A rock frontman turned country crooner will bring his talents to McCabe’s this weekend.
Tim Bluhm, lead singer of rock band The Mother Hips, is touring in support of his album Sorta Surviving. The album marks Bluhm’s first foray into the world of country music, eschewing the psych-folk sounds his band The Mother Hips (who Santa Monicans may have seen last year) is known for.
To get into the country music groove, Bluhm recorded and mixed the album inside the legendary, 40-year-old Cash Cabin — which Johnny Cash built — in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
Bluhm spoke with the Daily Press about moving to a new genre and the interesting aspects of recording in the Cash Cabin.
First things first— why McCabe’s?
I’ve played a couple shows there, it’s a cool spot. I have a hand in booking places — I have a booking agent, and they help — but I like to play where I like. Unique, interesting venues.
What were your reasons for moving towards a country sound for this album?
There’s just something I admire quite a bit about that style of music. I just wanted to make a record that sounded like how that sounded.
Any difficulties transitioning into this new sound?
A little bit, because the tendency is when people play quote unquote “country”, they feel the need to fit that mold, voice included. I felt like I had to be careful not to sing too differently, not to have to put on too much of a voice. I still wanted to sound like myself and still, it was harder than I thought. We’ll see what people think.
You recorded at the legendary Cash Cabin. How did that and the Tennessee surroundings inspire you?
Quite a bit. Most of the musicians working with me were from Nashville and they give you that signature sound. Nashville musicians, especially the older guys, have that music flowing through ‘em. It’s in their fingers and style. As for the cabin, any artists that go to Cash cabin and make a record, you can’t escape the presence of Johnny Cash. I saw his ghost.
Wait, like, you literally saw Johnny Cash’s ghost?
I saw his ghost, quite literally. A lot of people say they see his ghost there.
We were recording late at night with an engineer and producer in one of the isolation booths, recording. I was looking into a darkened room, another isolation room, and there was an old man there looking at me through the glass, just staring. When I told the engineer, he said, “That was Johnny. People see him all the time.”
Unbelievable. Is that a good omen?
I hope so. (laughs) Maybe it’s a good omen that he stood there listening and didn’t knock over a lamp or something.
Aside from Cash and Merle Haggard (as mentioned in a press release), who are some of your other country heroes?
I have a lot but… George Jones. He’s probably one of the greatest singers I’ve ever heard, absolutely amazing.
Tell me more about the subject matter of this album
I think there’s some of that, as far as the song style goes. It’s fun to change up your formula a little bit and try something different. I’ve listened to a lot more country than rock and roll in past the 15 years. It felt natural to kind of go into that zone a little more. The parameters of country music’s form are little more strict, it seems like you have to work within a tighter frame. It’s a nice challenge. You have to be more efficient if you want to tell the story in a shorter form.
What can the Santa Monica audience expect from your show?
I’m going to play almost all the songs on my new record plus quite a few other songs that have been adapted to this band. A few cover songs, too. It’ll be a good time.
Tim Bluhm will perform at McCabe’s Guitar Shop March 31. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets available at McCabe’s and McCabes.com