Saskia Marie Thomson

Here is my conversation with Béla Balogh and Courtney Von Drehle, the co-founders of 3 Leg Torso.

3 Leg Torso formed in 1996 as a violin, cello and accordion trio with the mission of creating original modern chamber music for their unique instrumentation. The ensemble is now a quartet that performs original compositions based on an eclectic synthesis of chamber music, tango, klezmer, Latin, and Roma music. As principal composers, Béla (violin, trumpet, octave mandolin) and Courtney (accordion, saxophone) provide the core of 3 Leg Torso's sound. They are joined by the mallets and percussion of T.J. Arko and the acoustic bass of Milo Fultz.

Béla, what was your first experience performing?

Béla Balogh: I don’t really remember it, it was so long ago.

How old were you?

BB: Oh, probably four, or something like that, maybe five, I don’t know. It was a really long time ago. It was probably with a bunch of other little kids who were part of my violin class, and we would perform at what was then Marylhurst College, which is now Marylhurst University, and they had a little theater, and like I say, it’s such a long time ago I hardly remember. But I do remember performing in concerts like that.

Did you enjoy it?

BB: You know, I didn’t think of it as being enjoyable or not enjoyable, it was just something that I did. It was kind of like eating or doing things that you would normally do around the house.

Courtney Von Drehle: Your house had a lot of music going on in it – my house was different – it was more regular, it was more common, because your dad [violinist and conductor Lajos Balogh] did it all the time.

BB: Yeah, definitely.

Do you remember as a young child watching your father performing?

BB: Oh, yeah.

Was that something that you looked at and said, “That’s something I want to do”, or was it just kind of expected?

BB: Once again, I don’t remember that, but I’ve seen pictures, or my dad has said, “You would want to take the violin out of my hand or your granddad’s hands.” So like I say, I don’t remember that, but I hear that’s kind of what I wanted to do.

What’s your first memory of being aware that you were performing?

BB: One of the first things I remember, it wasn’t on violin, it was in church. It was around Christmas time, and I remember we were singing “We Three Kings”, and I was one of the kings. I remember I was very nervous and I was up on the altar, and we had a full congregation, and I remember repeating exactly what the king before me had been singing. I wasn’t supposed to obviously do that, I was supposed to sing my own line, and I didn’t. And I remember about three-quarters of the way through that it was like, hey wait a sec, I’m singing the other guy’s line, I should be singing mine. And, you know, nobody said anything, nobody did anything, but I do remember that, that’s one thing I remember. It was like, oh, there was some stage fright involved there.

Did that come back to haunt you?

BB: Oh, absolutely, yeah. It still does, sometimes.

I want to come back to that.

BB: I’m sure you will!

What about you, Courtney? What’s your first memory of performing?

CVD: Well, I have a couple early musical memories which aren’t legit performance, but they kind of are indicative. And actually, I think there’s a different thing when we’re talking about performance versus playing. When we do 3 Leg, we perform in this certain way which is different than just going and playing music. So I think these early memories are about, really, performing music, but not being a performer, perhaps. But I remember I went to an English all boys’ school, and the whole school would have a music lesson together, as a choir. And the teacher was teaching something and we’d all sing. And then she told everyone that they shouldn’t sing what I’m singing. They were all following me, and I was singing the wrong thing! But they were all following me. And that’s kind of interesting. So I recall that, and I was pretty young. 

And then the next memory I have in this indicative way of some sort of commitment to this was, maybe I was 15, and we were on a ski vacation at Christmas in Switzerland, and we went to a church for the service. And we were singing a hymn, and then the priest or whatever said, “Ok, this verse, just the kids sing.” And none of the kids sang. But I sang, and I sang really loud and clear, and I thought I was doing a great job. I have no idea whether I was, but I was like, I’m stepping on this opportunity! Those are two early recalls of some sort of predilection towards this.

How did you begin to form the idea that that’s what you wanted to do for a living?

CVD: Well, I always kind of thought music was magic. And it was around 12 that I started listening to music and enjoying it a lot, and I started playing guitar around then, too. And in my last year of high school, the jazz band leader came up to me in the lunch room and said, “Hey, I hear you’re a good guitarist. You should come and join the band.” So I went and joined the band. He was a really good saxophonist and a composer, and a really nice guy, and very inspirational. And so, I think playing guitar, and being a young man, before that I was committed to being a rock star. That was just natural. I don’t know, I feel that’s probably natural for a lot of young men who play the guitar. But that fellow was a good role model for someone that had really good command of music, and had a good way of communicating to us as students. And then, I remember in his report card to me he said I’d be a good asset to any band. And I was like, oh, cool!

So do you remember enjoying being up on the stage at that point and getting the audience’s response?

CVD: No. I mean, I remember we put on a few shows in high school, and I do remember enjoying them, but I don’t remember the experience of performing. I remember there was a lot of fun in playing music and working out music with your friends. The performing part, back then, I don’t remember it being frightening, but neither do I remember it as, like, oh, cool, look at me, or whatever.

Did that ever happen to you – the moment where you said, wow, I really dig this audience experience?

CVD: Hmmm…

Has it happened yet?

CVD: I like it, but I like improvising in front of and with an audience. I like the interplay that goes on with the audience and with the fellow musicians. And when things are being invented, I think that’s really exciting. That’s the high that I like. I’m not, like, oh, cool, look at me. But if I’m inventing something, or if we’re inventing something together, that’s a pretty satisfying experience.

The way you do things with 3 Leg Torso, you’ve got really tight arrangements, yet there’s also the room for improvising in there – the classical fused with jazz construct of having everything worked out but then you have your cadenzas that you can do your thing in. And in your shows, it seems like there’s a lot of room for the spontaneous to happen anyway, not just in your musical improvisation – the interplay between you and the audience or between you on the stage. Was that a conscious choice that you made when you set out to do what you do, that there was going to be room for that?

CVD: We do have crafted stories that, depending on the evening, follow strictly along the lines or expand beyond. I’m happiest when they expand beyond. Then it’s like, oh, cool, we’re surfing now.

Another form of riffing.

CVD: Yeah, absolutely.

And have you gotten to the point where you feel that can read the audience or the venue and understand what’s going to work and what isn’t going to work?

BB: Courtney sometimes has problems…

CVD: …Béla sometimes makes assumptions that I’m going to make a wrong call, and then we do a song and everyone likes it, and then he goes, “Oh, I’m sorry!”

But when you originally set out to do 3 Leg, was this what you wanted your shows to be about, or did it evolve?

BB: No, it did totally evolve. I recall one of our early shows, where we played at Umbra Penumbra, which was over in Southeast Portland. It was just the three of us, and the place was packed, there was hardly any room for people. And I think we just kind of started being funny. And for me, it was the stage fright. That’s how I dealt with stage fright, by being funny. Not trying to be, but just doing something that would make people laugh. So that would loosen me up. And I remember we were kicking our shoes off. While we were playing, to the rhythm I kicked off both my shoes, and I think they went out into the audience. Just things like that.

CVD: I kind of recall that…

BB: And it was all very spontaneous. Some things, like Courtney says, are scripted – loosely scripted – but a lot of things that we do are just off the cuff.

And you guys are the front men…

BB: Yeah.

So your side men have to be ready to adapt to whatever.

BB: Uh huh.

Have you had any train wrecks around that?

BB: No, I don’t think so.

CVD: I think that, as time went by, when we started, I was committed to this direction we were taking in music and thought that was pretty exciting. And then, somehow, we started adding stories to it. And when we did that, there was a commitment, too, that this should be entertaining as well as a musical experience. Sometimes we’ve had issues where we have to talk to people in the band. Because when a guy’s telling a story, that’s the focus, and sometimes band members don’t always remember that. And, you know, they might want to make a phone call, or something like that…

BB: No, no phone calls. But they’ll tune, which obviously you have to tune, but it’s very distracting.

CVD: Or they’ll have a discussion.

BB: Yeah, there have been discussions, like guys will be talking to each other. But we nip that in the bud pretty quickly.

Do you ever have turf wars on front man stuff, between the two of you? Because one of the things that I talk to people about is that the audience needs to be fairly clear about where the attention is being directed.

BB and CVD: Uh huh.

Do you find that that’s difficult to manage?

BB: I don’t think we have a problem with that. The audience will know where the attention should be. We’re very clear with, “Hey, man, I’m talking right now, everybody listen up.” There have been times where, we did some kind of a gig and you got upset because I butted in on your joke – it was about bunnies or something…rabbits…

CVD: Yeah, it was during “Giant Stomp”.

BB: Yeah, right.

CVD: I did get upset that time! I’m glad you brought it up, because I really want to talk about that! But I think it’s interesting because I don’t think we have turf wars, but there are stories that we each tell, and on some nights, one of us might not feel like telling it, and sometimes Béla will turn to me and he’ll say, “Hey, I’m not telling that story tonight, you gotta tell it.” Or sometimes I won’t feel inclined to say something. And so we adapt as we need to in those situations. And that’s maybe something that the audience doesn’t have any sort of insight on. But for us, there may be some gig where one of us is more the front man than the other because that’s just the way we’re feeling.

When you play around here, and probably in other places where people know you, they have an expectation of what your show is going to be about. And then you end up in places where people don’t know you. Talk about the difference between those kinds of shows, when you’re in the friendly, knowing crowd and then in the all-strangers crowd.

BB: Well, a lot of times, people that don’t know us that are seeing us for the first time don’t quite know our humor yet. I mean, a lot of times we don’t tell the truth, you know, we make up stories. And people might not get that. People might think that we’re being totally serious. Courtney tells a story about, oh, when we met, and it was on an airplane, and this guy sitting between us ends up being a real nice guy, but we hit some turbulence, and the window blew out…and you can see people go, “[gasp] Oh my!” “…and Bill [Béla] flew out the window, but I happened to grab him by his feet…” And then people start to come around and realize that we’re just telling a story. So, sometimes it takes a little while for people to figure us out.

Have you ever had an experience where they just didn’t get it, where everything you did was a clam?

BB: There have been times throughout a show where we were catching clams, but I wouldn’t say an entire show has been like that.

CVD: I don’t remember an entire show like that, but the whole thing’s subject to the vibrancy of band dynamics, and so when it’s all grooving well, it all goes good. Bands are sensitive beasts, and sometimes it’s more mechanical. The way that we can create what is a moment that people are going to remember, we can’t really do that as well. We can put on a good concert, but we can’t touch the spontaneous moment as well in those situations.

At your shows, I notice that there’s some eye contact going on between you and the audience in the smaller venues – you’re maybe playing to certain people in the audience, or they’re reacting on a very specific individual level to you. And then you play large venues, you play symphony halls, which of course is a different beast, you’re doing different things. All things being equal – pay, prestige, all those things – which do you prefer as performers?

BB: I think that whole arrangement, where we’re playing small and large. I love playing the large venues, with the symphonies – they’re just so different. And that’s what makes our job so cool, that we don’t play the clubs every night, and just the clubs. Or we don’t just play to large audiences where you don’t see half of the people because the lights are down and they’re far away. But we do like that arrangement where we can not see the people sometimes. So that’s what I like. I wouldn’t say I like one over the other.

CVD: I think they’re all fun. If we’re having a good gig, it sort of doesn’t matter where it is, but that it’s enjoyable is the main thing. Having said that, I’m happy with playing plenty of larger halls! That would be cool. I’d like more of that as a career experience!

One of the things I find really interesting about performance is the phenomenon of getting into “the zone”, where you lose all sense of time and space and worry and constraint, and it all just comes flowing out of you. And we all wish we could live there all the time, but that’s not always possible. But I imagine that you guys are so road-tested, and you’re so experienced, and you’ve been playing for a million years, that you have access to the zone probably more than a lot of people do. Does it feel that way to you, that you can access it or turn it on and off when you need to, or is it sort of elusive?

CVD: I heard once, as a musician you want your worst day to be so that people think you’re playing fine. And I think that as an ensemble, we accomplish that pretty well. And when we have a great day, it’s really good. It’s not that we don’t get in the zone, but I don’t know that I think of getting in the zone.

BB: I think I just only realize it when I’m in it.

So what does it feel like when it happens?

BB: Well, the zone is a few different things for me. Being in the zone is my connection with the audience and how they’re reacting to what I’m doing. And not just musically, but also the communication that we have. I’d say we were in the zone at a gig we did at The Woods, a converted funeral parlor. And I told Courtney to mention something that he had mentioned before about playing there, that he was “dying to play there”. So Courtney says, “I’ve been dying to play here.” And this really sharp guy in the audience said, “You’re not out of The Woods yet!” So that’s where I feel like, if they’re in the zone, we’re in the zone, everybody’s in the zone.

CVD: It’s a collective thing.

BB: Yeah. And I felt like I was in the zone because I made up some stories about songs that we were about to play, and I caught the band off guard, where they were expecting something that I usually would be saying, and when I just made this thing up quickly, Courtney couldn’t stop laughing.

CVD: You had some funny ones!

BB: So that’s me in the zone. And then also when I’m playing. I mean, I feel like I’m one of those players that just kind of plays steady, and I don’t play super-duper things that, like, ooh, wow, jeez, that was something.

I beg to differ…

BB: Well, I mean, for me it is that way. And so then I’m definitely in the zone if I feel like, ooh, I just played something really cool.

Something that surprises you?

BB: Yeah, it’s like, oh, man, that sounded good! But like I say, I’m more from the classical background, that’s like, ok, I’m steady, I can play the same thing, and not wander off and be too explorative.

What about you, Courtney? What’s the zone like for you?

CVD: Well, it involves taking chances, and it’s best when it’s a zone together. Like you take a chance, but a good night it’s a zone for the whole band, where everyone plays something a little bit different, but they all play together, no one overdoes it, and so the music’s a little bit different and a little bit fresher, and there’s a little bit of discovery, and it’s collective. And I think what Béla’s saying about stories – I feel extra good making up new stories or bringing new details – those are exciting things. I feel like telling a story is like taking a solo. And so when you invent new stuff, it’s like you’re coming up with new musical information, too – it’s the same type of feeling. So that’s very exciting.

How do you experience it physically?

CVD: I’m just happy. Just having a good time.

Are you aware of it while it’s happening? Are you able to enjoy it while it’s happening?

CVD: I enjoy performing, I enjoy playing, as long as things are going good. And I don’t suffer a whole lot from stage fright, but occasionally I do. So if none of that’s going on, I’m just up for the experience of playing music, generally. So I don’t feel any physical difference, but I’m more fluid with the act of just enjoying myself.

Do you have a sense of yourself up on the stage? Do you have a sense of what you look like, how you present yourself?

CVD: I look a lot like Brad Pitt.

BB: Yeah, after he got beat up in Fight Club.

Do you ever see video of yourself and just go, whoa, I didn’t know I did that, or is it pretty much in line with what you’re thinking is going on?

CVD: Well, occasionally, but I don’t have a whole sense of that. And occasionally I see video, and mostly I’m not so interested to see video. I’m more interested in the doing than the reviewing.

What about you, Béla?

BB: I think I’m pretty much on the same level as Courtney, yeah.

CVD: You look like Brad Pitt, too?

BB: Well, maybe.

How do you make musical decisions as a band? Is it the two of you that’s pretty much laying down the law? Or is it a collaborative thing where you’re working on new material, or are you presenting the material to your guys…

BB: I think it’s all of the above.

CVD: Yeah, definitely, all of those things.

And does one structure of that work better than others? Or does it depend?

CVD: I think it depends on what we’re working on, and how much we know what we want when we come into it, and how much we’re trying to explore it with everyone else.

Is everyone bringing material, or just the two of you?

CVD: Just the two of us bring material. But we like to get people’s input. But if we’re the composer, we also like to be able to accept or deny that, whether it’s going along the line of what we’re trying to do. There’s some sort of feeling of the identity of the piece. Even if we don’t totally know quite what the parts are, there’s a feeling of, ok, that’s a right idea, and that’s a wrong idea.

So you’re going to music direct your own material.

CVD: Yeah.

Have you ever had problems with that, where somebody else has a pretty strong feeling?

BB: Sure.

CVD: Yeah, I’ve had a problem where all the guys didn’t like a tune…

BB: Yeah, and Courtney was very stubborn, in a good way, about it, was just very firm with his belief that this was going to be a good tune. And everyone – including myself – we were all very much against this tune, and there was a lot of negativity that was floating around. But I came around. I realized when we were in the studio working on this tune, and actually even when we were rehearing it, I think I was the least vocal about it…

CVD: You were more willing to go along for the ride. You’ve had experience in going along for the ride. And as the dude bringing stuff in, too, you know the experience of having people leaning against you.

BB: Oh, yeah. And I’m actually definitely more sensitive than you are about that. If someone doesn’t like it, I think it really affects me, to where it’s like, oh these guys don’t like it, or this guy doesn’t like it. Yeah, I’m sensitive about that. But when Courtney brought this tune in, the reason why I wasn’t so vocally opposed to it was because I had experienced that once with one of his earlier tunes, where I thought, what the hell is this, this sucks, this isn’t any good – and it ended up being one of my favorite tunes. Because we had worked it, and I added some of my stuff to it!

CVD: It’s also going to be a great tune. I’m pretty excited about the tune, still – it’s going to be really cool!

BB: Yeah, I think it’s going to be a good tune!

What’s your pre-gig ritual? How do you get yourself ready? Do you have a specific thing? Are things timed out? Or does it just kind of happen?

BB: I don’t think we have a lot of time to do that.

CVD: No.

BB: You know, we set up…

CVD: We do sound check…

BB: As far as ritual, we kind of do that thing where we all put our hands on each other’s hands and go “woo!”. You know…

CVD: Sometimes we do that. We like to do that, but we don’t always do that.

BB: Yeah, we don’t have a lot of time.

CVD: And it’s different for different members of the band, too, because there’s different responsibilities. And as people involved in the leadership of the business thing, sometimes [the other] guys can go and riff out and do things, but we might not get that chance, because we’ve got other stuff we’ve got to do. So I wish we did have a ritual, that’d be cool. But it’s more like, the time pressure to get to the job, and there’s certain things you’ve got to get done, and that’s what we’re doing. And then we get performing, and once we start performing, it’s like, ok, now it’s pretty good.

How much do you practice a day? How much time to you spend practicing, writing, arranging?

CVD: I generally play most every day, but it’s not necessarily practicing. I play a lot of music every day, when I’m happy and when I have time. And some of that ends up being ideas, and some of it just ends up being the satisfaction of playing music. And if it ends up being an idea, then you kind of work on turning it into a tune. It sometimes helps to have deadlines and things that say, ok, something needs to be done. Then something that’s fooling around has more framework to become something.

You can definitely exercise different parts of your being and your brain and your psyche around writing versus performing. Do you find that when you’re writing you’re thinking about what it’s going to be like to perform it, or is it more the piece for the piece’s sake? Are you writing and thinking as a performer as you’re writing?

CVD: I don’t think I’m doing that. I’m thinking about the music and the function of the music, depending on what the flavor of the piece is, or if it’s for a specific application like a film or something, or if it’s, ok, we’re trying to write something high energy here, or whatever those pushes are – but trying to make the music as complete unto itself. And then sometimes, with Béla and I both, we’ve written things, and then we don’t actually know how to play our part yet, because we’ve just written it on the computer. Or sometimes, you don’t even have a part yet – you’ve got everyone else’s part, but not yours.

BB: Yes, right.

And then, of course, there’s a whole difference between performing for an audience and performing in the studio. What’s it like for you to get your musical message across in the studio as opposed to having the audience to buoy you?

BB: You know, actually, I do have an audience, and that’s the engineer and Courtney. And these guys really can inspire me to play cool things, and I think without them it just wouldn’t work so well. We go in there and we have fun. We not only have musical fun, but we also poke at each other and joke, and I think that inspires me to loosen up. I have a real hard time in front of a microphone in the studio. It’s such a thing that, you’d think, oh, this easy, you just do it until you get it right. But you keep doing it wrong and it’s going to affect you, and you’re going to say, this next time I’m going to mess it up, too, and that’s why now I’m stressed! So it prevents you from getting a good take. But when you see these guys get excited, or they say something like, “Yeah, that’s it, move along in those lines…” then it inspires me to do that.

Who are your favorite performers, and why? Who gets you on the edge of your chair when you see them live?

CVD: That’s a good question. I don’t quite have that assembled cast. I have enjoyed seeing Tim Ericksen a lot. I enjoyed his humble nature and authentic presence, and his music’s really good, too. It seems like he was there making an offering to us, and he was saying, “Hey, thanks for coming out for this, because I know it’s an effort to take time and give your attention to this stuff.” And I liked that. He was good in a lot of regards, and I’ve enjoyed that. He’s also a little bit funny, which I really appreciate a little bit of that, too. What about you, B?

BB: It’s hard to say, but the truth is that they’re all the superstars. Not all the superstars. But, for his energy, Mick Jagger. He’s just got super energy, he knows how to connect with the audience – I mean, there are thousands and thousands of people out there. Watching the Beatles – I’ve never seen them, I saw Mick Jagger, but I’ve never seen the Beatles (I’m too young for that, of course) – but their energy, and how happy they look when they’re performing. I mean, this is pre-’66, right? So they’re just a real friendly-looking group of guys making fun music and good music. [The late jazz trumpeter] Thara Memory is a performer that, I remember when I first saw him perform, I just thought, what a badass. That guy gets up there, looks confident, is cocky, and knew what he was doing. That grabbed me.

So the things that you find compelling as a performer watching other performers, it sounds like it’s some kind of a specific presentation style that hooks you in. And so when you think of yourselves as performers, are you conscious of that, trying to emulate not a particular star but a thing that they do, a way of being, something that you admire that you try to incorporate with yourself, or is it pretty much who you are and that’s what it is, or somewhere in between there?

BB: For me, I went wireless for a while, and I had just read a book about the Stones, and I was really into the Stones – I mean, throughout my life I had been into the Stones – but I had just read the book Sympathy for the Devil. And I kind of felt like, you know, I really like what he does, and he’s still doing it. So I started to feel like, hey, I’m going to be physical, I’m going to move around on stage and try to connect with the audience that way. And it felt good to me, and I could connect with my bandmates, I could look at them, I could see them, I could move right up to them. I was in this phase in my life, where I was like, hey, I’m like Mick Jagger on the violin! But you always get back to yourself at some point. You can’t be someone else and trying to emulate someone all the time. So I think that kind of got into me, and maybe some of it stayed in me, and then I move on and think of other people.

CVD: Actually, when you asked that question, I’m reminded our original inspiring figure was [accordionist] Russ Rossi…

BB: Yeah, right…

CVD: …and his outgoing nature and his making a performance of what he did is something that we decided, that’s a good thing. And so Russ was kind of a formative guy in that way.

BB: Oh yeah, very much so…

CVD: So it’s not so much emulating a specific person, but putting yourself out there and going for the entertainment and the fun, and creating that. And people who do that well, that’s exciting, and people who do that in a way that it seems that some of it is happening in the moment, that’s really exciting when that’s going on.

Is there anything that you want to improve in yourselves as performers? Béla, you mentioned that you struggle with stage fright – is that something that’s still going on?

BB: Stage fright hasn’t been an issue like it was in the past. I would pretty much get nervous before every gig in the past – this was years ago – and I was very fortunate to meet a doctor who had heard that I had stage fright, and she said, “I’m going to prescribe you something.” So I did beta blockers for about a year, and with all the good experiences, I just would remember those good experiences and say, I don’t need these anymore. And I didn’t need them anymore. There are still times when I get nervous for some weird reason, and it could be a big gig or a small gig, and it’s just a matter of dealing with it.

How do you deal with it?

BB: I throw up. Yeah, it’s true.

CVD: You get wiggy before the gig on those times, but then you say once you start playing, you feel like that goes away.

BB: Not even that. Once I step up on stage, then I’m ok. Yeah, there have been times where I would throw up mere seconds before I’d get up on stage, and I get up on stage and then say, “Hey everybody, how’s it going?”

Some people just can’t wait to get on stage, and some people, it’s torture.

BB: Well, I think that I can’t wait to get on stage because I want that to be over, I want that feeling to be over.

CVD: The torture feeling.

BB: Yeah, well, it’s just like, oh jeez, these nerves, you know?

Because you know what you’re doing…

BB: I totally know what I’m doing. I’ve done this stuff a million times. And the thing is that I don’t know why it is that I have this stage fright.

Well, I think that very early experience you talked about is really interesting…

BB: Yeah, it could very well be…

I mean, I’m not trying to sound like a psychoanalyst, but it’s very interesting to hear. Because you think you’re doing just fine, and all of a sudden you…[gasp]…it’s like every performer’s worst nightmare.

BB: And it’s so rare that I make any mistakes. I’m serious, I don’t make a lot of mistakes on stage, but that’s also because I stay pretty close to the line.

But you’re highly prepared as well.

BB: Well, prepared is, I mean, I’ve just done it so many times. When you asked us how much we practice – I don’t practice at all. The time that I play my instrument is when we’re going to rehearsal once a week, or when we’re playing gigs. And most recently, I’ve been playing other instruments just to come up with new ideas, but it’s rare that I play my violin. Sure, if I practiced I’d be probably a lot better.

You say you stay close to the line. Are you consciously feeling like, I’m not going to push it? Because that’s not the sense I get from watching you at all.

BB: I know, that’s what most people say. People also say, “You didn’t look nervous.” You know, it’s all inside me. I mean, I do go over the line, but I don’t get risky. There have been a few times when I got risky. But one of the members in the band might get real risky and make mistakes. And I don’t like making mistakes.

So, in my question of what would you like to improve as a performer, would it be the ability to take more risks? Or is it something else?

BB: Well, no, I think really to improve as a performer, and I think this is part of performing, is how to get people to buy your CD. And not just through the music, but by telling them, or asking them, to take your CD home. I think we’ve really got most of our job done by playing a great performance, but then also, you have to make a living at it. And sometimes guarantees – or the door – aren’t enough to help you pay the bills, so you also have to sell CDs. And I think that’s one of the things that, at this point in my life, I’d like to improve on, is how to sell more CDs.

What about you, Courtney?

CVD: I think it’s a mission – I don’t know about a mission, it’s kind of a bit of a mission statement – but just being who I am, and trying to be that at all times, as much as I can. And so that’s about performance – the more I am who I am as I perform, that’ll make me happy. But it also doesn’t isolate itself to performance, it’s for the whole thing. To discover that and do it better is the most interesting thing.


CVD: Mm hmm.

BB: Which is really hard for him to come by.

CVD: Well, that’s because of the people I hang out with!