Every musician at one point or another dreams of one day chucking their instrument in the van, stuffing some clothes in a rucksack and hitting the highway without much more than a wistful backward glance. Very few ever manage to act on this impulse, however. After all, dreaming of riding the rails like Woody Guthrie is one thing, but actually going "off the grid" and doing it is another entirely.
Greg Klyma emerged in the latter 1990s as part of what would become a bona fide roots music movement in Buffalo. After kicking around the open mic/coffeehouse/some dude's living room circuit in Buffalo for a few years, Klyma decided to man up and hit the highway. He's been going ever since. At 8 p.m. Saturday, Klyma comes home for a birthday gig inside the Sportsmen's Tavern (326 Amherst St.). Here, he catches us up on the troubadour's life. (See www.klyma.com.)
>What have you been up to, you road rat, you?
Man, promoting my "Pianomandonation" disc, taking stock of a good life and putting down some roots in Somerville, Mass. I've got well over a half million miles logged and an acute awareness that I'm never gonna be a rock star. I'm a Capricorn with a Buffalo-bred blue-collar work ethic. Quitting has never been an option. I've been rethinking the model and decided to immerse myself in a great community. I want to learn a second language, perfect chicken soup and become a better dancer. I'll still tour. Just not all the time.
>Most of us don't leave town too often, so we can't see the forest for the trees. What's your take on the state of things, music-wise, in Western New York today?
When I met Levon Helm, he put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and told me all the best musicians he's ever known were from Buffalo, N.Y. I'm certain that was a nod to [late keyboardist] Stan Szelest. Buffalo has a long history of producing great musical talent. Yet folks here think they live in a sports town, a factory town.
Bethlehem Steel, Westinghouse, Trico ... it's all gone, man. The Bills and Sabres have not helped the city's image nationwide. Buffalo has a wicked talent pool and great venues presenting it. I know a community of people in town who really value it, but across the board, I think the population takes it for granted, expects it for free, and doesn't know how to celebrate just how good it really is.
>You're playing at the Sportsmen's this time around. What do you think of the massive structural changes that Dwane Hall and company have begun implementing over there?
Dwane is the mayor of Black Rock and the ambassador of good will for traveling musicians visiting the Nickel City. Go to Baltimore, Austin ... anywhere, and mention Dwane to a touring band. They'll all smile and speak highly of the man. There's definitely a resurgence happening for the Buffalo music scene -- at home and away.
>What's next, Mr. Klyma?
Mr. Klyma could use a benefactor in every port, or just one who really believes in my songs. I've always had more songs than dollars, and now rent is due, ya know. What to do next? I've got enough material for another rock album and would like to work on a roots country album as well; a concert DVD with a bonus feature guitar lesson is recorded and ready to print; I'm heading to Sundance in Utah in late January to shop some songs around to movie makers; I just met an animator and may work on something with him for YouTube. First, get some capital together, then I believe I'll get that DVD out and figure career things from there -- one foot in front of the other. Same as it ever was.
-- Jeff Miers