Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Vinyl is Final

I know, I know . . . Jim does another blog post about some review slathering praise on 'Misadventures in Stereo' . . . we GET IT already.

Yeah, I hear you, but THIS ONE is the very first review of the MONO VINYL LP version.

All the praise is in MONO.

Thanks to for the review and Micah Sheveloff for getting the vinyl out to them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

They are a Magnet, and I am?

Magnet Magazine is celebrating their 15th Anniversary of spreading the word about good music. Their based in Philly and so they decided to spotlight "15 in Philly" and I am very honored to have been selected as one.

Hobart Rowland write the piece. He also wrote the very first piece published about me after I started doing music full time. That piece, first published in 1937 is only available on microfiche found in the National Archives, but Hobart has been a great supporter over the years and we've gotten to know each other personally.

Which may explain why he seems a bit concerned for me in this article. "Well-crafted suicide note" is one of the more remarkable things to have appeared in print about one of my records; I'm supposed to be the happy-go-lucky pop guy. Still, now I feel like I have loads of artistic cred - I'm depressed, I'm deep, I'm like Morrissey!

I probably could've done without the comment about me and the cats. I go from being Morrissey to being Morrissey's 78 year old great aunt that never married.

Oh well - I love you, Hobart.

Check it:


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Crazy I Forgot

Oops, just found this last stray article from 2008. It was posted on September 17th, I'm sure I was thinking of something else that day.

Anyway, a quick interview but one of my favorites that appeared on:

My Crazy Music Blog

Read all about it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

2008 Wrap Up

Happy New Year everybody. How were your holidays? Now that we find ourselves on the other side and have a moment to catch our breath, I thought I'd wrap up the unfinished business from 2008.

I somehow wound up on quite a few 'Best of' lists. Very flattered. Here's a quick link roundup. A lot of these are just lists, but you know they love it when you click through and get even more excited if you leave them a comment.

I made not one, but two critics' (critics's? How are we dealing with plural possessives in a post-Strunk and White world?) lists at Twangville:

This guy likes me.

This guy likes me, too.

Not to be outdone, Absolute Powerpop were kind enough to place me on both their Best Albums and Best Songs lists.

Pop Syndicate gave 'Misadventures in Stereo' a fine review when it came out and apparently still liked it at the end of the year. Okay, New Kids on the Block are also on the list, but maybe it's a "different music for different moods" kinda thing.

At least a dollar's worth of praise from A Penny's Worth.

While not a 'Best of' per se, The Time Machine - a fantastic pop radio show carried on a bunch of stations in Hawaii (yes, apparently great weather and beautiful surroundings aren't enough, you also get fab radio in Hawaii. Um, maybe spread the wealth guys) - named me as one of the most played artists of 2008. This is either praise or an indication they have a small budget for music purchases.

I am barely fluent in English, so who knows what these actually say, but it appears as though I may have had a good year in Brazil and Spain. When's the tour?

I also want to thank the rather astounding number of people on the Audities List who placed 'Misadventures in Stereo' in their personal top album picks. Audities is one of those old-fashioned, turn-of-the-century email list deals populated by persons passionate about unpopular pop made by folks like me. It means a heaping helping to me that the folks on that list enjoyed the record so much.

Finally, lost in the fray of the mistletoe and holly was my mentioning Part 2 of the interview I did with the kind folks at Hopelessly Pop. Delve deeper into my mind.

Whew! Still with me? Time to look ahead to the music and memories of 2009. Hope to share some with you soon.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Still Hopeless

Hopelessly Pop, those kind folks who gave 'Misadventures' such a sweet review last month, just used up more of their disk space to run an interview with me. You can . . .

Read It Here.

This is Part 1, which means that they're foolish enough to put up even more later in the week. I'll keep you posted and thanks to thew Hopelessly Pop crew.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

'Misadventures' Makes the (Un)cut

Well, the good folks over in the UK at Uncut Magazine that were kind enough to ask me to record a Faces tune for their March 2008 issue just got kinder with this review in their November 2008 issue.

This is in an actual, physical MAGAZINE (remember those?) and I can not find it online anywhere (if you do, please let me know in the comments). So, at the risk of my head exploding, here it is:

Misadventures in Stereo

Thoughtful, hooky retro-pop with panache

On his breakthrough third album, Philadelphian Jim Boggia comes on like a muted power-pop shaman, channeling myriad melodic styles (cf. Rubber Soul-era Beatles, Matthew Sweet) into a cosy little world of sad reverie and eight-track stereo memories. Guitarist Al Anderson and Pet Sounds lyricist Tony Asher chip in, but Boggia's pithy vision, leaning on his warm tenor, carries the day. On the album's quieter first half, especially the soul-searching "Nothing's Changed," Boggia channels a bit of Aimee Mann-ish rumination, while the endearingly catchy "8Track" raves like a vintage Redd Kross rocker. - Luke Torn

Very cool. Thanks to Luke and Uncut.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Having Somebody to Love Voted Essential

WXPN just tabulated and played their 885 Essential Songs which was voted on by tens of thousands of folks and I'm very flattered that my version of Queen's 'Somebody to Love' came in at number 310.

Thanks to everybody who voted. Freddie thanks you, too.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

This Week at The Living Room: Requests, Ringo and a Rutle

Monday was the second week of the Monday night October residency at the Living Room.

It's always hard to play 4 weeks in a row in one room without the shows getting a bit stale, so I decided I would have themes for each night to break it up a bit.

Last week I played 'Misadventures in Stereo' solo acoustic from beginning to end, which I'd never done before (I'd never played 'Chalk One Up for Albert's Side' solo EVER, for that matter).

This week it seemed like the right crowd to do an all-request show, which I thought worked out really well. It's always interesting for me to hear which tunes people call out for, and I was surprised to have 'So Full' and 'Shine' requested right off the bat. Sometimes I really like a song but have convinced myself it's not necessarily a crowd favorite, so it was a pleasant surprise to have those come up.

I did give myself the choice of the last song of the night, which was 'Photograph' by Ringo Starr. I essentially pulled this one out of thin air, having just seen Ringo's bizarre "No more fan mail, no more signing stuff. Peace and Love, Peace and Love" video he posted that day on his website. I wonder if anybody around him could have told him what a huge PR disaster that was going to be. And unnecessary - does anyone REALLY think Ringo is reading and responding to every piece of fan mail he gets? Are there folks who took that episode of 'The Simpsons' literally? Love ya Rich, but really bad move.

But, as they say, "one door closes, another opens". I was talking with Joy Askew outside after the show (Joy, btw, will be part of next Monday's theme: Special Guests) and she casually mentions "Oh, it's Ricky Fataar".

Now, Ricky Fataar has had a long and distinguished career - he was even a Beach Boy for a while in the early '70s - but to me there is one magical thing about him: HE'S STIG O'HARA FROM THE RUTLES!! I have now met a Rutle and my life, as they say, will never be the same. I realise some of you may not know of the Rutles. Google them. They will change your life.

I'm going to suggest the next tribute night we do at the Living Room is The Rutles. I mentioned this to Stig and his response was "Why?". I now have a Rutle anecdote.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lots of Love at the Lizard

What a difference a day makes.

When I last left you, dear blog reader, I was about to get out of the car in Cambridge, MA, after not getting paid in CT the previous night. I de-carred (hey, if it's called de-planing . . .) into a warm, sunshine-filled Autumn afternoon.

Marykate grew up in the area and so she took us around to a couple nice guitar shops. Despite some weak moments, I managed to escape with the same number of guitars and dollars as I went in with.

We then ran into Audrey Ryan, who was also playing, and went out to lunch together (check out my Facebook Mobile Uploads album for the fab ice cream sandwhich thing I had for desert). When they ran into each other both Audrey and Marykate were wearing black and white horizontal striped shirts (I believe you ladies may call them "tops"). It was only the quick thinking of Marykate who put on a sweater that saved our meal from an embarassing indie rock chick faux pax. After lunch, Audrey (who was a pleasure at lunch and played an amazing set) went home and changed shirts. In the immortal words of Bob Weir: "Tragedy narrowly averted."
When we got back to the club I had the opportunity to meet a couple fans, Stephen and his friend Melissa. They drove down from Maine to see the show, which was amazing enough, but also volunteered to sell cds (what we in the business call "doing merch") for everybody (and got the numbers and money right to boot!).

They brought with them a General Electric kids' record player to use as a display. This thing was cool - it pretty much looked like the plastic Fisher-Price model, but had ALL FOUR SPEEDS (16, 33&1/3, 45 and 78) which kicks the Fisher-Price's ass. They also had some 45s with them, including "I'm A Believer / Stepping Stone" by the Monkees, and when I mentioned that Marykate was a huge Monkees fan (she idolizes them) they insisted that she take it. Unbelievably sweet. Top this off with a huge pile of homemade baked goods Melissa made and Stephen asking if he could hug me and it was obvious these were some incredible music-loving folks. Thank you both so much.

Then came the show and it turned out that all those folks asking for a Boston area show for so long really did come out. The room was filled for the whole night and this was even with a Red Sox playoff game going on (sorry about how that turned out, Boston. I am pulling for you, at least until you face the Phillies in the World Series).

Everybody on the bill played terrific sets and when I came on after Marykate (who killed) to close the night I was a little afraid the room would empty out (it was late) or it would become "have a beer and talk during this poor sap's acoustic set" time (did I mention it was late?), but the whole room was into it and I got a great response.

Setting aside my record release shows, I haven't felt so positively about every aspect of a gig in a really long time, so thank you Boston, Lizard Lounge, Marykate and the rest of the musicians.

I'm almost to NYC as I write this. I hope tonight at The Living Room comes close to Saturday - it will be hard to live up to.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cramming In the Tour Cliches

How do you make a quick couple of days out feel like an actual tour? By packing the days chock-full of rock tour cliches like:

* The club last night refusing to pay any of the acts on the bill.

This is a time honored classic that never gets old. I somehow can't seem to resist the urge to mention that the people who own and operate the club are born-again Christians. I guess we should've been on guard when we walked in and saw them all wearing t-shirts that said "WWJS?". We didn't figure out until it was too late that this stood for "Who would Jesus stiff?".

After THAT classic tour experience we of course went out drinking, which led to rock tour cliche number two:

* As our troop is comprised of a group of middle-aged indie rock musicians and not, for example, youthful heavy metallers, the drinking we do tends to be on the tamer, more civilized side - some people even drank wine. Still, this didn't prevent one of the band members from "decorating the inside of the car" on the drive home.

Strictly speaking, getting violently ill on the first night of a tour is considered bad form, but since this technically is not a tour, we all decided to allow it and pulled over to the side of the road.

We're just pulling into Cambridge now. We'll see what other things we can check off the list in the next 18 hours.

Tonight's show is at a regular club run by the usual godless communist pagans, so we should at least get paid.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Realized This Afternoon While on a Train to Connecticut

Well first off, this is a bit of a test to see if:

A) I have the technological capability to do blog posting from the road and to see which of the many places my blog resides I can actually post to and

B) To see if anyone is interested in this type of blow-by-blow. .

So, ready? Let's begin.

I'm off for a couple quick days of shows in the New England area and according to plan I SHOULD be writing this to you from the passenger seat of one of Marykate O'Neil's (who I'm sharing the bills with) bandmates's car.. Instead, I'm ensconsed in Coach Class on the cheapest Amtrak train to New Haven, CT that I could find, having missed hooking up (notin that way) with Marykate and band last night in Philly when MK played with Jill Sobule at World Cafe Live.

The plan was to have some of the band stay at my place and then head up together this morning. This all went to hell somehow when Marykate didn't get a meesage about me getting to WCL by 11:30 (because I was otherwise engaged cheering on The PHILLIES as they won the first game of the NL Playoofs). So when I arrived at 11:15, I was not prepared to find out everyone had left for New Haven without me at 11.

No problem. Thought I, I'd catch an affordable Bolt Bus in the AM and all would be right with the world. However, Affordable=Popular and all the buses were sold out

And so it was this course of events that has placed me here, spending more than I will probably make on these shows to have the joy of sitting in front of a woman who seems very truly to have tuburculosous, she is coughing that much and that non-stop.

If you live in CT or know some folks there, please send them out. I'll be at The Space in Hamden tonight at 8p.

More later if I can get this to post.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Attack of the Blogs

There's been a rash of reviews in the blogosphere. You know what FDR said: "There's nothing to blogosphere but blogosphere itself."

Here's a quick rundown:

I'm one of the albums of the month at Twangville:


A nice write-up at BlogCritics Magazine (I particularly love that they mention the bit about sticking in background vocals from another album. That means they read the liner notes. That you, BlogCritics):

BlogCritics Magazine

The power pop kids still seem to like me. I love the line "a male Aimee Mann": Male. Mann.:


And even guys who don't normally listen to pop like it. You're either on the bus or off the bus, I always say. Glad this guy has taken me aboard:

Old Blue Bus

As always, please leave some comments on these sites if you go. Comments are like a nice warm hug to a blogger.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

"Hopelessly" devoted to 'Misadventures in Stereo'

Is it even conceivable that a blog called 'Hopelessly Pop' that features a picture of the Beatles on its masthead would hate my album and write a scathing review of 'Misadventures in Stereo'?

Apparently not.

Some very kind words indeed and I particularly appreciate the nod to the SONGS as well as the arrangements.

Anyway, check it out for yourself if you're not completely fed up with reading about the album here:

Hopelessly Pop

ONE IMPORTANT NOTE: If you click the above link, check out the "Digg It" box on the right hand side. Digg is a site where people make suggestions to each other of interesting things on the web to check out by "Digging" them. What this can do is help spread the word a lot faster than if people are just poking around the web on their own. If you Digg, or if this sounds like an interesting idea to you, please consider clicking that link and helping to get the word out.


Oh, and I'm really sorry about the bad Olivia Newton-John reference in the subject line.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Paste Magazine September 2008 CD Sampler

Apparently, I am featured on the CD Sampler included in the September issue of Paste Magazine. It seems this is their 'Best of What's Next' issue. I am soon to be a thing of the future.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

'Amplifier' Review

This will show you how my mind works.

I'm sent these reviews and press pieces from the PR company the label hired to do the publicity for the album. They usually come with a brief sentence or two along the lines of "Great review from such and such" before the link.

When this review in 'Amplifier' came, it just said "for clip file." I immediately thought "okay, they've crucified me" and then debated for an hour whether I should click the link and read the review or not.

Turns out they were just busy at the PR company that day. It's another really nice review:

"For Clip File"

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Few Words in Defense of My Album

No, my album is not being attacked by Communist forces and, yes, I am basically ripping off my subject line from the title of a great Randy Newman song but that's the title I used a few months ago when I was asked to write up short descriptions of each song on the album for radio and press folk.

Having just come across this again I thought: "Why should only radio and press folk experience the joy of reading what I have to say about my own songs?"

Since I couldn't really come up with a compelling reason, you are no longer spared the following:

A Few Words in Defense of My Album

Side One: My Misadventures

Johnnie's Going Down

It's always fun to watch the mighty fall, particularly when they don't see it coming. The instrumental section tries to bring back some of that Tijuana Brass sound that accompanied so many of our parent's "key parties" in basement dens across early '70s America.

To and Fro

A musical melodrama around the theme: You're either on the bus or off the bus, but don't make me sit here with the door open. Features lots of over the top piano runs and the first appearance of castanets in a pop tune since the Phil Spector trial.

No Way Out

If you're going to throw your life away you might as well have a good time doing it. Written drunk, recorded drunk, I'm not going to tell you how to listen to music but I'm just saying I'm buying the next round. By the third drink you'll begin to notice that the chord progression isn't as close to that other song's as you thought it was back when you were sober.


People leave. You don't have to hate them for it. If you really want to know what this one's about, listen to Mike Frank's piano part - says it all.

Nothing's Changed

Sometimes it's hard to get out of bed in the morning. But usually only Mondays through Fridays, and then also on the weekends. Once you get past that it's usually . . . oh wait, never mind.

Even though this is a song-by-song blow-by-blow, I feel like I gotta tell ya I made this to be listened to like an album. That means sitting down and taking in all of either side one or side two. Side one is done, so if you wanna take a little break now and come back later for side two, I'm cool with that.

Side Two: Other People's Misadventures


The guy singing this song has really great childhood memories singing songs with his sister while listening to 8Tracks. The fact that he isn't old enough to have actually been around when 8Tracks were doesn't seem to bother him. Neither does the fact that he doesn't even have a sister. A great memory is a great memory. It doesn't have to be YOUR memory.

Listening to NRBQ

Is this guy reminiscing about the fantastic, though criminally under-recognized, NRBQ, his old girlfriend, or just about a time when music was the center of everyone's lives? I don't know. I just know two things: First, Big Al Anderson from the legendary NRBQ plays electric guitar on this tune, sounding EXACTLY like Big Al Anderson (no mean feat) and secondly, it turns out Tricky Dick was wrong when he said "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore." I am happy about both.

Chalk One Up for Albert's Side

The guy in this song was an eye-witness to the pivotal moment in the life of a third grader, when the good guys actually won a round against the forces of evil. It was probably the last time in his life he saw anything like this. Written with Tony Asher, which still makes me think "Jesus Christ, are you kidding me, Tony Asher?" And then I check and it turns out no, Jesus Christ is NOT kidding me, it really was written with Tony Asher.

On Your Birthday

Why does this guy's ex-girlfriend's birthday still get to him? Why does he even remember her birthday? Is he still in love with her? You'll have have to ask David Poe, because he wrote the lyric to this one. Love that David Poe.

Three Weeks Shy

The guy in this song lost his brother in Iraq. There are over 4000 stories like this and counting. Please play this song in the months leading up to the election.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

They won't shut up about 'Misadventures in Stereo'

A few more pieces of press praise floating around this week:

Lots of kindness from All Music Guide:
All Music Guide

USAToday Featured me earlier this week, calling 'Listening to NRBQ' "magical" (I thought it was pretty magical when Big Al showed up to take the solo as well):


This one is from 'Jersey Beat' - which I can't figure out if it's just a website or has something to do with New Jersey newspapers. In either event, you should keep these three things in mind when reading this one:

I DON'T actually play most of the "instrumentals" myself. Most of the tunes are played live by the band with a few overdubs that also used multiple musicians.

Al Anderson from NRBQ does NOT play on '8Track'. He actually plays on (would you believe it?) 'Listening to NRBQ'.

While it is true that I DO often wear my influences on my sleeve ("good artists borrow, great artists steal") there is no way I was ever even remotely thinking about Crosby, Stills and Nash when doing the vocal harmonies for 'Chalk One Up for Albert's Side'. Beach Boys, yes. 'Ram'-era McCartney, yes. CSN . . . um, no.

Okay, now you can read it.

Some radio news to share with you soon and a request for some help spreading the word.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thoughts on the Record Release Parties

Well, I'm exhausted.

Sitting in Rittenhouse Square the day after the record release party at Joe's Pub, feeling pretty good about how it all went both last night and last week in Philadelphia at World Cafe Live.

Just some random scattered thoughts, because I'm not capable of much else right now:

It was great seeing that we packed both rooms, that people afterwards really seemed to have enjoyed it and that so many folks I haven't seen for quite a while made it out to share the moment.

Goddam, I want me an 11 piece band for Christmas! I was so impressed by how well everybody played and how it all came together on very little rehearsal together (we cold only rehearse as a full band twice). Kind of scares me a little bit to think what we could do with some real time playing together. Also just incredibly grateful to all the musicians who really gave a lot for very little (and in a few cases, no) renumeration (that's money, folks).

I am so glad to have taken the extra time and expense to have had the WCL show recorded to multi-track by Chris Williams over at WXPN. I heard just a very rough mix of a couple of songs and already know that we captured something special.

On top of that, thanks to Russ Eisenlohr and his crew and John Anthony and Mary O'Neill for donating themselves and the cameras to film the show. We're going edit this video and sync it to the multi-track audio and have something incredible to show you soon.

It makes me happy that Ben Arnold was part of the evening with his band at the Philly show. Having good friends sharing the night was a real joy.

Ditto my happiness that most of the folks involved in making the record were on hand in one way or another at the shows. I definitely missed Adam Winokur, who sadly had a gig that night.

Just on a personal note, I was so happy to have found some settings on my Fender Deluxe that gave me a nice, crunchy electric guitar tone that made me love playing the electric tunes. Maybe I won't only play acoustic the rest of my life.

I think I've finally run out of thoughts on the subject. I am now going to let my central nervous system rest for a couple of days. Thanks to everybody who came out on either night and bonus points for those of you who made both. See you soon.

Friday, August 08, 2008

More Opinions, Your Opinions

A few more pieces of press to alert you to, and then a way to make YOUR voice heard.

First up, a very nice piece that ran in the Metro newspapers. I wish I always came across this eloquent in interviews. Obviously some good editing at the Metro!:

The Metro

Super short but very sweet. Mike Errico is a really fine singer-songwriter type himself who has crossed over to the other side, working for Blender online. I'm named as one of his favorite things here:

Mike Errico

Okay, I TOLD you I'd fess up to that first bad review. This may technically only be in the "not so good" category (and if you stop at the end of the first paragraph it's quite good!), but I'm counting it. The opinion of someone NOT convinced of my genius is a click away:


Whoo! That knocked the wind out of me for a second, but I'm okay now. But more importantly, I want to know what YOU think. Here's a website called where you can, surprisingly enough, download (.com) a few tracks from the album and give your opinion. I'd love it if you would take the time to do so. Make your voice heard here:

That's more than enough me for now.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Philadelphia Daily News

Another batch of very kind words, this time from the Philadelphia Daily News' Jonathan Takiff. I am particularly impressed that Mr. Takiff know a tarantella when he hears one.

You can help spread the word by clicking on all those "Save and Share" links on the page. I'd love it if you did.

Here's the news.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

'Umm Drop' feature in Philadelphia Weekly

Don't worry - this onslaught of press attention won't last, but here's a nice piece the kind folks at Philadelphia Weekly just put out. This is also available in actual paper form in those yellow newspaper boxes in and around Philly.

The photo shows the OTHER wall of my music room than the one featured in the new album/press photo (the one with the piano), so you can almost imagine you're there.

Here it is.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More praise for 'Misadventures in Stereo'

Short, but sweet - the folks at Prefix Magazine heaped a helping of hosannas onto what they heard.

I have to say, I've never considered myself to be truly "Power Pop", but taking their extension of the term into consideration, I guess I'm in.

Read it here.

I SWEAR I'm not cherry-picking reviews. I'll post the inevitable bad ones as well. Well, at least the first one!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

First Review (that I know of) - 'Misadventures in Stereo'

Well this is certainly a nice thing to wake up to on a Sunday morning. The first review I've seen of Misadventures in Stereo from Wildy's World:

Check it out.

I'll take the young Rod Stewart reference, thank you. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to being like a bird building a nest.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

'Misadventures in Stereo' on the Radio

The pursuit of America's airwaves has begun as 'Misadventures in Stereo' was released to radio stations this week. And no sooner than it was received, my good friends at WXPN in Philadelphia have given the album its first official radio add (that's the actual word add, not some sort of attention deficit condition your radio develops).

You should be hearing 'To and Fro' over the WXPN airwaves or online soon and, I hope, often.

Not soon or often enough for you? Well, you could request it online or call them at 215-573-WXPN or even email them at

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hot Fun in the Summertime

I kicked off WXPN's XPoNential Music Festival yesterday and had such a great time I thought Ikd dust off the old blog and ramble on a bit.

The big news is that this was the first time out for the 11 piece band I've put together for the upcoming record release shows. When I say first time out I'm not just whistling Dixie (it wasn't on the set list).

I had been doing individual rehearsals with the core 4 piece band, other rehearsals with the Voices of Reason (as I've dubbed the 3 backing vocalists) and still other rehearsals with the Hong Kong Cavellier Memorial Horns. But we never all played together until the day of the show

This was a little bit scary but it also made it really exciting as everyone was hearing each other and how everything fit together for the first time. The funny thing is that once we started the performance I was actually more relaxed than I usually am for band shows. I think being surrounded by that many good players gave me a sense of not having to carry everything myself and there were moments where I could almost be the audience for what was going on.

Couple all of that with the fact that XPN totally has it together with that festival in terms of the sound system and crew and backstage sitch PLUS some seriously gorgeous weather and it was just kinda everything you could ask for

Thanks to XPN for having me and to everybody who came out.
Sadly, this band WON'T be around forever. Get your tickets to the Record Release show NOW.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Farewell, Kurt Vonnegut

"I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive, at least a little bit. I'm then asked if I know of any artists who have pulled that off. I reply - 'The Beatles did.'" - Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Session Log: 2.06.07

Tuesday, 2.6.07: 3:00p - 6:00p
'Learning to Forgive' (Take ? - Harp)
Studio: MAJA Audio Group - Philadelphia, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: John Anthony

I called John Anthony about a week ago and left a message with him about bringing in someone to play harp on one of the tunes. When he called back, he said he always thought it was funny when people called it "harp" - he thought I was having someone in to play bluesy harmonica. No John, real harp.

Gillian Grassie came recommended to me through a friend. We got together at my place last Friday (video here.) and worked on some ideas and I was excited about what it could bring to the song. The results of today's session have me even happier, although the session almost didn't happen.

Here's some things you may want to keep in mind when making your own album using multiple studios and recording to hard disk:
* Back up your drives
* Keep track of which drives you have which songs on

I'm all over backing up my drives. The second bullet point is the one that nearly brought me down today. Got to the studio, took my hard drive out of it's well-wrapped box, plugged it in and discovered that 'Learning to Forgive' was not on the drive I brought. Oops. In situations like these, your mind immediately looks for ANY solution. The one I came up with involved calling home, having Emily re-configure my 8 hard drives underneath my computer, find the file, open up FTP software and upload it to the studio's website. If we were lucky and didn't hit any snags, it should only be moderately mind-numbingly complicated.

Then, miraculously, John made an offhand remark - "it's too bad you don't have it on your iPod, we could pull it off of there". Freakin' brilliant. I did have a rough mix on the iPod and so, we saved ourselves a bunch of weird science, the day was saved. Reason #426 why iPods are cool.

Now we just have to re-assemble the harp tracks we recorded today into the session file with the rest of the song, which we'll do next time I'm in.

If I bring the right drive.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Session Log: 2.02.07

Friday, 2.02.07: 11:00a - 4:30p
'Chalk One Up for Albert's Side (Take 1 - Drums)
Studio: MAJA Audio Group - Philadelphia, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: John Anthony

Working with Roger at MAJA on a drum track for 'Albert'. Actually, 2 drum tracks. Going for a bit of that White Album era drum overdub sound, conceptualizing things as one drum part, but then leaving out bits and doing them on a separate track to be able to pan them a bit differently.

Also, had Roger lay out during the bridge, then went back and cut a separate take of just the bridge with Roger playing one of those big, deep military snares.

Don't freak out - it sounds much simpler than the description.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Session Log: 1.23.07

Tuesday, 1.23.07: 7:30p - 12:30a
'3 Weeks Shy' (Takes 1-6 - basic tracks), 'Insurrection' (Takes 1-8 - basic tracks)
Studio: Kawari Sound - Wyncotte, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: Pete Donnelly
2nd Engineer: Adam Winuker

Another day cutting basic tracks with Pete, Mike and Roger. I have to say today found us really playing well together, probably some of the best ensemble playing on the album.

I think Take 5 of '3 Weeks Shy' will probably be the one all the way through.

Need to spend some time listening to 'Insurrection', as there are three takes that I think each have some special moments.

Cheat Alert: OK, I'll fess up. We cut about half of the takes of 'Insurrection' to a click and half without one. The thing that makes me feel okay about it is I have to look at my notes when I'm listening to the rough mixes to know whether on not it's a take cut to the click.

I realized at the end of the session that we've now done all of the tunes that we're cutting together as a band. There will still be more sessions with each of the guys, but this is the last time we'll play together for this record, so that was a bit poignant. Glad we finished on a high note (D above high C?).

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Session Log: 1.22.07

Monday, 1.22.07: 7:30p - 12:30a
Tech session only
Studio: Kawari Sound - Wyncotte, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: Pete Donnelly
2nd Engineer: Adam Winuker

Getting ready to record a couple new backing tracks with the band tomorrow at a new studio - Kawari Sound. Kawari is where I did the version of 'Somebody to Love' that you have seemingly not been able to escape from if you listen to WXPN recently (BTW, thanks WXPN - oh, and a brief note that if you still can't get enough of it, it is available for free as a podcast, go here.

Not much to say here. Pretty much a repeat of the first group session at Miriam - setting up, tuning the piano, getting sounds, recording a couple quick covers ('Waterloo Sunset' and 'Too Many People') and getting the hell out so we can hit it tomorrow fresh.

Oh yeah, except - - See Pete Donnelly lay down a badass tuba lick AND lay down the law about YouTube, it's . . . on YouTube! Sorry, Pete.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Session Log: 1.19.07

Friday, 1.19.07: 11:30a - 4:00p
'Chalk One Up for Albert's Side (Take 1 - initial instruments)
Studio: MAJA Audio Group - Philadelphia, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: John Anthony

Tracks (in order):
* Piano
* Bass 1
* Bass 2

Back at MAJA to start another "solo" song. 'Chalk One Up for Albert's Side' is probably the poppiest piece on the album, along the lines of 'Let Me Believe (Evan's Lament)'.

I started off with piano on this one. Some more careful readers of these session notes, particularly those who are familiar with Mike Frank's mastery of all things with black and white keys, may be asking themselves why I'm playing this part and not having Mike do it. Well, first off, thanks for the vote of confidence - I appreciate that. But, in truth, sometimes I want a piano or keyboard part that's a bit "dumbed down", played by someone with a lot less finesse on the instrument than Mike has. That someone is me. Using two hands to play a part any "real" pianist would properly do with one changes the feel in, surprisingly, a pleasant way.

One of the odder production choices on this song involves the use of two separate bass parts, which I'm hard-panning into opposite speakers. I like the way it causes sound to bounce around through the air.

There's some video of this forthcoming.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Session Log: 1.15.07

Monday, 1.15.07: 10:00a - 3:30p
'Eleven Seventeen' - (Take 1 and Re-make - initial instruments)
Studio: MAJA Audio Group - Philadelphia, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: John Anthony

Tracks (in order):
* Hand rubbing (x2)
* Hand clap/slap
* Foottap
* Loop made of above percussion tracks
* Acoustic Guitar

Ah, the holidays. I knew I was going to lose the last two weeks in December, but I thought I'd be back up and running before this but it didn't work out that way. There's been no opportunity to do anything with the band because they lads are taking vacations that only overlap by a couple of days and stretch out over about three weeks, so I thought I'd concentrate on a few of the other "solo" tunes.

I'm really excited to be working back at MAJA Audio with John Anthony, who did such great work on the 'Fidelity' album. We've been trying for over a week to get this session in, but John got hit hard by the flu and I'm uncomfortable making music around people's bodily fluids, so we had to wait it out a bit.

The idea I have for this song is pretty simple and intimate, basing it mainly around a single acoustic guitar and some hand percussion. But unlike the hand percussion in 'R2' where I was playing small percussion instruments, this time I wanted JUST the sound of the hands themselves.

I'm generally pretty humble about my musical abilities, but one area of conceit I have is hand-clapping. I am, by my own informed opinion, a MAJOR TALENT when it comes to hand-clapping. I've got a deep, fat pocket (slightly behind the beat, which makes the thing feel bigger - odd, since my guitar playing tends to be a little "on top"), I can get a variety of tones - I'm telling you, if Motown were still making records like they did in the '60s, I could make a comfortable living for a family of 4 off hand-clapping sessions alone.

So, after doing a couple of tracks of rubbing my hands together in time (this gives you a sound that's like a cross between a small shaker and brushes a drummer would use), I was ready for my big hand-clap moment.

But this would turn out to be no ordinary hand clapping gig. What I was looking for was a cross behind clapping and slapping, doing a syncopated beat instead of the usual clapping on the backbeat. Even though the song is nothing like this, the best example I can give you is how some of those Gypsy Kings songs have the really involved hand clapping.

Well, apparently this "Spanish-style" clapping is a whole different animal from the Motown school of clapping where I studied. I was abysmal at it. Out of time, not putting the accents where I wanted to - it was bumming me out. It took almost an hour to get the track together enough and, yes, we had to cheat by punching in and looping. I came back into the Control Room and bitter, broken man.

Oh yeah, then I also played some guitar and got a big blister on my thumb because of the way I was playing. Art = Pain, both physical and emotional.

You can watch me be humiliated by my own lack of co-ordination here (don't judge me too harshly).

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Session Log: 12.30.06

Saturday, 12.30.06: 1:00p - 6:30p
'R2' - Take 1 and Re-make
Studio: Miriam Audio - Philadelphia, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: Jesse Honig

Tracks (in order):
* Maraccas
* Bongos
* Clave
* Loop made of above percussion tracks
* Acoustic Guitar
* Nylon-string Guitar #1
* Nylon-string Guitar #2
* Nylon-string Guitar #3
* Piano
* Tic-Tac Bass
* Half-speed Tic-Tac Bass
* Hofner Bass
* Electric 12-string Guitar

Another solo session - going in alone with Jesse manning the boards and doing the one-man band thing.

It's hard not to lose momentum during the holidays. The last two weeks of December are always tough to get anything done other than the big holiday rush. This year I went back to Michigan to see family and also spent a couple of days "up North" (it's a Michigan thing, look it up) at a friend's place on Lake Michigan. While I was there I wrote a new song called 'Three Weeks Shy' and was re-visited by a forgotten unfinished song from my past, which is this one, let's call it 'R2' for now.

Sessions like this one are some of my favorites, moving quickly from instrument-to-instrument putting down the ideas I hear inside my head (actually, I hear them more outside of my head, as if they're in the next room, but a psychiatrist told me once that that qualifies as auditory hallucinations and I might want to do something about that, so let's go with inside my head). Sometimes, I can get a bit too ahead of myself when I do this, and wind-up boxing myself into a corner I don't see until I'm pretty far down the road with the recording.

That happened today. I initially did a version of this starting with the acoustic guitars and working my way through the first Tic-Tac Bass track, THEN tried adding the hand-percussion. It wasn't happening. Essentially, the way I played the guitars didn't let the percussion breathe.

What I realized was I had to START with the percussion, build up a little loop (this is done by playing for a short duration of time, in this case I think it was 8 bars, and then copying and repeating or "looping" the part to the length you need) and then add the other instruments.

Was that I hear you say? You're asking me doesn't this technically break the rules I've laid down for the album about using full performances and no click tracks? Well, observant and troublesome blog reader, "yes" and "not exactly, but pretty much, for all practical purposes, yes". Maybe you should think of these as "guidelines" as opposed to "rules", maybe you should remember that rules are meant to be broken, maybe you should get the hell off my back, alright?

Anyway, starting over with the percussion first turned out to be ticket.

The nylon-string guitar parts I have hard panned left and right (#2 and #3 work together to form one part, they're both on the left) and I dig how they play off of one another. I've also got the Piano and Tic-Tac bass doubling same part and hard panned left and right - just playing a few notes in the verses, then taking a composed solo (that is to say, the notes were pre-arranged, not that it was calm and collected). I really like the sound of the piano playing single notes in the lower register combining with the sound of the Tic-Tac Bass (alright, since I've mentioned it three times now - a "Tic-Tac" bass is a special type of bass that has six-strings - and yes, I KNOW you all know how I feel about basses with more than 4 strings, but this is a completely different animal and it's okay - anyway, the strings are tuned an octave below the guitar, but it uses much thinner strings than a regular bass, giving it a kinda clicky, twangy sound. If you know the solo from 'Wichita Lineman' - and if you don't, you should - it's that sound. This is the most grammatically unruly parenthetical statement I've ever written and I'm truly sorry), and the hard-panning gives it a huge soundscape.

It was actually Jesse who suggested we try recording a second Tic-Tac bass track, this time recording at half-speed. This is another one of those fantastic old-school tape machine tricks that nobody does anymore in the digital recording world. It's exactly what it sounds like - you play the recording at half-speed, so that the previously recorded tracks are both twice as slow and an octave lower than normal, while you play or sing at normal pitch. Then, playing back the track at normal speed, the newly recorded track plays back twice as fast and an octave up from how you played it. Since the Tic-Tac has this strange half-bass, half-guitar quality to it anyway, this trick made it sound pretty much like an electric guitar but with a quality that's just a little bit different.

Anyway, a very productive 6 hour session that resulted in a backing track I'm in love with.

Bring on the New Year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Session Log: 12.12.06

Tuesday, 12.12.06: 12:00p - 6:00p
'Listening to NRBQ' - basic track + keyboard solo overdub
Studio: Miriam Audio - Philadelphia, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: Pete Donnelly

Today we began work on the only song on this album that I've already been playing out live - 'Listening to NRBQ'.

Songs are like kids - you don't have "favorites", except that you kinda do. I'm very fond of this one. It operates on a few different levels lyrically and is sort of the blueprint for the thing I'm trying to do with the lyrics on this album. This song is very personal, but in no way autobiographical, at least not in any way that anyone other than myself can figure out.

I've already cut a demo of this tune (hey Jake and Dan!) and the band played it at the Beta Hi-Fi Festival at World Cafe Live earlier in the year, so there was a lot less time needed to get the tune in shape, basically just a few run-throughs for everyone to remember the tune and we were ready to cut it.

But music is weird.

You have the basic requirements that you have to get together, everybody playing the right notes, playing in time, that sort of thing - and then there's . . . that other stuff. The thing that happens where it all coalesces into something beyond the notes being played. It's "feel", but it's also something else beyond that. And it's delicate and elusive. I think a lot of it has to do with the physical and mental state of the musicians playing and whether they get in sync (which is not to say 'N-Sync - no, let's not say that).

So here's how this session went. We came in and played for about four and a half hours, cutting multiple takes of the tune with everyone playing the right notes and it just went nowhere. It's such a frustrating thing, because there's nothing you can point to - "oh, if I just remember to play the B minor going into the bridge everything will come together" - it's just . . . "well, let's try another one." Maybe it was doing a daytime session - I know I was definitely struggling with low energy through a lot of it.

Some days you just have to accept that that's how it's gonna be and come back to fight another day. I thought we were maybe at that point, and Mike said "let's just try one more".

And then that magical thing happens where it all comes together and it was night and day from everything else we played earlier and we got the take and I love it. Everyone's playing is so alive and connected to each other, playing off of each other, taking it somewhere else.

So basically, we played really well for exactly four minutes and fifty-one seconds (the song won't be that long, but once it finally felt good we had to stay there for a while and vamp on the outro) of a six hour session. And because of that, it was a great day in the studio.

Music is weird.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Session Log: 12.06.06

Wednesday, 12.06.06: 4:00p - 10:00p
'You Won't Be Long' / 'Take It As It Comes'
Studio: Miriam Audio - Philadelphia, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: Pete Donnelly

Mike, Roger, Pete, and I reconvene for another attempt at the backing tracks for the above tunes.

Listening to the rough mixes from the 11.30.06 session, I'm confident that 'Last Trip' is in the bag as far as the backing track goes. I'm still debating whether I like one of the takes all the way through or whether I want to edit between two takes, but one way or the other, we got it.

'You Won't Be Long' sounded as though we might have had it and we started the session by editing together pieces of a couple of takes from the previous session, but there was enough "well maybe that's it" going on to be worth taking another shot and I'm really glad we did.

We cut four new takes, marking Take 3 best through the end of the bridge and Take 4 best from there on out, though Take 4 may carry the day all by itself in the end. I'm really liking this one - it's got a nice, soaring kind of melody that switches between full voice and falsetto, really interesting changes in the drums in different sections, Mike's piano track has that great, old piano sound with a concise, structured solo, and Pete's bass playing is joyous and energetic and makes me smile. I also think there's a lot of room for a harmony vocal throughout and I'm thinking it might be a great place to have Mike Viola come in and have a moment on the record.

So now that we're feeling all good about ourselves, let's turn to 'Take It as It Comes'. As I thought, listening to the rough mixes of the 11.30.06 takes of 'TIaIC' finds us still searching for the right feel in a couple of places, most notably the verses. I had some ideas coming into the session and we dutifully chocked up an additional 9 takes of the tune. Every album has a problem child, and I think we've found this album's difficult birth. I don't know - it feels good, it feels not-so-good. This is a me problem, there's something in the arrangement I haven't figured out yet. More listening and thinking outside of the studio.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Session Log: 11.30.06

Thursday, 11.30.06: 8:00p - 2:00a
'You Won't Be Long' / 'Last Trip' / 'Take It As It Comes'
Studio: Miriam Audio - Philadelphia, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: Pete Donnelly

After spending the previous day rehearsing, this session saw the first true takes of the listed songs with myself on Acoustic Guitar, Pete Donnelly on Bass, Roger Cox on Drums, and Mike Frank on various keyboards (Piano on 'YWBL', Organ on 'LT', and Wurlitzer Electric Piano and Synth/Sampled Piano on 'TIaIC').

As with the couple of songs I started in earlier sessions on my own, the goal with these backing tracks is to get as many full or close to full performances as possible. As you might expect, this goes up a degree in difficulty with each additional musician playing at the same time. Still, several of the performances on this night had "the stuff" and are under consideration for use as the backing tracks for 'YWBL' and 'LT'. At this point, I think we're still finding our way with 'TIaIC",

In practice, what will probably happen is some editing between takes in each tune, but in a way that is much more in line with how people worked when recording on tape. This would involve making very simple edits that keep all of our performances together, but using different song sections from various takes. For example, taking the first verse through the first chorus of Take 3, then the second verse through the end from Take 5. To explain this a bit further to anyone not intimately involved with modern recording methods, but still interested enough to care (anyone?), the more modern digital hard-disk based recording method would usually involve going in with each individual musician and fixing any mistakes or replacing parts of a performance or - worse - actually sitting there at the computer terminal "chopping up" a performance and moving notes around to create a performance that no musician actually ever played. No, we don't want that.

Finally, we're still not using click tracks, so our performances not only have to be pretty consistent tempo-wise from the beginning to end of each performances (not speeding up or slowing down noticeably), but also must remain consistent from take to take, even after taking a break and coming back. Fortunately, listening to the rough mixes made at the end of the session leaves me confident that the type of macro-editing I'm looking to do won't be a problem.

The bottom line with all this kind of "work this way instead of that way" techno mumbo-jumbo is just trying to create a record that is more musical and has some breath and life in it.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Session Log: 11.29.06

Wednesday, 11.29.06: 3:00p - 1:00a
'Take It As It Comes' / 'Last Trip' / 'You Won't Be Long' (Rehearsal takes only)
Studio: Miriam Audio - Philadelphia, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: Pete Donnelly

A bunch of time in the studio with Mike Frank (keys), Pete Donnelly (bass), and Roger Cox (drums) learning tunes and working out arrangements in anticipation of recording backing tracks.

I went to the studio at 3p, vacuum in tow and spent a few hours cleaning the studio. This is not a typical scenario in the world of recording, but I feel more creative when I'm not worried about mold spores invading my body (sorry Jesse, I love you but you're messy).

Lee Schusterman arrived around 6p to tune one of the pianos. You can see Lee explain the differences between the varying types of upright pianos - not once, but twice - in a video here that I SWEAR to you is much more entertaining than what it sounds like it would be (by the way Lee - it was a whole step). While you're over at YouTube, you may want to watch my Lee-ona impression here, which is almost exactly as entertaining as you think it would be, which is to say, not very (but it's short).

The boys arrived around 7p and we spent the next 6 hours getting the tunes in shape. This process usually starts with me showing everyone the basic structure and chord progression of the tune and then running the song down several times after that, each time giving a little bit more attention to individual details about the arrangement. I generally have a fair amount of things that I know that I'm looking for - a certain drum beat in a particular section of the song, a specific part on piano or bass at this point or that, but there's a lot of input from the guys as well. I've been playing with Mike for probably about 15 years and Roger for nearly 10, so they always have an instinct for the things I'm hearing anyway and Pete is one of my favorite bass players in terms of style and note choice, so there's a lot of great ideas to sift through.

You can (I think) kind of get an idea of what that process looks like (in highly edited form) in a video here that follows us through learning 'Take It As It Comes' (don't get to attached to the title, it's probably just a working one).

Two days of work in the studio and we haven't yet committed a proper take of anything. That will change tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Session Log: 11.28.06

Tuesday, 11.28.06: 4:00p - 12:00a
No recording.
Studio: Miriam Audio - Philadelphia, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: Pete Donnelly

A day of loading-in, setting up instruments and getting sounds. The grunt work that needs to happen before recording can begin. You can see some video from the evening here.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Session Log: 'It's Over' (working title)

Tuesday, 11.14.06: 3p - 8:30p
'It's Over' (working title)
Studio: Miriam Audio - Philadelphia, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: Jesse Honig

Tracks (in order):
* Acoustic Guitar
* Foot Taps (recorded simultaneously with Ac. Gtr.)

Another quick one. I'm rather consciously ramping up slowly for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I'm trying to create the same kind of process that produced 'Fidelity is the Enemy', which had more time in between recording sessions than actual time in the studio. I like to be able to think about the next move a bit and I've also found with going into the studio for a month at a time you inevitably hit periods where you wind up "punching the clock" - there's a checklist of things to do and only so much time and you start plowing your way through simply to get things done. I'm hoping to keep each session a bit more inspired and to always WANT to be recording.

Another reason why this process will take a bit longer is lurking in the title of this song, the part that says working title. Again, much like when I started making 'Fidelity', I have several songs that don't have complete sets of lyrics, but are finished in terms of melody, chord progression and a lot of the arrangement ideas. I don't mind working this way, in fact it helps me finish the lyrics, but I would be lying if I didn't also say that I feel the pressure of having to come up with lyrics on a schedule. Lyrics are ALWAYS the last thing to get done and the pacing item of my songwriting - I just have to not freak out about it.

The other thing that is adding to the lyric pressure is that I'm fairly determined to implement a new working method with lyrics. Having perhaps exposed myself a little too bare on some of the songs on 'Safe in Sound' (to the point of not being able to play a lot of them live on a lot of occasions), I'm trying to create lyrics that have some kind of emotional truth as a personal starting point, but then to invent a completely different storyline around it. Essentially finding the midway point between the completely made up story song writing I did way back in the Ultrasound days ('Evelyn', anyone? 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Theatre', no? Ah well.) and the first person life experience stuff that sorta creeped in during the "b@#*h ex-girlfriend trilogy" of the late 90s.

Anyway, the working titles are almost always phonetic interpretations of what comes out of my mouth when writing the melody. Whether this song winds up having anything to do with "It's Over" is entirely up for grabs.

I haven't really told you much about the session, have I? That's because I made this video for you to check out. It'll be just like being there. The big issue at this session was shoes. I wanted to record a foot-tap along with the guitar, but my ever-trusty Chuck Taylors weren't really as sharp-toned percussively as I wanted. Luckily, Jesse Honig and I have the same shoe size and - with both of us fearlessly ignoring whatever fungal exchange might occur - he lent me a pair of his dress shoes for the occasion.

Keeping to the "full performance" edict required 12 takes of the song, with Take 11 being selected as best. The fairly high number of takes was almost entirely due to my inability to adjust to regular shoes - my tapping kept going out of time. It's all in the video.

Oh yeah - in the video I'm talking about working titles and I mention 'Laxton's Supreme' - I meant 'Laxton's Superb'. That was the working title of George Harrison's 'I Want to Tell You' on the 'Revolver' LP. Laxton's Superb is a type of apple. One of George's other tunes of 'Revolver', 'Love You To', had a working title of 'Granny Smith' - another apple variety. Kind of strange that this was a full year and a half before the Beatles started their company Apple.

Next week - the first band sessions with Mike Frank, Pete Donnelly and Roger Cox.

By the way - in case I haven't mentioned it: Check out the video. If you like 'em, I'll keep making 'em.

Friday, November 10, 2006

XM-ing it with Jason Karaban

Took a post-election trip down to our nation's capital to help out Philly ex-pat Jason Karaban on a session for XM Cafe.

Jason's one helluva songsmith and his new album sounds a little too good when I'm just about to start working on my own (I freak out easily). I've known Jason for years, but this is the first time we had a chance to move air molecules around together. Sounded real fine, too (if I'm allowed to say that).

The XM studio complex is one of my favorite places on earth - studio after studio of great gear and folks who know how to make things sound good and who love music like they used to back in the days when people worked in radio because they loved music.

XM Cafe Music Director Bill Evans and Engineer Q both recorgnized me from my stop there with 4 Way Street a couple of years ago, which is something. They were kind enough to ask if I'd play a tune of my own, so I plopped down a version of 'Talk About the Weather' - but it was really Jason's day and I had a great time playing and harmonizing on his tunes.

I think it airs in a few weeks. I'll let you know when I know. In the meantime, check out Jason's album.

Session Log: 'Learning to Forgive'

Tuesday, 11.07.06: 4p - 8:30p
'Learning to Forgive'
Studio: Miriam Audio - Philadelphia, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: Jesse Honig

Tracks (in order):
* Acoustic Guitar
* Nylon-string Guitar
* Bass Drum (oversized, played with mallet - NOT a kick drum)

And . . . begin. A rather short session (it was going to start earlier, but I went to vote and discovered that my registration did not follow me when I moved so I had to go back to my old polling place), but hey, the new record is officially started.

This was a really straight-forward session. Started with the main acoustic guitar track, Takes 1-16. Most of those takes were just testing different microphone set-ups and placements finding the right tone. Take 16 wound up being the one used for overdubbing.

One of the things I'm going to try on this record is to have as many tracks be full performances as possible, instead of doing the usual "punch-in" to fix any mistakes. I think in the end everything will sound more musical because you tend to retain the "macro" aspect of the performance - the little nuances that occur as you travel THROUGH the song, rather than just playing the second chorus, for example.

The other thing is that I'm going to try to not use a click track whenever possible. In a lot of my songs there will be sections of the tune where a chord will hold and want to take a really tiny pause or breath before the next section starts and I've found that when I've used a click track in the past, these sections sound rushed or stiff and I wind up editing all the tracks by "pushing them back" a bit. This works, but again it's just not as musical as playing your way through it in the first place.

Cutting to a click is pretty much the norm nowadays because it's easier to edit when your're "on the grid" - but it's not really my job to make my engineer's job easier (sorry Jesse, Pete, Adam and Shane)!

The nylon guitar (you may know it as "classical guitar") part is just a little counter-point line that happens in a few places throughout the song. Oh, which reminds me - the last couple of takes of the main acoustic were done because I realized that the counter-point line required me to change a chord in the main guitar part, so I had to re-cut it. This is one of those times where in another situation, I'd just punch-in and "fix" the original take, but I went back and played the whole thing again. You'll thank me later.

It was Jesse who suggested doing some hits on his over-size bass drum (imagine one of those marching band kinda deals) to give a little touch of depth and drama. The drum itself sounded good, but we wound up pitch-shifting the thing down one whole octave - it sounds like a tympani now.

At that point, I had to catch a train. Looks like I'll be back in next Tuesday and through most of the remainder of the week.

Friday, November 03, 2006

'Somebody to Love' added to regular rotation on WXPN Philadelphia

Well this is cool and unexpected. I was honored to be asked a few weeks ago to submit a recording of a song from 1976 to celebrate WXPN's Helen Leicht on her 30th anniversary on the radio. I chose Queen's 'Somebody to Love' and had a three day romp in the studio making the recording. Helen seemed to really like it, which was good enough for me, but now the powers that be at the station have decided to add it to their regular rotation.

What does this mean? Well, I guess that you are now in danger of hearing it on the station at any time and not just during Helen's show.

I guess it also means that you could call to request it (215.573.WXPN) or request it online. I wouldn't hate it if you did.

Thanks again to Helen for all her support over the years and Bruce Warren, Dan Reed and everybody at XPN as well.

Oh, and check out Helen's Anniversary Bash on the air Tuesday, 11.07.06 from 8p - 11p.

Movie, Movie

I'm happy to announce that this week will see screenings of two films featuring my music. One is open to the public, one is industry only, but I'll tell ya just the same.

ALWAYS WILL - A film by Michael Sammaciccia and featuring 4 of my songs will be screened at the 2006 Delaware Valley Film Festival on Sunday, 11.05.06. You can find all the details on attending here.

INDEPENDENCE - A film by Margaret Norwood and featuring 2 (or is it 3?) of my songs will have a couple of private industry screening this week - I'll keep you posted when this film goes public.

Mixing It Up in PlayPhilly

I was asked to put together a 'Mix Tape' column for PlayPhilly magazine. Seeing that we just turned back the clocks, I worked up a set called '10 Songs to Help You Ease Into Your Seasonal Depression". You can pick up a copy here or check it out online.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Re-Signing (not Resigning) with Bluhammock at the Goldhawk

Shows with Mike Viola are always a great time. This last one at the Goldhawk in Hoboken, NJ was a particularly cool one. We were both onstage for the entire show, trading off songs, adding harmonies for each other, goading ourselves into unchartered 60s and 70s cover song territory and occasionally stepping on each other's toes. I believe we also got a bit drunk by the end (or was it the middle?) of the set. You can check out a couple vids from the evening over at my YouTube page.

To top off the night, I threw my name down on the contracts to re-sign with my label, Bluhammock, and am really happy to announce that I'll begin recording my next record in early November. I'm producing it myself this time and doing a lot of the recording in and around Philly.

I'm also going to be letting you all peek and listen in on the recording process with Session Logs posted here, as well as videos from the studio on YouTube (and the vlog) and some podcasts of audio excerpts. I hope you'll subscribe to my YouTube page and the RSS feed for this blog and the podcasts on iTunes when they're announced. So technological.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Session Log: 'Somebody to Love'

Friday, 10.20.06: 4p - 10:30p
Somebody to Love
Studio: Kawari Sound - Jenkintown, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: Adam Winokur

Tracks (in order):
* Acoustic guitar - main accompaniment
* 4 acoustic guitars (unused) - solo
* 48 tracks of BG Vocals - Intro through end of 2nd chorus. (mostly 8 voices each on 4 separate parts, but sometimes with 2 additional 8 voice parts)


Saturday, 10.21.06: 2p - 11:00p
Somebody to Love
Studio: Kawari Sound - Jenkintown, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: Adam Winokur

Tracks (in order):
* 48 tracks of BG Vocals - Bridge through end. (mostly 8 voices each on 4 separate parts, but sometimes with 2 additional 8 voice parts)


Sunday, 10.22.06: 2p - 3:00a
Somebody to Love
Studio: Kawari Sound - Jenkintown, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: Adam Winokur

Tracks (in order):
* Electric Guitar - solo and single note in third verse.
* Lead Vocal
* Handclaps - 16 tracks. 8 Left, 8 Right


I love doing stuff like this. I was asked to submit a recording of a song from 1976 for Helen Leicht's 30th Anniversary in radio. Helen has been at Philadelphia's WXPN for the past several years and has been a great supporter. I was actually having trouble coming up with a song - everything I thought of turned out to be either '75 or '77 - and I was telling Jesse Honig about it when we were recording 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)'. As we were prowling around his iTunes library he came upon this one and basically said something to the effect of "you should do this, because it's impossible" - which it really seemed to be, so I just kinda laughed it off.

Then a couple days later it started nagging at me, so I tried recording just the intro at home one night. At first I tried doing 4 voices on each of the 4 harmony parts. It sounded alright and I was at least was a bit encouraged that I could actually figure out the parts, but it was also obvious that Freddie was singing 8 voices on each part.

When I tried to record the remainder of the parts I hit a snag - this is a bit techy, but I'll give you the quick and dirty version (or at least, or longest, the one paragraph version).

Unfortunately, almost no one records on tape anymore - it's too rare and expensive and the machines cost too much to maintain. So, there are a number of computer-based recording software programs that folks use to record with and one called ProTools which is by far the most ubiquitous. On top of that, there are three different levels of ProTools, of which I have the middle one and that was the problem: With so many tracks (I was already up to 32 - my limit - and that wasn't even all of the background vocals), there was no way my system could handle it.

Luckily, Adam Winokur was running a top of the line ProTools rig over at Kawari Sound in Jenkintown, PA and was available to help. This was great too, because it freed me up from having to engineer and I could just concentrate on figuring out parts and singing. Then figuring out more parts and more singing. Then figuring out even more parts and . . . you get it. All told, I sang about 6 hours on Friday, 8 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday. Even I don't sing that much. Except I did.

Amazingly, the sessions, though really intense (Adam said it was like an aerobics class for running ProTools), seemed to me to be pretty painless and there was never a point when I thought we wouldn't get it done. We did face some challenges, though.

The first day we almost couldn't get started because we ran into all sorts of problems just getting my iPod to work so I could listen to the original to figure out the parts. Got it out - it was dead. Looked in my bag for my charger - didn't have it. Found a charger on the 2nd floor of the studio - wrong connector. Finally found a cable that worked to charge it - couldn't find the right cable to export the file. This was all my fault and took about 2 hours to deal with.

Once we were up and running the first acoustic went down in about 2 takes. I liked the idea of the accompaniment just being an acoustic guitar, then having all these background vocals on top of it. That way, when people said it was over the top (hey, it's Queen, how could it NOT be over the top) I could say "What? It's just acoustic guitar and vocals". So, at first I was going to play the solo on acoustic. Here's the thing: Brian May is a sick mothershutyourmouthheyI'mjusttalkinboutShaft. I was able to get most of the solo, but the last line - after the fast ascending run - the REALLY fast part - is buried under (would you believe it?) a ton of background vocals and I couldn't make it out. We even tried slowing down the original recording by 2 whole steps (which is a lot) and it was still too fast to make out what he was playing.

I have no real pride about my guitar playing and I know when I'm licked. So, I called up Kevin Hanson, 'cause that boy can play. He even knows what Mixolydian means and maybe even how to spell it. I asked him if he'd cut the solo for me at his place and he was nice enough to do it. But then when we tried to place it in our version the tempo didn't quite match (I'm still not sure why that was). I also noticed that Kevin wasn't playing that last line the same way, either. I called him and he said "yeah, that's buried under a bunch of background vocals and I can't make it out - I just played fast!" Well, that kinda freed me - I figure anything Kevin does is cleared by the guitar gods - so on the third day of recording I tried it again - this time on electric playing through a tiny toy Marshall amplifier and it sounded alright and both funny and yet kinda like a Brian May tone, so I just went for it. Still Kevin, you rule and I appreciate you pitching in.

After giving up on the acoustic solo idea, I just sang background vocals for 6 hours. That was day one.

Day two was just an eight hour session of nothing but background vocals. The challenge that day came before the session - Adam had a car accident. He was fine, the folks in the other vehicle that hit him were fine, his car . . . R.I.P.. It's an amazing testament to Adam that he still came and did the session.

The third day I was a bit worried that I wouldn't have any voice left for singing the lead vocal after doing all the backgrounds, but it was actually there and we were able to get it down. The lead vocal was actually harder to figure out than the backgrounds. I don't know about you, but there are parts of records that I'm really drawn to and other parts just seem to come along for the ride. For me, 'Somebody to Love' has always been about the background vocals and the guitar solo and, to be fair, two of the drum fills (we almost put them in - right at the beginning and after the second line of the guitar solo - JUST those two fills). Anyway, when I went to sing the lead I realized that I had NO IDEA how a lot of it went. So that was a challenge.

Into the home stretch we hit our final snag. At this point, we had the acoustic, the bg voxes, the guitar solo and the lead vox (plus a couple of reverb tracks done the old fashioned way - by sticking a speaker at the bottom of a stairwell, sending sound through it, then placing a mic at the top of the stairs and recording the sound bouncing around. We used it on the lead vocal and the electric guitar.). All that was left were the handclaps. 16 tracks of them. It was as we were recording these tracks the Adam's top of the line ProTools HD system running on his Quad-Core G5 (a ridiculous amount of processing power) said "Um, NO! Do not pass Go. I will not record anymore." Adam was astonished, because when they got the system everyone told them they'd never run into this. "How do you like working with me now, Adam?" was basically my response. There's an even more arcane technical explanation of how Adam was able to solve this problem that I'm not even going to try to explain - Let's leave it at "hats off to Adam".

Claps done, we mixed. I really think Adam and I got the balances and pannings down which really adds a lot to the vocals sounding right. At the end of the night (or the middle of the morning) we had it and I'm really pleased with it. I hope you like it, too.

Are you exhausted after reading this?

Good. Now it's like you were there.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Session Log: 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)'

Tuesday, 10.10.06: 4p - 10:30p
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Studio: Miriam Audio - Philadelphia, PA
Producer: Jim
Engineer: Jesse Honig

Tracks (in order):
* Sleigh Bells
* Tambourines
* 4 acoustic guitars
* Fender Bass
* Fretless Electric Bass
* 2 Pianos
* Drums
* String Synth (unused)
* Organ
* 4 bg vox - main part
* 4 bg vox - upper harmony
* 4 bg vox - lower harmony
* 2 bg vox - bass
* Lead Vocal
* Slide Whistle solo (+)
* Melodica solo (+)
* Piano (octaves melody in outro)
* Glockenspiel
* Additional Sleigh Bells


My label is putting together a CD to send to radio stations for the holidays and asked all of us to contribute a Christmas song. OK - so they weren't going for my version of 'Christmas Don't Be Late (The Chipmunk Song)' (a regrettable, albeit understandable, decision) - so I chose my all-time favorite Christmas record of all-time (it's my favorite) - 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)' by Darlene Love, although if we're to be fair about it, it's really by Phil Spector (by the way - guns don't necessarily make the greatest gifts).

The recording came together in one six and a half hour session with me playing all the instruments and singing all the vocals and young Jesse Honig manning the board and making sure the wall really was made of sound (and it is). The biggest thrill was getting the big octave piano part that starts at the big build towards the end of the song down, along with the big (hey, it's Phil Spector, everything is BIG) Hal Blaine drum fills in the outro - those parts still make the hair stand up on my arms when I hear the original and it's the transcendent moment that makes me love the record (although, let's face it, the whole thing is great).

You'll be hearing it soon.

(+) I KNEW when I first posted this that I was forgetting something (34 tracks didn't seem like enough to do Phil justice) - I've added the two tracks that make up the solo to the list of tracks above in the order that they occured.

Friday, September 29, 2006

52 Things = Congratulations

So, today marks the end of an epic journey for my friend Jonathan Coulton. His 'Thing A Week' series - in which he wrote, recorded and posted a song every week for the last year - has its final installment today.

I've known Jonathan for a long time and want to give him a big congrats for even attempting something like this, let alone achieving it. Just thinking about it makes me want to throw up - man wasn't meant to write a song a week, it's unnatural.

So, go visit him, check out songs (you can start with his hits - like 'Code Monkey' 'Baby Got Back' or 'Flickr') and the many other cool, "Web 2.0" ways in which he's created a career for himself, many of which I will be shamelessly appropriating for myself in the upcoming weeks and months.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Who's the Liar?: A 40th Anniversary Re-examination of the fable of Bob and Judas

Watch the video

There's been a lot of talk about Judas lately. New information coming to light and making people re-think their long-held assumptions about him and his story. Well, I don't know nuthin' 'bout no biblical history (that's actually not entirely true, but I'm making my way towards something here, so let's just move along), but all that talk got me to thinkin' 'bout that other Judas story them rock and roll folks are always yappin' 'bout (I will now end the faux-folksy - hmm, would that be faux-ksy? - imitation Guthrie cum Dylan speech mannerisms).

See how I just worked my way around to Bob Dylan? Some days it just all flows like that. Anyway, THAT'S the Judas story I'm talking about. The fable of Bob and Judas.

You know it - it's in all the rock history books. It goes like this:

Bob goes electric at Newport. Gets booed. Bob goes to England with the Hawks, later to become the Band, plays electric - gets booed. Plays a show at Manchester Free Trade Hall (though the story used to be that it was the Royal Albert Hall, probably the first indication that the story was shaky) gets booed. But not only booed. Some guy (maybe it was Keith Butler, maybe it was some other guy, who knows? they're both dead) yells out "Judas!" And then, as the story goes, Bob snaps back at him: "I don't believe you. You're a liar!"

This is HUGE in the lore of Bob. Every biography - even a thumbnail sketch of Bob - includes this story. It's a major point in the Scorsese film. Hell, there;'s even a whole damn book written about this.

The thing is . . I'm absolutely certain that it didn't go down this way.

There's a couple problems. First, Bob's response isn't exactly the greatest comeback in the annals of heckling. "I don't believe you" I guess is at least factual, but not exactly the pithy wordplay we'd expect of Bob. But "You're a liar"? It just . . doesn't fit.

But the thing that really seals it is what you never hear mentioned when you hear this story. In fact, Scorsese EDITED THIS PART OUT in the movie, which makes me suspect maybe he has his doubt too but just went with the old John Ford adage "if you have to choose between the truth and the legend, print the legend."

What really happens is the dude yells "Judas". Then, a couple seconds go by. Then the audience starts to laugh and applaud, which takes about another 8 seconds. THEN ANOTHER GUY STARTS YELLING AT BOB. This guy goes on yelling for about 8 seconds. Then, finally, at this point - nearly 20 seconds after the Judas remark (20 seconds, by the way, passes like an eternity on stage), Bob gives his Liar remark. Not exactly a snappy comeback, if he's talking to "Judas". Pretty quick, though, if it's this other guy he's responding to.

So, what I'm thinking is Bob's talking to that other guy.

And when you listen to the whole thing with that in mind, free from the preconception of what you've been conditioned by all these stories to believe you're SUPPOSED to be hearing - it's pretty convincing.

The one problem is - and I'm sure this is where the whole thing got started - you can't really make out what this other guy is saying. I thought I'd make rock history, or least CORRECT it, by taking the audio to my friend John Anthony at MAJA Audio Group who, in addition to being a great engineer who has worked on a bunch of my stuff, also does occasional audio forensics for the FBI. So we spent a couple hours filtering things, flipping the phase on sections to try and remove guitar noises (damn, those guys tuned a lot), stuff like that - trying to get this guy's words clear.

The good news is it really cleaned up a lot.

The bad news is I still can't tell what this guy is saying. Part of it is the other sounds going on, part of it is the thick Mancurian accent this guy has.

So, in honor of the 40th anniversary (the concert was May 17, 1966) of this historical event, I give you this tiny video montage of pictures taken at the concert, with the best audio that John was able to come up with.

Can YOU tell what he's saying. If so, drop me a line at and together we can change rock 'n' roll history (and I'll make sure your name is mentioned in the MOJO article).

Monday, March 20, 2006

Baby Gotta Mine, Mine, Mine

Watch the video

Shane Smith put this together while I was staying with him last week in LA. I really have nothing to do with it, other than saving it from being over-produced.

This video features our friend Steve Arm's daughter Josie, singing a song she wrote to her doll, whose name is "Fake Baby." I expect this to become an internet sensation.

You can also see this clip at 633tv, the internet televison station that's sweeping the nation.

A minutia-sized tidbit of trivia: Steve Arm makes a cameo appearance in the 'Directions' video - he's the guy throwing his wallet at us and giving us the finger.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Atlanta - The Great Escape


You can call me Houdini.

Last night I was getting ready for the show in Atlanta at the Roxy Theatre. About fifteen minutes before my set I walked out to go to the bus to get changed for the show.

As I’m changing, I hear Donnie Mortimer, who’s playing with Griffin House on the middle slot on these shows (and who, I’d like to add, showed up with an industrial-strengthed rubber band powered pogo stick that he’s carrying with him on the bus - love that Donnie), leave and lock the door to the bus behind him. It takes me another couple of minutes to get myself ready, and then I’m out the door to make the 50 foot walk back to the backstage area to grab my guitar and hit the stage.

Except I get stopped at that whole “out the door” part.

When I had heard Donnie hit the lock, I guess I thought that the door would unlock and open from the inside when I turned the handle. My, in retrospect, rather fuzzy logic on this one was:

* That’s how my front door works at home, and

* While I’m doing this tour, the bus is my home.

I used to be a panicy guy. Before shows, if I broke a string or couldn’t get a pedal to work, I’d be a wreck. But now I’m cool, baby - - hell, I’ve still got 7 minutes or so. No problem.

From this calm, Zen-like state, I was able to keep my wits about me and realize that I had Phil Sullivan’s (our intrepid tour manager) phone number. Sure, I’m going to be the butt of some jokes on the bus, but I’ll give him a call and he’ll come get me out.

Flipping open my phone I’m provided with another interesting turn of events: my phone is dead.

See, I’m one of those people who got burned in the past by re-charging my phone too frequently, which wound up shortening the battery life (there’s physics involved in why this is and this isn’t math class, so just go with me on this one). So I decided with my new phone, I wasn’t gonna be played for a chump. Now I let my phone battery go all the way down before re-charging. It’s smart. Really.

Or maybe not. Did I mention I used to be panicy? This is the point in the story where you’d expect me to revert back to my ways of old and lose it. But you’d be wrong.

Clear-headedly, I immediately thought “no problem, there’s power on the bus, I’ll get my charger and plug in the phone and then call Phil.”

There’s still about 4 minutes to showtime. It’s tight, but everything is going to be fine.

Then I remembered something.

I had brought my charger into the Roxy when we first got there. It’s in there and I’m in here. Locked in here.

So now I’m panicy.

I’m wondering now how long it will take people to first figure out that I’m late (probably not that long), then look around a bit in the dressing room to try to find me (maybe another couple of minutes), then start looking around for someone on the tour with my phone number before finding Phil, who is the only one who has it (this is starting to take some time), then to have Phil try calling me and get put directly to voice mail because my phone is dead (this is getting bad) and finally to start looking in other places and finding me locked in the tour bus (and I’m off the tour).

And as I’m thinking this, something clicks inside my head: “locked in the tour bus”. It just doesn’t sound right, I mean, c’mon, you can’t really get locked in a tour bus, can you?

I go to the door again and at this point of the story I just want to add that it was dark on the bus, okay? So cut me a bit of a break. But, that having been said . . . remember how I said I thought the door would unlock from the inside when I turned the handle? Well, after it didn’t I guess I jumped right to that whole step about the phone call and sort of overllooked something obvious.

There’s a switch underneath the handle which lets you lock or - and this is important - UN-lock the door from the inside.

Luckily, my cunning escape occured at about 2 minutes to 8, so I was able to hit just in time and play to a really amazing Atlanta crowd. They were so into the show and supportive from the first note that I can’t wait to come back and play in Atlanta again.

But next time, I’ll change in the club.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

On Tour with Duncan Sheik

Boone, NC

Greetings from I-20 West,

I'm watching the hills roll by through the window of the bus as I simultaneously surf the internet - okay, the internet is r e a l l y s l o w but, c'mon, we're going 65 miles an hour on a highway. The fact that this can be happening at all proves that we are truly living in an age of miracles (a beaming shaft of sunlight illuminates me as I type that - actually not, I'm fictionalizing my memoirs in a shameless attempt to get on Oprah. If you have no idea what that means, consider yourself lucky to have escaped the 24 media machine that is our culture).

This is Day 3 of the 5 week saga out on the road playing shows opening for Duncan Sheik and it's been nothing but enjoyable so far.

We've played two shows (26 to go). The first night was in Boone, NC, a place so far up in the mountains away from anything else that there's no doubt in any of our minds that this is where the phrase "the Boonies" gets its name.
And yet, this is the second time I've played there (the first being in September on the Jump, Little Children tour).

And that wasn't even the first time I was in Boone - - I was there just after high school when two friends got married. The bride came from Boone and I remember the night before the wedding there being a jam session with a bunch of her, well let's face it, you'd have to call them "kinfolk", who played bluegrass and kicked the hell out of our young, Michiganian rock and roll asses.

Boone is, being way up in the mountains and all, postcard beautiful. It was also (due to our ignorant northerner preconceptions) surprisingly - which is to say wickedly, bitterly, bitingly - cold. I'll try to put up the photo of the frozen water-wheel outside of the hotel where we had a day room ("day room" is tour-speak for "hotel room that you have (to share) for an hour in the middle of the afternoon to take a quick shower before going on to the venue").

The show went well. I'm doing this tour as the first of three acts on the bill (the second act switches every week or so), so there's definitely a concern about playing to nothing more than the staff, but about 2/3rds of all the people who came were there for my set, it was received well and I had a line of folks coming up to get merch and say hello after the set.

Okay, it felt icky to type that last sentence, but it's a reality of my life at this point - putting up decent numbers in terms of cd sales and the dreaded names on the mailing list is the de facto standard for how "successful" this tour will be judged by those folks in positions that allow them to judge things like how well my tour is going. It's not even really about the dollars that come in from cd sales (which for me on this album are much less than on my previous album because I have to buy them from the ditributor at a much higher cost than when I call Discmakers to press 'Fidelity' myself), its just an indicator of whether anybody out there is connecting with what you're doing. This is another reason why having a generation of people growing up thinking music is free (i.e. downloading) is troubling for musicians like myself who are trying to eke out a living doing it.

Last night we were in Nashvillle at the Belcourt Theatre. People come in and sit in comfy seats - this is a place where there’s concerts, not a band playing in a bar.

Which brings me to one of the happy realities of bus tours - the fact that someone is taking on the expense of renting a tour bus means, by simple fact of economic reality, that you play in nicer places - places which have earned the right to be referred to as “venues”. Places with real backstage areas, Places where they fill at least part of your rider. Places that might even have showers. Places, it goes without saying, that I’m not very accoustomed to playing.

Anyway, what can I tell you? Nashville. Music City, USA. Playing in a town where people value music and people who play it makes you realize that you don’t often play in towns where people value music and the people who play it. Not a lot of places where you’re talking to people after the show and they ask you about finger positioning on the fretboard.

More to come.