I promised that in my last post I would have an interview with the departing bass player of Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Patrick Leslie. I sent him a series of questions via internet and he replied when he found the time. I figured he is a busy man and this was the only way to make it work. His responses were better than I could ever have asked for! Thank you Patrick for being such an inspiration for me during your time in HGTR! I will miss the energy you bring to the stage, especially when singinng “Love Emergency” and “Get Over Yourself”. I can only hope that your replacement can belt it out like you can!

Anyway… here’s the interview

Me: How long were you with the band?

Patrick: Officially I’ve been with the band since 2006, but unofficially we’ve been official
friends for about 7 years now.

Me: HGTR is known for breaking down genre barriers, what do you tell people when they ask what kind of band you were in?

Patrick: Ha… well I generally said something like “arts, entertainment, and recreation” or a “boogie band” but I still don’t know how to describe it well in three words or less…

Me: What was your highest moment in the band?

Patrick: Highest moment in the band… Well, one of them was when Chris Hillman of The Byrds told me “I like what you guys are doing, I don’t ever tell anyone that, not for decades, but I’ll tell you, I like what you guys have going on.” Other high points are more personal, just a moment around a campfire where someone played a song and I realized I’d have never witnessed this beautiful private performance if I weren’t involved with HGTR, things like that. Meeting The Spinners outside a motel in West Virginia – those guys are the real deal! Toby from Dr. Dog playing through my amp when his blew at the Chicago Blues Festival, playing to the wildest crowd on earth at the Bristol R&R fest, really the list could go on for four years! Oh no, meeting And The Moneynotes had to be the high point, that had to be it.

Me: Who was your favorite band to play with?

Patrick: And The Moneynotes has got to be the answer to this one too. I love the boys from Langhorne Slim, The Smart Brothers are fantastic cats, Dirty Bourbon River Show are always down for a good time, The Lewis Brothers are quite a lovable posse, Chris Hillman is a real, real musician, The Love Language and Annuals are both killer shows, but there has never been a band so fantastic to play alongside or to befriend like ATM.

Me: How did the band start?

Patrick: The band started, as far as I know, just for fun. A couple friends from school got together and started writing – that’s Matt and Stephen by the way – and the troupe evolved as they added instruments. Before we knew it we were writing and playing as many shows as we could manage on our own.

Me: At what point did you decide to leave?

Patrick: I decided to leave, honestly, when I came to the realization that I could do more for fewer people if I had a smaller impact group. More or less, I want to be a good husband and a good father and an active member of a church and an active member of a community, and I don’t have the capability to be all those things when I’m on the road all year round. I started to notice that I was becoming less capable of having meaningful conversations with people after shows, that the crowds were suddenly full of people I didn’t recognize and would never have a chance to meet. The spirit of the venture was lost for me at that point, though I never stopped loving the music.

Me: What will you take away from your band experience?

Patrick: I have gained an empathy beyond what I can understand, which can be taxing sometimes. I have learned more about the differences and similarities in people than I can consciously process. I have seen altruism work and judgement crash against the rock of overwhelming love, I came to Christ after seeing spirituality at work in the real world, and that relationship is the greatest of my gains. I learned patience and hard work truly do pay off, and how little a person needs – to actually survive happily. I learned about the hearts connection to music and how to express it, how to dig into that hidden place and manifest it – therapy for the soul. And I learned about the industry, the music mills and the scroungers and thieves and double-talkers etc. I will take friendships and an open mind and heart, I will take a passion for music and an appreciation for the importance of it, I will take a desire to be grateful at all times and a desire to relate and identify with those who are different than me. I will take from this experience more than I know right now, and that is certain.

Me: What does the future hold for the remaining members?

Patrick: The future of Holy Ghost Tent Revival. I believe it holds whatever they want it to as long as they put their hearts in to it. They will need to recoup and reassess the situation and the goals, but with Stephen and Matt writing and Ross on the drums they can do whatever they choose and bring a lot of joy and pleasure to folks along the way. I hope they keep writing and performing, and I have no reason to think they won’t!

Me: You are often compared to the Avett Brothers, what do you think of this comparison?

Patrick: I like the Avetts, from what I hear about them. One of their friends told me I reminded her of Seth lol. But seriously, they put their hearts into their music and they sacrificed a lot to get where they are, and as long as people are comparing our enthusiasm and passion to theirs I’m complimented. Folks often make a musical comparison, which doesn’t really work out to well. I feel it’s like comparing delicious apples to big electric oranges 🙂

Me: How quickly does touring break a man down?

Patrick: Touring takes time to break a man, but it does eventually. It helps to have good nutrition, plenty of sleep, and keep the drugs and alcohol at bay. Folks might not consider it seriously, but drugs and alcohol serve as payment in some bars, which obviously does not compliment the longevity of bands. I’ve seen more sunrises than I could ever count, and the intake of coffee and cigarettes to cope with the lack of sleep was equal to the miles we put on the van. A group has got to be careful, and if there is not a general consensus on self control within the group, it can be incredibly difficult to do it alone. After the first two years, nearly 600 shows, I was darn ready to take a break!

Me: What was the songwriting process for you guys?

Patrick: We’ve all had our part in writing the songs. Generally the start as skeletons, just a bare melody and simple chord structure on a guitar like any other tune, then we transmogrify the life in to it. Stephen and Matt are the primary writers, I wrote a few here and there and co-wrote a good number with those two. We all had specialties: Stephen has a thing for melody and basic structure, Matt has a pension for amazing lyrics, I’ve always been a harmony and texture guy, so we really cover all the bases – throw in Ross’s off the wall knowledge of all things beat and it’s a winning hodge podge.

Me: When did it become necessary to bring in a keyboard (mike omalley)?

Patrick: Josh Lovings played trumpet for us initially, and when he left to be close to his family we were searching to fill a void. I had suggested keys but there was concern about raising the number of members in conjunction with prospective pay and travel expense in general, schedules etc. We found mike at The Blind Tiger playing with a local band called “Watership Down” whose practice space we happened to be sharing, and more or less stole him promptly. I feel kind of bad about the whole situation, we basically said “hey, we are playing hundreds of shows all over the east coast, wanna drop your band and come on the road with us?” to which he replied “um, YEAH!” I still feel raw for the other guys, they were very nice to us anyways. The keys added immensely and when Mike left, Kevin was the obvious replacement and took the whole show to a new level. I mean, you gots ta have keys man!

Me: Is every show as fun for you as it seems?

Patrick: Yes. Yes Yes YES and sometimes NO. If I can feel that enigma of the spirit and body connecting and fluid motion to the tempo slip away, if I can hear that lack of hot melodics and harmonics, if the frequencies aren’t lining up like they should, I’m in hell. But those moments are rare, and the show must go on.