Real Live Tigers
The riverbed, rocky and hidden, yet always present and waiting to become exposed is a consistent reminder of the depths that life can reach. Your words and melodies are the water flowing down stream covering every inch of the riverbed. However, there may be times when the water runs low, and parts of the riverbed becomes exposed, barren and blank. You stare at it for hours waiting for that rush of water, of passion, of creativity, but nothing comes.
Fayetteville, Arkansas' Tony Presley (aka Real Live Tigers) has crafted an incredible album based on our "riverbed" moments, but he choses not to dwell but to move beyond the riverbed. He focuses on how easy life can be, he focuses on love, he focused on completing a life's mission, and what must be done before death. This is Sometimes a Riverbed is a wonderfully intimate album that took Tony two years to craft, and it is overflowing with care and passion.
Recently, Tony took some time out from watching the snow fall in Western Illinois to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): Your latest album, This is Sometimes a Riverbed, feel so honest and intimate, it sounds almost like a live recording. Can your talk about the recording processf or this album?
Tony Presley (TP): I've never been all that interested in recording, so most of my recordings are usually just guitar and vocals recorded live, and then sometimes there are overdubs. The album was recorded in a friend's bedroom in Austin over five or six days in April and then I had Karrie and Marcus come over to record their parts.
The songs themselves were written over about two years. I've released several EP's and another album during that time, but whenever I finished a song I wanted for this album I'd set it aside.
OA: The phrase "sometimes a riverbed", personally stirs-up images of a foundation that is consistently moving, shifting, changing throughout time. What does the "riverbed" represent to you?
TP: The phrase came to me a couple years ago while on a trip with a friend. We were walking through a field of tall grass and I suddenly found all these rocks at my feet and that phrase came into my head. It's gone on to mean more about emotions and cycles of happiness and creativity. And also to serve as a reminder that things won't stay the same, no matter how bad they seem.
I think most artists have that fear of running dry, of becoming fallow. It's something you have to wait through and work through sometimes.
Yes, Still (live at South Union Arts in Chicago, IL)
OA: The words 'life is easy' repeat in my head through my work day. You sing this phrase like you are trying to convince yourself and your audience of the fact. Is life really that easy?
TP: Yes, I think life is easy. When you minimize your possessions and your worries and expectations and disregard others' expectations of you, it is. That process isn't easy, I know that. So mostly it's a reminder, something to strive for. It's something that rang irrevocably true to me at some point and I'm okay with spending the rest of my life reaffirming it.
OA: You and Karrie Hopper create a beautiful harmony on several tracks on this album. Does she tour with you? Are there plans to tour for this release?
TP: We kind of did things backward with the album. I basically toured all spring and summer on this album and then after several delays it came out this fall. Karrie and I toured together for about four weeks in July and August where we both sang and played guitar. I'm planning on doing some short regional tours this winter and then touring in Europe next April.
OA: Is Real Live Tigers your full-time job? If not, is that your goal?
TP: Real Live Tigers has been my full-time pursuit for the past three years or so. I took short breaks from touring where I worked other jobs, but it was always with the intention of making money to go back out on tour.
I'm not sure what my goal is with Real Live Tigers these days. There was a time when I wanted it to be my full-time job and would have loved for it to pay the bills, but now I'm not so sure.
OA: What's next for Real Live Tigers and Tony Presely?
TP: I'm getting settled into Fayetteville, Arkansas right now, and working on a novel and about 15 new songs. I'd like to tour Europe in the spring and record another album in 2008, and that's about it. I'd like to spend more time at home reading, to be honest.
OA: What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you while performing live?
TP: It was at a show I played at, but luckily not during my set. It was a bar show in Virginia, I think, and these two women got into a fight-- hair-pulling, face-scratching, broken glass, the works. And they kicked one of them out, but five minutes later she was back for round two. Eventually two sheriffs showed up and had to arrest her. It was pretty chaotic. All while this band tried to play.
I've played a couple house shows where parakeets have whistled along with my songs. That's always nice.
OA: Who would you say are some of you biggest influences musically?
TP: Listening to Smog taught me you could use white space in songs, just like in drawing or painting. Robert Johnson and Nine Simone showed me how much you could do with so little. There are some Nina Simone recordings that are so minimal, just her voice and someone playing piano and they tell these long elaborate stories. That's the stuff I like the most, simple and powerful.
This is Sometimes a Riverbed (Sanitary Records, 2007)
This is Sometimes a Riverbed/Yes, Still (mp3)/A Song for J.M./Beard of Bees/Other Lives/Winter Blues No. 1 (Spring is Found!)/On Our Way (mp3)/Since Life Got Easy/Flood Plains (mp3)/Riverbeds/What This World Is For
For more information on Real Live Tigers please visit their website.