Reverbnation Artist: John Floridis
Brian Ripple | Friday Aug. 1st, 2014
Dedicated to covering music since 2007, the publication is circulated monthly to 20,000 readers.
Selection Criteria: Artists must be based in or around Bozeman, or have future tour dates in the area. Desired genre(s): All
About Bozeman Magazine: Bozeman Magazine prints independently each month and distributes to over 200 locations, including every corner of Bozeman, Belgrade, Four Corners, and Big Sky. The publication features great local art on every cover and contributions from talented local writers each month, providing readers with accurate, dependable information about the things that make the Bozeman area unique.
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For August out of 2328 submissions from around the world, the publishers of Bozeman Magazine have chosen the Missoula based guitarist, John Floridis.
BM: Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself? Where you grew up, what you listened to as a kid, when and why you relocated to Montana.
JF: I am a Missoula, Montana based guitarist, singer-songwriter and composer who has been a resident in the “Big Sky” for 21 years having moved there from the strong shouldered, down-but-never-out city of Cleveland, Ohio. I never forget I’m from Cleveland. It is very much a part of my make up. I also lived in Indiana for a good part of my life, but I was born in Cleveland and returned there in my early 20’s and sort of rediscovered my roots.
I have released 7 recordings mixing bluesy, folk-rock vocal tunes with adventurous solo acoustic guitar compositions including two seasonal recordings “December’s Quiet Joy” and “The Peaceful Season.”
My most recent recording is “Live From 11th and Grant” for the program of the same name produced on Montana PBS.
BM: How would you describe you current playing style?
JF: As a guitarist, I would describe my style as a hybrid of American fingerstyle, classical and Hendrixian attitude of “whatever works” to drive the song.
BM: Who are some of your favorite contemporary players and influences?
JF: In terms of current or “contemporary” musicians, I would say John Butler is an inspiration as is Patty Larkin, Richard Thompson, Bruce Cockburn, Shawn Colvin and Kelly Joe Phelps. I try to be influenced by their spirit and how they make their way through the world and how they honor their songs with their playing. I don’t try to sound like them or learn their songs note for note, though I realize some of my work may sound similar to theirs. Sometimes I am most influenced by players in different genres than my own, such as the brilliant Irish guitarist John Doyle.
All that said, there are some beastly players these days. Derek Trucks comes to mind as a stunning player.
BM: How did you start using and experimenting with the manipulated, sampled and looped sounds?
JF: In large part I wanted to experiment with bigger, fuller sounds. Essentially when I perform solo with looping and effects, I am trying to create the sound of a huge guitar....not replace real living musicians. Also a big motivation is the idea of being able to create both acoustic and electric guitar sounds together. I love the sound of both instruments. I love to manipulate and play with sound...much like one plays with a friend.
BM: What motivates you as a songwriter?
JF: I think the thing that motivates me the most is simply the desire to create. I like my songs to be multi-layered lyrically. I like “slice of life” songs in which there are several different themes that may or may not be tied together. At times I will write a “confessional” song, something more personal. I guess I feel a song must serve itself somehow. It must realize what it’s going to be about....something lighter in content....something concrete....something more abstract. Something where the lyrics take center stage....or simply a song that supports a killer groove or melody.
BM: What is your typical songwriting process (if there is such a thing)?
JF: The process....so many things are involved. I do feel that if it is a song that it must hold its weight musically in some capacity on some level. It is not about virtuosity though it can be. It can be very simple musically, but it must be strong. I don’t feel that if a song has lyrics that then they are always of primary importance. You don’t go to a CD store and look for the lyric section. You look for the music section.
BM: What is it about being a solo artist that you like the most?
JF: Autonomy is good. There is a confidence that comes from being able to walk out onto a stage with nothing but a guitar and be challenged to be compelling all by yourself.
BM: You do have a new trio that you play with also, correct? Can you fill us in on that project a little bit?
JF: I’ve always enjoyed the concept of a trio, but you really have to have the right combo and players who are very compelling in their own right. This current incarnation includes Ed Stalling on drums and John Sporman on bass. Both of them are composers who happen to play their respective instruments. They would be composers regardless. They are both fearless players who are willing to take chances. They are players with whom I can simply stop playing in the middle of a song and know that the’ll think of something to do musically.
BM: Do you feel it is easier to get your message across as a solo artist or while playing with a band?
JF: Certainly there is an intimacy that comes with a solo performance, particularly in a listening environment. Not just a hearing environment, a listening one. In that setting, the song is completely “out there” and can be judged on its own merits.
Playing with the trio, and getting the input and energy of the other players can take the songs message to a new place and give me some distance from it, which in turn can give me a fresh take on the song.
BM: You recently played 11th & Grant at MSU, what was that like?
JF: A great experience and one for which I formed the current John Floridis Trio. It was great to work with such pros as the crew of 11th and Grant. A real treat....AND ....a great challenge to work in a “live recording” environment...but with no audience. Overall, a great opportunity and a true highlight of my career.
BM: You have been working on a public radio show since 1997 or so. Can you tell us a little bit about the Radio Show, Musicians Spotlight?
JF: I’ve been producing Musician’s Spotlight for about 17 years. Some of that time I had a co-host/producer, but I have been doing the show on my own for over 5 years now. Its a 30 minute feature aired weekly on Montana Public Radio and it highlights a given artist for all of that half hour, combining an interview with pre-recorded music. I’ve had a chance to interview hundreds of musicians from household names like B.B. King, Alison Krauss and Lyle Lovett to Montana musicians like Jeni Flemming, Tom Catmull and 11th and Grant host Eric Funk and everything in between. A great experience.
BM: We see that you will be in Bozeman at Ted’s Montana Grill in late August, will that be a solo show? Is it your first time playing at Ted’s?
JF: That will be a solo show. I’ve performed there a number of times. I’ve performed at a wide variety of Bozeman venues over the 20 some years I’ve been here including yearly performances at MSU, shows at Montana brewery tap rooms, coffeehouses and a number of support performances for Tom Garnsey’s Vootie Productions in Bozeman. Included in that is a great list of artists for whom I’ve opened including John Mayhall, Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin and Derek Trucks.
BM: Is your August Spanish Peaks show a private party, or is it open to the public?
JF: As far as I know it’s an open show.
BM: Do you have any upcoming recording projects you would like our readers to know about?
JF: I’m hopeful I can get another recording of the trio at some point, and as well I’d like to release some recordings that are more “straight up singer songwriter, guy and his guitar type of stuff.
BM: Thanks John, see you soon!