Chad Staehly is the keyboardist for the Hard Working Americans and Great American Taxi. He recently wrote in to discuss how the Hard Working Americans got started, recording the band’s debut album at TRI studios, and how he became interested in playing keyboard. For more info on the Hard Working Americans, check out http://thehardworkingamericans.com/
Did you come from a musical family? Were your parents musical?
My parents just always sang at church services and that’s how we learned to sing and play music. I also grew up going to a school that was very music focused with it’s curriculum, both singing and playing music.
What first got you interested in playing keyboards?
Pianos always sort of drew me in from a young age, I was always interested in sitting down at a piano, whether at my grandmother’s house or at school or where ever.
Who are some of your favorite keyboard players and why?
Brent Mydland is probably my main influence and then some of the other Grateful Dead keyboard players, but Brent was always my favorite.
How did the Hard Working Americans come together?
Todd and Dave did a gig together a little over a year ago that I help set up and after they wanted to record an album together and put a band together. Todd called me and I helped them work out the details. We were stoked to be able to get Neal on guitar and Duane on drums. It’s been a great combination, and now the addition of Jesse Aycock on guitar at the live shows has really fit in well too.
How do you approach covers to make them your own?
Todd starts stomping around and singing the song how he hears it and then the band builds an arrangement around that.
What was the first song you recorded as a band?
“Straight To Hell.”
You recorded the album at Bob Weir’s TRI Studios. What was that experience like?
It’s one of the best studios going right now. Rick Vargas did an excellent job engineering the record too. He knows how to get the best sounds out of that cutting edge studio. It was an awesome experience there.
What is your favorite song on the album?
‘The Mountain Song’ is probably my favorite.
Have you written original songs as well?
I write songs for a band I play in called Great American Taxi. I don’t have as much time these days to write as I would like, but still get a few a year or something.
What made you choose to record an album of all covers?
We just wanted to start this project with a batch of killer songs and Todd had been sort of saving some of these songs his friends have written for a project like this. We dug all of the songs and feel like we made them our own.
How do you approach playing differently with the Hard Working
Americans than your work with Great American Taxi?
I don’t approach things all that differently, my job is similar in both bands.
You’ve toured a ton over the years. What have been some of your
strangest moments on the road?
It’s always strange being on the road, sleeping while moving down the road can become very disorienting, you wake up in the van or bus and don’t know where you are, if you’re moving or in a bed or what time of day it is or night. Sleep deprivation always makes things weird.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?
Always wondering if you’re doing the right thing by working as an artist or musician. At times you’re playing to 50 people in some dive bar (wanting to never do it again) and then a day later you’re playing to 10.000 people in a beautiful field outside somewhere (and you never want it to end). The roller coaster seems to get extra big trying to do this for a living. The ups and downs seem to be much more pronounced in some ways.