Byrds co-founder embraces new technology
Roger McGuinn continues to impact music and the music industry.
McGuinn is a founding member of the Byrds, a band that shaped American music with his distinctive 12-string melodies, blending folk and rock into a sound that influenced other musicians for 40 years. He brings songs of the past and traditional acoustic selections from his Folk Den CD series to The Upstage Center Theatre in Carson City on Tuesday.
McGuinn launched the series, which now includes four CDs, in 1999.
“The (series) started out as a concern for preserving traditional folks songs and the fact they were disappearing in favor of more contemporary genres,” McGuinn said.
With a computer loaded with recording software, McGuinn traveled to the homes of such notables as Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Judy Collins in his quest for preserving traditional American music.
Most of the songs are in the public domain, or those McGuinn owns the rights to or has received permission to use.
With the more intimate approach, the performers were more relaxed.
“I don’t care how much of a professional you are,” McGuinn said. “When you’re paying $1,000 a day for a studio and that red light goes on, even the most seasoned person is going to tense up.”
The new approach is more “like a jam session in the living room,” he said.
The small Upstage Center Theatre is the perfect venue for McGuinn’s music, with a state-of-the art sound system, plenty of seating, and a meet-and-greet session after each concert.
McGuinn prefers smaller venues to the big concert halls of his past.
“I think these kinds of venues give an audience a better feeling about being (at the show),” he said. “They’re closer to the performance and feel connected.”
In addition to his commitment to preserve tradition, McGuinn seeks to enlighten the public about the virtues of modern technology and its ability to empower artists.
He performed last week at the International Consumer Electronics Convention in Las Vegas and is a supporter of MP3 technology. He was one of the first artists to make his music available for downloading and sale on the Web.
In a climate of belief that downloading material off the Web “hurts the artists,” McGuinn maintains that artists still tend to get very little in return.
“The record companies are claiming that it hurts us, and I say don’t blame (artists) and don’t use us as a way to make more money,” McGuinn said.
He said he makes more money selling his music directly to consumers than he ever made selling the Byrds’ recordings.
“At one point, I was being paid .0007 cents per album,” he said. “That’s a lot of sales to even make $1.”
The marriage of technology and his music has been “like being in a candy store,” said McGuinn, whose interest in technology began when he was 3. “Actually, it’s better than good. It’s like Christmas.”
Now McGuinn finds his life fulfilling in many ways.
He said experiencing great fame is “like drinking from a fire hose — you get blown over.”
Today, though, it’s more about the music.
“There’s enough recognition that people know who I am and will come hear me play,” he said. “I’m just living my life and having a lot of fun.”
Citing the life of Andres Segovia, whom some consider the most important classical guitarist of the 20th century, McGuinn never plans to stop.
“Segovia played until the day he dropped. Actually, he was booked to play Carnegie Hall that day,” he said. “I’ll play as long as I can. “
The show begins at 8 p.m. with special guest John Pappenfort, The Upstage’s partner and recording artist. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $38 in Gardnerville at Fresh Ideas, 1455 Highway 395, 782-4094, or Netti’s Creations, 1448 Highway 395, 782-2473; in Carson City at The Upstage Center or at J.J.’s Ear Candy, 200 E. Winnie Lane, 885-8863. Tickets are also available at the door. For credit card purchases, go to http://www.theupstagecenter.net and click on the show’s link or call (775) 882-8900, ext. 125, or (800) 216-0891.
The Upstage Center Theatre is at 900 Mallory Way off Roop Street.