Kansas City's Preston Ott is an immensely talented multi-instrumentalist and songwriter whose newest self-produced release, Preston Ott and Glass House, has just been released. While Ott is best known for his work as a studio guitarist and producer, his own songs are the focus of this new EP, which took him two years to complete. Ott's sound is "pure, lyrically honest, no bull, Americana rock and roll". We're fortunate to share an interview with Ott about this new work, along with a special "JCL Listen Local Version" of the powerful "Straight Into the Earth" and his book and music recommendations.
Introduce yourself. Where do you live and work?
I'm Preston Ott. I'm married to a woman named Anne Marie who daily astounds me. I'm From Indianapolis, IN. I currently live downtown KC north of the Crossroads. I work at a little breakfast and lunch joint in the crossroads I'm a barista there, I was a barista for 3 years in high school so behind that steamwand is a good place to be for me!
Tell us about your recently released EP, Preston Ott and Glass House. Where was it recorded? What are you most proud of from these sessions?
My EP is 6 songs, and there are a lot of guitars. The songs are the center of the project, but hell, there are still a lot of guitars! It's initialed "Preston Ott & Glass House EP". It was recorded in 2 or 3 different studios with my engineer (Patrick Radiel) being the consistent thread of the technical side. Being a man of humble resulted in this record taking nearly 2 years to complete. Though I have had help in the process, I pride myself in the fact that I made this record with my bare hands, if you will. There is no auto-tune and no cheap tricks. Love it or hate it, this EP is pure, lyrically honest, no bull, Americana rock and roll.
Describe your creative process with songwriting. What tools do you use to write and/or record your music?
My process is generally pretty introspective. I sit down to practice whatever I may be working on that week and eventually I enter a head space that is clear and safe enough for me to be vulnerable. Then something will rise out of me, maybe it's a chorus, maybe a chord progression or maybe just one word. I will sit with that for an hour or two until it grows into an idea. Once I have a foot hold I will record it on my Logic rig and return to it on a later date, that's when the real work begins. Sometimes it takes a years for an idea to come to flourishing (like the song "You Can't Expect Much). Occasionally, if I am lucky, I feel more as the pen in the hand of a righter who must speak their mind (Like "Hear That Rooster Crow).
I also find meditation to be a great tool to tame the unruly mind.
Your website lists your talents as "guitarist, songwriter and producer." You're also known as a guest performer on others' recordings. How does performing solo fit in with these other things you do? Do you have a preference?
When one is alone on a stage, one is exposed. In battle, the exposed troops usually don't get a second chance. It's pretty much the same thing, except as opposed to physical detriment I suffer shame when I fail and must grow in order to not repeat this mistake. All the guitar licks and cool production are worthless if my song can not stand on its own with nothing but a vulnerable voice, a guitar and maybe some reverb.
But ultimately I just really love to play! So if the folks I'm playing with are mature and respectful I'll take it were ever I can get it.
What inspires you the most about the Kansas City music scene?
I love how undefined the scene is. KC is just a baby (or maybe it's just a new generation) and it doesn't have the communal codes and expectation that NYC or LA would have. All types of people from all walks of life can express themselves for better or worse.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
This is my current read. I love Russian literature; It often can be on the darker side and because of that I feel it's strikingly honest. I love the way Tolstoy displays the psyche of his characters is incredibly elegant and artistic.
Notes From the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
This is essentially the transparent philosophical ramblings of my favorite author. Dostoevsky was (seemingly) in the darkest season of his life and its so brutally honest I can't help but love it.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Its a cliché for a reason! The Eloquence of Fitzgerald's narration is inspiring. My favorite American writer.
Heigh Ho by Blake Mills
Blake Mills is my favorite musician hands down! More then a prodigy Mills is an unparalleled guitarist, a great writer and the most creative producer of the 21st Century. This record is brutally honest lyrically, and has some of the sweetest and most sensitive musicianship I've ever heard.
Innervisions by Stevie Wonder
A true masterpiece! Stevie's blend of musical tones and the vibe overall with this record are ground breaking. Not to mention the fact that he's self-produced and he played every instrument on Higher Ground, To High and Living for the City.
Old Friends by Guy Clark
Guy Clark is my lyrical muse at the moment and this is my favorite record of his. While "Old Friends" is not currently available at the JCL, there are other records of his. Guy is one of the greatest writers of our time, his lyrics are simple, blunt and live giving. Guy Clark is an absolute MUST for the lyrical vocabulary for every songwriter.