Tales from the Tavern is an intimate concert series that’s been going on for nearly a decade in the Santa Ynez Valley, putting renowned singer-songwriters in front of small crowds, first at Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos, then at the Firestone Brewery in Buellton, and, for the past few years, at the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez. It’s produced by Ron Colone and his sister Carole Ann, which is also the team behind the aptly named documentary Tales from the Tavern, a feature-length, music-heavy look at the operation.

Ron Colone answered a few of my questions recently via email.

Tell me about how you decided to do a documentary on this concert series?

From day one, I felt it was important to record the performances, and my sister Carole Ann, who’s also my partner and co-producer in Tales, insisted that we film them. The reason we felt it was important is because the kind of artists we wanted to present are adept at expressing themselves creatively in the present moment; they’re not out there doing the same show and the same songs in the same way night after night, so you never know when something really magical or unique might happen. So the decision was made to archive everything, including interviews with each of the artists.

As we started sorting through the material and transcribing the interviews, we noticed common themes starting to emerge, which to some degree were directed by the questions I was asking in the interviews. The idea occurred to us to arrange these archives into themed episodes, with each episode featuring several artists all bringing out different aspects of the same theme from their perspective and based on their experience.

We’ve worked steadily over the years to develop this idea with the hope of realizing our vision and sharing these archives with a broader audience. Along the way, we started releasing CDs and DVDs of single performances and editing a few songs here and there for promotional purposes, and we saw that, hey, we have enough here, if we just put it together to have a feature-length documentary film, so we chose specific songs to go with specific interview footage.

Then last summer, our friend Hale Milgrim, who many people know from Sings Like Hell or from the Bowl, or the radio, or from any number of community and musical endeavors, urged us to put something together to submit to the film festival, and with some repeated encouragement from him, that’s what we did — and here we are.

Are the performers excited by the intimacy? It seems like a nice mellow and respectful break for them from the hectic road life.

Yes, it’s something they really appreciate.

One of our goals starting out was to create a really good gig for artists; what makes it a good gig is making it comfortable for everyone, making it a place where people come to listen, an environment that’s conducive to connection between artist and audience, and that supports a mutual appreciation of each other. In addition, you want it to sound good, and feel good, and you want the room to be filled.

We have all those things at Tales from the Tavern, and almost every single artist that comes make a point of really acknowledging that and showing their appreciation.

We just try to take responsibility for making it good, and to give what we can, and in turn the artists and the audience are very giving.

The film really lets songs play all the way through. Why did you do that as compared to just clips?

In some of our earlier versions of “the film,” we didn’t have complete songs, but we didn’t think it gave a good representation of this concert experience. Plus, we think that music lovers appreciate having the whole song, and that it’s respectful to the artists.

As we were putting this together, a few of the people on our team, specifically Henry Diltz and Arthur Osha (who both man video cameras for us), and our creative consultant Michael Colone, and, again, Hale Milgrim all expressed very strong opinions and a very definite preference for having the whole song.

What’s the status of the series right now?

Thankfully, the series is going strong — we’re celebrating our 10-Year Anniversary this year beginning February 1, and we’ve got a great lineup of artists scheduled throughout the year. We’re fortunate to have the support of local business sponsors and caring patrons, and the participation of an incredible audience. We’re humbled and grateful to be involved with a community-building, culture-enhancing, consciousness-raising program.

Tales from the Tavern screens on Thursday, February 2, 7 p.m. at the Metro 4.


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