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Hello, My Name Is Bob

| July 30, 2007

Hello, My Name Is Bob
Q&A with the Old Town School Of Folk Music’s Bob Medich.

IE: Old Town School Of Folk Music Songbook Volume Two & Three’s liner notes credit you as the executive producer — so what does that mean?

Bob Medich: I’m not the . . . I’m definitely not the producer. John [Abbey] is the music guy. I’m sort of like the cheerleader or the field marshal. I keep things moving. John plays me everything, and I listen to the stuff and go “this could be a little weirder here” or “the solo is too long” — stuff like that. They didn’t hire me at the school for my musical abilities, but I have opinions and enough experience where I know what I like. I sequence the albums and work on the designs and do all the marketing, and I guess I run the label [Old Town School Recordings — manufactured and distributed by Bloodshot].

IE: How do songs end up in OTS’s songbook?

BM: The songbook is a real organic thing — it’s songs that were played in classes. Over time there were loose-leaf notebooks and then I imagine, here’s a word from the past, mimeograph of stuff that got passed out in class. By the time I got there they had just finished, in ’92, the version that has been in use ever since. That’s the evolution of it. There was another version before that but everything gets a little hazy as you go backwards. It is an organic thing that I felt was the essence of the school. So when it came time to start planning projects for [Old Town School’s] 50th anniversary I was just like “Well this is a great reflection of the school and what we do.” And it’s a chance to highlight our teachers, our staff, and friends of the school like Jon Langford, Nora O’Connor, and all these people.

IE: How do the songs get assigned to the performers?

BM: It’s a mixed bag. With some of the people who come in from outside, like Langford, we sent them a list and said “At this point in the project this is what is left to be done.” Some stuff is cast — John and I will talk about stuff and go “You know who would be good?” Other times people come to us and say “I want to do this.” Some people were sort of hi-jacked. John and I were at [Chicago] Folk & Roots [Festival] last year and the idea was to get performers to come down and do stuff. So like the Lost Bayou Ramblers, they got offstage and I walked them up to our little studio, and they did “Trouble In Mind” — half French and half English.

IE: Any standouts for you personally on Volume Two & Three?

BM: I love The Zincs’ version of “Simple Gifts,” it’s just an odd take on the song. And I really like Cat Edgerton’s “[Water] Is Wide.” There’s lots of great stuff. The Lost Bayou stuff is amazing because they were both first takes. Really amazing stuff.

Bob Medich is Old Town School’s media director and has been there for 14 years. Old Town School Of Folk Music Songbook Volume Two & Three was released July 31st.

Category: Columns, File, Monthly

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