Before forming Last Chance, Jack practiced law and taught Songwriting. Ingrid played violin as a child, worked as a pharmacist before studying classical violin at Temple University, and became a popular music teacher in Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Swarthmore.
Given their many engagements, it’s not easy to catch up with them, but we finally did get together.
Henrik: What’s new and exciting with Last Chance?
Jack: Let me tell you. My car radio is usually set at WXPN, my favorite Philadelphia music station. Recently, on a Saturday morning, as I started the car, the song playing on the radio was “Same Moon,” from our brand new Last Chance recording, Endless Flight. It was the first time Last Chance was played on WXPN. I nearly jumped through the sunroof.
Ingrid: He called me and started screaming. It was 7:30 on Saturday morning. I tried to calm him down, but my adrenaline was pumping, too.
Great! How did WXPN get your CD?
Ingrid: In December, we played at an event for WXPN’s Musicians on Call program at Philadelphia’s Hard Rock Café, along with other performers who volunteer to play in hospitals and veterans’ facilities at the bedsides of patients. We’ve been volunteering for Musicians on Call for about four years. Helen Leicht, who works for WXPN and supports local musicians, hosted the show. The next day, our CD was finished, and we sent one of the first CDs to Helen.
Ingrid: It really is. We get a lot out of sharing our music one-on-one with patients and their families. Some of the patients are very ill. Through this program, we’ve also met some wonderful musicians and guides who volunteer their services.
Jack: If you look around, you’ll find many worthy causes. We play regularly as volunteers at the Community Cup Coffeehouse in Springfield, PA, specifically for special needs teens and adults. They’re consistently one of our most enthusiastic audiences.
Ingrid: We also love to play for veterans groups. We’ve found a number of them in the area.
Tell us about Endless Flight, your latest CD. It’s an attractive package. Where did the title come from?
Ingrid: It’s from the lyrics in one of the songs, “Two Stars.” The artwork is by Jenell Kesler, an artist friend of mine who lives in New Mexico. She does beautiful work on CD covers and posters for musical groups. The photos are by Rick Prieur, a professional photographer we like a lot. And my daughter, Miranda Brodsky, put it all together and designed both the cover and the disc.
How do you write your songs?
Jack: I write the songs, but Ingrid collaborates with me to let me know what works and what doesn’t — lyrically and melodically. Ingrid writes all the fiddle arrangements and comes up with the harmonies. It’s a team effort, from start to finish.
How do your audiences respond?
Ingrid: The songs are all original. It’s important to us that we play only original music. We’ll play senior centers where the Program Director tells us the audience will want to hear songs they already know. We smile, and then we play our songs. We’ve been doing this long enough to know that our audiences love what we do.
Your songs all sound different and cover a wide range of experiences.
Jack: We include different topics in our songs. We tell stories, describe scenes, and sing about adventures. My musical hero, the late John Stewart, was a fascinating and talented songwriter who used to say, “Life, you can catch it in a song. The trick is to catch the song.”
Ingrid: We work hard to present a lot of variety in our songs. In the songs on our CD, and on every set list we prepare for live concerts, we mix fast songs with slower ones, major keys with minor keys, banjo songs, harmonica songs, even instrumentals. There are just two of us, so we need to keep the audience interested and captivated.
I’ve heard your latest CD. I thought it was as delightful and real as your first CD.
Ingrid: We always want our recordings to sound just as we do in live performances. We don’t enhance our recordings with any studio tricks.
Jack: We’ve been recording the songs for several years. It always takes longer than you expect. We work with Chuck Jopski who owns Studio 740 Sound.
Jack: Usually, we start by recording an instrumental track. We add the lead vocal, by either Ingrid or me, then our other instruments—fiddle, harmonica, banjo, or guitar—and finally harmony vocals. Then the real work of listening and improving begins.
Is that always the recording sequence?
Jack: Not always. Sometimes we use a different approach. For example, I had previously recorded the banjo part of an instrumental, “Sacramento,” and Ingrid added her fiddle to the existing track. As we both listened to the playback, she didn’t like what she heard.
Ingrid: I remember that recording for our CD. Sometimes it’s really hard to get the timing right by adding tracks. I was struggling with the timing and ready to give up and drop the song. Jack encouraged me to keep going, and Chuck suggested that we forget about what was already recorded and just play it live. That’s how we ended up getting the recording right—and we think it worked beautifully.
You recently celebrated the release of your latest work, Endless Flight. I attended your CD Release party and concert which featured a wide range of musicians. How did that amazing, standing-room-only event come about?
Jack: We wanted to plan a party, rather than a simple show. Last summer, we were thrilled when Last Chance was invited to play at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. That’s where we met other great musicians, including Rusty & Jan [a husband and wife vocal duo: Jan Alba on flute and saxophone, and Rusty Crowell on guitar] and the Michael Spear Duo [with multi-instrumentalist Smiling Ed, and guitar player and singer Michael Spear]. We invited them all to join us for our CD Release party.
Ingrid, you are a classically trained violin player. Yet, you seem to fit in with all those folk musicians as if you had been playing with them for years.
Ingrid: Thank you. When we received the invitation to play the Folk Festival, I didn’t even know what it was.
Jack: I explained it was like Carnegie Hall with marijuana. And I told her what a big deal it was. I grew up in Philadelphia and loved folk music all my life. To play at the Philadelphia Folk Festival is a dream.
I recall there were four duos who played at the CD Release party and concert.
Ingrid: Yes, we also asked Square Wheels, a Media-based vocal duo, to play [Wayne Harvey, guitar, and Mac Given, clarinet].
You must know quite a few musicians by now.
Ingrid: Very much so. We host an Acoustic Music Circle at the Community Arts Center in Wallingford, PA, and an Open Mic at the Head House Café in Philly. As a result, we know a lot of local musicians. For our release party, we wanted really good ones who play different instruments. We had guitars, banjos, harmonicas, a fiddle, a clarinet, and a flute.
The lyrics of Last Chance are not only beautiful and thought-provoking but, together with the music, present a generosity of spirit to which I related from the moment I first heard you. You combined your CD Party and concert to benefit an important organization.
Jack: Thanks for the kind words. We decided early in the planning that we’d donate the proceeds to a worthy cause. One Step Away is an organization in Philadelphia that publishes a newspaper that homeless and unemployed folks sell all around Center City. The vendors are working hard to improve their lives, and One Step Away offers them some structure. All the musicians agreed to play for free so the proceeds could go to One Step Away.
Ingrid: The newspaper editor, Alexis Wright-Whitley, interviewed Jack and wrote an excellent article, wondering how music can be used as a tool to hammer out issues like homelessness, joblessness, and poverty.
Jack: Sometimes our songs deal with injustice. For example, on our new CD, we included a song that tells the story of a New Orleans cop who was shot five times while delivering a warrant on a drug house.
Ingrid: Alexis also spoke at our concert, and we gave away a copy of the One Step Away newspaper and our CD to each attendee.
The venue where you held the concert was unique and interesting.
Ingrid: It’s called WaR3house 3 in Swarthmore, PA. We love the atmosphere. The owner, Rob Borgstrom, converted a warehouse to a music venue. He built a stage, and added a lot of local and industrial antiques and art. Rob is very supportive of local musicians, and we all love to play there.
Jack: We’re going to keep moving on the path we’ve started. We’ve been playing as a duo for almost five years now. We plan to continue to expand our radius where we play live concerts and get more playing jobs wherever we can. We’ll continue to look for worthy causes and support them with our music. Last Chance isn’t a 50:50 enterprise. It’s more like a musical partnership to which we are each 100% devoted.
Ingrid: Singing and playing this style of music has been a dream for me. We feel like we’ve just scratched the surface of what Last Chance can do. We can’t wait to see what’s next.
Neither can I. Every single one of my friends who has experienced your music loves it and wants to hear your latest CD.
Last Chance has released two CDs: We Came to Play (2013) and Endless Flight (2016). Both CDs are available online and at their concerts.
You can visit Last Chance’s website, which also lists their upcoming events, or their You Tube Channel.
Originally published by DC Metro Theater Arts, February 18, 2017.