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Published: 2014/03/19
by Nick Hutchinson

Chad Staehly Makes It Work

Great American Taxi keyboardist Chad Staehly recently joined Todd Snider, Dave Schools, Neil Casal and Duane Trucks to form the Hardworking Americans. The band released its first album earlier this year and has since performed a string of live shows with more in the works. Staehly, who also works in artist management and who has written his own songs, continues to forge ahead in the realm of of roots-influenced rock and Americana music while juggling work and parenthood.

How’d you get started in the music world?

I got started at school. I went to a private school where music was a big part of the curriculum. I began with voice, singing, and then started learning piano in fifth grade. In third grade every student was required to learn to play the recorder. Nowadays schools are cutting music out. It’s a shame. One of the main missions of the Mark Vann Foundation, with which I’m involved, is to help raise funding for kids and the arts.

How’s it going with your new son?

It’s going great. Booker is about 15-months old. We’ve got him going to a weekly music class and he likes to bang on the piano with me. He’s already got the bug and has a good ear. He rocks out when a good song comes on the radio. I think he went to at least 30 or 40 concerts while he was still in the womb. And last year we took him to a couple of outdoor events with us, including Bob Dylan, Wilco and My Morning Jacket at Fiddler’s Green in Denver. He’s definitely getting exposed to lots of good music.

Were your parents encouraging about your music?

Yeah, my folks bought a piano for our home when I was 10. My siblings and I were required to take lessons. We kind of resisted it, but they said we might thank them one day.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I lived there for the first 18 years of my life.

Didn’t you play football for a while?

Yeah, I was an all-state middle linebacker in high school. I actually turned down a few football scholarships after high school and headed out to Colorado State University (CSU) instead of pursuing it. I stopped playing football and started working on my hippie skills (laughs).

Did you play music while you were at CSU?

Yeah, I played rhythm guitar in my first couple college bands. We played a lot of the bars in Fort Collins. Back in the early- to mid-‘90s there was a pretty good scene there. There were three or four bars in Old Town that we’d play regularly. We’d charge a five dollar cover and people didn’t bat an eye. A bar band was actually able to make a little money back then. It was mainly how I earned my spending cash.

So you were on guitar for a spell?

Well, I tried to be a guitar player for a while, but quickly figured out that I’d get more work on keys, so I jumped back onto the keys in my early 20s. It was a good decision (laughs).

Who are some of your influences?

Brent Mydland is my number one influence and then probably Keith Godchaux. In my formative years of learning to play and listening to a lot of music, I was a Deadhead through and through. I had a brief Led Zeppelin and Simon and Garfunkel phase, but mainly I listened to the Dead. Later on when I started working for Leftover Salmon, helping them out with their archives and stuff, Bill Mckay joined the band and I was really influenced by what he did. I think he’s one of the best keyboardists in the country.

How did the Hard Working Americans come about?

HWA started in a similar way to Great American Taxi. We first came together to play a benefit (for the victims of the Colorado floods). Our first show was in Boulder this past December, though the roots of the band date back to December of 2012, when Todd Snider, who I was managing, needed some accompaniment for a show he was doing. I asked Dave Schools if he could join Todd for the show. He did and they had such a good time that they decided to keep it going. Eventually they wanted to start a full band, which is where I came in. We also got Neil Casal, who played guitar for Ryan Adams and the Cardinals and the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, as well as the drummer Duane Trucks, who is the nephew of Butch Trucks of the Allman Brothers. We recorded our first effort this past May at Bob Weir’s TRI Studios. We finished the record in July and it was released on Jan. 21. So far it’s on fire. One of our tunes was picked up by Fox Sports and the songs are getting all kinds of play on a bunch of different radio stations and on iTunes.

You just played a few live shows with HWA. How was it out there?

It was incredible. We just wrapped up the second leg of the winter tour in Chicago. Then we proceeded to jump into the studio there and record the basic tracks for our next record, which might possibly be a double album. Todd has 16 songs worth of lyrics from the past couple years and we’ve started working on those.

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