Doug Wintch and Julie Hill may not embrace the we-the-people rhetoric of the 21st century—taking the “power” back from the multinational corporations employing wage-slaves in the formerly great United States of America. Doug and Julie embrace the we-the-people ideal because they are “the people.”
On July 29, Julie Hill will host her third Farm Folk Fest. The setting is the Holmgren Historical Farm & Gardens at 460 N. 300 East in Tremonton. The day begins with a country breakfast served at 9:30 a.m. The music begins at 10 a.m. with Assembly Required. Some of Utah’s most talented musicians will appear as the day continues. Kate MacLeod, Peter Breinholt, Gearl Jam, Larry Pattis— and the list continues.
New this year is a songwriting workshop July 28, the day before the Farm Folk Fest. None other than Leraine Horstmanshoff will give instruction titled, “Improvisation: The Art of Letting Go.” I can’t imagine a better person to present that discussion. Cori Connors will address the topic, “Songwriting: Creating a Strong Lyric.” (Call Julie Hill at 435-257-5111 to register or for more information on either the Farm Folk Fest or the workshop.)
Doug Wintch will appear on the Farm Folk Fest stage at 3 p.m. A few thousand locals witnessed Wintch and his new band opening for Junior Brown at the Gallivan Center recently. A few thousand more witnessed Wintch at the Salt Lake Art Festival. Some folks may want to know more about this Wintch fellow, as he’s been quite visible lately. I had breakfast with him on a recent hung-over Saturday morning, and here’s what I found out.
“The first gig was—besides street singing … at Trolley Square singing to bricks, and people would walk by and throw you a quarter—the first gig was as a trio at the Salt City Jail. We punched a time clock. We split 10 bucks an hour so we each got $3.33 and all the french fries we could eat in the janitor’s closet,” Wintch says. “We played some fraternity gigs and some weddings, but we couldn’t get a gig. We just couldn’t. We were playing sort of the same kind of music that I play now, and it wasn’t any more popular then than it is now.”
What kind of music does Doug Wintch play? Some gentlemen in the restaurant recognized him from his Junior Brown gig and said, “Oh, you’re that folk singer.”
“It’s like, the easiest handle is ‘Americana,’ because it covers bits of folk and bits of rock and country and blues. Mix it all together. They call Bob Dylan folk. If you listen to a Bob Dylan album, or several of his albums, he covers so much area. I’ve always wanted to do the same. Or the Beatles even. Or the Stones,” Wintch says. “The Stones play better honky-tonk music than anybody. It’s too bad people want to stick a label on it that doesn’t represent it. People love the Stones, but they say they don’t like hillbilly music.”
Early on, Wintch had a combo called The Tabasco Star Boys. A photo of the group circa 1979 is available in the booklet accompanying his Wooden Nickels CD. The group played the defunct Hole in the Wall tavern and warehouse parties. “After the band broke up and I started doing solo things, I did the pizza circuit … the Grub Steak. There was a wallpaper gig. It’s in Park City. It’s a giant steakhouse and the stage is about 10 feet in the air. As people are walking out, they actually see you. They thought they’d been listening to canned music, and with shocked looks on their faces [they’d say], ‘Hey, there’s a guy up there singing.’”
Ski resorts proved accessible showcases because Wintch had worked as a ski instructor, one of several occupations. And he’s played a lot in Texas. “I still go there twice a year. It sounds cool, but what I do is go and play in people’s living rooms. You tell people, ‘Yeah, I’m going to Austin,’ and I guess they have a certain idea. But it’s a house concert. I’ve played in clubs all over Texas, but it’s more fun to go do a concert in someone’s house—you get paid better, you get treated better, you sell CDs.”
The well-known and -loved Megan Peters once said Wintch had introduced her to the famous Kerrville Folk Festival. Wintch has a tale about his first visit to Kerrville. “It was about ’94, the first time I went. I didn’t know anything about it or what I was getting into. I didn’t even make a good plan to get there. I flew to San Antonio and didn’t know how I was going to get to Kerrville, which is over an hour away,” Wintch says. “While I’m at the airport, I went to the information desk and asked, ‘Do you have any idea of a good way to get to Kerrville?’ They go, ‘Well, the van was just here picking up Peter Yarrow. They’re just over at the other terminal I bet.’ I go, ‘Would you get on the phone and see if I can get a ride.’ The next thing I know I’m walking through the airport and Peter Yarrow is carrying my guitar, helping me to the van.” (Peter Yarrow is, of course, the Peter in Peter, Paul & Mary.)
As mentioned previously, Wintch has held a number of different jobs. One of the most intriguing was the time he spent as a cook for Great Salt Lake brine shrimpers. He hasn’t written any songs about brine shrimping, but he has written one about the time he spent living on Stansbury Island. Listen for that tune in a live setting, but more importantly, listen to Wintch’s songs about women.
“That is my history—problems with women. Songwriting is a good way to figure those things out. The tricky part is knowing when you have a good song vs. something that belongs in your journal. I hope I’m not guilty of that. Usually I recognize it, because I’ve written plenty of songs that don’t belong on albums,” Wintch says. “It’s my outlet. It’s how I figure out my world, my dilemma, some impossible situation. I make up a song.”
Doug Wintch will perform solo at Julie Hill’s Farm Folk Fest, July 29, at the Holmgren Historical Farm & Gardens, 460 N. 300 East in Tremonton. Breakfast is at 9:30 a.m.; music begins at 10 a.m. Families are encouraged to attend the event. Information: 435-257-5111.