From the Studio

Q&A: Musician Cliff Diver jumps into his solo career

Courtesy of Cliff Diver

Since high school, Syracuse-based performer Cliff Diver has played in bands. Now he's working on original songs to further his solo career.

Syracuse-based performer Tom Bushnell, more popularly known as Cliff Diver, has been playing in shows all over central New York. For years Diver has rocked the stage with multiple bands, but now he’s finding his own stride as a solo performer.

The Daily Orange spoke with him on his new freedom as a solo artist and upcoming music, in preparation for his show two upcoming Syracuse shows. He’ll be playing at Woody’s Jerkwater Pub and Grub on Friday and the InsideOut Tavern on Sept. 22.

The Daily Orange: How did you get into playing and performing music?

Cliff Diver: I got into music when I was about 15 years old, when I learned how to play the bass. I kind of gravitated to guitar because I was writing songs and I played bass in many bands over the high school years and for the bands after that. I actually played bass back in 2004 for Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Syracuse Stage. But I kind of just fell into it. It was something that was meant to be.

D.O.: What do you like the most about performing live?

C.D.: Right now, I’m playing a lot of cover material. But when I put my originals in, it seems that people respond very well to my original music, and I really enjoy that the crowd is liking what I’m doing and the reactions that I get from them. There are certain songs that I do that they really like.

I have a song called “My Baby’s a Crackhead,” and they always love that song when I go into the first line. Also, there’s a song called “Porn,” which I kind of wrote from the point of view of a 13-year-old boy finding his first dirty magazine. So people remember these songs, and I like the fact that when they leave that night, the next time I see them, they ask me by name about the songs that I played. When it comes to covers, I’ll do “Space Oddity” and “Ziggy Stardust” by David Bowie, which always go over well. There’s one that the crowd really loves and it’s “Blister in the Sun” by Violent Femmes. Everybody knows that song, and every time I play it, they just love it.

D.O.: Who are your musical inspirations?

C.D.: I would say anything from like the Ramones to Rush to maybe even Garth Brooks or R.E.M. But I even like newer stuff that comes out, like Justin Bieber’s new stuff is really good, and I like what DNCE is doing also. It’s hard for me to narrow it down to one or two acts. A lot of stuff I listen to kind of inspires me or influences my songs.

D.O.: What are you working on right now?

C.D.: I’m working on trying to get more work as a solo act, but also I’ve been getting the studio prepared to actually record some music. I’ve been writing a lot lately and I just need to get the music out there.

I haven’t put anything out in about 10 years because I’ve been playing in other people’s bands and playing in cover bands and things like that. So right now, I’ve been writing some songs. And actually there was a point that I’d been writing so many songs at once and kind of had to slow down. I’d like to have a little diversity on a record. My writing kind of goes all over the map depending on what instruments I’m playing, so I’ve been focusing more on the acoustic guitar at this point.


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