Cris Jacobs and Ed Huff of Cris Jacobs Band made the floor bounce and creak with their sultry, bluegrass pickin’ on a warm evening in April at the 8×10 in Baltimore, MD. Sean Heeter and Kaylee Zielinski had the pleasure of sitting down with Cris after the show to do a little pickin’ of their own — on his brain. Here Cris talks about his Baltimore roots, his new band and what the future holds.
US: Your first show with the CJB was here at the 8×10, how does it feel to be back?
Cris Jacobs: It’s wonderful. Baltimore has always been my home. It’s been great to me, great to The Bridge and now they are accepting my new step. It’s good stuff.
Do you like the new step, solo vs. with a band?
You know, I love what I am doing. It’s not a better or worst thing. The Bridge had a fantastic run and there are no bad feelings about that. It ran its course for the moment and I wanted to pick up and keep going. Luckily I aligned myself with some super, super awesome musicians.
There was no real time in between The Bridge and CJB, you picked up right where you left off.
Yeah, it all just kind of fell into place really fast.
That’s the way it should be, right?
Yeah! I mean, these are guys that I’ve known for a while, had on my radar and wanted to play with. It all worked out. I was writing a bunch of new tunes and they picked it up right away.
You guys are all very musically diverse. It’s an amazing sound.
Thank you! I agree. I am blown away by it myself. I’m sitting there, rehearsing with them and I’m like, “Man, this sounds soooooo good”.
Definitely getting you excited for what’s to come with this new band.
If it is already this good after 6 months or so… We just finished our album with the band. That will be out this summer. We took four days of live recording in the studio just all playing together and then I worked with what we had and… It’s just such a great sound. We are all really proud of it.
Thinking about doing a solo album in the future?
At some point, yeah. That would be a lot of fun. I love playing solo but the band is my first priority. It’s really inspiring me. It’s a great extension of my song writing. These guys are right where I want them to be.
Is your solo sound different from the band?
Naturally, I mean, Cris Jacobs Band is a pedal steel, an upright bass, drums and percussion so there is a lot more texture going on. These are new songs that I haven’t played with anybody so in that regard, yeah. It’s beautiful, man. I can’t wait for more people to hear it.
I’m really looking forward to your show at Ladew Gardens in Monkton…
Yeah, that is going to be a really good show. We’ve got a lot of awesome things going on for us this summer. We’ve got All Good Festival in July and Hot August Blues …
You were with The Bridge for the past 7 years at All Good. What gets you most excited about returning with your new band?
No doubt. All Good is always just an amazing time. All festivals in general (laughs). I’m so used to being there, it’s kind of like home to me.
What is your favorite venue to play at?
This one! Between The Bridge, CJB and all my other projects I’ve probably played here over 150 times. I just love being on that stage. It’s so comfortable.
You play a lot of shows in the Baltimore, DC and surrounding areas. Do you want to branch out more or do you like to stay local?
At this point, I’ve done a lot of traveling in the last 10 years and it’s really expensive. I like to travel but at the same time I like to be home. I love my fiancé and my dog. It’s definitely nice to be in one place but I do miss traveling around. Eventually you can only play so much in the same area. We are taking a much more organic approach this time around instead of just going for it and hoping it catches up. We are waiting for it to come to us a little bit more.
Well, it shouldn’t be long. You’ve got the talent for it… Damn, I still can’t get over that pickin’ tonight and that slide!
Thank you, I really appreciate that.
I was wondering how it was going to be with just you and Ed.
I’ve been playing with Ed since I was 16 years old. We had a high school band where we played Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, tunes like that just screwing around. He and I broke off and started playing acoustic gigs. Then we started a bluegrass band 12 years ago and now he’s playing in my new band. Ed plays percussion.
You played a little Dead up there tonight too…
Well you know, I always try to slip some Dead in there no matter what.
So, who are more of your musical influences besides the Grateful Dead?
That was where it kind of started but then I dug deeper into what those guys were listening to which brought me into some blues, bluegrass and roots music. Been all over that whole universe for years, trying to pick that apart. All the old Delta blues, blue grass guys and country blues stuff. Everything though really. I love soul singers and r&b singers. I love Louie Armstrong. Any given day I can be in the mood for Freddy King, Doc Watson or Robert Johnson, Doctor John. I can get down with all of that.
You know, you can really see that influence in your performances. You are very soulful on stage, you can tell that you really feel the music and that it comes from the heart.
Thank you so much. I try to feel it. I listen to all this different stuff so I never try to pigeon hole myself as a “blues guy” or a “rock guy”. I try to do whatever and simply feel the moment.
Congrats on your engagement too. How do you balance your personal life and music life?
It all works. As life hands you different scenarios you juggle and deal with them. You do what you got to do. My priorities now are a lot different than when I was 25. The Bridge was starting, we all hopped into a van and didn’t care if we made money. Obviously that can’t go on forever. So, at this point you take care of the things you have to take care of and your priorities are what they are and you hope that you can continue to be a musician because… sometimes it doesn’t work. There are financial realities that can be harsh. Luckily, I found someone who supports what I do.
Five words, describe your new music.
Psychedelic, rootsy, soulful, haunting… sweet.
Haha, awesome choice of words! Alright, well we really appreciate you taking the time to talk and let us in on what you’ve been up to. Our paths will surely cross this summer. Thanks again!
Yeah, absolutely! I can’t wait. Thank you guys. Take care.
To learn more about Cris Jacobs Band visit: