Seth Walker — Key to the Highway interview
Fans always clamor to learn more about their favorite, most beloved musicians and those who travel with them. There’s such an allure to the road, with its serendipity, inevitable surprises, and sometimes unexpected discomforts. This interview series is a set of questions we are asking some of our favorite roots rock Americana artists to get to know more about them and what they’ve learned and experienced on the road. We are sure they have key insights to share and stories to tell. Here’s one from Seth Walker.
Americana Highways: How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?
Seth Walker: Black coffee on most mornings. Some might say I fall in the semi-snobbish category regarding the quality of the roast and bean. We go as far as bringing a little coffee rig with us complete with grinder, kettle, filters and a pour over contraption. On rare occasions I do crave a fancy pants overpriced cappuccino pulled and poured from a hipster barista. Sometimes a cup of shitty watered down diner coffee can hit the spot as well. But the one rule is death before decaf.
AH: What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road for music?)
SW: No question in my mind. In my early years we had the pleasure of staying at The Nesbitt Hotel near Hanover PA. As we drove up, we thought the place was surely condemned by the city, but, oh no, she was open for business. The flickering neon sign had a ‘Psycho’ undertone, and the far away look in the clerk’s eye upon check in was so comforting. The walls were wafer-thin. I could hear every nuance of my gruff, truck driving neighbor’s lovely one sided phone call with his seeming on and off girlfriend. The kicker was the disheveled mini golf course in the back, complete with a giant, sinister armless clown and a leaning windmill you putt your golf ball through. Classy. We coined it as The Nesbitt Grand Hotel and Golf Resort.
AH: If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is? And why?
SW: Usually most of the musicians I play with have a jazz or blues background, so we usually find common ground mining that territory. I might go with some classic Billie Holiday or Miles. That voice. That trumpet. Those titan musicians. The space between. The pain. The joy. The timelessness. Swingin but never bombastic. Somehow music of that ilk gives me space to think and loads of energy on the road. Oddly enough though, we spend a lot of time driving in silence. A meditation if you will. I suppose that’s where the song ideas, no matter how elusive, have space to sprout as well.
AH: What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?
SW: A pillow. In my rookie years, I would be at the mercy of the hotel pillow de jour. These sad, supportless, stiff excuses for head cushions can send your neck, body and a tour careening off the cliff in a matter of moments. I remember complaining to my friend Raul Malo about some shitty hotel pillows and he said jokingly with a disappointing tone: “And you call yourself a blues man. Do you think Muddy Waters ever complained about the firmness of his pillow?!” Well apparently I do and I am just fine with that!
AH: What is your relationship with food? How do you handle this on the road, and what’s your favorite dish on the road, (or restaurant, and what do you order there)?
SW: Well I have a very intimate relationship with food. I do believe in the old adage of ‘you are what you eat.’ This food game on the road is probably one the most challenging aspects to navigate out there. Sometimes it’s just slim pickings, but it is always good to have an accomplished Yelp’er in the van. Our main rule is that we don’t eat fast foods, and avoid meat as much as possible unless we either can make a good guess of where it came from or we are famished beyond all recognition. Thai cuisine usually wins out the lion’s share of these searches. Tofu veggie stir fry for the win. Sometimes good old fashioned abstinence works in your favor as well.
AH: If you could pause your life for a few weeks and spend some time living in a place you only have passed through, which would you choose, and why?
SW: Valles, Spain—A beautiful little mountain village on the northside of the country. It spoke to me. There was something about the pace, the rolling lush landscape, the wandering street chickens, the clean air, the local vino rojo, tapas and the soulful people who greeted us with open arms. This is the only gig I have ever played where the audience sang BACK to us. Corazon! I will never forget that little town.
AH: What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?
SW: B.B. King said “Rest when you can.” Wise words. I can subscribe with the addition of peppering in a walk and a salad here and there.
Find all things Seth Walker here: https://sethwalker.com
See other Key to the Highway interviews here: https://americanahighways.org/category/interviews/key-to-the-highway-series/ (click here for: Ben Nichols Bruce Cockburn Charlie Musselwhite Nicki Bluhm Jim White Danny Barnes Patterson Hood Jerry Joseph BJ Barham Rodney Crowell Todd Snider Elizabeth Cook Tommy Womack Eric Ambel, Dan Baird, Robbie Fulks, Malcolm Holcombe Jon Langford Steve Poltz, Lilly Hiatt Sarah Shook & the Disarmers Sadler Vaden )
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