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Chris Funk Talks Mandolins, New Records, and Giving Back!

Breedlove Signature Artist Chris Funk is best known for his work with The Decemberists and more recently Black Prairie.  With Black Prairies new album hitting stores on April 22nd Chris took some time to share with us his thoughts on the new record, his Breedlove mandolin and why it’s important to give back to the community.

Breedlove: So you have a lot going on! What was the inspiration to start Black Prairie?

Chris Funk: Black Prairie began as an idea to play more "acoustic" based music.   Part of my DNA as a musician was formed around acoustic music, especially in the American side of things.   Initially Black Prairie was strictly instrumental, closer to a string band when we started in 2007.  However now we've come full circle, added drums and our new album coming out April 2014 called "Fortune" features songs with all vocals and co-writes.

BL: You are getting ready to release a new album for Black Prairie – what track are you most proud of?

CF: I'm really excited about this album so it's hard to choose honestly.  For starters the song "Fortune" is exciting as it features lyrics that are adapted from a long form poem my wife wrote, and sonically I think it really stretches the boundaries of how and acoustic instrument can "rock".   "Songs to Be Sun" is really great as it features our drummer John Moen on lead vocals.  "Trask" is amazing tale about the Oregon family by the same name, written by our Jenny Conlee, another interesting twist.

BL: What’s it like writing a record as a group?  How was it different with “Fortune”?

CF: Writing as a group can be tricky depending on personalities and vision of a particular song.  Thankfully we all are comfortable with each other and get along, so it's more or less a breeze in certain ways.  "Fortune" was written really quickly, that is the main difference, written between tours, more or less over a period of two weeks and then refined in the studio.   We also used a new producer for the album, Vance Powell, who works with Jack White and beyond, so a different sonic landscape was presented as an end result.

BL: Tour plans are gearing up for you guys – do you have a venue you’re really excited to get back to?

CF: It's really cities that I look forward too; venues can be so similar in ways for the artists at times.  In that, I love going to San Francisco, always great food to be had and great audiences.

BL: Portland has an amazing music scene.  What’s the best part of being a musician in the Pacific NW? 

CF: For me it's having the freedom and time to work on music, not the expenses of bigger cities so it affords you time to work.  In light of that, there are many affordable studio with really creative engineers around, so the working environment feels really inspiring.

BL: Breedlove recently got involved with you and your partnership with Children’s Cancer Association in Portland and their “Live from the Heart!” series.  What got you involved with them?

CF: My wife and I run a kids rock show here in Portland called You Who.  Through that show we met them as CCA has a huge interest in bringing music to children's hospitals via their program called MyMusicRx.   MyMusicRx is an online program kids can access from their hospital beds as well as bed side music in some hospitals.  CCA also has some amazing programs helping kids and their families work through cancer treatments.

BL: You’ve found a very creative way to use your circle of influence to help raise funds.  Why do you think it’s important to give back?

CF: One of the great aspects of having some success in the music industry is the platform you are given.  It can be massive these days through social media or simply the stage it's self literally.  So, why not use it to make some good in the world and make change in your community or beyond?  Use your moment, your "10 seconds" to and at least try and help people.  I feel like its somewhat of an obligation in my world at some point.

BL: The “Live from the Heart” series has gotten some great musical performances already – anyone in particular on your dream list to perform?

CF: Bruce Springsteen!

BL: You play a Breedlove mandolin – tell us about it and what you like about it?

CF: The neck is really playable and it's always had this amazing bark right out of the shop.  So many new mandolins take years to get a decent sound and it's always had it.  The pickup in it (and I'm not fond of pickup on acoustic instruments) sounds incredible which was from the factory as well.  I love that it's made in Oregon as well and that I've met the builder.

BL: What’s next on the horizon for you?

CF: Black Prairie tour dates in 2014 and then a new Decemberist album and tour in 2015!  Hopefully a Deschutes River float somewhere in there!

View Chris Funk's Artist ProfileMore on the DecemberistsMore on Black PrairieMore on MyMusicRX