Last year I was lucky enough to play the NEAF in a bluegrass duo with my pal Mark Kilianski. This year Mark will be playing a set with a host of other folks he has deeply engrained himself into, the traveling minstrels that make up the Massachusetts Walking Tour with Amy Alvey, Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards. Mark is one of the finest pickers that this town has (hell, he tied for the Big Red’s favorite picker last year!) and watching him play is always something. He just makes it look so effortless, but the countless hours of practice, scale repetition, studying traditional music, and writing his own pours out of this gent. I caught up with Mark to get his take on the fest this year and answer a few of our questions…
1) “Americana” has become the go to term for arguably every genre under the sun. How you do feel you as an artist falls under that umbrella? Where do you pull your inspiration from? What is the style of music that you most closely relate to?
MK: Traditional Bluegrass and Old-Time are the genres I’ve been living in for the past few years. Music, community, and history from the American South fascinate me. There’s a warmth and grittiness to those regions and their music that resonates with me. Before that it was Jazz and Rock, mostly American stuff. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been drawn to the music of this country, I guess because it’s home.
2) New England Americana and the Fest firmly plant their roots and morals in “community” and attempting to bring that community together in this big once a year event. The event is a culmination of a community of musicians and artists that is going on all year in other forums and gigs and so forth. What does that community mean to you and how does it effect you as an artist?
MK: Musical friendship is special in that, you might know someone very deeply, or on a more basic level, but sharing the joy of creating music bears a loving friendship, no matter how well you know a person. It allows you to get to know people from different places, cultures, and mindsets, and expands everyone’s view of the world and their understanding of the people in it.
3) Music festivals, in general, are fairly well known for surprise sit ins, improvisational jams and collaborations. If you could see any two of this year’s acts collaborate on stage at this year’s NEA Festival, who would you like to see?
MK:I asked for it last year, and I’ll ask for it again. A duet of Eva Walsh and John Colvert. With the prettiest and grittiest voices on the scene respectively, the result would be beautifully dichotomous.
4) What local releases are you listening to right now that you think folks should be listening to as well? Any independent acts that really make you say “wow”? Friends that you want a broader audience to dig into?
MK: Well, my act is the Massachussetts Walking Tour, which is comprised of my duo with Amy Alvey, Hoot and Holler, and the duo of Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards. Mark and Raianne released a great album of original songs earlier this year and everyone should give it a listen!
5) So, what do you have coming up either before or after the festival? Any shameless plugs you want to make whether it be shows, recordings, or anything at all?
Hoot and Holler is doing a concert window show right before the fest, on Thursday Sept 25th, so you can get a taste of that before we form our musical hiking megazord with Mark and Raianne at the fest. We will be releasing an EP in October, so keep an eye on hootandhollermusic.com for that!