DS Exclusive: An interview with Tobin Bawinkle of Flatfoot 56 and 6’10

When last we heard from Tobin Bawinkle, the Flatfoot 56 frontman was launching a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the debut full-length for his new project, 6’10.

Fast-forward a few months and the album, “The Humble Beginnings of a Roving Soul,” is not only complete, but due out in a couple weeks (December 9th, to be exact). For those outside “the know,” 6’10 is the Celtic-punk-rocker-by-day’s folk/bluegrass endeavor. We caught up with Bawinkle to discuss his new album, the motivation for starting a new, different-sounding project, and how he’s able to balance those gigs with regular jjobs in his home town of Chicago. Oh, and there’s a pretty cool gear discussion. Check it out below!

 

Dying Scene (Nick Gold): Hi Tobin, how are you today? Let’s start with the basics! Tell us what you do in Flatfoot 56 and 6’10?

Tobin Bawinkle: I am the Lead singer and song writer for both Flatfoot 56 and 6’10.

What do you find to be the biggest difference between the two bands? What encouraged you to start another project next to Flatfoot?

I decided the start 6’10 about a year and a half ago because I have always wanted to have an outlet for songs that really didn’t fit with the Flatfoot 56 style. I have always been an avid song writer and there has always been tunes that just didn\’t fit quite well in the Flatfoot vein. The guys in Flatfoot have always encouraged me to continue expanding my creative writing. Since we has cut back a bit in our touring schedule, I thought I would take advantage of the time and start 6’10. I was able to grab a really great group of seasoned musicians to help me out and we started putting out 6’10 stuff. The name is simply my height.

The biggest difference between the two bands is the stripped down nature that 6’10 has. The idea was to keep it acoustic but still have an edge and flare for the story telling that I have always loved doing. While Flatfoot always did this as well, I just feel that 6’10’s sound lends better to conveying a good story. Less perspiring and circle pitting I guess with this project. Hahahaha

I am also a big fan of old American music and find a good chance to have fun working in that historically rich culture that we as americans live in.

Lyrically, are there different subject matters compared to each band? Are the songs similar in that regard or not?

There are some similarities but 6’10 takes on a much more mature feel with songs about dealing with loss and relationship issues that I have had to go through. The band really encapsulates my life over the last few years. I am a man that had much of his world fall apart extensively in a very short period of time. Many of these songs document my journey through this very difficult time and how I learned to find hope while in the middle of the darkness. To be honest it is a real pleasure to be able to share this music with people. I hope that it can encourage others and that people can relate to it.

I am personally curious about what musicians use for gear. What do you use on stage and in the studio for Flatfoot 56 and 6’10?

For 6\’10 I have two guitars. I have a 1974 guild acoustic guitar that I have had ever since my dad handed it down to me when I first started playing. This thing is as beat up as I sometimes feel, but still sounds beautiful and has some amazing character. My other one is a Tanglewood and It has served me very well over the last two years. 6’10’s bass player plays a Kala bass Ukulele which sounds amazing. He plays this through an ampeg head. Our mandolin/Ukulele player plays a Kala Ukulele and I believe an Oscar Schmitt F-style mandolin. Our drummer uses a cajon for a kick and plays with brushes on a piccolo snare.

For Flatfoot I am a Gibson SG guy and I play these through a marshal 2000 head. My ideal would be a to have an old Marshal 800 but haven’t found anyone that wants to part with theirs yet. Hahaha Brandon Our guitar play and mandolin player plays a reverend guitar through a fender bassman guitar cab. Kyle our Drummer plays a fender P-bass through an Ampeg. His cab is a custom built cab made by Emperor cabs out of Chicago. Eric our Piper plays a set of highland pipes and justin our drummer plays a custom Spawn kit.

What bands are out and about today that you really enjoy? Who do you enjoy playing with the most? Who do you want to play with?

I am a big fan of bands like Murder by Death, Leatherface, Teenage Bottle rocket, Bishops Green, Cory Branan, Mewithoutyou, and this new band called Comrades. Comrades is pretty much amazing! My taste is kinds of all over the place.

As far as bands that I have enjoyed playing with the most, one of my all time favorites is Cock Sparrer. They have a contagious joy for playing that is probably the most inspiring thing to me as a musician. They are also very genuine people. Don’t see this one changing any time soon. This being said I could go on for days about great bands we have toured with. There is so many incredible people playing good music. I have always wanted to play a show with the Pogues. I know this seems like something I should have already done, but it for some reason has never happened. Also one of greatest bands to ever live.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of being in a band? Obviously being on the road for anybody is a challenge. Are there any hidden factors that may not meet the eye that touring bands deal with?

I think the thing that I struggle the most with when I am on the road is the boredom that comes between the shows. It’s that down time between the van and the start of the show when I have felt the loneliest. Unless your in a place that is cool to go out and see, it is kind of a rough time. Maybe that’s just me.

I think the biggest thing for any band to learn is how to deal with conflict resolution. You are living in a very tight space for very long periods of time. It gets hot smelly and everyone is tired. This is usually how people die. In order to keep a generally positive experience going for those in the band, it is important to have an understanding of openness and talking things out. Bands that don\’t, will never last, either they die or they will be miserable. Not really the way I would ever want to tour. I mean we get the privilege of being able to travel and bring joy to people. Why would we want to deal with the same petty crap that a regular 9 to 5 dishes?

The factor that many people don’t consider is the extent of how little people make playing music. Musicians really do a good job of putting up a good front, but when Flatfoot started slowing down and we started working regular job, we realised how much we had been living on nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I would totally go back to life on the road and I will, but I don’t think a lot of new bands really realize the sacrifice it takes to do what you love. The upside of course is the people you meet on the road and the lives you have the chance to change as a result of a song. That is worth living on nothing. At least it is to me. I have been really blessed.

If you are not touring, recording, etc. what are you doing at home? Do you hold down any jobs to keep things stable and moving? What do you enjoy the most about home?

At home I am a substitute teacher, a small business owner and runner of two bands (Which is a full time job for each) and a leader at my church. The church and school are both very encouraging when it comes to my music. I teach high school students who are always trading music with me and asking about the shows. The new 6\’10 video has two teachers from my school as the actors in it. Its been a pleasure working at the school. Its also my local school in the neighbourhood Flatfoot grew up in and I still live near, so it’s a good chance to give back.


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