photo by: Calethia DeConta
With a new record and EP under Pluralone, plus a potential tour in the near future, Josh Klinghoffer is feeling as creative as ever.
Last week I randomly shared on social media that I had a great conversation with Josh Klinghoffer the night before. A short 10 hours later, I find myself knee-deep in chats with fans from around the world who caught word that there would be a new interview with Klinghoffer appearing shortly. The enthusiasm was inspiring, the attitude contagious, and the sincere respect for Klinghoffer’s artistry was one to marvel at.
One thing I have learned over the past year is to always take a moment to recognize such ripple effects – where the artist has such an impact on a greater community simply by being themselves in forms of honest expression. This discussion (and overall experience) with Klinghoffer is another great reminder and truly represents the essence of what Artist Waves is all about in illuminating the story and connection between artist and fan.
Finishing up our phone call a few minutes before midnight on the east coast, Klinghoffer and I started by expressing our mutual love of…New Jersey, and everything but music for a good five minutes. It’s just so nice to have connections now with likeminded people feeling confidence that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We then steer to the emotion of performing live again alongside Eddie Vedder during Global Citizen’s Vax Live, and Klinghoffer’s newest Pluralone EP, Mother Nature, released on April 21st.
One thing this past year did for Klinghoffer was allow him to yield to well, mother nature. A force that literally made him revert from a driving path through Texas while at the same time focusing on internal elements where he would pour all of his creative energies into new music. Like two completely different versions of the song “Mother Nature” that open and close the new EP.
2021 finds Klinghoffer relaxed, but laser focused on his solo career as Pluralone. Having 10 years of guitar playing with Red Hot Chili Peppers behind him, Klinghoffer is thriving off a blend of what he has learned through experience with what he has always banked on – himself. Pluralone is the purest form of Klinghoffer, offering us all angles of his musicianship through melodies, vocals, piano playing and of course, guitar.
With that, it’s with much pleasure that I lead you to our interview.
“Envision some future shining, in visions we can be so bold…”
photo by: Calethia DeConta
After this past year, given all the circumstances, what was it like to step on the SoFi stadium stage with Eddie Vedder in late April for Global Citizen’s Vax Live?
It was a powerful moment. It was only two songs so it was over pretty quickly. I don’t get nervous about playing live but I do get nervous about things breaking. The minute I got up there I thought I heard my signal cut out. Suddenly I felt the cable all over my leg and I became aware of all these little things. I thought to myself, “Don’t rock too hard and mess everything up.” I probably took up too much brain space thinking about the technical part of it. We were there the day before doing a little warm-up and I really took in that moment, with the stadium empty. It was my first time being in a public space like that with a guitar on. I think everyone was silently stunned and honored. Not only was I beyond honored to be playing with Eddie Vedder, but also in that stadium. It’s funny the Chili Peppers were asked to be the inaugural performers in SoFi stadium. It was going to be this kick-off week, I think Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney were going to play as well. I thought it would have been pretty iconic, but ultimately the Chili Peppers declined. I was still in the band at that point and thought it was a missed opportunity. Ironically, then I was then the first person to play SoFi stadium. Even though Jennifer Lopez was the first act shown on TV, we were the actual openers of that show.
Even the photos of the show or the video clips Global Citizen showed were so powerful. There are a few of you, Eddie and The White Reaper guys that show how in the moment you all were with total game-faces on.
The fact that the people in attendance at the gig were first responders and health care workers was amazing. It made me more honored and more proud to be a part of it. I was already beaming with pride that Eddie asked me to do it with him, to be one of the first people to be back on stage, but then the fact that the audience was part of all of us getting back to where we are and were dealing with the pandemic first-hand the past year-and-a-half, that made it extra special.
How did it come together where you would play with Eddie Vedder and the White Reaper guys?
Well, Eddie is friends with Nick and Sam Wilkerson’s (from White Reaper) father, Mark. He’s a great guy. Mark also wrote a biography on Pete Townshend and asked Eddie to write the forward a few years ago. I had been getting closer to the Pearl Jam guys and was about to go on tour with them before the world stopped. Eddie may have initially thought of doing this performance solo acoustic and then realized after a year, people want to rock. So, he put this rock group together.
I was actually in New York when Eddie called me. He asked if I was in California and I said no. He then said, “Oh because I was gonna say…” I then quickly changed my plans and flew back to California. If you think about it, Pearl Jam was supposed to tour with me and White Reaper opening in 2020. That got canceled obviously, then the first show back was a group consisting of Eddie, guys from White Reaper and me.
How was this past year for you?
I spent the year in L.A., but I did have plans to go to New York. I didn’t get a chance to go there until I had been vaccinated and finally made it to New York at the end of March of this year, and then came back for the show.
I basically spent 20 years touring and hustling around the world, this was the first break I’ve had in 20 years. The world slamming on the brakes – allowing me time to breathe and write songs was a gift for me. Sure, there was a ton of despair and horror the past year, but I did enjoy the fact that I got to spend time alone. Every day of the pandemic, I was aware of how fortunate I am to have been in the Chili Peppers and be secure. I know not everybody had that and there was a lot of worry. For me, I got to see my parents every weekend for months. I would have never done that. There were a lot of silver linings, people just need to look for them.
photo by: Calethia DeConta
It must have been an exciting month of April for you having the Vax Live concert and the release of your new Mother Nature EP so close together.
This EP was a last minute thing that came together quickly. I was so glad we were able to get it out for Earth Day, that made it extra cool. The idea to do an EP was a recent thought, it was not something I planned long ago. The I Don’t Feel Well album I did completely came out of the pandemic. I was supposed to tour with Pearl Jam starting in March of 2020. I think our equipment had already left Seattle, we were on the verge of going on tour and then the world shut down. I drove home from Seattle on March 11th and had an idea of what to expect, that I would be shut in. It took a couple of weeks to straighten out my life and clean up around the house and then I started writing songs instantly. I didn’t know I was going to have the time to do that. The song “Mother Nature” is also on that album, which came out in October of 2020. The idea to put out this EP came out of nowhere. I have a manager I now work with, who I’ve known for a long time who suggested we make a bigger deal out of that song. So, I re-recorded it with two sets of people just to make it sound different. That song always sounded like it wanted other people on it, and I made the album by myself.
That was something that jumped out at me – I thought, with essentially three different versions of the song “Mother Nature”, this must be a song that means a lot to you?
Yeah, the chord progression is something that I’ve had with me for a long time. Last year when I had nothing to do but go back and listen to my ideas, this chord progression is something that always came up in terms of things I wanted to work on. I also knew I wanted to call it “Mother Nature”, I had the title on the demo. I called it that instantly. Somewhere seven years ago, I had the subject that I wanted the song to be about. If unconsciously my mind tells me something, I always go with that. The lyrics then came together quickly last year. The record it initially is on – I did everything completely by myself. When I had the chance later on, I couldn’t wait to get some other people to play on it. I was originally going to just do one version, but mother nature literally had something to say about that and blanketed the country in snow. I found myself again stuck at home, unable to drive to New York so I got another group of people together and recorded version two. It sounded much less than the original album version and that’ the one we ended up pushing as the single.
That’s fascinating, so mother nature actually caused another version of “Mother Nature”?
Yes, exactly. I had a rented car, was packed and all ready to go. It turned out to be extra special, it is quite literally pointing out the issues here and what we need to address.
I was also really drawn to the piano layers and melodies in this new Pluralone music. How did piano become so prominent in your new music? Was it your first instrument?
Piano was my last instrument. I taught myself some piano as a kid, but a very little bit. I love playing it now and probably play more piano now than anything else. I’m nowhere near an actual piano player. I do play all the time, but I play my way – with the chords I know. I love writing on piano because its the most foreign to me. I was a drummer when I was a kid, that was my first instrument. Then I taught myself guitar and bass came with that. Piano is the most exotic to me. Most of the songs off I Don’t Feel Well are based off piano compositions. I’m trying to steer away from it with the next thing I do, but it’s hard. I just love piano.
There’s a song called “Wile” off the new EP that was born off my love of the Elton John song, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, which is just beautiful unfurling piano melody. That’s the kind of writing I do, not too complicated.
Does most of your songwriting start on piano and then you add in guitar?
Yeah, much of it is like that. The past couple of months I’ve started on guitar, but for a few years before that everything started on piano. Even when I was playing in the Chili Peppers, I would try to always write on guitar but Flea was in this funny habit of writing on piano. I thought if he was going to do that then I would too.
bephotos via Josh Klinghoffer
One thing I’ve always admired about your story was your willingness to bet on yourself. Even from an early age, you went full force towards being a musician and knew that was your thing. That attitude also lead you to establishing many relationships. How do you take that approach with you today?
What’s interesting is that I think it’s a knee-jerk reaction to feeling not very confident. In terms of my musicianship, I’ve taught myself everything I know. When I started playing guitar in public, I always felt like a beginner. I felt like a fraud, like – at any moment now I am going to be discovered for the novice that I am. At some point in my early 20’s, I started telling myself I wasn’t going to go anywhere in life if I continued to be a shy and meek person. So, if I could do something in the least bit, I jumped right in. Most people have a natural voice somewhere. I play as well as I can play, but more than that – it’s me. That’s the unique quality of my musicianship that has allowed me to thrive. It’s often beyond music, it’s who you are, it’s how you listen and react to things.
Now that I’m 41 years-old and can look back, I have always tried to be a respectful listener when I play. When I was in my 20’s I was mostly playing for other people, meaning in their bands and I made sure I was as respectful to the music as I could be, playing it with as much love and care as possible. The people I was playing with, like Beck of PJ Harvey could see that.
What’s seeing Pluralone live going to look like in the near future? Will it be only you on stage?
For ease of travel, I was about to do the Pearl Jam tour by myself. I think I still will when that happens. Even though as time goes on I get nervous that playing alone is not a good idea. To command an arena by yourself, you need a Jack White style fire. I’m only nervous now because I haven’t done it in awhile. But when the time comes, I will bring it. So, yeah, playing with Pearl Jam will be the first true Pluralone experience and it will be just me.
What’s on tap for the summer?
I did say I wanted to make an album a year. That is doable. If the Pearl Jam tour doesn’t happen this year, I could potentially have new music for the fall. For now, I am going to spend my summer making another album. I’ve been working a lot with Clint Walsh from the Dot Hacker band I had. We’ve been writing a lot together. I bought a bunch of studio gear recently that I had put off getting since I was always out on tour. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be at my work-space day in and day out. I have a bunch of little collaborations I’ve been working on that I can now finish.
Coming full circle here, what does this moment and Mother Nature phase of Pluralone mean to you?
It’s a great question for me – I feel like this is the jump off spot. I continuously have these opportunities to start something. I put out my first album, but I was still in the Chili Peppers so it was more of a side project. Now I am free. I then put out I Don’t Feel Well and there was no touring, so now it feels like a rebirth again. There will be the Pearl Jam tour and then a live future. I have a manager now for the first time in my life. I never had to worry about my own career because I was always in other people’s groups. Now I get to finally take control over my own life and take responsibility for myself as an artist without having to rely on someone else being the real focus of attention. If I want to connect with people I have to step up and admit to myself that I care. It’s an interesting place to be 20 years into doing this, and feel like I’m at square one. It feels amazing, I have my whole life ahead of me. I have this entire creative journey to take even though I just had an amazing one.