Q&A with Pat Metheny

We recently sat down with Pat Metheny to learn more about him and his expansive career. He will be coming to The Northern Lights Theater along with Bruce Hornsby on Tuesday, July 29.

When was the last time you performed in Milwaukee and what can fans expect at your July 29 show?

I think the last gig I had in Milwaukee was at the Pabst Theater a few years back.

This is a really exciting band. We have done two records in the past couple years and the Unity Band record won the Grammy for Best Jazz Recording when we released it in 2013. This is one of the strongest live presentations I have ever been able to offer with the best band I have ever had. It has just been a blast.

How long did it take for you to come up with material for your new album Kin (←→) and what makes this album different from previous releases?

The core quartet of Chris, Ben, Antonio and I played over 100 concerts over the year that followed the release of our Unity Band record. Over the course of that period, the band became one of those rare combinations of players where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts—it gelled in every way, and that just seemed to beg for expansion and further research.

Concurrently, I had been kind of itching to write more in the style that I had developed over the years with my regular groups and projects where there is a lush and more orchestrated kind of compositional conception that went beyond the sonic limits of what a straight ahead quartet might invoke.  But I really didn’t want to lose the energy, focus and intensity of what this band had developed. I wanted to take it further. It seemed natural and organic for me to push this band to this next level.

If the first Unity Band record was a documentary of four musicians in a recording studio playing, this record is more like the 21st century, Technicolor-IMAX version of what a band like this could be—but with that “hardcore thing” still sitting right in the middle of it all. It took me about three months to write all the music for this record.

You’ve had the privilege of collaborating with a number of talented artists over the years. Which collaboration stands out the most and why?

That is really impossible for me to answer—there have been way too many. If you look at the list of musicians I have worked with, you will also see a list of my favorite players on just about every instrument. I am really lucky in that respect.

If you could collaborate with any musician (past or present) that you haven’t had a chance to work with yet, who would it be and why?

I think I have played with everyone I have felt that kind of closeness to.

How did you and Bruce Hornsby connect and come up with the idea to tour this summer on the Campfire Tour?

We have been friends for a long time. I have played on some of Bruce’s tracks and I think he is an incredible musician and is also one of my favorite people. Every time we get together, we have a blast and I’m sure we will have a great time on this tour together.

Who are some of your musical idols or biggest influences?

JS Bach. Miles Davis. Charlie Parker. John Coltrane. And many, many, many more.

What are you listening to these days (any favorite musicians or current songs)?

Unfortunately, I’m on permanent “output” mode—I rarely have time for “input.” On the rare occasions that I do have the chance to listen, I look for what is happening in my general realm among the newer, younger guys—and I’m always doing that hoping to hear someone who might be a candidate for me to use at some point along the line as a player.

You spend a lot of time touring, so what are some tips you have picked up through the years to survive on the road?

I think everyone who tours as much as I do finds their own rhythm in it. For me, everything leads to the bandstand and I do everything I can do to make each night like it will be the last time I ever play. That said, warming up with the instrument for one to two hours before every show is an essential part of the day for me.

When you’re not on the road, what are some of your hobbies or things you like to do in your spare time?

I have three young kids. Being with them is the best and most important thing for me.