Talking to Arthur Lee Land is interesting, to say the least. I imagine that if one could somehow sneak a peek into a mad genius brain, it would be a similar experience. With a mind that seems not only to never stop working, but also to never stop creating, he’s not far from it. A musician based in Lyons, CO, he’s taken his show on the road.
Show, here, is quite literal. Watching Arthur perform is breathtaking. On the one hand, his music is a vast mix of African drums, jazz, bluegrass, pop, folk, and something entirely his own. Praise can hardly do the genius justice. His passion for the music started in childhood, and it’s easy enough to hear that it’s never died out. It’s a unique sound that delights the eardrums. But the eyes won’t be left out of this delighting. A live looper, he recreates the experience of a twelve person band, all by his lonesome. Watching him dash about the stage to add a little rhythm here, or a bit of guitar there is an entirely novel way to see music unfold before your eyes.
With a large personality, Arthur is a natural stage person, but he also invests himself into being nothing short of a good person. He uses his success to help promote www.ablechild.org. AbleChild, a nonprofit organization, has been established to raise awareness of the psychiatric labeling and drugging of children, and the risks of mandatory mental health screenings. He’s an easy person to talk to, with a big smile, and an open mind.
All-in-all, my talk with him was a fantastic experience. Beautiful music, a fascinating mind, and an interesting story, Arthur Lee Land will be a name you’ll want to remember. And hey, SLC folks, you’ll even have a chance this Friday to check it out for yourselves! Read on for more info.
Kita: What first interested you in music?
Arthur: Drums, I guess. I used to put pillows on the couch when I was five years old, and play on them with chopsticks while watching music programs.
Kita: And when did you start getting into playing professionally?
Arthur: Probably when I was in college. Right out of high school, first into college. That’s when I was in my first band. That’s when I started playing professionally.
Kita: What were your goals at that point?
Arthur: Oh God, that’s an interesting question. I’m not really sure. Probably to play, make a living, and travel. And to master my craft, and it got more that way after I got kicked out of my first band. I was really inspired to be as good as I could be.
Kita: Are those still really your goals now, or has it changed a lot?
Arthur: I think they’re still there, as well. I think that the craft part about it is. Being able to get in the zone with playing has always been somewhat of a goal too, and somewhat elusive. So that would be more a playing thing. Being able to have the freedom to express music in the most natural, unconstricted way would be a thing that’s always been there.
Kita: When you’re performing, you do a lot of live looping. How did that come to be?
Arthur: I think that just happened when I was playing solo gigs, about twelve or thirteen years ago, and I mentioned to a guy at the Guitar Center that it was a bummer not having anything to play against when I was playing guitar solos, and just having the one instrument, and not having a band. He said, “Well, you should get a looper.” I didn’t really know what that was at that point, and they told me, so I got one and started experimenting with it. It just was a whole evolutionary process. When I went to West Africa, I heard all these drums, and I just thought, “Wow, if I could just have that sound, without having to have a twelve piece band, that’d be really cool.” So that’s how it all started evolving.
Kita: Did you have to really study all the instruments you use in that, or do you just kind of wing it?
Arthur: Well, a little bit of both. I have to definitely study aspects and understand the role and the function and how they work. Then being able to understand the roles has allowed me to kind of put on the hat of playing that particular instrument while I’m doing it. You just have to think like that. Even if I’m playing the guitar, but playing a trumpet solo, I need to think like a trumpet player. You know, play in the ways they would play in. So they all have their own situations and I’m very conscious of that.
Kita: What has touring been like for you?
Arthur: Well, the music part of it is fun. The other parts are sometimes very challenging. There’s a lot of challenges that happen, in terms of car and RV mechanic stuff, and scheduling. But I like traveling, and I love to play. You know, it’s just part of the dance.
Kita: Do you struggle with the business and the art side of things?
Arthur: It’s kind of a never ending dance there as well, that I’m involved in. I think the dream and the illusion is that you’d rather not have to worry about it, but I don’t know if that’s ever a reality.
Kita: What’s the biggest struggle for you then?
Arthur: Probably just the business stuff. Scheduling, booking, things like that.
Kita: What’s your favorite part of everything?
Arthur: My favorite part is definitely playing and seeing people light up. There’s the part of playing and being in the zone and expressing your love of music that way, and then there’s also the love of being of service, and seeing how your songs and music can have a powerful impact on people. Being able to impact people in a positive way is a very fulfilling element.
Kita: Does that mean you prefer performing to creating?
Arthur: I think they’re kind of hand-in-hand. I’m doing both all the time. If you’re talking about making a studio recording versus performing live, than they’re two very different things, but I like them both equally. They’re two different elements of the overall art form.
Kita: So do you get stage fright at all?
Arthur: Yeah, sometimes. For sure. And I don’t think that ever goes away, either.
Kita: How have the people around you reacted to everything you’re doing?
Arthur: I think those closest get the worst and the best parts. Those on the outside tend to just get the best aspects, or just get to project what they want to see on you, and really just see what they want to see. And then it’s just a dance for those closest, of being in a relationship.
Kita: What about the larger arts community? Have they been supportive of you?
Arthur: Oh yes! Totally. It’s great to be in a community. It’s been an awesome thing.
Kita: Do you like collaborating with a lot of people?
Arthur: Yeah, I do, although my thing is very solo, I like to have people sit in, I like to play in bands, I like to sit in with other people. Yes, collaboration is definitely something I love to do.
Kita: From the time you were that little kid banging on pillows with chopsticks to now, what have been your biggest growth points?
Arthur: It’s been a real evolutionary process of mastering my craft, playing in other peoples bands, studying all these instruments, and then, also, writing songs and recording. Always performing, and then moving into the looping thing, which brought all sorts of other elements of my gifts and strengths together, and that’s still continued to evolve. So it’s a real evolutionary process all the way around.
Kita: Have you ever done any other forms of art?
Arthur: I did some drawing, some mandala drawing. I’ve done some photography, I’ve done collages. I got into drawing for awhile when I was a kid and in high school. I took some art classes two years ago, and that was pretty fun.
Kita: Do you think that’s what you would be doing if you weren’t doing music?
Arthur: I don’t know about that. It’s definitely not nearly the same.
Kita: You’ve become pretty successful. When you first started, did you see that happening? Would you have predicted that at all?
Arthur: I think so. I mean, I know when I was probably seventeen years old, in work study class, the teacher called me out, and said, “What are you going to do with your life?” I stood up, and said, “I’m going to play rock and roll!” And I walked out. That’s what my classmates told me at my thirty year high school reunion. So, I guess I knew.
Kita: What, for you, is the typical songwriting process?
Arthur: We wrote a lot of the songs on this new album at this little creek canyon park, called Left Hand Creek in Boulder. I would just start playing and singing a melody, and then Carol would write off that, creating a verse or a chorus, and then we would record that, and move onto something else, and then she would rewrite, and I would tweak, and that was generally the process. Sometimes, she’ll have the lyrics already, and I’ll write music to them, or sometimes I’ll have music and just give it to her and she’ll write lyrics to that. But, we often write together.
Kita: So do you find being outside is a big inspiration then?
Arthur: Yes, sometimes. Yes. We do a lot of writing outside, come to think of it, in different places.
Kita: If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing you’ve learned from everything you’ve done, what would it be?
Arthur: That the music business is about relationships, about people.
Friday, October 11th, at 7pmTickets are on sale: http://
2631 East Murray-Holladay Road, SLC
You can even download a free track, and get more information about Arthur and what he's up to at: http://www.arthurleeland.com/