BLUES TRAVELER Guitarist, Chandler Kinchla Sheds Some Light On The Band’s Mega Hit “Run-Around” And What They Are Up To These Days!
Posted On 30 Jan 2015
Tag: 3OH!3, 606, A&M Records, All Access, All Access Music, All Access Music Group, Artist Interview, Ben Wilson, Best Rock Peformance, Billboard, Blues Brothers, Blues Traveler, Bobby Sheehan, Brendan Hill, Chandler Kinchla, Chasing Waterfalls, Coachella, Dan Akroyd, Dave Grohl, Four, Gavin DeGraw, Grateful Dead, Hook, Jimmy Hendrix, John Popper, Kissed By A Rose, Led Zeppelin, Madison Square Garden, MTV, Nashville, New Jersey, New York, North Hollywood, Plain White T's, Red Rock, RIAA, Run-Around, Saturday Night Live, Seal, Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Tad Kinchla, The Blues Band, Thompson Square, TLC, Uncle Kracker, Under The Sun, VH1, Wizard Of Oz
Formed in New Jersey in 1987, Blues Traveler became well known after they released their hits, “Run-Around” and “Hook” in 1994. Found on their Grammy-winning fourth studio album, Four, which peaked at #8 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. According to the RIAA, the album is certified as 6x Platinum (6 million copies sold in the U.S.). “Run-Around” won the 1996 Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a duo or group.
Most recently, last Spring, Blues Traveler were hard at work in the studio with a number of well-seasoned musicians like themselves creating their forthcoming collaboration record full of original tunes. The release date of this album is TBD.
The current members of Blues Traveler are singer and harmonica player John Popper, guitarist Chad Kinchla, drummer Brendan Hill, bassist Tad Kinchla and keyboardist, Ben Wilson.
Fresh off a hike in North Hollywood, Blues Traveler guitarist, Chandler Kinchla (Chad) took some time to answer a few questions for me about how Blues Traveler came to be such an iconic band in the 90’s and what the future holds in store for the guys. Enjoy!
Can you remember the moment that you all decided to start this group?
Well, initially Brendan and John were in a band in high school. They were 14 and 15 and they pretty much just played in Brendan’s basement and they were called The Blues Band. Then they started looking for guitar players. I think that’s when I joined. Then it all became pretty serious. We just had a great connection and then one of my good friends, Bobby [Bobby Sheehan was part of the band until he died in 1999] came in too. This was all in high school so we were about 16 and 17. Once Bobby came in, there were 4 of us and we were hell bent to do something with this. We all loved music and we had a really great symbiosis. John had been living in NY because we were all seniors and he was a year ahead of us in school so we just started going to New York and played dive bars when we were still in high school. Yeah, once Bobby and I joined, it was pretty much a go.
So the exact moment? Well, you know what, I do remember. I was 17, me, John and Brendan were just jamming in his basement and we were really stoned. We played for like 3 hours. When we came outside, we walked to this park across the street, we sat down and listened to this cassette tape of our jam. It was just 4 hours of improvisation and right then, a black cat walked up and sat with us. That’s where the whole black cat thing came from for our Four album. You can probably call that the fall of 1986. That’s the moment. Then Bobby joined shortly after.
Where did the name come from? Was it a decision you all made together?
Well, at that point in high school, we were a blues band. John was a huge Blues Brothers fans and he wanted to get into comedy. He loving Dan Akroyd playing the blues. So yeah, him and Brendan were in this band kinda based on The Blues Brothers. As soon as we started playing in NY, we realized blues bands really didn’t cut much of a path in NY. So “traveler” was this sort of entity that we felt when the four of us played. We would brainstorm and go on these long windy paths. I mean, we could come up with a name for just about anything. We just liked the idea of “traveler” and we probably could have just gone with Traveler but we liked sticking Blues on it. It’s kinda quirky. I think in the end, it has a nice ring to it and strangely enough, the blues traveler thing, putting traveler after something really became a thing. There’s even a blues traveler show now. For some reason, the name has definitely gotten some play, which I find humorous.
Looking back, what are you most proud of in the career of Blues Traveler? What have been the biggest accomplishments?
Wow! Well, our biggest accomplish was selling out Madison Square Garden. I mean, that was huge! We got a Grammy and that was great. We got some hit records, some hit singles and that made us a lot of money and that’s awesome! (Haha) We played Saturday Night Live and that was big kicker and we were able to quit all our stupid jobs in NY and just play music. That was huge! But I think in the end, right now, just the longevity of it and that we are still able to do it. The longer I do it, with all us, the more we appreciate being able to do this for a living and be creative and play with great musicians. I mean, I just am really thankful to do this. I always wanted to do this.
How do you think the band has changed and transformed from album to album?
Well, I think we really do approach every album a different way. We’re always trying to tip over the cards. I think sometimes we miss the mark and sometimes, it comes out really cool. We are always trying new things and grow as musicians. We put out a new record about 3 years ago.
You know, it takes a lot of motivation and emotional fortitude to dive into making an all original record. We weren’t quite there but we wanted to do a couple songs to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Four, our big hit record. So we started doing a couple collaborations. The next thing you know, a lot of really cool people wanted to get involved and we loved the process so much that all of a sudden, it was the greatest thing in the world being able to play with all these different types of musicians that are great at what they do. It really took us out of our comfort zone. I think that’s really the kind of thing that we thrive on. And you know, it shows in this record. That’s really the thing that has kept us going for as long as we have.
Is there anyone you would still love to work with?
Oh everyone! (Haha) All the people that couldn’t do it. It was actually really funny trying to get this thing done because you had to find time with other musicians when they were free so they could take off 3 days. We ended up between gigs finding places around the country for all the different musicians. Some of them were interested but couldn’t find the time so there’s really too many to mention. All of them.
All the collaborations came out so cool. It’s fun to get to know how other people do it and kind of reinvent ourselves at each session. That’s really neat!
Who do you think have been consistently been the band’s favorite musicians? What are the bands that have inspired you throughout the years?
Well, I guess in the end, once they are your peers, they just become bands you really like and there’s just so many. I guess it goes back to when we were kids. For me, it was Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix and Grateful Dead. Those were the bands that I started with and then I added a bunch to it later on. Those were our north stars back in the day.
Speaking of other bands, how was the Under The Sun tour last summer with Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth and Uncle Kracker?
Well that actually a blast. At first, it was just something that was kinda different and cool to do. And once again, we like to try different things. You know, it’s all about timing. It was great. At first, we weren’t quite sure how it was going to work and if we would fit in. But all these bands have a bunch of hits, at least a couple hits that everyone knows. And the sets were short, like 40 minutes each. And it was like bang, bang, bang with the hits. And the crowds were packed and they had a blast at this show. It was a really great combination show. It’s all just party music so people just had a blast. There wasn’t a lot of messing around. It was just play your couple of hits and cool songs and get onto the next one. It actually turned out to be an awesome deal. And once again, we usually are more of a jam band so this was different for us, going into the pop world. But we could fit in great because we have a couple pop hits. We have always straddled the different worlds of music. I think we can sort of fit in anywhere.
I couldn’t interview you without asking about “Run-Around”. Why do you think that song resonated with so many people and made it such a radio smash?
Good lord, I don’t know. But we knew when we wrote, it was a hit. The record company did, everybody knew that it was going to be a hit. This is it. We’ve got a hit. It’s just funny because we had tried to write other hits and never came close. I mean, you are always trying to write songs that go big. Right? So, how that happens, I don’t know.
“Run-Around” has got a good beat and people can sing along to it. It’s like a lot of hits-you think you have heard it before but you haven’t.
So it’s kind of based on a chord structure that’s kind of standard. But we did it in our own quirky way. It seems familiar but it’s actually new.
And what about the video for the song? Why did you decide to have a stand-in band?
Because we were so sick of doing videos! (Haha) It’s funny because doing videos were just not really our thing. So we were at looking at treatments from different music video directors and one of them had a Wizard Of Oz theme and we all thought, that’s the one! That’s the one! It was perfect since we didn’t have to be in it either. So yeah, we were there on set for like two hours and we were out! The whole package was great. It was sweet with the whole grainy visual quality too. The whole thing was fun. I think it worked in a lot of different ways, especially since we didn’t have to be in it!
I was just watching it last night and I love how it instantly transformed me back to that time when I first fell in love with the song.
Yeah, that’s’ great. It’s cool, That’s what’s so nice about the video. It has this kind of 3D story quality to it. And lord knows, there was a time when videos were on all the time. I mean, I could go back and forth from MTV to VH1 and it was either that video or TLCs “Chasing Waterfalls” or “Kissed By A Rose” by Seal. I was dead sick of it for awhile there.
We did all these radio shows back then, all these pop radio events and we would see the girls from TLC and Seal and we would say “Hey, what’s up?” We would get a kick out it!
You’ve had so many incredible memories along the way with this band. Is there one particular memory that really sticks out for you? Either in the studio, onstage or elsewhere?
Interesting experience? Wow… I think it was when we were starting out in the studio in Brendan’s basement and we really did feel like something else entered the room. That’s kind of the magical point. And when we are playing well, it still feels like this to this day when we all play, it still feels like something else comes around us. That’s kind of the magic of music, right?
Do you have any all-time favorite venues that you have performed at?
Red Rock! It’s amazing! You gotta go! If you are music fan, then you’ve gotta go! Put that on your bucket list. When your favorite band is playing there, just go! You’ll never regret it plus it’s such a gorgeous weekend trip too. That park of the Rockies. Wow!
I have not been to Coachella. We aren’t quite in the demographic to play there and when I’m home, the last thing on my mind is going to a big sweaty festival. I’m there enough.. (Haha) but yeah, someday, I’d like to go…
Wel, thank you so much for your time, Chandler! I really appreciate it!
Yeah, it’s been terrific talking to you, Leah! Enjoy this great Southern California weather!