Chan Kinchla; guitarist for Blues Traveler on the 30th Anniversary Tour
The jam band Blues Traveler plays the Cox Capitol Theatre Friday, May 5
How’s everything been going, are you ready to get back on the road for this 30th anniversary tour?
The whole year has been pretty interesting. It’s kind of just a random thing, 30 years, but the more we drive around the cooler it is. It just brings back memories of all the different times we’ve been to all these places, and we feel pretty lucky to still be able to do it. We’re enjoying it thoroughly.
You guys have had a great deal of success in these 30 years, what’s something that you’re most proud of when you look back at this journey you’ve been on?
Just getting started in the early days was probably the hardest part, trying to make some noise in New York City. All the crazy capers we would try to come up with to get people to come to our shitty Lower East Side bar gigs. We would all be out on the corner handing out flyers, giving away free mushroom tea and nitrous, just trying to fill up these dank little bars we were playing. We would hit like NYU and New School, all these downtown universities and we slowly but surely built our following from some of our harebrained ideas. We would just try to find any place to play and eventually we would get some regular gigs at some really cool bars. So those early days of having to be creative are what I’m most proud of, going after it really aggressively. And then of course there’s things like playing Madison Square Garden, or being on Saturday Night Live, things like that are always really neat pop culture stuff. But in the end, just being able to play for 30 years is probably the best part.
You’re playing Macon and the Cox Capitol Theatre on May 5, have you played Macon before?
There is no place we haven’t played at least a couple times [laughing]. We’ve been through Macon over these last 30 years, for sure. Georgia has always been great to us, we’ve played in Atlanta, Athens and Macon, and really all over. We always have a great time, the weather is always real nice, people know how to enjoy live music down there.
A lot of musicians, especially guitarists, find one instrument that they like and stick with it. You’re one who has switched up your guitars in the past. You’ve played a Gibson, a Fender, a Yamaha. What’re you playing these days?
These days I’m playing a Gibson, a Les Paul. For me, it’s good for me to switch guitars, it kinda gives me new ideas, and I get a kick out of trying different things. Usually I’ll get one and I’ll ride it for five to seven years. I was on a Paul Reed Smith before this. Gibson just makes so many cool guitars, and I got an endorsement from them so I can take whatever guitars I want out and if I really like them I end up keeping them, but having the whole Gibson arsenal at my hand is pretty neat, so that’s the way I’m riding these days.
Who was one of your biggest influences when it comes to your style of playing guitar?
Speaking of the devil that I’m playing a Les Paul, when I was a kid, Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, when I was like 13 or 14 I figured out everything. I would say, if there is one from those formative years, one guitarist that I got really into was Jimmy Page. Prince and Jimi Hendrix, all the rest, are definitely right there as well.
Tell me your favorite tour or road story.
Oh jeez, there’s so many. Probably one of the most picturesque ones, it was our first time driving cross country, it’s kind of a dorky story but I always remember it. We’re driving cross country, and in the middle of the night, there’s three of us and we’re rotating driving and sleeping on a mattress on top of our gear because we had to get across the country in two days, and somewhere in the Plains, like Texas, we were going the southern route, there was this huge barn on fire, and it was kind of in the middle of this flat land, so we get out and watch that. I only had one pair of boots and at some point I lost one of my boots, it must have fallen out there. We get to Vegas and the West Coast, and I can’t get out of the car because I only have this one boot, so everyone’s going out and doing stuff and I can’t do anything. So we get to L.A. and I get a cool new pair of boots, and then we end up at some Cat House or some crazy L.A. club and this was way back when like Guns N Roses and Motley Crue were like hanging on the Strip. So we get to L.A. and we end up partying with those guys all night [laughing]. That was a good first cross country adventure. And it really shows how long ago we did that, it was probably like ’89 or something.
When a tour like this wraps up, what do you do to unwind?
Well I got two kids so, I’m kind of Mr. Mom when I’m home. I just chill with my two boys, one’s in college now so it’s just me and the little guy, and we just chill. But when I’m home, I’m Mr. Mom for the time being, they’re growing up fast though.
Have y’all been working on anything new? When the tour finishes, will you be going into the studio?
We are, we wrote a whole bunch of new songs earlier this spring, and kind of old school, we’re just going to go in and knock out the tracks starting in May. We’ve done a lot of collaboration and worked with some songwriters the last couple of records, so this one’s just all us, and we’re pretty jazzed to be back to doing albums all on our own material. The collaborations and working with other songwriters is great too, but I think it gave us some fresh ears to go and work on another record. We’ll have that out either in the fall or early spring of next year, kind of rolling with our 30th anniversary.