Grand extravagant stages have become a symbol of youthful escape, though if not careful, these stages can sometimes insert a barrier between the observer and the experience in which the observer attempts to be immersed. Light shows are entrancing and powerful at first glance, as their presence brings all unrelated conversation to an immediate end. However, as time passes, aluminum fences and florescent security jackets become a distraction in the quest for connection between artist and witness. These highly controlled situations contest the very manifesto upon which rock and roll was founded. Therefore, it must be presumed that rock and roll’s precursor, the intense and outmoded music born in the Mississippi Delta, occasionally requires a presentation format a little more…hazardous.

So for those searching for a truly assimilating evening of music, enter the Durango Blues Train, a nineteenth century steam engine filled with beer cans and blues fans. It is an immersive experience with no boundary between performance and spectating space. If at the final stop, you are dumped out of this roaming house party with no enlightenment regarding entertainment’s true potential (or without a bruise on your left arm) then you didn’t get close enough to the action. I had the privilege of performing in this event last June, and I’m just now figuring out how to talk about it.


On June 2, 2017, I carried my guitars on board, plugged in, and watched my car fill up. It was a small space that held a few dozen adults comfortably, and strands of hanging Christmas lights provided a warm glow. While we waited the sun set quietly over the mountainside. Then, a thundering steam whistle transformed this gentile scene into sweaty juke joint rumbling through the San Juan Mountain Range.

This is the first venue I’ve played that had a mind of its own. It was as much a character in my performance as I was. There were no clocks. There were no set times. I was going to play as long as the calluses on my fingers could handle it, and hope to make it to the end of the line. There were no assigned seats or ushers. My audience changed every 10 minutes. At times the car felt like a bachelorette party, and at other times, like a quiet local tavern. Both were fun. Adaptability is critical so as to not let the train (or at least its potent presence) leave me behind.

As my listeners rotated through the different train cars, I felt a connection with each of them. There was not enough room in the isle to sneak by unnoticed. Few could pass without a quick glance or awkward sideways smile as they squirmed their way to the beer car, or to take a look at the other acts. In more extreme cases, I served as a human stabilizer mid-song, to those who like to live a little closer to the edge. Fortunately, my guitar has spent enough time in my hands to handle such an adventure. I managed to continue the production of tasty runs, all the while dodging stumblers without missing a beat. Just so you don’t read this with the wrong voice, this was all exactly what I wanted. Every great show requires your fans to need help standing up every once in a while.


As the train rolled on, the sun had crept away, and the view from each window was simply blackness. I had no idea where I was. I did not know the time. Everything except those directly in front of me, my guitar, and the next phrase I have to deliver, was shrouded by a natural dark. At this point the rocking and rumbling of the train went from being a distraction to an accompaniment. It became less chaotic and more rhythmic. We seemed to have stumbled upon a mystic place. As we twisted deeper into the mountains, swing beats and accented triplets started to sound a little bit sweeter. There was nothing left in the world that could detract from the experience in front of us. We had found what we were searching for.

Just as we were reaching the point of no return, as we were to be forever entranced by the dim glow and hypnotic sounds of a train car rolling though absolute darkness, we returned to civilization. Street lights began to appear, and fast-food advertisements came into view. Then, the train slowed and the last song was played. The world stood still, physical boundaries were restored, and security personal pointed and whistled us out of the train yard. We were safe again…but hopefully not for too long.


I think that every artist has an intense vision depicting the perfect demonstration of their creation. A young actress may imagine projecting her monologue across the stage of a Broadway theatre, as she contemplates the sacrifice and dedication required to do so. Somewhere in the world there is a street artist running from a police car, imagining a heart-stopping transformation of an abandoned warehouse in LA. For myself, a travelling acoustic bluesman, the vision now includes a beer filled steam engine rambling through the impossible darkness of the San Juan Mountain Range.

As long as this train is running, traditional acoustic blues will always have a place to feel so welcomed, so modern, and so alive.

If you have found yourself extra curious about my second full-length CD, The Next Place I Leave, this article would be a great place to start. This article covers a bit about the making of the album, the promotion process, and some of the highlights and successes it achieved including interviews, chart positions, reviews, and radio play. If you were only a little bit curious about this album…then I apologize.

I wrote this article to show my appreciation for those who have supported me, and to create an organized presentation of the positive information I’ve received as a result of this project. I am someone that forgets about my accomplishments pretty much the second they are obtained, so this process of organization helps keep me focused on what is most important to me, and what gathers the most visceral response from others.

A Bit About the Making of The Next Place I Leave

I recorded this album with Gary King at Refraze studios in Dayton, OH, a room that had been at the top of my studio list since I thought about this project. It’s a simple, quiet and balanced, wide open space controlled by an original Trident console. The control room is complete with a 24 track two-inch tape recorder, which I did not use on this project, but have used since. Overall, this room has a relaxed vibe and a vintage feel. If you happened to see the Don Cheadle film about Miles Davis, ‘Miles Ahead,’ the scene where Miles (Don) used a large band to record ‘Gone’ was actually filmed in this studio.

My first album was a solo acoustic release and I really wanted this one to sound bigger so I asked Gary to recommend some good session players. Within a couple weeks a had a couple guys I had never met learning my songs. That’s how I ended up Brian Hoeflich on drums and Leo Smith on bass, and I have not yet in my career worked with any musicians that were more talented or efficient. They got all of the tracks done for the album in two sessions, and I’m still amazed at the quality of the result. Brain was somehow able to get this done for me, even though I think he’s in four different bands in town. I’m fairly certain Leo was available because he had just finished his time touring with the Air Force Rock Band, and he made a short stop in Dayton before pursuing a Jazz career in New York. I’m really glad we were able to come together in 2016 to complete this project. As for Gary’s tracking and production, the most consistent complements I receive about this album refer to the sound quality of the recording.

The mastering was done at Ardent Studios in Memphis, TN by Kevin Nix. I had worked with this studio several times in the past when I traveled through Memphis and I’ve always been happy with the result. I asked for a pure sound that kept the recording as clear as possible, and that is what I received.

I put the artwork together myself, centered around the fantastic photo that was taken by Kelly Thornton. The photo was taken while I was performing on stage in the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, TN during the final round at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis.

Once I got the physical product from Diskmakers, I decided to sign with Blind Raccoon for promotion. I met Betsie, the founder of Blind Raccoon in Memphis, and she really seemed like someone that would be easy to work with. She was, and she got the CD into to more ears than I thought previously possible. This album was played on radio programs all over the world, and charted in several countries. The reviews it received were fantastic and the interview requests led to some very high quality material.

So, I guess what I am trying to say is, thanks for:

The Reason You Can Hear It
Gary King, Refraze Studios, Dayton, OH
Kevin Nix, Ardent Studios, Memphis, TN
The Reason You Did Hear It
Betsie Brown, Blind Raccoon, Memphis, TN
The Reason You Have Fun Listening to It
Brian Hoeflich, Drums, Dayton, OH
Leo Smith, Bass, New York, NY
The Reason You Want to Look at It
Kelly Thornton, Columbus, OH

Everything came together perfectly with this project, and now, two years later, I suppose it’s time to think about doing it all over again (haha, hopefully sometime soon).


Naturally, I’d like to start this expedition by sharing a few of the interviews that I was able to complete upon the release of The Next Place I Leave. These each provide a bit of background information about myself, in addition to talking about the new album.

Jon Norton (GLT 89.1 FM) put together a great interview about the CD, and you can take a listen here. I was really happy with the summary of the music he was able to put together.

The second interview I would like to highlight was conducted by Michalis Limnios (Blues @ Greece). He had some great questions, and I think this is the most in depth interview I’ve done to date.

Charting and the Roots Music Report

What is RMR? I think they explain it best:

“Roots Music Report is the number one independent music chart in the world. We compile radio airplay data from radio stations around the globe that play all forms of roots music, so that each week you can see which independent artists are being played the most & by what stations are playing them.” -taken from Roots Music Report

The following plots show how The Next Place I Leave (NPIL) charted over the past two years according to the RMR database. The first plot displays NPIL’s chart position relative to all albums in the Acoustic Blues sub-genre. NPIL was able to hold the number one spot for 16 consecutive weeks (24 total) before it fell after about eight months of substantial radio play. The second plot displays NPILs chart position relative to all blues albums (including things like electric blues, blues rock, and Chicago blues). NPIL was able to sustain several months on this chart as well, peaking at number 12 in this much broader blues genre.

I won’t bore you with more plots, but I also found it interesting that each song on the album was able to chart with RMR. I am a person who would much rather listen to an entire album that a part of a song, so I was really happy with this result, because nearly the entire album benefited from significant radio play.

When totaling all spins reported to RMR for the 2016 year, NPIL ended up in the #3 spot. I was very happy with this result, as I was placed next to Rory Block, one of the artists I listened to right when my compulsive interest in blues was becoming most significant.

Finally, this last snapshot shows a particular week, where somehow, for some reason, my chart position landed me just above Taylor Swift. Now, this is most likely because the national Billboard and Top 40 programs are not reporting to RMR for the most part, but it is still something I thought was funny and very unlikely to ever happen again.

Oh, and as far as international charting goes, I was able to land the top spot in January of 2016 in a chart compiled by the Collectif des Radios Blues, a collective dedicated to blues in French speaking regions.

Album Reviews

NPIL also received some great reviews, and I was especially happy with those that were printed in the major music publications Downbeat and Elmore Magazine. I was so happy that my session band was mentioned in the Downbeat review, it was a very nice way to solidify our short time together.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from a few other NPIL reviews:

“Even with Chris Yakopcic on the cover with a beautiful Resonator guitar I did not for one moment expect to hear truly wondrous Piedmont, Delta, Hill Country and Appalachian Blues of this caliber.” -Peter Merrett: PBS 106.7, Melbourne, Australia

“Chris Yakopcic is one of the finest guitarists I’ve stumbled across in some time and a great storyteller to boot. Yakopcic has a great voice for the genre and has a great sense of delivery when it comes to his storytelling.” -Bill Wilson: Reflections in Blue

“Fans of acoustic blues, roots music, and finely picked guitars will find plenty to like with Chris Yakopcic’s The Next Place I Leave. It is 40 minutes of well written and well played music that really clicks.” -Rex Bartholomew: Blues Blast Magazine, April, 2016

Radio Play

It is difficult to find complete data on all of the radio stations that are playing your songs. However, I was sure to make note of each station that sent me their play list after one of my songs was used in their programming. To the radio stations listed below, thanks so much for your support of this album, and I apologize to any DJs who’s program I did not acknowledge, I did my best to keep track of every one. Let me know and I’ll add you to the list.

While I appreciate each of these radio programs, I was very pleased have two tracks from NPIL (“Sweet Time Blues” and “The Next Place I Leave”) featured on Sirius XM Bluesville’s Picks to Click, with “Sweet Time Blues” reaching the number two spot.

SiriusXM Bluesville (US)
Bluestown Radio (Netherlands)

United States
KTDE/KSAV FM 100.5, Mendocino, CA
KTUH 90.3 FM, Honolulu, HI
KGLP 91.7 FM, Gallup, NM
WVLS 89.7 FM, Monterey, VA
WVBR 93.5 FM, Ithaca, NY
WDPS 89.5 FM, Dayton, OH
KOWS 107.3 FM, Occidental, CA
WBGU 88.1 FM, Bowling Green, OH
WKCC 91.1 FM, Kankakee, IL
WNKU 89.7 FM, Highland Heights, KY
WYSO 91.3 FM, Yellow Springs, OH
WYEP 91.3 FM, Pittsburgh, PA
KZFR 90.1 FM, Chico, CA
WEVL 89.9, FM, Memphis, TN
KMNO 91.7 FM, Maui, HI
KPOV 88.9 FM, Bend, OR
WNMF 88.5 FM, Tampa, FL
KTEP 88.5 FM, El Paso, TX
WUEV 91.5 FM, Evansville, IN
WWOZ 90.7 FM, New Orleans, LA
KRZA 88.7 FM, Taos, NM and Alamosa, CO
KVMR 89.5 FM, Nevada City, CA
KRBX 89.9 FM, Boise, ID
WGLT 89.1 FM, Normal, IL
WMEB 91.9 FM, Orono, Maine
WITR 89.7 FM, Rochester, NY
KROV 91.1 FM, Oroville, CA
WVLT 92.1 FM, Vineland, NJ
WMPG 90.9/104.1 FM, Portland, ME
WNRN FM 91.9, Charlottesville, VA
WNMC 90.7 FM, Traverse City, MI
WQTL 106.1 FM, Tallahassee, FL
WJMU 89.5 FM, Decatur, IL
WAIF 88.3 FM, Cincinnati, OH
WKKL 90.7 FM, West Barnstable, MA
WDVX 89.9 FM, Knoxville, TN
WVVL 101.1 FM, Enterprise, AL
KSMK 89.7 FM, Mankato, MN
WFYI 90.1 FM, Indianapolis, IN

PBS 106.7 FM, Melbourne, Australia
3NRG 99.3 FM, Sunbury, VIC, Australia
CKUT 90,3 FM, Montréal, Canada
Radio Holstebro 97.4 FM, Holstebro, Denmark
StarFM, 93.7 FM, Tasmania, Australia
Radio Krizevci 96.6 FM, Krizevci, Croatia
5GTR 100.1 FM, Mount Gambier, SA
Radio Canut 102.2 FM, Lyon, France
Radio Flash 97.6 FM, Torino, Italy
BishopFM 105.9 FM, S. Durham, UK
RNE Radio 5 657 AM, Madrid, Spain
CKRL 89.1 FM, Quebec, CA

NEOBA’s Recognition

Finally, after all of the work writing, recording, performing, and promoting this album, I was fortunate enough to have it awarded the Best Self-Produced CD in 2015 by the Northeast Ohio Blues Association (NEOBA) (Gary King was listed as a co-producer, although this award refers more to unsigned artists than truly ‘self-produced’ ones). This meant that the album was then forwarded on to be judged in the audio recording portion of the 2016 International Blues Challenge. I have to thank NEOBA for their continued support. In a few months, I’ll be heading back to Memphis for the 2018 IBC as a result of winning the Northeast Ohio Blues Challenge as a solo act.


So, two years ago today, I released my second full-length album, The Next Place I Leave.

I hope you found this article useful. Perhaps it will give you a few things to think about when you are in the process of making a recording of your own. Or perhaps like me, you are interested in somehow developing metrics and guides to ensure you are moving forward creatively.

I would like to say that I have established a baseline comparison for myself with this data, but can I really compare this data to that obtained from future releases? I would argue that numbers referring to sales and chart positions are just as much a product of the needs of the (blues) market as they are a signal of artistic growth. The uncontrollable variation present in this system makes this a very difficult problem. This makes me wonder, is it really a bad idea to correlate creative growth and external success, or has no one yet figured out how to do it accurately? I don’t have an answer to this yet, but I can promise to keep this question every time a piece of art ignites one of my senses.

Oh, haha, I almost forgot to mention…you can still purchase your very own copy of the aforementioned CD for a very reasonable price.

Earlier this month I traveled to Memphis to compete in the annual International Blues Challenge (IBC) for a second time. As always, I tried to cram as much as I could into the week I was there.

Monday: Had a recording session at Ardent and I got 2 new tracks recorded. They are currently being mastered and I should be able to post those tunes within the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday: Stopped by DittyTV for a live streaming performance. If you missed it I should be able to provide you with a permanent link soon.

Wednesday and Thursday: Round 1 and 2 of the competition. I think these first two rounds of the competition went pretty well. Each was a 25 minute set, and I decided to do all original songs. It was a combination of new songs, and some rewrites of some of my older material. You’ll be able to hear some of this new stuff as soon as I get the mentioned recordings and the DittyTV archive link.

Friday: …while I didn’t qualify for the next round on Friday, I got to see and connect with dozens of great musicians from many different countries. I would recommend this experience to anyone interested in going as a competitor or a spectator.

Lastly I would just like to thank the Cincy Blues Society for allowing me to represent them in the solo/duo category at the IBC.

I would also like to thank the Cincy Blues Society for having me play the 2013 Winter Blues Fest this past weekend. It was a great four-stage indoor festival with a super attentive and appreciative audience. It was one of the most fun festivals I’ve played thus far. Hopefully I’ll be playing again in Cincinnati soon.  If you happen to be in the Dayton area, my next show is going to be on February 25th at the Trolley Stop (see the Schedule tab for details).

See you later