Curtiss A: 'I want everything always to be truthful'

Curtiss A tells his story to Mary Lucia
Curtiss A at The Current in 2018. (Luke Taylor/MPR)
Curtiss A talks about his Minnesota musical origins
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During The Current's spring member drive, we're highlighting eight Minnesota artists — from newcomers to veterans — with new music you need to know. We asked each artist to talk about their history in music, their new songs, and their hopes for the future. Today, we're featuring Minnesota music legend Curtiss A, who's just released his first full-fledged studio album in over three decades.

I am known professionally as Curtiss A. As far as the type of music I do, I harken back to the 60s and 70s. Sometimes I even harken back to the 50s, so that makes me pretty much a dinosaur, but I'm not extinct yet. I enjoy the passion. I try to put that into all my music. I want everything always to be truthful. The simple answer is, "rock and roll."

When I was 14 in Oklahoma City, I was in a band called the Fiendish Thingies. Then I moved to Whiting, Indiana, which was right next to Chicago. I joined a band called the Aztex, so that's kind of where I got my start. My start around here probably has quite a bit to do with First Avenue. Before that, I played a place called the CC Tap, which turned into the CC Club. Really, I think my start as a recording artist came from Peter Jesperson wanting to record me. He says that's why he started Twin/Tone records, and doggone it, I believe him!

A couple years ago, Brynn Arens, local icon from Flipp and many other bands, asked me if I wanted to come over and just work on some stuff. I thought, "Sure, you know, what else am I doing?" We worked on some stuff, and he must have played it for John Fields, who's a renowned producer. I got a call right before COVID hit, and we went in to do a little exploratory. We figured they were shutting down everything on March 15th, so I went in on the 13th and 14th, and we recorded the whole [album].

The song that I liked the most, is not a song that I wrote, it's one that my girlfriend wrote entitled "Lonely Cult of Myself." It opens the new album, which is called Jerks of Fate. When I heard it, I went, "Wow, that's great. What are you gonna do with it?" She said, "Well, I don't really have the voice for it." and so I asked if I could do it. When we were recording, that was the first thing I wanted to do.

A song that I like that I did on my album is called "You're Gonna Die Someday." I just got over cancer surgery, and it loomed large for me. I wrote [the song] years ago about a guy named Frankie Paradise, and then I remember playing it over at the Turf Club right after my mom died in 1999. It's just one of those important songs to me. The whole album was like that.

If you're a working musician, you've got to work. Now I'm 70 years old, and I don't know when I'll be able to go back to work. The last thing I did was the Lennon tribute livestream, 41st year straight. I don't know when I'll ever be able to make any actual money again, but I'm not that concerned about it. I don't think entertainment is as important as the rest of the world. I think that's the challenge for me, getting up the sort of ambition that it takes to face the problems in the world, and then still go out and smile at everybody and entertain them. I wish everyone could put as much energy into making the world a better place.

I do hope I'll be able to play again. The future is looking better in the past month, except, the future is yet to be determined, isn't it? I'm gung ho on trying to make things better. I don't know how else to put it. I want to be able to give my love to everyone.

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