By James Maher
Name: Chris Riffle
Occupation: Musician, Barista
Location: The Bean, 3rd Street and 2nd Avenue
Time: 1 on Tuesday, Jan. 15
I’m from Seattle. I was born in the woods. It sounds nice for my bio because you’re supposed to put something in there that makes you unique. So yes, I was born in a cabin in the woods in one of those hippie parent home birth situations. Then, when my parents divorced when I was two, my dad had a house that he built in Leavenworth, Washington, which is over the mountains, with 10 acres and lots of woods, and there was no electricity there.
For a good four or five years I was living there with him. I moved to Seattle after college, on Capitol Hill and lived there for many years until I moved here in 2007, because my boyfriend, Tim got into Cooper Union as a painter.
I’ve always wanted to be a musician. It’s tough to describe my music style — folk, it’s soft and I play the acoustic guitar. I’ve always loved playing music, although I got distracted in Seattle by a lot of things and working full time. When I first got here, I showed up at the open mic at the Sidewalk Café and the experience was great. It took me about six months to finally get out of my shell and get out my guitar and play. I just didn’t know what to expect.
So then the host booked me a couple shows and I was playing there every month or so. Then this one guy came into the Bean with a guitar on his back and I invited him to a show and he got me a gig at the Living Room. I gave him a demo and he came back and said, "This is great, do you want to make an album? I’m a producer and I would love to put this out." And I was like, "Yes. Yes I would like to make an album. That’s what I want to do." Since then, I’ve made three with him and he’s amazing. I play about once a month now at the Living Room. It’s a great venue, but unfortunately they are moving at the end of January. They are closing that location and looking for a new one due to skyrocketing rent.
This job works really well with music because I will leave for a month to go on tour and then come back to work and it’s no big deal. I can come back and work 45 hours the next week to make money or I can work 30 because I have a show and I’m busy. It’s really nice for that and they’ve been very flexible.
The Starbucks moving into the old Bean location was really interesting. Somebody came in with plans and wanted to look at the building. The manager there was just like, “What? Who are you? Where are you from?” And he was just like, “Oh I’m looking at this for Starbucks.” It was shocking and the landlord hadn’t told us that he was looking to not renew the lease to us. We were working on negotiating the lease and instead of doing it with us they just said nope. We kept trying to make offers.
At first I was really bummed out and then we got the other spot and it worked out better in the long run. Everybody supported us and spoke out about not wanting to go to Starbucks. Now the Bean is drastically more crowded than the Starbucks, which is kind of ugly. And I don’t hate Starbucks, but I definitely try not to go to any of them now, which is funny since I’m from Seattle.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.