Here is a mini interview that I'm conducting with Lil’ Rev back in 2006 on my Jazz Guitar Resources web site.
Lil’ Rev - Bio
Lil’ Rev tours extensively throughout the Midwest as a frequent performer at clubs, festivals, coffeehouses, schools, libraries, health care facilities and retirement communities.
His music draws from multiple styles including dixieland jazz, standard of 20's and 30's, blues, folk songs, Irish, ethnic waltzes, reels, jigs, polkas and original works.
Lil’ Rev is a multi-instrumentalist playing guitar, mandolin, ukulele, harmonica and kazoo.
Here a few of the awards Lil’ Rev has garnered:
- Voted Best Folk Singer in Wisconsin -- WAMI 2004
- Inducted into The Traditional Old-Time Country Music Hall of Fame - 2003
- Voted Best Instrumentalist Harmonica -- WAMI 2000
- Voted Best Acoustic Act in Milwaukee 1996-1997 Shepherd Express Reader's Choice
- Hohner's 1996 National Blues Harmonica Champion
The Interview (July 2006)
(Curt Sheller) As a musician who where your early influences?
(Lil’ Rev) Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Josh White, Sonny Terry, Johnny Cash, Nick Lucas, Uke Ike, Banjo Ikey Robinson, Pete Seeger, Eddie Cantor, Bert Williams are my main ones, but there are a few others as well.
(Lil’ Rev) I assume "Lil' Rev" is a stage name. Where does the name "Lil' Rev" come From?
Rev is short for Revenson, Lil Rev is a nick name from my childhood days.
(CS) Current Performing setup?
(Lil’ Rev) I use the C-Tuning for all my Ukes, Mostly I play with a high G, but I am beginning to branch out more lately with my recent endorsement by G-String Ukuleles. I love the sound of the high G, but sometimes feel limited, when travel permits, I will carry my G-String with low G and my main Axe (National Uke-) tuned with a high G. I use Hilo Brand Strings and Sometimes GHS.
(CS) Musicians are always intersted in gear. And ukulele players, what tuning players use? Can you talk about your current performing setup and some of the problems you might encounter when performing using a ukulele? I know traveling with a ukulele is a lot easier than my guitar.
My main Uke is my Mahogany National Concert Resonator, I love the sustain, the attack is crisp and the fret board is real smooth. Because I play a lot of Blues & Novelty music, this is best suited for my style.
Problems: What problems? I am one who believes that anything is possible on the Uke! I never limit myself, besides, I am old school and thus, I always try to keep my arrangements as simplistic as possible, I am going for taste and feeling like the old blues guys, if you want pyro-technics, I am not the uke player for you! Listen to Norman Blake on the guitar these days, I mean the guy can play anything he wants, but he chooses to go with “less is more,” There is nothing that impresses me about a million notes a minute. I want to hear melody and a little bit or movement around it, anything else is, just showing off!
(CS) How do you feel the internet adds to promoting and presenting your music? I for one have gotten a lot of value from it for my Ukulele and Jazz Guitar web sites and my personal site. Also, allows one to interact with lots of great musicians around the world?
(Lil’ Rev) While so much of what I love and the way I choose to live revolves around simplicity, I feel that technology is a blessing. Even though it has gone on too long! The internet has allowed me to connect with new fans all over the world and selling my CDS thru elderly and Cdbaby has been very good to me. My goal with technology is to strike a balance with nature, I mean, find some things to do that get you away from your ipod, computer, tv and such and go walk in the woods, if you can create harmony with these tools and your time, then it is truly a blessing.
(CS) You recently released a new method book for ukulele and published by Hal Leonard titled "Hal Leonard Ukulele Method Book 1". How did this come about?
(Lil’ Rev) The new book, well, that is another gift from above! I was looking for a chance to share my ideas and teachings with a larger audience, Hal Leonard Approached me and the rest is history, I am thrilled to know that people all over the world now have access to my instructional material, this has been a dream of mine and I am fortunate that this opportunity came my way. The companion DVD to my first book is due out later this summer and my easy solos for Ukulele is due out by the end of the year. The Hal Leonard Ukulele Method Book #2 I am working on right now, it probably won’t see the light of day til late 2007 or even early 2008.
(CS) Can you talk about some of you current and future projects?
(Lil’ Rev) First is to finish The Uke Method Book #2 this year. I am also working on compiling a book my poems for publication. Mostly they are observations from my life on the road and living in the Midwest…a chap book of sorts!
Beyond this I can’t say, life is unpredictable, I have lots of travel plans this year, North Carolina, Michigan, Colorado and my Southwestern Winter Tour will keep me out on the road, for now, I love spending time tending to my garden.
(CS) On the surface one might think that the four strings of a ukule and the limited range would be a problem. I feel having four strings all of a sudden doesn't become a limit but a benefit. How has the ukulele helped you with any other instruments you might play?
The Uke has helped with other instruments in that when I hear some old tune or some new melody in my head, I can hear right away what instrument it would work on, other times, I might experiment with a tunes and try to arrange it for multiple instruments then decide which one it feels the most right on. I love options and I love variety in my life. The Uke is one of many loves of mine! Mostly I lean towards playing Blues, Rags, Old Time, Folk and Originals on the Uke.
(CS) When adapting a song or composition to ukulele what are some of the challenges and how do you deal with them?
As far as arranging is concerned, I can choose, do I want to finger pick this, strum it, play lead line stuff, chord melody like stuff or the combination of these. So really I don’t feel encumbered or burdened by limitations others might feel. I try to focus on the positive side of life, rather then dwell on any perceived deficiencies. The Uke came to me as a gift from an old friend, it has been nothing but a blessing to me in this life time. I know I use the word blessing a lot, but hey, I am grateful for everyday I get to make music and share it with others.
Lil’ Rev's Musician Listing Here on Curt Sheller Publications
Artist Info click here to view more info
Lil' Rev is a Milwaukee based, full-time musician who's "gaining national attention as one of the most up-and-coming performers in his genre" (Christopher Clough, Green Bay News Chronicle). Lil' Rev performs Stephen Foster minstrel songs, Delta holler blues, featuring classic songs as well as originals ... all of which can best be described as good time music.