So … F.A.M.E. You know what it stands for, right? Frederick. Acoustic. Music. Enterprise. (You’re welcome). This coming weekend – Saturday, to be exact – that group is going to host something called “California Dreamin,” which appears to be pretty neat: A bunch of musicians will gather to perform songs from the 1960s and 1970s that came out of the California music scene during that time. The fun begins at 7 p.m. and it will be held at the Performing Arts Factory on South Jefferson Street. We recently caught up with F.A.M.E.’s president, Rick Hill, to talk about how the idea for the event came together, the current state of acoustic music in Frederick, and why “Across The Great Divide” is the best song ever written.
Let’s start with how this event came together. Who had the idea, how did it formulate and at how long have you been working on it?
We were brainstorming ideas at our board meeting. I am not sure who had the original idea, but the board quickly jumped on it and grew it from there. We have been working on it since the beginning of the year. This is part of our “Celebration of Acoustic Music” (CAM) concert series. We are trying to do a variety of shows in a variety of venues around Frederick.
How did you decide who to approach to perform? Was there anybody you were hoping to have be part of it and it didn’t work out? If so, who and why?
We started with suggestions from the board. We wanted to pull some folks who are not our “regulars,” so we sought suggestions from Scott and others who manage to get around to a lot of music shows. These were the folks who percolated to the top. I also wanted to make sure we had equal male and female representation.
Would you ever want to do any other themed shows, moving forward? Any other decades you might want to tackle? Genres of music, perhaps?
I really like themed shows. They give a sense of cohesiveness. We have done several. We did a “Decades” show, covering music from the early 1900s to the present with each act covering a specific decade. We also did a Christmas themed show last December.
I know you’ve been playing music for a large portion of your life. Who are some of your influences as an artist?
I really love good wordsmiths. Paul Simon, Bob Franke, Clair Lynch. These are folks who can paint a really good story with their words. I have also been influenced, more recently, by some of the great classic writers like F.Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain and Thomas Wolfe. I love not only the way they use words, but the large vocabulary from which they draw.
What is your impression of the Frederick acoustic music scene currently? Is it growing? Does it need work? How can it improve?
The Frederick music scene is perpetually evolving. It grows and contracts, and then grows some more. It moves around from place to place. There is a lot more music in Frederick than many know. I try to keep up with all the acoustic music and have difficulty keeping track of who is doing what, where. I think the hope in many people’s minds is to make Frederick similar to Austin, Texas. One of the things I am pushing for is to get musicians paid better than they currently are being paid. Good musicians should be able to make a reasonable living in and around Frederick County. That means venues need to pay more – but it also means that musicians need to work hard to get an audience into the venue and then give a show that is worth the money. F.A.M.E. encourages musicians to really hone their craft. It takes a lot of practice hours to put on a good show.
For those unfamiliar, what is F.A.M.E.’s mission and how did F.A.M.E. formulate?
F.A.M.E. began about seven years ago when Todd Walker, Rod Deacy, Ron Goad, Tomy Wright and I gathered around a table at Frederick Coffee Co. I had invited them together to see if there wasn’t some way that we might be able to nurture the acoustic music scene in Frederick. Each of them have been involved for a number of years in presenting, promoting and hosting a variety of acoustic events. I was the new guy, having just moved to Maryland. Together, we came up with the mission of “promoting, nurturing and preserving acoustic music in and around Frederick County.” That is still F.A.M.E.’s mission. We continue to explore a variety of ways to accomplish that mission. We host concerts, open mics and a lecture series. We have a scholarship fund to help folks learn about the music and the instruments. We have worked in schools with young children to introduce them to the music and we are looking to partner with New Spire Arts to continue that exploration.
What do you think is the most perfect song ever written and why?
“Across the Great Divide” by Kate Wolf. The words are amazingly concise and yet filled with all sorts of possibilities. The imagery is powerful, and the melody and style of the song fit with the words and convey a sense of longing and uncluttered soul-searching.
Were there any artists you were hoping to see covered in this show that didn’t make the cut? Anybody from the ‘60s California scene that you feel gets ignored too much?
Covering all of the music that came out of California in the ’60s and ’70s is a big task. There was a lot of great stuff. Scott and his team have done a good job sampling some of it. I hope that encourages folks to dig a little more. The music we will be doing is more mainstream folk-rock, but there are also folks singers like the Kingston Trio and the Limeliters. Or country musicians like Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. It would be fun to do a history of California music and include the Latino influence as well as Western Swing. So many songs, so little time.
Scott Barrett is directing. Has he let you in on any secrets they have planned for the production? And in a case like this, what is the director’s role? Will this be more of a production, with dialogue/script than it is a straight rock concert?
I will discover any “secrets” when I attend tech rehearsal. As the director, Scott has the task of shaping the whole show and pushing the performers to not only do their best, but also to stretch themselves a bit. There won’t be a tremendous amount of dialogue. The music will be the focus. One of the things I have been pushing is more collaboration. I wanted this show to be singers working together in groups of two, three, four, five and six to present this music. So much of this music was built on great vocal harmonies. That is one of the things that really sets the California sound apart – vocalists collaborating.
And finally, what we can expect in five words or less from the California Dreamin’ Music Showcase?
An evening of inspiring reminiscence.