Five Questions With… Andy Maize of Skydiggers
By Jason Schneider
Skydiggers’ latest album, Here Without You: The Songs Of Gene Clark (Latent Recordings), seems at first glance like a project that’s just been waiting for someone to tackle. For Americana aficionados, Clark has always been an underappreciated enigma, but since his death in 1991, his music has continued to have a profound influence on succeeding generations of singer/songwriters.
As a founding member of The Byrds, it was Clark who first emerged as the band’s original voice, contributing his own equally top-notch material to balance their Bob Dylan covers. And upon his departure after co-writing arguably their greatest achievement, “Eight Miles High,” Clark went on to pioneer “country-rock” with the Gosdin Brothers and Doug Dillard, and later produce sporadic, but consistently moving solo albums such asWhite Light and No Other.
Although Clark came back into vogue after Robert Plant and Alison Krauss covered two of his songs on their Grammy-winning Raising Sand (and Kanye West sampled “You Showed Me” on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy), he has never received the constant outpouring of tributes that some of his more glamorous peers like Gram Parsons get.
Enter Skydiggers, whose original three-voice line-up was in some ways modeled after the Clark-era Byrds. Now 16 (more or less) albums into their 25-plus years together, principal members Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson have come full circle on Here Without You, a passionately executed eight-song survey of Clark’s finest moments, accentuated by their frequent collaborator Jessy Bell Smith on vocals.
The album is a treasure for Skydiggers fans, and for those who may only know Gene Clark’s work in passing, it provides a solid introduction to his deep catalogue of memorable songs.
What makes Gene Clark’s songs so timeless?
I’m not sure you can ever point to one thing that makes a song timeless. In the case of Gene Clark’s songs, I think that it’s a combination of his melodies and lyrics that have resonated with me.
His work has always been overshadowed by many of his peers. Why do you think that is?
From what I’ve read about him, Gene Clark seemed to have the ability to engage in a bit of self-sabotage—something that’s not unheard of in the world of rock ‘n roll and popular music in general. Whether it’s ego, addiction, poor choices in relationships or that old standby, personal and artistic insecurity and self-doubt, those of us who have been in the music business long enough all know people who had all the talent in the world but couldn’t seem to get out of their own way.
What has been the biggest change in your life (or within that band) over the past year?
I think over the past year I’ve realized just how grateful I am for all of the people in my life and for all of the opportunities that a life in music has given me.
Skydiggers are approaching 30 years as a band. What has kept your creative partnership together?
Respect. Friendship. Love. Curiosity.
If there is anything you’d like to change about the music industry, what would it be?
Less industry, more music!