Tell us about your tour vehicle. Any notable breakdown stories?
We tour in a 1998 Dodge Ram fifteen passenger van that we have affectionately named “Country Vanner”. We removed the back seats and built a “sleeping platform”; gear goes below that. It has 267,000 miles on it and has been remarkable reliable.
Our worst breakdown was having a radiator hose break in the desert on the way to “Music on the Mesa” in Taos, NM. A tow truck finally towed us 90 miles to the festival, but we missed our set. Ethan jumped the fence of a nearby junk yard, made friends with the guard dog, found a replacement hose, and we were up and running the next day. Our hero!
How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?
Like many other bands, we eat a LOT of Pho on the road. It’s cheap, relatively heathy, and loved by all. Whenever possible we stop at health food stores for fresh food to go – soups, salads, sushi, fruits and vegetables. Overall, our diet is pretty good. Once in a blue moon we’ll do a Wendy’s drive thru and put it on the band credit card – just to keep our diets in balance. We’ve also been known to slam a bag of Doritos.
How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?
We rarely break strings, but when we do it’s sort of a show-stopper. We don’t have a backup acoustic guitar, so if we break a string during performance, we usually ask someone in the audience to change it for us. It almost always works. One of the steel players who tours with us complains that we don’t change our strings nearly enough. So do we want a string endorsement? Of course!
Where do you rehearse?
Our band is composed of musicians who live in Seattle, New York, Nashville, and Lafayette Louisiana. Before our western tours, we spend a day rehearsing at Ethan’s house in Seattle. For the east we rehearse at Jim’s in New York. No crazy experiences, just a lot of picking, grinning, and down-home cooking, which we all love to do.
What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?
Cahalen (age 9): Mutton Buster: “my spurs got caught in the wool and that lamb turned into a bull…”
Ethan (age 4): Macaroni – “macaroni mac a mac a roni…”
Jim (age 62): Wedding Day – “always back on my heals, on the downside of deals, sad pitiful me…”
Describe your first gig.
Initially, we played informally around Seattle and then traveled a bit under a few different band names. Our first gig as Western Centuries was at the Wintergrass Festival in Seattle in February 2016. It turned out to be really fun, so we continued from there…
What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?
We’ve enjoyed our day jobs a lot, but nothing compares to playing music.
How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?
It’s amazing how slowly the income level of musicians has gone up over the past 10 or even 20 years – at least for the music world we live in! For our band in particular, we’re able to hire some of the most talented musicians in roots music, but the pay levels compared to the skill levels are downright embarrassing. We’ve been a band for five years now and we’re finally starting to see some improvement, but we don’t expect things to change dramatically over the next decade.
What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?
That question is too hard. It doesn’t seem like we’ve learned very much yet.