Q&A with County Well co-founder, Don Zimmer, also a producer, guitarist, songwriter and founder of FloatingRecord

"We all love music. It affects people in such a special way. It just seems to bring joy with it wherever it goes and those are fantastic implications."

Don Zimmer: County Well and Drink More

The County Well released their new album titled “Drink More” (2021 / Floating Records). Drink More follows the success of the release of their debut CD, “Future Country,” and second outing, “A Little Infinity,” which was paired with the creation of a uniquely-crafted infinity lager beer from the Sawtooth Brewery. “Drink More” continues the creeds of Freedom and Fun. Having moved to the Wood River Valley of Idaho from Marin County, where The County Well was conceived, Don Zimmer, County Well co-founder, who is also producer, guitarist and songwriter, has continued his creative pursuit of the Tom Waits-Mad Professor-of-the-Recording Studio style. Painstakingly recording one track at a time with stalwart musicians from across the country, Zimmer has produced a twelve-song, thirty-two-minute journey across multiple musical genres.

(Photo: Don Zimmer)

Graham Guest, County Well co-founder (of Houston-based group Moses Guest) provides lead vocals, guitar, banjo, pedal steel and keyboard throughout—all while adding significant tone, texture and style to the tracks. Local Idaho heroine Michaela French and Michael Batdorf (One Ton Pig) contribute lead vocals as well. Also featured: on drums, Josh Kelly (Bruce Willis Band); bass, Lyle Evans (Chris LeDoux); horns, Bob Hemenger; violin, Bill Panks; keyboards, Adam Rossi (Jeffrey Halford); local Paul Gregory on guitar, Mark Karan (Bob Weir’s Ratdog); plus the aforementioned Guest and Zimmer. The uniqueness of The County Well: Drink More comes from the joy of the recording studio and the love of blending voices while keeping the rhythms and grooves tight. Drink More was produced at a time when session work was the only work around.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Roots music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

From a musical standpoint, I would say it has opened some doors and dropped some boundaries. Seems we have less traditional blues, jazz and folk and more blends of all these elements. Musicians are playing more styles and playing with a wider cast or instruments. The musical journeys are being able to play with different people who are all open to different genres.

How do you describe band's sound, music philosophy and songbook? Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album "Drink More"?

The County Well is a recording project, not what you would call a band. Some of the players have never met the other players. Therefore the “band’s sound” can be very different song to song. I don’t think you get that with your more traditional group ensemble. Our musical philosophy is to try whatever instrument/artist we can find, who can add a tone or sound we are looking for. Bob Hemenger from Pegosa Spings, Colorado, remotely added horns to three songs on the album.  This was our first venture into a horn section. It was what the songs wanted and when we added his parts the songs seemed to jump.

"My musical paths have led me to get to develop friendships with a lot of people, I might not have got to know. These friendships turn out to be unique and special because you communicate on the alternative level of music." (Don Zimmer / Photo by Barry Toranto)

Are there any specific memorable moments with people that you’ve performed with either live or in the studio?

Many. A lot of our songs start out with a drum loop. A guitar might be added next with a scratch vocal track. Personally, when our lead singers, Michaela French or Graham Guest re do the scratch vocal with the real one, the song is born, and that moment always brings me immense joy.  The creation is alive and well.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I am not fearful, and my hopes are simply for peace and harmony. Musically, I am a better musician now and having more fun than ever. 

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would change something about streaming. The decline of the CD was a terrible thing for your local, unsigned artist who could easily carry discs and sell them at gigs. Streaming has completely changed the financial returns from recording original content which is what we are all about.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

My musical paths have led me to get to develop friendships with a lot of people, I might not have got to know. These friendships turn out to be unique and special because you communicate on the alternative level of music.

"From a musical standpoint, I would say it has opened some doors and dropped some boundaries. Seems we have less traditional blues, jazz and folk and more blends of all these elements. Musicians are playing more styles and playing with a wider cast or instruments. The musical journeys are being able to play with different people who are all open to different genres."

(Photo: Don Zimmer)

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want to affect people?

We all love music. It affects people in such a special way. It just seems to bring joy with it wherever it goes and those are fantastic implications.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Drop me on a tropical island, with white sand and turquoise water, a tiki bar, my family and some musical friends and I will be good.

County Well @ Sun Valley Records

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