Thursday, September 25, 2014

Artist Interview: Oakland Musician Blood & Dust

Blood & Dust, aka Oakland-based artist Doug Tiemann, first came to my attention through the Balanced Breakfast East Bay music meet-ups. A hard-working and well-respected artist, the Midwest native has been tearing up the Bay Area circuit, garnering raves for his brand of acoustic soul. Leading up to our shared gig at The Monkey House in Berkeley this Saturday, September 27, Blood & Dust kindly answered my questions about his musical path.
 Q: How did you first start singing and writing songs?
BD: I actually started writing songs pretty late in the game.  I spent many years playing drums and percussion and picked up the guitar in college.  It wasn't until grad school that I got the gumption to write a song.  Life had changed a lot and I had my first quarter life crisis, so I decided to write about it.
Q:  Who were some of your earliest influences?
BD: I have an interesting mix of influences.  My father grew up in the 50's and 60's so naturally there is a lot of early rock n' roll and Motown in my influences.  I still draw a lot of inspiration from early soul singers like Al Green, Marvin Gaye, and Otis Redding.   My mother brought to the table a lot of songwriters from the 60's and 70's like Simon & Garfunkel and John Prine.  I can't help but acknowledge these influences mix in the way that I approach my singing and writing. Today I find a lot of inspiration from songwriters like David Ramirez and Amos Lee among many others.

Q: Blood and Dust. Great name. What led to it?
BD: Blood & Dust came out of needing a name.  Doug Tiemann isn't a bad name, but it's not a great stage name either.  It pretentious to me to change my name to something cool so I thought that I would choose a name that could work whether I was playing solo or if I had a whole band behind me.  I wanted something gritty and earthy, something that when you heard my music, it made sense with the name.  Blood & Dust was where I landed, I figured that it's either a great name for an Americana band or perhaps some sort of death metal band.  It seemed to make sense to me so there I landed.

Q  What/who led you to California? Can you say anything in respect to how the Bay Area music scene is influencing you in contrast to/or similarly to your experience as a musician in the Midwest and South?
BD: I originally came to bay area to attend graduate school.  I'm a Midwest boy, so you can imagine that the Bay Area changed my life a bit.  I even moved away for a short while but I couldn't stand NOT to live here so I moved back. The Bay Area has been a huge part of my influence as a songwriter.  I've been a musician in the south and the Midwest and while there are definitely scenes, the Bay Area music community inspired me to write, to build community, and to try to be part of something bigger than myself.  While every music scene is competitive, the Bay Area scene has a sense of camaraderie that, I believe, has allowed me to pursue music and grow in my craft.

Q4: What are you working on now? Any new projects or recordings shaping up?
BD:  I've been working on a new block of songs since my first album.  Sophomore albums are definitely a challenge across the board, but I'm excited to explore new sounds. My first album ended up sounding a little more like a rock album, but I'm excited about the using roots instruments and what that will bring to the mix.  Revisiting old songs with new instrumentation has been really refreshing as well.

Q: You host a music series—what's it like for you being on the other side of putting on a show? Any rewards, pitfalls, or recommendations to share with us? 
BD: I was doing a concert series called "An Evening in DogTown."  While it's currently on hiatus, the experience there has been invaluable to me.  I think what made our concert series so valuable to those who participated was that we kept our focus on the most important thing: the music and the people making it.  When you abandon that for just trying to get people in the door you lose something.  I would say that there are too many venues that are only concerned about making a quick buck.  It's a business, and to be successful money has to be made, but you have to care about the product you put out.  I think this is why so many of my fellow Bay Area musicians are seeking out more house show gigs.  I would encourage anyone that wants to pursue putting on house shows to clearly define their reasons for doing so — that's a good start. 
Blood & Dust appears live at The Monkey House Theater in Berkeley, Saturday, September 27, 2014 7:30pm. Tickets & more information: 

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