Archive for Thursday, June 18, 1998


June 18, 1998


Soul singer-Hammond B3 player Mike Finnigan was feeling the effects of a stack of pancakes he'd just eaten at The Paradise Cafe, a favorite spot to get his ``carbo fix'' when he's in Lawrence.

``Oh, man, they're good,'' he said.

This week, Finnigan and Lawrence R&B; singer-pianist Kelley Hunt are winding up their ``Soul to Soul II'' tour, a jog through eight Midwest cities in less that a month's time. They play Friday night at Liberty Hall, 644 Mass.

After the tour, Hunt will remain on the road. She and her band will keep dates in Canada, Seattle and Portland -- with a one-day break on July 4 to make an appearance on National Public Radio's ``A Prairie Home Companion'' show, which will be broadcast from Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Mo.

And movie goers will be able to hear Hunt sing her original song ``If I Don't Dance'' when the feature film ``Dance with Me,'' starring Vanessa Williams, is released nationwide on July 31. Hunt said the song is being considered for the movie's soundtrack.

Finnigan, who played on Jimi Hendrix's ``Electric Ladyland,'' is featured on Etta James' new CD that will be released in July and an upcoming CD with Crosby, Stills and Nash. He will tour this summer both groups to help promote the CDs.

Finnigan is a much-in-demand studio musician, whose work spans commercials, film and TV and includes singing for the television drama ``ER.''

The two musicians took time out last week to talk to The Mag.

How did you two meet and get together?

Kelley: I guess we met when you rented the piano.

Mike: That was sometime in the late '80s. I came here to play with Bill Lynch (a Lawrence guitar player) and we had some kind of glitch with the piano, and we were looking around for a piano. Bill knew Kelley. ... She brought her piano to The Bottleneck in the daytime. That takes a lot of guts -- that place is pretty scary in the daytime. And that's when I met her. Then I got a tape, I think.

Kelley: Well, I gave you one that day.

Mike: I listened to it and was really impressed. ... We got together and Kelley came to L.A. We went into the studio together and made her CD (``Kelley Hunt'').

You knew who Mike was before you met him (at The Bottleneck)?

Kelley: I knew about him since the time I was in high school, but I didn't get to see him play live until I was maybe 18 or 19. ... That was like in 1978. ... That's why I was so adamant about bringing him the piano myself. ... I still have pictures of that night. ... I was sitting right in the front going click, click, click.

So when was the first time you performed together?

Kelley: On New Year's Eve of '94 or '95.

Mike: Now didn't we do a couple of shows before your CD came out?

Kelley: Yeah, wasn't that '94?

Mike: ... We went to Denver and did a couple of gigs. It was more of a push to get her CD out. ... Then we did some New Year's Eves here. Two years ago, I came out here and we played the Cotillion (in Wichita) and did the same kind of thing we're doing now. ... With a few days of rehearsal, we can put something together that's pretty cool.

How is your music similar? And how are you different?

Mike: Well, I think our roots are very similar. ``We went to different schools together,'' I think is the expression.

Kelley: We're singing a lot of the same keys, I know that.

Mike: We're both heavily influenced by the rhythm and blues/gospel kind of music. A lot of the same artists, I think. ... It's rare that people have that kind of musical common ground. ... There's no barriers or boundaries. I could hear from her tapes of just piano and vocals, I could tell what she was doing. You know, it moved me. I trust that more than I trust anything.

Kelley: We're different --

Mike: Yeah, I'm younger. (Laughter erupts.)

Kelley: Well, I think our life experiences are different ... but musically I look at him as a soul mate. ... You're a lot meaner than I am. (They laugh again.)

Mike: I think I'm more cynical sometimes. Just because I've been on the planet for 53 years and played a million upholstered sewers. I've heard it all, seen it all and done it all. ... I've been in the business for 34 years. That'll beat you up a little. It's kind of hard to come out of that sane.

Kelley, how long have you been in the business?

Kelley: I'd say, when I actually had the experience of going into a recording studio and traveling and playing on a full-time basis, let's say about 15 (years). Up to that time, you know, it was like high school and playing on weekends.

Mike: You hadn't made the commitment yet. You hadn't gone crazy yet. (Laughter.) No one in their right mind would make this a career choice. You know, you don't choose music, it chooses you. ... It's not an intellectual decision.

Kelley: And it's emotionally tough.

Are there any projects you'd like to do? Some goal you aspire to?

Mike: I'm happy doing what I do. I'd like to spend more time with my own thing. I'll tell you the truth. It's very hard to walk away from a pretty good living with the responsibilites I have and pursue a solo career. (He is married, his daughter attends Kansas University and his son goes to a New England prep school.) It's a hell of a sacrifice. ... Ideally, I'd like to just have a blues band and play blues festivals and blues joints.

Kelley: I think what I'd like are two things. One, I'd like to literally have the time and income to write peacefully and uninterruptedly and have a decent family life. And two, tour during specific parts of the year, where I'm not doing it 12 months out of the year.

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