Jim Pipkin has spent forty years playing music and doesn’t plan to stop
From the life on a small family farm to Mexico and finally Arizona, Jim Pipkin has done not only his share of traveling but of touring as well. With four decades of history on the US music scene he’s recently been going through his immense back catalog of music to ensure it’s available for the digital music realities of our times. However, his means remain as true and oldschool as it gets and we are sure the words of wisdom he’s so generously shared in this interview have the potential to inspire generations of young artists who are on the same path as him.
Hello! Please, tell the world about yourself.
The world probably wants me to keep it brief. I was raised on a small farm, left home to join the Navy, got kissed off by my fiancee in a phone call when I got back, and split for Mexico.
Mexico to Texas to Los Angeles to Florida to Los Angeles to Arizona. Toured for four years in the early 90s from Arizona to Washington DC. Did a lot of radio spots, roadhouses, and residencies as a roster artist for the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Appeared on Dick Cerri’s World Folk Showcase, and was a guest of the Folklore Society of Greater Washington at their annual retreat in Camp Letts, Maryland. Been onstage at the Troubadour, The Palomino Club, Bluebird Cafe, Rig Six, and hundreds of others.
I’ve done a lot of things over the years to earn my keep, music among them. I’ve never considered myself a musician, I’m a performing songwriter with enough chops to present my original work.
I can also hold up my end all day on a loading dock in 115-degree heat alongside men one-third my age.
Introduce your current musical projects and tell us what makes each one special for you!
My most recent project was releasing the single “Wind River Christmas” to Americana radio. I co-wrote the song with Cliff Cordes, who rode for the Triangle C Ranch in the Wind River country years ago. It is special because it is the only Christmas song I have ever written, and its message is very much a part of how I look at the world. There is very little decent use for strength beyond helping those less strong. I say this as a man who has always been larger and stronger than most other folks in the room.
I have also just begun uploading thirty years’ worth of my music to the AirplayDirect download platform, in order to make it available to thousands of radio stations worldwide.
You have been playing music for a long while! How do you find the drive and inspiration to keep going all this time?
I have no choice. I’ll stop when I’m dead.
How is your local music scene in your perspective? Do you feel like you belong there?
There is some stellar talent here. Some of my Arizona acquaintances have earned Grammys, and just recently two friends were nominated. There are a lot more venues now than when I first settled here in the 80s, but strangely enough they still pay about the same. It’s surely hard to earn a living as a musician in Arizona, but there are plenty of day jobs, so we don’t starve.
I personally stopped playing bars the day I walked into one and everyone looked young enough to be my grandchild. I still play at festivals, do an occasional art center or house concert, and I’ll drop in on friends’ shows sometimes to show support.
Yes, I feel I belong in the Arizona music scene, but only on my own terms. I am intensely private, don’t suffer fools gladly, and prefer to keep my inner circle quite small.
What is your all-time favorite record and how did it change you as an artist?
Tom Lehrer’s “An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer”. It taught me that music can be strange and painful, but it has to ring true. It changed the way I looked at songwriting.
What are your favorite software and hardware tools for music production?
I do not do this. I have always relied on sound engineers and producers. I focus on what goes into the microphones, not what happens to it afterwards.
What is your songwriting process like?
Like a dog barks. I can’t help myself. But after the original rough song is drafted, I polish the lyrics and melody with my life partner Alice. A fine poet, she has always had a talent for making me dig deeper.
Out of all the live shows you played, which one was the most memorable, and why?
The 2012 Arizona Centennial show in downtown Prescott. I was stoked to be there, fans had come from hundreds of miles around to see me, and we had a wonderful time. Alice told me it was the best set of mine she’d ever seen, and she’s seen a few. She put a silver ring on my finger backstage, and asked for another thirty years with me. That made it memorable.
What is your biggest musical goal?
To hear my songs performed by people who really know how to sing. It will most likely never happen, but I keep pushing my music out there hoping that a real singer will latch onto it. Or maybe, long after my ashes are scattered at sea, someone will blow the dust off of an old recording and turn it into something wonderful. Who can say?
How has being on Drooble helped you as a musician?
The most important thing I have learned is that there are many, many artists going through what I went through over the past forty years. Now, thanks to Drooble, they know they are not alone.