Jim Pipkin

Jim Pipkin Biography

When I was a farm kid back in the 1960s, I used to milk our cow at 4:30am each day. I kept my guitar up in the barn loft so I could play a few minutes before milking, to warm up my hands. Cows hate cold hands. For over forty years, after first setting foot onstage at the 1974 Union Grove Fiddlers Convention in North Carolina, I have tried my best to bring a little warmth, beauty and humor into this often cold, ugly, humorless world. Not always with proper grace and humility, but it has been a sincere effort. Hope my hands are warm enough. I have played my songs on hundreds of stages over the years, from The Palomino Club in Los Angeles to Nashville’s Bluebird Café, done more live radio and cable spots than I can recall, and just generally made a nuisance of myself without getting noticed very much. No prison time, just lucky that way. At the same time I worked on farms and loading docks, in orchards, gold mines, and textile mills, even serving as a Gunner's Mate in the United States Navy. The Pipkin family first landed at Jamestown as indentured servants in the 1670s, and we have been here, usually working for somebody else, ever since. We have a family website at pipkinusa.org I was raised on a small farm out on Route 42 just west of Sanford, NC, where I inherited music from a whole passel of talented relatives. My grandfather Clifton White Pipkin played roadhouses and corner bars all over Harnett, Lee, and Chatham Counties during the 30s and 40s. I inherited his mailorder Stella guitar when I was ten, and spent hours in the barn loft teaching myself how to play it. I've appeared by invitation at the World Folk Showcase in Washington DC, and represented Arizona’s songwriting tradition as a guest of both the State of Arizona and the Folklore Society of Greater Washington at the FSGW’s annual Getaway at Camp Letts, Maryland. My original songs have been recorded by Oklahoma's Sour Diesel Trainwreck, Kerrville Folk Festival co-founder Allen Damron, Arizona’s Joe Bethancourt, Portland's Haris Blackwood, and Baltimore's Sue Trainor, among others.







What is music to you? What does it give you?

Music is both my savior and my curse. It gives me great pleasure sometimes, and sometimes I just want to pile all of my instruments together and burn them, along with all of my lyrics. What music has given me is essentially my life. Most of my friendships have formed around it, my life partner for the past 35 years is also a poet and works with me on almost every song.

What is your music dream?

To hear a passionate, talented performer use my song to connect to people.

If you could change the world - what would you start with?

Less ignorance. Ignorance has always been the enemy.

Which is the most memorable song from your childhood?

"Ring of Fire" playing on my Uncle Levi's truck radio as we rode around doing chores.

Who are your favorite musical artists or bands?

The Hu Band from Mongolia right now - love the throat singing!

What inspires you to make music?

Emotional surges, either from great beauty, great pain, or a fascinating story.

What is the message you want to send with your music?

There's too much magic in the world to waste your life being infuriated by muggles. Allow yourself to be passionate without being cruel. Oh, and purchase enough of my music to keep me from having to eat cat food in my old age, please.

How do you feel when you perform in front of an audience?

TERRIFIED!!!! Every. Single. Time. Over forty years of stage fright, and it never goes away.

How do you see the musicians’ reality nowadays? What could be improved?

Tough business, and getting tougher. For songwriters, better protection of intellectual property and more equitable payment for its use. Certainly more transparency in the process, with fewer toll booths and more bridges.

What do you think of Drooble?

So far, pretty cool

What frustrates you most as a musician?

No frustrations, I simply don't allow them. It is what it is. I write songs. I play songs. Sometimes people pay me, but I've learned to never count on it.

Do you support your local scene as a fan? How?

Hard to be a fan while working two jobs between gigs and putting together the financing for recording projects. BUT I do try to get to the shows of local talent that I respect, and encourage younger artists to keep at it.

What qualities should a musician nowadays have in order to get their music heard by a larger audience?

Brilliance, thick skin, and the willingness to risk everything they own on a massive gamble.

Share some awesome artists that we’ve never heard of.

Joe Bethancourt, played over 200 stringed instruments from mouth harp to lute and banjo. Art Kershaw - the only Bluegrass picker to ever get written up in National Geographic. Mat D -- quite possibly the most powerful Americana singer/songwriter out there, backed up by his Profane Saints, a rough bunch of hardcore pickers with a drummer who is not quite human. Yes, Jeff, I am talking about YOU.