Interview with Lee Koch
Ventura Rocks sat down with Lee Koch just after his sound check before his show at Zoey’s recently.
Ventura Rocks: Ok, let’s just get this out of the way right now. Now do you pronounce your last name?
Lee: Cook, like C.O.O.K.
Ventura Rocks: Doesn’t look like that at all.
Lee: Not at all. K.O.C.H., but I believe I’ve come across other people over the past few years that spell and pronounce their name the same way. I never thought I’d meet another person who spells and pronounces their name the same way except my family.
Ventura Rocks: And where are you from originally?
Lee: Temecula, California.
Ventura Rocks: Do they have a big music scene there in Temecula?
Lee: No. Not at all! There are touring acts who play like at the casinos around there, but that’s about it. And then there are bar bands and cover bands, but there’s no venues like Zoey’s here [in Ventura], where you can pay ten bucks and see a really great band you’ve never heard of.
Ventura Rocks: Right!
Lee: Actually one day my wife and I hope to do something like that some down there in that area.
VR: Your own club?
Lee: Keep in touch with Polly and Steve [Zoey’s owners].
Ventura Rocks: Absolutely!
Lee: They’ll show us how to do it out in that area and guide us.
[At this point Nicole Koch stops by and gives hubby a kiss. Nicole is pregnant with their first baby, and she is glowing! After Nicole walks away Lee is now glowing as much as his wife.]
Ventura Rocks: Your first?
Lee: Yea. We’re about halfway, she’s due February 1st.
Ventura Rocks: (Don’t you love when the man uses “we” when referring to pregnancy? Their love for one another is almost tangible!) Wow! Congratulations! Do you know if it’s a girl or a boy?
Lee: No! We’re going to wait. We like surprises.
Ventura Rocks: You crazy kids.
Ventura Rocks: Well that’s awesome.
Lee: Yea, we’re excited.
Ventura Rocks: How long have you been married?
Lee: Two and half years.
Ventura Rocks: Well that’s super cool.
Lee: Yea, a lot of pivotal happenings going on right now with music, and obviously a baby; it’s good; it feels like you’re really living life. After being on the road, and then getting that news and doing that whole surreal TV thing!
Ventura Rocks: So tell me how the “TV thing” came about.
Lee: Well actually I had stepped out of music to pursue a bakery with my wife and my older brother. I have friends who already run one in Temecula so I worked there to educate ourselves so one day we could open one of our own.
Ventura Rocks: Now are you a baker or a business people?
Ventura Rocks: (laughs) I’M A MUSICIAN!
Lee: Yea! But we just wanted to try a different avenue and we’re both hard workers and we thought we’d collect some business savvy along the way. We already learned how to bake decently. And then The Voice came along with an email from a guy who manages the runner up from the first season. His girlfriend saw me do a show at Zoey’s, she bought a CD and brought it back home to him and said, “You gotta listen to this guy”. At that time, his artist, Dia Frampton, was doing really well, she had an indie sort of voice and she ended up taking 2nd place on The Voice. So her manager sent me this email, and I wrote back and said, “Thanks anyway, but I’m getting into baking and I’m not really going to perform music anymore. You know, I’ll always write, but not perform anymore.
Ventura Rocks: You were really thinking you’d never perform again?
Lee: Yea, I had actually quit. I performed my last show at Zoey’s as a performing musician.
Ventura Rocks: Wasn’t that hard?
Lee: Kind of, but I never get too hung up on stuff. You hear people say that they’re going to make it no matter what, against all odds, and that’s great, more power to them. I love hearing success stories. But I don’t really beat things over the head. I kind of do it until it gets exhausting.
Ventura Rocks: Do it as long as it feels right?
Lee: Yea, I think I just felt stuck doing the local bar scene and I had come full circuit. I love all those places and I’m so happy I got to meet all the great people I had, but I think I was just done after five years of doing it. I did an album I was really proud of and I said I did my music thing, now let’s see what else I can do. I’d still do music for myself, my family and my friends.
Ventura Rocks: So you said no to The Voice.
Lee: Yea, I said no, and then he got back to me again and he said it seems like you have nothing to lose, why don’t you try it out and maybe it will get you a couple of cool shows and sell some CDs from it, and get you a little bit of exposure. So I said, Yea, he’s right, it would probably be fun and what if I actually got on TV; that would be a trip! Something to tell my kids. And so it happened…barely, by the skin of my teeth. There were 120 people that it got whittled down to that did the blind audition. I probably was like the 90th person to go and by then I thought all the teams would be full, but I grabbed the 48th spot out of 48th.
As soon as I made it onto a team, Nicole and I agreed that that was kind of the push we would need, the exposure we would need to get back into music and give it one more go. For all that to happen and to not try to jump back into music, it would almost be arrogant in a way. Oh yea I could do this, but I’m not gonna… you know, people would kill to get that kind of exposure.
Ventura Rocks: Absolutely.
Lee: It would almost disrespect the people that have been so supportive of my music by not pursuing it again. And I thought, that’s not really my style. A lot of people had my back and a lot of people really supported me during the show. So the only thing to do, and the right thing to do would be hit the road again. We hit the road in March, so that we’d be cross country while my episodes were airing, and that’s exactly how it played out. A lot of people recognized me because the show was fresh, and I got to play a lot of venues that I would not have been able to otherwise. I pulled The Voice card and even if it’s not my idea of validation of good music. It’s still other people’s. If someone famous tells them it’s good, then they believe it’s good. If that’s how they think of me as a good musician, then I’ll take it and I’ll go play for them and share my original stuff. That was my main goal, to get my written stuff out there.
Ventura Rocks: What size audiences have you been playing for?
Lee: Some festivals with about 1200 people, but I’m use to 50-100. So anytime there’s a few hundred people, that’s a good size crowd for me. I’m still an unknown in the industry for sure, even after being on national TV. A lot of people are on national TV nowadays, it gets played up and a lot of the other contestants are like, “As soon as I get on NBC, I’ll be famous. It’s surefire.” But I didn’t’ think that going into it. There were a lot of people that were let down as they were getting eliminated, but I was totally content because I knew I would just run with the momentum until it stopped and then hopefully we had built our own organic momentum. That’s kind of where it’s going.
Ventura Rocks: You already had so many people who believed in you.
Lee: Yea definitely, the fans I do have, are super supportive, they’re like super fans…but not in a weird way like where they stalk me. I know most of them personally and they have become friends, some of my best friends these days are people that we’ve met at shows. We just kept in touch and they really connected with my lyrics we usually have a lot in common, it’s just really cool. So I just got to show some respect to them by continuing to do this music. Like I said, I will always write, but I’m going to keep recording and performing for those people who want to come out; they really long to hear me play these songs, which is really flattering.
Ventura Rocks: You have a new project you’re working on now?
Lee: A new album. I’m going to go in next month where I did my debut album with Jesse Siebenberg and use pretty much the same formula, I’m going to introduce about 10-12 new songs. And we’re just going to build them with some great musicians that we know and some new ones who have freed up recently.
Ventura Rocks: So the tour is wrapping up?
Lee: The tours been great. We’ve been on the road since March; we went up to Alaska, across the South to the East coast and back to do this West coast tour for the last two months. So from March until now, mid September, we’ve only been home for about a month.
Ventura Rocks: You’re wife has been on the road with you?
Lee: Oh yeah. That’s the only way we’d do it. As long as we’re together whether it’s baking or music, we just want to be together, and now with our little baby. Any extra money that we raise from this fundraiser that we’re doing through Kickstarter, which is done in four days…
Ventura Rocks: How far are you away from your goal?
Lee: We’re two-thirds. We’re at 16 grand, we need 24. If we do go over, by the grace of God, we’re going to put it towards a small motor home and take the baby out after the next album is done, and just keep doing this as a family. And whatever musicians are brave enough to come along with the baby…we’ll see!
Note: Lee made is target on his birthday 46 hours before the deadline. Total pledges after all was said and done were $25,360. Looking forward to the new release and watching Lee hit the road with family in tow…as long as it feels right.
We hope it’s for a very long time.