Albert Cummings Takes The Plunge into Performing Full Time
Janis, Jimi, and The Stones’ Brian Jones all died at age 27. Albert Cummings began playing music “professionally” at the same age. Twenty-seven years later, the Williamstown native has reversed himself from playing music 5% of the time and building multi-million-dollar homes 95% of the time. Now he’s on the road months at a time and construction is on the back burner. He’s just released Ten, his tenth album. He plays the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock on April 23rd, Shepard Park in Lake George on July 13th and The Bousquet Mountain Summer Concert Series in Pittsfield on July 14th.
I’ve been telling Albert for more than 20 years that he would come to a fork in the road, and he’s finally taken it. “I used to put 95% of my time in construction and 5% in music. I still made some pretty good traction, but the more you put into something the more it’s going to give back. It’s like a fire. You put the wood on it, the fire’s still going. It’ll burn. You gotta keep the fire going. I’ve only had a little smoldering coal for a long time. I’m ready to stoke it up and put some dry wood on that baby and go. And I think that’ll make a difference because I think a lot of people over the years would say, ‘Well, he’s not serious about music. He’s just building, you know?’”
Albert finds playing in front of an audience every day is entirely different from doing the occasional gigs he performed in the past. “If I have more than a week off, I start to feel like I’ve never had a gig in my life, and it’s gonna be the first time I ever play and am I ever going to be able to remember the songs, and I’m not gonna be on top of my game. Sometimes it’s totally true, and I can’t do anything, but most of the time I just get into it and forget about it.
“I don’t think at all once I get to the stage. If you’re thinking you’re stinkin.’” He just did a month-long tour of the West Coast. “Not to sound arrogant, but on my own level of my own personal self I notice a huge difference when I start to play every day because that grows every day, and it’s something to build off, and when you can only play once in a while, you never get to like building. You just get to maintain it.”
Giving up a lucrative construction gig to play music full-time at age 54 is like performing a high wire act without a safety net. “It’s scary for me because my whole life has been about providing for my family and doing what’s right and being a good dad and staying home. My kids are all grown. All this time I’ve been talking about it. I mean I can always go back and build anything I want. I don’t have to worry about it. It’s easier to go back and build stuff than it is to climb the ladder in the music world. This music business makes the construction business look like a piece of cake. And the construction business is a pretty hard world.
“I can go back and build something if I fall on my face, but I could never live with myself if I fell on my face because I’ve never failed at anything, you know? I think I just haven’t set my sights big enough, and I want to do this, and I’m gonna do it.”
He compares both construction and performing to harvesting gravel out of the earth. “Basically, the gravel just keeps falling out. It’s usually just a hill or a mound or whatever they quarry it from, but if you try to climb that bank, you’re just sliding in stuff that’s falling out. There’s no good foothold. It’s just impossible to climb the bank. It’s just falling around you.
“After I started building my first large house, or larger residence or large project, they came to me again with larger projects. I no longer could take the small little this or that job. I could focus exactly on what I would want to focus on with my house, and I wanted to build the biggest, baddest, most expensive house that’s ever been built, and I did that for 33 years.
“The thing with music is I could go play a gig for 50 people, and the next day I may be playing a gig for 10,000 people, and the day after that I may be playing a gig for 50 people. It’s like it’s a very hard gravel bank in music. You’ve got to have tenacity. You gotta have your sight on that front goal, and you deflect all the stuff that’s coming at ya, and the people that are trying to put you down because they can’t stand or do better than that. I mean it’s a twisted world, and I’m ready to jump full force into it. But the challenge of it is what’s bringing me to it. It’s like, boy, you’re not gonna try this? You gotta go through your life, and not try this? You gotta try this! You have to do this! I’ve been talking about it forever.”
The song “Too Old to Grow Up” on Albert’s just-released album Ten is an oxymoron. Albert is a very mature musician, husband, and dad. His music addresses middle-class concerns and reaches further into Americana territory than the blues-rock in his earlier efforts. He’s casting a wider net with a production that involved Vince Gill and some other heavy hitters in Nashville.
“That’s what’s cool about this album is that most of the people I’m working for are connected. All the players on the album are Grammy winners. The producer is a Grammy winner. I’m the only guy that isn’t, you know? So, I’m really excited about what I have to offer the world. I think there’s gonna be some people that will relate to this record. I hope there are. I’m just hoping for the best with it all. I can only put it out there and expose my belly and say here’s my world, and I hope you like it.”
Albert calls it the 27 Club when so many rock stars died at once in 1971. “All the great guys – Hendrix and all them. I mean I started when I was 27. I’m starting at the point when people said, ‘This is bullshit. I gotta get a job.’ And I’m just gonna light up the whole place. And to some extent I have.”
i am happy for you albert because you are awesome ,just saw you in woodstock ny .great show also scott and warren are the best also.
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