By Rick Coates
Sleders Family Tavern has been offering their On The Porch Concert for
several years and one of the favorites has been singer/songwriter folkie
Bill Staines. He will return this Sunday, March 27 after just making a
swing through Michigan 10 days ago.
This will be my eighth show at Sleders and I have played Traverse City
and Northern Michigan several times, said Staines. I was just in
Michigan and up north at the Cabbage Shed and then drove back to my home
in New Hampshire. For me, driving a couple days is a typical commute.
Staines has been touring since 1969. He averages about 200 shows a year
and puts 65,000 miles annually on his car.
I feel very fortunate to be keeping busy and I try to perform every night
on the road. A night off here and there is okay, but three nights off in
a row is murder for me, said Staines. So when I book a tour I like to
be performing every night.
It has been five years since Staines has been in the studio and his time
on the road has made it challenging for him to write new songs.
I cant write on the road; even when I am staying in a hotel there is
just too much happening around me. The only times I can write is when I am
at home, or if I am staying with people in their home and they are off at
work. I am not someone who carries around a notebook and jots down every
thought, or phrase he hears.
So is he planing to head into the studio soon ?
I am going to have to start applying myself to my writing. I do not
currently have anything in the works, said Staines. This business is
about the rhythms; you have to stay in both a touring and recording rhythm
to stay successful, if you dont then you start drifting away. So I have
to get back into the studio.
What about home recording?
I dont have a home studio. I chuckle when people ask because for my last
album I recorded cassettes on my kids Playschool recorder and sent them
out to the musicians to listen to before we went into the studio. So that
is as close to a home recording school as I have.
After all these years what keeps Bill Staines motivated?
What keeps me motivated? In one word: it would be fear, said Staines.
I have what I call little victories, the adventures on the road, who you
might meet, a phone call from someone like Pete Seeger or Celtic Thunder
wanting to record one of my songs. I look for these little victories every
day and at the end of the day maybe nothing happened; but then I say there
might be a victory tomorrow and that is what helps to keep me motivated.
He sees a strong future for folk music.
Look, I am not performing top-40 material but I think there will always
be a market for folk music; there will always be a niche, said Staines.
I really believe house concerts have been great additions to the business;
these shows keep you busy during the week and this is reverting back to
the old Irish troubadours who traveled to peoples homes, told stories and
Is it more challenging today from the standpoint of competition?
There is more competition today, there are probably five to six times the
number of folk venues today than when I started and 10 to 12 times the
number of musicians, said Staines. It is much easier to record music
and get it out there today and this has allowed for a lot more mediocrity.
It use to be if you were signed with a record label it was a big deal.
Staines has built quite the folk resume appearing on Garrison Keillors A
Prairie Home Companion, HBOs Deadwood, and Public Radios Mountain Stage.
Additionally, his music has been used in a number of films including Off
and Running with Cyndi Lauper, and The Return of the Secaucus Seven, John
Sayles debut as a writer- director. In 1975, Staines won the National
Yodeling Championship in Kerrville Texas.
He has recorded 26 albums; The Happy Wanderer and One More River were
winners of the Parents Choice Award. His songs have been recorded by many
artists including Peter, Paul & Mary, Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, The
Highwaymen, Mason Williams, Grandpa Jones, Jerry Jeff Walker, Nanci
Griffith and Glen Yarborough among others.
Bill Staines will perform Sunday, March 27 at 4 pm as part of the Sleders
Family Tavern On The Porch Concert Series. Tickets are $15 in advance and
$20 at the door and are available at Sleders Family Tavern, Oryana Food
Cooperative and Sound It Out Records. For tickets and more info call