“I’m completely the lone-wolf troubadour type,” Tim Easton says during the newest installment of Walking the Floor. Recorded during the folk singer’s solo tour last summer, the episode premieres today on Rolling Stone Country, kicking off another year of Americana-leaning podcasts from host Chris Shiflett.
With a new album of his own, West Coast Town, due out this year, Shiflett steers much of the conversation into songwriting territory. The two talk about drum machines, recording techniques and the process of tracking Easton’s latest project, American Fork, with a live band. They also dive into Easton’s past as a street busker in Europe, where once swapped songs with a pre-fame Beck, and allow their exchange to dip into politics, too.
Clocking in at nearly 90 minutes, Tim Easton’s Walking the Floor appearance marks one of the podcast’s longest episodes. Listen to the clip stream below, after our list of highlights.
During his early twenties, Tim Easton pulled a brief stint as Beck’s wingman.
While grunge music exploded its way into the American mainstream, Easton spent the first half of the Nineties overseas, busking his way across Europe. “I was a street musician for seven years,” he tells Shiflett. “It’s what I did when I first realized I wanted to do this.”
Easton wasn’t the only songwriter to head across the Atlantic in search of his big break. “Beck was there,” he adds, “and we busked together in Paris, and went to Jim Morrison’s grave together and met some girls from Scandinavia in Iceland.”
Beck’s breakthrough hit, “Loser,” would become a global hit several years later, even rocketing to the top of the charts in Norway. That said, the Scandinavian girls weren’t impressed once their American dates busted out their acoustic guitars.
“We brought them back to our apartment, started playing some music and they bolted,” Easton remembers.
Easton once opened for Townes Van Zandt, who unknowingly gave the young musician some parenting advice.
“It was just a mess,” Easton says of Van Zandt’s performance that night, delivered as the iconic but addiction-prone songwriter was nearing the end of his life. “People were asking for their money back. I opened up the show. He was sitting in the front row and I didn’t even recognize him.” The two shared a few drinks after the gig, but the experience was more bittersweet than celebratory. Years later, Easton remains a big fan of Van Zandt’s work, but he also uses the “Pancho and Lefty” songwriter as an example of a traveling musician who never made enough time for his own children. The proud parent of a young daughter, Easton strives to spend more time at home than some of his idols.
He holds a special place in his heart – and his legal record – for the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport.
How does a self-described “folkie” get played on outlaw country radio? By getting busted with weed in a Texas airport, apparently.
“I was playing this show called Woodsongs in Kentucky,” he begins, adding that a fan gave him a complimentary joint after the show. When his wife ordered him not to smoke the “skanky” marijuana, Easton obeyed and tossed the contraband into his knapsack. More shows followed, and joint was quickly forgotten, settling down into the darker depths of Easton’s luggage. Three weeks later, he was passing through airport security when a TSA employee discovered the joint. The 9/11 attacks were still fresh in everyone’s mind, and airline security responded with full force, carting Easton away in handcuffs.
“I am not an outlaw,” he says now, more bemused than angry with the situation. “[I’m] just a little bit of a romantic anarchist.”
2016’s American Fork may have been his lushest album to date, but Easton still tours alone.
From house shows to theater gigs, Easton continues to play most of his shows solo, revising the songs – some of which were recorded alongside a full band – to suit a one-man arrangement. Do the gigs sound different than his albums? Sure. But Easton is a firm believer in the songs themselves, and he thinks they stand tall on their own legs.
“If you can’t play a song by yourself on the guitar or piano, maybe it’s not a song,” he reasons.