ALBANY – Spending a decade in the music industry can be tough enough. Deb Cavanaugh Over 40 years of amazing connection to music that has made it his career! He’s currently in the process of writing a Christmas tune, and is set to release his Eddie Grant cover of Electric Avenue on December 23rd.
Last week I met the artist. In our interview, we discuss his influences, career highlights and more. The following is our conversation.
Lucas Garrett: Deb, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us this evening! Hello
Deb Cavanaugh: I’m fine, Lucas! How are you?
LG: I’m good! Be busy. I see you’ve had a lot of great stuff and new music lately with Jive Hive Live! Tell me a little bit about that.
DC: Yes! “Electric Avenue” was noted in Jive. Eventually, we will do a video in addition to the single release.
LG: For those who don’t know you, about the instrumentals on that song and in general.
DC: I play a mountain dome, but I electrify it and play it with an effects pedal. In addition to original songs, I also play classic rock and reggae. I like to choose a unique cover for the dulcimer, which I hope not everyone does.
LG: You don’t see a lot of people playing mountain balls. How did it become an instrument for you? The last person seen doing this was Joni Mitchell.
DC: For twenty years I lived with an amateur luthier. His retirement plan was to buy tools, fix them up, and then resell them. One day he brought home a globe. It was unusual to me and I thought someone should learn to play it. When I started playing, I suddenly realized that this is the instrument for me. I feel more comfortable on this instrument than anything I’ve ever played!
LG: Really? It’s nice. I’ve never heard of anyone playing “electric” mountain domes. Where did you get such a great idea?
DC: A few years ago, I went to the Bowling Festival in Latham. A wonderful man named Sam Edelson plays rock and roll on the globe. He was my mentor and encouraged me to do it – I’ve always loved rock and roll. When I started playing dombo, I was playing in the folk scene; I played a lot of oldies, but I wasn’t into rock ‘n’ roll.
LG: So you’re releasing the song “Electric Avenue” recorded in Jive Nest. It will be released on December 23rd. What else are you doing?
DC: I recently wrote a Christmas song. My partner and I are working on recording this Saturday; he runs a recording studio in his house. We are making a video for it.
LG: How did you deal with that? When you talk about something as ubiquitous as Christmas…when someone asked me to write it, I was like, “I can’t do it! I’ve got all the good notes!”
LG: What made you want to do it?
DC: I got hired to do the Colonial Walk in Johnstown and decided I needed a new song.
LG: Was it easy to write one?
DC: That’s an interesting question because it surprised me because it was so easy. I don’t celebrate Christmas at all – I prefer to celebrate the Winter Solstice. When we think of Christmas, people are kind to each other and make their family, friends and neighbors happy. This is what I wrote, but I also talk to people who struggle during the holidays.
LG: A lot of these songs you hear on the radio are about good times, but like you said, they’re tough people.
DC: Yeah, not everyone takes a vacation.
LG: What are some of your creative influences as a songwriter?
DC: As a songwriter, I would say all the Beatles – I grew up with them – Joni Mitchell. I really like David Crosby’s music.
LG: You’ve been at this for a while. What made you say, “I want to make music”?
DC: Honestly, I was born a musician. There was never a doubt for as long as I could remember that this was what I was meant to do. My parents used to say I sang before I could talk; I didn’t start speaking until I had finished singing a full sentence
LG: That’s great! What are some of your favorite highlights over the years?
DC: When I was sixteen, I sang in the church choir led by Duke Ellington, singing his sacred music…
LG: Oh, hey.
DC: My travels… I went to Germany in 2009 and China in 2019. I never expected to go anywhere from this continent, so those were the highlights for me.
LG: What was it like traveling abroad? Was it the best, or the downs?
DC: I did a house concert in Switzerland, it was unbelievable. China was amazing, but it was also really hard.
LG: Why did that happen, was it because of the government?
DC: No, actually. Despite the oppression, I felt safer than anywhere else in China. I never felt unsafe walking around late at night. Not knowing the language and being a minority for the first time in my life was difficult for me. People were staring at me all the time; everyone wanted to take a picture. It was an unusual feeling and the culture is completely different. It was also a difficult adjustment.
LG: How long were you in Germany and China?
DC: Both times I was there for almost two weeks.
LG: Will you go abroad again?
DC: I want to go somewhere else; I like to travel. If someone wants to pay me to do music somewhere else, I’m always willing to do it.
LG: Where do you most want to go?
DC: I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland!
LG: I think the Mountain Globe would fit right in there! You’ve written a new Christmas song, and Electric Avenue is coming out on December 23rd.rd. What does 2023 look like for you?
DC: I’m doing a workshop for kids at Troy Music Hall in January…
DC: I’m also recording a new CD with my band Dandelion Wine. Next, I’m working on my memoir, which I hope will be finished and published in 2023.
LG: Great! Sounds like you have a lot going on!
DC: I do! I like to be busy!
LG: Do you have anything else to discuss?
DC: I’m entering an interesting phase in my life, the pandemic has cut my work by more than half.
DC: I’m going to be 70 in 2023 and I’m going to cut back on my teaching and focus more on my music.
LG: It was great talking to you tonight! Thanks again for your time!
DC: Thanks, Lucas! Good night.
LG: You too. Bye.