Musician: The Band of Heathens’ ED JURDI & GORDY QUIST

Video: “South by Somewhere


Ed Jurdi & Gordy Quist of The Band of Heathens will be featured at Blue Rock aLive! Cool Nights 21 livestreaming concert series—this Thursday, December 9.

The Band of Heathens recorded Stranger with Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket) in Portland, OR. With Martine at the helm, Stranger [2020] emphasizes songcraft and intricate arrangements set in a spacious sonic landscape that reinvents the band’s sound. The songs teem with the emotion borne of personal experience, as has been The Band of Heathens’ method from the very start. Stranger moves off into a new place, but still echoes the group’s artful songwriting and multi-layered narrative observations. Martine’s influence amplifies the unique voice that The Band of Heathens has created throughout their celebrated career, making Stranger their most engaging release thus far.

The Band of Heathens has a soulful way of using powerful vocal harmonies, signature hooks and inspired lyrics to promote understanding and compassion, with the definite intention of encouraging others and lifting spirits. When they play together, it’s easy to tell they love making music and spreading joy.

Check out their livestream this Thursday, December 9, at Blue Rock Texas—where innovation, quality and creativity are evidenced in concerts produced with broadcast quality audio-video from their renowned Texas room—streamed straight to you. Tickets are $25. Inquire about a Season Pass ($105) which lets you can have a seat in the house—by sending in your headshot. What’s unique is they will place your headshot on a seat, so you will literally be sitting in the room. Go to:

The Band of Heathens recording at Flora Recording & Playback in Portland, OR, Oct 2019. Photo by Jason Quigley.

ED JURDI (The Band of Heathens) Interview
with M Music & Musicians magazine publisher, Merlin David

Tell us about a song you will play at Blue Rock’s Cool Nights 21 (on Dec 9).
“South by Somewhere” is a song we recorded for our most recent album Stranger. The song came together very quickly. While staying in Austin, I had returned from a night out. There was a groove and a melody line that kept pulsing in my head as I tried to go to sleep. Not wanting to ignore the muse, I popped out of bed, grabbed my iPhone and recorded an idea that was almost the entirety of the song. The song examines the idea of inspiration and how to stay in touch with the most basic and pure idea of what you believe it to be.

The Band of Heathens recording at Flora Recording & Playback in Portland, OR, Oct 2019. Photo by Jason Quigley.

What did you learn about yourselves after recording the album Stranger?
This is actually the first record we’ve done under the proper supervision of a producer, Tucker Martine. He had a gentle hand in the process, but actually informed the songs and the sound of the album with his flavor. His style ultimately reinforced that we have good chemistry and shorthand for communicating ideas as a group—and finding the essence of a song in the studio.

Do you set aside time to write?
Gordy and I are committed to write a song a week. We’ve figured out a way to motivate each other: if we don’t turn a song in by Friday at midnight, we owe the other $100. (Laughs) It’s hard to sit down and tackle the beast. Whenever I sit down to play/sing, I always feel better after doing it. The best analogy is exercising. It’s hard to get myself there to do it, but it always yields a positive result. Once I commit to doing it, I always feel great.

Who originally inspired you to write songs?
I was inspired to write songs initially as a means of expressing myself. I always liked to write in school and writing songs was initially an extension of that creative outlet. I’m not sure I can point to one specific thing that inspired me to write songs, but I do know that the cumulative effect of great books, films and music certainly made me want to see if I could write something that made me feel the same way that those works of art did.

The Band of Heathens has a soulful way of using powerful vocal harmonies, signature hooks and inspired lyrics to promote understanding and compassion, with the definite intention of encouraging others and lifting spirits. When they play together, it’s easy to tell they love making music and spreading joy.

What songwriting tip would you like to offer?
Just do it—and keep doing it. Repetition is the key. You can’t be afraid to waste ideas or think that if you write too much you’ll somehow dilute your ideas. It’s impossible to say where and when a good idea will come from, so you have to keep exercising the songwriting muscle and be prepared for when the moment arrives.

Tell us about a song you continue to play at live performances?
We play “LA County Blues” almost every night and I never get tired of singing and playing it. I think most of my best songs happen when I’m not trying to write them. This song was no exception. I had a bit of an out of body experience writing the song and I try to reach for that same place whenever I’m performing it.

How did the idea of this song come to you?
I literally wrote “LA County Blues” on a walk. When I lived in Austin, I would take my dog for a walk after dinner around a cool little wilderness walking trail. I remember the sun was setting a certain way, I looked at it and I started humming the melody. The song unraveled like a bottle of yarn. Within that 20-30 min walk, I’d hummed out the entire sketch of the song—singing the whole song syllabically. At the end of the walk, there were a couple of lines that really stuck with me. I started to wonder what the song was about. I got home and grabbed a piece of paper and pen, and it just flowed. I picked up the guitar and I already had the key. My wife wanted to say something to me and I said, “Give me a second—I need to write this thing down before it goes away.” It was ephemeral. It came in this rush—this flood. I knew I just had to write it down and not think about it or criticize it. I’d had it happen before but not quite like that—where the whole song, fully formed, came to me. That’s pure joy. I was just a medium for this thing given—like someone opened up the sky and dropped this thing on me. Thank you!

Who inspired the song?
It’s a character-driven song inspired by Hunter S. Thompson. It’s an iconoclast song about someone living outside the boundaries of the law. I had a line about Las Vegas. I love Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it’s one of my favorite books. It’s sort of about his life as an outcast kid growing up in Louisville. It became a mini-biography of this character—stream of conscious thing that came faster than I could think of it. The first lines of the song, and of the chorus, came early. A lot of times, I’ll have the name of the song or the key line in the chorus, and it helps open the door and I follow it. Two things are key: groove and melody—if I can figure out how to combine them, I can create a structure to work in. This song was a happy accident.

What instruments/equipment can you not live without?
When I’m writing, I need a guitar or a piano. My trusty Martin D28 or my Gibson Hummingbird always inspires me. Moleskin notepads (because I still like to write things down) and my iPhone (so I can record voice memos). The list of recording gear can go on forever, but for vocals, I love Neumann U47, AKG 414 and an RCA77. Fender amps (Princetons and Tweed Deluxes) are always a good starting point. I have a bunch of Teles and Strats made by Gamble Guitar Works and an amazing Tom Murphy Gibson Les Paul.

Any accessories?
For live performance, we use Fishman Aura DI’s—they’re really nice because they have a blend function that allows you to simulate a little microphone tone into the pickup. At Blue Rock, we’ll have microphones on the acoustic guitars and that’s the best way to hear it—put a microphone in front of a great sounding guitar. I use G7th capos where you apply pressure for them to stay on. I use Kysers quite a bit. I love the Kysers. I still use them all the time because it’s the only capos I’ve never lost. I just clip it onto my guitar headstock and it never leaves my side. During the pandemic, I got a few Thalia capos. They’re nice. They’re like the Cadillac of capos. They have inserts for the neck radius of your guitar so it’s a better fit. They are pretty sweet. I also use these Dunlop corriciadan bottles for slide guitar—like Duane Allman. I think Derek Trucks uses the same slide. I’ve gotten into these new Dunlop picks—I like them a lot. It’s really about having a good guitar and a good pickup system for plugging it in. Gordy has an amazing arsenal of nice Gibson guitars. Whenever I’m in town, I steal his guitars and play them.

Which Top 5 Musicians inspired you to become a musician?
I’m going to pick five out of a hat because it’s different people, depending on the day: Van Morrison, Chris Robinson, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Paul McCartney.

What are your Top 5 favorite albums of all time?
Rubber Soul (1965) — The Beatles
Tupelo Honey (1971) — Van Morrison
Blonde on Blonde (1966) — Bob Dylan
Dixie Chicken (1973) — Little Feat
Modern Sounds in Country and Western (1962) — Ray Charles

Tell us about “Jackson Station.”
That’s the first song that Gordy and I wrote together. It was the first time we ever sat down to write together. I went over to his place in East Austin and he said, “I got this thing—this idea of Jackson Station in the first verse.” It was pretty cool. We didn’t think it was the best song we’d written but it was a good omen. We liked the Ry Cooder vibe—cool, swampy thing. It’s not a full chorus but a chorus refrain. I was nerding out on the songwriter side of things. It was different. When we brought it to the band, they thought it was awesome. We played it, and felt much better about it. Now we play it all the time.

How did you choose to cover “Hurricane”?
Our keyboard player, Jesse Wilson, thought it would be a cool song to cover. He had Levon Helms’ American Son and played the tune for me. We have the utmost respect for Levon and his artistry. We’re all huge fans of The Band. But I felt the vibe didn’t support the lyrics. We reworked it to be more of a dirge. There’s the triumph element of overcoming the adversity of hurricanes and storms, but a somber tone to it. We took all the threes out of the song—left ones and fives. Kept it ambiguous—is it major, minor or neither? We slowed it way down and added a bigger vocal harmony to the chorus. We had to unlock the song for ourselves—to make it our own. It’s a great song, but we wanted to put our imprint on it.

Tell us a “pinch me” moment when you thought “Wow, this is really happening to me!
Performing with Kris Kristofferson at the Newport Folk Festival. We were playing “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and I was playing guitar and singing harmony, looking towards him as I sang. At the exact moment in the chorus that he sings “Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned,” he turned towards me and broke into a huge grin. I still get goosebumps talking about it today.

What’s the best advice someone has given you?
The best advice given to me was posed as a question: “Is this something you need to do? Could you imagine your life if you weren’t performing and writing music?” My answer back then, and still today, is unequivocally “No!” I honestly couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if I weren’t writing and performing music—it’s been so fundamental to all of my experiences.

Best advice you’d give upcoming musicians?
I would extend the same advice or pose the question to anyone wanting to follow the muse and chase their dreams. Ultimately, I look at myself as a servant to the music. My goal is to create and make music that I’m inspired by and lifts others in the way that the music I loved inspired me. It’s the most joyous thing I can imagine doing, but it’s not something that you can take lightly—you have to be all in!

Why is playing at Blue Rock so special?
Billy being a writer and creative person sets the template. Dodee being empathetic and sympathetic to the entire cause is a driving force. I don’t know if she plays music, but the frequency in which she vibrates made it easy for me to have a conversation with her about music. They’re both in-tune to it and what they’ve created out there—the vibe and all the staff—they get it. It’s an artist’s retreat. Like you said, it’s a sacred space for music. Music is the priority. There’s nothing there that keeps you from tapping into your element of creativity. They curated it—from the building itself to the interior design, music space, kitchen space—it is home.

How do you stay hopeful in this unique socio-political climate?
The thing I’ve found success with is breaking things down to the smallest level possible. When you get lost in the world or the big view on things, it’s easy to drown in that. When I break it down into small things like my family, my group of friends or my community and what we can be doing to make the world a better place, it helps. It’s OK to not agree with people. Ultimately, that’s the construct of this whole experiment. How do you find a way to be respectful where you can disagree? We’re all trying to get to the same place—we just have different vehicles to get there. It’s an exercise in patience.

How do you make all of that practical?
Whenever I get out of my own head, I think ‘What can I do today in my interactions to make peoples’ lives better. It could be something as simple as holding a door or being kind to someone. There’s something about the cumulative effect of all those acts cascading and creating a positive effect. That’s the whole thing about playing music—whenever we’re able to connect with an audience with music—there’s no ulterior motive. It’s just sharing experience and joy with people to help them connect. It’s good for all of us to be here together and realize there is common ground for us to connect and share. This is what’s so important in the whole human experience.

Where can new fans get more info and stay updated?
Instagram: @bandofheathens
Twitter: @bandofheathens

comment closed

Copyright © 2021 M Music & Musicians Magazine ·