good! Just been playing shows here and there and writing. Working on the next thing and I'm really excited about moving forward. There's also some touring things that are getting into place.

Have you been recognized on the street yet?

There was an interesting scenario... It was a friend of a friend who I was with climbing around Dinkytown, like going on the roofs at night. There was this apartment -- it was a second level apartment -- and we were trying to climb up on the roof. This person came out and said, "What are you guys doing?!' The girl that was with him said, "What are your names!" We were kind of caught red handed, and my friend made up a name, and I said, "No let's just tell 'em, it's Thomas Kivi," and she said, "I just listened to you!"

You grew up in Wisconsin; are you pretty sensitive to what's currently going on?

Yeah, It was easier to be sensitive before. Now it's in the courts which is a private place, but before that, the protests just grew and grew and I was there for three separate days.

I went down on a union bus on the second day with my mom. She started a teacher's union for support staff. She works with emotionally and behaviorally disturbed kids at this elementary school in Hudson, so we went on a teacher's bus that was going down to protest.

I went a second and third time, but February 19 -- that was the second day I was down there -- that was the day that changed my life.

What were the protests like?

It was very different from what I understood happened at the RNC. In so far as down in Madison you have the police who are unionized and the fire department who are unionized, but the police were at the Capital mostly to ensure the safety of the people, and even though they were exempt from the cuts Governor Walker was going to make, they still backed the unions so they were on the side of the protesters...

It was so peaceful down there. It was amazing! Going into the Capital building and having the place full of people and chants. People were singing and playing songs outside, inside, and in the corners of the Capital.

I slept overnight once there with my brother. There were hundreds of people sleeping overnight in the Capital. I think people saw how easy it is to voice any sort of protest. It's easy and it's fun and there was a sense of community and a sense pride that you're standing up for something in world where it feels like voting is the only thing you can do.

I'm glad I was able to be down there and a part of it and to see it myself, and to see how -- not just Fox News -- but in general (pause) I think I saw CBS News running "State in Chaos," but down there it was not chaos. It was peaceful. There were no arrests.

Do current events affect your writing? How do you write?

That's a good question. I feel like my style of writing is a lot like writing a convincing paper. I'm used to doing that from college, writing a lot of history and philosophy papers. I love writing and journalism has appeared increasingly interesting to me.

Songwriting is much like -- it depends what kind of songs you're making -- but for a folk artist I think you are very much trying to present something and communicate something, and the more seriously you take that subject the more thoughtfully you're going to try to explain or express an image, or problem, or suggest an answer which is very much what you do in a paper.

The full conversation, including more protest stories, can be heard beginning at the 4:15 mark. Thomas Kivi will be performing with John Hooks and the Later Day Crooks and Dreamcrusher @ Nomad World Pub on April 21.  21+. No Cover.  9pm.

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