Tag Archives: UCSD

Cressey: Padres Piano Man

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Padres organist Bobby Cressey has probably “taken you out to the ballgame” more times than you know. Since 2010, the lifelong Friars fan has provided live organ music to select games at Petco Park from his perch in the Upper Deck along first base.

Now in his 7th year, Cressey is scheduled for 28 games this season – including the July 12 All-Star Game. But landing what the 34-year-old calls “the coolest job in San Diego” wasn’t as simple as catching a routine fly ball.

Growing up in a musical household led by the choir directors of a Carlsbad church, Cressey started playing piano at 10. When the family moved to Scotland, music was part of the curriculum. And when they moved back to the States a handful of years later, the teenaged keyboard player worked at an L.A. music store.

Cressey returned to San Diego after high school to attend UCSD and graduated with a degree in structural engineering. Likely the only student to take a fluid mechanics final early so he could tour with a reggae band in New Zealand, the University Heights resident has yet to use his degree.

“I’ve never made a dime from that,” Cressey told DSD over a cup of tea at Lestat’s. “I stuck it out because so much of my time, and parents money, had already gone into it. But the idea of going back and actually having to make a career off that terrifies me.”

Cressey moved back to L.A. after graduation and made a name for himself, among other places, as part of the House Party band at the now non-existent House of Blues, Sunset Strip. Playing with L.A. luminaries from Snoop Dogg to Ice Cube, the bearded musician seemed destined to put his roots down two hours north of his hometown.

His wife, whom he first met at UCSD, lured him back to America’s Finest City. After dating by distance for two years, Cressey moved back to San Diego in January of 2010. By chance, he heard through the local musicians’ grapevine that the Padres were planning to add a live organist. Just a few weeks later, at that year’s Padres Town Hall Meeting, Cressey handed his card to then-CEO Tom Garfinkel.

When February rolled around and he had not heard anything back, Cressey kicked things into high gear. He made a video, tracked down the director of in-game entertainment, and put together a list of reasons why he was uniquely qualified for the gig. “I’ve probably never hustled so hard for anything in my life,” Cressey said.

The musician had all but given up on the gig when he got the call to audition three weeks before the season started.

The rest, as they say, is history.

In addition to his continuing role at Petco, Cressey also plays with top 40 act The Mighty Untouchables, r&b/soul crooner Tiffany Jane and The Kicks, and The Western Standard Time Ska Orchestra.

“I try to be as versatile as possible,” said Cressey. “It’s allowed me to be a part of so many different scenes. And it makes sure I don’t go too far down any one rabbit hole.”

As a life-long and die-hard Padres fan, being at the ballpark for all 81 home games each season is one rabbit hole the musician wouldn’t mind completely falling down. But Cressey is also aware of the balance his schedule gives him, and cherishes his role as part of the team he loves.

“I still feel the passion,” he said. “If I was there every game, it might start to feel like a grind. When I walk into Petco, it still feels fresh and I’m still completely stoked. I mean, I tune into the ball games when I’m not playing at the park. I’m into it.”

Originally published by DiscoverSD

Jolie Holland’s Covered In Blood

Jolie Holland is not a simple interview. The 36-year-old Texan turned musical vagrant is articulate, opinionated and not afraid to tell you what’s on her mind — or call bullshit if she doesn’t like what’s on yours.

But what makes her a dangerous subject is exactly makes her an interesting and exciting singer/songwriter. During the course of five ANTI- albums, including this summer’s Pint of Blood, Holland has blurred the lines between Americana, country, folk and blues in endlessly engaging ways.

What really separates the multi-instrumentalist from many of her talented peers, however, is that voice. Her husky timbre reeks with authenticity and has an undeniably timeless quality. Whether it’s one of her meticulously crafted ballads or a stripped-down cover of a tune from one of her influences, the vocals seem as natural in a New York City concert hall as they do in a backwoods juke joint. Along with her band, the Grand Chandeliers — Indigo Street, Carey Lamprecht and Scott Magee — Holland is embarking on the second leg of the Blood tour and will make a stop at UCSD’s Loft on Monday night. I caught up with her — while she was at sound check at a recent gig in Portland — and talked about her new album and beyond.

Scott McDonald: I was surprised to find that the new record was recorded at home.

Jolie Holland: Oh, that’s a lie. And you should know — as a journalist — that so much bullshit gets quoted out there. It wasn’t recorded at home. That is complete bullshit. We used really nice equipment. But, my piano was in a great mood. The weather is so crazy in New York. The heat gets turned on in the winter, and it’s really hard on pianos, but right in the middle of the summer, they’re really happy, and mine was in a super-good mood when we recorded. So we did do that at my house. But we were working with Shahzad Ismaily, who is a very creative and talented engineer, and I also know how to get sounds that I like. So technically, we worked in homes for a couple of things, but not for most of it.

At this point Holland excuses herself for a moment: 

“Hey! Can you pick me out an amp? Great. Rad.”

[She returns to me for a second]  It’s so nice to work with a great touring band.

“Indigo — I’m so grateful for you. Thank you. I’m so happy you’re picking out an amp for me right now. It’s so rad. You are the fucking best!”

JH: Sorry about that.

SM: No sweat. This seems like a pretty personal record.

JH: I like a lot of songwriters who are kind of naïve in their writing. Two of my favorites are Willie Nelson and Daniel Johnston. There’s just a naïve quality to their songwriting that I’m incredibly interested in. So, I don’t know if I’m being more personal or vulnerable, I may just be trying to use that voice more. Many times it’s more about the song than it is the truth-telling, if that makes sense. That’s a funny answer, but it’s cool if you get that.

SM: I would think getting too personal would make things difficult to play night after night.

JH: The psychological format of these songs was actually supposed to be that they would be more fun to play. Because I have been guilty of writing things that were way too dark to ever perform. Actually, a lot of the songs on [2006’s] Springtime Can Kill You I never played live because they were filled with far too much teenage, brokenhearted bulls—. On the new record, it’s still personal, but there’s more storytelling. On the last record, I wrote “Corrido por Buddy” about a friend of ours that was a gay Mormon and killed himself. He was an amazing character, and I wanted to give a tribute to him, but it’s so sad and painful to play that song. So I think, in a lot of ways, this new record is a bit more comfortable than that. I’m not bleeding all over the place on it.

SM: You’ve worked with Marc [Ribot] a lot now. How’d you guys hook up?

JH: He just worked with a lot of people I’ve worked with. And I’ve actually been good friends with his manager for a really long time — long before she was his manager. But that’s not how we hooked up on this record. Shahzad has worked with him for a long time and played him the demo. And he liked it.

SM: Marc is just one of a lot of amazing musicians you’ve been able to work with.

JH: I’ve been so lucky, but it used to be so hard for me. I’m a self-taught musician, and I used to think that I wasn’t sophisticated enough to be playing with all of these great people. But I’ve really come to accept the fact that I’m a songwriter. And in order to shine as a great instrumentalist, you have to work with songwriters that you vibe with. And I feel really comfortable now in that role as circus leader and am much more at ease playing with all of these great musicians.

SM: Are you a person who is constantly writing?

JH: I used to try and write songs when I was a teenager. But I was 14 the last time I tried to write a song. Now, the songs come to me and get me to write them, and it’s been that way for many, many years. I’ve actually been pushing them away lately. I got my heart broken a year ago, and I refused to write any songs about it. And that’s kicking and screaming. It’s what everyone writes songs about. But I completely resisted. But now, finally, that’s changing.

SM: Changing?

JH: I mean, I literally cried every day for a year. It was horrible heartbreak. Only now am I writing again. It was very recently that two songs came to me in the middle of the night, woke me up and made me work on them. It was like being shaken out of a deep sleep and harassed. And I couldn’t get back to sleep until I got them down. It’s funny, but that’s how it happens. I write all of these things in my head.

SM: That’s the only place you keep the ideas?

JH: Well, in this case, I was really lazy and didn’t want to get out of bed. So I text-messaged myself all of these thoughts in the middle of the night. But I’m pretty good about being able to write out a notation well enough to understand what I meant and play it later. But I didn’t do that this time. I wrote out the words to the song, and then I texted phrases to myself of different melodies from songs that were similar. So, regardless to say, I end up having quite a few funny little notes in my drafts.

SM: Don’t want to get ahead of myself, but now you’re making me look forward to the next record — a friend to be sad with.

JH: Oh, these are not sad songs. I refuse to write heartbreak songs about it all. No way. I just refuse that entirely.

First published by NBC San Diego on October 3, 2011