Sharing stories through words, spoken poetry
Chris Chandler has shared the stage with a variety of storytellers across the country, including Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Chandler will soon come to Estacada and host a fundraiser show for the city's food bank.
The show is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Friday, July 20, at Harvest Market Square. Though admission is free, donations for the Estacada Area Food Bank are accepted.
The Estacada News spoke to Chander about his shows, influences and origins as a performer.
Estacada News: How would you describe your performances to someone unfamiliar with them?
Chris Chandler: I would say it's a collage of music and spoken word and storytelling. I'm celebrating my 30th year on the road. The first few years I only did spoken word, but it's hard to just do poetry when you're performing in bars, so I added music to create an evening of entertainment.
EN: What topics do you discuss in your work?
Chandler: I try to bring new truths by using past examples. I use history as a reference to shine light on today's topics and the past as a way to guide the future.
EN: Where do you find inspiration?
Chandler: From just talking to people. I get inspiration from everyday experiences. I'm not a person that sits on a mountain and contemplates.
EN: Who are some of your influences?
Chandler: My first love is American folk music. I'm a big Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan fan. I used to tell stories on street corners. It's how I got my start. People would look at me like I was crazy, so I picked up a guitar. That made me into a folk singer.
EN: How did you become interested in performing?
Chandler: Every nickel I've made in my life has been on or around a stage. I was a high school dropout and became the lighting manager for a band. I got really into stage lighting and got into the North Carolina School of the Arts. After graduation, I got a job as a Broadway assistant lighting director. I met Pete Seeger (an American folk singer), and he told me to turn down the job and keep being a folk singer. I played on the New York City subway, and I've been playing ever since.
EN: You've worked with Allen Ginsberg, an American poet, philosopher, writer and activist. What was that like?
Chandler: I did readings with him. I was frightened and tongue tied in all of my offstage conversations with him, but I was young and cheeky enough to get the audience's approval and for that he respected me. I met him through Pete Seeger. I was the opening act for larger names and that stumbled me into that Beat world.
EN: What are some of your favorite pieces you've performed?
Chandler: That's like saying "Who's your favorite child?" I have moments on the stage I'm particularly proud of. At the height of the Gulf War, I had a friend who lost a son. I read a letter home from him while my band performed. I followed that with the letter the military sent to his parents that he'd been killed in combat.
EN: What's the most meaningful part of your work?
Chandler: Having a 25-year-old come up to me and say "I've been listening to you my whole life and you've influenced me." Knowing I've influenced people in a positive way over the past 30 years.