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Farnell Newton: My name is Farnell Newton. I’m a trumpeter. And I’ve been in Portland, Oregon for the last 19 years, after I finished my Undergrad at Oberlin College.


Adam King: Sweet, and where did you come from before that?


FN: Before that, I was in Denver, Colorado – that’s where I did my last year of high school. And then before that, Philadelphia.


AK: Did you have an impression of the Portland music scene before you moved here?


FN: I had no clue. I just knew of Mel Brown and a couple of the other Portland jazz greats before I moved, and that was it. I didn’t know anything about Portland. My ex-wife is from Portland. That was what prompted the move to Portland.


AK: Then what was your first impression of the music scene when you got here?


FN: Everything was done early. You know the jazz club would be done at 11:00, and it was hard to find music during the week unless you knew where to go. At the time, the only place that did late-night music was The Candlelight. And that was like the old blues bar. Funk, blues, soul, maybe some rock. And that’s been demolished. But I thought it was pretty okay at first, ‘cuz I was pretty busy playing in the jazz… and then I was playing in the Latin scene – Puerto Rican and Cuban salsa. Then later I got into the hip-hop scene playing live hip-hop and such. But I felt like it was pretty good.


AK: How much have you seen the scene change since you’ve been here?


FN: I’ve seen the scene change drastically with certain clubs closing and new clubs opening up. I’ve seen live soul and hip-hop music get dismantled through downtown, through the efforts of the fire department and the fire marshal debacle that had many years ago. And then he got investigated over a bunch of stuff. I’ve seen the scene change. Over the 19 years, I’ve seen it change a bunch. It’s interesting looking back thinking about it now. Good grief, that was some pretty weird years.


AK: Do you think there’s been a concentrated effort from people in the city and local government to deter the scene in any way?


FN: Oh, I’ve definitely felt like that. Especially when it came to hip-hop and live… everything kind of associated with hip-hop I felt like was definitely. Even the live hip-hop music and the live soul artists who were in that scene definitely all felt the effects of The Crown Room and Sunday Lounge and a lot of different places. Even the underage place that was next to the Sunday Lounge. I saw a lot of places definitely get shut down because they were playing hip-hop. That was systematically. That was the thing. The fire marshal, and the police, and the OLCC was definitely all involved in that one. But as far as other scenes, I don’t feel like I felt anything like that from the city on the other scenes of the music. I felt like they were probably like, “Jazz is safe.”But hip-hop and rap music, they were kinda like “no.” They didn’t want it downtown for a while. But also a lot of those venues that had those live music, they’re now like condos or built up into something else, and changed up a bunch. But I feel like there’s a lot of other places and things that have stood and jumped in place with arms open to the various different music scenes and such. 


AK: Do you think that part of that city effort about hip-hop relates back to a much older sort of history of Portland?

FN: Oh of course. See first of all, myself as a musician and a former professor, I’m always a student. I’m always learning. Like I’m a musician in Portland, and I call myself playing soul music and jazz and black music and stuff, my thing is to do is to call our elders. And I’ve called people like Marlon McClain of the group Pleasure, who was like the funk band out of the west coast out of Portland, Oregon. They were telling me that they couldn’t play downtown. They wasn’t allowing black music to be played downtown and they had to play in Northeast and North Portland, and play halls and stuff off of Dekum and different places because they weren’t allowed by the city to play in certain establishments and things like that – in the 70’s. You know, it happens! It definitely happens. But I feel like that’s when people start becoming clever and they’re gonna make their music somehow anyway, and create their own versions of speakeasys and clubs, and such like that. 


AK: So are you currently optimistic or pessimistic about the role of the city in supporting music like that?


FN: I’m more optimist these days. There have been a lot of goodwill moments, and the city really trying to heal and bridge the youth and music. You know from them having annual hip-hop day at the city hall – outside the city hall. And various different efforts to help the live music scene. I feel optimistic right now, but the thing about is because you have certain people in power. We never know what the next mayor is gonna hold. The next police chief. The next fire chief. Fire marshal, and the OLCC. You know the next bunch could be totally… oof, it could be rough, and they could shut everything down once again. It’s easy. But we have to check those people in power and not let that happen. But right now it’s okay. But like I said, next term? Anything’s liable to be happening. But it’s different now, because like [chief of police] Danielle Outlaw – she comes to our gigs, and she’s hanging out with us, and kicking it. The mayor comes out and different city officials, and people come out to my shows and such because they’re connecting with the community, the audience, and also they like good music. But like I said, in four years it could be a whole different story. 


AK: So then when you’re looking at new politicians coming up locally, are you directly looking for what they’re going to do with music?


FN: Sometimes.


AK: I was saying yesterday that I voted for Joanne Hardesty, but I wasn’t really aware of her musical stances. So now that she’s taking a stand to not have these earthquake posts put up, I was like, “Oh that’s great. I would have voted for you even more if I had known that first.”


FN: It’s a hard thing and it takes people in the community to ask those questions. It needs to be people at the musician unions, and MusicPortland organization, and Vortex magazine, and different people to step in, and community people to say, “Hey, this is great. We believe in what you stand for, but what about in music? Or what about the OLCC and underage performers? What are you trying to do to help really the growth of the city as far as entertainment?” and thing like that. We have to ask those questions, because sometimes they don’t stand for those things, and sometimes they do.


AK: Do you think, over the time that you’ve been here, it’s become… I guess two questions. For you personally, and for overall musicians, do you think it’s become easier or harder to just live and exist as a Portland musician?

FN: Yeah, living and existing as a Portland musician. I know a lot of young guys that are doing. I know a lot of older people that aren’t doing it anymore because they feel like they’ve exhausted all of their means and their music isn’t getting the traction it wants and such. But I mean, for myself I do make my living as a musician, but I also do work a day gig that’s surrounded and deals with music as well. I’m fortunate in that way. But I feel like there is, but you have to stay busy. You have to stay recording, traveling, touring. Nowadays I make way more money when I’m on the road then when I’m at home. So it’s like sometimes you have to be on the road and tour and travel to make it as full-time musician. Orconstantly be busy and taking every gig, and juggling it all to be a viable musician and making a living in Portland, Oregon.


AK: In terms of taking every gig, do you personally have a clear line in your head of where your artistic integrity and your financial payout diverge?


FN: Yeah, I feel like I’m at a place where… I remember being a younger musician in Portland, Oregon and taking every gig. And I’ll be playing jazz a couple nights a week. I’ll be playing Latin music. I’ll be playing with The Stolen Sweets, or I’ll be playing with any and every gig that basically was sent my way. But now I’ve had a certain amount of success as a musician and traveled, so I feel like I could kind of be very picky and choosy about who I perform with, but also, I kind of just do a lot of my own things and such – just because I know how I like things to be ran. I’m strategic about it. I try not to overdo it. I never try to oversell myself and play too many times a week, because I want to make people come out and want to see my shows and be a part of my shows. Because some people you can go and see them for free this one night, but the same week you could go see them playing the same exact music for ten bucks. And which do you think people are gonna be likely to go to? The free show or the ten-buck show? It all depends on the venue, and it all depends on the musician as they promote the shows and such. You can’t oversell yourself at all. You’ll over-exhaust. But I’ve paid enough dues and I’ve worked with enough people, and I’ve worked with the right people. I’ve put myself strategically in the right places so I can be choosy about what I do. But then I also work and record from home and do music licensing and such like that. So I wear many hats to help sustain my career as a musician.


AK: Would you say that you are proud to be a Portland musician? Is that a label you wear?


FN: Oh definitely. When I go out and about, I’m all about Portland, and repping Portland, and that’s why most of the times if you go to another city and you mention you are from Portland, Oregon, somebody might say “Hey you know Farnell?” It’s just one of those things. But I’m also a heavy networker. I network, I schmooze. I get along with people well. I like to meet people. And I’ve lived all over the country. So nine out of ten you’ll probably run into somebody that knows me. And usually when I’m traveling and going overseas, I’m rocking my Portland Blazer jacket. And I’m proud to be here in this city. I’ve been here, like I said, 19 years and I’m pretty proud to be here. I feel like the city does a good job of showcasing myself as well. Because I feel like have enough for the city and the city does for me. You know I get featured at the Portland Jazz Festival. I get featured at a lot of different festivals. I throw my own festivals and things like that. So I feel like it’s a give and take with me and the city. I feel like I’m as proud as the city is hopefully.I feel like I’m at a place where I can go places and people are like, “Hey I heard you on the radio last night,” or I’ll be in New Seasons and someone’s like, “Hey your voice sounds familiar,” “Oh, I heard you on KMHD,” or “I saw you at this show at The Crystal Ballroom opening for George Clinton,” or something. I feel like I’m at a place where I’m a little bit of a musical celebrity.


AK: Playing all around, is there a noticeable difference between Portland audiences and other audiences?

FN: I feel like Portland – they come out to hear good music and stuff, but sometimes you just gotta warm them up a little bit. Once you warm them up, you got ‘em. They’re there. They’re gonna come to all your shows. They’re gonna come and see you play and such. But I feel like it takes a little bit to get our audiences to kinda… with some places they kinda come eager and ready to go and ready to receive as well. And that’s why I feel like why I play at The Goodfoot all the time, because people come to the Goodfoot to receive. They don’t just come to show off their new clothes, or to show people how fancy they are. They come there literally looking for something to take away the stress. They want to come and dance. They want to come and meet other people that’s there to share in this energy. 


AK: It’s funny, I’ve been talking to a bunch of different people and everybody… The Goodfoot comes up a lot.


FN: Oh yeah.


AK: And it’s funny has this impression with a lot of people I think of being like the jamband kind of place. I remember playing there when I was playing with this weird indie-pop band, and then went and played with my sort-of jamband there, and the indie-pop guys came and were like, “Holy shit, what is this? These people are here just in the dark dancing?” You know it’s not like Rontoms on a Sunday night where I have to make sure my collar is correctly dressed. It’s funny though I feel like Goodfoot has this one reputation as like the hippie spot, but then in another reputation it’s like no. It’s where people go. It’s the basement party there.


FN: Yeah, that’s why. That’s kind of like home base for my funk band – The Othership Connection. Because I used to play at Jimmy Mak’s a lot, and I love Jimmy – rest in peace – and I love the club, and he was very vital in my career as a jazz musician, but at the same time I was like, “Man, for a person to come and sit down at a table. They gotta buy dinner. They gotta buy drinks.” Before you even get out of there, you spend fifty to eighty bucks and then that’s not even counting the cover. So then you’re like, I just wanted a place where people could come, have a good time, pay a cover, dance, and walk away and feel like they really enjoyed what they saw. Or they got to meet new people, and they got to rub elbows with other people and such. I mean I love it. I go there and hang. It’s a great community place too though. You know they’re very encouraging and wanting… I’ve done funk and soul there. I’ve done jazz. I’ve done Latin. I’ve done all kind of things and they’re pretty receptive to most of the things that I throw at them. And I try to go there and support the other bands, and national and international touring artists. I go there and see people like Mike Dillon and all of these other great musicians who I get to play with – who I get to play with, but not in Portland – I get to see them there. At this kind of like dark hole in the wall, you really get to see a good community of people.


AK: Other than Jimmy Mak’s, are there other venues that aren’t around anymore that you used to love playing at or seeing music at?


FN: I used to play at… what’s it called now, The Liquor Store? It used to be the Blue Monk. And I played there literally from when it first opened to when it closed as the Blue Monk. And I think the Liquor Store still has shows and such there. I used to love playing at The Sunday Lounge. It was a real cool spot downtown, and I saw Erika Badu there, and Madlib, and all kinds of legendary hip-hop producers and such there, with Kenny Fresh and a bunch of other guys that used to be their DJ. What else wasn’t around? Satyricon. Good grief. That was more of a rock spot, but I used to play there with hip-hop stuff. There’s always something that was around and gone. Another one that was in the neighborhood was Bookies, up on Albina and Lombard. It used to be like a blues spot, and we used to do like soul and poetry sessions there back in like 2005 or ’06. I mean there’s a lot of little places that we used to play and hang out with that’s not really around. But those were kind of the spots. The original Jimmy Mak’s – that was like the hangout spot.


AK: Do you think there’s enough venues in Portland right now?


FN: I feel like there’s a lot of venues in town. I feel like we have access to a lot of various different places. Now you’ve got places like Turn, Turn, Turn which is also part coffee shop. And I feel like we have a couple places for all the genres. I feel like we have a lot ofdifferent small jazz, and we definitely have hip-hop places and such. And then there’s a couple of places, like the Fixin’ To in St. John’s that kind of cater to whoever that can bring a draw there. 


AK: Thinking of all the different Portland music there is, do you think there’s a definable Portland sound, or vibe separately?


FN: I don’t know about sound. It’s definitely Portland is like in between this indie/singer-songwriter/rock/with a little jazz. It’s kind of like in the middle of all of that.I see so many different bands. Like Y La Bamba who has a Latin flavor, but they’re indie-rock. You might get some hip-hop bands that’s not really straight hip-hop. And all kinds of singer-songwriters and Haley Johnsen, and the Moorea Masas. But I don’t know if we have a certain sound. I don’t know when I think of Portland if I think of a certain sound. I just think of all the various different artists, or people… Steven Swatkins, or the Jimmy Russells. I think of these various different people and the clubs more than I think of and individual sound. It’s not like New Orleans or something. You go to New Orleans, you know you’re gonna hear a certain thing. I just feel like it’s a nice mix though.


AK: Is there a Portland vibe though?


FN: I don’t know. I feel like the Portland vibe is just being supportive and trying to be supportive in a loving community more than anything. From the great musicians – the ones I like to go and see – everybody’s very appreciative and also encouraging of music and such. I don’t know if it’s a certain vibe. I don’t know. It’s so much music happening, I feel like it’s hard to have one vibe. I mean we just have so many dope artists. What’s the one girl? Like A Villain I think it is. She does the looping. And then you got the Y La Bambas. It’s just so many different bands. The Chris Worths, and the Haley Johnsens. Like I was saying, Moorea Masa and all of those guys.I feel like it’s a mixture between soul, jazz, singer-songwriter, and a little bit of everything else mixed in there.


AK: So I’ve been asking this of some people. So imagine you were blindly spun around the world and walking out onto a stage you haven’t been before, you don’t know where you were, let’s just presume there’s not gonna be anybody in the room that you know, just to get that fact out of the way, do you think you’d be able to tell you were in Portland when you walked out on that stage?


FN: Oh wow. No. [laughs] No. Probably not. I could compare Portland to any other place in the country. A lot of people are like, “I go to L.A. or I go to New York.” That’s where you go to be famous, or that’s where you go to learn how to play. And I feel like we have just as equal amount of badass musicians as any other place. To tell you the truth. We’ve got some of the funkiest musicians here. We got some of the most killer jam-band cats. We got great singer-songwriters. I mean, Y La Bamba is like number two on the Latin charts – Billboard. Of course we have the Pink Martinis and those type of society people, and Portland Cello Project, and stuff like this. I just feel like we have a nice, crazy mix of musicians and such. 


AK: Are there any aspects of music scenes from other cities that you wish Portland would take on?


FN: Hmm, no. I kind of like what happens. Like I said, we have a real eclectic mix of things happening. I kind of enjoy what’s happening here. I could kind of go and hear a little bit of everything. I could kind of hear… if I wanted like the New York, Robert Glasper, kind of jazz-hip-hop vibe, I could find that. I could find the funky stuff. I could find the old-school guys that like… The Blue Diamond, Brian Foxworth and Ben Jones playing old-school covers and soul covers. Or could go to Mississippi Studios. I could go hear grunge music and rock music a lot of places. I feel like we just have a great, eclectic mix of things that I feel like touch upon a little bit of everything. Sometimes I wish it was just a little more, just happening. Sometimes. In Portland. But we’re still not as big as some other places. Yeah, you could go to New York and probably go to twenty different places on a Monday night. At the same time, I like the fact that I could stay home and watch Netflix and work on music.


AK: So you do feel though that the life you lead here as a working musician and other things is a life you could lead in other places?


FN: I would have to be even busier. I feel like I’ve always just kinda made sure I’m in the right place with the right people. Because you live in a city like L.A. or New York, you have to grind it harder because rent is like ridiculously more for a smaller place. I mean I own a house here. My house note here costs as much as a room in New York. The grind is… But also more rewards to reap when you’re in a city because there’s always things happening. I run into the band who plays with Kanye West, or I hang out with Bruno Mars’ band, or Beyoncé’s band. I’m constantly amongst those people and in those sessions because that’s what’s happening in the city, or that’s what’s happening. But here in Portland I do like the fact that I don’t have to be in all of that, all the time. I like to kind of like recharge. I’m an extrovert. Probably introvert. But I need to recharge. I like to be out there. I like to talk. I like to schmooze. But at the same time I like to just be home with the kids and recharge and such. But you know, Kanye West was just in town this morning. His band flew in last night. They hit me up and they were like, “Yo, where can we find something to eat this late?” and next thing you know they played a private show at Adidas and jumped right back on a plane and went to L.A. It happens. You never know who’s in Portland doing a private event at Nike or celebrities are in town doing events and things like that, but they fly right back out. But I like Portland. I love it. It’s laid back, the west coast is all chill. I’d never want to go back East to live ever again. 


AK: Really?


FN: Yes, unless it was a really great paying teaching gig somewhere. That’s about it.


AK: So you’ve got no lost love for Philly?


FN: I mean, I Iove Philly. I love the city. I love New York. I love the D.C./Baltimore area. I love the Atlanta area. I have a lot of family in Miami. I mean, I love to visit and being in those places, but I just like to be back in Portland. It’s so cool and laid back. I can walk and get my coffee. You know, you can have a real neighborhood instead of just living in a strip-mall somewhere… near a strip mall because it’s too expensive to live in a city.


AK: Do you think that a musician like yourself moving here today could gel in with the scene as easy as it was 20 years ago?


FN: They probably could. But sometimes I feel like some people come from bigger cities and they come to Portland and they have a hard time because they’re always used to being in the middle of something. Always busy. Always on the go. Then they get here and it’s kind of like they’re not willing to network and work as hard as they were before. They can see the reward somewhere else, but here they’re like, “Whoa man, I could just stay home.” And I feel like if they’re ready to go out there and meet new people, and shake hands, and support the scene, they’re gonna do totally fine. They could be okay. But you gotta put in that work. It takes a lot of work. Even if I got up and moved somewhere else, it still gonna be a lot of work, and shaking hands, and letting people know who I am. Even though I could go to L.A. and I could be in the right sessions and I could be in the right thing, I still have to do the whole pay my dues and such. It’s just no way around that. Even though I could fastrack it now because I know these people. I know the key players, but I’m still gonna have to do some things from the bottom. I feel like anybody could do it, you just gotta be humbled and go out there. Yeah, they might not know who you are. You might be a big fish in other places. But now you’re small fish here. You gotta start back over. They might not know that you toured around the world with whoever twenty different times. That doesn’t matter here. It’s a whole new scene. A whole new place. Get to know people. Hang out.


AK: Is there anything you miss about what Portland used to be?


FN: I feel like at one point had a lot of things happening. With all the scenes. Like between 2006 and 2010, it was just a whole bunch of stuff happening. Records, and recordings, and performances and such. But I don’t know, it could get back to that energy, but it’s also depending on the city and organizations. Now I feel like more organizations are coming around. We actually have a full functioning music magazine company. We have online music websites that are really pushing the scene. I feel like we have a lot of things going. We just gotta take advantage of what we have and use it for our resources. Yeah, I felt like it was a certain energy back then. Because a lot of people starting around 2005 and 2010, you had Liv Warfield, you had The Stolen Sweets, you had The Decemberists, you had all these people really doing a whole bunch of stuff. Really. And collaborating and working in the city. I feel like so many people are so spread apart and have their own thing happening, sometimes you don’t feel that we’re all together in this. Because the city is getting bigger and more people now.


AK: So it seems like you touch upon a lot of different scenes though, do you think there’s an attitude, or not an attitude necessarily, it’s just sort of the way things are, that a lot of Portland musicians sort of stick to their own scene?


FN: Oh yeah. That’s always been the case. Even when I was really playing with a lot of hip-hop guys, and recording and hanging, the jazz guys weren’t doing that. The jazz guys was frowning upon them. Because I used to go out and play with Mel Brown on Tuesday night at Jimmy Mak’s and then I would go and play with Nancy King at Jazz de Opus – that’s another venue that I do miss. It was great, great legendary venue. Right on 2ndand Couch? Right downtown. It was Jazz de Opus. But then I would go from there. So Mel Brown to Nancy King and then I would go across the street to Ash St. Saloon and play with like Thorn City Improv – a hip-hop collective of people from Old Dominion and all of these groups up and down the Pacific Northwest. But I grew up listening to all of this music, so I felt like I would be a disservice to not be a part of the music I love. But a lot of people didn’t do that as well back then. I feel like now we’ve got so many younger musicians in Portland doing a lot of work and performing, and recording in jazz, but producing in hip-hop, but then also playing other things. There’s a lot of people looking for the cross-pollination of the music. Back then I don’t feel like it was happening as much. Esperanza was young. That was before she was doing what she does. But I’ve always been in the middle of all of this stuff. I’ve always played the Latin, the funk, the soul, the jazz. Stolen Sweets. Pete Krebs played gypsy jazz. I felt like it’s always just good music. I love it and I appreciate it all.


AK: Aside from the cross pollination within the genres, would you like to see more split bills of genres? Like I lived in Vermont forever, in Burlington so it’s tiny, so you do a bill because there’s two places to play. So it’d be like a hip-hop group opening up for a jamband with a late-night jazz-funk thing. Which personally for me is the kind of thing that I wish would happen here more. There’d be more forced, not forced, but forced impact of the cultures to sort of bring them together.


FN: Some of that happens but it’s on a smaller level. I wish it was definitely it was total opposites of genres all on the same bill, because I feel like you would just keep exposing more people to your music, and you’d be winning more people over to what you do. Because a lot of people, they’re like, “I don’t like jazz.” Because of whatever – their parents or whatever they were forced to listen to. And then some people are like, “I don’t really like hip-hop” or “I don’t really like funk” or “I don’t really like…” But I feel like the certain people that are all doing bills and all on the same shows, it would definitely open up a lot of people’s taste palates. That’s why you have people like Christian Scott, trumpeter who speaks to the young, he plays the tradition of the old, but he’s forward thinking and modern and they put him in Gap ads and things like that because he’s hip. He’s like a young Miles Davis. Miles wasn’t just about the music. It was his fashion. His sense of style, and all these other things that attracted people in the projects he did – attracted people to him. Which I feel like sometimes so many musicians in Portland are so, not as public figures. Like you go to New York or L.A. – yes. You gotta be more of a public figure, so now you kinda gotta… what is your persona? Like you could come to Portland. Like Portugal, the Man lives in Portland, but you can’t put him out from anyone that’s in a line here in Portland, ‘cuz everyone kind of looks very much, or dresses very similar. There no like, “Hey that’s Kanye West.” You know, “That’s so and so.” Just because we’re real lowkey about things here in Portland. Which I feel like that’s one of the joys of it. People don’t wear their wealth here like they do in New York, Because no one could really afford to drive around the city, so they wear their wealth. A little differently. In L.A. they might drive their wealth. They drive the Maseratis and things like that. But in Portland, you could be hanging out with some of the richest people in the city and you would never even know just by their attire and their look. And I know, I’ve hung out with a lot of these guys, and the Larry Millers and the tech gurus and things like that. They’re just wearing jeans and a t-shirt and jacket just like me. You know? Which I love that. It’s very low-key. You don’t feel put-off. 


AK: Are there any true stand-out gigs that you’ve played over the years that really stick in your mind?


FN: I’ve had some really great gigs. But opening up for Roy Ayers for the Jazz Festival, that was pretty amazing. And also getting the chance to sit in with him – with his band that night is pretty amazing, because he’s literally influenced the younger generation from hip-hop, funk, soul, and R&B. George Clinton – opening up for George Clinton here in Portland was great because it’s George Clinton. He’s like a funk legend. Fashion. Funk. The things they are known for. They still influence everyone. Anybody and everyone. Look at Kendrick Lamar, and all of these other people who are using George Clinton and things in their music. What’s another one? I feel like those were like my big moments.


AK: Those are pretty good ones.


FN: Yeah, and we just opened up for Patrice Rushen and that was pretty like… even though she wasn’t doing any of the music from her earlier days that she’s famous for. But it was great just to hear her band she was there with, and some peoples was upset. And I feel like, guess what you can’t expect someone to do the music that they created thirty-plus years ago. And it’s almost impossible to reproduce all of that. You want her to do “Forget Me Not” just because it’s famous on Men In Black? It’s not gonna happen. She’s in a totally different place. People change and adapt and situations in life change. I mean locally those are my gigs that I’ve… but I’ve traveled the world with Bootsy Collins and Jill Scott so that’s a whole different thing. Being on the road with a legend nightly is a whole ‘nother thing. Inspiring. 


AK: What about any stand-out terrible gigs?


FN: Oh man. One of the worst gigs I think I had was at the Dope Awards for the cannabis industry. Because the soundman of this venue had a brand-new soundboard and they did not know how to work it to save their lives. It was to the point where my drummer was like… he was so tired of the feedback, he was like, “I’m done.” And it takes a lot for my drummer, Tyrone Hendrix to really get to the point where he’s ready to walk off the gigs. And it was so bad to the point where the organizer was like, “Hey, you’ve already been paid. If you want to, you can stop right now and just totally go. We are not holding you at fault at all. And we came there to play. And I was like, “No, no, no, no – you paid us but we’re here to perform.” And by the end of the night we just had to call it. It was just bad. Mic placements in the wrong places. The kick drum microphone is facing the wrong direction. I mean, just the whole thing was so bad. And then to make it even worse. Well it didn’t make it worse, it made it funny. One of the band members ate a bunch of edibles and didn’t know it. So that made it even better. It was a great night at that point. That’s when the comedy came out. But that was one of the worst gigs. Especially when you come with a band who’s ready to perform, and this was when the height of my band was brand new still. Really crushing. We’re trying to crush every gig to prove a point that we got some of the best musicians here in Portland. Funk, soul, jazz. And then a gig like that was just Pffff – it takes the steam out of your engine. But we did fine after that. We still doing our thing. That was a bad one. I forget what venue it was, but the sound crew did not know what they were doing. And that’s when for a while around that time I was like from now on I need to just hire a certain sound guy for my stuff and whoever’s hosting the event need to just pay my people to make it right. Because it was bad. And it wasn’t even bad for us. It was bad for the host. It was bad for the people trying to speak the whole night. Just couldn’t get it together. It was just bad.


AK: I kind of feel like I have the answer to this, but do you still feel inspired by Portland as you used to be?


FN: Yeah. I definitely feel like I’m more inspired by my day-to-day. I do a lot of low-fi hip-hop right now mixed with jazz and soul and just beats and things like that. I’m releasing a new release called Seven Days of Rain that basically just talks about rainy days in Portland. Or I just released an album called Low Fi Jazz Soul, I have songs on there that’s like Pambiche, St. John’s Bridge, Pour Over, and things like that I kinda like think about. Like Pambiche is one of my favorite Cuban restaurants. My buddy owns it. St. John’s Bridge. I drive over it all the time. It just evokes certain emotions when I drive over it, ‘cuz it’s just very beautiful. And then especially if you’re driving, going downtown you see nothing but forest. So certain days it’s like out of a movie scene. I’m getting to drive across this bridge. So the scene and my neighborhood and places inspire me these days more than anything. 


AK: Any other lingering thoughts on Portland you want to throw out there?


FN: Portland’s changing. I feel like it’s changing for the good hopefully. You know what it is? I feel like there’s more things happening for artists now. Probably because there’s more creative agencies. There’s more people moving here. There’s more people with money moving in and more things happening that I feel like are happening faster for artists that would have took a long time. You have the Last Artful, Dodgr, the hip-hop artist, she’s now working with Mark Ronstein’s production company and then you have Blossom, singer performing. You have all these great artists and people in town doing things at a faster pace now. And I just feel like it’s a lot of buzz right now. The scene is buzzing. But it’s also about finding yourself in the right circle of people to keep all of those creative energies moving. 

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