Music Interview: A Dan Bern of all trades

Gauntlet: Folk musicians are traditionally struggling. I hear when you were really struggling, you had some very dubious employment.

Dan Bern: Yeah, when I first moved to L.A. for eight hours a day I had to wear headphones and in each ear was a different all-news radio station. I had to write briefs for every story that came up. It was pretty damaging, but good because I learned a lot about L.A. quickly. Then I landed a job where I would have been calling hospitals impersonating a physician, trying to sell chlamydia medication. But I took a job teaching tennis instead.

G: What, to you, is the defining factor of folk music?

DB: There’s a really wide feel to it. Something about the Canadian festivals captures it better than the American ones. Here there’s a broader conception that binds people whether they’re from Texas or Africa. I guess there’s a real home-made quality, down-home-by-the-fire kind of vibe that you don’t have to train to get. You can ride on a little bit of knowledge and a whole lot of feeling.

G: In the spirit of folk music, what advice or wisdom do you have to pass on?

DB: Don’t put too much faith in old dusty books. I know we’re supposed to revere old dusty books, but I think if they could talk they’d tell us to write new stories. But no, I don’t have any Kris Kristofferson-type wisdom. Give me a few years, maybe.

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