From the moment I first stepped on stage I was hooked, there was no going back, I sold everything I had and promptly dropped out of college in the year 2006. I spent the next six years more or less on the road with nothing to my name but a backpack and a martin guitar. I hitchhiked all across the north and south west, entertained the life of an ex-patriot while spending a year in Spain and Italy, slept under the stars on blue beaches, traded songs for dollar bills, loitered on countless street corners from San Francisco to New York, and mostly did a whole lot walking.
I used to tape my right hand pinky and ring fingers together for weeks at a time while I taught myself finger-style guitar. I would learn at least a song a day. Some days it was a rockabilly tune by Eddie Cochrane, other days a folk song by Woody Guthrie, maybe a country tune by Hank Williams the next. The first song I wrote was to the tune of “Big Iron” by Marty Robbins. Soon enough I started to write my own melodies putting words and stories to them.
I settled down around 2012 in Minneapolis. I was lucky enough to win a MN state arts grant affording me the opportunity to record and collaborate with a number of Minnesota all stars including the legendary “Spider” John Koerner. The result was “Mississippi Roll” a compilation of cross-generational collaboration, featuring a number of traditional folk and blues songs alongside my own compositions. I started getting calls for festivals and events across the Midwest, and discovered my lust for travel fits hand in hand with playing music.
Last year, after performing at a festival in central Wisconsin, I stopped for a show at the Ark Center for the Arts in the little town of Viroqua, WI. I was floored by the acoustics of the room and eventually made plans to make a live recording on site at the 100 year old church. Tom Herbers (low, trampled by turtles, the jayhawks) jumped at the opportunity to produce and engineer the effort. I put together a band and we set out towards Viroqua in the dead of winter. Pulling up with vehicles full of tape machines, vintage microphones, notebooks of lyrics and musical instruments we made the Ark our home for three days. The result is “Shadows in the Sunset.” It holds in its grooves ten thousand miles of asphalt, about eight pairs of good shoes, and the generosity of a thousand strangers. It’s a collection of stories about the beauty of blazing sunsets, the art of saying goodbye, and letting endings turn into new beginnings. -Jack Klatt