When Ashley Raines sits down to play and lays his guitar flat on his lap, you might not take notice. His mild personality and slight presence on stage could be overlooked—but then he starts playing. His robust rhythm and vivacious voice will vibrate the rocks in your whisky glass and spin your barstool around in attention. Ashley, like his music, has been on the move playing his brand of slide guitar across the far corners of the U.S. Gigbot caught up with Ashley as he prepares for a new Album release at The Meadowlark, in Denver Colorado, Saturday, March 14.
C=T - Life hasn't been easy on you, with running away from home at such an early age. When boxcar jumping, did you ever get a nickname, like "Boxcar Willie" and what was the scariest memory you experienced jumping on trains and hitchhiking?
AR - I never had a "nickname" but there is a song that is on my first album from 1999 called "Boxcar Willie Jones". Maybe it was in my sub-conscience, but years later I found out there's a singer named Boxcar Willie. I can't say I've ever had a scary experience, but I had tons of strange experiences. Everything from meth-driven truck drivers to homosexual fifty-something year old men looking for a little play, and even Christian soldiers looking for a soul to save.
Live at The Pikes Peak Center, June 2008
C=T - Describe your musical tastes as a teenager growing up and did they tend to veer towards the singer-songwriter.
AR - My pops did some concert photography when I was a child but no one in my family is musical. I didn't know much about music till I left home. I had always written poetry when I was young, but I never took a music lesson.
I landed in San Fran and was living in my tent in golden gate park. I saw a guy with a guitar and his case was full of money. I figured, "I can do that", and a couple days later I had scraped together a hundred bucks and bought a guitar and a Bob Dylan song book. the next day I was on the corner with it.
C=T - One of your songs on the "Dirty Little Soul" album, "Dirty Little Soul" uses samples from a President George W. Bush speech. Was this used because of your love for W.? and what was the creative process on deciding to go in that direction?
AR - I don't have love for any politicians. You can't legislate the human condition. and I prefer to put my faith and hope in the intangible. As for the song itself, the idea was to sort of bite from David Baerwald's "triage" album, which is like the music of Zappa with the politically biting lyrics of Leonard Cohen's "The Future".
I wanted to do it in my way, with a more an Americana approach. The lyrics are social commentary, the frame if you will for Bush's words. and I thought the words Bush used in the speech I took from were creepy and stark. He let us know in no uncertain terms that people will die and we will rejoice. The funny thing is, after that album was released, I was banned from a couple NPR stations. The result was that other stations would not touch it. The war hadn't started yet and it was just a real strange thing because I thought that the track was rather benign. The banning set me back a while though. I had no support and didn't tour for the next couple years as a result. I haven't really messed with politically charged songs since.
"You can't legislate the human condition. and I prefer to put my faith and hope in the intangible."
C=T - James Taylor or Cat Stevens and why?
AR - James Taylor, because my mom put head phones on her belly and played James while I was in the womb.
C=T - How old were you when you played your first gig and was it at a coffee house? Describe how excited/anxious you were when you saw your name on the show flyer for the first time.
AR - I think I was 20 or 21. It was at a place in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This would have been late 1995 or early 1996. We played for dinner and booze and sold our tapes. I don't remember my feelings that night but I'm sure I was nothing if not discomforted. I have always had a hard time in public. I'm a stick at home and play in the garden kind of person when I'm not touring.
C=T - Can we expect to hear you on an electric on any of your future releases any time soon?
AR - I dont know. I have done a couple electric albums in the past, "Murder Words" and "Machine Kills". The albums came out in 2004 and 2005 respectively. But I don't approach my albums with hard lines. I sort of let them unfold as I go. Some songs are written during the process and I just try to serve what the song needs. So if it needs electric then it will be there.
C=T - Where is home and why did you choose said place? If you don't have one, at the end of the day, where would you like to hang your hat?
AR - Christ, I dont know if I could ever feel at home in skin. I would love to experience a culture where art is still embraced. Not to say I'm an artist but i think i could learn from that. If such a place still exists.
C=T - Can fans expect to see you at any of the Bluegrass festivals around the state this year?
AR - I dont have any bluegrass fest lined up but we're doing the "Blues Under the Bridge Fest" in Colorado Springs this July. 24th and 25th I believe.
C=T - Thanks Ashley! Godspeed on all of your future endeavors.
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