Harvest & Rust photo

Tribute bands are very popular nowadays and, to be honest, are a lot of fun to cover. Such is the case with Harvest & Rust, a five-piece group made up of John Kiernan, Jim Reynolds, Andy Gordon, Matt Cahil and founder/frontman Garrett Lechowski from Western Massachusetts that specialize in the music created by Neil Young. The band will be performing at Somerset Abbey on Saturday, April 29. from 7-10 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m. with tickets available at www.somersetabbey.com). To that end, a phone interview was arranged with Lechowski who was reached at his home in North Adams, Massachusetts.

Q: Could you talk a little bit about Harvest & Rust?
Lechowski: This band grew out of my need to have an outside release from my day job. I work privately as a psychotherapist, and I’ve been a working musician since the age of 14. I don’t golf, so the next best thing is to go out and play music at this age. I should also add that golfers don’t make money. They spend a lot of money. Where as musicians spend a lot of money but make a little bit back (laughter), which is nice because then there’s guitars, you know what I’m saying (more laughter)?

Q: Yup, I do. Can you share more about the music you’re currently doing?
Lechowski: A lot of musicians face the conundrum of do you go out and play the hits of the day and try and keep people dancing or do you go out and do whatever you want, which I think all of us flirt with at one point or another. But I’m at a place in life where this really accomplishes three things.

Q: Which are?
Lechowski: Number one, relaxing and forgetting about my day job, which is essential. Number two, spreading joy to other people, and lastly, having connection with other people and kind of keeping your body and your brain moving. The key to trying to stay vital and healthy is to not settle into my Barcalounger and watch “Jeopardy.”

Q: That is what I do most nights at 7:30, so I guess there’s no hope for me. But you mentioned not wanting to play the “hits of the day”?
Lechowski: Very little modern music does much for me, so I’m kind of wedded to what’s now called “classic rock.” And I love that sort of stuff.

Q: Yeah, me too. When did you form Harvest & Rust?
Lechowski: Our first show was fall of 2018. We rehearsed about six months thinking it was just going to be a one-off show in our community of the Berkshires, Massachusetts. And I recognized rather early that the guys that were committed to putting the songs together for that particular show just really played so well together. I was like, “Boy, this could really work!”


Q: That sounds like fate to me, but were there any problems that arose?
Lechowski: There were a couple of huddles I had to overcome. I hadn’t really played harmonica that much, so I essentially learned how to play harmonica to do the show, but then that presented another problem. You see, trying to play harmonica and guitar at the same time wasn’t a problem, but playing harmonica and piano at the same time, seeing piano is not my first instrument, (was). It’s worse than trying to walk, chew gum and to play the horses at the same time, not that I do that. So, yeah, we’ve been at this for five years now. I’m pleasantly surprised at the places we’ve been able to book in the Northeast, United States and incredibly grateful at the response … we’ve been getting from the audience.

Q: How so?
Lechowski: I’m not ordinarily a guy that fronts bands. I’m usually backing people, acting as lead guitarist, maybe occasionally singing a song during a show to give the lead singer a break. I’ve never worked regularly as a front man before, so that was kind of a learning curve, as well. I’ve been really astonished at the wonderful response we’ve been getting when we do the meet-and-greets after the shows, how gracious and kind everybody is about what they’re hearing and what they’re seeing.

Q: Now, you’re coming up to the Somerset Abbey, have you performed up there before?
Lechowski: We have never been to Maine; this is our first trip to Maine. I think we’ve been in five or six states now. … I was looking for just the right place to play up there, and it seems like we found it. So we’re definitely looking forward to it.

Q: You certainly did find the right place, for sure. Just out of curiosity, how do you choose what songs of his to perform? There’s a huge catalogue of material that he’s amassed, for sure.
Lechowski: We have now played approximately 50 of Neil’s songs for two reasons: number one, to keep it interesting, but secondly the retention of audience from another show. We are constantly rotating what we do. There are six or seven songs that have to be in the show regardless. If we don’t play “Harvest Moon” our mothers would probably throw tomatoes at us, but, with that said, you play six or seven hits and then the next 15 to 20 songs could be anything. And there are so many recognizable songs between Neil’s catalogue, CSNY and Buffalo Springfield, so everybody leaves happy.

Q: Seeing this is your first show at Somerset Abbey, not to mention in Maine, is there anything, Garrett that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Lechowski: Our goal is simple, just bring Neil’s music and to have a good time. Our hope is that we make a lot of new friends when we come up to Maine, and it gives us a good excuse to come back very soon.

Q: And the bottom line?
Lechowski: We’re happy to be presenting Neil’s music to them and to be keeping that music alive for the foreseeable future. We just want everybody to have a good time and bring some joy to them. My hope is that we can give everybody a show that they are going to remember for quite a while and have a good time. I think that pretty much sums it up.

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at luckyc@myfairpoint.net if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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