Of course, I didn’t know anything about Jeremy Kittel when I agreed to ask him a few questions. Part of the beauty of a concert like this is making your way through music that carries you away and leaves you better in its wake. Kittel is an incredibly brilliant violinist, and you don’t have to take my word for it. Just search his name on Google and admire the list of people he has worked with throughout his career. And it seems to me, although he’s “been around”, he’s only just getting started. So, log on and keep going, because Kittel (and Co.) are sure to keep the good things coming.
Speaking of which, Kittel and Co. will be performing at Music Hall on Friday September 10th. Now might be a good time to get up to speed.
In the meantime, EDGE caught up with Kittel to discuss his musical life, his recent Grammy nomination, and what that moment feels like when you find yourself squashed between Brandi Carlile and Cardi B.
EDGE: Dude, you have a crazy CV. Bela Fleck, Chris Thile, My Morning Jacket, Fleet Foxes, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Jon Batiste… The names keep coming. And they’re all so heavy. Do you ever need to pinch yourself when one of these opportunities presents itself?
Kittel: Oh, thank you! Definitely every now and then I feel like my 10 year old self would freak out getting down to business with my heroes. Or my 15-year-old me, or 20, etc. But that’s the best part of life, I guess. You keep changing, growing, learning, challenging yourself – all of these people probably felt similar things when meeting some of their heroes. And we can all inspire each other. Music is such a fluid and beautiful thing that way.
EDGE: How do these collected experiences inform your approach to your own music? Lessons learned?
Kittel: Oh sure, as mentioned – SO much learned – heroes I’ve been able to work with and also a lot of all my main musical buddies. One lesson is how dedication, patience, and time are so essential in bringing great energy and music to the world. Most of the bright, creative people I know are incredibly dedicated – creative by choice and habit. It takes days, often weeks to turn a little flash of creativity into a song or melody ready to be shared with the world. How to spread enthusiasm and truly enjoy working with each other while making the best and most powerful music is another skill that has impressed me so much – finding that balance between a fun and creative environment where you can really get things going. things. And the priorities – learning to change the feelings in a room with music, rather than saying “do it right” – that get to the heart of connecting in music, and what it’s all about.
EDGE: Who challenged you the most or challenged you the most from this aforementioned list? I am a big fan of all of them. Bela is a true inspiration, and Edgar Meyer… Dude, oh man, is this guy a magical beast…
Kittel: Edgar is a genius and an inspiration both as a game-changing (bass) composer and as a multi-instrumentalist. He and Bela have made so many great records over the past few decades. Again, not to sound boring, but they prioritize music time very well. 🙂 And working with Chris Thile is amazing because he’s actually just great at conducting a rehearsal, besides his amazing music production; it provides so much pleasure and energy to a rehearsal, without ego – and that helps the music even more. And Jon Batiste – they’re a great band, his Late Show band – we were jamming on Holst’s “Jupiter” like a funk tune for a commercial break.
EDGE: In general, why the music? Why are you looking for it? Why create it?
Kittel: I really think the music has a spiritual quality. It’s funny, because the more you learn about music – and I still love learning more all the time – you focus on the granular details of frequency and pitch relationships and shape, etc. and you really understand a lot in a way. But in another way, the music remains mystical in a deep sense. How music can penetrate so deeply into you, as if it penetrates into your soul – that remains one of the big questions, IMHO, even if you make it your life’s work.
EDGE: What brought you to the violin? What do you enjoy in your exploration of the instrument throughout your life? Was there a time or experience that caused you to hunt it for a living?
Kittel: At first it was pretty straightforward. My older brother was playing, so I wanted to do it. Over the years I have become more and more in love with music and the violin (or the violin – generally nowadays exactly the same instrument, different styles). The violin is one of the great instruments, in that such a nuance of feeling can be communicated through sound. And although it has similarities to the human voice, as people often mention, it is sort of an extension of the voice in another way, as it can do things that the human voice cannot. to do. It’s also important to humanity and history as it is found in the music of so many different cultures around the world – and in a lot of really groovy violin dance music.
EDGE:. It must have sounded pretty incredible.
Kittel: Absolutely – what a huge honor to be nominated alongside (speaking of) childhood heroes like John Williams, Alan Silvestri and Terence Blanchard.
There was a fun time at the Grammys when I got the official red carpet photo, and I was sandwiched between Brandi Carlile and Cardi B (laughs). Also, my sister was delighted to meet Weird Al, who was really nice.
EDGE: I’m really digging your latest EP, “Bullfrogs Croon” with Aoife O’Donovan and Eric Jacobson. What were the objectives of this outing? How did this particular band come about and how did you all approach the process of creating / writing the songs that make up this album?
Kittel: Thanks! It’s actually an instrumental version of the main album, which can only be listed on Aoife’s artist profiles. So if you like that, check out the lead EP, “Bullfrogs Croon” with my buddy the amazing vocals Aoife O’Donovan, with lyrics and so on. It was a real pleasure to arrange, perform and produce. The project started with an orchestral piece that Aoife and I co-wrote years ago with our pal Teddy Abrams of the Louisville Orchestra. Then Aoife came up with the idea of reducing it to a string quartet project, with a bass instead of a cello, and we added more music; She wrote and chose the songs, basically, and I did the arrangements for the strings. We had a big tour planned before COVID, but we’ll be doing it a bit more this fall. Super proud of how this came out!
EDGE: Any new studio work in the works? What is cooking?
Kittel: Yes! Currently writing new music for the band. We’ll do it in Portsmouth! And I’m so excited for it. New songs and instrumentals. Every time you write you are a little different, hopefully in a good way. Really excited for this next batch of music.
EDGE: You’re playing at Music Hall here in Portsmouth on September 10th with your band. Introduce them to us.
Kittel: Sure, they’re just wizards of acoustic music, basically. Josh Pinkham is one of the top five mandolinists in the world, in my unbiased opinion, and was recently hired by Chris Thile. Quinn Bachand is this brilliant Canadian musician – guitarist / producer and more. He is a soul mate as an expert in folk music, jazz, etc. – Ethan Jodziewicz (Yo-Jev-Its) is one of the great bassists of his generation, like Edgar Meyer but also jazz and more. Simon Chrisman is a one-of-a-kind hammer dulcimer player. I’ve never heard anyone play like him – and he adds all that scale and vibe to the music, besides being a crazy improviser. They are basically a dream group of acoustic musicians for me. No one I prefer to write for. Ultimately, however, it’s the impact of the music that matters, the way we connect.
EDGE: What turns you on about this gig and being back on the road in general? What can people expect?
Kittel: Well, I’m excited to make new music – new sounds, more songs – and to play with my friends. The sky is the limit with them. We’re trying to make a show that’s actually a lot more fun and interesting than just sitting home and watching Netflix. Plus, you can do it anytime.
What: Kittel & Co. in concert, with violinist Jeremy Kittel
When: 8 p.m., Friday September 10
Or: The Music Hall, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth
Tickets: $ 35 to $ 45
More information: Visit www.themusichall.org and www.jeremykittel.com