Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Eureka, Slash vs. Axl

We awoke this morning in Eureka, I'll, to the most beautiful morning I've been a part of in a long time. Well I'm really not a part of that many mornings, but that said, this is a beautiful morning. Ouside of Eureka....this is real heartland America, folks. Like John Couger Mellencamp America.

There is a slight frosty chill, the sun is very up, no wind, it reminds me a bit of Fredericton, NB, Canada of all places...in May. I don't know why I choose to skip morning so often, but this is very nice. Maybe it's time for a lifestyle change.

As my good friend Sandy Fleming would say... yeah, right!!

There's a new song I've started playing, another drop D one, called Magic And Loss. I am scrounging to find time as a songwriter these days, but it does make the little breakthroughs count.

It's not far off
My friend, from what you thought
Batten down the hatches
Your dreams will get caught
They might find you dead, dead
You can walk through this world
But when it's over
Magic and loss
Magic and loss

Old Mr. Garrett's son
He knew everyone he felt he had to
To make a run
In the morning - only the sun, only the sun
You and all the people you rely on
When it's over
Magic and loss
Magic and loss

Lord it ain't over
When it comes to pass
That everything you believe in
Slips into peaceful rest
Until there's nothing

You can walk through this world
When it's over
Magic and loss
Magic and loss
Magic and loss


I read Slash's book over the last few days, which was cool. Miguel was kind enough to bring it along. Then I decided to visit the "Guns N' Roses" website to read W. Axl's views on things. My god - am I glad I don't have to live in that guy's head! Talk about paranoid incoherant ramblings, it's like reading the Unibomber or Nixon or some shit. Here:


Anyway, that's all from here. Talk to you after Flint.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Springfield Il...Rock And Roll...Townes

We're in Springfield, Il, where I got my first night of sleep in what seems like forever. I never thought that there could be a sleep pattern weirder than the one I normally gravitate towards anyway (5 am -1 pm, give or take), but it's just amazing how hard it is to turn off for awhile and rejuvenate. Too many obstacles. But I'll take it.

We went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last week in Cleveland. Like many of you, I'm sure, I've always had mixed feelings about institutions like that. After all, Rock and Roll's origins are of being the quintessential art for the outsider. It's supposed to be, you know, rebellious. No-one's parents want them to pick up a guitar and sacrifice their life for rock and roll. In fact, they hate it. If you're a loser in elementary school, if you're unpopular in high school, if you can't get your shit together and are filled with anger...you turn to rock and roll. If you plant hidden cameras in women's bathrooms, marry your 13 year old cousin, and are still hopelessly addicted to titty bars at age 60...you're Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Lemmy. If someone poisons your whisky for having seduced the wrong socialite's wife - you're the King Of The Blues, Robert Johnson. If you can't orally put a cohesive sentence together but have other talents - you're Eddie Van Halen, one of the most inventive and exciting guitarists of all time. So suffice to say, the idea of making this into some sort of formal club that tourists can pay money to go "visit"... is very odd to me, to say the least.

On the other hand...I was frozen and speechless on at least 10 occasions staring at iconic artifacts from my life. Not just their lives - but my life. And I think that's where the power of rock and roll, and of unspeakably forward moving music and art in general, breaks through whatever boundaries others may instill upon it. I was staring at things that actually formed the foundation of who I was, who I became, and who I am. Gifts. I can tell you I never expected it, but I was moved to tears on several occasions, staring at the old crusty page in a notebook that In My Life was written, or Badlands, or Stolen Car...or Joe Strummer's beat up tele, the weapon with which he bled and attacked the world, forever improving it. They were like daggers with a line on my soul, and I had to collect myself. You can never view these people's hearts, but you stand in front of the next best thing - the vehicles through which they gave us their hearts - and it affects you. Or it affected me, at least. And I have to say, at the end of the day, it was very awesome, and personal. And I suppose if you think about it - art museums in general are the same in principle, so why single out this one? Van Gogh, Picasso - these people did not exactly lead institutionalized lives. Most people who push society forward and break barriers come from a very remote social fringe. I suppose the true artist makes the sacrifices, and the ones who go on more normal paths prop them up. They don't make museums for insurance adjusters.

One last word on that: the reason we went...is because we found out that if you are a working musician, and can bring in a CD to prove it, they let you in free - which is quite a gesture. After all, if you take those people and subtract the success and great fortune...you have us.

Anyway, enough on that. We have our own art to make, and our own struggles to persevere through. Me - I just want to matter, it's the same thing I've wanted since I was 9 years old. I think it's the same thing that drives everyone who is too stubborn to let go. This is what separates the Pete Townshends of the world from the Rod Stewarts. I don't know if there's ever a point where this recedes its hold on the wheel and lets something else drive. It sure is an internal battle I've been waging for many, many years. I suppose it's better than heroin, at least. Rock and roll musicians: overly complicated people with overly simple needs.

One difference in being out on the road with someone's band, as opposed to being out solo, is you get little solitude. When I'm out on my own, all I have is solitude - probably too much solitude! Yet solitude's always fed me. I'm fortunate that I enjoy everybody's company, and as always, life is about adapting, and maximizing the upsides, of which there are a great many (being paid to rock with friends being the obvious big winner). We're in the midst of a rather deep 2 month stretch of work, with one day home over a 6 or 7 week period. I'm learning how to take advantage of our off time, though, to write, listen to the music that enriches me, and and keep myself feeling like me. It's harder to connect with those things in some stretches, but even in this first few months of touring with this band, I've discovered - as I've always known my whole life - that's it's always there waiting for you if you reach out and extand a hand.

Here's something to help cleanse your soul on days both dark and bright:

We all got holes to fill
Them holes are all that's real
Some fall on you like a storm
Sometimes you dig your own
But choice is yours to make
And time is yours to take
Some dive into the sea
Some toil upon the stone
To live is to fly
Low and high,
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the sleep out of your eyes
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the tears out of your eyes

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tour Video Diary, Pt II

I only have a brief second here - still laptopally challenged, writing from the lobby of our hotel - but wanted to post this. Pt. II of James' video diary from Florida. Most of this took place after several hours of sipping wine like gentlemen at our band house. Good times!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Break #2, Tour Video Diary

We got back out on the road yesterday after a week off. My week was essentially great - I worked on some songs, recorded a bit, spent time at home, decompressed from the caravan, became myself again. Best of all, I'm nowhere near SXSW! The whole thing should last a little while - I'm hoping at least until Sunday.

A funny thing: you think of musicians as space cadets, and many of them are. Well I certainly am. But they're not all, not at all! And I propose that you can likely bring it down to two categories of musician mentality: frontpeople and sidepeople. And being a frontman playing a sideman, I'm somewhat lost. I'm not talking about onstage mentality - needing the spotlight or whatever. I'm just talking about having your shit together when it comes to normal things - gear, ability to be on time...things like that! It's amazing, but musicians are actually rather responsible people within the confines of their careers. It's intimidating. If you're a responsible guitar or bass player, you do need to be able to play, but you also need to have good gear, know how to be on time, maybe have a GPS, things like that. If you're a space cadet frontman-type, you have one guitar...two tops...you run around like a fire drill to get anywhere on time. You struggle to remember lyrics, nevermind things like where you need to be, how much sleep you need, etc. Truthfully, no-one really expects anything better out of you. At first maybe, but they learn. And it's not because of those things...it's just how it is. I think most musicians start out like this, which is part of why the freedom of rock is so appealing. But slowly as you find out what it takes to be hired, or advance in your career, you grudgingly become an adult. You ever notice how guitar players can usually actually tell you all about impedences and ohms, or where to roll some EQ to make the room sound better? It's impressive. It's impressive to me. I play guitar. I know where to turn the volume up. Natalie's a bit odd in this regard, as she's responsible and has her shit together. You should see her pedal rack! But maybe you can chalk this up to her having trained for many years on a sophisticated instrument...and possibly her having actually finished college. Plus, her parents are still together. She's just got her shit together, I can't explain it. I'm working on it.

Anyway, so this trip we've had two calls, and with creative planning and dedication, I've been on time for both. I also got an A/B switch for my rig, and the rat's nest is minimalized. I'm hoping my personality doesn't completely melt away, but I am going to experiment a bit with being an adult.

Above is part 1 of James' tour diary from the last leg...starring - clearly - the "old" me (stop laughing, old friends!)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Life Dilemmas

It sure is hard to balance real life with the dreams you've been pursuing your whole life. The sacrifices you make and how they affect the people you love are unspeakable. They are all the harder because you can't possibly explain the order in your head to those that don't share this kind of thing. And it's unfair to them to try to. "Listen, I love you, and will do anything for you, but I can't take you to Aruba, because I need to make another album that may or may not help my career one bit. Sorry..." It's really rude, when you think about it. You know how most people are supposed to accept, conform, adjust priorities? Try that when you believe too much in what you do, and are too stubborn besides to give it less than 150%? That's how the people we all look up to did it. It's one thing if you've been successful enough to actually maintain two or more passions. But what about when you haven't, and when you're just not going to give up? Some things you are supposed to give only 100% to, or nothing at all. But sometimes there's only so much 100% to go around. How do you ask someone to give their all, if you've got two things you're giving your all to, and they don't always match? When does life finally afford you the opportunity to grow up?

I'm not giving up. I wish I could, but I can't.

Alaska at home, jumping after her ball

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chicharones...er, Chicago and Justin Moore

I just like the hard Ch's. So we finished up our last leg, took some days off, and then went to Chicago. It was a one-off, meaning we went up there just for it, then came back. The reason we did so was that Joe's On Weed Street is apparently the #1 country bar in America, and Team Stovall has been trying to get in there for ages. Apparently all the big country stars still go back there to play, when they want the intimate feel of a small time club gig. It was one of the biggest crowds we've played for yet.

We opened for this guy Justin Moore, who I'm told has a couple of songs on country radio. More importantly though, Justin has a manifesto. He's from the backwoods. He's from Smalltown, USA. Born and raised. In the middle of his set, he threw it down: "I'm a small town country boy...I'm a proud card carrying member of the NRA...I like Bud Lite, Jack, and Sweet Tea!". Whoooo!

But it was a party. And one of the reasons was...Justin Moore has a lot of fans. And aside from hard work and having well done, proper singles aimed towards a specific demographic, some of it surely has to do with his having a clear, concise message for that demographic. Natalie's got one, too: Peace, Love, Fiddle! That rocks pretty good.

But I don't know what would I say in place of, "Chicago - I like Bud Lite, Jack, and Sweet Tea".

"Chicago!! - If you're keeping your 6 pack under $5.50, drink Milwaukee's Best or PBR - cheaper and better than Bud Lite! Jameson's is way nicer than Jack, it just isn't from Tennessee, and Sweet Tea - who needs all that sugar?"

"Peace! Love! Fiddle!"?

"Debate! Camaraderie! Rock And Roll...though a slightly folkier and wordier brand if you're listening to me!"

I guess there's something to be said for a manifesto or motto. This goes as far back as the MC5 in rock and roll (even Jerry Lee Lewis - "Marry your cousin - have a good time!"). I just like to rock...and sing and talk. Maybe that's a credo that can reach the masses. My brain's just too sprawling and rambling to put anything else together, I don't have the sense or the discipline for it. People go to school for that. Justin Moore's people knew who they were, knew who he was, they could all identify...it was all laid out. And he was good at it (don't get me wrong). He can sing, has good songs, the band was tight, they all brought the energy. I'm told they've been touring clubs for several years. So good show all around, he's obviously doing the right thing.

We in the band all had a great time. The club treated us unbelievably well. Natalie's folks, James' mom, ZP's mom all came. Everyone was very gracious. Here are some pictures, and soon I'll post some video, when James and ZP get theirs uploaded off their fancy-ass camera gadgets (I want one!). The photos are from Chicago Now. Thanks, Chicago Now!

Rock and Roll (though slightly folkier...)!

Almost Panorama

James rocking it like an animal

Peace, Love, Fiddle!

Us stealing Justin's crowd for awhile, before he took them back

All smiles afterwards

"Bud Lite, Jack...and sweet tea!"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

3rd & Lindsley Show; Interview

Last night at 3rd & Lindsley was a difficult night. As you've read, these things happen. Ultimately you do the best you can with what you have to persevere, and still try to come out on top. Because of a number of coalescing factors, my band set got off to a late start, and it was thus very difficult for me to focus. When you're the last act of an early show, and thigs are late, you're the one who has to cut songs, and the clock starts moving very quickly, and it can mess with your head. I scramble around through life to get anything done on time to begin with, but I'm working very hard to both defeat that, and also to learn how to reach a zen point when things start spinning out of control in my head. Ultimately the blame lies with me, for I could not find it in myself to relax and focus as we started. If you can do that, things will always go well. I think this is when people turn to the teachings of older civilizations. Me, I just kept turning to my blackberry looking at the time. Sometimes you really have to dig deep.

HOWEVER...at the end, I felt ultimately we did...OK! I did manage to settle, and one thing I've learned is that when you front the band, it is ultimately rests on your shoulders how the show ends up being. If you're starting behind the 8 ball...work yourself out of it! I have plenty of experience in trying to persevere through fratboy sports bar crowds, fine dining crowds, farmer's market crowds - you name it - so ultimately the maelstorm in my head was one of the easier ones. And the people in my band delivered. I just focused on singing the songs convincingly, taking charge, and ultimately that's kind of what rock and roll is, isn't it? Also, the soundman was also kind enough to let me run an extra 15 minutes, after I begged him. Rose Falcon came up and duetted on a song with me, too, and working wih her is always an honor. So it could have been worse - way worse!

Also...the Natalie Stovall show was terrific. I know it was everything she, and we, could have hoped for, and I was really proud of her for taking it by the horns, and for she and James, who have invested so much work into what led into a night like this. You put a band together, you take it on the road...you tweak and fine tune the band...you put IT on the road...you eventually come home and play to a packed house of fans and industry folk and kill it. THAT'S the way to do things. You never know what comes of things, but I can tell you this - they're being done the right way. It's a tested and true pattern. That's all you can do. Kudos to them.

I got sent an interview I did for Pure Grain Audio awhile back, thought I'd share the link. We're off to Chicago today for one show, then coming back home for another week or so.


P.S. I was fretting that tax day was next week,and where had the time gone. APRIL 15. Thanks, Kim!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Great Gigs/Other Gigs

It's amazing how shows can contrast. This is something you're always aware of, but even when you prepare yourselves as a band as thoroughly as possible, elements seem to always conspire to try and throw off your show. Case in point: we had two amazing and fun shows at Spinnaker's in Panama City Beach last weekend - we could all sing, play, hear ourselves, feel the crowd - elevate. In short, it was rock and roll. All the things you want, and thus 2 high points of the tour.

Then we had two 11:30 am college shows following little sleep, PA difficulties, drudgery, one had us surrounded by all sorts of space cadets (that's kind language) making us feel not even wanted...resulting in 2 of the most difficult shows of the tour. And how did we prepare differently? Not differently at all!

But it's all bigger picture. I've read tour diaries by... U2. You'd think with the same sound system, sound crew, same stage traveling with you, same in ear monitors, same set length, 20 000 screaming fans every night knowing all your songs...you'd think every night would be close to the same. But surprise, they're not. No matter how big, small, or in the middle you are, there are always things. I've seen Bruce Springsteen some nights that left me wondering how my life would have gone on the same had I not seen that show. I've come out other nights - same band, same tour - feeling like they spent the whole night trying to roll a boulder up a hill into the wind. Same crew, same songpool, same everything. Different shit.

When I was touring solo - sometimes I'd play to a club full of people into every song, making all sorts of new fans, selling CD's, filling the mailing list, etc, and wonder how it was ever not so good. Then the next day I'd play to a farmer's market or sports bar full of people who could care less. You just never know. With a band, it's contagious. But luckily I think we all feel a responsibility and a need to put forth the best effort we can with whatever the world seems to have equipped us with that day - even if you don't even feel like a musician standing up there sometimes. And as a result, there are always people that come up gushing at the end. It's just a matter of how many.

Us at Hank FM, with Melissa the DJ.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Just a quick blog to let you know I finally organized and posted a bunch of new reviews on my live CD/DVD. The links are on my ReverbNation Page, and all of the reviews themselves are posted on my MySpace Page.

Also, If you have it, please review/comment on the CD/DVD on The Long Way Home iTunes Page? There's one lonely review up there, it could use some help!

Playing in south Florida for a few days, hot and muggy.