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Published: 2011/09/12
by Randy Ray

Back to the Future with Jake Cinninger

RR: How much of your new fatherhood status has impacted the way you play and tour? How do you balance your life at home while being a full-time musician who is still attempting to push the envelope and create new art—either in the studio, as we discussed, or on the road?

JC: It’s been a really long ten years out here on the road, to be quite honest. It’s really trying to find that genuine time home so that we can really perform properly out here. It’s really based on trying to have a little bit more time off, even though we might tour a little bit heavier when we’re on. When we have four weeks off, that’s just amazing because you can really be normal, and get on a normal schedule. To be on this schedule out here in Tour Land is not easy to do 24/7, 365 days a year. You’ve got to have a break in there. We’ve learned over the years how to pace our energy throughout a year or tour season. That’s been really important. I think everyone has voiced their opinions about what they want, or what they need, and everyone is accommodated properly. And that’s really important because you don’t want to burn a band out.

[Fatherhood] is the most enlightening thing that can happen to you. I miss him dearly. I’ve only been gone for six days, and I was home for six weeks, and, actually, right now is really tough because I miss him. I have been used to seeing him every day, and now it’s sort of ripped away from me. That’s the one thing that gets a little bit tough out here more than anything. Luckily, we’ve got Skype and all those technologies to sort of soften the blow, but I tell you, it does get harder. Now that I do have a son, that’s my main focus, really. It’s not about me anymore, but, then, the music is the whole thing why everything exists, so everything has to just keep going. It’s like a constant cycle in perpetual motion. It’s like I wouldn’t let a kid, or a son, affect me musically. I don’t think I could let that happen. If anything, it would just empower it a little bit more. I feel like I am actually playing better than I was last year. I’m a little bit more patient. It’s weird. After setting the guitar down for long amounts of time, when I pick it up, I look at it differently, there’s like different grids, so it’s actually been healthy.

RR: How does that attitude impact your solo projects? Last time we spoke was last July when we talked about your Ali Baba’s Tahini album. Now that you’ve had a year to look back at that time, how do you view that whole Living Room experience?

JC: I love those guys in ABT and they are some of my best buddies, so it’s always a pleasure when they come up to my studio in Michigan—when I have some time off—and we can crank out a few tunes and set them on a shelf and, hopefully, finish a CD. It’s kind of like we don’t really get too extreme about setting deadlines or anything like that. It’s a very loose sort of scheduling. Sometimes, the other guys wait around for me until I have enough energy and time. (laughs) “Hey, let’s get together sometime and finish this bad boy up.” That’s what Living Room was about. And, then, I’ve got the OHMphrey’s project, which is a CD that is coming out, I believe, in January.

I’ve got the best job in the world. I’ve got to keep it going, you know? Pete Townshend said it best: [Cinninger imitates a Townshend accent] “What are you going to fucking stop playing music? What about the kids, man? The kids ?”

RR: You’ve hung around those guys for so long and maintained your sanity.

JC: That’s right. It’s not easy, I must tell you. (laughs) But, it’s…what’s normal, anymore? I used to say, “I have such an abnormal job.” Now, I say, “What’s normal?” That’s all those little mantras that help you along.

RR: It’s great to have a guitar and a band and an outlet because some people don’t.

JC: That’s true. I would hate to just be a lead vocalist. My God. (laughter) Joking. Joking.

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