Video interview with Kendl Winter where she shares tips and advice for banjo players, talks about how she got into banjo, what projects she’s currently working on and her upcoming album “Banjo Mantras.”

Her single “Humming Mantra” will be live September 8th!

 

A Few Banjo Mountain Favorites of Kendl Winter

Interview with Kendl Winter August 2023

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, well, I grew up in Arkansas and both of my parents were musicians. My mother was a orchestra teacher, like sixth through 12th grade. And my father was a low brass professor. My mom’s main instrument was cello and my father’s main instrument was trombone. And I dabbled in a lot of musical things at home but I kind of didn’t get into it until I moved away. And I had a guitar already. I was pretty into punk rock and songwriters in my teenage years. And I moved to Olympia, Washington, very much inspired by the DIY music scene that was in Olympia. And I moved there when I was here, when I was 18. And in the next couple years, I saw some banjos. I saw some banjos being played kind of differently than I had seen them being played in Arkansas. And I had this babysitting gig where I was watching this two year old, and I was just put on an album, and it was Bella Fleck, like it was the Fleck tones. And I just had never heard a banjo do that. Just play all over the, like just not just be straight up bluegrass, just be kind of inventive and creative. And suddenly I just, I love that tone so much that I just kinda, I went down, I like went and got a banjo and. actually got a banjo and kind of held on to it for a couple of years before I got into playing it. So yeah, my early 20s is kind of when I started playing banjo. And there was a group of folks that were kind of meeting at the bakery where I worked, the Blue Heron Bakery in Olympia, Washington. They were playing music and I met a couple other ladies there, one played guitar and one played fiddle already. So I said, hey, I’ll play the banjo in this project. And we started a project pretty… quickly and. I kind of feel like I went through the back door with the traditional music because it was kind of to play with them. And once I had a banjo in my hands, I started to get curious about bluegrass music and more curious about old time music. But I also was playing punk rock on the banjo and screaming at the top of my lungs and busking up in San Francisco. It was more about just making sounds at first. And then I kind of started really studying. traditional style around three finger was my first style of banjo. And then a few years into it, I had a song where my friend wanted me to play clawhammer on it and so I just learned it for the song and then kind of got into it that way.

Judd:
So you played bluegrass or three finger style for how long before you fell in love with clawhammer?

Kendl Winter:
Probably two years.

Judd:
two years.

Kendl Winter:
Somebody showed me some clawhammer techniques and they said, be careful. I know a lot of three finger players that switch over. And I always kind of, in the back of my mind, was like, I’m not gonna only be a clawhammer player. Like, I like clawhammer a lot, but I’m not switching over. But I do find that it sits alone easier than three finger. So you hear a lot more of what I put on social media with the clawhammer style, because I… I think three fingers are very, very hard to be very good at. They’re both riddled and they’re both kind of fun and backwards, but I still study three finger a lot, but it just takes a certain dexterity. To just kind of stand alone without any other instruments, I feel like it’s a different… It’s a different groove and it’s harder to just kind of wing it alone on the three finger banjo, I think.

Judd:
Yeah, so you’re still, so almost everything I’ve seen of you that, you know, like this as far as like on YouTube and, and obviously when you’re playing alone and Instagram is all been clawhammer, but you, so you still play three finger as well.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, I still play three finger a lot. I mean, in the lowest pair, the latest project that we’ve been working on with the lowest pair is a collaboration with some other instrumentalists. So it’s, the other duo is called Small Town Therapy and they’re an incredible instrumental duo. Ripping, mandolin and fiddle, really, really beautiful players and it’s been fun because in that project, oh, they also play some guitar, so in that project I can play a little more three finger because there’s we’re kind of fleshing out the fuller spectrum of it. In the lowest pair, we’re both banjo players, and I play more claw hammer than Palmer does, and so I end up playing more claw hammer in that project because two banjos is already a lot of banjos.

Judd:
Hahaha!

Kendl Winter:
And so we’re trying to kind of figure out, we’re trying to figure out how to create a sonic space that is still interesting and not really being approached the same way, and because if we were both tuned to the same. tuning and playing the same way, two, three finger playing is, to me that becomes a lot really quickly. Like we have a few songs like that, but we usually are doing a clawhammer and a three finger arrangement, often in different tunings. We’re really trying to be a little mindful of how we expose our audience to our banjo habits. So I did end up doing a lot less three finger in that regard, but jamming in circles and at home I play, I do play a lot of three finger.

Judd:
How often do you go out and do a bluegrass jam?

Kendl Winter:
Um, less often

Judd:
I mean,

Kendl Winter:
than

Judd:
especially.

Kendl Winter:
the last few years because it’s been a little less common. I went and did it last year or last week. I mean, there was a, there was an Olympia jam grass collective has just gotten started and so I kind of re-upped a lot of my bluegrass tunes and went out and played for three hours and kind of hurt after holding my resonator for three hours straight, I kind of was like, Oh, I haven’t just held a 20 pound banjo for. For that long. Usually I alternate between that and my guitar. So I get a little break, but It was really fun. It was jammy. It was Olympia Jamgress.

Judd:
I can’t imagine as a professional musician as busy as you are that you have a ton of time. So that’s why I was curious.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, no, it was an exception. Sadly, it was a little bit of an exception. Yeah, and I really don’t jam that much in jams because Olympia only has a very small acoustic scene and because usually we’re on the road. But with the other players, we play a lot.

Judd:
Right on. And so you play on the guitar. Are you primarily fingerstyle guitar or?

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, as of late I have been. Yeah, it’s kind of interesting. My social media is definitely that. And yes, it is. In the lowest pair it is. It’s fingerstyle. Almost exclusively now, open tunings. I have a, I really like drop D, which is banjo in the middle. It’s kind of your D-A-D. Yeah, D-G-B-D in the middle. more or less, you know, so you kind of have these like drones on either side. So I liked it because you can implement some of some of the things you learned as far as getting around the neck, but you have different drones. Yeah, a lot of finger style.

Judd:
Right on, no more punk rock.

Kendl Winter:
Well, I don’t know. I’ve been incorporating my kick drum and jamboreen into some songs, and there’s the song that I think has done the best with the lowest pair, the 2-8-Babe song has drums and bass and is more… I… sometimes I think as a songwriter that a bit of a… it’s a bit of like a paper doll. Like the songs could really get dressed up as punk rock songs or they could get dressed up as string band songs or if they’re in the lowest pair they can be this like intimate duet, but I… I love a naked song and I kind of think it could really, it really kind of depends on what instrument you play it on. I oftentimes like will write a song on a banjo and then play it on guitar. And you know, in my room I might hear like what it feels like to be a little more gruff with it. And then also how to make it pretty. And they kind of, they kind of end up in their outfits with whatever project I’m working with. But I do feel like punk rock and old time bluegrass folk doesn’t seem that different to me.

Judd:
Right. So even in simple ways like chord progression and structure and, you know, they do have a lot of similar parallels.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, they do. And especially when you get to them, just if you’re in the realm of just play it fast.

Kendl Winter:
And then they’re really similar.

Judd:
I want to get back to, I want to talk about kind of your, you know, it’s, it seems to me from the outside that you’re constantly looking to grow and learn and new skills, new musical skills. And so I was loving the stompbox and the tambourine and kind of on that note, there is, you know, as a person who knows multiple instruments and is always looking to learn. There’s an idea that the banjo is like, you know, for no one has picked up any instrument before, but even often with guitarists, they’ll look at the banjo as just like this crazy thing that’s impossible to learn. And so that idea is like out there, like banjo, man, that’s a really difficult instrument. Being both a claw hammer and bluegrass style and, you know, knowing other instruments, what are your thoughts on this idea and the idea of if someone is interested in learning it and has that kind of fear.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, it’s funny because when I first started approaching banjo, I thought it was easy and the more, the deeper I go, and now I’m probably over 50, I’m over, I’m probably 20 years in. I think it gets harder and harder, but, but luckily I think that the early, my early stages with it, I was just like, Oh yeah, I got this. The more, the more I get this, the least, the letter less, I feel like I have it. But I do kind of tease my students and tell them like, the band was an upside down and backwards and riddled instrument. Like it’s not logical. It’s kind of like someone put all these notes and jumbled up in a bag and put them in all over the place. And you have a lot of options for where these melodies could land. And especially in three finger, three fingers, eight counts, like not these three fingers, these three fingers, eight counts. There’s lots of ways that you can kind of. Tangle yourself up, like you land on this finger, try to start on this finger with the next phrase or try to get the phrase to last over three measures. There’s all kinds of fun ways for it to be really hard. So yes, I do think it’s hard and I think it’s easy. I think it’s luckily, it already sounds like a banjo. Off the top, like you don’t have the, like I’ve been trying to pick up a little fiddle and fiddle’s like a little bit like a dying cat for the first year. You know, you don’t. before it starts to sound anything like the instrument it is. And banjo sounds like the instrument it is. It’s kind of, I often compare it to like yoga, where you get, it’s always good for you to play banjo. Like you get banjo back, and then you kind of get, you get really satisfying sounds in kind of some basic movements. And then you can kind of always just be building on top of that. You can get. It’s very satisfying and you can grow with it. So yes, it’s very hard and it’s very easy.

Judd:
It’s interesting you bring up fiddle, you know, the band of, to me, uh, in its simplest idea of like, I’m going to play a single role and I’m going to play that over these three chords. And that part doesn’t take necessarily so long, similar to a guitar. I’m going to learn these three chords and I’m going to strum the fiddles. Like it’s the equivalent of starting off with guitar, but you have to learn how to solo first. You know,

Kendl Winter:
Yeah.

Judd:
like you’re not allowed to play any chords. You have to be, you have to already be someone who can solo. And it just seems like so wild to me to pick that instrument up.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, but it is kind of convenient in that the higher note is higher than the last note and the lower note is lower. Like there’s only a couple options where those notes land. So to pick up a melody, you know, after you have a little fluency on it, makes more sense. It’s more linear, like a piano where you’re like, oh, this note is where it should be in relation to the note before,

Judd:
from a linear sense,

Kendl Winter:
Yeah.

Judd:
Right, right, right. On the note of being someone who has learned multiple instruments and now the fiddle, well, first of all, how many instruments do you know?

Kendl Winter:
I wouldn’t say I know the fiddle, I haven’t played it out, but I do enjoy playing it. I wouldn’t say

Judd:
your bar is gonna be different for most of us, right? You’re a professional musician,

Kendl Winter:
Yeah.

Judd:
so your bar of like, well, I actually know this instrument is very different from somebody who might just go to a jam and play along.

Kendl Winter:
That’s potentially true, but I’m still a closet fiddle player, for sure. I have a long game with that. I feel like by the time I’m, well, I’m hoped by 50, but maybe by 70, I’ll be a really great fiddle player.

Judd:
Right on.

Kendl Winter:
The banjo is definitely the one that I study the most intimately. And guitar is, I’m starting to study a lot more intimately. I’ve always played guitar, but I’ve never… I’ve never composed on it. That’s not totally true. I’ve never, the instrumental, writing instrumentals and sharing them is new for me. Like this new record is the first time I’ve done that. And I’ve always written pieces that could have, maybe could have went into a mantra around, but maybe like licks that I’ve really loved and repeated enough and then decided to write a song around so that I could have a place to play them. So I would say guitar and banjo. Singing is something like I do as a songwriter. That’s probably it. I’ve dabbled in dobro a little bit. I’ve dabbled a little on other things, but I wouldn’t say I know any other instruments. I dabbled in drums, I really like drums.

Judd:
Do you have thoughts or tips on, I mean, it sounds to me like a lot of what drives your learning of an instrument just comes from the joy of it. I think for a lot of people who, music is this tiny piece of their life or something that they’re wanting to spend more time in that realm and they’re caught up in jobs and all this kind of stuff. And then it becomes trying to carve out space and get momentum going to actually sit down and learn, even though they are very excited or really in love with the instrument, but that still becomes a challenge, similar to somebody trying to get exercise in their life or whatever.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah.

Judd:
Do you have, as a person who’s learned multiple instruments, do you have thoughts, tips on how you approach a day where it’s like, I don’t really feel like doing this, but I need to sit down and do this?

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, yeah, that’s a good question. I do suggest if you have a safe place to leave your instruments out, that helps a lot to not have them in the case because even five minutes touching an instrument, I feel like that muscle memory is so useful, just having regular connection with it and kind of not thinking of it as the thing you aren’t doing and just kind of just touching it a little bit and being a little playful on it. I think a lot of folks want that. satisfaction of it being awesome already and it’s really hard to not be good at something. And I think giving yourself permission to be bad at it is very helpful and just know that it’s a long game. Like I love the long game piece of it. Like music is such a nice deep dive that you can always go further. You’ll never, in my experience, you never achieve like if I’ve ever gotten past the point I was aiming for, I’m already after the next piece of it. It feels like a forever pursuit and I think that’s really special to have. Just don’t make it, I think the biggest thing is like, just don’t make it a untouchable or unreachable goal. Like give yourself the like, I’m gonna touch it for five, I’m gonna play five minutes and I’m gonna repeat this little bit every day. And that will grow really quickly. Like just five minutes a day. I mean, five minutes is, usually if it’s five minutes is 15 because you’re having a, because you’re there. The hardest part sometimes is getting it into your lap and actually playing it. And then also not, Not putting it in the wrong dresser drawer or the wrong drawer of your organized brain where it’s work. I think I’m really trying to think of it as like, this is a joyful place. It really is dangerous, I think, when I don’t want to play.

Judd:
Uh, meaning…

Kendl Winter:
Um. Because it is a joyful place, I’ve tried to keep it sacred. I think music’s a very joyful thing to share. So when it does start to feel too much like work and it is what I do for work, so I personally have to be a little careful with it. But I feel like being kind of precious about it not landing in the this is work pile and remembering that music is a joyful place. And if I am starting to put it in the wrong category, to check that quickly. try to refocus that quickly. Maybe go out and play for a second.

Judd:
That’s such a great point. I’m an intermediate player and not a professional musician, but I try to give myself, like if there’s stuff like practicing inversions, that’s kind of a place that I’m at right now where I’m trying to get a lot better to open up the neck with inversions. That can get quite boring after a while. So I try to segment like, okay, I’ll do this for 10, 15 minutes. and then I’ll play some songs that I really like. Do you have any kind of, even though your situation is very different, obviously the mind, do you have any way that you approach segmenting practice?

Kendl Winter:
Um, not, not very organizationally, because I’m kind of the worst at that, but I have had moments where I’m really trying to like, work, like workshop something new and hard and um… I’m kind of obsessive in that regard. If I get into something where I’ve really found something that my brain can’t handle, I’ll kind of deep dive for a little bit and try to stick it out. I’m also not, I’m probably a little ADHD to be honest. Like I kind of have different stations set aside. So if I should be practicing banjo often, I’ll hit the guitar, you know, I’ll switch and I’ll kind of be doing the thing. I kind of, my avoidance of myself tends to get back around to the thing I actually wanted to do in the first place. Um, giving yourself 10 minutes to work hard though. I mean, I think there’s like 10, 15 minutes, like increments and not making it like I have to practice inversions for an hour, but I do know that that’s the next thing I want to have in my pocket. So I’m going to do that for 10, 15 minutes. And then I’m going to let myself play this song. I really want to play or go back to this, um, tuning that I really liked or, or just play something that’s comfortable that I’ve reminded myself, I do know how to play music and then go back to this hard thing.

Judd:
That’s great. This is an odd question, but often a question comes up for new students like how much time should I be practicing? That question aside, just out of my curiosity of someone who’s a professional musician, how much time do you get to practice or do you look to practice or do you just like, oh, I just pick it up and play throughout the day or What would you say is your average daily life in the world of getting to play music?

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, well I have really set myself up when I’m home, which has been more than it used to be, but now that I’m teaching too, I can be home a little bit more. It’s all kind of funnels into a practice, I think of like a daily practice, but it’s always a little bit different. Even teaching, I think, is a really good way to learn. And so sometimes, I do have students, and so sometimes I’m just looking over what they were curious about and making sure I know what I’m talking about. working with them. I usually wake up, I usually write and play, like drink coffee and write for a bit. Either just writing or just picking up an instrument and messing around without any intention-al-ness around it, just with the morning coffee kind of vibe, where a lot of the mantras come from, just exploring a new tuning or just seeing if anything falls out that I’m excited about. I do try to get… Some sort of practice, like gear, like single string stuff on the three fingers still really is really hard for me. And I think will help me straighten out some of that linearness of the banjo. I enjoy that a lot. And that’s heady and that’s oftentimes not, I’m not getting the sounds out of that I actually want to share, but I’m learning a lot about theory or I’m learning a lot about the banjo in this, in G tuning. You know, so there’s some practices I try to kind of touch on. I’m a little inconsistent about those though. It’s like I’ll have a week where I’m really good about it and then I’ll have a week where I’m practicing fiddle again instead of that. But it’s all throughout the day. I don’t ever have a day where I don’t play. And when we’re on the road, it feels like I have days where we don’t play, but it’s really cause we’re performing. And that’s a different kind of practice.

Judd:
Yeah, right.

Kendl Winter:
Cause it’s harder to just play, it’s harder to mess around with new things, but it’s a great way to make sure that you remember what you’ve worked on.

Judd:
When did you start performing? Like talking about your family and then how you kind of came into this, as you said, kind of through the back door, while you were referring more to bluegrass. But when did you decide, like, I wanna actually perform and be a professional singer songwriter, musician.

Kendl Winter:
Um, yeah, really pretty much as soon as I thought I might be a songwriter, I started performing songs before I had written them. I remember like some of the first shows when I moved to Olympia, I would definitely told people I was a songwriter, but I hadn’t actually written a full song yet, so I would play half of a song at a coffee shop and be like, that’s all I got. And

Judd:
That’s, so you just launched right into it.

Kendl Winter:
I launched right into it. Yeah.

Judd:
That’s great.

Kendl Winter:
Actually. I feel like I heard Jeff Tweedy say something like this, or maybe in his book. He’s got a really great book called How to Write One Song, and he talks about when he was a kid he would just… What did he do? I think he recorded somebody else’s song on a tape and told people that was him. But he knew it before he was doing it. He already knew what he wanted to be. And so I do think kind of introducing myself as a songwriter before I wrote full songs helped me create a community around people that were also interested in writing songs. and I had a good friend that was like, if you just repeat that verse a couple of times, now it’s a chorus, now you have a whole song. And

Judd:
I love it.

Kendl Winter:
yeah, and luckily with the other two women that we started this project called the Blackberry Bushes in Olympia in my early 20s, and there was such a great community for it. They were just down before we even really were very good. We had something that was magical that was just the three of us like singing and being. having a good time and making fun sounds on our instruments and learning like the kind of early bluegrass repertoire. And we had a lot of support around that. So it was fun to learn because we had a place for it. And we had people that were stoked that we were working on it. So that kind of grew quickly. And then we, as I got more serious, it just kind of, it offered a lot of opportunities for performance. And at the same time, I had a punk band also touring. which I don’t even understand how we did it. We would fit eight people in a van and just cross our fingers that we made it to the next town. And we somehow did, we broke down a lot. I had a lot of songs in my twenties about waiting for tow trucks to pick us up. But yeah, luckily Olympia is a good scene for just doing it. Like, it’s very art and energy focused and creative focused and DIY. Like just do it yourself, like make it happen. focus and so there’s a lot of that happening from all different genres of music and the scene was just really supportive for it. So I was performing before I could perform.

Judd:
That’s great. Well, I mean, that is something I certainly have heard from people. Uh, but, you know, I think so many people, whether, you know, they want to just learn an instrument or they actually want to play like at a coffee shop. It’s such a barrier there to say, well, I have to wait till I’m good enough.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah.

Judd:
You know, and there’s something to be said for just like, dude, just go. And if you suck, it’s okay. You know,

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, I think it’s interesting, because I do have perfectionist friends who aren’t ready, and I’m like, you sound great. Like, you should have been playing out loud in front of people three years ago, or students that are just, I can watch them really not like the in-between part, the slop before the fine tuning. And I think I’m probably… maybe even air a little too much on them just going for it. Like historically, I have some albums out there like from the early, early days that I can’t believe I put out there. But yeah, but it’s been a fun, it has been a fun career and it’s fun to still be on the trajectory of trying something new and seeing what it’s like and sharing it.

Judd:
That’s awesome. Well, I think that’s a nice transition into where you’re at right now as a performer, what the different projects that you’re currently involved in, your upcoming album, if you want to leave. I have a bunch of more specific questions, but I’d love for you to just kind of jump into where you’re at.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, well primarily on the road I’m with the Lowest Pair, our duo. It’s a really nice shape and we were really purposeful when we started the project because we’re both songwriters, we’re both banjo players, we’re both banjo nerds, we study traditional styles, but we’re both kind of weirdos in our output and what we’re interested in pursuing. And so we promised each other when we started the project that we wouldn’t box ourselves into any… to too much of a specific genre. And we’ve given ourselves a lot of freedom that, and only having two people has been helpful because we can kind of wax and wane with our energy for how much we wanna be on the road and what we’re working on. But we both. have studied traditional styles of banjo and like to geek out on old time tunes these days. And the last record we put out, well the last two records, we put out a record in 2020 that we recorded at the Ark Studios in Omaha, Nebraska, with Mike Mogus, who’s an incredible producer. We had a drummer, JT Bates come down from Minneapolis. We had Mewi La Lupe on the bass. And it was kind of had a little bit more of a rock outfit sound of really. cool production and really fun to hear these songs like, with a lot of drive. Cause before that we’d only done the duo, mostly just all the records were just the two of us. And then this last record was more of a string band vibe with the Small Town Therapy guys playing. We have like four instrumentals on it and still songwriting, but it’s like a little, it’s more acoustic. Mandolin and fiddle. And then we’ve just started working on the next record. I don’t know what that’s gonna be like yet. I have a pile of songs from the last handful of years. So that’s kind of exciting. But yeah, during the pandemic, we were home and I got to really deep dive into claw hammer styles. And I really hadn’t, I almost think because of teaching, I was given a lot, like people were asking about a lot of different techniques that I hadn’t really explored. Like I did start playing claw hammer kind of as a punk rocker just going for… rhythm maybe more than caring about the individual notes so strongly and then during the lowest pair our notes started mattering, well black ray bushes too, but the lowest pair is just two instruments so we’re being a lot more delicate with our choices. But I found myself a little bit speechless, I had some hard things going on in my life and I have written songs for… 20 years and kind of didn’t know what else to write about for a little bit. So I was really enjoying just writing instrumentals and trying out new techniques and seeing where they took me. And I have learned that I kind of, by exploring the instrument myself and not like trying to learn it from tab or from somebody else, like I come up with a lot more pathways to get around the instrument. Like when I learned like a lick for like just off tab. It’s great, it’s a cool lick. But it kind of doesn’t land as naturally as the things I’ve discovered myself. It takes longer for it to just fall into the vocabulary of something that’s kind of in my toolbox. So it was really, I’ve noticed that my explorations have given me a lot to work with in improv and in finding melodies. Like, Clawhammer is pretty, I have an easier time finding melodies in Clawhammer. just because of let my hands fall enough times. And then try to not put square pegs in round holes, sort of thing, like try to figure out how they land rhythmically in time. So that kind of became the mantras and I was sharing them on Instagram. These are just like little ideas. I was noticing that, sorry, I think I’m running. I’m running on a lot. But I’ll record 20 minutes of playing an instrumental on my phone and I go for these long runs. And I would just kind of hear that I really liked where they started and where they went to. And they would maybe end up in something completely different. But I found that I actually enjoyed that 20 minutes of music. Like, like. it’s kind of fun to watch something start here and then go there. Um, and, and that, that was all instrumental and I really liked that. And I also was getting really good feedback on my social media is that people liked the stuff that I was kind of sharing. Um, and so really I think because of not only because of the lots of, because of the, um, affirmation I was getting back from, from people being interested in it, I kind of thought, well, I’m going to try to record these and I picked. 14 of the ones that I thought were the most interesting to me and then went to record them. And it’s a lot harder. It’s a lot harder to consolidate ideas into pieces, you know, or to get what happens really naturally when you’re just, when you actually aren’t trying so hard. When you know that you want it to have an arc or a story instrumentally, like in a beginning and an ending, a purposeful beginning and ending. It was trickier to record them than I thought it would be. But I did capture a bunch of them. They’re also all in different tunings, so for like maybe what I had done is spent the morning with the tuning and then found the mantra somewhere in that. Whereas like trying to just quickly go into a new tuning and find it takes some, it takes that morning really. So I had to become a little more familiar with the different tunings I chose.

Judd:
What are some of those tunings?

Kendl Winter:
Um, well there’s only, I think there’s only one in standard G, there’s a few in double C because double C’s so pretty. I really like, there’s a F tuning where you take your fifth string to F and then it’s G, F. No, it’s FC, F, C, D. So that’s an F tuning that I really like. There’s a D tuning where sometimes I’ll put the fifth string on a A and sometimes I’ll put it on a F sharp and sometimes I’ll put it on a F. And then the lower four strings are D, F sharp, A, D, which is just like a triad, you know, or the root inversion. And then there’s also the… minor F, like take the F down to F. So F, D, F, A, D, or A, D, F, A, D. I think that.

Judd:
I don’t want to sidetrack you too hard from

Kendl Winter:
Ha ha.

Judd:
the arc, but I was very curious about that and noticed that you had all these different beautiful tunings and seemed to be really drawn to really any tuning other than stator G,

Kendl Winter:
Yeah.

Judd:
which is, if a person is drawn to the banjo, that kind of droning is part of what you’re drawn to. It’s a beautiful, haunting thing. Then when you start to mess with the tunings, that haunting drone goes into all kinds of different places. So I also love different tunings and

Kendl Winter:
Yeah.

Judd:
I was just curious about that. But anyhow, so back to, you know, during the pandemic, so you’re, you’re kind of exploring these mantras and I have questions about that as well.

Kendl Winter:
You

Judd:
And you’re getting this affirmation and then you go into the, to actually sit down and record kind of these longer explorations and structure wise. And I think that’s where we left off before I took us into tunings.

Kendl Winter:
Oh yeah, just trying to distill them and trying to figure out how, where the story is, where I, like, I had a friend that suggested, you know, like he knew somebody that just drew pictures to kind of give themselves an idea about how the arc works. Cause you kind of don’t want to give all, it’s interesting that I really start to think of the instrumental pieces as they’re improv, but there’s also like moments that I want to have happen in each song. And so there’s kind of a… There’s this, yeah, it’s kind of, it is hard to talk about music sometimes. The, there’s just like these moments you kind of hope happen, but you can build them so differently. Like you can play the same thing. I mean, even in a song with words, like I’ve noticed like you can play it, you can sing it five times. It’s always a little bit different. And maybe the way

Judd:
Mm-hmm.

Kendl Winter:
that you expressed it this one time, it really, it really works. something magical happened, you know, and there’s other times where you play, you sang it the same, it feels like, but it just didn’t come across. And I feel similarly with playing, or it’s, there’s times where I’m like, that just worked. I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was where I played it on the banjo. Maybe it was where my brain was. It was so hard to keep your brain from getting busy while playing.

Judd:
Mm-hmm.

Kendl Winter:
It’s the worst feeling when you were like, I just, like, I just freaked out that entire time. You know? if you’re feeling nervous or sometimes you’re thinking about your grocery list or something, but you’re like to try to stay present but not too pointed on it while playing is kind of interesting because they are trancy. That’s kind of the space I go to in my room and when I’m just playing around is they’re kind of trancy. I don’t know where 20 minutes went, but I did really want to have some of them are more composed than others, but to have… I kind of wanted that to come across the exploration. to come across, but I don’t think I realized how hard it is to do it all on purpose. To start it, to stay in it, to end it. Because sometimes the special part is that 30 seconds that I shared and not, like there’s plenty of, interesting to me, but not everyone needs to see that other six minutes of this. You know, kind of the editing was interesting too, and trying to figure out how long to let them be and how… Yeah, what parts of it to share. That was interesting.

Judd:
Does that, you’re talking about the, you said, transient, I was thinking this whole idea of, not letting the mind wander, but also not being too hyper-focused is a very kind of meditative state. Does that play at all into your use of the word mantra for these pieces, which I also found interesting. and you’re constantly referring to them, can you talk maybe a little bit more about that and that connection to the music, that word and the name of the album, et cetera.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, yeah, I called them, I started calling them on trips without thinking about it that much and more just because they were repetitive and kind of, I think of a mantra as being something you kind of say to yourself over and over to help you kind of get into the flow, like flow states being really important because there’s nothing better than a flow state, I think like just finding yourself lost in time. And so they kind of were doing that for me as I was learning and making them up. So I started calling on that and they… It’s kind of funny, it kind of just worked as a phrase and an easy way to describe a great umbrella phrase for them. But yeah, I think that just exactly that. They’re repetitive. Ideally, they help you lose yourself a little bit. For me, they do. For me, I’ll lose time for a bit, and that’s very pleasurable.

Judd:
Yeah.

Kendl Winter:
I also kind of, I think it’s neat to have, because they have emotion in them, and the different tunings, it was really interesting how different keys, different. relationships and music like they have, they take you on different journeys. Like naming them felt kind of strange. Like they’ve all had a lot of different names because if you feel like you kind of can’t help, but you have to name them, but they also, you know, I don’t want to direct the imagery you have around it too much, so, and they’re, you know, I’m very serious about them, but also very lighthearted about them. And it’s kind of an interesting thing to care so much about something that you’re also trying not to care too much about. like so

Judd:
There’s a lot of Eastern philosophy in this whole section that we’re talking about, that idea of a light touch, but also great intention. Once you give something a label, it takes on something different than before it had that label, but yet wanting to be able to refer to it. These are very Eastern ideas. It resonated with me right away, but at the same time, I wanted to hear more, obviously, where it’s coming from for you. So the name of the album that’s coming out is called…

Kendl Winter:
Banjo Mantras

Judd:
Love it. Love it. And when is that scheduled to drop?

Kendl Winter:
It’s scheduled to drop in early March. I have been, I was hoping to kind of get it out earlier. I have it and I’m gonna actually do a Kickstarter where I think I’m gonna make it available before the holidays for folks too. But as far as how the singles come out and how it gets into the web world and the streaming world, it’s scheduled to come out in March, early March.

Judd:
Got it, got it. So there will be an opportunity perhaps for people to get it ahead of time, especially if they wanna buy it and have it kind of a deal.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, like I had vinyl made. Actually, I’m picking it up next week. So it’s happening. I’m very excited to see the vinyl, yeah. And Artwork yeah, I got really into actually I have one right here. I got really into Lionel cut printing this winter. This is a this is a bad one, but I kept it because I like the way that I landed reduction

Judd:
Yeah.

Kendl Winter:
prints extra difficult because you. Have to get the registration correct and I’m like I said, my attention to detail is not always. It takes awhile before I did get some good with better registration, but the first. mantra coming out is the humming mantra. And that’s the image for the centering mantra. I got really into pottery this last winter too. It was like one of my little, little mugs

Judd:
Beautiful.

Kendl Winter:
Thank you. Thank you.

Judd:
Not to, not to digress, my, my wife is hardcore in to pottery. Uh,

Kendl Winter:
So fun.

Judd:
I mean, yeah. And so our house is overflowing with her pottery, which I love, but…

Kendl Winter:
That’ll be one of the, one of the options will be the, do you want a mug of, you know, a learning

Judd:
Hahaha!

Kendl Winter:
But, um, yeah, the centering mantra is the next one that’s going to come out. Um, and I just kind of like, there’s a lot of metaphor in humming and humming birds and, and just the, like, I mean, there’s always a lot of activity at the house I live in. Um, there’s. It’s a busy neighborhood. We have a pig that’s always oinking. There are a lot of hummingbirds on the front porch. There’s just activity and trying to be still amongst a bunch of activity is kind of what the humming mantra is about. Centering is a lot of metaphor and pottery too. A lot of lineal cuts will be the artwork for the whole album.

Judd:
Love it. Very cool. On a slightly different note, but you talking about, you know, the area there and the wildlife. I really loved, well, I loved a bunch of songs. “Rosie” jumped really deep in my head. Mount Rainier was another, you know, a beautiful one. So it seems like, you know, you’re also aside, not the Mantras album, but you write a lot about, you know, the area that you’re in it seems like or at least are influenced by.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, you can’t not be, can’t, did I say that right? You’re kind of picking up wherever you are. Like, I mean, I love the Northwest. I’m here very, very much purposefully. I moved here when I was 18 with my dog as soon as I could get out of Arkansas, even though I love my friends there, but it wasn’t, the Northwest just called to me. It’s gorgeous here. I feel very much myself. I just, I’m pretty sore today. I went for like a big hike. couple days ago with my backpack and a friend and I like to be out in nature when I can be. But we have a lot of songs about the Midwest too, the Lois Perez also spends a lot of time in Minneapolis and in the Driftless area. We have a lot of songs kind of that region also just because we spent a lot of time there. And then sometimes you’ll end up with a song…

[INTERNET LOSS]

Judd:
Sorry, sorry for that interruption.

Kendl Winter:
That’s all right.

Judd:
So you were saying a lot of the lowest pair stuff is written and influenced by the Minneapolis area, you said?

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, Palmer, my bandmate is from Minneapolis and we spend a lot of time in the Driftless area. We met in Winona, Minnesota and have a lot of friends and love for that region. So yeah, we spend a lot of time in Minnesota, we spend a lot of time in Wisconsin, we spend a lot of time on the West Coast. And sometimes those songs will reflect how much time we’ve been in a place. Sometimes you’ll have a song about a place you spent an hour and it just something grabbed you too. But at this point we’ve tried, we travel a lot and absorb our surroundings as songwriters. So there’s the kind of our, a lot of things pop up in our songs.

Judd:
Well, there’s nothing like, particularly I find for, you know, banjo music, there’s nothing like nature. And, uh, I mean, anything can be, I, I took a banjo to, um, hungry in Croatia on a trip and was like, you know, sitting out and side of a 600 year old church and that sound doesn’t seem to belong there at all, but the contrast was still something special,

Kendl Winter:
Yeah.

Judd:
you know? Um, but. But I always feel like when you’re out in the forest or the mountain or somehow connected to nature that the banjo really, really sings. But regardless of that aspect, obviously, as songwriters and musicians, you’re gonna be influenced by the places that you’re spending tons of time and the places that you’re from and so on.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, there’s a mantra called the Island Mantra on the Banjo Mantra record. And it’s, to me, it sounds very, I wrote it on a beach in Hawaii, in Kauai years ago. But it sounds different. Like, I feel like wherever you are, you are kind of picking up different vibes. Similarly, like I don’t know how much Banjo fits in to Hawaii. Like, you kind of see like why grunge came out of the Northwest. You can kind of feel why in the winter. You can tell that it really… couldn’t have came from the beaches in Kauai. Like there’s different, there’s different things happening around you and we are really permeable to what’s happening around us. Last time I was in San Francisco, I thought it would be really fun to just go sit on Russian Hill at a coffee shop and write because I just thought I would write completely differently than I’ve ever written before. I don’t really find myself drawn to cities and yeah, I kind of maybe even avoid them, but. But there’s something about just the tons of people, so many vibrations happening and

Judd:
Mm-hmm.

Kendl Winter:
busy lives on top of each other that I thought like, wow, this would be really interesting to see what I, you know, was able to pick up here.

Judd:
That’s yeah, that I mean on a brief digression, that’s something I remember is when I was young, in the kind of earlier days of hip hop, you could hear the difference between West Coast and East Coast rap and it was all based on the environment, you know, that the pace of New York versus the pace of Los Angeles.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah.

Judd:
So you know, it’s not a not a new thing per se that we’re talking about. But what is fascinating to me is And I think it’s very applicable, particularly to your upcoming album, is that influence as to like where you’re writing a song. And if you don’t mind, I feel like it’s kind of an odd question to ask, but I think anybody who isn’t a songwriter is curious about it and that is process. You know, what does your process look like when you’re writing both instrumental pieces, but also lyrically, which I think is, you know, As soon as you move into the lyrical world, well, it’s like now you have to be a musician and a poet, you know, a storyteller

Kendl Winter:
Yeah.

Judd:
in that sense. And how do you approach, you know, writing in both arenas?

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, it’s a good question. I’ve done it for a long time, and I still, whenever I actually catch one, I feel like I don’t really know how that happened. But I do have a regular writing practice and a regular playing practice. And now, probably more importantly than ever, I record a lot of it. Like I write it down, well, I always wrote it down, but when I’m just messing around and I have an idea that I like, I record it. Whereas before, I might hope that I remembered it. I don’t know what that means that if I… I think that just has to do with technology and the ability to capture a lot more quickly on your phone and have it. But I also have these long runs I was talking about or like go for walks or drives where you kind of listen to ideas. And then I have over 3000 plus like probably voice memos of just ideas and sometimes they’re just mumbles. Sometimes they’re not actual words. They’re just literally, literally. kind of a baby talking of sounds that might kind of imagine a song, like the most vague idea of maybe sounds. Because sometimes words, words are sounds too. They apply, they have so much, they hold so much weight, like every word. But it’s kind of interesting, right? Like you can just say a word like book and it’s nothing until you decide that it’s poetry. Now we’re thinking about it in lots of different ways, right? We’re kind of changing, we’re changing the way we… we, as soon as you call up poetry, our brains just change how we think about it. And

Judd:
Mm-hmm.

Kendl Winter:
I love writing. I’ve always loved writing. It’s a great way to just kind of understand myself better and have more sympathy for myself sometimes. And also sometimes I’ll find like a phrase that I wrote in like a journaling entry is just something that has, maybe captures me, has some weight to it. And then I’ll kind of explore it that way. Yeah, I don’t always, I don’t, I’ve been doing it for a long time. I have lots of records out there and I don’t quite know how to exactly how to write a song. But I’ve been asked it a lot lately because doing some songwriting workshops is something I’d love to do. And I think the biggest thing is just allow yourself the freedom to just write for a little bit and think about what phrases you wanna use or what story you’re trying to tell. I’ve really enjoyed instrumental music because it’s fun to not impose meaning, but I have noticed that even with words, people will come and tell me what the song’s about all the time and it’s not about the same thing I wrote the song about, you know, and it’s really fun how, um, how like inkblot songs are anyway to people. Like, we’re kind of sharing the human experience and we all have, we resonate with each other. But oftentimes it’s not necessarily the thing of, was personally, hopefully, I mean, we’re having very different experiences too. So we’re all, they get interpreted lots of different ways and that’s something that I think is kind of fun also.

Judd:
it also seems like you have structure around, like, you know, it sounds like you might journal consistently and you’re making time to explore on a consistent basis.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, you kind of have to keep that open regularly and then be reflecting regularly.

Judd:
That’s a good way to put it, to make the time to capture and then make the time to reflect.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of beauty. There’s a lot of things happening around us every day that are song worthy, you know? And I think it is interesting to be like 20 years into songwriting and try not trying, and the same person, because lots of times, like it almost feels harder to me now than it used to and that I don’t. I’ve written a lot of the same songs that I would probably write again. or you have an idea of what the song’s supposed to be or that one song was really good so now your next song needs to be good. You know, that kind of stuff seems like, those are hurdles to like get out of the way, right? It’s like kind of like edit later, like write it anyway and then edit later. And that piece of recording it and looking back helps a lot because often I’m kind of cruel when I’m doing it. Like if I let my editing mind… in while I’m creating, it will cut it off before it has a chance to get anywhere.

Judd:
Mm.

Kendl Winter:
And so just kind of trying to free up yourself to do it without the naysayer. And then later you have a little more objectivity when you’re listening to it, because you’re not the same person you were yesterday. You’re having a different,

Judd:
Definitely.

Kendl Winter:
it feels a little more objective. So you can kind of listen to it with a little bit more objectivity.

Judd:
Yeah, it seems like trying to be in that flow state of, you know, the naysayer is not allowed in there in order for that state to exist.

Kendl Winter:
You write dumb things. I have 1,000 more songs that I’m not going to share to find the ones that I do feel like sharing. And lots of times, there are three that got to the place where the first one was. And then sometimes something just happened. Rosie came just very naturally and was a song. And about the time it took to. And that’s kind of funny when that happens.

Judd:
Amazing when that I mean I find that so fascinating and it makes sense from a kind of you know, even if you look at you know an athlete who spends thousands of hours and then in a particular game it lines up that something phenomenal happens, you know, just like that. So, you know in the world of art you can see that but still it’s the same time It’s got to feel a little bit like lightning, you know like….

Kendl Winter:
in that moment?

Judd:
Yeah.

Kendl Winter:
How do I get that again? I’ve heard some writers about like how long it took you to write that song and it’s like it’s however old you are It took me 36 years. It took me 40 years. You know, like that’s how long it took to write this song

Judd:
Are you, I’ve heard, I can’t remember who I heard this from and I think it was in the world of theater, but are you, the idea was like, I’m never done working on something. I just at some point choose to share it.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah.

Judd:
You know, are you, is there times for you where you’re just like, oh no, I like where this is at and that’s that, are you constantly tinkering, you know, what’s your experience?

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, I think I relate to those I’ve never done piece of it. I think it was interesting to capture the mantras because what they are to me isn’t capture-able. Like that’s a snapshot of it, right? They’ll never sound like that again. They’ll sound of that also, but they’re gonna be a little different. They’re not really meant to be the same every time. And our songs, if you follow the Lois Pair from show to show, we had Palmer’s sweetheart joined us for a tour and she remarked on how she was like, wow, I never heard you guys sing it like that or you guys sing it differently every night. And I think if you kind of see us, we both are very emotional humans and we’re responding to each other, we’re responding to the space. Our sound sounds different in every room in different stages. outside or inside or how it’s being mic’d and we’re responding to what we’re hearing and how we’re feeling and you know there’s a lot of elements going on so we’re not… to some people’s like dismay it’s never going to sound like a record is similarly a snapshot of a song or hopefully a good capture of a song like the perfect plan is like really fun i’m really proud of the way those songs were captured but they probably aren’t going to sound like that when you hear us We might have different people playing the instruments or it might just be the two of us and you hear the stripped down version. And we tend to record live. So we kind of, we’re just capturing moments. And that’s kind of, that is what music is. It’s a pretty special thing to capture music at all and share it in this recorded form that we do. And it’s kind of funny

Judd:
Mm-hmm.

Kendl Winter:
that becomes the way it is. I think in pop music, that is the way it is. Like it’s got caught and now that’s how it’s performed. This is where this note goes and that’s not really totally how would I subscribe to.

Judd:
Like a… high-end choreographed show versus a performance that is organic and is being improvised, you know,

Kendl Winter:
Yeah. Yeah, I think the high-end choreograph is incredible. Like I didn’t catch Taylor Swift’s recent show, but I bet that’s amazing. You know, like that seems like very, very incredible. I mean, incredible. But like kind of what we’re doing is just different. It’s not, we’re kind of just responding to each other and sharing the song

Judd:
I feel like, certainly it’s true for me as an audience member, if I’m going to see a Broadway show or something, well, you expect that. And that’s all about, it’s so fine tuned, it can be mind blowing in that way. But if I’m going to see a band I love, I wanna see them exploring live in front of me and all the wonderful places that can go. And, and, you know, that to me is as an audience member is the real magic. I really quickly on that note, um, and, and this, you know, won’t apply to everyone, particularly new players, but you know, what, and you’re seasoned now, but for somebody who’s starting to play live, you know, what are things that you did in your early days in regards to just keeping yourself calm? Even from a physical place of the adrenaline and how that affects your hands to your voice.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah.

Judd:
For new players who are like, oh, I’m gonna go play at the coffee shop. Or maybe people are like, oh no, I’m actually gonna go try to play at a bar or someplace, a bigger venue.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah.

Judd:
Any tips from somebody who’s been in the game for a long time?

Kendl Winter:
I will say that I still sometimes get nervous and sometimes it feels a little debilitating. We were at the Caslow Jazz Festival a couple weekends ago and I don’t know, the audience was so awesome and I was so excited that I turned to Paul and I said, I don’t think I can play this next song. Like I think we have to skip it. And he was like, you got it. And I was really having like a tough time. The worst thing is when you’re kind of three songs ahead telling yourself you’re gonna forget something.

Judd:
Mm-hmm.

Kendl Winter:
So I’m not saying that doesn’t happen to me still. Um, but trusting that like, it’s very unusual for me to totally like fall out of a song. Like the song will come and it will happen in time. There’s four of us that we’re playing. Um, also it’s, it’s not the worst thing. I mean, as the two, especially when it’s just the two of us, we have, there’s room for it to not be, um, perfect, you know, humans and there’s a live performance. And if like, we forget a lyric, there’s usually, as long as we’re not mad and showing that we’re having a terrible time, um, there’s a lot of room for us to just kind of catch ourselves and keep going. It’s not, you don’t break the ankle for forgetting a lyric or if you, um, play the wrong note, you’re usually only half a step away from something that sounds more, um, in line with the melody. Slide into it, like get. You know, you kind of learn how to work with your mistakes, play it a few more times so it looks like you did it on purpose. I think just live performance, and this is something I’m still always regularly reminding myself, is that you, it’s an exchange happening. So when we’re having a terrible time, that’s hard for the audience, I think. So I do feel a certain responsibility to just be like, we’re human, we’re doing our best, this is what we got. I hope I remember the next line.

Judd:
No.

Kendl Winter:
But it happens. It’s not an infallible thing. We’re humans on stage in front of people being humans. Luckily, Lois Perry, we have a name with a lot of space for us to set the bar low and then walk into it.

Judd:
hahahaha

Kendl Winter:
We play with that a lot. But that is kind of the shape that we’ve given ourselves to perform. with so we have this flexibility there.

Judd:
I think that’s a good, I want to honor your time, but I think that’s a good place to kind of wrap up and specifically ask, you know, and I asked for myself first and foremost, but for anyone else, you know, what’s the best way for me to keep track, like get your most current information on when the new album comes out, what you’re up to, you know, obviously you share a lot on Instagram in regards to- the music that you’re playing with and exploring. What’s the best way for people to keep up with you?

Kendl Winter:
Honestly, Instagram is the platform that I interact with the most regularly. I just started a website because the mantra record is going to come out, or I restarted a website. The mantra record is going to come out and that will be available there. I’m trying to get all my ducks on a row and in a row on the interwebs. But yeah, Instagram, for better or for worse, is where I tend to spend the most time. I just started… a TikTok too, but I don’t quite know if that’s for me, but it’s there. And I’m basically sharing the same things I’m sharing on Instagram there. Yeah, that’s the one I interact with the most. But I’ll have a tour schedule on the Lois Pairs website and a tour schedule. If I do some, I hope to do some Manjomantra touring too, I’ll do that on my website.

Judd:
Right on.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah.

Judd:
Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I thank you so much for your time and I really look forward to hearing the album and just keeping up with you in general. I just think you’re wonderful and your music’s wonderful. So thank you.

Kendl Winter:
Yeah, thank you, Judd. This was really fun.

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