Jeff Coffin: Into the Air and Away From the World
You really spread out your creative outlets in a variety of ways- your photography is on that list as well. You say you bring that to the music- how does that tie in?
I got into it about 12 years ago, something like that, and I’m a little obsessive with it. To me, taking pictures and writing music is a lot of the same thing where you’re dealing with composition, phrasing, how to capture a moment. I’m just lucky- I used to write a lot, I used to draw a lot, and then when I discovered photography it sort of took over. I find that I remember almost every picture I’ve ever taken. When I look at it, I know where I was, I remember the moment, and it’s really interesting. I have a photographic memory, no I’m kidding (laughs)
*No pun intended. No, but I remember some of the shots you put up from the European Tour with DMB a few years ago and they were great.
Yeah, there were some really great spots out there. I just put up some new stuff a couple of weeks ago from the Caravan tour last year and some from this year.
I heard you were out at the Caravans taking pictures quite often.
Yeah, the thing with that is too, I tamper what I put online. I have a lot of really incredible shots that I don’t put up there because I’m trying to respect the privacy of the people I work with. So those are kind of archival for me, but there are certain ones I let out, but I try to be respectful of that because I appreciate the position I’m in. There are certain shots that I’ll get that no one will get, and I’m respectful of that.
You brought up music clinics a few moments ago. You seem very passionate about that- is it something you try to do every year regardless of how busy you are?
Absolutely. I’ve done over 300 clinics in the last three years or so, and it’s something I’m hugely passionate about, and quite honestly I think it’s the most important thing that I do. So, you know it’s college and high schools. We do them at schools we do them at music schools. Being able to expose them to other music is really important, that’s why I love taking the Mu’tet out with me when I do it, but I’m not always able to do that- so I’ll do a solo clinic sometimes. But I’ve also got a number of Big Band charts of my older tunes that I’ve had made up, so I can go into schools and work up enough of my tunes- we’ll do a concert. Getting these young people to improvise for the first time also is cathartic to say the least, and I have a particular report with students. I can’t explain why, but I can reach them really quickly, and I absolutely love it. It’s something I could talk to you for hours about, and it’s a real passion of mine.
I know you get into the music side of it all, but you also touch on the personal side of the music world. What is your overall message during one of these clinics?
A lot of times I’m really trying to get them to believe in themselves. I talk about working on fundamentals and the importance of fundamentals. As much as I’m talking to them, the more I’m listening to them. If we’re listening to music, if we’re talking about music- I want to know what they think, and I want them to know that their thoughts are valid, that their emotional content is valid. I try to get them playing with emotion, what I call “emotional dynamics”, because it brings the music into this really profound place for them that they haven’t experienced before. I talk to them about goosebumps, and ask them how many people have had goosebumps before, and without exception everyone has raised their hand since I’ve been asking that. So I point out that we’ve had this common experience and there’s something really profound in that common experience of goosebumps in music. That we’re there to support each other, how great it is to play in a band together, and the sum is greater than it’s parts. It’s sort of a life lesson. It’s using music as a metaphor, but it’s really more about- once I leave that place, what do they take with them? A sense of community, a sense of support, they know they have to work on their fundamentals no matter what they do in life- whether it’s music or architecture or science. So I want to leave them with a long tale.
Do you still get goosebumps when you play?
I get goosebumps when I listen to the music and when I play the music. I hope it never goes away!