It all flows from the circus of sound at the Coates home.
“You heard the Skip James comin’ from the garage where your dad’s makin’ a footstool,” Fred Coates says, describing the clamor. “And at the same time some Missy Elliott came in from upstairs down into the kitchen while someone was washin’ the pots and pans. Sometimes things just do naturally come together. You just have to know how to draw a frame around it.”
Coates has his obvious influences — the blues and Captain Beefheart, the Beat Generation writers and Kurt Weill, field hollers and torch songs. But there are hidden ones that are just as important.
“The thing about influences, most of it goes in and it melts. I mean, can you really hear Jimmie Rodgers in Howlin’ Wolf? When he does that yodel, that was his failed attempt at a Jimmie Rodgers yodel. Most of the people that are really influencing you, no one would necessarily see. They’ve really become just stains on your undershirt.”
“I can’t sing like Harry Belafonte, but I love him. If I told you all I’m doin’ is trying to sound like Harry Belafonte, you wouldn’t get it. And I want to play piano just like Liberace. And dance like, I don’t know, Fred Astaire and James Brown. Most of us are contraptions that we made.” ~ Fred Coates