Augie Meyers on Kissing Death Goodbye and the Eternal Hustle
Published: November 27, 2013
And what is “your sound”?
“I don’t know!” he said. “We were in Italy last week, this cat tells me ‘I want you to play on my album.’ I said, ‘what do you want to hear?’ He goes, ‘I want you hear you.’ And that’s what I did. I don’t know. It amazes me when people say things like that and talk about ‘my sound.’”
You could explain “the Augie Meyers sound” as that percussive, cutting Vox Continental sound that joins the rhythm section on tracks like “She’s About a Mover,” “Mendocino” and “Love Sick,” the opening track of Time Out of Mind (1997), the first on a string of superb late-career recordings by Bob Dylan. But why try to explain the “Augie sound” when he’s much more than just a sound? And why even try, when The Man himself already did?
“What makes [Augie Meyers] so great is that internally speaking, he’s the master of syncopation and timing,” Dylan once said, “and this is something that cannot be taught. If you need someone to get you through the shipping lanes and there’s no detours, Augie will get you right straight through. Augie’s your man.”
“I never got burned out,” said Meyers. “I love what I do. I thank the good Lord ... for being able to do what I want to do.”
Sometimes you don’t have to get burned out to stop playing. People change. Or maybe they’re not burned out but they just can’t find work. Throw a rock anywhere in SA and you’ll find a legendary conjunto musician who finds it hard to make ends meet. Meyers must’ve done something right, besides good playing. Is it drive? PR? Sarah? Clay? Why can’t other talented musicians of his age find work?
“I don’t wait for the phone to ring,” Meyers said. “I go out there and make it ring. I’m always looking, hustling. I talk to some of my friends and ask them, ‘You’ve been playing?’ ‘No, man… The phone ain’t ringing.’ ‘Then go out there and see what’s going on!’ ‘There’s nothing going on!’ That’s why there’s nothing going on with you. There’s something going on, but you have to look for it. It’s like when a girl comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, I want to go to bed with you,’ and you go, ‘OK,’ and she says, ‘Your place or mine?’ and you go, ‘Well, if you’re going to argue about it, forget it!’”
He closes with another Augiesm.
“I learned a long time ago that if your in-flow is less than your outgo, then your upkeep is going to be your downfall,” he said. “I live by that rule. I travel all over the world and still get up early in the morning, and my friends tell me, ‘Augie, you’re too old to do that, you’re 73,’ and I go, ‘So what? You say I’m too old because you can’t do it, but I’m going to do it for as long as I can.’ And when I can’t do it no more, I’m not going to be sorry. I’ll just say, ‘that’s it.’”
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