Quinn Scharber and the Midwest Blues


Photo by Joe Kirschling


Words by Erin Wolf

Quinn Scharber’s soulful Midwestern power pop has gotten a lot of attention this year in Milwaukee, and rightfully so. Scharber and his band have mastered the trick of creating the ‘break-upbeat’ sound — songs about heartache and trial and error that somehow remain catchy and forward-focused. “Midwest Blues” is about the down and out, Heartland style. Scharber explains the strings and heartstrings used to compose the song off of Quinn Scharber and the…’s release Being Nice Won’t Save Milwaukee.

So. Own up — who gave you the Midwest blues?
Well, no person gave me the Midwest blues, but someone cured it (and I’m going to keep that someone to myself, ha, ha). To me, it’s always been a song about loneliness. Struggling through the long winter, and being too busy to realize how alone you feel until it’s nighttime and you have hours upon hours with your thoughts. A lot of people think this song is about having a superficial, physical relationship with someone, but I never thought about it that way.

This song is a subdued 5:22 ballad sandwiched in the middle of an album mainly filled with energized three-minute pop songs. Do you prefer to work a bit of the subdued in, to save yourself from sounding one-sided?
I suppose so. I hope it speaks of some depth in our musical ability to not sound one-sided. I think my taste is pretty varied and I always like albums with songs seemingly out of left field. I had this song for years before recording it, and I always thought it was kind of whiny, but a lot of people seemed to identify with it. I’ve really grown to like it a lot. And, I’m always a sucker for a ballad…I just can’t help myself.

The guitar work in this song is pretty and not too contrived — what kind of guitar were you playing and were you using any effects pedals?
I wanted it to sound really choppy and uneasy in the verses to try and match the mood of the song, and then get really big and pretty in the choruses. I can’t remember how many tracks of guitars I recorded for this song, but I remember there was a shit-load. I do remember using a Fender Jaguar, Epiphone Casino and an acoustic guitar. The effects used were just an overdrive pedal and the clean guitar sound, and we’d mic’d the sound of the electric guitar without the amp.

The organ sound in the song has that whole Heartland appeal going on. How quintessential is it? Structurally substantial or just the icing on the cake?
I LOVE the organ on this song. Hayward Williams played it, and I think we used the second take he did. He came in without hearing the song, and knocked it out, no problem. It was pretty funny because I was sitting there beside him controlling the speed of the Leslie speaker while I pointed to the chords to play. But, we got it done. Anyway, I was trying to get that sort of Al Green organ sound, but I kinda like the idea of the Heartland appeal now that you mention it. I think it fits. But, the reason we used the organ was because we had it sitting there, and it was kind of a ‘let’s see how this sounds’, type of thing. I’m so glad we did because I absolutely love how it sounds. Lots of organ on the new record!

Quinn Scharber and the… and The Nice Outfit play Points East Pub (1501 N. Jackson St), Saturday, December 27th.

MP3“Midwest Blues”, Quinn Scharber and the…
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One Response to “Quinn Scharber and the Midwest Blues”

  1. RadioMilwaukee Music Awards Winners: A quick digest « Fan-Belt Milwaukee Says:

    […] The Rusty P’s Power “Poptart” Award (Power Pop Song of the Year) – “Latest Flame,” Quinn Scharber and the… Dance Track of the Year – “Fire,” Codebreaker “414 Music” Award (Best In-Studio […]

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