More Coffin Music...

Another music post?  Ah, yes.  Most likely, you're not going to stop by to look at a casket any day soon, and therefore get to know us personally.  And I, Mary, have been mystified and impressed by music from day one.  I'm not a great musician, but I'm so awed by...well...how good it makes you feel.  Anyway, my blog post on the Blissfest/Caravan of Thieves interview, led to Curtis Eller, who penned "Sugar in my Coffin".
This nice gentleman musician humored me with answers to my questions..."I've got answers in my coffin..."

We were first introduced to you through "Sugar in My Coffin", which was covered by the Michigan band, Red Sea Pedestrians.  On the surface, the song seems like a call for a sweet ending after the frustrations in life.  I was never great at English, is there more ideas going on there?  (Lyrics here...scroll down)
For somebody who's not great at English, you've managed to very succinctly state the main theme of the lyric. There is also a rather sideways political slant to it as well . I wrote "Sugar In My Coffin" shortly after playing a show in New York City with Pete Seeger and I decided that I needed to write a protest song of my own. Predictably, when I finished I realized I'd just written another song about Elvis Presley and Abraham Lincoln. I guess some habits die hard. No pun intended.

You mention that you've played at funerals on your webpage.  Is that true?
Several years ago while I was still living in New York City I was asked to perform at the funeral of a 23 year old kid who'd died in a freak mountain climbing accident. He was an aspiring banjo player and they wanted me to lead the congregation in a joyful rendition of "Keep On The Sunny Side Of Life". His father told me that he wanted the service to be a celebration of a vibrant, adventurous life, and it really did feel that way. I met his friends and family and learned a lot about him (including the odd coincidence that we shared the same birthday). I wish I'd known him while he was sill with us. I have to say, it was one of the most moving moments in my musical life. Unforgettable.

In our business, we try to keep things local...but you tour all over the place.  Do you bring any "green" practices into your music career?
Sadly, the life of a traveling musician isn't naturally very "green", but I do what I can. I didn't have a drivers license in New York so I've toured exclusively by public transit for the past 10 years. I usually take a train or bus. Maybe that's why I tour the UK and Europe so frequently. I also perform totally unamplified quite frequently, although to be honest it's more of an artistic choice than an environmental stand. I sometimes find electricity to be a barrier to open communication with the audience.

Have you ever met the Caravan of Thieves?  They have band photos on their site in which they're posed in a cemetery.  
I played a show with them in New York and they sounded great. I've always found cemeteries to be very attractive locations. People frequently take me to cemeteries in the cities where I perform. I guess there's something about my songs that make people want to introduce me to the deceased
populous of their towns. I've been taken to the graves of Stephen Foster, Harry Houdini and dozens of others. A New York film maker is currently working on a short film based on the song "Sugar In My Coffin", and we'll be filming performances in cemeteries in New York, North Carolina and New Orleans.

Simple question...complex answer.  Why do you play music?
My dad was a bluegrass banjo player and rockabilly guitarist, and he taught me how to play. He also ran a small, local circus in Detroit when I was a kid, so I developed an early appreciation for the charms of physical performance. I don't know if that's exactly why I play music, but that's the way I learned how.

Talking about coffins all the time helps us remember to appreciate life.  How does playing music and touring heighten awareness in your life?
I have a lot of songs about dead people, but I perform them almost exclusively for living people. It'd be a bummer if it was the other way around. I realize that doesn't really answer the question.

Thanks!  When are you coming to Michigan next?
I was last in Michigan in June so it may be a while before I return. I always love performing in Michigan. I find the audiences to be curious and easily engaged. I grew up near Detroit so perhaps I just feel at ease with a Michigan crowd.