Home > Interviews > Dwight Ritcher

 

 

 


Boston Beats: Please state your name, age and occupation for the record please.
Dwight Ritcher: Okay, my name is Dwight Ritcher. I am 30 years old and Iím a musician.

BB: How did you get into music and when did you learn to play?
Dwight: I grew up in a musical family. My grandfather had a big band in the Ď40s and would play a sride style piano around the house at a lot of family parties. I started out playing the drums when I was about 17 years old, and played around with that for a while. I actually made my living in the summers working with community theatre groups and stuff playing like little pit orchestras. Around that time I was also playing some piano too and I kept up with that. Even now I play, but not as my main instrument. Then the guitar came later. Thatís my main instrument now.

BB: When did you write your first song?
Dwight: I wrote my first song probably at 19 or 20, working with some friends. I grew up in New Jersey and I think it was probably down there at some point. I was real interested in the blues. I grew up with my mom playing country music and of course my grandfather played in the big band. I always liked Michael Jackson and Run DMC; they were real popular when I grew up. Yeah, probably around that time, probably around 20.

BB: When did you move to Boston from New Jersey?
Dwight: I left Jersey about I guess 15 years ago and went up to Vermont where I went to school. I ended up playing up there in a group. I played a Fender Rhodes piano and a high hat with my foot and we had a guitar player in the group. We played all over Vermont with that group. We were in the Vermont Blues and Jazz festival. We were a pretty popular act up there for a while. It was sort of a real rough blues act. So I did that and then I moved to Boston for 4 Ĺ years and now I live in New York.

BB: How long have you been in New York?
Dwight: Iíve been in New York for just about 9 to 10 months and am up here usually two weeks of the month. So Iím sort of between the two places.

BB: What are your musical influences and whatís your favorite album?
Dwight: Let me think about that for a second. Musical influences are pretty varied. I really like a lot of the old blues players. Albert King, B.B. King I am also crazy about singers, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson. Al Green, Donnie Hathaway, Johnny Cash. For instrumentalists, Iíd say for guitar players Iíve always been a fan of Grant Green, the more jazz type guitar playing. Sam Cooke is another one for singers. I like a lot of different people.

BB: Some of your stuff sounds a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughn. Is he an influence?
Dwight: I love his playing. Iím a big fan of his and Iím a big fan of his brother, Jimmy Vaughn. And T-Bone Walker, another Texas guy. I like his playing a lot as well.

BB: How would you describe your style?
Dwight: I think my style is pretty stripped down. I try not to play too much more than I can hear in my head. I think I have a little bit of an unusual sound because I canít play with a pick. I taught myself how to play guitar so I just play with my thumb. I think it sort of gives me a cool sound when it works. I broke my wrist a bunch of times, so I couldnít really get it; it just didnít feel right to hold a pick.


RECORDING

BB: What has been your experience in recording music?
Dwight: In terms of not being a sideman in other peopleís projects, Iíve recorded three records. One when I was in my early twenties, which was a blues record. I had a manager at the time, and a shoestring budget. I think we had $5,000 to work with, a couple of cartons of cigarettes and a couple of bottles of whiskey. Five days later we had a record. I didnít even really know what was going on at that time. For the last two records Drive Around Town and Radio Man we had a bigger budget and a studio focusing on my original songs. I love working in the studio. I just like the whole creative process. I like trying to get myself relaxed, getting into the zone, working with the fellas, and trying to make an album that has a whole statement to it, a feel to the whole album. Even though some of my songs Iíve put together I think are a little bit different. I just hope at the end when we are done with it, it all fits and it sort of captures one certain theme.

BB: What do you do to get your best stuff down?
Dwight: I just get real familiar with the material, and go over it as much as I can. Then when itís time for the studio, I try not to do too many takes. If we canít get the song within a couple of takes, you know, with a couple of overdubs, I try to sit on things for a while. I try and let whatever happens in the studio happen pretty organically. I try not to force anything because that gets me out of the zone. We just try to keep things relaxed but focused and thatís pretty much it. I keep a quiet mellow environment, have a couple of drinks. Whatever it takes that day to get the music the way we want. If it doesnít work that day we might work on some technical sides of things and come back. I donít try to force it, it wonít happen that way.

BB: Do you prefer the studio or playing out?
Dwight: I like both for different reasons. I like the studio because youíre making something that is permanent. If you can capture it, and get in that zone and capture a good feeling and get your songs down then youíve got a finished product you can be happy with. I like playing live for the opposite reason, because itís everything completely in the moment and you can improvise with your voice, the guitar and the band. You never know whatís going to happen. You might have a good gig or you might not, but you try to just put it out there and see what happens.


PLAYING OUT

BB: So what makes for a good show?
Dwight: Itís a great audience and having all the guys relaxed and having that interplay. Having the audience open to all the different sides. So maybe some high energy tunes, maybe something more mellow and just having everyone be up for taking some risks. Maybe they will be willing to come along for the ride as long as youíre putting yourself out and being honest for them. Thatís cool, Itís nice to play somewhere where people really pay attention to the music and are interested and want to make a night of you and them.

BB: What do you think has been your best show so far?
Dwight: Well, I have had a couple of good ones. We had a really good one this spring at the Lizard Lounge, and another at the Living Room down in the East Village. Both of those were good sounds and good audiences. We were just able to feed off each other and get the exchange going. Those two were the two that stuck out in my mind.

BB: Do you have any pre or post show rituals?
Dwight: Yeah, I mean I try to relax. I usually might have a drink and just try and settle back. Get my head quiet so I can get on stage. I might do some vocal warm-ups and try to have the guitar in my hands for a half hour or so before we go on. After the show I just go talk to everybody and hang out. Thatís pretty much it. I try to do warm-ups every show but I donít necessarily get that to happen every time.

BB: Whatís the preferred drink before the show?
Dwight: Anything on the rocks. But just one, Iím not a big drinker. Iím not out there boozing before the show. Maybe when I was younger but not anymore.

BB: Do you do any interesting covers?
Dwight: Yeah, we do a couple obscure ones, but we donít really do too many covers anymore. Thatís a cool question. Yeah, Tyrone Davis, we do a song by him. Heís an R & B singer. We do a song by him called Change My Mind, which is a cool song. We used to do a cover of a song by Al Green called Tomorrowís Dream, which was a B-side of one of his recordings that my friend Dan gave me. I donít even know where he got it. I thought it might be interesting to do one of his obscure ones, so we used to do that. If it feels good every once and a while we will play Crosstown Traffic. We also use to do Give Me the Night by George Benson. Not too many covers, mostly original stuff. Those were the ones I could think of off the top of my head.


THE BOSTON MUSIC SCENE

BB: What are some of you favorite places to play?
Dwight: I love the Paradise. I did a solo show opening for a John Butler there about a month or two ago. Heís been doing really well. He is from Australia. He was on the David Letterman show a couple of weeks ago, heís blowing up. Another favorite is the Lizard Lounge. Iíve played there and have had a couple duo shows with my girlfriend Nicole at the Toad. Some early shows and the last one we did which was last Thursday. Itís too small to bring into the band now but that place, that room, sounds great. They have a lot of really cool music there and a lot of different acts. I was there last night and caught a country act. They have lots of cool stuff there so I think the room sounds good. Johnny Dís, too.

BB: Who are some of your favorite people to play with? I noticed that there were some tracks out there with Red Beans.
Dwight: Yeah, my first record called On Your Way Up, that was a blues record with Red Beans. That was me playing guitar, and my current bass player Greg Paraskos playing guitar. Gretchen Anderson, the six foot one Swedish bass player, who played bass for us. She is one of my good friends, she just had a baby and got out of it. I love working with my girlfriend, Nicole Nelson, she comes and sings backup. I do some shows with her band too. She is a super singer and an up and coming singer songwriter. She is really getting some great material of her own together. Iíve got to sit and play with a lot of people. Iíve definitely had some fun sitting and playing music with Tim Gearan. He is a regular guy on Mondays at the Toad. Toni Lynn Washington, I did a gig with her and Nicole a little while ago which was fun. I just like to play with as many people as I can, and although we canít have them on the gig all the time, itís just fun to get together. You get a high after a gig with somebody else or if they can come by and sit in. Everyone here has different ideas and different approaches and thatís just cool.

BB: Are there any local bands that youíre into?
Dwight: I love the Tim Gearan Band. They play Mondays at the Toad. I had a kid open for me called Ely ďPaper BoyĒ Reed, and he was cool. He is sort of like old Ď50s and 60ís R & B he loves that stuff. Some obscure stuff, Clarence Carter, Brook Benton and OV Wright. Heís into stuff like that, and he opened at one of our shows. He was cool, heís working really hard.


IN CLOSING

BB: If you could play on stage with anyone alive who would it be?
Dwight: Wow! I have to give you just one?

BB: No, you can give a couple.
Dwight: Wow, this is really, really hard. I donít know, thereíd be a couple of different angles to take with that. I would be psyched to play with B.B., that would be great to do a gig with him, just because I think heís such a talent. I would be psyched to play a gig with Tom Waits. I really like his stuff a lot and I think heís an interesting character. We would probably have a bunch of fun. It would be fun to do a gig with the White Stripes. I get a kick out of their band. I think they are very, very cool.

BB: If you could be in a profession other than your own what would it be?
Dwight: I canít think of anything Iíd rather do.

BB: What do you hope to be doing in music in a few years?
Dwight: Iíd like to get management again, and be playing. Iíd be happy with doing 100+ shows a year, and be playing in bigger venues, theatres. We do some pretty big venues, but it would be nice to increase our fan base, reach some more people. Work on some new records, get a chance to play with other people. Iím going to be in a film coming up. We shot on Sunday, itís called ďWhereís the Music At.Ē Itís a documentary of about twelve unsigned bands down in New York City. David Bowie is going to be on it, Pete Townsend, some others, giving their commentary about things. Iím still sticking around and working on our music, and hoping we are going to get a break so we can get ourselves to even bigger audiences. Itís fun doing festivals, too. It would be nice to do more of those. I donít see myself on MTV or anything, I see my niche somewhere in between. You see a lot of groups out there that have done really, really well and theyíve done it a little more grass roots and have had more freedom that way.

BB: Traveling the country playing 600-person rooms, shows like that.
Dwight: That would be cool, yeah, that would be nice. I really like playing theatres too. That would be fun as well. It would be great to be on a level where I had the artistic freedom to do all the stuff thatís in my head because I physically do not have the budget for the record. I have gotten pretty thrifty and crafty at stretching those out, but there are a lot more chances Iíd take if I could. If I had the money to be able to take those chances, that would be very nice.

BB: What do you hope people will get out of your music?
Dwight: I hope people will get a strong feeling from it and they will be able to relate to it, however that is to them, and be open to how I am trying to express myself and add to that however they may.

BB: What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?
Dwight: Keep your ears open to every kind of music, because so many people have so many good ideas. Donít be afraid to like what you like. If you are a country musician but you happen to like Eddie Van Halen who plays some great shit, itís alright to like that. Follow whatever it is that feels good to you, and donít be afraid. Donít put any boundaries on yourself, because that sucks.



To learn more about Dwight Ritcher, visit his website at
http://www.dwightritcherband.com/

 

*Pictures courtesy of http://www.dwightritcherband.com/

and AVS Photography cliffb95@aol.com

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