Posted by Spencer Koch | Posted in Entertainment Guide | Posted on 14-07-2011
Tags: Camarillo, Ernest Troost
He may be good enough to play McCabe’s, but we don’t care about that up here in the 805 — Ernest Troost is good enough to play the long-running Camarillo Café gig tonight, certain to cause a few folk-flavored tremors at the all-ages venue. Also on the bill are John Zipperer and his musical pals. While not a real cafe, it is a real venue, offering swell singer-songwriters an environment free of alcohol (and free of people shouting for “Free Bird”) where the audience comes to hear the songs and not text (so much).
For a long time, Troost has been doing what every musician in SoCal wants to do: write music for the screen. He is forever immortalized for his work on the cult classic “Tremors,” wherein giant worms eat everything — sort of like Wall Street in the desert — but Troost wanted to shoot his mouth off rather than just be a hired gun. With his second album, “Resurrection Blues,” he did exactly that. The title tune along with “Switchblade Heart” turned out to be the correct submissions, making Troost the 2009 New Folk Award winner at the Kerrville Festival in Texas. Add that to a résumé that already included an Emmy (which he won in 1996 for composing the music for “The Canterville Ghost”), and Troost was good enough to play McCabe’s, the eclectic guitar-shop/folk venue in Santa Monica. The Camarillo Café is infinitely more convenient than McCabe’s, and your car is 100 percent less likely to be towed for no apparent reason. Plus Troost is really good, as well as a delightful interview. See for yourself
Hey, Ernest, so how’s the folk biz? Do you have half of Bob Dylan’s money from 1965?
Yeah, I wish.
Tell me about this Camarillo Café gig — done this one before?
This’ll be the first time.
Really? Wow. And evidently, you’ll be playing for sober people.
I guess so, yeah.
Will that be a novel experience or not necessarily?
No, not necessarily — the folk scene’s pretty reasonable.
How’s “Resurrection Blues” working out for you?
Oh, it’s doing great, and I should have another record by the Camarillo date — a live record called “Live at McCabe’s,” recorded in January this year.
Wow. By music standards, that’s instant gratification.
It was a good performance, like 15 songs, and we were able to work off the board mix and make it work.
Tell me about “Resurrection Blues.” It made me a fan — love that “Switchblade Heart” song.
The “Switchblade Heart”‘ and “Resurrection Blues” songs were the ones I submitted to Kerrville a couple of years ago. You know, the Kerrville Folk Festival has the New Folk Award for songwriters, which is a long-running tradition — a national songwriting competition. People like Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith — they’ve all won it. And I won it in 2009 with those two songs from “Resurrection Blues.”
It’s three weeks long and there’s lots of performers, but they stress songwriting. It’s not like a bluegrass festival where there’s lots of hot performers.
So it’s like the Emmys, the Oscars and the Grammys all rolled into one?
I suppose, yeah, but it’s much more funky — kind of like Woodstock, which is really great. It’s in the last week of May and into June.
What’s the difference between new folk and old folk, if anything?
Well, New Folk is just the name of this contest that started in 1972 by Peter (Yarrow) from Peter, Paul & Mary. It’s sort of like a seal of approval. They have six winners every year. They take 800 submissions and narrow it down to 32 finalists, whom they invite to the festival. The finalists perform their two songs in front of a big audience.
So this forces you to edit, and you picked the right two songs, evidently.
The folk singer-songwriter will perform at 7:30 tonight at the Camarillo Café at Camarillo Community Center, 1605 E. Burnley Street. Also on the bill are John Zipperer & Friends. Admission is $10.
I guess I did. It was nice because you’re immediately invited to play some places in Texas. Texas is a very big acoustic and songwriter world, so (some) people just play in Texas and never travel outside of it — there’s just a huge songwriting tradition in Texas. That credit actually enabled me to get booked at McCabe’s. I asked what I needed to get booked, and they said I needed to be a national touring act. When they booked some guy I’d never heard of, I asked, “How’d he get in?” and they said, “Oh, he won Kerrville.” So that’s what I did and I sold out McCabe’s the last two years in a row. The week after Camarillo, I’m playing at Westwood Music — another famous music store in Los Angeles. People from the Eagles, as well as Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt, bought all their instruments there. They’ve started a concert series not unlike McCabe’s.
A musician friend of mine once told me that folk music is all about trains, whiskey, women and mama. Was he lying?
Yeah, probably. Trains? Yeah, I’ve got a few of those. Mama? Yeah, got a few of those. And women? I’m in the middle of a collection of love songs, but I try to avoid some of those traditional folk and blues clichés. There’s this organic thing that if you just play a bunch of Blind Blake songs, which of course, are all about women and booze, you pick up a certain vernacular and style as to playing and singing, so I try to take that and infuse it with some intelligent lyrics. If people can relate to you as contemporary while still sounding sort of period, that’s cool.
When did you realize that you could do this for a living?
I’m still not sure I can do this for a living. I mean, I write music for film and television and I’ve done that for most of my life — that’s what I do for a living. I used to write songs years ago and stopped because I couldn’t figure out how to make a living at it. About 10 years ago I decided I wanted to do it just for the love of it, and now, I’m doing it more and more and I’m playing just about every weekend this month.
Every musician wants to know: How do you get your music in show biz up on the screen?
Yeah, well, it’s a mystery. It happens the same way if someone buys your record, I guess, when you hit the right person at the right time. I did a movie called “Tremors,” which was kind of a cult hit from years ago, and ended up doing a lot of Hallmark Hall of Fames, which come out during the holidays. I just like writing acoustic music and in fact, my style is very spare, which is similar to what I do with songs. My songs are all about simplifying and working with very little. You also see a lot of that in Texas — a very lean, sparse style, and it’s really amazing. It’s nothing like Nashville but it’s its own thing. Very inspiring.
Where’s your Emmy?
It’s on a shelf in my studio.
How did winning an Emmy change things for you?
Oh, it sort of did in some ways. In the film business, the saying is, “You win an Emmy for quality” because it’s voted on by your colleges and “You win an Oscar for getting the gig.” The Oscar winners are, obviously, good composers, but the only way they get nominated is if their movies get nominated for Oscars. That’s a little more political because the whole academy votes, while for the Emmys, it’s just the composers.
In your bio you mentioned that writing a song is sort of like making a film. What’s that connection?
Well you’re just kind of telling a story. What drew me to film was the story, and what draws me to write songs is telling stories. Obviously, when you’re doing a film, you’re helping the producer and the director tell their story, but when you write a song, there’s a lot more leeway and you get to tell your own story.
What’s the best thing about being a guy and a guitar, apart from the obvious ease of splitting the dough at the end of the night?
Gee, that’s one of the best things. It’s easy for traveling, although I travel with my wife.
So it’s a vacation then?
Yeah, we make it like a vacation. We’ll go to a place and I’ll play a couple of shows and we’ll poke around and see what’s happening in that area. We’ve done that all through Texas and Northern California, and hopefully, our next stop will be Europe, maybe next year.
You already answered by next question: How do you survive on the road? By making it a vacation — an excellent answer.
Yeah, and I keep it short. I don’t go out for a long time, and lately, I’ve been getting a lot of gigs within driving range from Los Angeles.
And Camarillo is almost a home game.
Yeah, and that’s a great venue — it’s been around for about 20 years. They do a good job.
Email Bill Locey at firstname.lastname@example.org.