LOCK HAVEN - Rhett Camden has been strumming and crooning for 20 years - by his own admission - and will perform at 5 p.m. Friday at the Avenue 209 Coffeehouse, 209 Bellefonte Ave. Visit www.reverbnation.com/rhettcamden for a preview.
APRIL LINE: So what's with the monkey on your marketing stuff?
RHETT CAMDEN: (laughs) Have you seen "Fight Club?"
AL: I have.
RC: I shave my head periodically, so my wife calls me "Space Monkey." She did all these buttons for Halloween once and she made that one. I liked it so much, I was like, "You gotta get me a good file for this." I'm using it for my image.
AL: What are your tattoos of?
RC: (more laughing) I've got two dragons, a phoenix, a thunderbird, a jaguar, a tiger, a couple other different symbols and images.
AL: How are they significant?
RC: I got my first tattoo at 18. Then I had friends who were getting tattoos, and I decided I was going to get more. I got a big dragon on my right arm. I was looking around and reading magazines and noticed that other people had random stuff going on. So, I decided that it had to mean something, so that when I'm 80 - even if I no longer believe it - at least I can say why. For a time, I was into new-age thinking, so they're all guides, spirit animals - symbols that mean something. The thunderbird is holding a hammer, the dragon is holding the chisel. So, when I'm playing the guitar, [my] right hand is my hammer, my left hand is my chisel.
AL: Where is the space that you're performing in the videos on Facebook and ReverbNation?
RC: At Broad Street Coffee in Milford. They set it up very comfortably.
AL: Do you have any formal training in singing? Do you have a band?
RC: I have very little formal training in either music or singing. I've taken a little bit of lessons on bass and singing a long time ago. Everything you hear now is basically self-taught and practice and hearing other people doing it better. I have had bands and been in bands in the past - sometimes it went well and sometimes it didn't. Right now, I'm doing it all solo because it's hard to get a band together. But I would like to get a band together.
AL: So what's with "Plain Clothed Martian Cannibal Productions?"
RC: (laughs again) Plain-clothed Martian Cannibal is a line from a song I wrote. If I'm going to make a label, I wanted to pick something that nobody else had and that would stick in people's heads. I think that does.
AL: What's your favorite gig of all time?
RC: Played or seen?
RC: Seen is easy. It's now Hardware Bar in Scranton. But it used to be called Ticks. Blue Oyster Cult was playing. I got there at 6 or 7, long before anyone else. The stage goes all the way up to this pillar, so I crawled up on the stage, sat with my back against this pillar, and I was on the stage for the whole show. It was great. It was absolutely great.
AL: How'd you get the gig at the coffee shop in Lock Haven?
RC: I keep track of other singer-songwriters in the area. I see where they play. I give those places a call, and see if they're receptive.
AL: What's your songwriting process like?
RC: Currently, it is I sit down with my guitar and I just kind of noodle around, and a riff or something happens and I'm like "ooh, that's cool" and I'll work on the riff and develop it. Then [I] look through old lyrics to see if some of them fit or a melody line will pop into my head. Usually, it takes 20 minutes to a half hour. Sometimes, it's something I've been ruminating on, [and] sometimes it comes out of nowhere. I try not to force it. Usually, I don't edit the lyrics.
AL: Do you have any albums out?
RC: No. I have those demos that I made. The purpose of those demos was not only to have demos for potential bandmates, I was also getting my fans to rate them. I'm going to start working on a more refined EP with five or six tracks. Hopefully that will be an official release.
AL: Anything you wish I'd asked?
RC: Yes. Why focus on original music? The answer is I know that if I were to join a cover band, I could get paid gigs. There are a lot of places in this area that are very happy to take you if you're going to do a night of covers.
But I feel like since this is my art, passion, love and I have more songs than most people I know have heard, I'd rather do my original music for nothing than get paid to play someone else's songs.
That's why I'm very thankful for places like Avenue 209.