Progressive Americana master John Courage, 26, is kind of like Bob Dylan meets Tom Petty with the low and soulful timbre of Leonard Cohen. In other words, Courage is fuckin’ awesome, and you’ll be sad to hear he’s leaving Santa Fe in May for greener pastures on the West Coast. I caught up with Courage to discuss his music and his future plans.
You moved from California to Santa Fe for a girl. Did this affect your music?
Overall, I think it helped. All tragic events help with music. At the end of the relationship, I was the one at fault, and it surely helped the writing process. I looked at it as a redemption period. I got to work out my feelings.
Shortly after you moved here, you fell in with the folks over at Frogville Records. How has that been?
Before I met John Treadwell and the Frogville artists, I wasn’t playing a lot of shows. Knowing them has been great because they have a lot of resources as far as Americana is concerned. The cool thing is how small the operation is. You can count Frogville musicians on two hands, and becoming a part of that has been amazing. I’ve played with so many great musicians. This has really helped me sharpen my guitar playing. I could play with anyone anywhere.
A lot of the same local bands play all the time. Do you feel like Santa Fe is getting oversaturated?
I think it creates a real challenge for local musicians. If bands are willing to open up their sound a little bit, bring a new song or some new covers to the table each time they play…that would be good. I mean, who wants to see the exact same three hours of music several times a week? However, if you think of your favorite album and how many times you’ve listened to that, it makes me wonder why live shows should be much different than that. If you’re a brand-new band building your fan base from scratch, then by all means, you should play as often as possible. But if you’re an established band that wants to progress, getting out of town and playing different places is a wise plan.
What are your feelings on the Santa Fe music scene? Don’t be shy.
I played 10 times more in Santa Fe than I ever did when I was living on the West Coast. Four-hour gigs don’t exist out there. Santa Fe has taught me how to connect with an audience and get people to pay attention. People here don’t really pay attention unless you engage them and personalize your performance. Santa Fe crowds will tell you if your music is danceable, but not much more.
How has your experience of venues here been?
If it’s a weekend, people go to shows for two reasons: to get drunk and to rock out. This is fine, but I feel like a lot of venues in town book music as an incidental occurrence and not a drawing attraction. I mean, this is the only town I’ve lived where every band has its own PA because most clubs just aren’t equipped. Ultimately, though, we have so many talented players around here and, if everybody contributed and believed in the scene, it could be awesome.
Why the hell are you leaving us?
I want to be in the middle of a swirling vortex, be in the thick of things, and Santa Fe is off the beaten path. There’s a slim chance you can be sucked up from here, but I really want to make it. Just because I’m good enough in Santa Fe doesn’t mean I’m good enough in Austin or New York or San Francisco. I want to get my ass kicked and find out if I make the grade. The only way to find out is to get out there and play it.
Song swap with John Courage, Bill Palmer and Stephanie Hatfield
9 pm, Wednesday, March 10
319 S. Guadalupe St.
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