QUARANTINED: Cal Kehoe
In this week’s Quarantined interview we talk to guitarist Cal Kehoe of Pink Talking Fish about recently celebrating one year in the band, his relationship with Phish lyricist Tom Marshall, life while social distancing and much more. Read the full interview below:
How are things going since the impact of the COVID-19?
Before I even say anything about the impact of this thing, I do want to give a huge shout out and thank you to all of the first responders and especially the frontline Heath care workers who are risking their lives to help people all over the globe. It’s definitely been a very strange time. For musicians of course we are missing the live music we love playing to crowds. But for a lot of us we are getting a chance to go back in time. Being inside isn’t really new to us, we’ve been inside our homes playing,rehearsing and writing music our whole lives. Welcome to our world people.
What things have you been doing to keep yourself busy?
I’ve been working on new material for my solo project, practicing a new batch of songs for Pink Talking Fish, working with Zack Burwick of PTF and Dan Kelly of The New Motif on some really fun videos specifically for Instagram and Facebook (quick little jams) and I’m also crafting some really special sets for upcoming live streams. I recently did a stream to raise money for a charitable operation that was making Face Shields for Healthcare workers.Helping where I can when I can. I’ll be doing some additional streams on my socials.
You recently celebrated your 1 year anniversary since joining PTF. Has there been any stand out performances that you have had with PTF since joining the band?
Oh man. Great question. Although there have been so many great shows and I’m so grateful for all of the people that have come to see us since I’ve joined the band, I gotta say Post-Phish Show at House of Blues Boston (HOB)was pretty cool. It was after that chaotic Phish show that got rained out and they only played one set at Fenway. I had been a resident performer at the Foundation Room (a club attached to HOB) since about 2014. The people there have helped me tremendously and I’m grateful they gave me a home for a while to gain a following and work out material on a consistent basis. It all felt really surreal when I was playing on the main stage. Shout out to all of the service industry workers, security guards, crew members and people in the back offices that work so hard at that venue.
How has COVID-19’s impact on the live music/entertainment industry affected you?
Unfortunately, like just about everybody in the business our live performances have been cancelled or postponed and nobody knows when that will safely begin again. It’s a huge bummer, but the only thing we can do is stay positive, stay inside, create, share, and flatten the curve. Once this is all over, it’ll be just like it used to, but even better. The music never stops and soon we will be bouncing around the room again.
Im sure you’ve told the story many times but how exactly did you land the spot in Pink Talking Fish?
I was lucky enough to become friends with Tom Marshall over the years. He came to see me play in Hartford one day and asked if I wanted to write with him something. We wrote a few songs over the course of a year in 2016 and decided to get some of the original members of Amfibian back together to put on a killer Phish After Show at the ridium in NYC. We had Rob Compa from Dopapod and Richard James from PTF sit in with us. That was the first night Rick and I played together and it was just a blast. I’m grateful for Tom and the Iridium and everyone that helped put that together. One thing lead to another and here we are.
Is there ever a night where you want to play a little more of one band than the other when it comes to the Phish, Pink Floyd, Talking Heads band concept?
We have been doing these “Phish Phry’s” which is kinda awesome because we don’t have to worry about the concept and we can just craft the greatest Phish setlist ever…and then play it. I do wish that we played more of the songs that Phish has covered.Phish has done some of the greatest takes on covers on some great music. They have covered so much ground from the Great American Songbook that I just wanna get my hands on more of those tunes and play them for people. But just like Phish or the Dead did when they covered a song we put our own stamp on the song and make it “our” version of their version of the original version. So its like a cover twice removed.
Have you been writing any music while in quarantine?
I absolutely have. I have been listening to an album by Andy Shauf called “Neon Skyline” and I found out that he played all of the instruments himself. The production is crisp and clean and it feels like every instrument has something to say. Out of necessity isolation has forced me to get creative with loops and different tunings and Beatlesque chord changes and studio set ups. I have a small drum set beside my console and pedal board so I can loop an idea, stacked with layers of melody, add bass and then play drums over it and sing a melody into my Voice Memos on my phone. Technology is a good thing, if you use it the right way.
What was it like guesting on Tom Marshall’s Under the Scales Podcast?
It’s always a pleasure having a conversation with Tom. He’s a good friend of mine and a brilliant dude. This second time around, I was more comfortable talking into a podcast mic and the fact that I know Tom helps to ease into any conversation. It is bizarre and I guess natural in part is that I was friends with him for ten years before I joined PTF and now we tour the country playing a lot of the music he wrote , so it was fun to dig into that with him.
Do you have any advice for musicians struggling?
Keep struggling. There are gonna be days where you feel like you suck and days when everything falls in place.The harder I work the more times things seem to work well. Right now we have the luxury of time at our disposal to be the best that we can be with trial and error and trying new musical ideas and techniques. We’re lucky as hell.
What was coming up for you in the coming months prior to the impact of COVID-19?
PTF had a stacked spring to summer tour. I was particularly excited to recreate the holy grail of Grateful Dead shows, Cornell 5/8/77 on May 8th in Ithaca! We sadly had to cancel that one.
What things do you miss the most with having to social distance?
Crowds. Playing for crowds. With streaming, it certainly helps that there’s a chat on there and you can feel that people are into it, but there is nothing more stimulating than feeling the energy of people dancing in a room. We’ll get there, in time.
What music has been getting you through these stressful times?
Writing my own songs has been really helpful, but Andy Shauf, Bright Light Social Hour, Khruangbin, White Denim, and more recently King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have just shocked me to the core. The production and the emotion they convey is just refreshing. Especially since it’s being released today. They’re capturing lightning in a bottle that feels like it could only be done in 1974.
When going out and about, what precautions are you taking with social distancing?
Mask on, gloves on, hat on, sunglasses, thick jacket, shoes that I don’t care about (which is rare because I’m Nike freak) and a utility belt of hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray and wipes. It?s not hard people!
What is next for Cal once all of this is over?
I’m looking forward to playing more shows and putting out more music. I’m going to try to release some original content while we’re inside, but it’ll be nice to get out there with a band and play this music to people that wanna hear it.
How can fans support you throughout these tough times?
Reach out to me whenever you’d like, even if it’s just to say hi. I’d love to hear from you. And if you can, please donate to any Covid relief fund or charity that will aid anyone struggling during this time.