An Interview with Garth Hudson
Below are excerpts from an interview Garth Hudson gave to the weekly newspaper Woodstock Times, before his show with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic at the Studley Theatre, New Paltz, NY, May 9, 1998. The interview was published May 7, two days before the show.
Copyright © 1998, Woodstock Times. Please do not copy or redistribute.
A long-time Woodstocker, Hudson plans to play "Some stuff...I guess you could call it 'Music from Dad's Attic,' the kind of songs you might find in the sheet music you'd dig out of a trunk up in your parents' attic, that you'd go through on a rainy day without telling your parents about it."
Hudson has a couple of trunks like that -- not necessarily full of sheet music he says, but full of things that meant something to his parents. And he's always collected sheet music, and not always for the songs. "I'll pick it up if I like the artwork, sometimes," he says. "And I'll always pick it up if it's got the name of a state in the song, like the "Missouri Waltz,' or if it's a national song for America or Canada, or if it's about the Second World War, like 'G.I. Jive' -- I've got two copies of that. I like Hawaiian songs, like 'I want to Go Back To My Little Grass Shack.' And I like anything by Stephen Foster."
A songbook Hudson particularly prizes is his parents' copy of "Canada Sings" His mother used to play and sing from it. She played the piano by ear, and sang; some of her favorite tunes, Hudson recalls, were "Deep River", Mighty Lak a Rose", and "The Wedding of the Painted Doll."
His father played the C-Melody saxophone and flute in dance bands. Swing bands? "No, even earlier than swing," Hudson says with a chuckle. His voice swells with warmth as he remembers them, and the music of the earlier decades which is part of his memory.
"Those old songs have always been a part of me," he says, "and those old musical styles, like Paul Whiteman. Since the early days with The Band, I've used fills that I took from old hymns, and songs in "Canada Sings."
Hudson's favorites among the classical composers include Bach, Chopin and Mozart. He started out studying the classical repertoire for the piano, and believes that any keyboard player should get classical training "for as long as you can stick it out. Playing the keyboards is a very competitive business and if you're going to be in it, you should be able to read and transcribe. If you're improvising and come up with a good idea in the middle of a solo, it's great if you can go back and write it down, and maybe do some more work with it. Lately I've been transcribing a lot of accordion parts in polkas."
Polkas? "Yeah, I've been really into that," Hudson says. "I've been talking a lot with (Hudson valley resident and Grammy winner) Jimmy Sturr about playing with him. He's asked me to record with him. I'd love to sit in with his band, sometime. I've promised him I wouldn't get in the way ... he wouldn't even have to turn me up."
Hudson won't reveal exactly what he plans to play with the Philharmonic this Saturday, but he does hint that he's been listening to Romanian folk songs, like "In The Shadow Of The Old Nut Tree," and "Back to Bucharest," and that they might well show up in his encore.