Artist Spotlight: Joseph Huber, Derek Pritzl

Derek Pritzl & the Gamble.

It was drummer Nick Lang’s birthday this weekend, so naturally a celebratory show is in order. Singer-songwriter Joseph Huber and Americana band Derek Pritzl & the Gamble (which Lang drums in) played at High Dive for this rare Monday night feature.

“Well, he borrowed me some bongos this week,” Huber said about his relationship to Lang. “I’ve probably known him for two and a half years. I really got to know him when he started playing with Derek and the Gamble had been getting their chops together. I’d go down to see them and started hanging out with him. There was a moment he was gonna help me with some songs, but as all drummers are, they’re in seven or eight bands…plus he teaches. If you’re a drummer, you’re the busiest person on the planet.”

“Nick has been my drummer for about three years now,” Pritzl said. “I don;t even know how we came together but I was running an open mic for a long time in Bay View, and it just kind of evolved from that. We had to practice every Wednesday at a bar…we did that for two years and just got tight. Nick Lang is so much fun to work with. It’s not just my band; it’s this group of guys making this stuff.”

Joseph Huber’s sound could be described as Americana-bluegrass folk music with catchy hooks, driven by his fast-paced guitar strumming, tambourine stomping, and periodic harmonica. He only plays in town a couple times a year; he spends much of the year out on tours (this had been his first time playing High Dive). He currently plays with upright bassist Eston Bennett and fiddler Kenny Leiser. His fifth album “Moondog” dropped last summer – he describes the recording process.

“It was truly hell for that one, I’d say. I tried a bunch of different techniques and started using different plugins, to the point where I lost my mind. (Moondog) came out probably a year after it was done. In that year, I can’t say I got any better (laughs). I was going through a divorce at the time and truly lost my mind during the process of that. The writing itself for the album is definitely my favorite writing I’ve done, so lyrically I’m extremely proud of it. Production and everything else, I’m like “it’s pretty good, but let’s move on” (laughs). It was tough, but song-wise I love playing all of them. Over fifty percent of our set has been the new album. People have really enjoyed them and that’s what counts.”

Huber discusses what he has in the chamber.

“Since the new year I have recorded what will be the next album – in the last two weeks, pretty much. I’m looking to have it out this summer again; the songs are there and the world is very dissatisfied unless you just keep pumping things out all the time. If I can do it, then I’ll do it. I’ve got a couple summertime songs, so it makes sense to do it then. I’m aiming for July but at least by August to have eight or nine tunes for everyone.”

He reflects on what some of his favorite cities are to tour.

“We have a surprising little following from Detroit-Grand Rapids-Lansing…Cincinnati area I always love going to…Denver has been really good to us lately, plus Casper, WY if we’re talking westward. We only get out there once a year so when it happens a crew comes out, and they make you feel good. Plus the north-woods Wisconsin crews that comes out to shows have always been go-tos, and probably always will be.”

Joseph Huber embarks on a Midwest tour from late February through mid-March. He plays Anodyne on February 16th.

“I didn’t even do over a hundred shows last year,” Huber said. “I think it was around an embarrassing sixty…like forty less than the year before. But we went through transitions with fiddle players and personal relationships, and I’m back up doing as many shows as possible.”

Derek Pritzl & the Gamble consists of Pritzl on lead vocals and rhythm guitar plus lead guitarist/vocalist Andrew Koenig, bassist Rob Collier, drummer Nick Lang, and harmonica player Benny Rickun. They play a fun mixture of country, blues, and Americana-flavored rock.

“This is our fifth show with this lineup (Rickon added most recently). We had a bass player Gavin Hardy who sang all the harmonies, so we’re missing a lot of harmony stuff that we really got tight at. We’ve been working on getting the singing back up.”

Pritzl has not released an album since 2010’s “Drifter,” although his band is working on a new one as we speak.

“I’ve gone down to Nashville like three times and didn’t have a band, so it was all just going in with really good musicians but it wasn’t the real thing a band is. It didn’t have the heart and energy of what we did, so I scrapped two projects, and then got this band together and did that open mic for two years. We just played together *all* the time. No one has to think – you just find the groove and that’s what makes it cool. We got with a dude called Erik Koskinen, who produced the first two Trampled by Turtles albums – anything that came out of Minneapolis in the mid 2000’s…like he did that. He’s an amazing songwriter and he goes out to LA to play with the best. It was just nice to become friends with him, and we went up to his studio and laid it down in three days. It’s all live and it’s tight; I just have a couple overdubs to do. I wanna release it in the spring when the snow falls because I come from northern Wisconsin and we do brat fry and bonfires. I’m trying to find a sweet spot where my dad and uncles are gonna come down and have a big brat fry instead of the traditional CD release show in a venue…we’re just gonna have a party. That’s where I come from, and that’s what I wanna do down here.”

Derek Pritzl & the Gamble play Madison’s Tribute to John Prine at High Noon Saloon on February 28th.

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