as i come of age

now playing: james taylor, “up on the roof”

tomorrow, i enter my final full month of being thirty-something.

i don’t know where the time went.

at the most recent youngers show i played, i talked to todds’ girlfriend cory (who was once my niece – more on that in a moment) about how awkward it was to play these shows where the whole family shows up…not because they make me uncomfortable, per se – but because i can look around the room and be reminded – quite graphically – of how much time has passed since i first came to this state over fifteen years ago.

here’s the necessary backstory.

my first wife, jill – the mother of my children – is cory’s aunt. her brother is cory’s father.

cory is jesse’s sister – jesse, the guitar player in the youngers.

todd, cory’s boyfriend of many years, met cory when he was playing with me a looong time ago.

so, as they say, if you have children, you’re never really divorced. it would appear that it’s also true that if you’re in a band that’s littered with former family members, you’re never really separable from the family.

at that gig, i sat there in the midst of todd’s family and cory and jesse’s family – johnny and sandy, their parents…their cousin andrew…and i thought back to the winter that i showed up here in pennsylvania and how much we’ve all changed in the time since. jesse was three years old. he used to call me aunt tom, for christs’ sake. we used to have family get-togethers on the holidays and play bluegrass music together and for some time, it seemed like we genuinely enjoyed each others’ company. things have gotten strange in the time since – the family seems to have split into factions, with some not speaking to each other for ages. i think that perhaps they’ve put some of that behind them since papa john, the patriarch, fell ill early this year…i hope they have, anyway.

but i sat there behind the drumkit and looked around the room at the end result of so much time having passed, and it started to hit home – with regard to just how long it’s been. not in a weepy, sentimental way so much as in a “holy shit – where did all the time go” kinda way.

and i won’t say that i haven’t stopped thinking about it since, because i have…but i will admit to being a lot more conscious of it in the time since. it’s crept into a number of my thoughts, and it’s found its way into certain parts of my logic that i don’t think it existed in before that night. it seems that everywhere i look now, i see the evidence of age and time passed.

compound that with the sheer number of people who’ve stepped back into the light from the shadows of my own personal history lately, and it’s enough to give you pause. make you think, even.

it’s definitely a factor with regard to some of the thoughts and conversations that i’ve had with various people about moving to nashville of late. i think to myself, “if i wait until the kids are both eighteen and ready to move on with their own lives, then we’re looking five years down the road – which makes me not forty, but forty-five…and if we’re teetering on the edge of the what’s the point ledge now, by then i’ll be plummeting, wile e. coyote style, to the bottom of the animated ravine somewhere in the over-the-hill desert.

but the thing is, there are other questions bouncing about in my head as well regarding all this – not just about timing, the question of whether to make the leap or not, my own personal relevance to what’s happening in nashville, or things of that nature…all huge points in and of themselves – but there are other aspects of my life that have to be taken into consideration as well.

let’s say that things stay on track and wendy and i complete the reconciliation process. there are some things surrounding this situation that can’t be ignored. she didn’t just move out, she moved out – bought a house and the whole nine yards. and, contrary to what might’ve been assumed prior to the process, she’s done an amazing job of making it her own. her house is totally and completely her. it fits her, and she’s quite obviously comfortable there. and i’m equally uncomfortable with the idea of infringing on that in any way – she’s earned her own space, and i’m not about to throw any monkey wrenches into that by introducing any radical changes into the equation, where she’s concerned. there’s enough ground for us to cover on a personal level that has nothing to do with moving, and we’ve been focusing on that.

but then again, by not introducing any radical changes, the status quo remains as such…and, as i’m seeing time and time again, the clock keeps ticking and time marches on. for instance, i know that wendy wants kids eventually…if we’re staying together, how long can that be put off? and, hypothetically speaking, how does that factor into a decision to move? i also know that wendy wants to return to new england eventually…which would make a move to nashville a temporary distraction of sorts. and if that’s the case, how long would we stay in nashville before we made what had damn well better be the final move north? and, should we decide to have kids, what kind of father could i possibly be if i were a working musician in nashville? what kind of relationship could i have with a wife and child if i were on the bus as much as i’d need to be to earn a living? would i essentially be repeating the mistakes i’ve already made with the children i’ve already brought into the world? would i be introducing additional and unnecessary stress on everyone concerned by taking this past the “entertaining the possibility” stage?

would it be even remotely worth it?

that’s the funny thing about life…there’s no way of knowing without taking the leap and doing it.

at this point in time, i don’t have any answers. it would be easy to just ride the wave and keep doing what i’m doing for the foreseeable future…but the problem with that is that if you don’t stretch, you don’t grow…or progress, for that matter. and now i find myself asking myself if i’ll be ok with being exactly where i am right now in ten years…and while the answer to that question is pretty easy to arrive at, what to do about it is significantly more complex.

and those are answers that i just don’t have at the moment.

 

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good advice

now playing: dave loggins, “breeze”

last night, within the first five minutes of walking into the gig, i had three people mention my journal to me…nothing specific, just “i read your journal all the time”-ish comments.

which, of course, made me feel like a bit of an ass where the content of the past few days is concerned.

after the show last night, i stood in the doorway of the bar and talked to charlie for a long (looooong) time – too long, probably, because i got about 3 1/2 hours’ sleep and i’ve been a complete wreck all day, due in no small part to being in a room with the lights off all damn day…

but we talked a bit about nashville, and the concept of my moving to nashville…i told him that i had gotten what i considered the official “ixnay” on a possibility for some fill-in gigs with a certain national act that i’ve been close to for a number of years, and how i was pretty certain that the only way i was ever going to make any actual progress past where i’ve managed to get to would be to make the move, pack my shit, and find my way south.

it got me to thinking about something that ed king wrote some time back that i remembered having read…so i went back through and found it…i might have even posted this here before, but i’m incapable of remembering at the moment.

and since it’s relevant, i’m going to take the liberty of putting it in here. let me know if i overstepped my bounds, ed.

Back in the 70s (and I’m sure this still exists today), I’d come across musicians in many small towns that were just incredible…I mean jaw-droppingly great. Never heard of any of ’em since. Some I’ve kept track of, some I haven’t. Some have died young.

Some people just don’t want to leave their surroundings and get out into the open world. Several GREAT players come to mind right now who never left ‘home’. THAT IS THE ONLY REASON why I had ANY success at all. You’ve got to GO to where the music is. Even if you live in L.A….doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where it is.

I’ve been asked many times “What advice would you give to aspiring musician?” If you have ‘style’ and you know it, you’ve GOT TO MOVE. Oh yeah…and LOTS AND LOTS of practice.

thanks, ed. i’m still thinkin’.

short, i know….but i’m approaching “clinically dead” status at this point.

retroactive

 

now playing: keith urban, “you’ll think of me”

to say that things have been a tad insane at work of late would be something of an understatement. entire departments moving from one spot in the plant to another and going wireless in the process, phone lines being moved…oh, and we’re still on track with the upgrade, too.

so, if there’s any curiosity as to where i’ve been….well, i’ve been right here. just haven’t had too many opportunities to collect my thoughts.

today, we had a service call in for repairs to one of our brand new dell servers, and the guy who came in to work on it was someone i knew from a job i had over five years ago that was part of a chapter of my life i’d just as soon forget…he recognized me, and asked if he knew me from somewhere, but i think i was successful in throwing him off somewhat. at any rate, it didn’t come back up again – but it did serve as a reminder that no matter what you do to atone for wrongs of the past, it will revisit you at the precise moment that you feel like you’ve finally started making some headway towards putting your life in order.

or perhaps that trying to be a good person and make the right decisions in the here and now isn’t necessarily retroactive. that’s my lesson for today, i think.

it appears that i’ve gotten some of the expected flak from having made the statements i made regarding guidelines recently…and i think i’d made peace with that before i made the remarks. i have nothing left to prove (musically) to anyone at this point in my life – i’m aware of my abilities and my talents, and there are no gaping holes in my karma that will be filled by giving them away and not putting a premium of some sort on them. i don’t feel a need to keep repeating the same cycle as a sideman that i put myself through as a “recording artist”. i turned my back on writing and recording to spare myself all that, and i have no desire to relive any of that anymore.

at the risk of repeating myself, i find that there are certain aspects of my role as a musician that i enjoy, and there are aspects of it that come in a distant, distant second to spending time with my family or curling up and spending the evening with a book or the tv, or just being at home and enjoying doing nothing.

there are some aspects of my role as a musician that pale in comparison to doing nothing.

a great songwriter named jamie o’hara (half of the legendary country duo the o’kanes) said once that the very traits that allow a songwriter excel at his craft are the same traits that make them completely ill-equipped to deal with the day-to-day crap that goes on in the music business. sensitivity, empathy, humility, and the like have no place down in the trenches. and i don’t feel the need to get down in there and duke it out with anyone anymore.

i think that one thing that i took away from my years in stone road is that it doesn’t take a lot for me to be content, on a musical level. i was perfectly happy to go into some of the rooms we used to play, turn up my amp, and just roar for three or four hours. at the end of the night, i’d pack up my stuff with the rest of the guys, go home, and peel off my smoke-laden clothes and jump into the shower before dropping into bed – and i never felt as though i’d sold off some sacred part of my soul because i was playing other peoples’ music or any of the things that are drilled into your head when you’re hawking your own wares down there in the trenches. i enjoyed going out and executing those songs. i was good at it.

perhaps it wasn’t so much of an issue for me in that band because i’d gone the route of hawking my own wares, i knew that i was capable of writing songs, and i didn’t have to harbor the usual doubts with regard to whether or not i could actually write a song as good as the stuff i was playing or any of that.

and when i start work next month on this new record, it’s not going to be because i have all these objectives attached to it – to get it played on the radio, to make X amount of dollars on sales, to try to get Larry Fucking Goldfarb to throw me a bone at the Tin Angel, or any of that. very simply, i’ll consider doing a small production run of discs and put them on CDBaby with my first album and those who are interested can buy them if they so choose…and i’ll probably sell a few hundred or so, and that’ll be fine. and that’s if i decide to actually print hard copies in the first place…i may just post the whole thing on the site and let people download the songs.

because at this point, i have other ways to make money – more stable and lucrative ways to make money. i don’t need to do this to survive, and i don’t need to prove to the world at large that i’m capable of connecting with other human beings via my music.

if i’m going to do this, it’s going to be at my own pace, on my own schedule, and as a result of my own motivations. i don’t feel as though i have to play the game as it’s played by most folks anymore.

and in the meantime…i still love going out and plugging in my guitar and turning it up and hitting a nice loud “A” chord and feeling the back of my pants legs blowing up against my calves. and i’ll do that for as long as i can – until i see no reason to keep doing it.

and when i’m done, i’ll hang it up without the lingering doubts as to whether or not i “coulda been a contender”, or whether i did all i could to leave whatever mark i was supposed to leave. i’ll know that i did exactly what i was put here to do, both as a musician and as a human being.

and that’ll be just fine with me.

welcome home, dylan

 

now playing: david gray, “as i’m leaving”

 

getting out of the van and walking into the house tonight:

dylan: “awwww, man…now i have a wedgie.

me: “well, at least you can get rid of it.

jayda: “yeah…you should take antibiotics.

i haven’t run out of things to say…i’ve just had trouble making the time to say them.

this week has been insane. but tomorrow, it’s over.

look for an onslaught shortly thereafter.

elementary criteria

 

now playing: october project, “adam and eve”

so i’ve been thinking about this quite a bit since my recent post regarding my personal expectations, where being part of a musical unit is concerned – and i think i’ve arrived at some reasonable and acceptable guidelines for myself….boundaries, if you will.

certainly, there are the obvious ones that would apply whether my personal boundaries existed or not: the usual run of musical compatibility, equal levels of talent, the appeal of the music being played…my personal list assumes that all the elementary criteria have been met.

one.

rehearsal to performance ratio.

there’s really only two ways to interpret what i’m about to say – either i’m a slacker or i have a huge ego – but whether either of those things are true or not, the fact remains: i hate rehearsal. there are times when it’s less painful than others (like when you’re starting a new band, or when you have to break in a new member, or something of that nature), but for the most part, it’s a boring, mundane exercise in repetition. i view it as a necessary evil, something to be gotten through and then set aside…once the mission of rehearsal has been accomplished.

what is the mission of rehearsal? to learn the material and polish the performance of said material.

with a professional crew, this can be accomplished more quickly than some might imagine. copies of the material are disseminated, homework is done, and rehearsal serves as a polish session, more so than a place you go to do work you could be doing at home. i’m a big advocate of learning the songs at home and coming to rehearsal ready to play them – or at least sufficiently ready to play them that you don’t hold the process up while you’re hashing out chord progressions and such.

and, having said that, nothing makes me crazier than rehearsing for weeks on end to play a 45 minute set opening for some wingnut that i never heard of at a club that shouldn’t even be on the bands’ collective radar. i use this as an example only because it’s my most recent – this happens far more often than it should, and as such, i’ve made a personal rule for myself…thus the creation of the rehearsal to performance ratio.

my rule states to those who would consider hiring me that i will rehearse with the band no more than three times per paying gig. that’s more than enough time for me to learn what i need to learn and move on. if the band in question is playing six times a month, that’s never going to be an issue, as i don’t know that any band that’s not working up to a new record that would rehearse 18 times a month.

where that rule will become an issue is with a band who wants to rehearse once or twice a week and gigs once every other month.

never, ever again.

two.

i will not pay to play in a band.

i will happily work for free on occasion if the situation warrants it, but i will not finish another month of my life in the hole for a musical project.

to give an example –

the most recent band in which this became an issue for me rehearses at least half the time in willow grove, pa. now, from the morgantown exit of the pennsylvania turnpike, that’s three dollars and twenty five cents away from me in one direction. so, with a total of six dollars and fifty cents in tolls alone, it’s no exaggeration to say that every time i walk into that rehearsal space, i’ve probably spent twelve to fifteen dollars to put myself there. the drive takes roughly an hour and 45 minutes on average, so every time we practice, that’s six hours of my life i’ll never get back.

so to rehearse that 45 minute set once, i’m out six hours and thirteen dollars (we’ll say on average).

so, with that in mind, you can do some quick math and arrive at the fact that, after rehearsing that 45 minute set for six weeks, my total pre-gig investment is 36 hours (almost a full work week for normal people) and roughly $80.00 – which is (with the exception of very rare instances) easily twice and maybe three times what i could expect to be paid for the gig…if there’s money involved at all (which isn’t the case as often as not).

so you can see how quickly and easily it is to become immersed in red ink in a situation like this.

as i said before, no more.

those are my two chief criteria for consideration of future projects. so, anyone reading this miserable little cyber-gripe session who might be considering what might entice me into a new project would really need to know little else than this.

it’s not that i don’t have other peeves – like learning parts for songs on several different instruments and showing up with my gear and being alloted a 24-inch square behind something in a corner and being expected to set up my gear in not much more space than i take up by simply standing with my hands on my hips, or things of that nature…but those are pretty specific annoyances that attach themselves to specific situations. these two criteria in particular are guidelines – put in place to help me make decisions about what gigs i will take in the future and what gigs i will happily say “no, thanks” to.

what’s that, you say? that rules were made to be broken?

well, certainly, they are.

which is why i call them guidelines, as opposed to rules.

is there a possibility that i might hear someone who inspires me so much that i’m willing to forego my guidelines and throw caution to the wind and follow them to the ends of the earth…but then again, if you know anything about what my life is like right now, and where my priorities lie, i think you’ll agree that this is a LONGSHOT, at the very least.

as i start entertaining possibilities for what i might take on next, and when that might realistically be able to happen – i think this should go a long way towards keeping some of the usual resentments at bay.

one hundred people surveyed, top three answers on the board…

 

now playing: shawn colvin, “never saw blue like that”

i wonder this morning, as i take in all the editorial remarks about the sunburn i brought to work with me today, if people can tell (from the gradient redness that runs from one side of my face to the other) which side of the bleachers i was sitting in at the baseball game yesterday.

(left field bleachers, by the deck….fyi.)

oddly, it’s not as painful as i’d thought it would be – the only thing that really hurts is the top of my ears, and that’s only when i brush my hair or otherwise touch them.

the reading phillies got their asses kicked yesterday afternoon, outscored by almost two runs to one…but they managed to pull out a victory on saturday night, at the game that my buddy mitch and i went to. i made a friend of a little guy named shawn, who – in hindsight – probably had too much energy for nine innings’ worth of sitting quietly, so we entertained each other for quite some time.

managed to spend some quality time with wendy over the weekend – we squeezed in a boehringer’s trip on saturday, and i took her to the afternoon game with me yesterday…we went furniture shopping for some time afterwards, as well. and, as is par for the course where we’re concerned, we managed to stay up talking until 4:20AM at least one night this weekend.

i know, i know…you couldn’t possibly ask a single question that hasn’t already been floated, much less the popular one – “why couldn’t we have done all this before we split up?”

(visualize richard dawson gesturing over his shoulder, mumbling, “the survey SAYS….” – and the little bells going off as the number one answer plaque flips over…)

and honestly, i’m not sure. i don’t know what the big obstacle was to jumping into this and getting our feet wet and dealing with these problems before we let things get so far away from us. anger. resentment. spite. all of the above.

it’s a huge weight that’s being lifted, though – in having been willing to take the time and summon the courage to “say all the things we never said”. i’ve said to several people privately that if she’d had the means to get out of the house within a few days of our having decided to split, we’d never have gotten the chance to mend our fences and make peace with one another.

it’s a good place we’re in right now.

but (and you knew there’d be a BUT…) – there’s still some work to be done. some issues that haven’t really been addressed yet. some people other than the two of us who affect our relationship that have to be talked to and reasoned with and such.

and yeah – parts of it are daunting. some of it has the potential to get ugly, even.

but – one of the positive things about doing it from a distance (meaning separate homes) is that there are neutral corners to retreat to, and we both have our own spaces to take solace and shelter in until such time as a direction becomes apparent to us, whether it be alone or together.

there’s considerable comfort in the knowledge that we don’t have to rush to fix everything right now, and that we can deal with each other on a pace that’s acceptable to both of us – as opposed to beating each other up and racing for some imperceptible finish line.

this is not to say that we have all the time in the world – i know that wendy wants certain things out of life that won’t wait forever for her to move toward, and that’s been discussed as well. and we both have other parts of our lives that advance whether we like it or not, and we have to deal with those things as they come up…but we seem to be cultivating a sense of security, a few steps at a time, every time we sit down to talk and don’t end up succumbing to the urge to run away or turn our backs on each other.

and having said all that, i’ll shut up now…having already said before that i planned to limit these kinds of entries.

there are other things to discuss, to be certain – but i’m not sure where to start on some of them.

i plan on seeking some counsel before going into detail here…as i’m still not sure if i’m doing the right thing or not.

yeah, yeah, yeah…if you wanna know, tune in later.