CINDY CASHDOLLAR: Well, let’s see, I got involved in music when I was actually kind of young because I grew up in Woodstock, New York during the time before the first festival but when there was still so much music in town–you would just hear it. People were playing in the little tiny center of the town or on the sidewalks. So I started playing guitar, just regular guitar, when I was eleven. And my dad was a big country music fan and my mom liked all kinds of music–she had a huge collection of what they call world beat music now. She had everything. She was a big Dave Brubeck fan and an Olatunji fan and so there was all that in my house just on the record player. So between the two influences I had a lot of different musical angles coming at me all the time.
People are really surprised when I tell them that I am from New York–a lot of people think that New York is just New York City. But you know where I grew up in the Catskill Mountains; it’s a really rural area. So I grew up with a lot of country and bluegrass music as well as all the folk and blues music at the time. There were so many musicians and influences that lived in Woodstock at the time that I was growing up. I mean when I was still in junior high, I was seeing John Hammond Sr. and Muddy Waters and just so many of these people that would come through Woodstock. A lot of blues.
I feel really fortunate about where I grew up even though I hated it when I was growing up because there was nothing to do. But as time progressed, after the first Woodstock festival, it became a very popular place to live and more and more people moved there and more and more clubs opened up and so the music scene itself just kept expanding.
AD: What brought you to Austin?
CC: Asleep at the Wheel. In ’92, I had moved from Woodstock to Nashville because at that time there just wasn’t enough work to really make a living. I was working with Redbone at the time–I had played with him for five years–but by ’92, he wasn’t really on the road that much. In Woodstock, by the time you heard that somebody needed a Dobro steel player, it was like three months later. It was kind of the end of the line for music gossip. A lot of jingle worked had dried up in New York–I used to go to New York to do jingles. So I just figured if you lived in Nashville, you would hear gossip first hand: who was quitting or who was being fired. So, I hooked up with Asleep at the Wheel, hearing that they were looking for a steel player. They were coming into Nashville and they were playing a TV station. I went down to the TV station and waited for their bus to pull up. I didn’t know anybody. I just went and asked for the steel player and said, “Are you really leaving the band? I heard you were leaving” And he said, “Yes”. And so I gave him my demo package.
I’m still here 14 years later.
AD: How has the local scene changed in your 14 years? Is it better or worse for musicians?
CC: You know it’s really weird because the first almost nine years that I was here I really wasn’t here. I would go out with the Wheel and come home. You have a few days off and the last thing that I would want to do was go out. So the first time that I was here I don’t know that it was fair for me to judge the music scene–especially when I hear how amazing it was. Of course everything was amazing in the 70s and 80s–it was a different time everywhere. No matter where you lived. It was just different then as every era is with everything: economics, music, and politics. The 70s and 80s were prime time for both bad and good music. From what I saw here, Austin sounded very similar to Woodstock, where there was just an incredible music scene with amazing local talent and lots of places to display that talent. And over the years, clubs closed down for whatever reason; they raised the drinking age.
I can say that since I have moved here, what little I would see, I’ve always been impressed by what an amazing music scene it is here. There is just an unbelievable amount of talent here. And not only the musicians but also the support network around the musicians here. KUT and KGSR radio. I see more support of local musicians than I think anywhere I’ve seen.
AD: Have you noticed any shift in the music industry for you personally?
CC: The one thing that has always struck me about being in a town that is so focused on live music is that there is no publishing business or major label business here in Austin. And so, it’s not like Nashville, or LA where there’s that other side of the music industry where there’s demos going on constantly and people having writing appointments–that whole other side of the industry. But I think at the same time that’s what makes Austin so special. People are not here necessarily for the business. I think that this is an anchor point where you come and go from here to do your business–it’s the breeding ground.
The only change I’ve seen, to me really, is a couple of landmark places closing down. Henry’s, which is the first club I went to the first night I got into town to see Junior Brown and that was amazing. I would have been fine to just pack my bags and go home after that. It was just so incredible. I’ve seen landmark clubs close like Henry’s and Black Cat on 6th St. and Liberty Lunch. That was sad to me and I hadn’t been there that long. I’ve seen in my 14 years more of the people that I had met here earlier go on to actually be able to make a living here doing music and then some that have had bad luck. And I’ve also seen a big change in the clubs because of the smoking ban.
So that’s the main difference, to answer your question in a round about way: key clubs closing down and the smoking ban.
AD: What do you think of the smoking ban?
CC: Well I just think that there is a way to make it work for everybody. I can certainly understand it in restaurants. But I think in clubs, it’s always with music, there is smoking, there is a bar–I just think there is a way to make it all work that isn’t so segregated. It feels empty. That’s the major change that I’ve seen. I think the smoking ban could have worked out to everyone’s advantage. Whether it’s an early show that could be worked out so that it’s not smoking. So the healthier people, they go out and go to shows and then go home and go to bed like normal people. Maybe a mandatory air filter system could work too in the clubs. I think there are ways to get around it, I really do
AD: What is Fur Peace Ranch?
CC: That’s Jorma Kaukonen’s school for music. Jorma from Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. He and his wife Vanessa have this beautiful place in Ohio. They started it about nine years ago and it’s this incredible school for learning all different kinds of music. People from all genres and all instruments. The classes are small and so you’ll have Jack Cassidy teaching bass and GE Smith teaching guitar or Jorma. I mean they have so many different people it is amazing. And they have a beautiful theater that’s public. So Saturday night the three instructors that are hired to teach that weekend do a concert at the theater that is broadcast on the NPR station live. And then on Sunday, the students get to do their own concert at the same theater. So the teachers prepare them. There are all different levels that are pre-determined. I’ve taught there for about five years in a row. It’s great. The food there is wonderful. The accommodations are cabins on the premises. The learning facilities are beautiful. Jorma’s recording studio is there so that is also one of the facilities used. I’ve taught in a lot of different places and I think it’s one of the best facilities that I have ever, ever taught. Environmentally, location and the variety of teachers and classes that they offer are incredible.
AD: We went to see you play a few months ago in Dallas. What was it like playing with Van Morrison?
CC: It was great only because I remember the only time I had seen Van Morrison live was when my mom had taken me to a concert when I was 12. I was a huge Van Morrison fan from that time on. Part of the cool thing about growing up where I did, was that people that I considered my musical heroes, people that I did end up playing with later on, they all lived in Woodstock. A lot of them lived there. So to play with Van, to me, was just part of that sound that I absorb.
It was a thrill to get that phone call.
He has a new country CD out now so initially, on the first tour, a lot of material that I did was the country stuff–and then I would kind of go back and forth on stage and he came out and did some of his older hits. On the most recent tour I did he did not bring a horn section. So Jason Roberts, the fiddle player from Asleep at the Wheel, and myself we had to learn most of Van’s catalog and all the horn parts. But it’s interesting, all those years at Asleep at the Wheel, the fiddle and the steel guitar and the saxophone–just like Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys–that was the horn section. So Jason and I were used to playing horn parts. When Van’s management told us that we had to learn all the horn parts, that was not such a shocking bit of news. The shocking bit was that we only had a few days to get it together. But the good news was that we had done all the Western Swing that has so much big band horn in it so musically we knew, even as a steel and fiddle, how to approach those parts as a horn player; how to make the attack of the notes sound like a horn; how to make the phrases breathe like a horn section. So we had that going for us. But the show you guys saw had the big fourteen-piece band and that was great.
To work with Van musically, was great.
AD: Your discography is tremendous. What’s it like to be the “sideman” in the music business?
CC: I have never wanted my own band. I have always been really happy just being in the back and doing my job. I really enjoy the interaction of other musicians and I really enjoy being part of the support network more than the person up front. Let’s face it, it’s more of the headaches. I just like being in the back. Just playing and not having to concentrate on anything. I love getting to do different things. I like being able to mentally absorb what someone else is doing and take it all in and put it to work. I do do shows where I might be the host for the evening. Like the past couple of years, I put together, “Slide-o-Rama” at the Cactus Cafe where I get a bunch of slide and steel players together, and it’s a lot of work.
AD: How do bands get a hold of you?
CC: It’s so weird, I think it’s like any business that somebody’s in. I guess people just know when you are home and when you are not and when you’re available and you’re not. People just call. I’m in the phonebook and Cashdollar isn’t a common name–I’m the only Cashdollar here in Austin.
I think people seem to be familiar with my work either from one thing or another. I’ve gotten a couple of gigs just because of “Time Out of Mind”–a project I did with Bob Dylan. A couple of gigs I’ve gotten in the past few years have just been because of Dylan’s “Time Out of Mind” CD. They like the atmospheric stuff I did on that. Like, Ryan Adams called me to tour with him and do his “Cold Roses” double CD because he liked the work I did on Dylan’s record. Van Morrison, I think had seen me with Asleep at the Wheel. Dylan had heard me with an old friend from Woodstock when I was with a bluegrass band, like ages ago, and I think he had also seen me with somebody else. So I think it’s all different applications but I would say either people visually seeing you or they hear you on certain projects.
But they do find me. So it’s very interesting. And I always ask people too. I always go, “Well how did you hear me or find me?” But at this point I think I’ve done so many different things that it’s not hard to follow the dots. ***