Tim Easton ‚ÄĒ Exposition Sessions

Tim Easton: Exposition Interview & Gallery

The Interview

Keeping It Simple

I drove to Okemah in to see folk singer and song¬≠writer Tim Easton. Easton was on the first leg of a multi-city record¬≠ing tour for his new album Exposition. After we had lunch at the Hen House Caf√© I took some pic¬≠tures of him work¬≠ing in his makeshift stu¬≠dio at the Okfuskee County History Center, and then he very com¬≠pe¬≠tently art-directed an impromptu photo shoot that used the remain¬≠ing frames on my roll of Tri-X.

We then sat down for a short inter¬≠view, fol¬≠low¬≠ing which Easton sat for a for¬≠mal por¬≠trait in the style of my OKIE-X project. The weather was threat¬≠en¬≠ing to turn bad, so I dis¬≠man¬≠tled my photo stu¬≠dio while he con¬≠tin¬≠ued track¬≠ing songs. Easton helped me schlep the gear to the car and we said our good¬≠byes, each wish¬≠ing the other safe travels.

The fol¬≠low¬≠ing is the inter¬≠view transcript.

Mercury Photo BureauTim‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČthumb¬≠nail bio? How‚Äôd you get to be in this thank¬≠less, remu¬≠ner¬≠a¬≠tively skint vocation?

Tim EastonUm I don‚Äôt know what you‚Äôre talk¬≠ing about; it‚Äôs just a prize of wealth and riches, at least emo¬≠tion¬≠ally [‚Ķ]. Well, I was born in upstate New York, and my dad worked for Goodyear, which is why I kinda grew up in Akron, Ohio. And then my broth¬≠ers played gui¬≠tar‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČI‚Äôm the youngest of four broth¬≠ers and two sis¬≠ters, two very impor¬≠tant sis¬≠ters‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČand those broth¬≠ers taught me about Doc Watson and old blues music, and that kind of led me to Woody Guthrie [‚Ķ]. And then I ended up‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČbecause of Jimmy LaFave‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČ[‚Ķ] com¬≠ing to Woodyfest for the first time. [‚Ķ] I‚Äôd popped through Okemah before, of course, just to check it out, on my many cross-coun¬≠try trips. And then I got to play Woodyfest. And then I got wel¬≠comed into the fam¬≠ily, and I decided, in order to ensure myself per¬≠ma¬≠nent sta¬≠tus in this fam¬≠ily I would come here and make a record, right here in Okemah‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČright here in the Okfuskee [County History Center].

Trying Out a New Arrangement ‚ÄĒ Exposition Field Recording Session, Okemah, Oklahoma
Trying Out a New Arrangement‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČExposition Field Recording Session, Okemah, Oklahoma

MPBWhich brings me to my sec¬≠ond ques¬≠tion, why the heck are you record¬≠ing an album here? Although I think you‚Äôve already answered it.

Tim[Laughs] I did, I basi¬≠cally‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČum, it‚Äôs a prac¬≠ti¬≠cal rea¬≠son, right? I was like, I want to do another ‚Äėfield record¬≠ing‚Äô album!‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČmy last album was done direct-to-lac¬≠quer in Bristol, Virginia, and then I wanted to take to the road and record another album in his¬≠tor¬≠i¬≠cal loca¬≠tions. And I‚Äôm start¬≠ing in Okemah pri¬≠mar¬≠ily because Woody Guthrie is from here, but there‚Äôs obvi¬≠ously some¬≠thing else good in the water here, ‚Äôcause let‚Äôs not for¬≠get Mr. John Fullbright is from here, and a lot of great peo¬≠ple I‚Äôve met, over the years. So, I basi¬≠cally, I came here to record because I knew I‚Äôd be able to find a big space and just use the town vibes to record some of these orig¬≠i¬≠nal songs. And next I‚Äôm going to go down to San Antonio, Texas and record where Robert Johnson worked, at the Gunter [Hotel],ÔĽŅ [Sidenote: The edi¬≠fice was designed by St. Louis archi¬≠tect John Mauran. Robert Johnson recorded ver¬≠sions of twenty-two of his twenty-nine song cat¬≠a¬≠logue in Room 414 from to .] and then I‚Äôm gonna mosey over to Clarksdale, MississippiÔĽŅ [Sidenote: Legend has it that Robert Johnson met the Devil at the inter¬≠sec¬≠tion of Highway 61 and Highway 49‚ÄĮin Clarksdale. The Devil re-tuned Johnson‚Äôs gui¬≠tar in exchange for his soul. Other ver¬≠sions of the myth posit alter¬≠na¬≠tive loca¬≠tions for the leg¬≠endary meet¬≠ing place. Some blues fans inter¬≠pret the lyrics of ‚ÄúCross Road Blues‚ÄĚ to be an account of that meet¬≠ing. Additionally, Bessie Smith died almost in the nearby Riverside Hotel fol¬≠low¬≠ing an auto¬≠mo¬≠bile acci¬≠dent on Highway 61. The Mississippi Blues Trail has placed numer¬≠ous mark¬≠ers for his¬≠toric blues sites around the city. The Delta Blues Museum, the Sunflower River Blues Festival, and Juke Joint Festivals all call Clarksdale their home.] and work there a lit¬≠tle bit too. So this is a field record¬≠ing project.

MPBOkay, so do you have a name for the album yet?

TimI do; I‚Äôm call¬≠ing the album Exposition. It‚Äôs maybe not wise to name an album, and/‚Äčor do the pho¬≠to¬≠shoots before the album is done because it starts to take on a life of its own. But also, I also‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČI‚Äôve never done it like this before, where I started a [PledgeMusic] cam¬≠paign to help raise the money just to help pay for the trav¬≠el¬≠ing, and then for the even¬≠tual mix¬≠ing and man¬≠u¬≠fac¬≠tur¬≠ing of [the album] to vinyl. But I decided to to give it a name, and expo¬≠si¬≠tion is a word, you know you see it a lot in Europe [about] art exhibits, you know, an expo¬≠si¬≠tion of art. And I got it from a Walt Whitman poem,ÔĽŅ [Sidenote: Whitman, Walt, ‚ÄúSong of the Exposition‚ÄĚ in Leaves of Grass (The Deathbed Edition), (New York, Book of the Month Club by arrange¬≠ment with Simon and Schuster, ), 148 ‚Äď 155.] and I, um‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČjust the word itself jumped out, and I thought it‚Äôd be a good title for an album. And it means a lot of dif¬≠fer¬≠ent things, but right now it‚Äôs just about show¬≠ing what it‚Äôs like to be a trou¬≠ba¬≠dour record¬≠ing on the road.

Five Guitars, One Mandolin, and Tim ‚ÄĒ Exposition Field Recording Session, Okemah, Oklahoma
Five Guitars, One Mandolin, and Tim‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČExposition Field Recording Session, Okemah, Oklahoma

MPBYou keep antic¬≠i¬≠pat¬≠ing my ques¬≠tions. I was gonna ask about the cre¬≠ative fundrais¬≠ing you‚Äôve done for this; you showed me some [dis¬≠pos¬≠able] cam¬≠eras, ear¬≠lier?

TimYeah, part of the thing I do at Pledgemusic‚Äč.com is you give incen¬≠tives away to get peo¬≠ple to come with you on this jour¬≠ney [‚Ķ].ÔĽŅ [Sidenote: Since this arti¬≠cle orig¬≠i¬≠nally posted the crowd¬≠fund¬≠ing plat¬≠form PledgeMusic has under¬≠gone a very pub¬≠lic implo¬≠sion. Easton issued a state¬≠ment in ; in it he said If any¬≠body you know wants this album, all they have to do is go to TIMEASTON‚Äč.COM and write me on the CONTACT page and I can get them vinyl or CD. The dig¬≠i¬≠tal ver¬≠sion is avail¬≠able at my Bandcamp Page. You can lis¬≠ten, stream, or buy it here https://‚Äčtimeas‚Äčt‚Äčon1‚Äč.band‚Äčcamp‚Äč.com/‚Äča‚Äčl‚Äčb‚Äču‚Äčm‚Äč/‚Äče‚Äčx‚Äčp‚Äčo‚Äčs‚Äči‚Äčt‚Äčion. Thanks for spread¬≠ing the word.] This is the first time I‚Äôve invited peo¬≠ple to come along while I do it. The [dis¬≠pos¬≠able] cam¬≠eras are just a thing I offer, you know‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČyou donate a cer¬≠tain mon¬≠e¬≠tary thing, you know, and you get a cam¬≠era that I took pic¬≠tures on [‚Ķ]. So, who knows what you‚Äôre gonna get? I do know that they are ana¬≠logue, so you as a pho¬≠tog¬≠ra¬≠pher know that they‚Äôre the cheap¬≠est ver¬≠sion of that, but, in fact, if you get the right light, and you get the right thing‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČan image, a moment‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČit‚Äôs nice to know that there are sur¬≠prises, what¬≠ever they‚Äôre gonna be.

MPBLike open¬≠ing a present.

TimYeah, yeah, this room we‚Äôre sit¬≠tin‚Äô in right now has got a big reverb in it, right; maybe you can hear that on the tape? And‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČand that‚Äôs part of sound; now, light is a whole other gig there, and this room‚Äôs got some inter¬≠est¬≠ing light in it. I gotta say, it‚Äôs got one big win¬≠dow at the end; it‚Äôs fac¬≠ing a grand piano. And I‚Äôm kinda using the light and the sound of this room to make my record.

[Brief digres¬≠sion on Northern European painters‚Äô use of north-fac¬≠ing win¬≠dows and sky¬≠lights omitted]

MPBTell me a lit¬≠tle about that song you were just track¬≠ing and work¬≠ing on dif¬≠fer¬≠ent ver¬≠sions of.

TimOh, I got a song that‚Äôs called ‚ÄúBroken Brain,‚ÄĚ and it‚Äôs flat-out‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČyou know, Cory Branan, the great song¬≠writer from Memphis, Tennessee, he and I were on the road once, and he said that he hated when song¬≠writ¬≠ers rhyme the word brain, with any¬≠thing; any rhyme with brain was annoy¬≠ing to him. So I decided to write an entire song where the word brain was at the end of every cho¬≠rus, in a blues for¬≠ma¬≠tion. [‚Ķ] It‚Äôs easy to rhyme brain, you know, all the words are easy to find. And I wrote a tune; it starts off I mar¬≠ried a redhead/‚ÄčAnd she‚Äôs a fighter/‚ÄčSmokes more weed than you or Todd Snider. I wanted to have [‚Ķ] a com¬≠edy song on this record of some¬≠what seri¬≠ous tunes.

At the Piano with Hazel Jones ‚ÄĒ Exposition Field Recording Session, Okemah, Oklahoma
At the Piano with Hazel Jones‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČExposition Field Recording Session, Okemah, Oklahoma

MPBAny other songs you want to talk about?

TimWell, there‚Äôs one called ‚ÄúSaint Augustine‚ÄĚ that I started down in Florida, and I fin¬≠ished it in Spain a cou¬≠ple of weeks ago. There‚Äôs one called ‚ÄúNew Year‚Äôs Day‚ÄĚ that I wrote . There are a cou¬≠ple tunes that are a lit¬≠tle bit older [‚Ķ]. 

I can‚Äôt stop writ¬≠ing songs. I keep work¬≠ing on tunes, and I gath¬≠ered a bunch of songs that would work in a ‚Äúfolk‚ÄĚ set¬≠ting, a folk album stripped-down set¬≠ting, which is what this album is gonna be.

MPBSo, you‚Äôre record¬≠ing the entire album by your¬≠self. You‚Äôre over¬≠dub¬≠bing instru¬≠ments and vocals as needed?.

TimI‚Äôm keep¬≠ing it to a min¬≠i¬≠mum; it‚Äôs mostly me and the gui¬≠tar. But every once in a while I‚Äôll throw in a man¬≠dolin or another gui¬≠tar or another voice. But, very stripped down. There‚Äôs a rea¬≠son for that. I want to keep it sim¬≠ple when it comes to mix¬≠ing and man¬≠u¬≠fac¬≠tur¬≠ing this album; I‚Äôm not gonna go down the big pro¬≠duc¬≠tion hole that I‚Äôve gone before. That‚Äôs fine; that‚Äôll be for [a] future album, but for this one, we‚Äôre keepin‚Äô it simple.

So all those folks that are out there read¬≠ing that have gone to TimEaston‚Äč.com, or check out what I‚Äôm doin‚Äô, this one is gonna be another in a series of stripped-down folk albums.

MPBExcellent. Let‚Äôs redeem a song. Name a song that doesn‚Äôt get much respect, and con¬≠vince me that I should really love that song.

TimWell, you asked me this at lunch, and my mind imme¬≠di¬≠ately went to all these hits that are on the radio that peo¬≠ple kinda like to make fun of or what¬≠ever, but it turns out that they‚Äôre all great songs. So just now, it occurred to me that there‚Äôs a tune that Paul McCartney wrote that nobody really knows, and peo¬≠ple that do know it make fun of itÔĽŅ [Sidenote: McCartney is on record as being one of those peo¬≠ple.] because basi¬≠cally, it‚Äôs just this lit¬≠tle coun¬≠try-blues stoner thing that he prob¬≠a¬≠bly wrote while quite baked, walkin‚Äô around in Scotland. And it‚Äôs called ‚ÄúBip Bop,‚ÄĚ and it‚Äôs on his first album or some¬≠thing like that.ÔĽŅ [Sidenote: It‚Äôs actu¬≠ally on McCartney‚Äôs first album with Wings, Wild Life. In McCartney announced the album would be reis¬≠sued in a deluxe edi¬≠tion.] It‚Äôs just one of those songs you can tell McCartney wrote kinda walkin‚Äô around the house, and didn‚Äôt write to0 many lyrics to it and just kinda went with the vibe. It‚Äôs like:

Tim Easton Plays ‚ÄúBip Bop.‚ÄĚ Words and music by Paul McCartney, pub¬≠lished by MPL Communications.

And‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČI think it just‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČI love it because he wasn‚Äôt afraid to just record the crazy thoughts in his mind and wasn‚Äôt going to sit there and worry about peo¬≠ple jud¬≠gin‚Äô him for it. This guy had already [‚Ķ] writ¬≠ten some clas¬≠sics; you know, Paul is just one of those Beatles that gets poked fun at a lot by us Beatle-freaks and Rolling Stones-freaks, for good rea¬≠son; he‚Äôs kind of super self-conscious.

But he‚Äôs also not afraid to expose him¬≠self and let you see that he‚Äôs workin‚Äô on some¬≠thing. Or just let¬≠tin‚Äô a sound be a thing, you know. And Exposition is the name of this record, and I‚Äôm kinda just‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČkinda just look¬≠ing at things in a dif¬≠fer¬≠ent light of goin‚Äô with a vibe and goin‚Äô with a feel instead of wor¬≠ryin‚Äô about cre¬≠at¬≠ing this mas¬≠ter¬≠piece.

That‚Äôs just what holds peo¬≠ple back, you know, I‚Äôm wor¬≠ried about what the world [is] gonna think of me, you know, he was just tryin‚Äô to have fun. His band was bro¬≠ken up; his best friend was mad at him; he was just in a mess, and he had yet to come along. He was still gonna cre¬≠ate lots more great tunes [‚Ķ].

Tim Easton Exposition Film

MPBAnything else you wanna tell the folks out there?

TimI just want to thank all Oklahomans for wel¬≠com¬≠ing me into the state and kinda giv¬≠ing me some hon¬≠orary Okie sta¬≠tus. It‚Äôs just kinda good to be around [‚Ķ] peo¬≠ple who are doin‚Äô art for art‚Äôs sake. A lot of inde¬≠pen¬≠dent artists workin‚Äô hard.

MPBTim Easton, thank you so much.

TimThank you, Chris.

Gallery

Gallery: Exposition Recording Sessions

Before I inter¬≠viewed EastonÔĽŅ [Sidenote: After this arti¬≠cle pub¬≠lished Easton licensed sev¬≠eral of the images from the shoot for the Exposition LP and CD, which he com¬≠mis¬≠sioned me to design. I also designed a pro¬≠mo¬≠tional poster. You can see the final designs here.] I took some pic¬≠tures of him track¬≠ing songs for the album. Afterward he art-directed an impromptu photo shoot tak¬≠ing advan¬≠tage of the unusual sur¬≠round¬≠ings. Who know the Okfuskee Historical Society had a bas¬≠ket¬≠ball court upstairs?

Technical

Documentary Photos:

Camera
Leica MP Classic
Lenses
Zeiss Biogon T* 21mm ƒ/2.8 ZM
Leica Summilux ASPH LHSA Edition 50mm ƒ/1.4
Aperture
∆í/5,6 ‚Äď ∆í/11,0
Exposure
1‚ĀĄ50th second
ISO
400
Exposure Index
400
Strobe
Vivitar 285HV pow¬≠ered by Quantum Instruments Turbo SC com¬≠pact slim power pack
Film
Kodak Tri-X 400
Developer
Adox Adonal (Rodinal) 1:100
semi-stand in a semi-stand in Paterson Super System 4 day¬≠light tank
Scanner
Epson Perfection v850
Software
Adobe Lightroom 6

Portrait:

Lens
Unknown maker 250mm Petzval
Aperture
ƒ/4,0
Exposure
1/‚Äč25th second
Exposure Index
25
Lights
Key: Paul C. Buff Einstein -5.7∆í with sil¬≠ver beauty dish & 30¬į grid
Background: Paul C. Buff Einstein -4.7∆í with 7‚Ä≥ reflec¬≠tor & 10¬į grid
Fill: 42‚Ä≥ col¬≠lapsi¬≠ble reflec¬≠tor, silver
Film
Carestream CSHB
Developer
Pyrocat-HD 1:1:200
semi-stand in an HP-Combiplan day¬≠light tank
Scanner
Epson Perfection v850
Software
Adobe Lightroom 6, Adobe Photoshop, and NIK Silver Efex Pro

About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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