: You grew up in a musical family, so tell me how did your family shape your future as a musician?

Chas Waltz (Photo by Nicole Ryan)

CHAS WALTZ: Well there was music surrounding us from the time me and my siblings were all born.  I have 2 older brothers and a younger sister.  My father was already a world class trumpet player and as each of us were born, the house was always filled with music whether it was Big Band Jazz, Broadway Musicals, or top 40 pop hits radio.  

Then we were all started on piano lessons as soon as we were old enough!  I guess you could say we all came out of the womb with a little musical talent to begin with.

So I was assimilating music from day one!  My dad became a Baptist minister early in life but did perform throughout his life in jazz bands and solo in his spare time, and he did make extra money from time to time.  He was well good enough to write his own ticket into a musical career but had a different calling in life!

Chas Waltz
So there was also a lot of music in the church as well to further my music boundaries.  None of us in the family were prodded to make a career out of music, just given an option so to speak!  I'm the only one in the family to eventually make a career out of it, for better or worse (laughing).

AF: I remember your mother proudly telling how your fascination with music began at a very young age maybe 2-3 as you would listen and sing along with the radio and records.  Describe your first musical memory.

Chas Waltz in Baltimore

CW: My first memories were exactly that!  I was around three years old and I would have my ear literally stuck in the speaker of the all in one turntable record player.  Sometimes for hours at a time, mesmerized by music whether it was classical or Broadway musicals, whatever my parents had lying around.  Another early memory was jumping up and down on the couch, singing and dancing to top AM radio hits.  My favorites were Motown and R&B hits.  My mom told me once I should've been born a black child, or she grabbed the wrong baby at the hospital.

Chas Waltz

AF: Your father and brothers were accomplished horn players so why did you pick the violin?

CW: That was probably the churches fault (haha).  I was really young and remember seeing these two brothers playing violin at some church services.  Something about it really intrigued me and one time I remember telling mom that's what I wanted to play next.  So in 4th grade the school system music teacher came around to classes asking if anyone wanted to start an instrument and I promptly asked, "How about the violin?"

AF: What other instruments do you play?

Keith Roberts and Chas Waltz during Radio Show, 2005

CW: Piano, keyboards, mandolin, harmonica, guitar.  I sing a lot in the band as well as having been lead singer in other projects.  

AF: How did your classical violin training morph into a rock n roll performing/recording artist?  

CW: Almost simultaneously!  After about three years of taking lessons and playing in the school orchestra my older brother and I started our first rock band.  It was inevitable as I was listening to a lot of rock n roll by then and was already playing violin so I just figured why not apply it to rock music.  I was wishing by that time that I played guitar but figured what the hell!  

There were a few bands out there that were doing it but VERY FEW so I gave it a shot.  Early on I was emulating a lot of blues guitar players as well as using what classical knowledge I had and as you say, sort of morphed into a rock violinist.  Using my ear to make up stuff and slowly come up with my own style over the years to come.  So out of experimenting with different influences, even the love for classical music, I molded into what I am today.  

Young Dubliners in Mill Valley, CA (photo by Nicole Ryan)

I look back on it now thinking how daring it actually was but at the time, I don't remember thinking much about it, I just did it.  The initial training and lessons gave me a good base for technic and fingering/scale memory, so the classical part of the equation was a good thing!

AF: Tell me about your current band the Young Dubliners.

CW: It all started with Keith, the singer of the band.  He and another guy from Dublin had moved to LA 20 some years ago and started singing in local pubs in Santa Monica, playing old Irish folk songs. Keith was getting itchy and wanted to start a full band.  He was thinking it might be cool to "morph" Irish sounding stuff with rock pop ideas and music that he liked growing up as a kid and start writing some of their own stuff.  So they slowly became a Celtic rock band. Eventually, signed a record deal while Keith had become part owner of a large Irish pub/venue in Santa Monica where they had been performing every Saturday night (among other gigs). That's when I met them.  I had been playing with another Irish singer, Dave King who is the singer/principal songwriter for Flogging Molly now, and we were opening for the Dubs every week.  

Young Dubliners at the Missoula, Montana Irish Fest

Keith eventually asked me to join their band and the rest is history as they say.  Young Dubliners were the real forerunners of what everybody knows as Celtic rock now.  I'm serious. Bands such as Dropkick Murphy's, etc. have cited the Dubs as an influence.  Over the years, we've really developed our sound and become a unique hybrid of music.  We're tons of fun with more than enough musicality to reach a lot of different tastes.  To see us live is to really get what we're about.  High energy with the right portion of reckless. (Said with a smart ass wink)

AF:  Your principle instrument is the violin.  Talk about your instrument.  How many bows do you carry and use during a show?

CW: I use a real violin with an electric pick up added to the bridge.  It just sounds better than an "electric violin".  You get the full body sound of the instrument that way.  As far as the bows, I carry several just in case I break one. (laughing)  I play quite aggressively and beat the crap out of 'em!  I normally use one bow, whichever is my fav at the time, and don't change 'em out during a show.  On an average 2-3 week tour, it'll need to be re-haired when I get home.  Seems as though I break at least several bow hairs per show...hmmm? ;-)

The audience goes into a "controlled frenzy" over the Young Dubliners

AF:  Describe the perfect audience and/or favorite venue to play.

CW: Controlled frenzy!  That's the perfect scenario.  Nice to have crowd energy but still listening, keeps me on my toes.  If the crowd is too wasted, you could fart into the mic for 15 minutes and if they don't know the difference then what's the point?  Hahaha.  Good example is gigging on St. Paddys Day, or what we fondly call amateur day when everybody is Irish.  

Often one of our bigger paying events of the year but can be pretty lame sometimes, people so drunk they're not quite sure whose onstage. However, this last Paddy's Day show we did was amazing.  We played at the historical Hamilton Theater in Washington DC, a mere block away from the White House.  Great crowd and just the right amount of crazy!  One to remember.  We got out of there alive anyways..."

Brendan Holmes and Chas Waltz at the Tønder Festival in Denmark

Favorite venue is a tough choice, got a bunch but right offhand I'd say mine is The Little Bear.  It's an old roadhouse just up the mountains a bit from Denver.  Built in 1910, a lot of wood with a small balcony.  Holds about 400 people and it feels like everyone is right on top of you.  You can't get away with your fly being open.  The vibe is always magical.  Sometimes smaller venues can be epic!

AF: You're also a songwriter, where do you draw your inspiration?  Describe your songwriting process.  Do you compose from what you hear in your head, work out a tune on a keyboard or violin, etc.?

CW: I would say the majority of my ideas pop into my head, a lot of times when I'm driving down the road.  I'll even develop some different parts and sections within my head as well.  Then I'll hum them or sing any lyrical blurbs into my phone memo app. so I don't forget them.  Sometimes they can leave my head as fast as they came.  Usually melodies creep in the most and then I can form some chord progressions in my head, but a lyrical thought can too sometimes.  I just keep my mind open to things in the news or phrases I hear.  It's truly a gift I believe and I try never to take it for granted.  I feel very lucky.

Young Dubliners in Europe at the Tønder Festival in Denmark

Ideas usually come in waves, sometimes weeks will go by when nothing hits me.  Some more complex, some less.... it happens in all different ways.  I will on lesser occasions sit and be banging away on keys or guitar and try developing a song by "pin the tail on the donkey" but more often then not it can sound forced.  Most rarely I'll come up with something on violin.  I think it's because guitar or piano can give me more complete colorations with chords.  I tend to think bigger conceptually right off the bat.  Every songwriter is different, that's the beauty of it!  If I tell you any more I'll have to kill you....

AF:  You travel extensively performing venues all over the world.  Describe the experience and what is the one thing you have learned or describe a favorite adventure.

Young Dubliners - band meeting in an Anchorage hotel

CW: It's an incredible experience I wouldn't trade for anything although it ain't for everybody and hard work!  The most important thing I've learned (sometimes the hard way) is that touring and traveling is a marathon, not a sprint.  The more you eat right and take care of yourself, the longer you last.  Pretty simple equation actually.  AC/DC is a great example.  I know for a fact they've led a pretty clean lifestyle their whole career even though most of their fans have been led to believe otherwise.  They've had a nice long career!

 And try to be nice to people that you're working around.  Really hard to do sometimes especially if your tired.  You never know sometimes if your pissing off a promoter or somebody else that can control your livelihood.  It happens a lot so ya just gotta be a good boy as best you can!  

My favorite adventure on the road has to be a boutique festival we played in the Faroe Islands.  A cluster of 20 islands halfway between Scotland and Iceland that belong to Denmark.  A very kitschy festival that a lot of Europe knows about.  Some very cool acts were there but we ended up headlining one of the nights. We've had a lot of radio play in Scandinavia and do fairly well in that region.  

Chas Waltz faces the fans along with the Young Dubliners

We went on at 1:30 AM (normal because of the extra light in the summer) just starting to get dark and by the time we finished it was getting light again.  All the while in front of 10,000 people going friggin' nuts.  The most surreal show I've ever done.

AF:  You spend a lot of time on the road, what do you consider essential for traveling?  What might surprise your fans?

CW: A good cell phone that works everywhere, a reliable alarm clock (my phone), something for good lumbar support (you're sitting a lot in planes and vehicles), and for me in particular, nail clippers (haha) to keep my finger nails to a nub for better fingering up and down the neck of a violin! Oh and, lots of patience!  A lot goes into a day besides the show.

AF:  The music industry has changed over the years.  What are the biggest challenges you face as a musician?  What changes in the industry do you see in the future?

CW: Finding ways to stay relevant!  All the while staying true to yourself and your music.  Since it's become so much easier to record on your computer and with YouTube becoming the standard for people to check out music and to get your own projects on to be seen and heard, these tools opened the door AND have given more people the illusion that it's easy to become a star!!

The Young Dubliners on stage at the Guinness Festival in Sion, Switzerland

I say HA. It's more like creating a traffic jam!  Or like opening Pandora's Box.  True, you can still find great things and great talent but weeding thru more crap is the tough part.  Keep in mind there are simply more people on this earth than there were 10...20 years ago so that's definitely a factor, but think about it.  

Virtually anyone can record something on their computer and submit it to iTunes or something similar and most likely get it released/accepted.  Or someone with no musical talent can film something really kitschy or funny or cool looking and post it on YouTube and become a sensation, but it's harder than ever for that to happen now too.  Again, yes there is a lot of good music to be found out there but good luck finding it!!  Bottom line, you have to be more clever than ever at marketing your music and ways to reach people.  

Chas Waltz

Sadly, in some ways, music has slowly lost relevancy over the years, becoming more like wallpaper.  There are so many more recreational distractions for people now with advanced technology such as video games, movies at home, etc. disposable cash is being stretched in so many more directions.

All is not bleak though!  In the end there will always be an audience for music, just have to find more ways to reach them.  That is the ultimate challenge!!

As far as the future, who knows?  Things are changing so fast, the rate of unpredictability is changing faster!  Just gotta roll with it.

AF:  Your last album was "9."  Any plans for a future album?

CW: Yes, I think probably by the end of summer we'll get the itch to start a new studio project!  How about "10?"  It will be our 10th album so why not try and make it a perfect 10 (sarcastic laugh).  I'm up for the task.

AF:  Anything else?

CW: Come see the Young Dubliners when you get a chance!  You'll have a great time GUARANTEED.  Think of us as a musical roller coaster that you don't want to end!

Young Dubliners Albums (click on images for more information at the official Young Dubliners Store)

  email link

CHAS WALTZ on the web (partial list):

Young Dubliners Official Website

Young Dubliners Tour Schedule

Young Dubliners Music and Merchandise

Young Dubliners Facebook page

Chas Waltz at Discogs

Young Dubliners Twitter page

Amanda Frye and Chas Waltz in Redlands, California

Chas Waltz - Young Dubliners


All photos courtesy of Chas Waltz