A Chat With Steve Forbert Timessquare.com

American songwriter, Steve Forbert, has enjoyed a lengthy, critically acclaimed career, having been hailed as the “new Bob Dylan” and today, he continues to write songs, collaborating in Nashville on a 2012 recording project and is currently on tour. Times Square caught up with Steve as he made his way up the east coast toward New York City.

Times Square (TS): How is the tour going so far?

Steve Forbert (SF): No problems.

TS: How do you go about picking songs to perform when you have as many as fourteen studio albums worth of tunes to choose from?

SF: Well for me, I don’t pick them. There are certain ones that I like to start with, just because I’m feeling out a lot of different things about the audience, and there are certain ones I like to end with. In the middle it can be anything, and a lot of that has to do with requests from the audience and it has to do with where the sort of mood leads. It’s really fun for me. Playing solo is even better than playing with the band, because I can have complete spontaneity. If someone calls out something, it might be a good idea, and I’ll do it. Every night the audience is part of the show, and I’m not kidding.

TS: It sounds like you have a very organic, co-operative approach to performing.

SF: Yeah, a lot of folk music is like that and some isn’t. But I don’t do the same thing every night. It would bore me to tears.

TS: I read that you wrote a song for the Occupy Movement.

SF: Oh, I didn’t, I wrote the song before all that started. It certainly is involved in the same subject matter. The same things that maybe triggered the people that started that bothered me too and I was able to put together a sort of synopsis of the way I read the situation.

TS: How does the Occupy Movement resonate with you, personally?.

Here’s the way I see it: if you work baling hay, or if you work teaching elementary school, you can get really good at what you do, but you’re only going to make a certain amount of money. You may be happy with that, or you may find that you’re poor and really can’t make ends meet, or you may find that you’re just barely getting by or you may be resigned to it. If you’re in New Orleans you drive people around in a horse carriage, you may be the best and you may have guide tips and people may really like it and they may give you a ten dollar tip, but that’s the kind of money you’re going to make. But you have a system now that’s been enhanced because of technology and we’re in such an advanced state of what they call Capitalism, to where if your skill happens to be working with money and you have an understanding, not of baling hay or growing wheat, but your understanding is the nature of investing and working with and manipulating money – if you happen to be really skilled at that, the profits are exponential. And now it’s hit such an extreme with the world of digital activity, to where, my question is, how much should a person be paid for what they do? Certain people are in a position, when your game is money – well, everyone’s got to make money because money is the medium of exchange, that’s the way it is now. We don’t barter. We don’t say, “I’ll paint your fence if you babysit for me” – it’s money, that’s the medium of exchange. It’s hit a point – how much money should a person really make for a weeks activity – now I realize some of those people are taking extreme risks as well, okay. But when you have a really great skill at manipulating and handling money, you’ve got a hold on the game – that’s what everyone’s trying to make, but that’s your skill. So my point is that it’s a bit of an unfair advantage, especially when people use those skills to take advantage of the system and do things that are just this side of legal and are certainly objectively immoral, and a lot of other people suffer for it worldwide. I’m not a communist but I sometimes feel like we should have a – I mean, isn’t 100 million dollars enough for a person? (pauses) What’s the next question?

TS: Let’s lighten the mood a bit now. What can your audience expect from your show at Iridium Jazz Club on January 26th?

SF: Well I’ve never played the room. I understand that’s where Les Paul used to play. For me it will be a matter of what is room like – which takes us back to the beginning of what we were saying – and what the audience is going to be like. I’m kind of just curious to what it will be. I’ve learned from the past thirty years, no matter what I picture in my mind will be wrong. So I’m just kind of waiting to see what it’s going to be like, but I think it’s going to be nice because I’ve heard great things from people.

Written by Peggy Hogan

"Just for the record, Steve says he actually said $150 million."


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