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Folk Duos Small Potatoes and Sabrina & Craig to Perform in Encinitas

Small Potatoes

Small Potatoes

On Saturday, November 1st at 7:30pm, San Diego Folk Heritage will host an evening of music featuring two acclaimed folk duos: Small Potatoes and Sabrina & Craig. I had the honor of hearing both of these wonderful acts many years ago at the Far West Folk Alliance. Both groups are full of personality and talent, each putting their own unique spin on traditional folk music.

The all­-ages event will take place at San Dieguito United Methodist Church (170 Calle Magdalena ­ Encinitas, CA 92024). Admission is $15 for members and $18 standard. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online.

Last week, I took a moment to interview Sabrina Schneppat & Craig Lincoln about their music, influences, and upcoming plans. Take a look!

Sabrina & Craig

Sabrina & Craig

How many years have you been playing as a duo?
CL: We have been playing for 8 years, beginning by learning songs that we liked that we could harmonize on.  That led to open-mic performances with both cover tunes and then arrangements of original songs.  Is the rest history yet?

SS: Craig had just finished a solo album and was playing out solo, so I started harmonizing some of his songs.  At the time, I wasn’t even playing an instrument.  One day Craig said, “it would be really nice if I had another instrument to play with.  Maybe you could learn to play bass.”  He didn’t know that I had sworn never to play an instrument in public again after a piano recital debacle many years back.  But he persisted and so I convinced myself that no one would be watching me anyway since he’s such a fabulous guitar player.  And that’s how I started learning to play bass.  It was terrifying at first.  Then about four years ago, he bought me a ukulele and my songwriting just blossomed.  I was much less intimidated to write on the ukulele.

If you were required to become a trio for one evening only, who would you want to add to the mix (celebrity or unknown) and why?
CL: That is a toughie! We would love to add three-part harmony, and another guitar or keyboard player would allow for more variety and depth to the accompaniment and instrumental mix. And we have numerous “heroes and heroines” in musical pantheon who would be a delight to share the stage with. But assuming said artist(s) were totally part of the ensemble for the evening, I’d have to say the chance to play with Paul Simon and have him participate in the arrangement, harmonizing, and instrumental accompaniment would be fantastic.

SS: Well, if it were only one night, I’d want to play with one of the greats so I could learn and be inspired by the best. There are two in particular that come to mind and I’d take whichever’s available.  

Carol Kaye has been one of my heroes every since I saw The Wrecking Crew movie. She stared playing guitar professionally as a teenager and later switched to bass. Talk about an amazing musician who created some of the best and most iconic music in the world. To share the stage with her would be a thrill of a lifetime. Then there’s Paul McCartney. I don’t need to talk about how great he is but to share the stage with a fellow who has been living every aspect of music his whole life. I think he’d be fun to play with and I’d especially love to learn about collaboration from him. Here’s a guy who was part of one of the greatest songwriting duo’s and a member of one of the greatest bands ever and I think a big part of their success was in how they worked together.

What other musical acts do people compare you to?
CL: There have been some very interesting comparisons for us — surprising indeed!  Simon & Garfunkel and The Smothers Brothers have both been mentioned. One of our first public performances  was the duet “Something Stupid” as performed by Frank and Nancy Sinatra, and we have been inspired by videos of Les Paul and Mary Ford. We recently discovered Jackie and Roy (Cain and Kral) who were an amazing jazz duo, but we’ve yet to achieve comparison status. Truth be told, Small Potatoes was a huge influence on me when I discovered them on a bargain bin sampler CD from Wind River Records. We love performing Deep Purple as recorded by Nino Tempo and April Stevens.

What musical acts inspire you in your writing?
SS: As a singer, I’ve always been inspired by memorable lyrics and great melodies. I greatly admire the sophistication of the early American songwriters. I grew up enchanted by the stories told through the songs of the American musicals. Cole Porter is a beautiful example of the versatility, wit, and sophistication I so admire in that genre.  

Classical music was another influence and one of my favorite composers is Aaron Copeland. Ever since childhood, I have had a fascination with the American West and the breathtaking vistas of this great continent. Copeland is a master at painting vivid, agrarian pictures of a uniquely American experience using the full musical palette. His music is dynamic, rich, and I love the way he creates these gorgeous tensions that you wish would go on forever…

Then there’s jazz. I love the complex rhythms and playful give and take of the great jazz artists like the Duke and Ella Fitzgerald.

In college, I discovered the Judds and found the world of real people telling real stories. That blew a whole new door open! It was the first time I thought, “I can do this.  I can tell stories.” Since then, I look for inspiration everywhere.

I love world music with all its flavors, textures, and colors. I love celtic music and have always loved the melancholy sounds of Appalachian folk music. I love poetry. Robert Frost, Rumi, and David Whyte are some of my favorites. I like things that pry my heart open to experience myself at a deeper level. Now, I listen to a lot of fellow singer-songwriters for inspiration because they are the ones telling real stories in beautiful, authentic ways.  They are the ones doing it, not because of the money, but because it’s who they are.

You are a rare act in that you can pull off both silly and sentimental tunes. What is your favorite original “fun” song and your favorite original “serious” song?  
CL: I’d have to say my favorite original “fun” song, (fun as in silly), would have to be Sabrina’s  “Mine All Mine (The Car Song).”  It’s a rip-snorter we often open with and then find ourselves playing w-a-y too fast and end up just trying to hang on! But it is fun to It’s got musical references to the car songs of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, andWipe-Out by The Surfaris, as well as lyrical images from convertible Caddies, spats,  James Dean & Marilyn Monroe to Grandma & Grampa.

As for serious, “Cats & Dogs” is a long-time favorite because it starts in a light and humorous vein, but surprises with a sad and sentimental finish that is foreshadowed from the start. I still love to sing and play it. A new song, less serious than sincere is “Going Home” from GREEN.  Simple, straightforward, true in every aspect it shares a truth that most all of us can relate to.  But this time, the ending is optimistic.

I’ve been lucky enough to catch several live S&C shows, and I’m always impressed by the musicianship, songwriting, and synergy between you two. What do you enjoy most about being on stage together?

CL: What we enjoy most is the feeling that we are connecting with our audience — that all of us on and offstage are all together in a shared musical experience. When we feel connected with each other, confident in our playing, singing, and flow and can share that with the audience it is a great feeling! Sadly it only lasts until we are done with the show and we are on the way home; that’s when the inner critics show up and find all our little faults, errors, flaws and flubs.

SS: The connection we share with our listeners.

Will you be debuting any new, unreleased material at the SD Folk Heritage Show?
CL: Yep. We will feature songs from our soon-to-be released album, GREEN as well as tunes from our first album, One Home, One Heart, and may include a tune or two from my solo album Cats & Dogs, and maybe a fun, unique arrangement of a fun cover tune or two depending on time.

SS: We’ve been in the studio most of this year working on our upcoming album GREEN which will be released early 2015.  We won’t be debuting any songs if you go by the letter of the law but we do have two songs which are very new in our repertoire and have not yet been heard except by a handfull of our fans.  But the arrangements are tighter on all of the new songs.

What is one of your favorite S&C lyrics? 
CL: I love lyrics that touch on what might be called “optimistic melancholy” (a quote from singer/producer/vocal coach Ken Stacey), gentle irony, or “happy-sad.” Sabrina’s song “Dreaming of You” captures this feeling beautifully. A wistful singer immersed in a reverie inspired by a dream lover describes in a final verse how:

“Birds twittering their morning song
It’s time to wake, the stars are gone
But I’m happy; even when I’m blue
The sun is warm, the breeze is cool
The air is sweet, the sky is blue
Whenever I’m dreaming of you”

“Happy, even when I’m blue” – I hear that and am touched by the realization that her happiness is only in a dream and that dream has become her reality – her romance only and ever a dream. Kills me.

What’s next for S&C? 
SS: Right now we’re focusing on finishing up our album GREEN. It definitely challenged us to a higher level in all areas of our musicality and we’re extremely proud and excited to share it when it’s release in early 2015. Until then, we have a publicist helping us promote our Christmas single “Tree of Love” which is based on the true story of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and how their love, starting with a Christmas gift from him, was the catalyst that led to one of the most popular Christmas traditions practiced world-wide today — the Christmas tree.  Watch the video here:

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