Not the Erie Canal this time, but...

Chris Bell will be playing at the Crooked I on February 26th, opening for popular local Erie band Shotgun Jubilee. You shouldn't miss this show if you're in the area- he's an up-and-coming folkish musician with a lot going for him in this upcoming year.

He was chronicled by the New York Times for the fact he did a tour of the Erie Canal by canoe a few years back. Well this time there is no canoe involved, but that doesn't make things any less interesting.

But first things first. Bell was born "a month early" in Springville, NY but brought up in Frewsburg.

"I was an only child out in the country, in the summer I could go a week or two without seeing another child my age," he remembered about growing up. These formative years would shape who he was about to become, as an artist and person.

"I loved playing in the woods, building strange electronic creations, and watched a lot of TV. I loved television as a kid, I’ve always, always been drawn to a good story."

Around the age of 10, Christopher Bell had his musical epiphany, while watching MTV (back when MTV used to be about music, back in those good old days!)

"Something just clicked and I knew this is what I wanted to do. I’ve been playing ever since. I’m driven by the need to create, to solve problems the challenge of trying to express a thought or feeling in a three-minute song, to make someone laugh, cry or dance."

It's been a lifelong process for Bell.

For musical guidance, he's looked to a variety of people and things. "I’ve had a couple mentors over the years, who I would squeeze dry of every bit of information I could out of them. Recently I have been reading through books on fugue and melody writing. Loudon Wainwright III and Randy Newman have been huge inspirations to me. The way Newman plays with words to add multiple meanings fascinates me."

Currently, Bell has his eyes on a few different objectives. He's recording a new EP for next month and "am also in the final stages of recording a classical album that will be out later this summer." In addition to his own work, though, Bell is working as a string composer for others.

"[I am] arranging/recording string trios for Sarah Winters, this amazing songwriter based out of Los Angeles, [as well as] arranging and mixing an album for a band out of England and recording a band in Jamestown."

As for the 26th though, he'll be opening for the ever-popular band Shotgun Jubilee, a band with which he shares a somewhat similar style.

"I met Dominick last March when I jumped on a show with him at The Brewerie. He is such a nice guy and we hit it off splendidly. Ryan I met last April when he booked me at the Riverside Music Festival. Even with all of that I have never seen them play before and I am very excited," he said, recalling where his relationship with the band started.

But as for the ever-tricky issue of what genre his music would fall under, Mr. Bell has this to say:

"I’ve recently learned that no matter what you think you sound like. If ten people say you sound like something, that’s what you sound like. With that reasoning, I’ve been called ‘Quirky Pop’ a fair bit, which thankfully I like being called. Sometimes is a bit more bluegrass, sometimes its beatboxing and synthesizer or 50’s piano ballads."

Tricky, indeed. He's an eclectic guy.

Surprisingly, though, Bell says he "doesn't listen to a lot of music." which cues a face like this: :O

"At home its usually classical radio and on the road I’m usually listening to an audio book. I am a huge nerd for audio books, especially read by the author," he admitted.

Audio books are awesome. continuing...

Bell's plans in 2011 are as follow: "...two more EP’s planned, one for March and one for May as well as my classical album set for late July. The latter I am working with an actor to turn the album into a performance piece/musical. So my hopes would be that I will be touring a musical."

This should be a year for Chris Bell. Keep on the lookout for him.

"People come up to me and say ‘I wish I could do what you are doing’ fairly often or that they wish they had my talent. I’m not the best musician, never have been. There are two attributes that have lead me to where I am now, asking questions and willpower. I always wanted to know how things worked. Why that sounded the way it did, looked the way it did, elicited that emotional reaction. The rest is sticking to something, you do not get good overnight, small steps over a long period of time will get you far"

"Start small, figure things out, work up as you go. Make mistakes, lots of them."

and as for any confusion with that OTHER Chris Bell, the one from Big Star, Bell said: "It happens to me every so often, every other month or so. I get more excited when people mention local musicians that share my name. I’ve always wanted to seek them out and start a band with them. I already know of the perfect name."