"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview"
B. Christopher, like most composers, is not a household name. However, if you own a television, you have probably heard his music. With over 3,000 placements annually, on virtually every channel, it would be difficult not to hear his work. His new release, " Four From The Sun" is a blend of Blues, Rock, Jazz and Country featuring the expertise of some of the finest studio musicians including bassists, Nathan East and Stu Hamm; drummers, Anton Fig and Shawn Pelton; saxophonist Andy Snitzer.
We would like to welcome B. Christopher to JazzMonthly.com
Jazz Monthly: What was the turning point that took you from the Smoky Blues clubs to becoming a prominent recording artist and writer with an extensive song catalog?
B. Christopher: The turning point was when the TV music I write really started to grow. As that evolved I felt my focus needed to move there exclusively. It requires a lot of effort to keep a band working and I really didn't feel I could do both effectively. It's been a great run and has put me in the studio with some of my favorite musicians.
JM: When reaching for your sound on "Four From The Sun," did you go from "development to finished song" in a few takes or do you work on multiple mixes to get the sound image you were looking for?
BC: I'm definitely not a "few takes" kind of guy. I really enjoy the process of recording. So to sit there and rework and rearrange the songs is quite enjoyable for me.
JM: You create some unique sounds and different colors on the guitar where the listener is pretty much compelled to hear one track after the other and get totaling absorbed in the music. What is your creative balance between composing, arranging and mixing?
BC: The composing of the melodies is the easy part for me. Getting the right tone is always a challenge though. I think the arrangements practically work themselves out. With digital recording it's very easy to move the parts around until the arrangement feels right. I typically get a rough draft going pretty quickly, not really thinking about getting a good take, just the basic arrangement. Then I go back and try and get the tone and take. It's a tedious process. When all the recording has been completed I turn the mix over to my engineer Jeff Kalemba and he does most of it. I just send him notes on what changes I'd like. That also is done in several drafts.
JM: Exceptional list of musicians on this new release " Four From The Sun." Have you all been together as a band and do you initiate some back and forth collaboration? How did you bring this notable group together?
BC: I brought this group of guys together very carefully and over time. I have found I am at my best when I surround myself with people that I have admired long before I had the skill set to play with them. The guys on this record have had amazing careers that I have followed for years.
Recording with Nathan East, Stu Hamm, Shawn Pelton, Anton Fig and Andy Snitzer on "Four From The Sun" is an experience that is inspiring to say the least. Kenny Aronoff, Gerald Albright, Nathan and Anton were a part of the last record "High Tide" as well.
My approach to collaboration is pretty simple. Get the best and give them space to play and shine. There's a reason why these guys are on so many records with music's biggest legends. Their playing is simply top shelf.
JM: Tell us about you daily routine. What's it like today for B Christopher? How do you spend your time covering writing, practicing, performing, or just growing as an individual?
BC: I go in phases with all of the above. When I'm writing and recording a lot I'm not practicing as much. But when I'm not recording I practice quite a bit. I really like practicing. I've been lucky like that, in the sense that it doesn't feel like work to me. I would say I play 4-5 hours a day when I'm not recording. Other than that my day is filled with just regular life stuff.
JM: Watching your videos, especially the sports and television demo reels, your music really compliments the visual. Do you like to compose the songs first and then place the songs to a video or do you watch a video first and then create the song? Which method do you feel should be applied or are there other effective techniques?
BC: I've done both. Most of what I do is done without the visual. I'm writing with shows in mind, but not to the video itself. I'll write acoustic music with a wedding show in mind. I'll play swampy slide guitar with Pawn Stars or American Pickers as the mental backdrop. Then I'll do some high-energy guitar stuff with sports shows in mind.
JM: How has your style evolved since performing live in the clubs to creating, using today's technology of digital recording and sound design?
BC: My playing has changed quite a bit. For starters, it's much less busy. I'm becoming a bit of a minimalist. I spent the first 25 years putting all the notes in that I could fit and the last 5 years trying to take them all back. I actually credit most of that to not performing. What feels good live doesn't always sound great in the studio. In the live situation I think I was always trying to push the envelope of my abilities, which in hindsight doesn't always make for great listening. It just develops great chops.
In the recording process I'm constantly listening back to honestly assess the song and the value of its parts. I'm striving to play something I'd like to listen to. I'm more concerned with playing music than I am with playing impressive guitar these days. The challenge lies in making an interesting guitar record while trying to think beyond the guitar. It all comes back to good melodies and restraint for me.
JM: You are very successful on the marketing and distribution of your music catalog? A lot of artists sit in their home studios writing and waiting for the chance to hear maybe one of their tracks on TV. Can you take us through some of the steps that may help a few of the up and coming artists out there?
BC: I learned early on that is the artist's responsibility to monetize their work. If the artist doesn't do it who will? I realized towards the end of my club days that I didn't want to "play" anymore, I wanted to work. Once a certain degree of skill and success is acquired all the musicians are really good. Being able to play your instrument on a professional level is just the price of admission. It's only then that the work really starts.
I'm not sure if I have good advice other than to accept that the doors in the music business don't open because you're standing in front of them. They're not supermarket doors. Being good at your instrument is not nearly enough.
JM: People say, "B. Christopher can deliver Blues, Rock, Surf, Tension, Acoustic, Spanish, Country...Happy, Sad, Triumphant...Great Slide Guitar, Talking Guitar, Burning Guitar, Crying Guitar." Where do you see yourself?
When I'm doing the TV music I see myself as a chameleon. I believe that's the reason I've been able to work in that business. I'm able to deliver a few styles of music convincingly. When I'm doing my records the mindset is quite different. I see myself as a blues guitarist that just really loves the colors that the jazz chords provide. I always have at least one foot planted in the blues while the rest of me is 100% committed to a strong melody.