A Coversation With Kraz
Soulive will perform a set at Bonnaroo during the opening day of music (Friday June 21). So we took a few moments to speak with guitarist Eric Krasno about the festival and about collaborative performance in general.
What were your initial impressions of Bonnaroo?
It sounded really cool and all the acts on it are really amazing. I heard it sold out really quick, so I’m just psyched to be there, definitely.
When you perform at an event like this your perspective on the full scope of the festival is slightly different than that of an audience member. Can you talk a bit about that?
It’s amazing how much goes into one of these things. A lot of people don’t really see that but when you’re an artist you see how people are working and how many different things have to get done constantly. So it’s definitely a really huge undertaking to put one of these things on. And I would imagine that this one is going to be huge, crazy.We’ve been talking a bit with musicians about sitting in with other musicians. With Soulive how does that situation typically present itself?
We don’t usually think about it all that much A lot of times we don’t know who’s going to be playing until we get there. It’s really hard to get in touch with other people who are on tour too. If we know Oteil is going to be there or John Scofield or someone that we really know, we make sure we call them. Otherwise it’s usually kind of random. Someone who may be a fan of the band will show up and we’ll say, “Oh, he’s there, let’s ask him to sit in,” or we’ll hear, “So and so is showing up and he wants to sit in.” So it changes.
What about the collaboration itself, do you typically just call out a song and a key or do you work something out in advance?
That changes too. Sometimes if we know someone knows a particular tune, we’ll go with that. Like Ivan Neville sat in down in New Orleans and in San Francisco. I knew that he knew the Stevie Wonder tune “Jesus Children” because we had talked about it before. He said, “One of these days I want to sing that song with you guys.” So as soon as we saw him we just went into it and made him come out on stage. We were like, “This is it.” With Josh Redman who sat in with us in New Orleans, he actually rehearsed with us at soundcheck and learned the tune. Other times we’ll just call out a tune and for instance, say to someone that it’s in D. So pretty much it’s different every time.
How about from the other perspective, when you perform with another band how do you typically approach that?
It depends on the group. If it’s like Spearhead I’ll lay back and play Lettuce-style in the groove and when they tell me to solo I’ll come up and solo. But if I sit in with Derek Trucks I play a lot because he eggs me on. He’ll push me to play. Whereas if it’s a vocal thing I lay back until my solo piece comes, I play my solo piece and then it’s back to the background again. I’ve sat in with Galactic too and they like to take it there and keep playing. I’ll take a five or six minute solo where they just want to keep it going and reach that peak.
I sat in Dave Matthews Band a couple times recently and they like not telling me what’s going to happen. They get a kick out of it. Leroi [Moore] will say to me, “We got something for you tonight.” So then I get up there and they don’t tell me what it is or what’s going to happen. They just go and I follow. There have been times when they’ve told me the tune but sometimes they’ll just throw stuff at me, start changing keys and messing around on me.
Back to festival itself. Soulive plays on Friday. Do you have any other plans for the weekend at Bonnaroo?
I think I’ll hang out and check out some of the other groups and just kind of kick it around there. It’s been a while since I’ve just chilled at one of those festivals. We have the rest of the weekend off so I might as well take advantage of that.