Interviews, Seattle

Kris Orlowski Talks about His New Record with the Passenger String Quartet

Nikki Benson / April 29, 2011
Photo by: Andria Lindquist

Kris Orlowski is putting out his fifth release, Kris Orlowski  Live with The Passenger String Quartet, and he’s giving us his most organic, rich record to date. The release party will be at Columbia City Theater on May 12th, and will be available for digital purchase everywhere on May 17th. When I saw the video of Kris Orlowski at the Fremont Abbey with The Passenger String Quartet, whose members include Andrew Joslyn (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Handful of Luvin, Seattle Rock Orchestra) and Alina To on Violin (Was in Grand Hallway, Seattle Rock Orchestra), Seth May Patterson on Viola (Seattle Rock Orchestra), and Danah Olivetree on Cello (Seattle Rock Orchestra, Shenandoah Davis), I was compelled to ask Kris Orlowski and Andrew Joslyn a few questions about the project. Check out the video and the interview below.

“Your Move” – Kris Orlowski with The Passenger String Quartet and Friends:

Nikki: Can you give me some insights as to your inspiration for this album? Subject matter?

Kris: Yeah, we went with a live album.  We recorded the whole thing in one day – all playing together inside the beautiful Fremont Abbey, then I went back and did some overdubs.  We will have a video montage coming out later this month so you get a visual of the experience.

I’ve been friends with a violin player named Andrew Joslyn for quite a few years.   I’m a huge fan of strings and Andrew has been saying we should collaborate for a number of years.  Finally we decided that he would add string arrangements to about 15 of my songs for a big show at the Triple Door in January.  The show sold out and we got rave reviews post performance.  We decided we wanted to capture the magic of that show on tape.  We picked the 5 best songs, and after much deliberation, we chose the Fremont Abbey as the place to record.  The songs speak to love (of course), time, being lost, change, and moving on.

It was a really fun experience and it sounded pretty epic with how much echo is in that room.   I felt like I was in the depth of a cavern with the music swallowing me whole as I played along to the quartet and band.

Nikki: How did you get started in music?

Kris: I got started in music since I could pretty much put on my own pants.  At age three, my dad propped me up on a piano and made me sing a Christmas song with him and my mom.  That continued well into my early teens – partially to my chagrin.   I really started playing out when I moved from Bellingham to Seattle in my early 20s.  I miss that town a lot and go back often.

Nikki: Why you play shows?

Kris: I love recording music, but playing live feels so much more epic.  I’m really into the romanticism of “never playing the song exactly the same way.”  Every night the songs, the show, it’s a little bit different – however subtle.  I love that.  Recently adding a quartet has really brought a diversity in the types of shows we are playing.

Nikki: What do you bring to Seattle music that is unique?

Kris: A part of what makes us unique is that the songs can stand on their own or be manipulated with lots of different groups of instrumentation. We may play an acoustic show as a trio (bass/drums/guitar) or perform full band with a fourth member, or we may perform as a bigger production with a quartet.  Lately I’ve been playing solo shows out and about, in California as well as up north.

Beyond that diversity, I think there is a genuineness (I don’t think that is a word but since it kinda looks like Guiness – so that makes it okay) to the music.  As my friend Barbara Mitchell puts it, there is “an accessibility that is tangible. There are no walls here — only a palpable honesty.”  She is much better with words than I.  I think “Your Move” and the EP as a whole echoes our actions to create art that is supportive and inclusive.

We have some exciting plans in the works and I hope things continue to grow organically.

Image via

Nikki: Andrew, what is your background in Seattle Music?

Andrew: As for a quick background, I play violin/viola/compose/arrange for a wide variety of acts in Seattle, namely Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Handful of Luvin‘, Eric Tingstad (Grammy Award winning producer), Seattle Rock Orchestra, and now most recently Kris Orlowski.

Nikki: Lot’s of big names there! Did Kris have to twist your arm to get you to be part of his most recent effort?

Andrew: Kris and I had been discussing the need to put together a project together for a long time, because of our shared taste in music, and an overall enthusiasm for working with each other.  After working with a lot of music groups, there is just certain synergies that you can’t reproduce, and when you find it (like what Kris and I have for this project), you try and strike when the iron is hot.

Nikki: Why do you think this project is unique?

Andrew: I think one of the most important things that is unique about this project is the marriage of a classic tradition of music (classical/baroque/romantic string quartet arranging) with that of a ‘newer’ art form of folk/pop rock. The two coincide with each other beautifully on this EP, creating a nice mesh of symphonic pop. But on a deeper level, the additional arrangements add a more intense level of emotion to Kris’s words and flesh out tonally and rhythmically the songs that he had already written.  I composed and arranged all of the string parts for the EP with all of this in mind.

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