The MusicNerd Q&A With Chris Colepaugh

Photo by Lynn Colepaugh
Photo by Lynn Colepaugh

As we approach the official halfway point of 2016, the year has already proven to be a monumental one for Moncton musician Chris Colepaugh.

Earlier this year, the lifelong Metro resident released RnR, the latest full-length effort from his long-running namesake band, breaking a six-year silence between studio records. Of course, much has happened in Colepaugh’s world in those six years.

In addition to becoming a first-time father, the musician has spent the better part of the last six years as a sideman to fellow New Brunswick natives Roch Voisine and fiddler Samantha Robichaud, among others. While Colepaugh has also kept busy producing a wide array of artists, he has also found the time to carve out a musically diverse solo show, performing in various venues throughout the city as often as four times a week.

It is in those solo performances that Colepaugh’s wide array of influences come together. Boasting a catalogue of more than 1,000 songs, Colepaugh’s late father George could take credit as having instilled his son’s appreciation of various styles of music.

Earlier this year, Colepaugh told us that, growing up, Guy Lombardo and Glenn Miller were treated with the same respect as legendary acts like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Combine those early influences with Colepaugh trudging his own path to Woodstock favourites Crosby, Stills & Nash, Rush and others, and the listener can’t help but appreciate the immense talent and musical tastes that the acclaimed guitarist brings to his solo show.

Last week, Chris Colepaugh sat down for a Q&A with us, discussing his band as well as his favourite albums of all time. In addition to his solo performance at Casino New Brunswick’s Hub City Pub on Thursday night, Chris Colepaugh and the Cosmic Crew are scheduled to perform at the Fox & Hound Pub in Riverview on Friday June 24.

2016 has been good to you thus far, hasn’t it? Earlier this year, your band Chris Colepaugh & The Cosmic Crew released its first record in more than six years, but this year also marks the group’s 20th anniversary. How does it feel to still be going strong after two decades?

It’s a little surreal, honestly. In some ways, it’s unbelievable that we’ve lasted this long. We just released our ninth record, people are listening to the band, and we are picking up some new fans along the way. I’ve got people that see me play solo that have connected the dots back to the band, so we still very much feel like we’re moving forward, which is really what it’s all about. Longevity isn’t something you think about when you start a band, you just fly by the seat of your pants.

That’s a rather apt way to describe how your debut effort came to be.

Absolutely. A family’s relative had won some studio time and offered it to me to get some of my material on tape. We cut the whole record in 10 hours, but then shelved it. We never intended to release it, but as our live show profile grew, we figured it made sense to have something that people could bring home with them at the end of the night.

As a fan, you’ve always had an ear and appreciation for different genres of music. If you had to think about three or so records that had a big influence on you when you were growing up, what would they be?

I’d have to start with the Beatles. It’s a bit of an obvious pick, but their influence on my work has been enormous. As a kid, I had a Beatles compilation – Rock and Roll Music – that basically started my love affair with the band, all thanks to my father.  I remember playing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and pouring through the various cut-outs that were included inside of the record sleeve.

You also happen to be a huge Kiss fan, aren’t you? What turned you onto them?

It was Kiss Alive. Staring at the back cover of that record, I was one of those kids at Cobo Hall. They were unlike anything I had seen or heard, and, perhaps tellingly, they too were big fans of The Beatles. It made sense that I would find my way to Kiss.

Although I wouldn’t consider your work within the Cosmic Crew to be exclusively influenced by the blues, I feel it has played a part in helping define your sound. Who was responsible for instilling that side of music in your playing?

The first time I heard Blind Faith, they floored me. I’m sure I wore out the grooves on “Can’t Find My Way Home” many times over.

What was it about them that had piqued your interest so intensively?

It was the combination of Eric Clapton’s guitar work, Ginger Baker on drums and Steve Winwood on vocals. The record served as my introduction to Clapton’s work, and came along at the time when I was learning to play guitar. I remember Muchmusic used to often air Cream’s 1968 farewell concert. In that special, there is a part where Eric Clapton is being interviewed, and ends up breaking down a bunch of his guitar riffs. I’d watch that part over and over, just mesmerized by his words and his playing. As a guitarist, Clapton proved to be one of the biggest influences upon my work.

What: Chris Colepaugh
When & Where: Thursday June 16, 8 p.m. @ Hub City Pub, Moncton / Friday June 24, 9 p.m. @ Fox & Hound Pub, Riverview