We had the good fortune of connecting with Howard Rains and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Howard, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
Tricia was born and raised in Big Springs, Kansas and I was born in Houston, Texas but grew up in the small Texas town of Sherman. In many ways, we grew up in similar environments: small towns on the great plains, however, Texas and Kansas have distinct cultural differences that impacted us in different ways. Tricia was born into a family of farmers and old time musicians and learned the fiddle from her grandpa, Vernon Spencer, from an early age. She grew up in a way that is now nearly lost. Her family has been on the same piece of land in rural Kansas since the 1850s and their music was passed down from generation to generation. It was also a strict religious upbringing but not without the depth of old time music, card games around the family table, and folk art learned from both her grandma, Iona, and a local elder and mentor. I was brought up in small town Texas also to a musical family. Singing songs and playing instruments was a very important part of life in my family, as well. About the age of 12, my parents divorced and my mom met an artist named Tony Bass. He was a great surrealist with an encyclopedic knowledge of art and culture and I learned a great deal from him. Much more than I would have picked up in small town Texas. There is a strong element of individuality and creativity in the people of Texas though it might not always be apparent. Both of us were brought up with a deep sense of history and culture: our own and the land and people around us. Tricia learned a great deal from her grandma in this way. I learned in a similar way from my grandfather, V.H. Hackney, who was not only an educator, but also wrote and published histories and folklore of east Texas, as well as fantastically creative short stories that entertained generations of my family members. We were both fortunate to be brought up in environments that pushed us to learn and to create, even though sometimes cultural and familial forces seemed to simultaneously run counter to those notions.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Tricia’s grandpa once told her, while hearing a particularly flashy fiddler at a fiddler’s convention, “I wish they would just say they’re good and play some good music.” What he meant by this was that flash doesn’t equate that which makes solid, grounded… good music. And of course that can be applied to any creative endeavor. If you play a bunch of notes, you may be showing off your technical skill, but you aren’t showing your true ability to create and say something with depth and meaning. A piece of advice my step-father gave me regarding artwork was, “don’t get too precious with it.” I think he meant to get your hands dirty. Don’t hold back. It’s the same when I sing. If I try to sing quietly, the notes won’t come out right and certainly the emotion won’t come out right, but if I push from deep within, although it may feel risky, I put my emotions on full display and the rewards are great. The full palette of emotion and notes that I am capable of becomes available.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If we wanted to show a friend the best place for the best time ever, we would take them as far as our living room, because that is where we make music, we dance, and we make art. Just a few feet away is the kitchen where we make the most delicious food. We could show anyone a grand time just by starting the day with our coffee and a breakfast made with the eggs from the chickens in the yard. A morning of art making and discussion. A lunch of tacos with Tricia’s incredible home-style salsas. A siesta. An afternoon walk around town or in the deep woods. An evening of more homemade fare for dinner and then music made by hand with the old fiddle and the big guitar… maybe we’d even roll up the rug and have a square dance! A whiskey or two wouldn’t hurt to liven things up and keep the tunes rolling until the wee small hours. We don’t need to go anywhere to have the very best time we can possibly have. We create our own good times.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout to Tony Bass, my step-father, from whom I learned at an early age about the rich realms of art and art history. Tricia would like to dedicate hers to her grandpa, Vernon Spencer, from whom she learned about the rich world of traditional American fiddling.