Music

The Big Jewcy: Josh Kaufman – Musical Jack Of All Trades

Making music, playing it live, producing it: Josh Kaufman does it all. Read More

By / June 9, 2011
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Josh Kaufman is a busy guy. As a full time musician, he’s always touring, producing records, collaborating in various bands, or putting out his own records as Rocketship Park. Cakes and Cookies (Serious Business Records) is Kaufman’s latest record and was just released on May 31st.

Besides being a hard worker, and talented musician/producer, Josh is super nice guy. I had the chance to chat with him over a cup of coffee.  We spoke about some of his current projects, and the importance of musical relationships.

Last night you were in the studio with Balthrop, Alabama.

“They’re a brother and sister group from Mobile, Alabama that now live in Brooklyn, NY.

This isn’t the first record you’ve produced…

“Yeah, I’ve produced my own stuff (Rocketship Park), and some production work with other people.  Ya know it’s really hands on, so the productions always come as a result of that…. shaping things by playing on records. I co-produced Caithlin De Marrais’ first record with Kyle Fischer. She was in a band called Rainer Maria for a long time, and I am working on her second album now. I’m co-producing it with a guy named Steve Salett, who is an amazing singer/songwriter and producer. He used to be in a band called King Of France. And before that he was in the Kelly deal 6000. He’s a great musician.

As a producer for the project you’re working on right now, are you helping to finish the songs? I noticed some of their stuff online is more electronic based.

Yeah, some of it is. They are the song writers/singers, ya know, but shaping it aesthetically is something I’m helping with.  My approach is organic, people playing in a room together.

You play with a lot of other bands. Do you only play guitar in other bands?

(For recording)I end up playing other instruments. I mostly fiddle around.  I find myself not really hearing the guitar all that much in recordings.

Lately?

For a long, long time actually. Even back to 4 tracking and stuff. When I start imagining someone playing guitar I find myself getting grossed out.  So I have to avoid the image of that in my mind. But the guitar is a great instrument to bring on tour. It’s small, you can do a lot of things with it, and I feel comfortable playing it.

As far as Cakes and Cookies…

Yeah, there is some guitar on it. A lot of the electric guitar on “Off and Away”(Rocketship Park’s 1st record) is Eric Jackson, who is my buddy from high school. We’ve been friends forever.

You can tell each other something you’re doing sucks, and it’s not a big deal?

Exactly, and the conversation can go beyond music too, which I think is an important thing. So, Eric plays guitar on a lot of that stuff. On Cakes and Cookies, some of it is Eric, some if it is Brian Kantor, our drummer, some is Kevin Fish, who is in a band called Higgins, that I am also in. Kevin is also a very old friend, and we’ve known each other since high school. We’ve been playing music on and off together for many years.  The pedal steel stuff is my friend Mike Phillips. The lap steel stuff is me. The piano on the first album is all Rob Burger. But the piano on the new record is me and Kevin. I don’t know… These roles aren’t predefined or anything…  we we’re there, working out parts, and it’s just how it ended up.

You’re a full time musician? Are you doing anything outside music?

No.

That’s amazing.

Yeah (laughs). It’s hard. You know, you did it for a while, right?

Yeah, I didn’t have an apartment for 2.5 years while doing it. How long have you been full time?

Full time its been maybe 3, 3.5 years. Prior to that I was still playing a lot of music I just worked other jobs too. I worked at a printing press SOHO for years.

As a songwriter, when did you start writing songs? Generally, when you fist started to exercise those talents, were you just playing guitar in rock bands, or did you approach this whole thing thinking I want to be a songwriter? How did the whole thing unfold for you?

Hmmmm. It was the first thing that that seemed natural. I played guitar in bands with friends in high school but I wasn’t very good at covering songs. So I started making my own. My friend had a four-track, and we recorded at home, and it was immediate and fun. We went into some real studios, but I never really liked those experiences as much. They were very rushed and I felt inadequate. But when we were screwing around with cassette tapes it was really fun.

Since you started, there is a solid aesthetic. It’s smart, self-aware, there is a pensive undertone, but its also celebratory. I assume you wrote tons and tons of songs before the Rocketship Park records.  Has the material you wrote even before Rocketship Park always been like that?

Thanks. I don’t think it was brand new. I think it just took a long time to feel comfortable making an album of my own stuff. Maybe the older stuff was less refined, and came from a younger place.

But the celebratory thing… the vibrancy that you’re picking up on has always been there, I think.

It seems like you have a tight group of friends. I love that video that you just put up with Sam Cohen. He’s a very tasteful guitar player.

Oh yeah, he’s amazing. I also play in his band, Yellowbirds.  That’s a group that I’ve played bass and guitar in.  Sometimes we do duo things. All these projects for me, are about a conversation. This musical conversation with people and all the different styles around me. It’s never been just about one thing for me. It’s always been a bigger community thing.

That’s interesting cause a lot of people in NY don’t work like that at all. They have a certain sound they want to do, and that’s it.

Yeah, and that works really well for a lot of people, but for me it doesn’t. I am just not interested in one thing. You know, it’s a life for me. I need it to be diverse and inspiring. For now, this is it. It’s got to be worth it.