I met John Lee after a set at Tryst Café. His band The Electric Trio is phenomenal. I especially appreciated their jazz cover of The Cure songs. He shared his musical inspiration, his favorite venues to play in the DC area, and what’s next for his musical aspirations.
Marlene: When did your interest in music start?
John: I remember at a very young age being very affected by music. One of my first memories was hearing,”We Built This City” with my two brothers. I remember whatever we were doing instantly changed when the song came on, and all of a sudden we went to another imaginary world: jumping around, singing, and dancing. We were purely in the moment. This was one of my first memories of music, and I was aware that it had a huge power over myself and my brothers’ imagination and emotions.
Where is your favorite place to play music in DC?
I don’t have a particular place, but some of my greatest memories were playing at Iota, Artisphere, Bohemian Caverns, Velvet Lounge, and Bossa Bistro.
What are you listening to now?
I’m listening right now to a trombonist named Hal Crook because he’s the author of some books I’ve been practicing from that deal with improvisation. I’m also listening to Hindustani vocal music, and checking out some Moroccan Gnawa music of Hassan Hakmoun. At the moment Hasaan booked me to travel with him and play. We just headlined Toronto’s Kick Up Your Heels Festival and are playing in Chicago and Detroit this week.
Who are some of your musical influences?
All the music a typical American kid growing up would phase through that was born around 1980: Rap, Glam Rock, Heavy Metal, Grunge Rock, then Classic Rock. My Irish ancestry played a large part in my talent and playing music, singing and dancing are natural attributes which my extended family displayed during their last visit from Ireland.
How would you describe your music?
Simply, I take pieces of every style of music that I have studied and loved and basically mix them all together in a big stew. I spent many years playing Jazz and improvised music so those particular elements are in the broth.
What are your goals and dreams with your music?
Right now my goal is to take care and provide for my future wife and child by playing and teaching music. My Dream is to provide for my future wife and child playing my own music.
What instruments do you play?
I am proficient and play many styles of the guitar such as: Jazz, African, Brazilian, Folk, Country, Classical, Heavy Metal, Blues, Irish, and the list goes on. I play many different types of guitars, as well as many, many effects pedals. I also play a little bit of Harmonica and am open to learning to play new and old world music instruments.
Any advice for aspiring musicians?
I like this quote for aspiring musicians especially those who may have false illusions or get caught up in the allure of being regarded as a musician. “There is no middle class in music. If you want to be a professional musician you must practice 13 hours a day for 10 years,” Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya.
How do you practice?
Recently, I’ve been using my iPad. I can practice at much quieter volumes and it also has all my mp3s, sheet music, and a bunch of fancy apps that slow things down and more. It’s really a mobile workstation and everything I need is in the iPad. I can practice in a hotel room, my apartment, or backstage/green rooms. I also practice a lot while on the go. I use apps for singing while in my car, and on the plane I transcribe music and read theory books.
What’s the best show you’ve seen in DC?
Batsheva Israeli Dance Company came to The Kennedy Center last year. I really enjoyed it because of the composition, abstraction, and the way it ended with plunges off the wall to nice music.
What’s the best place to see music in DC?
Wolf Trap in Vienna and the 9:30 club.
Visit John Lee’s website.