The music of Kansas City-based songwriter, artist and poet Kurt Vee is a potent combination of the personal and surreal, anchored in indie-folk yet willing to travel to destinations unknown. Describing the "feelings of dissatisfaction and depreciation" that can "retreat me to a place of creativity and make something new. be it art or music or literature or however it shows itself," Vee's songs draw from a wealth of creativity. For his interview with Listen Local, Vee discusses among other things balancing his art with a day job, the relationship between poetry and songwriting, as well as his book and music recommendations and song samples.
Introduce yourself. Where do you live and work? What does a typical day look like for you?
SHALOM! i am called kurt, as in KURTVEE [an-uh-nim]; a musician, a ghost, a flake or a nuisance? of which would depend on who you are & how well you know me or believe the whispers...as for the stage name ::: well it exists. i am also called by my legal name KURTIS MIKHAEL VIERS & i are lazy & impatient & unimportant. with that being said this pseudo-pseudonym will have to do. though I love writing music. ALWAYS.
::monkey scientist just pushing buttons::
at this moment i reside within the graces of the middle western united states.to be more specific i am renting a room in south hyde park, kansas city Missouri.
i currently survive working for a property management group that purchases older brownstone apartment buildings in midtown & northeast kansas city missouri. i have exactly zero careers or accodales.
::unskilled labor temporarily::
a typical day consists of getting up around 6:30-7:30 & downing a pot of coffee while incinerating two or three paul mall cigarettes. maybe enough time to cook up an egg sandwich though most mornings it is just the coffee & I hoof it up the hill to begin my palsied commute.
my days are filled with tedium & wear. the monotony of conceding to adulthood after over a decade of skating through it without consideration or conscience, almost effortlessly spawns a newfound appreciation for a disgustingly satiated isolation, alongside some supposed new beginning; AN AWARENESS OF SELF OR PURPOSE.it is either that or i find myself helplessly floating in outer space with what must have been my own personal reason for being down there on earth, floating past me boastfully & taunting my failures with some brilliant verbal insult armada, to the teeth with pun after pun & slights & subtle (mostly deserving) cheap shots. I HAVE THE SAME DAY EVERYONE HAS EVERY DAY. every day.
::always let your job define you::in my spare time i have also been known to take lousy photos & sometimes enjoy sketching pen & ink to paper. i feel like such a fake when i sketch or paint or whatever… and there is a day in my life. Next, an attempt at a sleep recharge to start over, for the exact same of the predictably unpredictable.
Talk about the connection between your poetry, songwriting and performances. Do any of these take priority over the others?
it really depends on the work or the piece or the song or where it is in its process. depending on the context i.e. recording in the studio, rehearsals or amid the budding stages of some promising, fresh nugget ive been working along on, feverishly alone in my room (if i actually have a room).
so to answer the question, they all share in priority. especially with the finished work. with each of these three variables in whatever the equation… are what give me the chance to move on to rehearsal. it is done. YES.
to me, in regards to song writing: chord structure & rhythm movement are where it starts to concrete itself. even a faux foundation will work with putting it all together to form a legible albeit vague idea of where the song is taking me.
::words & words & words::
however, for myself, when drawing attention to the art of language there comes with it an unavoidable vulnerability. I have found exposing ones craft. however novice, however sincere & it seems [unapologetic, unabated, assumptive ambience coupled with a literary climate being controlled by smug & unblemished pretensity & condescension] is unfortunately necessary.
it seems the works i am the most fond of are able to, in tiny doses, help me grow as a song writer or even more importantly a balanced human being. feelings or even delusions of inadequacy & frustration can easily turn me into a mound of meaningless mass, or… those same feelings of dissatisfaction and depreciation can retreat me to a place of creativity and make something new. be it art or music or literature or however it shows itself. even if only for yourself to hear or read or see.
it seems to me that at its essence it is simply words arranged in a particular order with particular punctuation (if one so chooses) to convey an expression of raw human emotion: ART.
music & language are similar as there are only so many notes or words to choose from. they are all there for us to do with as we please.
show casing the work in an appealing live setting comes with time & energy, experience & emotional investment. it is really the last of the process, far from when that tiny, fluid thought stuck & to fast forward to where it is now as a scripted piece of music & then, personally or collectively can be assessed as to what lends the music its most fitting presentation. ive heard time & again to read your audience & bend for them. i havent thought much of that concept. id prefer they come around to me. To what i am doing & where i am with the performance. granted, ive never been one for much of a fan base to mind.
Can you point to one time in your life where you knew you wanted to be a songwriter? Who inspired you early on to write music?
as a child i was very intent on mirroring my father no matter the context. this included music. he never played the instrument. in turn, i have somehow faked my way through making sounds for twenty years now. i had better be convincing enough by this point…
my parents were divorced officially when i started ninth grade & switched schools. here is where my life would change forever, with my awful words in tow for songs that didn't even exist. the christmas god sent me a guitar. i knew this a month in advance while sneaking about. WHY? because im a cheater. it was beyond difficult to play. IT WAS PERFECT.
Describe your creative process. What tools do you use? How does collaboration figure into this process?
its pretty simple. the initial guitar & vocal melody come simultaneously if im lucky. then I build around or on top from there. a general overall feeling shows itself & words are attached as ambiguous articulation to what it means to me which could mean something much different to you & thats not my place.
the truth is lyrically it doesn't mean shit or… it means exactly what it is supposed to mean at that given time.in other words you get to choose for yourself. collaboration is more my relationship with other human people living near where i am living & how we make this society thing seem to operate.
Who or what currently inspires you?
the forgotten & expensive bipolar schizophrenic with a winter left who still comes to, yet again on concrete only to again wake & walk & talk & tock & tick &---
CURRENT MUSIC ROTATION ||| in no particular order: considering influence being absorbed whether realized or not || from artists present and past || here is what I have been shuffling through this week as I obsessively listen until I move on completely |||
the air force XIU XIU
elliott smith ELLIOTT SMITH
the letting go BONNIE PRINCE BILLY
future perfect AUTOLUX
parallax ATLAS SOUND
the ballad of butter beans MAN MAN
owls & owls two OWLS
i conjure series SCOUT NIBLETT
BOOKS ||| in exactly no particular order & more or less off the top of my head which at least says something to someone im sure |||
NAKED LUNCH william s.burroughs APATHY & OTHER SMALL VICTORIES paul neilan BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS kurt vonnegut SIDDHARTHA hermann hesse THE ROAD TO LOS ANGELES john fante WHERE IM CALLING FROM raymond carver CATCHER IN THE RYE jd salinger FACTOTUM charles bukowski A FAREWELL TO ARMS ernest hemingway