Talking Story With Kurt Sodergren – Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s Cofounder

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Together for over 25 years, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has appeared in concert venues across the world, sold millions of records, and had their music appear in hundreds of movies and television shows. With sold-out concerts from the Hollywood Bowl to Lincoln Center, appearances with many of the country’s finest symphony orchestras, and television appearances ranging from Dancing with the Starsto Super Bowl XXXIII, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy continues its decades-long mission to celebrate and revitalize jazz and swing music.

I had the pleasure of speaking with the band’s cofounder and drummer Kurt Sodergren. He and guitarist Scotty Morris formed the band in Ventura, California, in 1989. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will be performing a concert at the Kahilu Theatre on January 10. Ticket info below.

Will this be the band’s first concert on the Big Island of Hawaii?

Yes, and I’m so excited. I have a couple of friends that live on the Big Island too.

Any plans to modify your formal stage attire or set list for this show in Hawaii?

It all depends on what Scotty [Morris] is thinking. He generally makes the set list about 10 minutes before we go on, which drives our manager crazy… You’ve got to print them all out and place them all down [in front of the instruments.] Scotty gets a feel for what the audience is like and whether they want to sit or stand or if it’s even a dancing venue. You can probably expect to see a retrospective of all of our music. We just came off our 25th year. We’ve been playing a little bit of everything lately.

I’m sure you’ll have no problem getting the crowd on their feet.  What was the inspiration to start this band over 25 years ago?

Scott and I met in ‘88 and started playing together on and off in 1990. We were both from another band and played guitar and drums just for fun. We formed a trio before we became a swing band… it was more blues and they played Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan…  [playing big band music]struck me as surprising as it strikes you. He just said one day, “I want to play swing.” We both grew up playing punk rock. I have an open mind, so, I said, “OK.”  I was really into the music. My Grandpa played big band, so, we got a lot of records and he played trumpet when as a kid. I think that’s a part of that whole punk rock ethos –  if you want to do it, do it.

What’s the band’s secret to their longevity?

I have a feeling that it’s due to personality. I mean everyone loves the music, but everyone is really into what we’re doing and there’s really not a lot of ego. And since we’ve been together and… been in a van driving from California to New York and back so many times that we just know how to get along, know how to be in a small space with each other, know how important it is to get out there and play, and we really appreciate the audience’s reaction and appreciation for what we do. I think everyone’s just on board with the right reasons to do this. And we’re fortunate that we can also make a living.

What was the strangest concert experience you’ve had over your career?

There’s been a few [laughs].  I think it might have been the Wet and Wild concert that we did, which was like a Playboy party in Vegas… next to a pool, and at the end of the set there was a girl or guy standing next to us… sort of in bikinis, you know, it was a little uncomfortable for some of us with our families there.

Sometimes we play a New Year’s gig at a casino for high-rollers… a show for people who really could care less [about the music]which is kind of shocking for us. One guy fell asleep at his table. It was just people into the free stuff. Glenn [Marhevka] came up and played trumpet right in front of his face while he was sleeping at his table. It was really funny! [laughs]

We actually played a birthday party for Donald Trump, one year, way back.

Pre-comb-over days?

Yeah, he was younger. It was very odd.

Are there any contemporary big bands you admire or are on your playlist?

 I’m into the older stuff, but I love the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. They’re amazing. I love traditional New Orleans jazz like Leroy Jones. As far as big bands, Count Basie is the one for me.

What’s next for the band in the year ahead?

We’re going to work on a new album. Scott’s got a bunch of new material. We live in Ventura which is on the beach, just between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. We’re going to his house and work on new material. It probably will start in February. We were thinking about January, but then all of a sudden January got booked up.

Is there anything you’d like to add before we wrap up?

The Big Island is going to be wonderful – I know probably half the guys have been there. We just finished off our Christmas tour and everyone found out about going. Everyone was so excited! Yeah!  I’m very, very stoked!

Thanks for your time. We’re looking forward to your show next week at the Kahilu Theatre.

Thank you!

If You Go

What:   Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in concert
When:  Thursday, January 10 at 7 pm
Where:Kahilu Theatre, Waimea
Admission:$65/$45/$25
Information:Tickets can be purchased at kahilutheatre.org, (808) 885-6868 or at the Kahilu Theatre Box Office located at 67-1186 Lindsey Road, Waimea.

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