Across The Margin : The Podcast — Asking For a Friend with Joel Cummins

Across The Margin : The Podcast celebrates Umphrey’s McGee’s latest album, Asking For a Friend, through an interview with musician Joel Cummins…

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This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with musician and founding member/keyboardist for the progressive rock band Umphrey’s McGee, Joel Cummins. Joel’s keyboard wizardry is widely established throughout the music world. Beyond his heralded work with the increasingly popular, must-see live act that is Umphrey’s McGee, Joel has released impressive solo work and plays in bands with the likes of Nels Cline, Mike Watt, Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, and Chris Poland  of Megadeth. Beyond that, he has collaborated with such acclaimed artists as Huey Lewis, Joshua Redman, Mavis Staples, Phil Lesh, Buddy Guy, Thundercat, A$AP Ferg, Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, Warren Haynes, Bob Weir, and Les Claypool.

Throughout their now twenty-four year career, Umphrey’s McGee has slowly but surely become one of America’s most crowd pleasing live acts. The band has been completely DIY their entire existence and have been extremely successful at it without any major label or management influence. While grouped within the genre, Umphrey’s McGee doesn’t fit a traditional “jamband” mold. With elements of prog and classic rock, and even heavy metal, influencing their sound and live performances, Umphrey’s McGee is a unique and captivating beast of band, one which has fostered legions of hardcore fans and has propelled to the top of festival bills, annual multi-night stands at venues such as Red Rocks and the Beacon Theater, and an extremely successful touring career. 

Their latest album, Asking For a Friend, — the focus of this episode — is the band’s fourteenth studio effort and it might be their most emotionally charged and powerful yet. The reason for this heightened potency is pandemic related. Recorded over the course of three sessions at three different studios during the pandemic, Asking For A Friend represents a new approach for Umphrey’s McGee. With less pressure to finish the album quickly due to the industry-wide pause caused by the pandemic, the band was able to spend more time perfecting each track.

However, Asking For A Friend began to take shape in a pre-COVID world in September 2019 when the band met up with longtime UM engineer Greg Magers and producer Ryan Hewitt (Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Lumineers, The Avett Brothers) in Nashville for a session that would ultimately produce the standalone UM single “Suxity” as well as the first few tracks of the new album. Session two found the band at guitarist Jake Cinninger’s home studio in Niles, Michigan, deep in the throes of the first few months of the pandemic. Working on new music by day and performing via live stream at night proved to be highly successful and entertaining for the band who’d just been sidelined three months before. The end result is an astoundingly cohesive fourteen-song album that feels like a fresh statement from a group of world-class musicians and friends reapproaching their craft with a new lens.

In this episode host Michael Shields and Joel Cummins discuss the fascinating way Asking For a Friend was recorded amid the pandemic while expounding upon the band’s songwriting process in general. They talk about the lyrical themes of the album, what it has been like adding the music from Asking For a Friend into their live repertoire, and a great deal more!

Grab the vinyl or a digital copy of Asking For a Friend here!

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