10-12 songs that were partially created…once Covid hit, everything in my life was geared towards live entertainment, as a theater designer and as a musician…so that became the time to start working on some of those songs…
We connect with local legend Kit Mayer. We dig into his early influences, his new CD Stone’s Throw, his process for songwriting and recording, what is coming down the road for this musician and where people can find out more. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.
Brent Hanifl 00:26
And I’m Brent.
Amy Gabay 00:26
And this is La Crosse Local.
Brent Hanifl 00:32
Kit Mayer 00:48
I’m Kit Mayer. I was born in southeastern Wisconsin, a little town called Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, right on the Illinois border, kind of between Chicago and Milwaukee. Very much a tourist area or a nine month out of the year. Lot of summer homes, a lot of people from Chicago, Milwaukee, those cities, would have summer places around the lake there. And so it was like a continuous party from Memorial Day through Labor Day. And then after Labor Day, it was just us the locals there. And it was a great place to grow up, it was a lot of fun. And musically, what happened then was a first my brother Hans got into music. And that’s what got me into playing music. More than anything else, more than anyone else. Although I grew up when, you know, the Beatles hit, I was very much aware of that, and the Rolling Stones and, and the idea that there was you know, three radio stations, that’s what everybody was playing on. Me, it wasn’t as fragmented as we are now. So, you know, music became it was pretty much universal across the board for everybody. Wasn’t like there was a lot of niche kind of things at that time. The catching of those groups really kind of set the pace for getting into music, and the excitement that went around that. And then like I say, my brother Hans, I mean, he started playing and after years later than my cousin and myself and some other people in the area, you know, got into playing as well as just listening.
Brent Hanifl 02:30
So you know, I’ve seen you in different iterations of bands, you know, live usually from everything from being at Moon Tunes to the Mayer Brother Band. You’ve kind of been in every iteration around La Cross in some ways, right? Kinda played with everybody, I mean haven’t you?
Kit Mayer 02:44
It’s a longevity thing. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, we played with a lot of different people. We came up here with the band called Northern Comfort that’s who we came up in at that time. We were kind of a combination of country and bluegrass and rock and roll you know, all kind of blended together. A lot of Grateful Dead kind of Jerry Jeff Walker, any any combination of things, you know, with some straight up bluegrass mixed in, but once we got up here and established with some other things, then yeah, we did a lot of different work. You know, Blind Baby, Olan and the Workbenches was a big band for us for a while from mid 80s to the early 90s or so. And then Jawbone, you know, and that opened us up to playing with Jeff Sharon. And then Dave Rogers followed him and a couple of different keyboard players we worked with, in there. So yeah, I mean, you know, we go back a long ways with a lot of different musicians. But we keep kind of circling back, we circle back a lot with the Blind Radioland crew with Terry Nerva. My brother, Hans, Tom Gibbons, and myself was the being the core of that band. And that, of course, is the core of the Mayer Brothers Band now.
Brent Hanifl 03:59
So you kind of, you know, list off a number of sort of influences and stuff you’re playing, is there any something kind of modern or anything that’s kind of hitting you right now, or anything you’re really excited about musically?
Kit Mayer 04:10
You know? No, I wouldn’t say modern. I mean, you know, I kind of listen to certain artists a lot. And whether they’re, they wouldn’t be considered modern in the sense other than they’re playing currently.
Brent Hanifl 04:27
Kit Mayer 04:27
You know, but Steve Earle, Richard Thompson, John Hyatt, Los Lobos. I mean, I really appreciate the musicians who are doing good solid music but their lyric writing is strong. I’m a big fan of lyrics. I love strong lyrics and well and I would put the Stones in that category too. I went to see them back in October and it was an awesome concert. I mean, their music is timeless as far as I’m concerned. And you know, they were amazing to see 80 year old guys out there. So it’s 80 year old guys just rocking it out, I would go back to this thing is my influences are mostly people who are really not only strong in musicality, but with the lyrics,
Brent Hanifl 05:14
Just kind of referencing those influences. And you know, a lot of them are still out there. You know, I think you just referenced Los Lobos, which I believe is like, I believe they’ve been around for almost 40 years or something crazy like that. You know, it’s kind of interesting how maybe they’re not in the normal, I guess, day to day or on the normal radio station, people are still putting out good music for extended amounts of time.
Kit Mayer 05:39
Absolutely. I don’t know, you know, radio is such an odd duck to me now. Because it’s, it’s just canned, it’s not, you know, you don’t have the DJs who bring their own influences in and play a wider variety of things. It’s what they’re, you know, it’s pre programmed. And it’s geared towards, uh, you know, it’s not derogatory when I say this, but it’s just geared towards a younger audience that doesn’t have the same interests musically, that maybe I have, you know, I can stream good radio stations, but I’m not, you know, it’s not likely that you’re going to turn on the station around here. And I’m not going to hear a lot of the music that I’d like to.
Brent Hanifl 06:17
Kind of moving on to present day, you just released a new CD over the last couple months, titled Stone’s Throw. So how did that album come about? What was the impetus for the start of that piece?
Kit Mayer 06:29
Well, I’ve always had some music in the can where I’m always writing something. And, you know, I might work on it for a while, and then it sits. So I have like, at any given time, you know, 10 to 12 songs that are just partially created. And once COVID hit, everything I’ve done in my life has been an geared towards live entertainment, as a theater designer, as a musician. So when COVID hit literally, everything I did was I was locked out of. So then that became a time for me to go back and, and start working on some of those songs again, and finishing them up. And new ones came out of that. So the impetus was okay, I’ve just got this interest in creating, again, that I haven’t had time for in the past, and was coming out with more time and more desire. So I have worked with Brett Hughes over at Momentous and Sound Stations. And we would we had remastered one of my old CDs, Kit Mayer and the Careful Flies, title of Sporting Life. And it had been around I did that in the later 90s. And then it just kind of sat. I mean, I got into theater full time and didn’t get back into music for quite a spell there. So it just kind of sat. And I have going back and listen to it. And I was like, you know, this is really bad. I would just like to re-release it, and remaster it, you know, just to make it sound a little better. And once we started working on that, which is pretty quick, I said, you know, I got a bunch of songs, maybe let’s just follow up with a new CD after that. And so I did. I just got enough songs together and enough ones that I thought were worthy of recording and said, let’s just do this, start working on it. And so it came about that way, as well as I had the equipment to to do it. So I started recording here at home, at least the bass tracks, you know, and I worked with a little drum machine so I could get the keep the rhythms tight, and you know, work with the speed tempos and everything going. And as I did that, I got more excited in the prospect of doing that. So that’s kind of how it came about.
Brent Hanifl 08:45
You kind of touch on your songwriting there, you know, you have a bunch of different little pieces here going in this kind of this new CD, and kinda I guess, funnel that into Stones Throw. Was the recording quick from start to finish? Was it something that you laid this down in a few weeks or a couple hours or?
Kit Mayer 09:01
Well it was stretched out, I mean, what I did at home, was relatively quick, I would say a couple of weeks. But you know, I was able to work on it and go, you know, at a pace that you normally wouldn’t be able to, you know, if I wanted to work all day on a song I could. Whereas in the studio, that’s just not going to be feasible as easily. So basically, I worked on two songs here, I went back and I would do editing with them. I would just kind of shorten them or tighten them up in ways that I hadn’t, you know, when you’re just kind of writing. I work a little bit loose and then I go back and tighten them up after the fact. So I took care of all that. And as I was doing that I was thinking about the other instrumentation I’d like to hear on it and, you know, mostly instrumentation and styles that I wanted to work with. And then I took it to Brett’s studio, we transferred everything in and then just added, which is a way I’ve never recorded before. I’ve always recorded as a band, you go in all the songs you go in you record. And yeah, you can do it pretty quick. And then most of the time you’re spending is in, you know, whatever you’re doing for overdubs or for the mix down process. Well, with this, I was done relatively quick, but it was getting the other people on there that that really was stretched out. So we started recording different musicians in their tracks in June of last summer, and didn’t really finish up with that process until the end of September, beginning of October. Oh, and then I was mixing and that was more about scheduling than anything else. But it was good because it gave me more time to even delve into the songs more as far as I wanted to think about mixing in the final product.
Brent Hanifl 10:55
So was there any particular song or songs that kind of like, really came together well?Because it sounds like you went from a live playing recording version to you know, I’m sure you have some sort of idea of what people are gonna go in there and do. But it must have been surprises sometimes when you get to you know, back write songs that came out that just surprised you?
Kit Mayer 11:18
Yeah, I would say there’s a few there’s one. I’m Still Standing. And because I’ve only been working by myself and just working with a drum machine. I you know, I just had this kind of rough idea of, okay, here’s the temple. Here’s, you know, I think this is song kind of rocks as opposed to being a little more country- ish. So when we got Terry, Terry was the first one, our drummer Terry Nirva was the first one to lay any tracks down besides me. He just wanted to work strictly with my rhythm guitar, and voice as the to go along with he didn’t want to have a bass player in there or anything else. So when he started laying down tracks, and we talked about it, of course beforehand, and I gave him ideas I, you know, I would reference how I thought about a song, the kind of rhythms I was imagining. And when I did that, I also discovered I don’t know crap about talking to drummers how to describe to a drummer what I want to hear, we don’t speak the same language. I don’t know how to talk about that rhythm without referencing somebody else’s version of the rhythm I hear. So I that’s always interesting now is that communication aspect with different musicians but uh, he laid down some things and I just, you know, kind of let him do what he was going to do and he laid down a few things that just took me totally by surprise and and it got exciting right away was like, Oh, this is cool. I there’s potential I hear the potential and a lot of this now. The country stuff was pretty much straight up, but there was some others. Let’s Finish What We Started just is a real kind of a breezy rhythm and blues kind of track. That’s real, it’s fun. And the lyrics are just fun. So once I heard those that really became okay, yeah, now we’re under. I’m surprised and we’re also on to something I love the element of surprise. As it starts forming, developing with the other instrument, you go, oh, that’s bigger than I thought it was gonna be.
Brent Hanifl 13:40
So people right now could pick up that. They can listen to it on Spotify. Where they can also purchase it too, right?
Kit Mayer 13:47
You can purchase it. I have my website gkitmayer.com which just went up recently as well. And it’s set up for commerce so that you can buy that CD, you can buy the new CD, you can buy my other one Kit Mayer and the Careful Flies. And you can also buy the Mayer Brothers CD. So yes, and then at gigs, I will have them have the CDs out there and it’s also on like Amazon and Apple Music and pretty much all the platforms. Pandora.
Brent Hanifl 14:18
So what’s next for you? What’s coming up? What are you excited about?
Kit Mayer 14:21
Well doing some playing with this. It’s just gonna get started this spring. That’ll be fun. I think you know, maybe add a couple of these songs into what the Mayer Brothers Band does. But I’m also working on doing some solo work and starting to write another batch.
Brent Hanifl 14:38
You know, I was kind of creeping on your website page, you know your website here. Investigating.
Kit Mayer 14:42
That’s what it’s for isn’t it.
Brent Hanifl 14:43
Yeah, I’ve always seen you around the music, the music scene here in La Crosse. So you know I’ve known of, know your family in some capacity but you know, just looking at here to you it’s also like you work in design and you know, scenic and lighting designer for like theater and stuff like that. I just never knew those sort of components.
Kit Mayer 15:01
Well, and that’s I think that’s because it’s there’s so you know, we’re all in the arts with it. But they are so separate. People in theater don’t spend a lot of time going to live music. And I know people in live music don’t spend a lot of time going into theater. I mean, there’s exceptions, of course, but it’s not just two separate worlds. And what I do in each world is different. I mean, as a designer, I’m not the person on stage. And so my role isn’t to be vying for attention, or anything like that. It’s kind of a, you know, do my job, stay in the shadows, and then let the show take care of itself. And with music. It’s kind of the opposite, right? I’m out there on the stage. And that’s part of my problem right now is I’m not good at self promotion. And because of that, I mean, you know, I think that’s had a major influence on how I approach everything. So I’m having to learn the self promotion.
Brent Hanifl 15:58
Well, let’s do that right now. What’s the best avenue for people to find out more about your follow along?
Kit Mayer 16:02
Well, right now that website kitmayer.com is the easiest way to see for what my projects are personally, whether that’s a solo music thing, or if it’s a theater show. I’m working on playing with the Mayer Brothers Band, any of that is going to be on the events listing there and everything else is linked in my Facebook Kit Mayer Music and Design is linked into that as well as the Mayer Brothers Band website and the Momentous Records website.
Amy Gabay 16:35
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