Interview with Joe Hertler

Back in May, we went to the Flint Family BBQ to support one of our favorite local bands. Not only was it a great performance from Flint Eastwood, but we also got to experience some new to us Michigan music. One of our favorite bands of the night was Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers who not only put on a fantastic show, but had great music to boot. Fast forward to last week and I was given the chance to sit down with Hertler himself to talk about what he and the Rainbow Seekers have in store.

This was my first face to face interview so I was a bit nervous. I had written down a list of questions to ask but wanted to keep the interview more relaxed, instead hoping to simply have a conversation with Hertler that would flow easily. There weren’t many places to go as the show as only about an hour from starting, so we had to settle for the 8 Ball Saloon below The Blind Pig.

I waited anxiously, crowd watching as I waited for Hertler to make his way down. The guy’s tour manager, Evan stopped in to speak with me momentarily about the interview and assure me that once he found Joe, who’d just gotten back from catching a bite to eat, he’d send him my way. A few minutes later Joe came down the stairs with his girlfriend, introduced himself, and took a seat. I couldn’t help but voice my slight case of nerves about the fact that this was my first face to face interview. The great thing about Joe is that he’s just a happy, laid back guy which made the interview very easy, plus he just happens to remind me of someone I’ve known for a few years so it was kind of like talking to a friend.

First off, what’s going on with the new album?

Joe Hertler: Well, we spent a year recording and it’s been about another year that we’ve been trying to release it. We’re just waiting on our distribution deal to go through, trying to make sure that both our band and the label is happy with the proposed conditions.

And what can fans expect with the next album?

Joe: Musically, it pulls from all over. It’s got a bit of a funkier, jam band feel on some tracks, while other are a bit poppier than we’ve done before. And of course, we’ve still got our low key folk sound on a few songs. The range of influences that created this record also keep it from staying on a linear course, but we are so, so happy with how it turned out.

What I really love about your live show is that no matter how big the crowd, you kind of feel like the Rainbow Seekers are playing just for you. That you’re getting to sit in on this group of friends jamming together and it’s a great experience. Did you guys consciously sit down and decide how you wanted your live show to feel or did it just come about organically as you started to perform?

Joe: I came from the education world before music. The productive classroom is one that is both safe and comfortable, but also liberating. I think a good deal of the “healthy classroom” philosophy has permeated into our live shows. We want people to come to our shows and feel comfortable in who they are. We want people to come to our shows and connect with our music and with other people.  Life is about these connections and it is through our music that we try to create them.

You guys have done some touring over the last year, both in small venues and at larger events like festivals. What has that been like?

Joe: I love the control you can have over your show in small, local venues. Want to cover the bar in tin foil and force everyone in the audience to wear tin foil hats? Well, sometimes you can actually get away with that. And they’re much more intimate, which is always a huge plus. The festival stage is a whole different beast. Perhaps some of that intimacy and control is lost, but the connections are still happening, perhaps to an even greater degree. Some of the greatest moments of my life took place on festival stages this summer.

Let’s talk a little about the writing process for your new album. What was that like?

Joe: We recorded in this building that used to be a dentist’s office, we called it “Rainbow Seeker Learning Center of America” and it was actually kind of a depressing place. It was horribly decorated, I mean, it was dentist office, after all. And I was student teaching at the time – my school was close to it, so I was there constantly. There was a mattress on the floor and when I wasn’t working on the album, I was writing lesson plans and not getting very much sleep. Oddly, I think the intensity between recording a record, touring, and going through an incredibly demanding part of college actually lent itself to the recording process. There was a tenacity to the whole process – a feeling of “I have to do this and I have to do it well…”

So now that the album is finished up, what’s next for you and the Rainbow Seekers?

Joe: We’re all in the process of finishing up our day jobs (a quit about a month ago) and finishing up this distribution deal. Then, we’ll release the record and tour, tour, and tour. Also, we  have a lot of new music in the works. Before we tour, we plan on having a pretty intense month of solely working on new tunes.

Well I know you guys are moving in the right direction, more touring, a new album, and haven’t some of the shows you’ve been doing been selling out?

Joe: We’ve been doing this for four years now and have played to many empty rooms along the way. We’re so thankful that people are supporting us, but there’s a really strong drive to keep improving with this band. We a baby band right now and we have a long, long way to go. We are anything but complacent, but so very thankful.

Sounds like a good sign.

Joe: Definitely a good sign. It’s all about baby steps to get to where we’d like to be. This band has a pretty awesome work ethic.

Well I do have to say that I think your live show is something that people should experience. Your music is great, but you get so much more from the live experience.

Joe: Thanks, our live show is something that is very dear to us. We love making music and we love that people come out to see us and seem to genuinely enjoy the show.

Well thanks Joe for sitting down to talk to us, is there anything you’d like to say to your listeners and fans?

Joe: Tell your friends!

Stay tuned for the review of the show that night and (eventually) a review of the new album and here are some upcoming tour dates to help tide you over while you wait for the new music.

Nov. 20: Beat Kitchen, Chicago IL – Tickets
Nov. 21: Der Rathskeller @UW, Madison WI – Tickets
Nov. 22: Canopy Club w/ Matthew Curry, Urbana IL – Tickets
Dec. 04: Club Cafe, Pittsburgh PA – Tickets
Dec. 06: Johnny D’s, Somerville MA – Tickets
Dec. 07: Mercury Lounge, New York NY – Tickets
Dec. 31: Royal Oak Music Theatre w/ Greensky Bluegrass, Royal Oak MI – Tickets