Curt Yagi & The People Standing Behind Me will bring a blend of happy acoustic rock with a touch of funk for flavor to The Cats Restaurant and Tavern, 17533 Santa Cruz Highway, the evening of Dec. 29. Ben Fong-Torres, former senior editor of Rolling Stone Magazine had this to say about this award-winning musician: "People keep comparing him to other artists, but I think he just sounds like Curt Yagi, and that is plenty good enough. This is one excellent singer and songwriter." San Francisco Bay Guardian named him "Best of the Bay" singer/songwriter in 2008.
Los Gatos Patch: How long have you been playing and how did you get started?
Curt Yagi: I actually didn’t start writing and performing my own music until later in life, maybe six years ago. I do come from a fairly musical family, but was always into sports much more than music. I suppose I was a bit of a closet musician in high school as I tried to mimic what my mom and sister were doing on the piano and ended up teaching myself to play. I never thought I was very talented and couldn’t imagine trying to sing so I didn’t. At some point, I did join a band as a bass player and thought, if these bands I’m playing with can write and perform, I can do the same. While it was painful seeing that I had no idea what I was doing at first, writing and performing my own music because such an enjoyable experience.
Patch: Where do you draw your inspiration from in your music?
Yagi: I just sort of react to whatever experiences life throws my way. I’ve definitely written lots of songs about family and loved ones, but I also tend to write about everyday life.
Patch: How did you come up with your band name Curt Yagi & The People Standing Behind Me?
Yagi: As an original artist, it is a big challenge to get attention. I wanted to come up with a name that people would hear and sort of turn their head and say “what,” but then chuckle. I have had so many compliments from the name and people always seem to remember it.
Patch: What is your best performance experience? What is your worst?
Yagi: I recently played a festival in San Francisco during the evening hours. It was dark outside and we had a big spotlight on us so it was difficult to see the crowd. I actually wasn’t sure how many people were watching, but as soon as I called out to the audience, it got really loud. I was told there were people watching from almost a block away. That was a lot of fun. In terms of worst, I would say that it would have to be one of my first performances. I started off doing a lot of open mics and keep in mind, I am a very shy person by nature. So, I was absolutely terrified for my first couple. I remember just having no confidence in my abilities which lead to a heavy sweat and very nervous sounding vocals. Not an experience I would want to re-live.
Patch: Do you have any pre-show rituals, for example a particular food or warm-up exercises?
Yagi: I will tell you it is difficult to be an original musician as we have played for both big crowds as well as crowds of one or two people. For any show, I am always grateful and take what they give. So, if they are feeding me a nice meal with a couple drinks before I play, that is my pre-gig meal for the night. Same with warm-ups, I don’t have any formal training, so I just sort of start performing. I’m sure it is not the best thing for myself, but it so far seems to work for me.
Patch: Have you ever played Los Gatos before and what you are looking forward to about it?
Yagi: I have actually played a friend’s festival in Los Gatos a few times. He has a nice, large property and turns it into a big wine and food event in his backyard. It is a ton of fun. He actually suggested I play at The Cats and I, of course, said, “let’s do it.” From what I have seen from his friends, many of whom live in Los Gatos, everyone seems very nice and appreciative of new music. I am excited to play.
Patch: What is something interesting about you that doesn’t relate to music?
Yagi: Like I said earlier, I was much more into sports than music growing up and going to school (even in college). I spent many years as a wrestler and still volunteer my time as a coach at the high school I went to.
Patch: What do you consider your greatest success?
Yagi: Music isn’t actually my full time career. During the day, I run a successful nonprofit in San Francisco called Real Options for City Kids. I am actually proud of the fact that I have found the perfect work/life balance to serve kids in the city while pursuing music. I may actually be the rare musician where if I experienced a high level of music success, would still find a way to keep my day job.