Hello, friends! First things first:
Saturday 12/1: Kelly House Concert in St. Louis. My friend, the uber-talented Steph Graham, joins me once again at one of my very favorite house concert venues! STL, please come on over; I’m always thrilled to play this room. For more info, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday 12/7: Enoch’s Pub, Monroe, LA. YES. At last, a return to the old stomping grounds—it’s a record release show, dang it, since this is the first time I’ve played my old hometown since Tilt and Shine dropped, back in late July. I will have vinyl, kids—more about that below.
TOUR JOURNAL #2 (of 2): Although the road does indeed go on forever, I send you friendly greetings from home, yes, home. I know–I’m not supposed to be here. It’s cold and gray and wet outside, so given the option, I’m in here. Closing storm windows, performing minor maintenance . . . whatever I can do to help keep the place warm and keep myself from climbing the walls.
Yes, there was that tour with Todd Snider I was on. After a great night in Evanston, IL, as I told you previously, the next morning I drove to Goshen, Indiana for the first of several planned radio station visits along my way. Thanks to Jason Samuel and all at WGCS for such a warm welcome (and damn fine interview questions, Brandon!) Drove to Columbus on Thursday; on that drive I started writing a song, or something that could become a song—it’s the first time that’s happened since Joe and I started work on Tilt and Shine. Got to my hotel, and a little later went down to Natalie’s for dinner (the venue I usually play when in the Columbus area). Back to the room and down for a much better sleep than the night before.
Got up early Friday and loaded out of the hotel; I had a live interview/performance on WCBE starting at 11 am; needed to be there by 10:30. Had a great time there; maybe some of you were able to listen in. After lunch I drove down High St. to see my friend Duff Lindsay, proprietor of Lindsay Gallery. Duff and I have been friends for years and it was fun to catch up and see so much great art there.
While talking with Duff, I felt my phone vibrate in my back pocket—a text had come in. I checked it when I left the gallery; it was my manager Bill asking me to call him immediately. That “immediately” thing: it’s either really good news, or the opposite. Got in the van and rang him while on my way down to the hotel where I was staying that night—provided by the promoter of Friday’s show with Todd. Plan was to check in and try to catch a short nap before load-in time at the theater; Todd’s tour manager had also asked me to pick up a FedEx package which he’d had sent to the hotel. I’m listening to Google’s a-little-late-on-the-draw instructions through my earbuds while driving, when Bill answers the phone and tells me: not only is tonight’s show cancelled, but the whole tour is toast as well. I really think he’s joking, though he’s never kidded around about anything like this. But the more he talks, I realize: it’s true. Todd was very ill and needed serious medical attention, so they’d turned their bus around and were headed back to Nashville. I didn’t know what to do. Here I was, being where I was supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to do, and now: nothing. I retrieved the package and checked into the room. I was reeling, quietly—one thing that really helps me keep myself together on the road is knowing that I have reasons to be out there—specific events on the calendar—and it is my job, in the driest sense, to move from one of those events to the next, from hour to hour, from day to day, in timely fashion. I sat in my room and texted back and forth with managers Bill and Nick, who were talking with my booking agent, and my radio promoter, about what to do—whether I should continue east and just do the radio spots, or bail on the whole thing and go home. The latter idea won out.
Thanks to manager Bill, I picked up a little opening set at Natalie’s later that night, for the great Terry Davidson. Just a half hour. (Quite a different setting—I was originally supposed to open for Todd that night at a 900-seat theater!) And I was told beforehand (and I’m so grateful for this) that there were two large groups of folks there who were NOT there for the music. (Therefore, don’t take the sound of ambivalence, etc. personally! So I didn’t.) Didn’t make any money for playing the show, though I did sell several CDs to two new fans, and the venue did feed me (I LOVE their pizza). Took the pie in a to-go box and headed back to my room (quite a posh suite at a very nice hotel downtown). Had dinner, and made preparations for the journey home. (Thanks to Bob Teague, too, for sending out a last-minute email to his list about my last-minute set at Natalie’s.)
After a pleasantly uneventful return on Saturday, I settled back in to the domestic norm—this being something I fight against, as it is counter to the rock n’ roll mode. But after banging around the midwest for several days and being faced with an unexpected and dour conclusion, with little to show for it, some constancy and peace were very much okay with me.
So I’m finally getting last year’s tax return finished, and yes, sponsors, I’m getting those handwritten lyrics done for you, and otherwise helping out around the house. Looking forward to the holidays; it’s always a good period for self-reflection, for a long gaze out into the future’s alluring ether. Maybe best of all—I don’t have to go to the mall to do that.
FINALLY VINYL: Yes, at last report, the Tilt and Shine vinyl LPs should ship out from the plant to me next week. And believe me, I’ll be getting those out to you sponsors and folks who’ve pre-ordered right away! You can still pre-order here:
Just scroll down til you see the vinyl pre-order option. The great thing about the pre-order is that you get a download of the record, in whatever file format you prefer, right away, with your purchase.
I hope my friend Todd Snider is getting the care he needs; I haven’t heard anything since I got back to Nashville, so I assume he is on the mend. (In fact, I see on social media that some of those shows that we missed are already being rescheduled. Hoorah!)
Stay safe out there, and see ya when I see ya. Hopefully soon.
Tour Journal #1
Best Western, Goshen IN
Dark night, literally and otherwise, coaxes up a chilly gray morning; the soft edges of it frame the deep brown curtains across the window. Old-school motel architecture here—2 floors, no elevator. Room doors open on to the balcony/walkway; the rails once painted a daffodil yellow now show rust here and there. I hear hip-hop beats through the wall—lots of really low, sub-woofer frequencies, and not coming from the parking lot. Present, but not loud. And since I can’t sleep any more, it must be time to eat again. I put on yesterday’s clothes, wash my face, and walk outside to go downstairs to the breakfast area. “My music ain’t botherin’ ya is it?” asks a redheaded housekeeper in her 40s with a black bird tattooed on her hand. She’s smoking a cig at the base of the stairs. I assure her, while walking down the stairs, that “I’ve been up for hours; it’s cool,” though more sleep would have been really cool. It seems that those with the loudest engines and biggest trucks leave earliest—4:30am in this case. I go in the door to the breakfast area. An older couple make their choices from the offerings and sit at the table next to mine. I’ve settled for some eggs that might actually be real, not powdered, a sausage link, a cup of orange juice and a coffee. I’m hungry because I didn’t make it out the door to eat dinner last night. The woman’s phone rings; a ringtone from possibly some contemporary Christian anthem, though she squelches it so fast I can’t make out the words being so stridently sung in a laughably atmospheric 80s-era reverb-cloud. Gives it to her husband, a big guy, all the look of a retired farmer with decades of his hands in the dirt, who stares at the phone like a mule he doesn’t quite know well enough to get close to yet. Something gets pushed or clicked and some other noise-ish music plays as loud as the device will go. He tames it down gradually, click-by-click to silence and the meal goes on without a word. I grab a donut from a pastry case (the pastries look better than anything else in the joint) and head back up here with it sitting on a napkin on top of my coffee cup. It’s a blueberry cake sugar-coated thing and it’s very good, even if not so physiologically good for you.
When I checked in yesterday, supplying the requested identification and card for incidentals to a humorless desk clerk who said NOTHING about breakfast (the outrage!) I noticed about 100 feet of 10 strands of ethernet cable knotted and snaked together into 40 feet of blue chaos along the baseboard of one wall behind the front desk; I wasn’t sure whether to take this as a good sign or not, in the ever-present game of hotel internet connectivity roulette. Turns out: not. I’m writing this now but not sure I’ll be able to post it til I get to the next hotel, in Columbus. But hey, I’ve got a TV in here that’s half as wide as the wall it’s perched in front of, and all the bad news and “entertainments” I can stand. I must confess that I never knew until pausing at the Discovery channel for a while that the probable location of the Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia. I finally got wise later and turned the damned thing off and did some reading before trying to sleep.
Night #1 with Todd Snider in Evanston IL on Tuesday was great fun—a sold-out show at S.P.A.C.E., a wonderful venue—one of those that makes you feel as if what you are doing out here is possibly a sane and defensible thing, that you are not just burning out your life by counting thousands of miles at the wheel and tens of dollars at the merch table. (Don’t misunderstand me: my “showpay” for these gigs is good.) It is always a pleasure to open for my friend Todd, and a great opportunity to play for plenty of folks who haven’t heard me before (and, in the Chicago area and some other places, some who have). I had a good set, I think, despite some jitters, and left the stage feeling fairly victorious after 40 minutes of the show business up there. I’ve brought three guitars with me on this tour but only played one—and that happens a lot with me when I’m the opener—I always feel slightly under pressure to keep things rolling at a quick pace, and the last thing I want to do when I feel like that is stop and change guitars. So, I drive on with the ES-125 and it’s fine. The other two are fun to look at, anyway. And pull out in a hotel room now and then.
I left Chicago yesterday morning running about 45 minutes late, and drove straight through into the eastern time zone to the radio station, WGCS, here in Goshen, landing at the station about 15 minutes behind schedule—but as usual, all was well. I quickly set up, and before I knew it I was exchanging on-air greetings with host Brandon and then singing “Saint.” I was worried that he hadn’t done any prep for the interview, but I was wrong—he nailed it! We had a meaningful conversation about Louisiana, Tony Joe White, religion and faith, Joseph Campbell, Elaine Pagels, and even that great Automotive Age philosopher, Chuck Berry. I played “GTO” and we were done. D.J. Laura (sp?) helped me load out, and I got back in the van and had one of those “Okay, what now?” moments. I was feeling pretty beat, so the hotel search began, and ended here at the BW.
Lots of talking out there on the balcony now. Fragments of conversation, laughter–unintelligible like trying to read a page of text with every other sentence redacted. It’s a day out there, sure is. I’m headed to Columbus, OH in a bit; I’m on the radio on WCBE tomorrow morning, so it makes sense to go ahead and get the 4+ hour drive done. Then tomorrow night there, the 2nd show with Todd, at the Jo Ann Davidson Theater. Hope to see some of you there. I’ll check in again soon.
Has it been two weeks? Same town, different hotel. Brown paisley hallway carpet–nice, if kept in the periphery of one’s vision. Far end of my floor, direction I’m walking, there’s a small window and down there, out on the “landscaped” grounds is a scrawny maple tree, about my height, all a-fire in red leaves, being […]
Dear readers, A quick note before beginning load-out of my room here in Effingham IL where the air always seems to contain the soundwash of trucks perennially rolling their eighteen wheels up and down the highway over there, like waves of wind. Doesn’t bug me really. What does bug me: the early, numerous, and heavy […]