Featured Image: Nick Bennett via The Record Company/Facebook
Chris Vos speaks like a tenured rock star, with a Wisconsin-born drawl and an open-minded attitude. He operates in a headspace that’s constantly seeking inspiration, one that’s attentive to the world around him, receptive to the songs that the world offers.
As the frontman, guitarist and lead singer of rock trio The Record Company, he produces fuzzed out, blues-driven songs that speak to the core of human experience. Much like a skier uses his or her skis to paint lines on a mountain, Vos writes lyrics and melodies that are formed out of a variety of inspirations, and portrayed in a personal manner.
Although he’s not a skier (yet)—”I’m a klutz,” he says with a laugh—he’s drawn to our sport, recognizing that we all strive toward activities that “set us free.” At this year’s Jackson Hole Rendezvous Festival, he’ll be performing with his band in the heart of Jackson’s Town Square, co-headlining alongside Bob Weir and the Wolf Brothers.
Earlier this week, FREESKIER hopped on the phone with Vos amidst a songwriting session. We spoke about finding “the flow state,” the peaceful power of live music and why it’s always captivating to perform in the shadow of the Tetons. Keep reading to get the inside scoop on The Record Company’s performance at the 10th annual Rendezvous Festival, and be sure to book your tickets to Jackson before it gets too late.
So, The Record Company is performing in Jackson Hole at the Rendezvous Festival in March. Have you guys ever been to Jackson Hole and experienced the Tetons?
Yeah, we’ve been through Jackson Hole—it’s beautiful. We’ve been there a few times and had a good time. This will be quite an opportunity… every gig we’ve played there has been super rad. But, this one, with Bob Weir on the bill… it’ll be a really special time. If you think about all the musicians that have ever existed in the history of the world, can you name one that has played in front of more, or had more ears listen to him play, than Bob Weir? I don’t think there is one. Of course there have been huge stadium artists, but they always took breaks. Bob never stopped—he just kept going. I don’t think there’s any person that’s ever existed in the history of music that’s had more people hear him play. It’ll be fun to be [in Jackson Hole] while everybody’s getting into that vibe.
That’s a really interesting point—The Dead were focused on live performances more than most bands. That’s really special, and you’ll be a part of the show this time.
The thing about those shows is that, all those great live shows are rooted in fabulous songs. It sounds so strange because… songs are the core of everything in music. That seems so obvious, but I’m talking about really special songs. There’s more than just one element that makes people swarm to certain types of music, and when there’s a deeper connection, a deeper story and a message, it can carry you away—that is what we, as musicians, try to find. When you see a band or hear a band that has such a great voice [like the Grateful Dead], it’s very attractive; it makes you want to be there, experience it, learn from it, be a part of it and take something with you.
How often do you get to play in the heart of the mountains? There must be something special about playing in that kind of environment…
Being someone that didn’t grow up around big mountains, they always have a pretty serious effect on me. I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, lived in Milwaukee, then moved to LA; whenever we’re in the mountains, we get up a little earlier, go for a walk and take it all in. There’s something very still and powerful resonating everywhere. It’s funny because whenever we’re in a mountainous area, the people there are very open and peaceful and awesome. It’s just a great environment, and it affects everybody in a deeper place. I will say, though, as a sea-level guy, the altitude, when you get up in really high areas, can be a bit of an adventure when you’re a singer and play some harmonic occasionally. [Laughs]
Where does The Record Company draw its inspiration from? Does a cowboy town like Jackson motivate you to write songs?
We draw our inspiration from… it’s as simple as the experiences and adventures of living through whatever it is you live through. We try to root our songs within our own experiences, what we’ve learned and what challenges us. We try to have a positive message of overcoming things… weathering the storm, picking yourself up and dusting yourself off and going on. Then there are songs that are inspired about what you see, stories that’re knocking around in your heart or your head.
It seems that every time I’m in the mountains, I always come away with… if it’s not a whole song, a melody or a line that just sits with me. On our last album, “All Of This Life,” we had a song called “Life to Fix.” We were in Colorado, right outside of Frisco, and it just kind of came to us as we were driving back to Denver to go to the airport. Our bass player, Alex [Stiff] started humming the melody, and I was like: “Dude, grab your phone right now. We gotta catch that.”
I find in all travel… that any time you’re in a new space you find a lot of things to be inspired by, and a lot of comfort knowing that, at the core of everything, things are the same—in a good way. But also that you can be thrilled and inspired and find a new adventure around every corner… it doesn’t matter if it’s a “little cowboy town” or a big city—songs are everywhere. I’ve had wind blowing through the trees make me think of a melody. I’ve had cars honking in the middle of New York make me think of a melody. You just have to have the antenna up and wait for frequencies to come through.
As a writer, I experience that all the time. While I’m traveling, I find that my mind is at ease when I’m between two places…
With the skiing and mountain activities that you’re a part of… there’s something that I’ve been feeling for a while, which is: We’re all in search of peace and being in, what some people would call, “the zone.” Music can do that… boarding or surfing [can do that]. The common denominator is finding is the rush we all get, the thrill of the peace that is taking you away from the arithmetic in your mind and bringing you into some sort of bigger space. That’s what nature teaches us—that’s why we feel at peace when we sit next to the ocean, visit the mountains or listen to a really good song.
In our in our industry, in the ski world, we call that the “flow state,” when there’s oneness to our being as we choose a line and ski it; when you’re lost in the moment, but part of it.
That’s funny… I always say, when you’re in a melody and you’re in a song, I’ll call it “going into the tube”—the whole world drops away and your heart races and you’re just swept away. The song is carrying you this way and that, and, if there’s a crowd, if it’s a live performance, there are waves of energy washing over everywhere and everybody is affecting each other. It’s funny you say “the flow state”—I love that term—because when we do a take or a song or a live performance and it goes really well, I say, “We went right into the tube, right into it!”
What’s so special about playing a large, outdoor venue like at the JH Rendezvous Fest?
I’ve never played two shows that are the same, even if they were at the same place at different times, and the reason is the environment, the people… what you’re seeing, what everybody’s feeling, if it’s outdoors—if it’s in the mountains and the sunset hits at just the right time—all these things add to that feeling. [When you’re outside,] nature is there adding to the experience, the rain, sun, clouds, wind; people have space or they can be close together or far apart.
But the feeling is really too big to describe. I had a good buddy of mine pass on from cancer [and] the great lesson that I’ve learned—that I promised him when I spoke to him last—was that I would never take any day or performance for granted. I don’t care if you are The Dead, if you’re Jerry Garcia… there’s an amount of shows you’re going to play, and that’s just a fact. It’s a finite number—it’s not infinite. If you’re playing a show it’s not one more time, it’s one less. It sounds like a negative, but once that’s acknowledged it allows me to go out there and enjoy it, to hang up my hang ups and play my guts out.
That’s a really powerful way to look at it. Is there anything the crowd should look or listen for during your performance in Jackson Hole in March?
We’re coming in after a good while of writing, and we’re going to be filled up to the brim with energy and ready to play. There’s going to be new stuff, old stuff, everything in-between. But one thing I’m going to tell you we’re going to pull back and let it go!