Evan Hatfield

“Music has always been the main driving force in my life and I can’t really envision myself doing anything but music for a living…”

S: Tell me about yourself. Who is Evan Hatfield? Where are you from?

E: I grew up in a pretty musical family in Visalia, California.  Music has always been the main driving force in my life and I can’t really envision myself doing anything but music for a living, and still be content with myself that is.  Music is really the only thing in my life that can allow me to feel things all across the emotional spectrum. I currently live in Southern California and work in the music industry as a session player,  producer, performer, and an educator.

S: What instruments do you play and how long have you been playing them?

E: I started out on piano.  I think my mom had me start taking lessons when I was 5 or 6 years old.  I hated it. I remember so much trauma involved with being forced to practice the damn thing.  Which is funny because just sitting down and playing piano is now one of my favorite things to do.  My poor piano teacher though, hats of to her for being so patient.

At probably 9 years old is when I started picking up the sax, which I immediately feel in love with.  I remember going to jazz camp at La Jolla middle school and learning the basics of improvisation, which really made me look at music completely differently from that point on.

Around the same time I picked up sax,  I was also getting into the guitar. My mom plays and so there was always one laying around the house.   She taught me a few chords and I just kinda ran with it. I remember getting these magazines with the tablature to Jimmy Page solos and things like that and I really just taught myself a lot of that.

What really became the game changer though came when I was in the later half of high school.  My grandparents took a trip to India that I was supposed to accompany them on. My band director advised against it however ( I was the section leader in marching band and he was pretty reliant on having me there).  So I ended up not going. Its crazy how that one decision drastically altered the course of my life, because they felt bad I couldn’t come and ended up getting a sitar for me while they were in New Delhi. When they brought it back,  I had no idea what to do with it. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I started to pick it up.

In recent years, I’ve started to dive into a few more instruments such as the Persian Oud and synthesizers (which really is a beast of its own category, yeah it has keys like a piano, but the ability to really dial in the ideal and desired sound is amazing).

S: Did you study music? What was your major or emphasis? Do you plan to continue your career with music?

E: Ive studied a lot of different styles of music.  Jazz, western classical, Indian classical, and Indian folk are among the top areas Ive dived into, But there is so much out there and I feel like Ive hardly scratched the surface.   

The most in depth study I have done is in Classical Indian music and the Raga system. My guru (which really just means teacher) studied under Pandit Ravi Shankar. His abilities on sitar is incredible and I had the pleasure of living in his house and studying the instrument intensively for several months.  It’s really the only time in my life where I have had a routine of practicing 8 hours a day. It was really intense but I am so grateful for it now.

S: What style of music do you play?

E: I’m in a lot of different bands and music projects.  Its hard to put a genre on some of them really. Some of my favorite groups to play with fall into the “psychedlic funk” category I suppose, but I do a lot of other things as well.  I produce a lot of my own music that has a lot of deep house and techno qualities to it. I mix that with my sitar and other instruments for a sort of desert sounding electric vibe, but its so hard to lock it into one genre.  I compose and play from my heart, some may say it falls into this genre, or that genre, but it’s really just me being me.

S: Does music run in your family?

E: I guess you could say that.  My mom is a pretty awesome classical guitarist and pianist.  It really played an important roll in my musical upbringing. I know there were some big band leaders and that sort of thing in my moms lineage too.  The whole “crazy artist” thing seems to go back for quite a few generations.

S: Where do you draw your inspiration from in regards to playing and producing music?

E: Hmmm, that’s a hard one because its always something different. Sometimes it is from me just walking around and hearing cool sounds and it triggers something inside of me.  Sometimes it is from different composers that I follow. Sometimes it’s from going to music festivals and hearing super weird experimental electronic music that inspires me.

My emotional state at the time of composing has a lot to do with it as well. Sometimes I sit down and all is right with the world and I make pretty ethereal sounding music.  Sometimes I’m a little more uneasy with things and I need to just pound out a dark techno banger.

S: How long have you been performing music?

E: Pretty much my entire life.  I used to do piano recitals when I was younger, and when I got into my teenage years I started to play with different bands and pursue my own solo music.  It’s been a steady thing ever since. Being on stage and expressing myself musically gives me so much life. It is literally what I live for and I am so grateful that I get to do regularly.

S: What projects are you currently involved in?

E: There’s a handful of steady projects and a few that I get to hop into once every once in a while.

One of the bands I play with regularly is called Paracosmic.  It’s a very psychedelic funky group. It is all instrumental and there is a lot improvisation and telepathy that happens on stage.  We play a lot of festivals around the west coast. I play tenor sax, keyboards, and sitar with that group. It’s a lot of fun, and super funky.

Another band I play with a lot is The Blood Moon Howlers.  We have been coined as “Whiskey Drenched Blues”. I play primarily sax with them. It’s definitely the most “rock n roll” sounding group I have played with and it really is a blast.

I play piano and sax for a few singer-songwriters too,  which really keeps me on my toes as far as knowing my music theory.  When I’m on stage with someone playing a song I’ve only heard once on the car ride to the gig,  I have to use a lot of intuition as far as figuring out what chord will come next. Learning to make mistakes gracefully is really important with this too.

I work with an Independent record label called Pinkturban.  The label is run by a friend of mine who plays tabla and produces pretty unique tech-house tracks.  We are attempting to carve out the new genre of “Indian-Techno-Funk”.

I have my own solo project under my own name too, and a lot of really exciting things are happening with that.  I”m releasing my first EP on the Pinkturban Label in a month from now and I am beyond excited about it. Its a mix of world music and deep house. One of my all-time favorite producer/djs did a remix of the A side too. He goes by “Goldcap” and is responsible for my love of the Burningman, world-flavored, deep house vibe. There are a lot of other projects that I am involved in as well, most of which I’ll just sit in on a gig here and there, or lay stuff down in the studio with.  Every day is always different and that’s how I like it.

S: What do you think is the status of jazz today? What do you think is the status of jazz in the Central Valley?

E: I feel like “jazz” is such broad term.  There is a lot that could be considered jazz to me, and not to others.   I really like what Kamasi Washington has done for the jazz scene down here in LA.  There is an artist by the name of Shigeto out of Detroit doing some really cool things with the genre as well.

As for the Central Valley, I really owe it to my band directors and music teachers growing up there.  I would never have had the foundation I have now without them. As for a jazz scene there, It’s simply nice know there is a scene for it at all!

S: What do you think is the future of jazz?

E: I really think there is going to be a lot more cross genre work in the field. I also feel like the new technologies like Ableton Push are going to find their way into jazz more and more.  It’s already being done on the underground scene and I really can’t wait to see what else comes with it. Jazz has always been about pushing the envelop of what is possible.  I think about what Coltrane was doing back in the 60’s and 70’s, and no one was doing anything like that. I really hope to see more musicians getting out there like he did. He wasn’t trying to sound like anyone else, he was just expressing his soul. That’s what makes great music, in any genre. He wasn’t trying to impress anyone. I hope more musicians get that.

Interview by Stephanie Barraza