New England-based singer/songwriter Christopher Bell, perhaps known for his unorthodox way of playing the cello and/or also for traveling on tour in cost-cutting ways like canoeing or walking (There is a CBS News interview clip online that profiles Bell’s canoe tour), has released a recording project of art songs simply titled Win Peter Winters. The new release is intended by the artist to be a separate project from the solo EPs and differs considerably in style from those recordings. He speaks to The Glass about that and a few other adventures.
CM: Please give us a brief recap of your early musical journey from the beginning to about 3 years ago.
CB: I started as a percussionist in 5th grade band and spent most of high school as a drummer, but dabbling in other instruments. I would always learn all the parts to whatever song my high school band learned though, see how they fit together.
When that band broke up I started playing guitar and singing more, experimenting with any instrument I could get my hands on. That continued through college, I started trying to book tours, and after the 4th failed attempt, I finally got one. All building up to 3 days after I graduated starting on a 6 week tour and haven’t looked back since.
CM: Can you talk about your 2008 canoe tour?
CB: The canoe tour started as a way to work, get some exercise, be outside in nature and save on gas. It was a personal vision quest, see how far I could push myself physically, learn about myself and play some shows. 7 weeks on the Erie Canal and Hudson River, a great total of 550 miles. I met so many wonderful people, it was a life changing experience.
The One That Got Away (video)
CM: Your style of playing the cello is like one playing a guitar.
CB: I never took any lessons for the first 3 years, i just started renting a cello one day trying to figure out how to play it. No one told me no, so i just formed it to how I’d need it at the beginning. It wasn’t til a few years in, my interest in classical music bloomed and started working bits of classical into pop, trying to find out how to make this instrument my own. Even since then, I’ve picked up what I could from Ben Sollee, Lindsay Mac and Erik Friedlander.
CM: How did you get involved with Mark Mandeville & Raianne Richards’ Walking Tour (2009)?
CB: The walking tour sealed the trio of canoeing, biking and walking tours that I wanted to complete. They were great to do, but I realized it was time to separate my music from my adventures, no gimmicks. Put that same effort in 17 days of biking or walking into putting on a really good show. I learned a great story can bring people to a show, but if it’s not an entertaining show worth seeing, whats the point?
Performances from a show during The Walking Tour in 2009 (with Jenny Jade Albert; This is a funny sequence due to the interruption by a large moth)
CM: What is the premise behind the new project Win Peter Winters?
CB: The Win Peter Winters album started when I did the canoe tour, taking my then fresh fascination with classical music and blending it with folk music. I was reading a lot of Greek mythology and started blending my canal experiences into a story. Man against nature, man against himself. In all the Greek myths I read, the gods cared so little for the humans, they’d toy with them, putting them on these huge epic journeys and if they got bored, kill them and start again at a whim. I wanted to do the same, where from the humans perspective it is this life affirming journey to reclaim what was wrongly taken from him and he has stood up to the gods, but if you step back and look from the gods perspective, he was nothing more than an ant, and as much as he gained in his life, the world moves on indifferent. I jokingly called it ‘my masters thesis in Nihilism.’ A real hard sell to a fun-loving Friday night crowd.
CM: Can you please discuss what your impression of the art of looping was when you first encountered it?
CB: When I first encountered looping it was at an open mic in Jacksonville, and this guy was amazing at it, but then I saw all these other people do it and I hated it, I called it cheating, it got so boring after 30 seconds of it, they would all do the same thing. Most loopers still piss me off, same with songwriting cellist. Now I’ve learned, If it angers me that much, find out why, what its all about and mold it to my advantage.
You Can Call Me Al (Paul Simon cover)
Win Peter Winters
Page on Silent Home Records where you can stream the EP
Chris’ home page
Christopher Bell Bandcamp
Chris’ Bandcamp page