Posted By McClain Johnson ~ 30th June 2016
Coral Creek is a Colorado-based band. Vocalist Chris Thompson recently discussed how he became interested in bluegrass, the beginnings of Coral Creek and advice to musicians just starting out.
What first got you interested in bluegrass?
Like many Deadheads, I found bluegrass music through Jerry Garcia and Old & In the Way during high school (this was in the late 80’s, I should add). My interest in bluegrass first peaked in college. I bought a banjo, got some lessons and starting copying every Flatt & Scruggs album I could find at my local library. I mostly just liked the fast banjo tunes. I wasn’t really into the county singing and all that when I was young. I just wanted to hear that banjo played real fast! So, I guess you could say “the banjo” got me interested in bluegrass. These days I’m more of a dobro junkie though and the pickin’ parties at the festivals keep me coming back.
How did Coral Creek get started?
The current configuration of Coral Creek got started at the end of 2014 as a collaboration between Bill McKay and me. We were both playing a lot around Colorado and we crossed paths a few times, so after my wife Susannah (who’s a terrific singer/songwriter and co-founder of the band) decided to step down, I was looking for a new collaborator. We gathered up Rob Garland and Jack Watson and launched Coral Creek 2.0 at the UllrGrass Music Festival in Golden in January of 2015, where we were joined by Luke Bulla as a guest on the fiddle. Luke was a great fit, so we’ve been touring and recording with Luke as much as possible ever since.
How does your creative approach work when songwriting?
For our first album, we did not do a lot of collaborative songwriting as a band. Bill and I are the primary contributing songwriters and for the most part we bring completed works to the band. The song arrangements may get tweaked a bit, but not a lot.
For myself, I tend to draw inspiration and content from people, places and life experiences. My life is hectic and I’m a bit ADD, so my approach is to grab good ideas, musical or lyrical, when the pop into my head and try to keep track them in notebooks and voice memos until I can find some time to sit down and complete a song. It’s a bit haphazard, but time can be a pretty good filter. When I listen back, there is plenty of garbage that seemed clever in the moment, but doesn’t hold up to sober scrutiny. But then there are the little nuggets that make for great lyrical content, musical motifs or even concepts for an entire song. Every so often I’ll steal a few days of isolation and complete the songs working from my notes.
What inspires you lyrically?
I draw inspiration from people, places, current events and random life experiences.
Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?
Not really, but I am a fan of the Golden Rule. That one serves us all well.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?
We’re making music here, so life is good. The challenge for all aspiring musicians is figuring out how to get the music out to where people can hear and appreciate it. There is so much great music in the world, that’s always going to be a challenge, but how you measure success is relative, so I’m not sure if we’ve overcome that one or not. The new album’s getting pretty good radio play, but I don’t think we’re there yet.
What advice would you give to musicians just starting out?
My advice would be to concentrate on the music/product and the promotion/business in equal parts. In rare cases, an artist can be successful with one and not the other. But most will need to build both to have success.