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Ingersoll & Company Thinker, Writer, Musican

I had a tough day a few weeks ago. It came at the end of a tough week. I had “had it.” Jeannie, my girlfriend knew it as soon as I came through the door.

“C’mon, I’m taking you to dinner,” she said, as she planted the welcome home smooch.

“Ok.” I replied, thinking about how my state of upset was showing more than I wanted it to. I don’t want to bring it home, after all.

“I’m taking you to this place called ‘Eskapes.’ I went there with the girls for dinner a while back. I think you’ll really like this place,” she continued.

Ingersoll & Company

“Ok. Yeah.”

Next thing you know, we’re hauling up to Cicero to check out the joint while I try to change channels. I loved the place upon entry. Warm and cozy-cool environment with a band setting up in the corner. We got the table closest to the band. I always feel comfortable near the band. I don’t remember what Jean ordered, mainly because I was
captivated with what I ordered … chicken encrusted with a home made potato chip crust. Different and outstanding!

I had never seen any of the guys in the band before, but I could tell they’re seasoned in the way they set up. I anticipated their start.

Then they started.

Now, one of the best experiences one could partake in when it comes to music is the experience of discovery. As a musician, one makes discoveries in the music itself. As a fan one makes discoveries in the artists as they encounter them. And discovering Ingersoll & Company was, most certainly, a worthwhile discovery.

The band played original music and covered music. Folk and roots and jazzish music that had one foot in the past and one foot in the future. Very interesting selections, none of them obvious. I love irreverent choices. But, what really got me was when Jeff Ingersoll —the head honcho of the group­— started citing authors as inspiration for a few of his songs. At this point my attention became extremely acute as I became aware of the level of this writer’s writing.

Not only can he write – he and his band can play. They played their asses off. I loved the group. When they took a break, I waved Jeff over to say “hello,” and meet. I told him what I wanted to do here, and he furnished a CD and contact information. His CD is great. After listening to the CD, I found him again and started this interview.

Ladies and gentlemen: Please meet Mr. Jeff Ingersoll.

Chuck Schiele: Hi Jeff. Thank you for
doing this interview.

Jeff Ingersoll: Thanks, Chuck. My
pleasure. Thank you for having us.

CS: How did you get started in music and how long have you been playing?

JI: I grew up playing with my
Grandparents and all my family on my father’s side. Whenever the family would get together for a holiday or reunion it would turn into a big jam session. I wanted to participate so I got Dad to show me the three big cowboy chords on guitar and kind of took it upon myself from there. I was around ten, so I guess I’ve been playing some 23 years.

CS: What inspires you? Who inspires you?

JI: My music is usually based on an emotion I’m trying to convey. That usually comes from the space I put myself in, physically or spiritually. I really like the literary arts, poetry and philosophical thinkers and writers. On my last album, for example, I discovered Pablo Neruda, and his number 20 from Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, perfectly described every bit of emotion I was feeling at that time.

CS: Yeah! I saw you play that the other night. Loved it. I was also happy to see someone make a Pablo Neruda reference around here … one of my favorite writers.

JI: That in turn helped me to materialize that same emotion into my own medium: acoustic music. As far as other musicians go, my early influences were people like Tony Rice, David Grier, Matt Flinner – bluegrass guys. As I matured my musical tastes became more diverse. I listen to a lot of modern jazz: Coltrane, Monk, Jim Hall, etc. I like blues: Freddie King, T-Bone Walker, Stevie Ray Vaughn. I listen to a fair bit of Django Reinhardt and Bob Wills. I still like classic country and serious singer song-writers like John Prine and Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, etc. There’s really no rhyme or reason to what I listen to. As long as I feel it’s good art I’ll listen to it.

CS: Brief history of your music path.

JI: I started out young with my family playing old time and classic country. Of course, in high school I was in various pretty bad rock bands. At some point someone asked my family to play at a church function and after that we performed around CNY as The Ingersoll Family Band. We played churches, retirement homes and places like that. It wasn’t until a few years after high school that I started to get a little more serious about music as a vocation. I started “The New North Country Troubadours” with my younger brother Aaron. And after the band members moved away and the band sort of fizzled out I decided to move to Tennessee to attend ETSU for a bachelor of arts in bluegrass, old time, and country music. My time there exposed me to the very best in that genre. I played in probably a hundred different bands sharing the stage with people like Ricky Skaggs, Adam Steffey, Bobby Hicks, Aaron Ramsey. It was a really musically rich environment. It was during this time that I recorded my first album.

CS: Your thoughts on the CNY scene.

JI: I’m really excited about where the CNY scene is headed. With new breweries popping up everywhere and marijuana opening up for recreational use, we’re seeing a renaissance similar to Boulder Co. or Asheville NC. People are thinking more about what they are taking into their bodies, and that includes music. Instead of reaching for that bud light, maybe they’ll go for something a bit more complex in the flavor category – something that is
locally produced and therefore is community strengthening. Similarly, instead of listening to a guy sit on a stool and strum guitar and sing top 40 radio hits, maybe they’ll be willing to give some original acoustic music a chance.

CS: Please share a few career highlights.

JI: I guess completing my first album, Peering Through the Bars, is probably the biggest thing I’ve done musically. Writing the material, arranging it, finding the musicians, producing, mixing it down … it turned out to be a huge bit of work but I’m really happy with how it came out.

CS: I enjoyed your album, very much. How about funny stuff. Got any funny stories?

JI: I played a gig with a friend and really great fiddler, Meade Richter, in Downtown Boone NC at the Jones House. Meade was only stateside for a couple of weeks so we decided to make a weekend out of it. We were hanging out downtown and decided to call a friend in search of recreational materials. She invited us to a party out in the middle of the woods where she was hanging out with “a few friends.” So we drive down this long dirt road further into the woods until we find this house out there. After wandering around confused for an hour or so, before finding our friend that actually invited us, we discover that the house is owned by a really good friend and festival organizer – and that this “party” is actually a festival/fundraiser to preserve a wilderness area down there. We ended up hanging out all night picking and singing around the campfire and performing an impromptu set on the main stage the next day for a few hundred people. One of the most random and fun gigs I’ve ever played.

CS: What instrument(s) do you play?

JI: I’ll play whatever I’m hired to play, even if it means having to give myself a crash course in hurdy-gurdy to get that Kobzar gig. I’m mostly a guitar player but do gig fairly regularly on bass, mandolin or dobro.

CS: Who are your bandmates? With whom do you play?

JI: Right now I’ve got a trio together and we go by Ingersoll and Company. It consists of myself, my brother Aaron Ingersoll on mandolin, and Jameson Dunham on upright bass. I feel really comfortable with this configuration. We’re all pretty versatile, but also have similar tastes which makes the music groove really well, and also interesting for the audience. In addition to being accomplished musicians, they’re also really good guys and we get along together really well, and that helps a lot. I’m always down to sit in as well- the bulk of my work in TN was as a “hired gun” type musician and I’m looking to open up those channels here as well.

CS: Anything I’m not asking that is relevant to your story? I’d love to hear it. Please state the question and answer it.

JI: I did want to mention that I have lived in a 16’ yurt for three years now, and as of last year am completely off-grid. I actually do a youtube video series called “Tunes in a Yurt” where I get various musician friends to come hang out for a few hours and record a song.

CS: Advice for budding musicians?

JI: Always be happy with what you can already do, and realize that nothing is out of reach for you to learn. Any kind of lick or song you want to perform is just a matter of time and energy dedicated toward learning it. It’s important, however, not to go too far down that rabbit hole of
wwself-improvement that you forget what you’ve already accomplished is pretty great.

CS: Best way to keep in touch with you and your music?

JI: Facebook is definitely the best way to keep up with where and when I’m playing. Facebook.com/jeffingersollmusic We’re also on Instagram-
Ingersoll and Co.

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is a lifelong, award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member Quatrocollective.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.