Good morning from Monday. I am back home in snowy Nashville, with a whole week to get some things done that need doing. Tomorrow is a big day, I will tend to two things that really need tending to - taking my lovely Kim out to find a much needed chest of drawers, and then me making curry for all comers! I will blog from time to time about my passion for food and cooking, it is the only other thing I do well. It's also one of the few things that makes me feel as peace, other than when sitting in a room by myself with a guitar, or riding the New York City subway (seriously). Maybe there's a correlation, it's something I fell into years ago when I lived in Queens and hung around a particular restaurant owned by a couple from Naples like I was their mascot. (Manducatis - 1327 Jackson Avenue, 11101 - GO!). If it weren't for the bi-polar, manic depressive, paranoid schitzophrenic nature of all restaurant owners, or the Russian labor camp-esque physical toll of running your own restaurant, it's something I may have looked further into.
Who am I kidding, though, there's really nothing else I've ever seen myself doing since I was 14 (when I made a conscious decision), or really when I was about 9 - when I found my first ever radio station - CKOC AM, Hamilton Ontario...Casey Casem countdown simulcast...Come On Eileen was the first song I ever heard. Hey, it's catchy. It was really like The Beatles on Ed Sullivan for me, the world looked one way before, and then it was never the same. Imagine how I would have felt at the time had I heard this:
Anyway, back to 2010. I'm traveling with 4 other people:
Miguel - I met Miguel last year at our friend Ben's bachelor party. I didn't really know anyone except Ben and Carl Pike, so I was just kind of standing around doing nothing. Miguel came up and started talking to me, and it was odd - he was asking all these questions, and from what I could tell had a real human sense of actually being interested in whatever I had to tell him. It was weird! People usually do this for one question, two, sometimes a forced third, but he asked me maybe 15. So I started asking him about his family, and Natalie and the band and the tour, and he was telling me all about it it, how good it had been to him, how he was raising a daughter, etc. I left thinking what an unbelieveably cool guy, what a great situation, wouldn't I love to be somehow somewhere like there at some point. This was maybe 6 months ago.
Zach - Zach is kind of the real rock star in the band. Why? Because he has the longest and wildest hair. Miguel used to have long hair, but I think he saw ZP coming and decided he'd met his match. We call him Panther...somehow I blurted it out one time, something to do with San Antonio, a girl, and the name of a band I'd shared a bill with once years ago in San Antonio. It sort of stuck. Being the newbies in the group, Zach and I occupy a lot of the same spaces (hotel rooms, middle van benches, stage left...). I met him at about 3 am at a Tony Stampley writer's night - it kept getting later and later, I was falling asleep but I waited to finally get up because I'd seen this guy play bass and had a good feeling about it. Zach ended up joining me in my band, and when I got the Natalie gig and they said they needed a bass player/vocalist on short notice, someone who lived in Nashville (long story), I said you gotta check this guy out. It's worked out better than we could have hoped. I like it too because I know when I have breaks, he has breaks, and thus he's available for my gigs. Call me selfish.
James - James is an ironman. You know how every band needs that one guy who can stay awake and drive 11 hours to a gig, after just finishing a gig and having driven 10 hours to get to that gig? That's James. James wears many hats - tour manager, van driving battery, band comedian, star's husband, badass drummer, everyone's best friend. I'm sure there are a few I'm missing but that's a start. He's very funny, great to be around, very positive. James and Natalie have been playing together for 7 or 8 years, they are pretty in tune with each other, but it never gets stale because he really is her biggest fan.
Natalie - Natalie and I have taken very different musical paths to arrive on the same stage. Anyone who's seen our two different sets can tell you that. But while we've each experienced very little of the musical cultures that the other was defined by, we are both fans of one another. I don't know any Carrie Underwood music. She knows very little Bruce Springsteen music. She grew up on "Fancy" by Reba MacIntyre (originally Bobbi Gentry):
I identified with "Street Hassle" by Lou Reed:
She is immensely positive and doesn't curse. I'm cynical as all hell and curse all the time. Yet there have been moments so far on this tour when I've been as proud as at any time in my life to be standing on stage backing her up, trying to help her get the things done that she so deserves. We both want to be as successful as we can, but I think the destinies we envision for ourselves are very different, and this actually allows me to be a fan from the sidelines even more. I sort of see myself as a journeyman artist, putting out records, touring and making fans, and riding for as long as I can until I die. Natalie was born to be a star. I couldn't be more proud of her, and harbor no sense of rivalry or anything in this situation. I like to think we maybe push each other a bit, but then again, I don't think either of us needs prodding to be our best on any given night (same for everyone in the band, really). I don't really aim to be all that commercial, I just want to find people who identify with me, help me sustain a career, and let me stay in their life as long as they'll have me. Natalie's business - the business of country pop - doesn't allow for much middle ground, you either hit big or you don't hit at all. And I want her to hit big! From what little I've been exposed to this world in my 6 months in Nashville, she has as much or more of what is needed for this than anyone else I've seen. This girl has done nothing for years except tour, build, tour, build, create demand, tour, build, be there, and be nice to everybody along the way. Not only that, the girl can sing, play fiddle, write a song, and work up a crowd like nobody's business.
So that's what my 2010's going to look like.
This past week, we played Augusta State University in Georgia, in a small outdoor amphitheater (very cool), opened for Gretchen Wilson at Country Club in suddenly snowy Augusta (footage from encore above), and played to soldiers at Ft. Benning Army base in Ft. Benning, GA. This was TONS of fun, as the rest of the show was 4 or 5 acts who were touring together like a caravan - Animate Objects, Danny B., Leigh Jones, several others. And the soldiers went crazy for Natalie.
Finally I returned home to sweet Kim and our lovely little Alaska, who looks rather curious here.