Leo Kottke will bring his own brand of humor and folk music to The State Theatre on Oct. 11.
Kottke can’t quite remember when he found music, but he certainly remembers his mother’s early musical influence.
“No idea,” Kottke said. “But, I remember my mother’s head, as big as a moon, singing to me.”
Professionally, Kottke has drawn inspiration from several artists and styles. He feels it nearly impossible to pin down his “influences.”
“Jimmy Giuffre, Stephen Foster, German Baroque lute?” he said. “And mostly writers, prose and poetry. Conrad, Flannery O’Connor, Robert Lowell, John Clare. Just a few examples. Basically the question is unanswerable. I don’t think anyone knows what made them. I can say that rhythm itself has become more and more important to and for me.”
Kottke believes that even though music is shifting back toward cultural relevance via the Internet, the culture itself isn’t the same as the old days.
“I think the culture is not as important as it used to be,” said Kottke. “We’re too busy selling it off.”
The singer/songwriter, who has basically been on tour for nearly five decades, thinks that while venues and locations blend together, there are still some that stick out in his mind.
“The tour started in 1969, so everywhere looks familiar: Travel a lot and land where you just were. Groundhog Day,” Kottke said. “But some halls are standing, haven’t been subsumed by the off ramps. The Paramount in Austin, Texas, is a standout, both for the hall and the crew, a professional outfit. The crews make a big difference; if they’re changing year to year that’s felt. If the crew pushes you down the stairs, that’s felt. There’s a hall in Tilt, Belgium, that was missing its crew. That’s significant. But no matter where you are it’s always a privilege to play. And stages are mysterious. It’s fun. The crews make that happen.”
The troubadour has advice for young musicians: Play.
“Play every chance you get,” Kottke said. “Don’t discriminate. And just play. If it’s going to happen, if you get to do more playing, it will come from that. Don’t turn down playing the opening of a Valvoline Quick Lube. YouTube can make a difference — Andy McKee comes to mind — but I don’t know what the difference is. Andy might know.”
This show marks Kottke’s first return to Happy Valley in about 50 years.
“I had a friend who was there (in the) early ’60s,” Kottke said. “I was taken along as some kind of kid beard when he picked up some girl at her house. He was worried about the parents and thought my doofus aspect would calm their fears. I was a success.”
Kottke will bring his offbeat stylings and musings to The State Theatre and has one simple question to ask potential audience members: “Will you be there?”