Rising Stars Bob, Gus and Ernie of Ink to Spill: “Empathy is one of the greatest gifts we can give and receive through music”

Listen to people with you heart. Empathy is one of the greatest gifts we can give and receive through music. When we learn to feel what others are experiencing it takes our own experience, and our music, to another level. I had the pleasure to interview the band members of Ink To Spill. Ink To Spill […]

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Listen to people with you heart. Empathy is one of the greatest gifts we can give and receive through music. When we learn to feel what others are experiencing it takes our own experience, and our music, to another level.

I had the pleasure to interview the band members of Ink To Spill. Ink To Spill is an American, coast to coast, virtual band. They are almost never in the same place and yet they’ve been highly prolific creating content. Gus Reeves, the face and voice of ITS drives sound from his Music Box on Vashon Island, west of Seattle, delivering soulful vocals and innovative guitar. Ernie Adams drums and percussion deliver a signature sound developed over the years from his world travels with Jazz legends and his University of Illinois at Chicago Professorship. Ryan Behling’s vocals are the sorbet that breaks up their sound whether exploring ‘Eclecticity’ or joining Gus on duets. C’Quil’s (Bob’s) restless mind inspires the melodies and harmonies through demonstrative lyrics. Together, they explore an eclectic sound that bounces off all the boundaries within the alternative rock space, leaving no stone unturned as they examine all aspects of this world. Ink To Spill present a poignant examination of our world through an eclectic, alternative rock sound with influences from Soul, R&B, and Funk. The group leaves no stone unturned, with lyrics that range from the deeply personal to the socially conscious, to the downright ridiculous. Get to know Bob, Gus and Ernie in our interview with them below:

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

BOB: I have a full time career in another profession, so for me this is a moonlighting project. Believe it or not, it started as a joke (the unabridged story is on my website https://www.cquilmusic.com/ and quickly turned into a dare from a friend whose tree this band originated. Ordinarily, I’m a quiet guy and I never realized I had say so much to say. The quantity of songs soon overwhelmed my friend and he secretly farmed out a song that I wanted a ‘Fargo Blues sound’ for that I titled ‘Hyd’n’ Gus nailed it on the demo and we were off to the races.

GUS: Music was an important part of my childhood. It accompanied every activity. My mother sang and played guitar occasionally and I really loved that. When I got older music became a solace, an inspiration, and a guiding light. I have always been grateful to be on the listening/receiving end of music but also strive to contribute to the creative output end as well and provide inspiration, solace and guidance for others who are in need as I have so often been.

ERNIE: Playing professionally since I was 15 years old with the older catz, I grew up playing mainly jazz and Latin music. Decades later after gigging, touring and recording with jazz and jazz fusion artists here and overseas, I met my French wife. Having a family based in Chicago but spending significant time in Paris as well requires me to spend more time at home but still create viable opportunities to make music. I now work quite a bit in the “pop” world playing, co-writing or performing music for radio, television and movies. I also record drums for Hip Hop artists through Grammy winning studio engineer James Auwarter, who has recorded Lupe Fiasco, Rihanna, James Taylor and who has a Grammy with Kanye West, among others. Getting involved in the pop scene in Chicago connected me with Bob Sauer through a highly prolific production company called Akalibrio. I mention all of the above experiences because Ink To SpillI has allowed me to bring my 40 plus years of playing many different genres of music to be in on their creative writing and production side of music. This affords me the ability to not have to be on the road 6 to 10 months out of the year anymore, but still make great music that is feasible.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your music career?

BOB: The fact that these accomplished musicians saw/heard something in my lyrics and artistic vision is by far the most the most interesting thing for me so far.

GUS: A couple of years ago I had a client who commissioned me to write a song for him. His intention was to submit it to EuroVision. The song was a duet and he found two Icelandic singers (male and female) whom he wanted to feature on the song. The lyrics were translated into Icelandic and the song was performed on TV in Iceland for the first round of EuroVision. It was amazing to hear my song performed in a different language.

ERNIE: I can choose from playing a jazz festival in Mumbai, India then afterwards shaving my head and wearing custom, handmade Indian garb while attending a dinner party in our band’s honor. It was on the rooftop of a 12 story home whose owner was a billionaire textile magnate. While indulging in the local delicacies, drinks and party favors, I could see his private airport of four mig jets and a family of Indian elephants that roamed his land. He also showed us his private jade collection, the second largest in Asia. He told us the story of how he bought a $1,000,000 cosmonaut suit from Russia in order to attempt to break the highest manned air balloon record. (He broke the record in 2005 at the age of 67.) I can also share the story about walking around Santiago, Chile after soundcheck and wandering into a German section of the city where all signs were written in German, the architecture was all German, all of the shops were German and the language spoken that was overheard was German. On my return back to the hotel, the concierge explained that I was in a part of the city where German Nazis had settled soon after WWII. Or, I can tell the story about playing a typical week long stint at the Blue Note Tokyo where we finished on Sunday night. We were offered tickets to a championship boxing match that Sunday because of some fortunate connection with the leader of the group, Stanley Turrentine. As it turned out, it was the night Mike Tyson lost the belt to Buster Douglas. We were all on the same flight back to LaGuardia Airport the next day and I had a brief encounter with Mike where I had a chance to talk with him and get an autograph for my friend’s son who was a young boxer himself. How about playing drums with a band on an eight month world tour and one of the concerts is in Moscow with The Moscow Symphony Orchestra? It’s been a great ride so far.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

BOB: There’s a lot going on in the geo-politics of the world right now with some alarming signs of tyranny rising. We’re working on some protest anthems that are focused on some of the atrocities related to restricting freedom around the globe. The experimentation with instrumentation that Ernie’s worldly experience is bringing to the table is really exciting to work with.

GUS: Ink To Spill is a great project and band because of the diversity of sounds and genres we’re able to explore. Working with Ernie Adams on drums and Bob Sauer on lyrics makes me feel a little spoiled sometimes. I’m very lucky. There’s a lot of camaraderie and humor involved and we have a blast creating and spending time together. I also play as part of a duo that has been around for over ten years now called River Twain. There’s a lot of history between me and my music partner in that project and it’s fun to look back and see how much we’ve grown over the years. Another group I’ve been a part of for even longer than that is an ongoing recording project called Akalibrio. Ernie’s also in that project and the players are some of Chicago’s finest. The head of that team, Jim Warner, is one of my oldest and dearest friends.

ERNIE: Ink To Spill is an exciting project because Bob and Gus respect what I bring to the table and allow me to interpret our songs through my musical experiences. This is very important for me and I love these catz for this. I’m also signed up to do the drumming and some co-writing for the TV show “Empire” for another season. I am preparing for another great year being the drummer in The Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Orchestra, where classical music and jazz music meet equally. There are only two orchestras in the world that have a permanent jazz rhythm section, one in Chicago and the other in Holland. We’ve played in various countries around the globe and we will be teaching and playing in Cuba from December 1–8, 2019. There is a group based in Chicago called “Akalibrio” that is very interesting on many levels because it brings together world class artists based in Chicago and across the nation to create what can be described as “Intellipop” music. It’s led by Jim Warner who is the founder/composer/producer/vocalist/pianist for the group. I am grateful that he is a very non-conventional bandleader who is one of the most productive, creative and driven people that I know. He is also my best friend that inspires me everyday.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

BOB: Gus and I got to spend some time with a super-chill gent named Matt Starr who after decades of working his struggle in this industry finally figured it out for himself. He’s now a coach for emerging artists and we’re working out the final details of a collaboration with him. Sitting in on a forum with Kevin Lyman and listening to his story of the impact he’s had on the industry and on philanthropic pursuits was inspiring.

GUS: Ernie Adams is a tried and true pro who I am truly humbled to be able to work with. He always brings a level of class to the table as well as extraordinary talent and experience. Once you get to know him he lets you into his world of humor and that is a very wonderful thing. A remarkable individual.

ERNIE: I’ve played music in 48 countries with interesting people from all over the world. To play music with my musical heroes that I’ve admired since my childhood is an incredible experience. However, I’ve always had a job to do, which is to make those artists, the band, the music and the audience dance and feel moved by the music. However, people who can express their heart and soul to the world are some of the people that I find most interesting. Whenever I hear someone take something simple and create emotion through their music, it touches me. The old Blues musicians are a great example. Coltrane is another. My bandmate Gus Reeves, who has impressed me from the first time that I’ve worked with him, wears his heart on his vocal chords, which a lot of singers can’t do. He is one of the most soulful musicians of which I am honored to share music. To get a broader and clearer scope of my “stories”, please check out my website at ernieadamsmusic.com.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

BOB: I began my career as a scientist/inventor and often took on big, hairy audacious technology projects. Ben Franklin’s inquisitiveness and ability to invent across science, technology, politics and ideas always inspired me.

GUS: I am inspired by those who have achieved immortality through their work. Shakespeare, Bach, Jane Austen, Hildegard Von Bingen to name a few.

ERNIE: People who follow their hearts and blaze their own trail, not worrying about being a part of the norm and not worrying about what others have to say inspire me the most. John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Bob Marley are a few great musical examples that speak to me and inspire me through their music.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

BOB: We are trying to use our emerging platform to bring attention to the geopolitical issues across the globe and various issues, including autism, the status of the Dreamers, child abuse by religious leaders and the over-reach of law enforcement with regard to sometimes shooting first without trying to sound too preachy. We have a song called ‘Robes on Fire’ that shines a light on child abuse and a song called ‘Where Went Jose?’ that calls attention to those Dreamers who have contributed to our society through their hard work and love of this country. Both will launch early next year.

Separately, I’ve had it on my bucket list for a little while now to start a charity called ‘3 Day Pass’ to benefit those returning from foreign wars and others who volunteer their services. It’s still in the idea stage though.

GUS: The moderate success I’ve achieved so far has if nothing else inspired others to keep trying and has surprised some. I’m always proud when strangers ask me what I do for a living and I say music composition, lyric writing, and vocal work. I can’t help but wince and laugh a bit when some of them say, “But what do you do for money?”

ERNIE: I’ve been fortunate to be a music instructor and mentor to grade school, HS, College level and adult students. I say mentor because many times, teaching music is only part of the job. Helping people find their way, their passion, their purpose and/or some balance through music is a big part of my job. Teaching people to be a part of something creative where one has to be an individual and at the same time be an integral part of a whole is a life lesson.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

BOB: If there was a way to inspire a peaceful revolution for personal freedoms across the globe that would be tops on my list.

GUS: I’d like to give support to children and the elderly and I wonder if there’s a way to get them to interact and share experiences. It seems our elders have so much wisdom to offer but we don’t value that as we should or maybe just haven’t figured out graceful ways of accessing that wisdom. It would be amazing to establish a program where young musicians collaborate with retired musicians.

ERNIE: The haves should be expected to mentor the have nots and the have nots should be expected to perform community service.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

BOB: So much of the time, it’s a matter of attitude. Any job can be a drag, if you don’t make a game out of it. I care not about celebrity, so that pressure doesn’t exist for me. I care most about the substance of creating a connection between the message of the lyrics and the music to the audience. I’m fortunate that Gus’s soulfulness and Ernie’s talent and experience provide a perfect vehicle in my mind for creating that connection. In the end, we’re all playing the game of life and if you’re not having fun doing it, what is a relatively short time on this earth will seem very long.

GUS: Do it with love, make fun brave choices, always be searching for new music to keep you inspired, and stay true to yourself.

ERNIE: Continue to learn and grow as a musician. Work and hang out with the young catz. Eliminate the unnecessary things in your life like 99% of television, social media, following sports, etc. Also, eliminate all of the people with low vibration in your life that drain you by wasting your time, aggravating you and distracting you. Then, find balance in your life through people who are positive, loving and inspiring. Take care of yourself by eating right, working out, meditating and getting enough sleep.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

BOB: I’m kind of glad nobody told me anything at first. My friends who saw the lyrics were nothing but encouraging and it became a salve for me. Whereas, my day job is often more intense with more pressure. At the same time, when the team asked me to do an album, I eventually told them I would, if and only if we ran it like a business even though I had never run one, I had always wished to be an entrepreneur, and what cooler way to do it than through alternative rock? Once we pressed ‘Go’, I researched what music conventions I could attend and started in Miami. Of course, there I heard all the cautionary tales, but was impressed on how many people are out there who are looking to provide support to artists. Yes, the industry isn’t necessarily designed to favor the artists, we’re just trying to identify the hurdles and find the right people to help us over them. The business side is as important as the artistry, it’s just a different art form.


1. Learn other people’s songs. When I first started writing songs I had a lot of pride around being a songwriter and around my original body of work. I arrogantly refused to play covers. At some point while living in Chicago I was in a situation where I started playing down in the subway for extra money. Playing my originals, even though I think they were good, barely brought in a few dollars a day. I decided to suck it up and play songs people would recognize. I went home and learned a bunch of Motown standards and when I returned to the subway the dollars started falling like rain.

2. Don’t be afraid to be social. I got so caught up in creation early on that I became a bit of a hermit. Music is a social thing. It should bring us together. Don’t be afraid to get out there and meet other musicians and share your music with people who you think might not like it. You will most likely be surprised.

3. Meditate. It’s a huge help. Learning to quiet your mind makes you open to receive big ideas that come from the collective consciousness.

4. It might not happen how you want it to. Keep following your dream even if it’s not unfolding the way you envisioned. Do it for the love of doing it, stay true to yourself, keep your chin up, and keep going.

5. Listen to people with you heart. Empathy is one of the greatest gifts we can give and receive through music. When we learn to feel what others are experiencing it takes our own experience, and our music, to another level.


1. Be true to yourself and don’t worry about what people think of you while on your journey to learn the truth.

2. Learn about money and the business side of music

3. Do what you love, not what you are told to love.

4. Choose your friends very wisely.

5. You are good enough as a person and deserve the best.

Wait for the book for the stories.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

BOB: I guess I have a couple answers here, but perhaps the short answer is Jennifer Egan, the fiction author. A lot of our lyrics were inspired by literature and her books are 3 for 3 in inspiring lyrics for me. Her writing style seems to evolve with each book and she creates interesting characters and scenes that are unpredictable. Chapter 12 of ‘A Visit From The Goon Squad’ is the most creative story-telling I’ve ever witnessed in literature. Of course, if I could hang out with Bernie Taupin, that would be amazing. Another writer whose material is never repetitive or predictable, yet so prolific and he also doesn’t seem to chase celebrity, which I admire almost as much.

GUS: Bob Dylan means more to me than any other celebrity. I wouldn’t want to pester him with questions… I’d be happy just to sit quietly in his presence.

ERNIE: I’m sure I could learn a lot from private equity titan Robert Smith.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

BOB: Our social media game is in its early stages of development. Our website is https://www.inktospill.com/’. We are also on Facebook and I also do some fan outreach through RadioAirplay/Jango. Our consultant is also working on developing the right Instagram platform for the band to collectively interact directly with listeners as a band.

GUS: Gus Reeves

ERNIE: I have a Facebook account. Contact me through my website at www.ernieadamsmusic.com

You can watch our LIVE performance video of our latest single “Ragining Hormones” Here

And please give it a listen on Spotify Here.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.