YANP: So this will be the seventh year of music now, what are the biggest lessons that you’ve learned what do you wish you would have known?
B: When I started out I was over idealistic about it. I didn’t work through booking agents and managers you know? I went directly to artists and it turned out I could only really book friends, I guess. A lot of artist are willing to take that risk. And I was on to something with that on some level but as the festival grew I had to book artist I didn’t know and then I can have those relations ships. But the festival is this organic, home grown, intimate event and then the reputation is that a place where you come and take risk and hang out and feel the pressure. Big festivals can be a lot of pressure because you’re playing in front of a large crowd and the media is there. People always ask me if we will move it to a bigger city and I say no because it definitely wouldn’t function in the same way. And I’ve been burned by that, by occasionally having an artist who doesn’t get it. There on tour and their tired and that’s unfortuante/ But in seven years that’s happened to me once or maybe twice.
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YANP: Wednesday, you have James McVinnie. Who did you come to be aware of him and come to getting him for the festival?
Bryce Dessner: I was in London last December to play with the national and bunch friends were in town, both Sufjan Stephens and Nico Muhly were in town. Nico is actually very close friends with Jaime who is the organsist at the West Minster Abbey which is where, you know, Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Wedding happened and everyone from Chaucer to Hyden and you know, Darwin is buried in the church the organ is beautiful. We went to see a concert there and there was actually an advent concert that was really, really amazing. I thought it would be really cool to try something different this year and have Jaime come and actually play an organ concert this year as part of the festival and do a lot of- he’s into new compositions for organs. It’s an intrument that people don’t really get to hear a lot of outside of a kind of church setting so the idea of having concert music played on the organ- you know, doing, being outside of Memorial Hall and having some of the young composers write for him, which is really exciting. Jaime is well known in the organ world, but not, you know, in the normal our kind of MusicNOW fans. But I think it’s great for people to experience something really new.
YANP:I saw that at least one of the pieces he’ll be performing is by music now buddy, Richard Reed Perry. Is that one new?
B: Yeas he’s writing them for this.
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YANP: Also, this lineup especially but I’ve always been curious about this: how does that work whenever you’ve got him performing one by Richard and Phillip Glass- part of his is a piece by Nico Muhly. Do you guys put people in touch or suggest peices or do they come to you in the past?
B: As far as who writes?
YANP: Do they choose composers that they would be interested in performing or do you suggest, um…
B: I usually come up with the idea and I know enough about people that it would be something within their range that they would be excited to do. Yeah, I usually suggest it.
YANP: I know Nico has had a lot of success but Phillip Glass performing your work, that’s got to be a pretty big ego boost. Is he pretty excited?
B: Nico is actually writing a piece in honor of Phillip that’s being performed by Eighth Blackbird which is this new music group from Chicago. Phillip and Nico have worked together for many, many years. They know each other very well so it would be fun to have them both there but no Phillip is not actually playing.
YANP: Oh, my mistake. I know Phillip Glass is a pretty big get for any music festival but expecially one this size and apparently he’s worked with Nico. Is that how you came to book him? Had you been persuing him for a while?
B: You know, I’ve toured with him so I know him. He’s an important figure in New York, in this world I’m in. Actually him performing came about because this symphony is actually bringing him in as well. There’s a Friday and Saturday concert at the Cincinnati symphony and they approached me about partnering on it. So that was it. We don’t normally do that but he’s a composer that we share an interest in so that’s what happened with that.
YANP: Now as far as artist of his caliber, is there any band or performers that are like a white whale for you guys? Is there someone who you’ve been after for years?
B: I’ve tried to get Tom Waits to come. We’ve been in talks with him. Patti Smith is another person who’ve I’ve been speaking to. Steve Reich is another composer like Phillip Glass who I’m friends with who I think at some point we’ll probably bring. David Bryne is another one.
YANP: I have to admit that I’m really excited about Friday. I’ve read the press release a couple of times and I’m still not sure what to expect from you guys. I like all three of you guys seeratly but when you play the song cycle, what can we expect?
B: You know, it’s not just singing and writing the lyrics; it’s music that we composed together by sitting in a room. So it probably has elements of all of us. There will be drums, seven trombones and a string quartet. So it will be pretty arranged and pretty crazy sounding. In addition to each of us playing, I’ll be playing guitar, the two of them will probably be playing keyboards and Sufjan will probably be playing some guitar. But it’s songs, it’s a set of songs that are related to each other, some things are fast and intense others are pretty and spare it’s a pretty wide range and if you like any of our music you’ll probably be into it.
YANP: No I know all three of you are collaboration-heavy but have all of you performed together on stage?
B: We’ve all done things tohgether in the past yes. Not creating something together but I have done that with them separately.