I like the sound of bluegrass. It feels good to play…
Interview with Jon Weisberger, musician & songwriter
© Lilly Drumeva-O’Reilly.
I met Jon Weisberger may years ago in Europe, while he was touring with Chris Jones and the Night Drivers. In November 2013 we met again in Nashville and I had a chance to ask him some questions about his songwriting, IBMA work and other things. Jon has had cuts by a wide range of top bluegrass acts including the Chapmans (Losing Again), Jim Van Cleve (Grey Afternoon and Way It Always Seems to Go), the Infamous Stringdusters (Three Days In July), Doyle Lawson (Yesterday’s Songs) and many others. Here is what he shared with me:
Tell me about your activities in the bluegrass industry?
I wear many hats. One is – chairman of the Board of IBMA. I am a performer in my 11th year. I also write a lot of songs. I have a “Songwriter of the Year” award. I also write liner notes. I used to do more journalism writing in Nashville, but not anymore. I also co-host and produce a syndicated radio show called “The Blue Side of Town” with Del McCoury. We’ve been doing it for 7 years.
Tell me about your background. How did you start playing music?
My father is a writer, an American history professor. I was born in Springfield, Ohio in 1952. The university was expanding, people moved around a lot. My parents were music fans. I started playing classical music in second grade, I learned the oboe. In high school I heard Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. Then Merle Haggard, I really like him. I started to play guitar and bass. I read “Country Music USA” by Bill Melone. I ended up studying Music Composition at California Institute of the Arts. In the same time I was playing electric bass in the bars.
What was your first job after you graduated?
I worked as a clerk at Columbia University in New York. In the 70s I moved to Cincinnati and spent the next 13 years being a programmer. In the early 80s, I discovered bluegrass. I was very active in an Internet bluegrass list in the 90s where I met Ken Irwin. He said to me, “We need somebody to write an article about Rounder records”. This became my first writing job. In 2002 I moved to Nashville.
How did you meet Chris Jones?
I was asked to do liner notes for him and then an article for his wife Sally. I got to know the Jones that way. Then I started playing with Roland White and April Verch.
Is songwriting a craft or a gift?
Well, both. I do a lot of co-writing. Right now, I work a lot with Jeremy Garrett of the Stringdusters.
Why do you like bluegrass music? What is so exciting about it?
I like the sound of it. It feels good to play. Many people see it as related to this rural, southern, family related, religious lifestyle. It is a very welcoming community.
Thanks Jon, all the best.