Local San Diego Songwriter Interview: Craig Furnivall

Craig Furnivall is the type of person who says hello first. Formerly from Rochester, Indiana, this Midwest-mannered guy has already made a name for himself in only a couple years on the San Diego singer-songwriter scene.

There’s a reason for that.

“My goal is just to play, play, play, play play,” Furnivall advises. “I didn’t have a car when I first moved here, so I decided to live in PB. I figured it would have the most places to play out.”

He scoured the city for open mics, performed every night he could, introduced himself to as many people as possible and quickly got requests for several local showcases.

“I got in touch with Cathryn Beeks, from ListenLocalSD,” Furnivall says, “and she set me up with shows at Winston’s and a couple other places. Now she books even more venues, including House of Blues. She’s an awesome person to talk to.”

Still based in Pacific Beach, Furnivall is one half of Bosen & Suede, a noted local duo with other area musician, Brian Bosen.

After releasing their debut EP, last month, the pair planned and set out on an 18-show, 22-day tour of the West Coast, in April 2012. It was Furnivall’s first, and a true learning experience:

“We booked as many shows beforehand, but several times we would just show up and try to play somewhere. Venues need a face, not just a phone number and email address. The experience got us playing for fresh crowds, meeting venue owners and visiting new cities. Next time, we’re going to be able to book more shows ahead of time because we’ve put in the hours.”

Furnivall shares that he and Bosen set up shows by contacting anyone they knew living in the cities they wanted to play, and asked for venue recommendations. They also researched on ReverbNation, a site for musicians to post and share music.

Q & A

Recently, Craig was nice enough to meet at a showcase I was setting up and playing at. I arrived later than I had said I would, and my questions to him were rushed. I knew I was being rude, and felt like a jerkstore. In typical Furnivall fashion, he shrugged it off with an easy smile, and within a few minutes, he was talking with several of my friends as if they were already his.

Do you want to be a touring musician?

I love touring. It’s entirely necessary for young aspiring musicians that reach a certain point in their music if they want to continue growing and expanding. Going on the road performing for new audiences is invaluable if you approach it with an open mind for professional progress and an open heart for personal growth.

If I could make money from music, ideally it would be from shows and CD sales (both physical/digital). Pretty standard, but my hope is to not just have a show that entertains, but to provide an experience for concert-goers…to create music that is not just listened to, but resonates with the listener. I would love personal connections with everyone who can find shelter in any aspect of the music I create, because music has done that for me.

What gear do you play?

Alvarez guitars. Elixir strings. Fender Strat when I’m playing electric. But I really love Alvarez’s acoustic sound. I don’t enjoy electric nearly as much. When I first started playing, I was just messing around on an electric. It wasn’t until I started strumming on an acoustic that I thought, “oh, THIS is how it should feel and sound.” It resonated with me in a whole new way.

What’s your songwriting process?

I’m hugely lyrically-driven. If you don’t have anything to say, you shouldn’t be talking. I usually come up with melody while I’m playing guitar, and then I go back and forth between writing lyrics and writing the song. It’s different from Bosen, who starts by jamming a bit and forming the song from that. Writing with Brian is awesome; our styles are so different that it just shouldn’t work! The fact that it does is just one of the many reasons I love music & songwriting.

How long you been writing music?

I’ve been writing music for over a decade. I started playing music (guitar) in 8th Grade. Electric at first, but it always sounded like it needed something more, so when I picked up an acoustic, I thought, “This is it. This makes sense!”

Why did you come out to California?

I wanted someplace with a better music scene than Small Town, Indiana. I planned on moving here right out of high school. When I told my parents, they were supportive, but encouraged me to go to college. I did, and I’m glad they pushed me to go to school more. The second I was done, however, I came out here. I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon!

What do you do for a living outside of songwriting?

Live off credit cards! [Laughs]. I do contract work for an education company. It’s nice because I might not have to work for a couple months at a time, but my credit cards are starting to take a hit, and I’m giving myself the goal to start dealing with it by the Fall.

My main goal is to be a part of this community; someone who supports it, and inspires others to think about what they want to do with their talent & love.

Where do you get your song inspiration?

Love lost. Hope. Transitional moments in life like me moving out here. Then I seem to always build songs in a typical structure of intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, chorus, way big bridge, and back to the chorus. I’m a big bridge guy. I love bridges.

How often do you practice?

I play guitar at least an hour a day. Typically, I’ll be going over old songs or trying new stuff and a couple hours will go by. If Bosen and I happen to have a show or a bar gig, the amount of time playing will increase a little. Though, for my style of writing, it tends to be less an amount of technical guitar work and more keeping a constantly wandering mind for lyrics and thoughts. To truly be a “songwriter,” the mind must always be on and searching, and I feel that is where I place most of my energy/attention.

What keeps you here in San Diego, as opposed to bigger “music” cities like Los Angeles or Nashville?

One, it takes awhile to become established in an area and figure out the ins and outs and who’s who, etc. To start over at this point doesn’t really make sense until I reach the level of success I want (and believe is possible) in this community. Two, I want to believe that you don’t HAVE to go to the stereotypical places to become successful. I want to believe that anybody can be greater than they believe they can be, regardless of where they’re from or the environment they’re surrounded with.

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Go see Bosen & Suede’s next big show at Lestat’s, Friday, May 25. Go here for more info. Do yourself the favor of saying hello to Craig, if he doesn’t beat you to it.

Local Songwriter Interview: Amanda Cogan

Amanda Cogan is a San Diego native who grew up in Mira Mesa.

Now living in Normal Heights, she’s a regular at Open Mic at South Park Abbey, where her strong voice is always a crowd favorite. She’ll be playing some upcoming showcases, too.

After confidently and happily strumming her Taylor 314ce through five or six songs one random Wednesday night, Amanda sat down with me and answered a handful of questions about music, songwriting, and what she plans on doing next:

How long have you been playing guitar?
Nine years, but I hate saying that because I feel like I don’t know enough chords. I just use the same ones over and over, and move my capo around. That’s the secret, folks; a capo!

When did you start writing music?
I’ve been making up music since I can remember; way before I started learning piano or guitar. I remember when I was a little kid, I would sit on the middle of the staircase and just sing—writing some silly melody and lyrics as I went. I’ve just always loved music. Only in the past few years have I concentrated on actually writing and improving my songwriting.

Who are your biggest musical influences?
It’s a weird question to me. When I started playing music, I wasn’t trying to emulate anyone. But now that I play out, I get a lot of, “Oh, you sound like Jewel.” That’s the biggest comparison other people make.

Who do you love listening to?
For great lyrics, I really do love Jewel. Jason Mraz is awesome. I’m mostly drawn to lyrics. I think Bruno Mars is a great songwriter, even though he is a little too “pop” for me, and say what you want about Lady Gaga, but her songs are so well written. She’s a great songwriter, but she is crazy.

How much do you play out?
[laughing] Right now? About once a week. But my goal is four to five times a week. I’m working with Samantha Love right now, to try and book more shows. Ultimately, I would love to make my living as a musician. Not famous. Just a living.

What gear do you use?
I usually just have my Taylor. I also have a portable Fender PA system that I rarely bring out. I have two more acoustic guitars at home: Ibanez acoustic/electric, and an Alvarez acoustic. I’ve played an electric guitar, like, once ever. I’d like to try playing on one more.

Where does songwriting fit into your life?
Every aspect of my life. Songwriting is my diary, but I’m singing it out instead of letting it sit on a page. To answer your question literally, though, I just work on songs when I am inspired. I was trying to write every other day a while back, but now, the last song I finished was about a month ago.

Do you write lyrics first? Music?
Sometimes I write the melody first, sometimes I have the lyrics. It’s an organic process. I never try to do it a certain way. I might have a page of lyrics that morphs into something completely different than what it was at first.

Do you have any desire to go on tour?
In the back of every musician’s mind is the idea of playing in front of thousands of people, riding a bus from city to city and traveling around. If the opportunity presented itself, I probably wouldn’t turn it down. But my ultimate goal isn’t to be an international star and tour.

So, does that mean you just want to write songs that other people will sing?
I’ve thought about that before, but because my songs are so personal it would be hard to hear someone else sing them. I want to sing and play my own stuff. I don’t know if I’m poppy enough to be on the radio, but let’s see how much money they pay me! [laughing]

Where can people hear your music?
Facebook has some videos and songs, and my full demo is on Myspace, yes MySpace!