There’s a hometown feel and lean into nostalgia in Dan Rumsey’s fourth CD Faith in Tomorrow. It’s great to get some of the stories behind the music.
Please tell us a little but about yourself and your music.
I am the youngest of 5 children. Our father, an artist, listened to jazz. I played the alto saxophone in grade school. My oldest brother Tim encouraged me from an early age to play music. He started me out on the guitar when I was 10 or 11 years old. We also had a piano around the house. I stared playing music with him and his friend Ben when I was 13 years old. I had a band in high school and we played parties and a couple dances. In college, I attempted to major in music, but I mostly play by ear and feel, so I wasn’t suited to the structure of formal music training. I continued playing in bands – electric guitar & keyboards – throughout my young adult years: Jazz Fusion, Underground Rock, R & B, and Blues bands. I was also hanging around the Minneapolis West Bank Music scene soaking up folk & blues music. I didn’t find my singing voice until around 1997 or so. I started busking in a couple spots for 2 summers in a row. That strengthened my voice and got me making up songs and writing some of them down which led, both to my 1st CD, “How You Gonna Slow it Down”, and to hosting the open mic at The Riverview Cafe, which I did for 10 years. (After about 5-6 years, my dearest buddy, Jeffrey Bjorgo and I alternated the hosting duties). I am crazy for music and love playing with and for other peeps.
You have a new EP out, Faith in Tomorrow. Please let us about the collection. I feel a sense of nostalgia in the songs as if you’re thinking about past events (First Grade)
“First Day of First Grade” is from my 1st CD, “How You Gonna Slow it Down”. I wrote that when my oldest daughter was going into 1st Grade. I think it may be one of my best. and past advice (Little Voice), I wrote “Little Voice” one winter down by the boiler in the basement. Both daughters were living with us, and that was my woodshed-spot to write and make up music. The advice is to be mindful of the thoughts/worries that we let play in our heads. yet the collection is called Faith in Tomorrow, a very forward-looking title. The collection is hopeful in that there is plenty of beauty and goodness in the world to share and spread around. The new CD recording project was started by my meeting Backbeat Harris at Mojo Coffee Gallery in NE Minneapolis. He loved the songs and I loved his playing and he said “You need to get recording these songs. (“Faith in Tomorrow” is my 4th CD). We headed up to Wild Sound and worked with my dear friend Steve Kaul. It’s his place! I think that we recorded all 14 songs that first day (we dropped 1 later). I came back in to add piano and other stuff. Nick Salisbury plays bass on 2 tracks. Being in The Singer Songwriter Challenge group inspired me to ask Sarah Morris if she would please come in and sing harmony on a couple, which turned into having her on 4 of the songs. So glad to have her on the CD! I invited my dear friend Sally Heinz in to play flute on 2 of the songs. She worked up her own parts and they are amazing. I love what she did there!
Is there a story you can share that inspired Song for Lyle? The piano is beautiful yet It has a somber undercurrent.
Lyle Mays, Grammy Award-winning composer, orchestrator, pianist and keyboardist, worked with jazz guitarist, Pat Metheny. I put together this arrangement after Lyle passed on February 10, 2022 at age 66. My intension was to pay homage and attempt to reflect a bit of his piano style. This piece is taken and expanded from a song I wrote (“A Cab for Willie”) after the passing of Willie Murphy. Somehow there is a thread connecting their playing and influence on me. Another important aspect of this song is that our brother Mark, gone too soon at age 28, turned us on to Pat Metheny way back in the day, with “The Pat Metheny Group”, released 1978. That’s how I first heard Lyle’s playing. Lastly, if it wasn’t for my niece, Emily Rumsey, midwife, photographer, filmmaker, “Song for Lyle” wouldn’t have been recorded. It’s not on any of my CD’s. She occasionally uses my music for her video projects.
The Wicked Trail speaks about how “you can’t go home” but it sounds as if (like me) you have spent much of your life in St Paul. How does the grounding of one place, especially a small-town-feel place like St Paul, seep into your music?
Being grounded here in St. Paul and Minneapolis (I have lived in both) means I have had time to observe and absorb a lot of music from right here in our backyard. We have great musicians representing every style of music: Blues, Bluegrass, Jazz, Folk, Funk, Soul, R & B, Classical, Cajun, Old Time, Country, on and on. “The Wicked Trail” is about 3 musicians, Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt and Gram Parsons, all who used alchohol and drugs while living lives of music. In a sense, they could not go back home because they had gone too far out there. This is a cautionary tale about being careful when stepping onto or walking the “wicked trail”.
You play a lot of shows, in fact I just heard grant things about your performance at the Red Wing Big Turn, but can you tell us about a couple that you are looking forward to playing or might be especially fun for new people to catch?
I have 2 shows coming up with Backbeat Harris, drums and Nick Salisbury, bass. March 25th at Carbone’s Minneapolis, from 7-9pm and March 29th at The 331 Club, 7-9pm for Harold’s House Party (On KFAI radio during the 5pm hour). I am also very psyched for a show in Duluth at Wussow’s Concert Cafe with Sarah Morris, April 7th.
Dan Rumsey is an authentic musician and human being. His music is my calming salve. I had heard one of his songs via the interweb during a rabbit hole search and happened upon him and Backbeat Harris at the Afton Art Fair. I was totally mesmerized. I was fortunate to meet him and he is as genuine as his music.