Interview | FFS 5 Q&A with Nick Dittmeier & the Sawdusters

Photo: Tyler Zoller

Southern Indiana musician Nick Dittmeier finds a needed reprieve from the looming presence of loss in his life with his new record All Damn Day (due 26 October). Fronting Nick Dittmeier & the Sawdusters, the singer-songwriter lingers on the omniscient Grim Reaper in a way that’s hopeful and uplifting as it is forlorn, harkening to the works of such literary giants as John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Roald Dahl and Mark Twain.

“I look at this record as a continuation of a lot of storytelling by these writers. Their themes touch on a lot of forgotten people, working-class people and characters that have impossible situations in front of them,” says Dittmeier, who also draws heavily upon the work of Frank Bill, Dave Eggers, Kurt Vonnegut and Daniel Woodrall. His perceptiveness in his craft is refreshing and has so far earned him stage slots with the likes of Cody Jinks, John Prine, Turnpike Troubadours, Justin Townes Earle, The Mavericks and several others.

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?

My name is Nick Dittmeier and I am a singer-songwriter from Southern Indiana. That’s in the Midwestern United States. I started playing guitar when I was 12 because I wanted to write songs and be in a band. My grandmother is a music teacher and she “borrowed” a guitar from the school where she was teaching at the time and showed me chords and how to reads notes just out of a little Mel Bay book.

As an artist, how do you define success?

The act of creation. If you create something or perform to me that is success. Everything flows from there, you can’t control how people are going to reaction, but you can attempt to influence the reaction. There’s a big difference between music and the music business. Music will be around as long as there are humans.

What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?

There are just so many artist and bands out right now, especially in our genre. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but just a reality of how things are. Technology has helped move that along whether it’s social media or the price of making a record going down, or the fact gas has stayed under $3 a gallon. I think there’s flexibility but there is a finite amount of people that will go to shows, buy records etc. It’s a big investment of time and money for fans to come out and see a band and we’re super grateful for those people.

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist/band? What do you hope to achieve?

Creating music and trying to get it front of eyes and ears is what our goal is and maximize the number of said parts. We’re just trying to build a loyal fan base which is doable based on the amount of dates we’re willing to play. I’m not trying to write songs that are lock step in with my personal or immediate feelings. The new record features themes of timeless struggles and working people, and as an artist and a person coming from a very working class background, I feel a responsibility to illuminate that.

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

Having time to back away when you can and generate life experiences and grow relationships. That can be hard to do when you’re playing almost 200 shows a year, but you have to have hobbies or interests even on tour or you’ll go crazy. I like walking my dog to the Ohio River which is close to my house or working in my garden, mundane things that clear my head. The type of music my bandmates and I write, I’m trying to say as much as I can within the fewest amount of words, so simple tasks can help simply thoughts or themes. Creating things is important to me and it’s very humanizing to create something that people can experience whether it’s food, a song, whatever.

Words by: Jonathan Frahm (@jfrahm_)

Photo: Tyler Zoller