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Meet Christopher Lockett of Gritbiscuit Records label in Los Feliz

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christopher Lockett.

Thanks for sharing your story with us. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
I’ve released three albums on my own Gritbiscuit Records label. This year, we’ll be releasing our first album that’s not a Lockett album. It’s a spoken word poetry album by L.A. legend S.A. Griffin. 

My albums were released in 2009, 2012, and the most recent came out in December, 2018. “Boutique” label is another way of saying “small.” And that’s okay with me. These albums are small, focused, not for everyone, but finding their own audience on their own terms. Hand-crafted, not always fit for mass consumption. 

To me, a song is very much like a cheeseburger. Fits in your hand, perfect blend of flavors and textures, totally fulfilling. That is, if care goes into making it. I liken a lot of current pop radio to a drive-thru burger. Consistent, but consistently bland. You know what you’re going to get. But a proper, local, hand-made burger? Sublime. I’m just trying to offer the world a better cheeseburger, knowing the drive- thru will outsell the handmade every time. 

Genre labels don’t interest me much, but most of my music is under the Americana umbrella. But astute listeners can hear elements of blues, bluegrass, folk, country, and world music in what I do. In my day job, as a cinematographer on shows like Big Brother, Naked & Afraid XL, and documentaries like Until They’re Gone – a film about people removing landmines in Cambodia, I get to travel a lot, and usually come home with instruments. 

A typical set includes guitar, vocals, blues harmonica, jaw harp, kalimba (African thumb piano), and sometimes Appalachian dulcimer, tongue drum, harmonium, banjo, etc. It can be eclectic, but somehow all the pieces fit together. 

The day job frequently has me working 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, often very far away from home (I’ve shot on 5 continents so far), it’s hard to maintain a band, or even regular bookings, so I perform solo most often. Maybe that’s seeped into the guitar style, which is slightly percussive – gotta keep that beat going – or because I listen to so many solo singer-songwriters, but I love performing solo. When I do get to perform with a whole band, that’s wonderful. I’d love to do that more often. 

The first two albums I recorded in my home studio. Produced, arranged, engineered. Not because my ego is that massive, but because I could afford me. This third album, I worked with Fernando Perdomo at Reseda Ranch Studios. That was intense, and delightful, and freed up a lot of my thinking about how to approach the next album. Fernando is a studio whiz, an insanely talented multi-instrumentalist, and this latest album is by far the best music I’ve ever made. 

Having other great artists on the album didn’t hurt either. Joel Martin, Kaitlin Wolfberg, Trevi Fligg, Claire Holley, and Kitten Kuroi join in the fun. It’s a heavy album, thematically, deals with mortality often. But it doesn’t get too maudlin. We work that old country music trick where you sing the heavy lyric, but the music makes you tap your feet. It’s not too much on the nose, it moves. 

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Initially, the struggle was figuring out how to do it, again, all of it. I stopped playing live music from 1993-2006. Bookings I could figure out, that’s not unlike trying to book shows as a freelance cinematographer. But I had to figure out recording, and figure out the press/PR stuff. 

I’m a former journalist – used to be a staff writer/ photographer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, so I’m no stranger to press releases. But the rules of the road in online media seem to change fairly often, and it’s a challenge to stay on top of it. 

Of course, all of that used to be someone else’s job. But there’s not enough meat on the bones for most reasonable people to take on that job at the indie level. So it’s very much a DIY thing. Thankfully, I absorbed a lot of that message listening to punk in the 80’s. But it remains a struggle to get people’s attention. The world is saturated with media, and a lot of it more or less free to the consumer. So an independent artist is in competition with the much better funded, better vertically-integrated corporate record labels, etc. 

But, if something does catch the public’s attention, an indie artist today retains their masters, their publishing, everything. No middle man, so you can keep a higher percentage of a sale. But the tradeoff is that you don’t have anyone in your corner whose job it is to market you and your music. It’s a fine line between promoting your shows, and being annoying about it. 

It’s also fundamentally at odds with what being an artist is. No one ever sat at the edge of their bed, cradling a guitar, trying to write a song with some emotional depth akin to Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, or Bill Morrissey, guys who wrote songs that have literally kept me alive some nights, and thought; “Sure can’t wait to take this song out on the road, share it with people who can use it some dark night…. and market it.” 

What should we know about Gritbiscuit Records label? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Gritbiscuit Records, if it is known at all, is just a wee label that releases my music. We are expanding, and I’m really looking forward to sharing S.A. Griffin’s work by the fall. He’s a fantastic poet, and comes to the party with an eclectic resume. He was the co-editor of the American Bible of Outlaw Poetry, but he is also an actor. He was the only left-handed gunman in the Clint Eastwood classic, Pale Rider, for instance. 

What am I known for as an artist? For playing high energy, eclectic shows. Singer-songwriters are everywhere. Jaw harp players are practically non-existent. Throw in the blues harp, and kalimba, and I’m reasonably assured that no one else in town (or anywhere else, really) is playing the same kind of sets I am. 

Might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m playing the kind of music I’d like to hear. Songs steeped in poetry, some “real meat” to the lyrics as one recent review put it, and some musicianship that will hopefully make the whole thing go down a little easier. 

When I did Live At Lockett’s, a living room concert web series I filmed in my living room, I photographed the artists in front of my bookshelves. That was very deliberate. I tire easily of the notion of the “literate singer-songwriter” that certain east coast cities lay claim to. We read out here on this coast, too. A lot. Although someone did ask me: “Dude, where’d you get the book props?” They’re my books, thanks. L.A. has a lot of talent that never really seems to catch on outside certain circles. But there is a lot of quality here, and the bench is really deep. That series featured a lot of the people I’ve been lucky enough to share bills with, who I wish could find a broader audience. But… the drive-thru cheeseburger will always outsell the handmade. The handmade, though…. much more tasty. 

Live At Lockett’s is 168 videos, and is archived on YouTube and Facebook. 

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Releasing the latest album at Hotel Cafe with a full band behind me. They played so well. I was fighting the flu, and the flu was winning. But it was a great night of music. Hearing people who play songs you wrote, but playing them much more beautifully than you imagined when you wrote them…. everyone should have that moment. It’s glorious. 

Contact Info: 

Image Credit:
Christopher Lockett, Jonathan Hale, Alicia Lyman and Melissa Holt

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition, please let us know here.

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