Although Cornmeal recently had two of their members depart, Appalachian Jamwich was lucky enough to sit down with one of their original founding members,Wavy Dave. With a new album in the works and plenty of inspiration to fuel their creativity, Cornmeal won’t be stopping this hippie billy jam bus any time soon.
What made you first want to pursue a career in music?
I’ve always been playing music, since I was nine years old. I used to have a little drum kit, played some saxophone in school, and played guitar. I never really went out to seek a career in music, music found me. I was always playing music, meeting a lot of musicians, and it kind of happened.
The band started in Chicago so are all of you originally from Chicago? How did you all meet?
Yea, well the Chicago land area. Our drummer and guitarist, Kris and JP Nowak are from Northwest Indiana. I got pulled into the band in the very beginning. The original fiddle player knew me, I started playing banjo, and he brought me into the mix. It started out as a side project for everyone. We went through many line up changes, about 10 different changes before the band was solidified for the last eight years. Me and our bassist, Chris Gangi, are the only two original members of the band. We met Allie about nine or ten years ago, at one of the shows we did. We asked her to come on board and when she was finished school she joined up with the band. Shortly after that our original guitarist left, and we replaced him with Kris. I knew him from a Grateful Dead open mic in Chicago. And his brother (JP) joined the band about a year later, replacing our original drummer.
Since the group has been solidified for the past nine years, did you ever expect the band to cover as much ground as it has?
Well not at first, but about five years into it, we decided we were going to do just that, We wanted to travel more but still have an anchor gig in Chicago. We used to play every Wednesday in Chicago for about six and a half, seven years, and our travels took us throughout the entire United States, making it hard for us to play Chicago anymore.
Yea I miss playing Chicago; we can only do it about once or twice every year now. We try to hit every part of the country, its really tough at times.
Yea that must be tough with all the time spent on the road. How many shows does Cornmeal play a year; 130, 150?
Yea about that. Last year we played 167, we are all pretty busy.
With all the time spent on the road, besides picking what are some other favorite moments?
Traveling through some interesting parts of the country; mountainous areas, our lush valleys, or the desert. The travel part of it can be grueling, you know the Midwest is pretty flat and takes awhile to get out of that, but once you’re in the mountains you kind of forget about the travel; just look out the window and enjoy the scenery.
Cornmeal has played numerous major festivals and shared the stage with great bands. In your opinion what was the best show for the band?
I’d have to say Telluride Music Festival last year. That was probably the most amazing placed we’ve played together as far as festivals go, it was breathtaking. It’s always nice when we have Ronnie McCoury, or any of the McCourys sit in with us. Cornmeal just played in Denver a few weeks ago and we had Todd Sheaffer sit in with us. And I love Todd Sheaffer, Rail Road Earth is one of my favorite bands. Whenever he sits in with us we play one or two of his songs, and we get to become Rail Road Earth for that period of time. It’s so much fun.
Have there been any crazy moments on stage?
I’d have to think about that, but one of the coolest moments was a few years back, we played Nelson Ledges Quarry Park and we had Wavy Gravy introduce us. That was really cool; he made up a little monologue about us.
Cornmeal has such a unique, multifaceted sound, what are some of that bands influences or yours individually?
I would say early on some of our influences were Leftover Salmon, The String Cheese Incident. They pioneered bluegrass music with jam band elements, and rock music and regge. Personally, Belá Fleck, Bill Keith who is a melodic style player, who is an Earl Scruggs kind of player in his tuning. I’m also kind of influenced by just about anything I listen to. I listen to a lot of different music. We don’t just limit ourselves to bluegrass.
If you weren’t a musician what would your next dream job be?
Um, I’d probably be in graphic arts. I’ve always been kind of interested in that. I’ve done a little magazine layout work, some silk screening, and design. Or the porn industry, I’d become a male pornstar. (Laughter)
Anything for fans to look forward to after the summer tour?
Yea, we are working on finishing up another album, then regrouping and going on the road to push that. It’s been awhile since we’ve put out a studio album, we have two live albums we’ve put out in the last couple of years, so we’re really excited about getting that out. With our tour schedule and all the time spent on the road last year it’s really hard to get into the studio, so piece by piece we’re getting that together.