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Archive for the ‘WORDS’ Category

NEW BLOG: SHOOT NO ONE

Shoot No One (@ stillwaitingforthephonetoring)

Categories: JOURNALS

NEW BLOG: ON CARGO SHORTS AND OTHER DANGEROUS WEAPONS

On Cargo Shorts And Other Dangerous Weapons (@ stillwaitingforthephonetoring)

Categories: JOURNALS

NEW BLOG: DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK

Don’t Call It A Comeback (@ stillwaitingforthephonetoring)

Categories: JOURNALS

NEW BLOG: THE KEY WESTER

The Key Wester (@ stillwaitingforthephonetoring)

Categories: JOURNALS

NEW BLOG: THE CATEGORATION OF DAYS

The Categoration of Days (@ stillwaitingforthephonetoring)

Categories: JOURNALS

NEW INTERVIEW WITH DAVID AT POPDOSE.COM

Check it out here.

Categories: INTERVIEWS, NEWS

2009/01/26 Comments off

I was sitting in a restaurant today across a table from my former manager. At a particular lull in the conversation and menu perusal we both allowed our gazes to drift up to the television hanging over the adjacent bar. Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, was giving a press conference of some sort. His halo seemed to have dimmed the slightest bit since the inauguration; his hair appeared to have been given the slightest bit of darkening. But his jaw was set with a new rigidity. He had a suppleness about him. He didn’t just look presidential. He looked thoroughly consequential.

Early last year I fled New York and ended up staying with my father and his wife for a few months in Nashville. One of my favorite activities to share with my father during this time was the afternoon viewing of various political punditry available on digital cable. We would surf between the favorites, talk back to the television, argue and agree while consuming questionable quantities of Blue Bell ice cream. The election was swinging into high gear and there was plenty of steamy, fabricated discourse to digest.

Having not watched a lot of news programming in the years leading up to this, I would find myself occasionally hypnotized by the complexity of the swirling banners and embedded messages that constantly introduced the programs and surrounded the main frame of their broadcasts. When I was a child, my mother used to tell me that there were Satanic and otherwise hedonistic messages recorded backwards on the vinyl albums of rock bands. This was 25 years ago. The possibilities for subliminal mind control in this network cable swirl of pageantry made Led Zeppelin seem like the TeleTubbies.

Well, that was a heady time. Now, I have my own apartment again, but I do not own a television. So I was particularly struck today by the solemnity that seemed to surround President Obama’s remarks. Even more, I was knocked out by the soundbyte primers that underlined his muted speech: “OBAMA TO SAVE ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT” is one that comes to mind.

Categories: JOURNALS

A DIFFERENT SHERRIE

2008/12/27 Comments off

Last night, in an exceptionally odd instance of life imitating art imitating life, I was introduced to a girl who appeared to be of Persian decent.

“David, this is Sherrie.”

“Hi Sherrie, it’s nice…”

“Oh, I know you, ” she said. “You went to David Lipscomb, right?” She said, referring to my sinister alma mater.

“Oh yeah! Sherrie —–…” I remembered a warm Summer evening, a year or two after high school. I had run into her at a friend’s house. After several-to-many beers, we ended up in a bedroom together. It was one of those moments in which you assume you are inspiring the tender loss of innocence but, years later, realize that you were merely developing into another set of bad habits.

Smiling, I leaned in to embrace her.

“Oh! No, I’m Sherrie ——.”

Which led to an altogether awkward scene that can more eaily be imagined than described. The even stranger thing about all of it was that my good friend Daniel Tashian had once had the exact same experience with the same two women (incriminating circumstance need only be supposed, not assumed). He actually wrote a song about it, a fine version of which was eventually recorded by his band, The Silver Seas. I was fully prepared to provide you with a link for streaming but cannot locate it anywhere.

Categories: JOURNALS

DON’T BE AFRAID

2008/12/26 Comments off

When I was three, my mother took me to various coffee houses around Atlanta to watch her and her friend Patricia perform. They both played acoustic guitars and sang in excellent harmony. I admired them from the audience, usually posted up at the table of one kind stranger or another. It was odd and thrilling to be in a dark performance space with music.

Soon I knew most of their songs by heart; I had not yet learned to read and my memory was unbelievably uncluttered and accurate. All of the songs were of the gospel and inspirational variety and my mother and Patricia were very convincing in their performance. I remember one in particular entitled, “Rattle Me, Shake Me,” a song about a girl who is suspected by various authority figures of being under the influence of one narcotic or another but, in fact, is merely high because ‘she got the spirit inside.’ Another favorite of mine was “Be Still And Know,” a directive from God himself to ‘stop runnin’ through the streets and alleys of your mind, for all your hurried, worried runnin’ only makes you more blind.’

It seems important to note that all of these songs were delivered in a very relaxed manner more Judy Collins than Jerry Falwell. Mom and Patricia were not of the hellfire variety of Christian entertainer that so often seems to get the headlines. They were the evangelical mirror of Joni Mitchell, Linda Rondstadt and Juice Newton. They probably got hit on after the shows. It was the mid-70′s. There was a real electricity to the performances, the hormonal angst of twenty and thirty something people of the opposite sex stuffed into a room with no options available besides coffee sipping and bible verse quotation. People yearning to burst out, to get their game on, stuck having to squeeze their ambitions into tiny little messianic packages to be thrown at the wall and hoped for. It was very rock and roll.

After the shows I ran around the adjacent bookstore, or church sanctuary, or whatever institution’s activities supported the coffee house. Sometimes I walked on the stage and strummed my mom’s guitar while she talked to other adults. She taught me how to pack it up. It was too heavy for me to carry.

Categories: JOURNALS

ON CHRISTMAS MUSIC AND OTHER DELICACIES

2008/12/25 Comments off

One of my more frequent moonlighting experiences over the past couple of years has been writing music journalism for a couple of different ‘culture’ magazines. One of these, Paste, has twice asked me to write a round-up of Christmas albums. A nice little box of CD’s shows up in the mail around September, from which I get to pick and choose which albums I think are most notable. Over the past two years I have added the most exceptional moments to my Christmas playlist. I got some good ones. For sure.

My favorite is Marvin Gaye singing “I Want To Come Home For Christmas,” the plight of a POW stuck in Hanoi for the holidays. Following Marvin is Tanya Tucker singing “Christmas To Christmas,” then Bootsy Collins’ “Chestnutz.” It is important to have a diversity of genre in your holiday playlist. By the time Over The Rhine launches into “North Pole Man” the potential schmaltz of the holiday listening experience has been completely eroded. Christmas is a different experience for everyone. Gibbidy-gabbidy-goo.

In an hour or so I will hit the road for a ten mile run, heading north for a loop through deserted downtown Nashville then shooting West along Church Street out to the old neighborhood in Sylvan Park. When I was a little younger I was in such a hurry to accumulate history, to have thins to look back on and ponder. In such a hurry that I probably didn’t enjoy the present experience nearly as much as I could have. But I did it the way I did it, which is fine.

This year I have found that running is a great way to relive time and place without getting too mired down in the potentially difficult melancholia of them. On a long run, my brain becomes so discombobulated and shaken about I find myself incapable of dwelling on one particular thought for too long. It is wonderful to run through places with which I associate painful or sad memories. It feels as if I am reclaiming for the present, and that I never have to live those old versions of them again. They sparkle anew, and I feel energy surging through my body, so much more lithe and adaptable than its alcohol-ridden former incarnation of only a few years ago. On my last tour, I did the running reclamation a lot, successfully making Chicago, New York, rural Virginia and Charlotte my bitches, each and every one.

So I can think of nothing finer than to revisit some Nashville history today with a nice long run. Extra endorphins pumping are good. Marvin, Tammy, Mindy and Bootsy bouncing around my head like matzoh balls, decomposing, digesting. I like how the city empties out: no traffic, vehicular or pedestrian. There is something about dwelling on the negative space and the absence of people that makes them seem nearer and dearer. I will push through it like a hot spoon in chutney and let the sugary remnants drip from me, so many moments that will never be again.

Categories: JOURNALS

LIBRARY THING

2008/12/24 Comments off

And so it is Christmas Eve, a day generally adrift in melancholy for myself and a surprisingly large number of Americans. Nashville has presented itself in dull grays and muted ochres for the occasion, seemingly as non-plussed about the situation as I am. Rejoice! And, in a funny way, I do. Stan and I are supine in the living room, fresh back from a walk around the neighborhood that was fairly uneventful except for a completely chance run-in with Peter Collins, the producer of my first album, and his dog, Dave. This, of course, is what the holidays are supposed to be about, old friends and good cheer.

I checked in with a long-lost cyber portal of mine last night to find that I had all but been erased from its memory. Library Thing is a web site that has been in its beta version for over two years now. I stumbled onto it in 2006. It allows you to catalogue all of the books in your library online. Or all of the books you have ever read, if you like. Whatever you want to do, as usual.

Upon first finding the site, I hastily set about adding all of the books physically in my library as well as every one I could remember ever reading. This process was long but very satisfying. My books are the only material possessions that have remained with me from my adolescence. As much as I strive towards complete unattachment to things, I cannot let them go.

I hang onto my books because they are my history. The wonderful thing about my scrappy little library is that I can pick up any volume in it, read a few pages, and suddenly remember when I was first read it, where I was and what my general mood was at the time. This experience is unique to books, surprisingly; I usually lose most memory of similar circumstances surrounding a creative act within a few months of its occurrence.

Sometimes I wonder if this strange literary sensation is some sort of compensatory sub-conscious balance for my lack of powerful olfactory functions; I have read that smells are one of the most powerful agents of recall, but never really experienced the sensation myself. I liked to blow my nose a lot when I was a kid… perhaps I did some permanent nerve damage, I’m not sure.

So last night I checked in with my Library Thing page and realized that, somehow or another, all but ten of my previously added books had been deleted from my collection. I was shocked for two seconds, aggrieved for one, then pleasantly elated at the prospect of adding all the books again. Because the adding, the accumulation of books is the most enjoyable thing about the site. It allows the cataloguer to relive the experience of reading all of these wonderful and shitty books again at warp speed. The total number piles up in front of your eyes, the covers are all displayed in front of you, the rich melancholy of all that information stewing somewhere in the recesses of your addled psyche washes over you like a warm vat of honey. This is mine, you think. This is me.

But, as with nearly everything online (this blog included), Library Thing tempts with the short term gratification found in the further display of oneself for the perusal of others. ‘Look at me, I’ve read this, and I liked it so much I read six more by the same author.’ And, like nearly everything online, it also offers the opportunity for complete and utter fabrication. Which is where things get tricky.

For example, before I began writing this I was adding all of the Norman Mailer tomes I could remember reading in the past 35 years. An American Dream, cool. The Executioner’s Song, yeah. Harlot’s Ghost, sweet! Marilyn, of course. Tough Guys Don’t Dance… loved it! Wait a minute… Marilyn? Mmmmm… I cross-reference a few other Monroe biographies and realize that Mailer’s was not the one I read at all. Well, shit. There’s an entire week of my life misplaced, in the literary sense. I confused Mailer with some crappy thing I probably picked up in an airport on a long layover! What does it all mean?

It’s survival, bitch. I have a supremely annoying tendency to canonize all aspects of my life, the triumphant, the mediocre, and the downright shitty, into capsules of grandeur. It’s only natural that the legacy preparation assistant in me would inject the tawdry knuck-a-knuck of an airport paperback into the form of Mailer, for the sake of preservation for future generations. What can I say? I like the night life, I love to boogie.

But it does raise a slightly disturbing possibility: How much of my life have I modified to fit into the hardcover limited edition autobiography that will, surely, any day now, be published to great acclaim and interest?

I will never, ever know. I release it all into the goddamn cosmos. To swirl around my head like so much dirty water in a high-school toilet bowl and then evacuated to the long, grey sea.

Categories: JOURNALS

WHAT IS THE AVERAGE PRICE OF A GALLON OF GAS?

2008/12/23 Comments off

For no particular reason, this title popped up in the window. Should everything be capitalized like that? I am not sure, but I am sure that it appears authoritative. Like, ‘Yeah, gas, go suck on a nut.’

So, this is the first installment of the heretofore dreaded blog experience. I write these knowing all too well that they will now have to be copied and pasted to multiple locations and shit. I find that maintaining a miniature online empire is not nearly as fun as conceiving one, even less than creating its reason for being.

I have come to realize that I seem to write best with the assurance of an audience. And I would like to be a better writer. So I’m going to blog. My friend Andrea is a great writer and a great blogger. I am told that, in order to be a writer, one must write, not just sit and opine about the slim possibility of actually doing so. I’m going to blog, and it will make me a better writer.

Friends, Welcome to the legacy.

Categories: JOURNALS

WELL, THAT WAS QUITE A WEEK

2007/11/25 Comments off

NYP, WUS, CHV, EWR, CDG, PND, DUB, JFK, BOS, ATL, LGA: This is not a list of abbreviations for communicable diseases, nor a kindergarten roll call from 17th-century Holland, nor even a prescription for migraine medication, but the call letters for all of the points of egress I have visited in the past week. Airports, train stations, one memorable encounter with the Greyhound corporation and several journeys on a private coach have nearly been smeared into one long blur but I, your unfaithful diarist, will attempt to sort it all out, for your pleasure.

The life one dreams of will become very real. Currently sedated in a nougahyde faux-moderne seat at the A-16 gate of the Delta terminal in Boston, 7:20 AM, I am still reeling from the spin of it all. In fact, as I was just attempting to explain to the shuttle driver on the way from the hotel, I am barely here. From the rearview mirror, he regarded me warily, as if examining a horse turd cured in a butter box.

Early one Autumn Friday, after two fine weeks spent in Brooklyn, I found myself in a car crossing the Manhattan Bridge, my tall and well-hung compatriot, Wijnand Jansveld (who, coincidentally, attended kindergarten in Holland) crammed into the seat beside me. Upon arriving at Penn Station, we executed our usual pre-train routine- I procuring tickets from the automated kiosk, he purchasing breakfast sandwiches and coffee from a diner on 33rd St.- with startling efficiency.

Once aboard Amtrak’s Carolinian service, we began rolling toward Washington, DC. Without a doubt, luck and good fortune were on our side. That night, The Dutchman and I were to perform in the musical conflagration of our dear friend, Emerson Hart. As readers of these pages may recall, Wijnand plays a mean bass guitar, and I, for reasons that will be explained later, have begun tinkling ivories and singing background vocals. The profundity of it all washed over me in a wave of pure satisfaction as I chewed my sausage, egg and cheese sandwich. The beginning of another adventure was nigh. Like hot steel ejaculate seeking its fleshy purchase, The Carolinian rocketed forth from the Hudson River tunnel and onto New Jersey.

Upon attaining Union Station in DC, we carried our luggage and instruments to Emerson’s tour bus and set off for Delaware. After spanning the Chesapeake Bay at a glorious height, the road from the capitol to Dewey Beach quickly narrowed to two cracked lanes. The meek cornfields of The First State provided a calm back drop for our ruminations and cigarette consumption, the latter helping to offset a questionable odor emanating from one of our party, a tour manager called Bridget. He, a toadish man-child given to long verbal exclamations about very little, would spend the duration of the trip plagued by malfunctions of the lower intestine and their pursuant consequences.

The bus rolled on. Soon, like a whore flashing her wares for all passerby’s, Dewey Beach revealed itself. After a brief sound check at the decrepit beach club we were to perform in, we braved a slanting rain to reach a bayside eatery that specialized in rubbery tuna and and fried snails. Still hungry, we took the stage in front of a capacity crowd awash in crap beer and limited vocabulary. The set was electric, and the buffoons were suitably stunned.

After repairing to our Belgian coach for a restorative whiskey, The Dutchman and I wandered back into the pitiful throng in hopes of hearing quality rock music. Instead, we found ourselves assaulted by the unbearable caterwauling of Live, a four-piece modern rock outfit from rural Pennsylvania known for dancing half-naked around bonfires in promotional videos. For the maintenance of good standing in my current employ, I shall refrain from a full description beyond confirmation of the band’s continued existence and its irrepressible penchant for shittery.

On Saturday, we awoke in the pleasant burg of Charlottesville, Virginia. In spite of an unexpectedly vicious hangover, I was able to participate in a long rehearsal and the consumption of Indian food and frozen custard. Sunday was similarly relaxed, its only down point being the denial of passage on an oversold bus meant to carry me back to Washington D.C., where my train to New York awaited. The emotions that accompany the refusal of service by the Greyhound corporation need not be detailed here. I humbly carried my luggage to the nearest tavern and waited for my compatriots to complete a suspiciously homoerotic tour of Monticello. Eventually, I was picked up and taken to a barbecue organized by our gracious host, Philip Bowen.

At 6:58 on Tuesday morning, I stood outside the Charlottesville train station, enjoying a steaming cup of Hardee’s coffee and a cigarette. In the distance, a lone engine approached on the far track, eventually coming to idle directly opposite my position. As if on cue, a portly African-American fellow in a poncho waddled through the parking lot, across the tracks and straight up to the conductor’s window. He made a few obscure hand gestures, to which the conductor replied with a thumbs-up sign. Then he calmly climbed the stairs and entered the cabin, settling into his perch with a kingly grin. The engine hummed back to life and continued in its original direction, patiently and with great deliberation.

That sunny afternoon, after the seven hour train journey, I spent three hours with my wife in Brooklyn. We sat in our garden and talked about things. I watched the afternoon sun play on her swannish neck and thought of Paris, a city that was once to be the location of our third date.

The train that connects the regular New Jersey Transit service with the Newark airport was not running that night. After waiting 45 minutes for a hapless shuttle bus to arrive, I was forced to break my preferred gentlemanly gait in order to make my Air India flight to Charles De Gaulle.

This was my first experience aboard Air India. I must admit that I was unprepared for the overpowering smell of curry wafting throughout the plane, not to mention the seats that appeared to have been last upholstered in 1978. Regardless, the flight was quite enjoyable. The friendly flight attendants (one of whom insisted that I sample three different Indian lagers) were all colorfully garbed in saris revealing the most enticing flashes of almond belly, and the lamb curry was the best airline meal I have ever tasted. (Exception: Before September 11, 2001, I was often bumped up to Business Class on American Airlines because of my Platinum status. These and other trappings of corporate bloat are behind me now, mostly unnoticed, but I do occasionally miss the warm nuts and poached salmon served high over the Atlantic on those lonely transatlantic journeys. I do, occasionally, sound like a complete bastard.)

After landing, I took the Metro from CDG to the 20th Arrondissement where my efficiency hotel awaited me. I was met by Raphael Gil, proprietor of Minimum, my French record label. While waiting for my hotel room to be cleaned, we had a coffee at a cafe down the street and reviewed my itinerary for the next day, the first activities of which were to begin in four hours. I was duly impressed by young Gil’s ambition in scheduling promotional activities, although slightly glazed from jet lag and lack of Pain Chocolat. I soon retired to my hotel room for a few hours of restless half-sleep and unfocused masturbation.

Later that afternoon, I followed two French women, Delphine and Alise, up a small mountain in the middle of Parc des Buttes-Chaumont to a gazebo on which I performed two songs for an Internet show. Afterwards, I made it through two more thoroughly engaging interviews before beginning to wobble. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at a grocery and purchased some brie, a small packet of ham, a baguette and a bottle of Bordeaux. And a chocolate bar. I stumbled into my hotel room, ate and fell asleep.

I awoke at 3:00 AM and finished a wonderful book about the Dutch colonization of Manhattan. At 8:30, I met Raphael in the hotel lobby to go and rehearse with my French band. After a bus ride and an uncomfortably long walk, we reached the studios, where Alex, Nicholas and Franxtois were waiting to get down to business. And they did.

Thus began a brief and beautiful period of nothing and nothing at all and everything, in a way. Well, I was in Paris, attempting to not particularly care about it but knowing that it should and could be significant. The pragmatic working man side of me continued to remind that it was only a job, that I had been before and would be again, but the ninny ninny side that seems to be responsible for most decisions was fully swept away in the dreamy abstract element. I was exhausted, sweetly, removed from the weight of responsibility that comes with being a fully-conscious adult. Nothing really mattered that much, and as such it was easy to execute the ridiculous task of rehearsing a band of strangers for a gig. To sit in a cafe full of people not speaking my language and almost feel, as if by intonation, the string of some sympathetic chord, that I understood everything perfectly. Because I did.

At the gig I felt unencumbered by the usual weight of expectation, shouldering it. Who were these people? They had all showed up to see if anything interesting was going on. I and we did it for them, the uncontested hit of the night. I drank beer and spoke pidgeon French afterward. Later, I was rewarded with a highly unsuccessful car ride back to the hotel by my new friend Fred. He managed to stretch a 10 minute drive into a 45 minute adventure. It was funny.

The next morning I was up at 6:00 to meet Mariette from Minimum, my escort to Inter Radio, the last performance of my trip. Mariette was a wispy thing, a bit of a string bean in American terms but decidedly more elegant, more like the neck of a crystal vase. We took the tube to the center of Paris, then boarded a bus for the rest of the ride. We cruised down the Rue de Rivoli in early Sunday morning overcastness and I laughed because it was the only time on my trip that I had managed to glimpse any of the touristy sites of Paris.

Which made me think of my wife. During our initial courting period, most of which had taken place during a month I spent in England, via the phone and the Internet, I had invited her to meet me in Paris. Just the type of trembling audacity that I would have attempted then, unsure of myself but in my motions, attempting to make things come true. She, in a manner that I have come to love and respect her for, gracefully declined. As the bus wobbled and swerved along the Seine I wondered what might have become of us if she accepted. Three days in Paris, versus a honeymoon in New Orleans. What will ever be said of the thin, gray air beyond the Eiffel Tower and the realm of possibilities.

We arrived at the Inter Radio building in plenty of time. There was an audition for the National Opera, a flurry of Frenchwomen in black gowns tittering up and down the deco-tiled corridors, all warm-up scales and hand gestures. The other musical guest on the show was a teenage harpist who also sang in French, an odd but endearing combination that ended up sounding like something between Sarah McLaughlin and Gillian Welch. I was accompanied by a famous pianist on “Human Nature.” Unfortunately, his accomplished technique was not sufficient to save him from overplaying quite a bit and screwing up the ending.

Afterwards, Raphael’s brother Frederick rushed me to the airport. He spoke little English but drove like a bat out of hell down the motorways in and around Paris, which was awfully fun. I had a layover in Dublin during which I temporarily misplaced my ticket and nearly had to purchase a new one. Upon arrival at JFK I went outside for a cigarette before boarding the Air Train back to Carroll Gardens.

I love that I can go from Paris to within three blocks of my front door without ever asking anyone for anything.

Natalie and I ate something somewhere that night. I can’t remember, and it makes me wonder about how many homecomings and departures that have slipped my mind, and what, if anything, they mean. I have spent so much energy coming and going in a practical and deliberate manner at this point that I cannot be responsible for the delay in emotional registry. I wonder if, as an old man, all of these lost moments will hit me at once and cause a fatal heart attack, the sheer force of a life lived well and obtusely.

The next morning I left again, somewhere around 6:30, to catch a train to Boston, where I was to rejoin the Emerson Hart tour. I took a bus from the South Street station to the PNC pavilion, one of many faceless amphitheaters we would populate on the tour. I arrived several hours before the band’s bus and passed the time in the catering tent, my oversize sunglasses and V-neck sweater drawing a few unwanted stares from the local crew.

That night we played a rather inconsequential performance to a crowd that could not have been woken up with a good dousing of battery acid, let alone some fine pop music. I proceeded to get rather liquored with Whynot, whom I had missed. I recall an altercation with an oversized audience member, the vast grayness of the Boston Harbor fog rolling in, blurring the lines of everything around everything. We stayed at a Doubletree Hotel that night.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this, Logan Airport and a flight I was not excited about getting on. The residual exhaustion had built up to the point of dementia, as I knew it would- none of this particularly grueling itinerary was set up without approval- and I was beyond the point of making sense to myself, although remarkably coherent to other people.

There is not much more to this story than nothing which never really seems to make much difference to anyone about anything.

Categories: JOURNALS

MY LIFE AS A DOG: AUTUMN 2007

2007/11/25 Comments off

This is not where I usually start from. Physically, emotionally. It seems that journaling has always come easiest to me whilst traveling and imbibing, so to address you from the bohemian confines of my home in Brooklyn, sober as a pedophilic priest, seems entirely unnatural.

But somehow appropriate. There has been a whole lot of this fairly sober home-bodying going on in 2007, a year of severe and fantastic fluxuation, full of fraudulent lease schemes and urban tomfoolery. David Mead, Inc., in case you hadn’t noticed, has been in a bit of a holding pattern. I thought I might explain why.

I’m just going to grab a beer first.

This afternoon I went to the pet store to purchase wet and dry dog food. I took the industrial short cut by the peeling factories of the Gowanus Canal, up the little strip where Natalie’s studio is located. The sunlight slanting off the buildings and the cool air, just a hint of moisture to it; Wow, I nearly wept. I love it here, I love it here so much. Most of my previous associations with New York were steeped in the volatile chemical compound known as Manhattan; I did not know that such an idyllic existence as this could exist a mere 20 minute train ride from that volcanic core. But it does, and it does well. We having fishing poles, not to mention a garden that we nurtured from a molding pile of construction rubble to an oasis that Whynot, upon his first visit, nearly mistook for some green-thumb bohemian enclave in New Orleans. This September, I walked outside and picked squishy orange orbs from our peach tree, cut them up, and ate them, right on my oatmeal. One day, the last peach fell to the ground and orgasmically ruptured right before my eyes.

I am not boasting here; I just feel very fortunate and surreal, fortunately surreal, surrealistically fortunate… and I want to share. Shit.

So it has not been quite as easy to hit the road and, um, take a few for the team as it was last year. This shit is expensive. And, truthfully, I am not entirely convinced that my artistic output of 2006, the rather elaborate Tangerine, was made for these times. I ended up working harder on it than anything I’ve ever done, not only running the record label it was released on but also attempting to establish myself as a dependable road act that could show up in any town, kick ass and take names without the slightest regard for the sanctity of the project. Like Gene Hackman in Hoosiers (or The Royal Tenenbaums, for that matter), I was not fully prepared for the enormity of the task.

It was a noble, if slightly misguided, aspiration; but somewhere along the way, cracks began to appear. I have recently begun to think of it as a tempestuous a flagging relationship; things begin hunky dory, but as you progress through life with a person, you inevitably change and morph. Sometimes the other person is into it, sometimes not. I had a grand idea and was hell-bent on making it work. I don’t know when it became apparent that I might have made a premature move, that most people coming to the shows, probably just beginning to get familiar with Indiana, were not particularly interested in calliopes and one-man approximations of prog rock. My spiral went inward, and I began to resent the very people paying to see me perform for not wanting to hear what I wanted to play. My old friend whiskey reappeared, with jaw-dropping consistency. Intimacy can breed as much contempt as good will, when forced.

The music business is a service industry. Someone in my position can kid themselves into believing that the audience has a responsibility to accomodate them, but at the end of the day. the audience is a paying customer, and has no obligation except to demand and receive entertainment. It is a fortunate and rare air to be breathing when an artist can even pretend to be engaging in such a relationship, especially with their own material. An unflagging commitment to a particular piece of work gets you points for respect, but doesn’t mean poop to someone who has showed up to have a particular and particularly different experience.

Back in February, my friend Emerson Hart called to see if I could fill on keyboards and background vocals for a few gigs he had coming up. I did, and enjoyed it quite a bit. We decided to extend the engagement and, as of this writing, I am still in his employ as an ivory tinkler and background vocalist. I could never have predicted that I might be doing this a year ago, but, like a milky German beer waitress, the opportunity presented itself, and I am very happy to have taken it. A lot of the gigs this year were radio shows. Going into the belly of the beast that is commercial radio can be a harrowing experience, one that I had encountered on promotional runs for my first album but not very much since. I am continually amazed at how much the business has changed, even since then. The goals of the individuals who work at these stations have very little if anything to do with ‘breaking’ music; they are generally under very stressful mandates from the corporate powers-that-be to produce high ratings, win market shares and, by doing so, sway advertisers to their bandwidth. To go into their offices and actually play good music for them seemed surprisingly novel; apparently, most artists don’t do that sort of thing very much anymore.

More importantly, I have learned a lot from watching Emerson do the work. This is the kind of thing that involves shaking a lot of hands and laughing at many bad jokes. In my sorry attempts at it circa “World Of A King,” I struggled with feelings of humiliation and futility, absolutely convinced that I was soiling the lily white underwear of my artistic integrity with every disingenuous handshake. Emerson, however, has an uncanny ability to remove his ego from the situation and communicate with people on their level. It is a skill I admire but have realized, once and for all, that I do not possess, at least on the level required to propel a single into the Top 20 of a radio chart (as Emerson has). I have enjoyed the comparably luxurious experience of watching from the wings while sharpening my skills on the keyboard.

And I get paid. It would be irresponsible to not mention that the fiduciary incentives of a salaried gig are quite helpful with supporting a New York lifestyle. Reflecting on my income stream over the past three years is precarious work. Truthfully, I am not quite sure how I have managed. Truthfully, I have not always managed. This fact was brought into sharp relief at the beginning of the year when Natalie and I were forced to drain most of the surplus accrued from the sale of our house in Nashville in order to pay for the inadequacies of our bastard landlord. I think I made around $4,000.00 dollars in the first four months of 2007. We were saved by Natalie’s burgeoning business, but the Wall Street Journal profile I was counting on never came through. It was time to ante up and pay the piper.

That said, I am incredibly thankful to still be making a living playing music at all. In addition, I continue to write for Paste and American Songwriter magazines. This, while not exactly a financial boon, offers an outlet for heretofore superfluous skills that would otherwise be going to waste. (Side note: The November issue of Paste contains a fairly substantial article of mine in the Scrapbook section. I am pretty happy with it.) I also receive a lot of excellent new music for free.

Which, in a roundabout way, has begun to finally stoke the fires towards the completion of a new project. Right now, the opus in the works is a double album of sorts, not in the classical sense of a fold-out vinyl product but at least two albums worth of material. One will be quiet and one will be loud; all of the songs on one album will answer those on the other to some degree. (At this point, I am assuming that Liz Phair will probably not be completing the song-for-song ‘response’ album to Mine and Yours that she promised me back in 2000, so I had better get something cooking on my own.)

I am scheduled to be landing back in Brooklyn smack in the middle of December, at which point I shall commence putting my nose to the grindstone on the music while ignoring the holidays completely. Thankfully, the anonymous nature of New York City generally allows for this sort of thing to occur without too much recrimination or guilt regarding whatever fleeting moments of happiness might have been missed. And since 2007 brought about the end of my casual acknowledgement of divine offspring (of divinity in any form, actually) and a serious fucking dearth of excess resources to be spent on gifts, the boycott seems appropriate. For once, I am not even considering running off to Belize and the comfort of tanned hides and large insects. It’s Brooklyn for me, baby: Brooklyn, you sultry bitch, you brownstone Bonita, you nougahyde tar pit. My kingdom come, my will be done, on earth in a tub of resin.

Categories: JOURNALS

DES MOINES, PARTY OF ONE

2007/06/08 Comments off

I have no good explanation for being awake at this hour. There was a business engagement this evening in Des Moines, Iowa, an unheralded city of greatness that was all too happy to accept and treasure the offerings of myself and my comrades. Upon returning to my hotel room I commenced to drinking three Heineken beers which, set against the adrenaline of the aforementioned engagement, failed to make a dent. By the time the consumption and its requisite internet trawling were complete, the clock read 1:27 AM. Knowing that a wake up call for my morning flight would be tinkling the digital ivories of my phone in two and a half hours, I decided to stick it out, to pull the ‘all-nighter.’

Which leaves me here, falling asleep in a chair, finishing off a tiny pot of hotel room coffee, the effects of which are tingling in my nostrils, not unlike a bad line of cocaine. Fuck it. But I do not have the strength to raise that particular fist in the air anymore, Martha. I feel the heat of exhaustion delayed rising out of my skin like a feverish fever, the withering realization that I will probably forget to pack the belt that is currently tourniqueting a wet wash rag around the smoke detector, less my conservative right wing donor hosts at the Marriot discover, by way of a building wide fire alarm, that I have been clandestinely flaunting their ‘no smoking’ policy in the comfort of my pre-purchased hideaway.

The upright phallic might of Midwestern cities, the brunt of it all. This morning’s flight between Des Moines and Minneapolis will be executed aboard the smallest plane I have ever flown on. I landed here 18 hours ago, I know. And in spite of an impressive number of frequent flyer miles logged over the past eight years, I will tell you, my hand on Gideon’s Bible, that I thought I might throw up. As in ‘puke in a bag.’

Tomorrow, my wife will look upon me with consternation and pity as I describe the mangled underbelly of this stupid decision. She will trace the dynamics of the story with her kind eyes, understanding the musical that I am auditioning for but having little desire to see it again. We have had this conversation before.

2:45. I can feel the rhythm of my thoughts and prose becoming fairly predictable at this point. Normally, I would stop, give it all up to another night that I have written about several times in other, more melodically sympathetic contexts.

Blogging is so stupid. Really. You would think that the opportunities afforded me in the realm of public display might have cleansed the need for this sort of thing from my system by now. Apparently not.

When I was 16, I worked at a Champ’s Sporting Goods store at the Green Hills Mall in Nashville. I had a very kind manager named Brian, he was from Detroit. He used to talk about pulling all-nighters in the store, rearranging stock and racks of sport clothing. I think he did not ever invite me, probably because of my age. Perhaps these nights were just excuses to get the female employees drunk enough to fornicate on boxes of Reeboks. Probably not, but the mind does wander.

My father celebrated his 65th birthday today. Because of various distractions I was unable to call him before his bed time. He is on a cruise of the Eastern Atlantic Seaboard with his wife, and I don’t know if his phone works, anyway. Here is a snippet from his last maritime report, dated yesterday, I believe:

“Ahoy Maties!
Wow! I wish you could all be sitting here with me this very moment! I am sitting here at the computer looking out on the harbor of St. Michaels, a quaint little village on the upper Chesapeake Bay. The sun is just beginning to rise. There are beautiful sail boats and fishing boats in the harbor, set against a tree lined shore with houses that were built probably 150 – 200 years ago! St. Michaels was settled sometime in the late 1600s. Can you imagine! The village main street through town is probably about two miles long and filled with quaint little stores. And these are not little tourist towns. They are “working” villages of trade as well as summer homes. We were told Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfield both own homes here. We are hoping to run into them today at the coffee shop (Vicki promised to be nice to them). One of the benefits of this ship is that its size allows it to pull into small ports like this that larger ships cannot fit into. That has been the case at Oxford, Cambridge, Tangier, Williamsburg – all small towns on the bay. They have all been small villages not hardly big enough to be on the map, yet so incredibly rich with history from the earliest days of our country. We spent the whole day in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia Tuesday. We toured the British governors mansion, walked through houses built in the early 1700s, took a carriage ride – just a beautiful day. Yesterday we spent the whole day sailing north up the Chesapeake. This bay is so huge, we often could not see any land. We spent yesterday afternoon flying kites on the upper deck as we sailed to St. Michaels. Lunch on board was my first experience shelling and eating (a little) of these four little crabs who sat on my plate staring at me. Not my favorite meal, but a new experience. The food continues to be awesome. So all is continuing to go great. We are having a wonderful time – full of food and activity, but restful as well. We are here the rest of the day, and sail tonight for Annapolis, then back into Baltimore tomorrow night. We depart the ship early Saturday morning and should be back in Nashville Saturday afternoon. We will be ready for that too. Look forward to seeing everyone and sharing the pictures and memories. Love to all. “

Last year he came out on tour with me in the Midwest. Oddly enough, we had a day off in Des Moines. I recall him being just as excited about it as he sounds regarding his current surroundings. He is an optimist. At meals, sometimes on he and his wife’s beautiful screened-in porch in Nashville, we tend to steer the conversation towards emotional, as opposed to political, content. Happy Birthday, Pop.

3:05. Now that I have pimped out my father’s semi-personal correspondence for public consumption, I see few honorable options left for this missive. Today I return to NYC to work with my friend Andrew on the music for a major coffee manufacturer’s commercial. They have a new slogan that I am not allowed to reveal. I cannot remember it at the moment, anyway. I think that Natalie and I have some sort of engagement for the evening, the details of which have also slipped my mind. Along with the rest of the universe, I am pretty revved up about the Sopranos finale Sunday night. There is an Italian party at Will’s house to celebrate, the details of which I must remember to impart to my wife.

3:07. Am copying and pasting this to the word processor to check for egregious spelling errors.

3:08. Allright, 100%, except for the usual conflicts regarding proper nouns and machinery.

I shall face down the rest of this morning alone. The sun rises early over these flat plains, anyway; I am reminded of certain Scandanavian adventures of years past. I suppose a shower and a good cleaning of this room are in order. Further inspection reveals that I have yet to unpack.

Thank you for all the kind comments regarding my facial hair. I suppose that it is a right of passage most males have to traverse at some point in their lives. I am in Viking territory, after all.

Categories: JOURNALS

ON BROOKLYN AND OTHER MALFUNCTIONS

2007/05/31 Comments off

On January 2nd, after nearly a year of apartment hunting, yard sales and going away celebrations, Natalie and I packed up what was left of our belongings and hit the road to Brooklyn. Our destination: a newly-renovated two bedroom garden apartment a stone’s throw away from the toxic shores of the Gowanus Canal. Mojo was working, spirits were high. The intoxicating realization of a long-held conjugal dream tingled on our lips as the cities of our youth passed behind us like whispers, Nashville, Knoxville, Bristol…

From my princely perch in a 17 foot U-Haul truck, I was reveling in the spread of late afternoon Winter sunlight across I-81 when my cellular phone began vibrating in the cup holder. The Hispanic contractor in Brooklyn was jabbering something resembling ‘no power is on’ and ‘can do no construction.’ Shaking my head, I tossed my cigarette, rolled up the window and asked him to repeat. Yes, he confirmed, there was no power in our apartment and therefore no construction had been completed. All 800 square feet were in the same miserable shape as on our first visit. Dropping the phone into the drink holder, I looked across the cab and registered the baleful look on Stan’s face, then confirmed my own in the sideview mirror.

Ah, the bleak dawn of homelessness. Upon arrival, we unpacked the contents of Natalie’s studio, parked the truck in the loading area of her building and called the landlord for the 81st time. No luck reaching him, as there would not be for the next week and a half, a good portion of which we and both dogs spent stuffed into a hotel room on 4th Ave., a notorious armpit of Brooklyn. On a trip to retrieve some much-needed items from the truck, Natalie noticed a massive ad on the back of the U-Haul that offered a month of free storage with any one-way rental. We both took a long breath and decided to lay down our first roots. I turned the truck in and hastily filled a storage unit to the brim with our belongings.

We spent most of these first days fairly confused, scrambling. Fortunately, Natalie had a huge ilustration project involving some Canadians that required her attention at the studio. I attempted to calm myself by walking the dogs to Prospect Park every morning, contacting real estate attorneys, falling behind on deadlines and generally acting as if I would know what to do in the event that the wayward landlord attempted to run off with our rather massive deposit.

Soon our friend Teddy Goldstein called with a lead on a sublet apartment that would accept two dogs. We packed up our suitcases and headed to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. It was a blurry week, punctuated only by a phone call to our landlord that was, by some freak of nature, answered. He did a sorry job of explaining himself but eventually made it known that the electricity was not on because the city had yet to inspect some newly repaired flood damage. This revelation was helpful, albeit a month late. At least we had a crumb to scramble after. Our money was safe, our apartment would be finished… someday.

A few days later we repacked the Honda and headed across the East River to 35 E. 30th St. #4D, a studio apartment owned by Jeff Hill and his girlfriend Zelena, who kindly delayed imminent renovations and allowed us to shack up therein. Murray Hill was a bit of a cold slap after the rather genteel wide streets and brownstones of Carroll Gardens. The apartment was awfully cute, about 200 square feet furnished with a very cool and small fold-down couch. Minimal, but we were very thankful to still be in the game by this point and counted our blessings accordingly.

The dogs and I felt the sting of the first bitter temperatures of Winter every morning on our walks to the Madison Square Park dog run. After a few days I grew used to and fond of parting the waves of morning commuters, stopping at the Halal truck for coffee and shivering through a couple of cigarettes with the other dog owners at the park. Many years ago I made snide remark in a blog about the absurdity of dog runs and, by default, the entire concept of keeping a dog in New York. And now here I was, on the inside, living the life. Shit.

The following week I cobbled a home studio together by hauling my keyboard out of storage and borrowing assorted gear from my friends. I had demos to do and nowhere to go. I set up the gear in the apartment and got to work on headphones, drawing little inspiration from the pristine view of the brick wall and fire escape opposite our window. Natalie faced her daily commute to Gowanus with aplomb. Life began to take on a very subtle and fragmented rhythm.

We began to feel like 21st century pioneers forging ahead towards brighter futures, forsaking television, the internet and vegetables. Every night we unfolded the couch, stretched the sheets and comforter over it and burrowed underneath. After we fell asleep Stan, then Hazel, would abandon their beds and invade our cottony coccoon, making their own temporary shelters against the city amongst tangled legs and sheets.

My friend Andrew Sherman soon offered us the use of his new apartment, one he had not moved into yet because of unexpected delays in the closing process on his old one. We loaded up the CRV and headed back across the river to Williamsburg, one of Brooklyn’s most humble and horribly overrated neighborhoods.

Andrew’s loft turned out to be a lovely space with exposed brick and huge windows overlooking overpriced tenements and swirling garbage of Hipsterville. It was empty except for a borrowed air mattress, which we set about pumping up and dressing with more sheets and blankets. (Actually, Natalie did, as I was away in New Jersey playing my inaugural solo gig of 2007 on the night of our occupation.)

Around this time I started a band called Cover Boy with Ethan, Jeff and Andrew. We all picked three songs apiece to play. The weekend before our first and last show at The Bitter End we had a very nice rehearsal at Jeff’s other residence in Connecticut. There was snow, thrilling and rare in a such a strange and shifting climate. Midnight found me on a very cold and powdery tobaggan run down a hill and across a moonlit meadow that recalled Norman Rockwell and the Pilgrims.

Back in Brooklyn, the struggle continued. We stayed at Andrew’s for over two weeks, well into February, before having to vacate and take up residence in yet another sublet in Park Slope. His was the last in a long series of fortunate hospitalities that marked our long and sometimes miserable path to 3rd St., hand-carved signs on a tangled wilderness trail.

Truthfully, I am absolutely sick of recounting this sordid tale and would prefer to focus on what promises to be an exciting domestic future. We have had an abundance of support and good wishes poured out to us throughout the entire ordeal, all of which have been worth the required and repeated conveyance of these and further details, but I cannot pretend to have the stomach to toss all of it out one more time in anything resembling readable prose. The lines of it have blurred into a comfortably impressionistic water colored memory sure to be laughed about in the coming years. But for now, I think I shall lay it to rest.

Suffice to say that we are now living in our intended residence, busily unpacking boxes and installing the numerous accoutrements of apartment life. I am happy with the way our apartment turned out. It has merit and punch, and we have earned it. The egregious breaches of contract put upon us have not diminished our overall excitement for being back in this wonderful city. Brooklyn has already provided many a perfect Winter sunset and warm, fire-lit evenings of conversation and brio in a variety of wooden drinking establishments. Every day I awake with a new, higher-octane approach to existing that I can only compare to my last residency in New York and a younger age at which I took the spring in my step far too lightly. I wonder how long we will stay here, fighting off middle age with everything we are worth. The city is our ammunition, every step I take infuses me with a leaden will to slow down time, to absorb detail, to look around. “Consider the lilies of the goddamn fields,” goes the line from an excellent movie. I do, I will, I am.

Categories: JOURNALS

DAVID MEAD TALKS TANGERINE

2006/06/03 Comments off

This interview finds our hero in the middle of the Tangerine tour in a jazz bar at a beautiful hotel in Vienna, VA.


Let’s start off with the new label, Tallulah. How did that get started?

Well, it came about out of necessity and luck because we finished Tangerine in May of 2005. We kind of decided on six labels that we wanted to take it to – and out of those, about two made an offer and they sucked so I just didn’t want to do it. You know, after the Nettwerk thing happened, it was like – under what circumstances am I possibly going to sign away ownership of the masters of another record? I just wasn’t sure what to do. About that time, we got a call from a guy named Bob Nichols in Jacksonville, Florida who had found me on iTunes. He had been out to a couple of shows and he wanted to organize a show in Jacksonville. In doing that, he asked if I ever needed some investment in my career – which I did. I really had no idea if this guy just wanted to get me five grand to do something with… I had no idea. What I needed was a structure and a budget basically to promote the record, and that is not cheap to do properly – it’s not astronomically expensive but you have to have somebody around who has a little bit of capital. So we put together a budget and presented it to him and he said “yeah, absolutely, that was what I was expecting” – which we couldn’t believe. That was the why and the how. From there, it’s just been a process of developing different relationships in terms of the general day to day mechanics of what you do to promote a record, hiring people and fortunately not firing anyone yet.

Aside from “Fighting For Your Life” which I know dates back to when I first saw you play it live in November of 2001, are all of the songs relatively recent?

It probably would have been written between Indiana and when we started recording this. I’m trying to think through that because I know I’ve screwed this up in interviews before… I know “Sugar On The Knees” was written when the record was almost done.

“Fighting For Your Life” hung around for a long time, why record it now? Did you rediscover it after all these years or did it kind of hang around?

I think it got kicked out before because there was an aspect of it that seemed a little too broadway, and this was the first record I’ve had where I was able to say “fuck it, who cares it it’s broadway?” – do it if it sounds good. I also got hung up on that original chorus, I didn’t like that but I just kept messing around with it and got it to a place where I liked it. I honestly can’t remember if it hung around all that time.

How did the arrangements on Tangerine differ from your original vision? How much did Brad Jones’ production have to do with the final product?

The arrangements on Tangerine were partially me – I think I had a lot of ideas that I normally don’t go after. It was also in response to Indiana being such a restrained record. Also, I met the perfect guy to work it out with – Brad Jones can play every Beatles song there’s ever been on three different instruments or he can play Rachmaninov on the piano. Not only that – he thinks orchestrally and he understands a ton of different instruments and what kind of tambre they have and where they would fit in well. He wasn’t afraid to try anything. I couldn’t really break it down on percentages but the timing worked out really really good in terms of me just wanting to try something and him being the right guy to try it with. And so on and so forth.

Can you give me an example of a song that strayed really far from your original vision and perhaps one that maybe didn’t stray at all?

I think “Fighting For Your Life” went closest to plan, definitely. “Hallelujah, I Was Wrong” was very different. It had an intro that still exists, a verse, a pre-chorus, a chorus. It repeated that again and then it had a bridge and a chorus – which is very similar to how a million of my songs have been. We started with the chorus, which was my favorite part of the song. Straight into the pre-chorus – the verse is now what the pre-chorus was; then the chorus straight to the bridge – then back to the chorus again. It wasn’t that funky in the beginning, it was more like The Strokes or something.

Any unreleased tracks from the sessions?

No! We recorded twelve songs for the record, it was very scripted out – it kind of had to be for the kind of record that it was and the kind of budget we had… which was no budget at the time. My dad lent me five grand to get it going and to show some sort of good faith payment. And in the end, to Alex the Great Studios and Brad – I mean those guys didn’t get paid for eight or nine months, so they were incredibly patient.

Tell me about the ukelele.

I had just done this record before the Wherever You Are tour, and I got so into the ukelele on the record that I wanted to have one out. I’m always looking for a way to keep the solo shows interesting for me and the audience. It wasn’t appropriate to that record at all… (laughs) It was the last thing that made sense to tour that record with – a ukelele…

Would you be willing to give us any track by track anecdotes?

Yeah, sure!.

“Tangerine” – when did the idea to create an overture come in, was that there from the beginning?

That was actually about three quarters of the way through.

“Hard To Remember” seems like it could be written about a fan.

It’s pretty autobiographical actually… that’s interesting. That’s a good point. I have always curiously wondered about that – if one of my setbacks might actually be my name, the fact that my name isn’t like Albert Hammond Jr. or Julian Casablancas. I always talk about those guys because The Strokes have the greatest rock names of any band to come down the pipe in the last twenty years. Maybe someone in an African country would think that David Mead was an exotic name – but to me, it’s just so straight up Northern European descent, like it could be anybody’s name. It’s really more addressed to a lover but it’s also kind of addressed to an audience too.

“The Trouble With Henry”.

It’s kind of an empathy with someone who was a friend of mine who had a drug problem that just wouldn’t quit. I mean, the lengths he would go to to provide for that and how much he turned his back on everything else in his life was remarkable. I can’t really pass judgement on the guy because there’s a part of me that if certain key things hadn’t happened at certain times in my life, I would be in the jazz bar every night, so to speak. I have no solutions for someone’s problems like that, it just sucks. I certainly don’t have a thorough understanding of addiction. It’s about that struggle – on one hand, how could you possibly let yourself go to this point – but at the same time I have moments where I will sacrifice, on a smaller level, things to get my game on too.

“Chatterbox”.

As I’ve said during shows, it’s about Natalie but it’s also about other women I’ve been with. It’s about women in a lot of ways actually – it’s like that great Chris Rock piece where he says “let me tell you about relationships – men, ya’ll gotta learn to listen; women, ya’ll gotta learn to shut the fuck up”, you know what I mean? That’s such a massive difference between men and women. It’s obviously talking about this girl that talks all the time, but the plea in the chorus is “don’t stop, I actually love it when you talk all the time.” It’s not a particularly deep number.

Why is the title of the next track “Reminded #1″? Is there a number two?

I wrote another song called “Reminded” that I was trying to get Gretchen Wilson to do. It was written around the same period but it’s a completely different song. That’s all there is behind that. (laughs)

“Hunting Season”.

Going back to the marital theme of the record, all of the songs have a certain tie to a marriage, not necessarily mine. That song is the true story of some friends – I’m friends with the former wife anyway. To me, it’s all about the lines “he had enough of being loved / the crooked rain and rolling thunder / says it’s nice in Spain this summer”. You know, it’s not particularly easy to be loved, and it’s not easy to love someone either, and that really comes to the forefront when you’re married. More for me now than when I was just in relationships with people and that’s what I really wanted to illustrate. I like the whole thing about guns and hunting season because that brings out some intense shit in people. Having known these people as a couple, I don’t really know what that woman could have done differently, she did all she could – and the guy just couldn’t stick. If I were in that situation – and maybe I have been before… I don’t know, I don’t want to push the violence metaphor too far. It’s tongue in cheek in a way – like “if somebody can’t deal with that, take ‘em out!” (laughs) I don’t know, that’s really up to the imagination.

“Fighting For Your Life” – and can you also touch on how the lyrics changed from the original version?

I don’t know if I can, because I don’t remember all of those lyrics.

I thought there was a different slant, drug related.

There was a line about drugs in there, but I thought it was fairly similar. I think it just might be a slightly more adult version of the song. The object is not as particularly shallow as the last person was. Other than that, it was just changing the direction – it seemed more honest to be directed at a person as opposed to a story I was telling you about somebody else. It seemed a little martyrish the other way.

“Sugar On The Knees”.

That’s another situation that I observed. I think everybody’s life has reoccuring themes and a lot of those themes are not particularly healthy. In spite of being not healthy and painful, I think as human beings we’re conditioned to kind of go back to them and repeat them because it’s what we know from our childhood and we’re comfortable with it, right? So the song addresses incest, actually. It’s just two different portraits and it’s pretty simple in its structure. It throws out a scene early on of a child and then it takes her to her wedding day – and there’s a common theme between this person who abused her when she was young and her husband that just pops out all of a sudden. “I see it coming ’round again.” It’s probably the extreme of what I’m talking about. It’s probably my least favorite one to divulge that information about because it’s my favorite lyric on the whole record… I sound like I’m patting myself on the back, I guess I am – I feel like I got it right on that one, and between the music, melody and lyrics there’s a lot of space there for people to make their own assumptions. I have people close to me who think it’s something about babies and that’s fine in a way.

“Hallelujah, I Was Wrong”.

Um… broke, workin’ it out, trying to find the beauty in the details instead of worrying about the big picture, basically.

“Suddenly, A Summer Night”.

It’s about falling back into it with an ex, how the possibility of a quick thrill linked to nostalgia can get your motor going in spite of the reality of a past situation.

“Making It Up Again”.

Broke, workin’ it out, trying to find the beauty in the details… ha! The first refrain is about touring, and the “freedom” line is about how people think it’s freedom but the rest of the song is about being broke, basically. It’s a poor shot at irony… this is actually a job, it’s not really sexy. But this is pretty sexy, sitting in a jazz bar at a nice hotel, drinking and getting interviewed – this is how I always hoped it would work out.

“Choosing Teams”.

That’s a reoccuring dream of mine – I still have those high school dreams. It’s probably more about elementary school than high school. It’s that sense of… I wonder if it ever goes away – I’m surprised that I’m 32 years old and that idea of “am I included in this group or not?” For me, that’s several things. Do I fit into a certain eschelon of artists that I would like to be a part of? As a couple, do Natalie and I fit into a version of how it’s supposed to be going when you’re married? At the end of the day, all you can really do is make your own way and make your version of both of those situations because that’s what makes them good. It’s not that gratifying to follow someone else’s model essentially.

Categories: INTERVIEWS

THE MIASMA, Part 1

2006/02/25 Comments off

Hunkered down in a diner in Omaha, at one of the last smoking tables left in North America, Matthew Ryan pined out the window, the gray Sunday Nebraskan Winter light defeating him. Sucking on a Winston Light, deep in the 49th minute of waiting on another sub-par meal, he thought about the meaning of life, the inevitability of death, the sudden disappearance of green gingham three quarters of the way through the previous century.

Brian Bequette, a long-suffering and long-limbed guitarist, was not so easily swayed. “Is that too big?” their friend asked him.
“No, that’s not too big,” he replied.

36 feet away from the table an ungainly portion of home fries plopped onto a hot griddle and began screaming the sizzling shrieks of all frozen vegetables set to fire. As coals of coagulated pork gristle began violating its porous innards, a brief and inconsequential life flashed before its starchy pupils: the soft warm earth, Idaho, emerging, the shame of being picked, sheared, tossed into a burlap bag, the throwing, the kicking, the cold blades of the shredder, the loneliness of the freezer, momentary hope in a soft, warm Mexican hand, and now… absolute and utter pain. It would all be over soon.

Lupe Gonzalez had never intended to end up in Omaha. Nebraska was cold, flat and hopelessly landlocked and absolutely nothing like his home state of Oaxaca. But there had been a truck, 27 other sweaty, terrified amber faces not unlike his own, there had been a girl, there had been one night in a dirty sleeping bag in the desert spent waiting, wondering, holding onto each other for dear life, there had been the girl’s father, there had been his threat of bodily harm if he didn’t make it farther North by the time the baby was born, there had been 14 people living in a two bedroom rat hole for ten months now, there had been children, one of them his own, eating, stinking, screaming, killing him; there had been stretch marks mapping fat expanding on a diet of horrible American packaged food, there had been, there had been Oaxaca, and now there was… Omaha.
Lupe let the hash browns slide down the grease of his spatula and onto an chipped oval plate. As if on cue, two slices of wheat toast leapt out of the grimy toaster to his right. The wobbling egg yolks were already starting to regain their vaginal film as he slid the whole production down the stainless steel countertop towards a gargantuan woman in a stained apron who was chewing her nails and staring at cracks in the linoleum floor.
He snatched the last green ticket off the rotating rack in front of him and promptly impaled it on a steel spike containing 113 identical tickets. After washing his hands he shuffled out to the dining room and the milkshake machine behind the counter. Before he could began mixing his favorite concoction, a chocolate/strawberry/cinnamon combination that still seemed to raise the hackles of his coworkers, he noticed the three men at the corner table by the front window. The one smoking bore a striking resemblance to John Kennedy, the famous American president in the wrinkled magazine picture his mother had taped above the kitchen table of his childhood. Another one, a huge one, was also lighting a cigarette, his massive cranium tipped at an unnecessary angle to touch a cigarette to the flame from a silver lighter. Lupe had seen pictures of the man before, of course; he regularly performed huge concerts in Mexico City and Rio De Janeiro with his rock and roll band, U2. And he always wore the hat, just like now, only he could not possibly be so big, because even back in Oaxaca everyone knew that the Irish were even shorter than Mexicans. But there he was, and next to him sat the American television talk show host, Conan O’Brien, slicing into the very eggs and potatoes Lupe had just prepared, looking not nearly as funny as he did on television.
Lupe looked around the restaurant and was shocked to see that none of the other customers or employees seemed to be noticing the great men. His hands shook slightly as he mixed the powder, milk and ice cream together. He continued to steal glances over at the table and around the room, waiting for something to change, for someone to yell, for some kind of event to take place. But the three men continued smoking unmolested, unnoticed, as if they were not even there, no different than he. Si, that was Omaha. No one knew nothing.
Dropping wrinkled bills onto the green gingham table, the three great men ground their cigarettes into an ashtray and rose from their chairs in the corner. Lupe Gonzalez rang his milkshake into the cash register, deducted his 50mployee discount and quickly snatched all of the bills from the twenties compartment in the drawer.

At least the drive today was a short one. Their friend had always assumed that some nasty animosity existed between Omaha and Kansas City, but their friend was always assuming something both melodramatic and fatal. He stared at the back of Matthew Ryan’s conifered head poking above the velour driver’s seat, its hair sprouting hundreds of brittle, spiky jazz dancers, far too enthusiastic for this time of day. Brian Bequette, compressed into a front seat designed by Asians not sensitive to the requirements of a 6’5″ frame, tapped away at a laptop computer and lost hundreds of dollars in a virtual poker game that did not exist.
Their friend turned to stare out the salt-splattered window for the 92nd time that day and noticed what he immediately identified as a dark-skinned South American wearing checkered pants in a rusty Toyota pickup truck beside them. He was sure he had already seen the same truck at least once today, but on another Interstate, somewhere else, locked in mortal highway combat that did not exist. Such was the nature of the transient life, their friend sighed to himself in the back seat. Serpentine visions of lives ending and beginning, the sticky stink of another city’s cigarettes and beer, the disjointed merging of lost highways blurring together like the details of a cryptic conspiracy theory. Jambalaya vortex, the passion of pain.

With the exception of a mandatory minimum wage, the only thing Lupe Gonzalez really loved about America was its amazing Interstate Highways. On some nights, after finishing his late shift at the diner, he would take his goddamn father-in-law’s truck out onto Omaha’s multitude of interchanges and exit ramps, heading nowhere, arriving nowhere, purely focused on the gravitational orgasm of a vehicle straining against the well-paved parabolas of freedom.
He had passed the last hour and a half massaging several different theories that might explain the confederation of great men traveling together in the Mazda SUV ahead of him. He had settled on the probability of some kind of International Goodwill Mission, and the fact that they were traveling South from Omaha could only mean that the two Americanos and the huge Mick were headed to Mexico. Lupe had hatched a plan, one that would benefit both he and the Goodwill Ambassadors: He would introduce himself at their next stop and offer his services as a Citizen Liaison between them and the Mexican government. This would serve the dual purpose of providing the Ambassadors with a native translator and mascot and giving Lupe a hero’s welcome back to Oaxaca. Arribe, you crazy bastards, he muttered to himself as the muffler on the Toyota backfired for the 235th time that day.

Troost Street was the racial dividing line of Kansas City, a longitudinal demilitarized zone littered with garbage and the kinds of businesses that thrive on a certain lack of affection. Mike’s Tavern was one of these, a crap-ass-shit-dive bar that might have been trying to cash in on the recent youth craving for all things crap-ass-shit-dive, had trying not inevitably seemed like trying, a most un-hip thing to be caught doing. And so the bar stood alone, and lonely sentinel, a runaway teenager in a ripped long-sleeved t-shirt, freezing, washed up penniless on the last shore of Middle America.
It was all the same to Matthew Ryan, and he, being a man accustomed to adversity, decided to breathe in deeply and give the old joint a chance. In his mind, anyway.
Brian Bequette. “Look, I know it’s not cool to say this, but, you know, they do kind of all look the same, or, at least, like, similar. I think you might be freaking, dude.”
Their friend. “Absolutely not. Guatemalans have a distinct facial structure that goes all the way back to their Incan origins. That’s the same motherfucker I saw in Omaha, the same guy I saw on I-29. Look at his pants!”
Matthew Ryan observed the checkered trousers of the slight, quite obviously Mexican man shivering against the purple cinderblock wall of the gas station across the street. What their friend in the back seat had against a run-of-the-mill hustler looking for a John on a Sunday afternoon, he could not figure out. His car, however, was quickly filling up with the smoke and brio of the three men sitting inside it, making it hard to breathe. It was simply too cold to open the windows and too warm to give another pep talk.
Two hours later they were all seated at the bar inside. The time of their appointment with the sound engineer had come and gone an hour before, leaving them with a curious sensation of being ignored but not necessarily forgotten. The tardiness of individuals associated with the music business was a conundrum barely worth discussing, hardly worth raising your brow about, less likely to inspire anything more stimulating than the aftertaste of sugarless chewing gum. More specifically, the eternal infamy of sound guys holding up musicians was a particularly meaningless achievement. To wit: The exercise of people who don’t give a shit blowing off people that don’t give a shit usually canceled itself out by the time last call came around every night in every bar across the universe.
Matthew Ryan concentrated on the board of an electronic trivia machine, disturbed by how much he actually knew and the amount of pain it caused him on an hourly basis. Brian Bequette sipped on a Coke while trying to coax his laptop computer into finding the wireless internet signal that, inexplicably, floated above, around and, probably, inside of him. The big fellow had entered into the hibernation period of his day, those precious hours in which he compacted his second, third and fourth vertebrae into an abbreviated version of his spinal column. He suddenly resembled a man three-quarters his size, his head nearly retracted into his shoulders. This motion had two thrilling outcomes, one being the gradual stimulation of his cerebellum, that most impulsive and reptilian chunk of the human brain, and the pleasant semi-hallucinatory dream state it eventually produced. The other effect, one that Brian Bequette was not aware of, was the arresting likeness of a popular hunchbacked character from a well-liked movie and musical. This had never been brought to his attention by Matthew Ryan, who, secretly and most definitely on his own time, enjoyed a good musical, especially the ones featuring a young Raul Julia.

Lupe Gonzalez had found the back door to Mike’s Tavern unlocked and vomit-stained. In the galley of a fluorescent kitchen even dirtier than the one he had been working in six hours ago, back in another lifetime, he hesitated, suddenly unsure about the overall quality of the plan he had previously constructed. The Ambassadors had now been in the cantina for quite awhile. What if they were not in the mood to be approached? Americans could be very moody, touchy, and the massive Irishman was surely drunk as bandolier by now.
Lupe had initially been confused by the musical instruments that the three of them carried into the bar, but had eventually reassured himself that the world famous musician must travel with multiple guitars as a matter of course. The ginger-haired talk show host did not look any funnier carrying an amplifier than he did eating runny eggs, but the manual labor seemed to come naturally enough to him. The question remained, however, as to why a former President of the United States was carrying anything. Unless the instrument case contained important documents or, perhaps, a weapon. When Lupe accompanied them to Mexico these would be his jobs, to carry the President’s guns, to pour the Irish rock star’s liquor.
He crept out out of the kitchen and peered around a flimsy partition wall that shielded patrons from the disgusting origins of their meals. He was surprised to find all three of the Ambassadors slumped at the bar in various positions of what appeared to be consummate boredom, the kind that Lupe had not had the luxury of experiencing since he and his future wife’s terrifying connubial interlude in the desert less than a year ago.
The President and the Irishman appeared to be consulting computers of various sizes. The talk show host was attempting to get the attention of a bar maid with the most perfectly shaped pair of kahunas Lupe had set eyes on in a long time, possibly not since his days as a seller of cheap souvenirs to German tourists on the beaches of the Pacific Mexico. The bar maid seemed to be ignoring the jerky waves of the bouffanted television star. This seemed to Lupe to be slightly inhumane treatment, as it was overwhelmingly apparent that the beleaguered comedian desperately needed something to make him funny again. Then, possibly by accident but perhaps by fate, the glassy eyes of the late night humorist settled on Lupe’s, and his life changed forever.

“Shit! Shit! I told you!” Their friend was suddenly standing on the rungs of his bar chair and pointing towards the back of the bar. “The Guatemalan!”
The other two musicians and an exceptionally well-endowed bar maid all turned at once to see a slight figure emerging into the smoky miasma of a perplexing situation. Wide-eyed and shivering, the almond man in checkered pants and a flannel shirt two sizes too large for him shuffled across the sticky concrete floor and stood before them.
“Jesus, man, calm down, guy just wants a beer,” said Brian Bequette.
“No, man. This is the guy I was talking about. He’s been following us since Omaha. Maybe Chicago, for all I know. Why don’t you bastards ever listen to me?”
“Woah, woah. Hang on, fellas,” reasoned Matthew Ryan. “It’s the sound guy!” He hesitated, slightly confused by the optimism in his voice and the sudden recollection of the hustler by the gas station. “Wait, wait… are you the sound guy or what? Where have you been?”
“He’s not the sound guy, he’s some kind of immigrant stalker. He drives a red Toyota pickup. He…”
“Man, shut the fuck up,” said Brian Bequette. Rising back to his full height, vertebrae grumpily crackling back into position, he turned to address the barmaid and her mountainous assets. “So, is this the sound guy or what?”

Back in Omaha, the tiny, tragic screams of another heap of shredded potatoes dying on the griddle pierced a steamy, miniature night. Jorge, the brother or cousin or whatever of the morning guy who jacked the cash register and stole a truck, watched the sad white strands of vegetation grow brown and sweaty, transforming, becoming something not at all resembling their beginning or their end. He was going to have to work extra shifts without pay to cover the money Lupe had stolen, but really, Jorge didn’t care. He just wished Lupe hadn’t taken the truck because the only thing good about this goddamn freezing country was cars, money and highways.

Categories: JOURNALS

2005: THE REAL AND FINAL DEATH OF IRONY

2005/11/10 Comments off

Three Words: Hall And Oates. I encourage any tired readers of these pages to immediately go to ITunes and buy The Essential, or whatever it’s called. My God, the excitement in these tracks. The collision of pop sensibility and a near palpable sense of a dawning future, an untouched frontier. I possess vague recollections of the Eighties being thought of as the new Fifties, and the sweet sounds of Daryl and John rolling through such show-stoppers as ‘One on One’ and ‘Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid’ are bitter proof of the sensation. Sweet Jesus, I love this music. And you might too, were you perched on the fourth floor of a Hampton Inn in High Point, North Carolina, nursing the imported carbonation of a very fine evening. I arrived in High Point highly adrenalized from a hot gig in Charlotte. 54 paid, which, in the David Mead Compendium, translates into Serious Progress, my very own new frontier. If you think these numbers are insignificant, perhaps trite, you are sorely mistaken, my ham-boned little friend. Every body through the door is a veritable triumph, my professional life measured in tiny steps. The folks in Charlotte keep coming through for me, more and more at every show. If you think there’s a good reason I haven’t updated these pages in months, you are also wrong. There are a million bad ones that might eventually add up to something plausible, but the important thing is that one of those BASTARDS has finally been indicted. Scooter, or Pooter, or any other rhyme that could be devised, seems like an OK guy. It only makes sense that he would be the first to go down. The hollow rhetoric of pundits notwithstanding… well, why pull punches? Scooter is probably as dirty as the rest of those nutsuckers. The situation has reached such epic proportions of insanity (how George W. Bush was not impeached at least three years ago is beyond me) that I can hardly believe that I’m still here, five years later, pecking out these passive/aggressive bitchings from the second loop of the Bible Belt. Over in the UK, they seem to have lost interest completely. The latest terrorist bombings in July seem to have manifested an ugly pustulating streak of nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment. On one hand, it is difficult to blame the Brits for their newfound vocalism as their government has always been something of a soft touch regarding the allowance of questionable foreigners into their country. (You may recall that this humble diarist has been granted a work permit on more occasions than he can remember) They have also suffered a very real and recent tragedy of epic proportions. Regardless, I was somewhat shocked at how easily a conversation in a pub could veer from the preponderance of weedy, whiny-voiced male singer-songwriters to ‘fookin’ Arabs.’ The human condition seems to be in a state of temporary deterioration; let us hope it is merely a toning exercise, a universal pilates class that will one day reveal the true core of what we mean to each other. Melting fat, counting calories. In the immediate future, however, don’t be surprised if things continue to assume the guise of a sweaty kickboxing session. They’re trying to wash us away, they’re trying to wash us away… My mini-tour of the Isles and the Eire was rewarding, nonetheless. Despite my absence of nearly a year, the Loyals showed up at the gigs in determined force. I began with three great days in Southwest London at the lovely semidetached home of Dorian and Kathleen Haskard, playing one short set at the Bedford Arms in Balham and touristing for the rest of it. Then it was back to the beloved British Rail, which carried me to fine shows in the criminally underrated burgs of Wolverhampton and Bedford. I then journeyed to Hayfield, a small village in Darbyshire that my friends Neil Cossar and Liz Sanchez call home. I was treated to two days of extreme hospitality and good humor, which was appreciated after my boozy show in the top room of The George, a pub/hotel in the center of the village. The next day I limped up to Glasgow for a great show at King Tut’s and a frightening night in a hotel with nothing but the impending doom of CNN (earthquakes, mudslides, avian flu, George Bush) for company. The following evening at The Borderline in London was relieving as I proved to myself (and my new booking agent) that I could still draw somewhat respectable numbers there after such a long break. Andy Nice and his girl Samantha were kind enough to house and feed me that night in North London; Andy even braved the exceptionally depressing drive to Heathrow with me the next day. Upon arriving at the Camden Deluxe in Dublin I felt like it had only been a month since my last visit, even more so upon the completion of my gig that night at Whelan’s. I celebrated the end of my run through the Home Countries with multiple pints of Guinness and a late-night curry on Camden Street. Some quick calculation reveals that I have given no recollection of any of the fairly extensive touring I have undertaken in the United States since my last update. In May I was very fortunate to be taken under the wing of a new booking agent, Andrew Colvin. Andrew is one of the hardest-working, most tenacious men in the music business. The tours he has been able to put together for the likes of me in our brief association have been nothing short of stupendous. I am presently writing from the beginning of my second headlining run East of the Mississippi this year. I have noticed that coming back to places fairly quickly (my first was this Summer) does seem to, not surprisingly, help matters at the box office. Embracing the inevitable duties of headlining my own shows is far more rewarding than supporting someone else’s, no matter how many people come. The small, cold tap of a chisel against your heart whilst courting someone else’s audience is a lonely ping, indeed. 2005 has gone by in a flash, a pop and a telltale wisp of smoke. Members of my family joined me on the road at different points in my travels. Mom and I braved the hell of Philadelphia in July to visit the Liberty Bell and the Betsy Ross House. My father saw the bright side of everything for the days that we crisscrossed the Midwest in my wife’s Honda. Speaking of, Natalie managed to focus her road schedule on the metropolae that allowed her opportunity to get around easily and achieve a new sense of touring independence, saving herself the annoyance of waiting around for another sound man to show up at another club on most occasions. Oh, lady. * * * As I settle more comfortably into my thirties I often think Ernest Hemingway and his quest for the perfect sentence. Near the end of his life, one rife with the pungent odors of stardom, the divorces of multiple women and countless animal murders, he is said to have given up. The thought of this titan spending long, foggy hours in a stale bedroom in Idaho cleaning the very gun he would later use to take one more chunk out of the American Dream is, to say the very least, discouraging. How are we mere mortals to solve the essential human problems in the shadow of such inevitable tragedy? I worry about getting fat. I like to drink. Occasionally, my idea of eating healthy is to wash the evening away with a bottle of red, an acceptable option given its artery-cleansing qualities. There is nothing to really worry about anymore; if God is dead, so is art; if art is dead, we are reduced to the Satanic poetry of pundits and singer-songwriters. If singer-songwriters are considered poets of any stature… well, there’s a big man buried out in Ketchum that is squirming in his grave, desperate for a shot of rum and another Nordic sweetie. So, we get on with it, we prevail. Let’s look ahead as we brace ourselves for the cold realities of what is promised to be a brutal Winter: TOP TEN LIFESTYLE TRENDS FOR 2006: 1. Debt 2. Tulsa 3. Pajamas 4. Grocery Delivery 5. Guinness 6. Marriage 7. Yacht Rock 8. Scooters 9. Jowls 10. Seated Male Urination SO, LIKE, 2005: 1. Canine Allergies 2. MySpace 3. Mini-Albums 4. Automatic Transmissions 5. Winter 6. Williamsburg 7. My new record Tangerine remains in commercial limbo for the moment. Plans are discussed, plans are discarded, strategies rear their disfigured heads. Sometimes, in the middle of yet another late-night borscht eating session, I’ll stare across the table into the Colonel’s bloodshot eyes and wonder about the ebb and flow of the equation. Spooning another mouthful of the pickled bloody mess into my mouth, I contemplate how fortunate I have been to release three and a half records under the addictive confines of musical evolution. With excellent help, I have now completed a record that is simultaneously challenging, invigorating and cuddly; not unlike my dogs, Stan and Hazel. Will anyone hear it? The plot thickens. A slanted stripe of fluorescent light on the peeling wallpaper in front of me is constant, unwavering. The lack of ventilation in Room 413 inspires insipid visions of a life yet to be lived. Back in the real world, some very exciting options for Tangerine actually are being discussed; I am still hoping for a Spring 2006 release for my record and the continuance of slow and steady world domination. I sometimes empathize with George W. Bush in more ways than I care to admit. I have lost touch with The American People. My Compassionate Conservatism sometimes seems to being mutating into a wild-eyed, frighteningly liberal Social Fascism that drives me to bouts of paranoia and suspicion. I, too, have agonized over the deconstruction and scoffing at of my self-proclaimed brilliant ideas by people in suits. On the bright side, my base seems to be intact, even expanding; my approval rating remains high. (“Thanks, folks!”) I have my sights set on a strong showing in the midterms and an all-out landslide victory by 2008. (Which, for those of you counting, will be the ten-year anniversary of the recording of my first record, The Luxury of Time) The long and thorough Journey to the Top continues. Peering through a crack in these nylon-backed curtains, a straight-shot of I-85 slicing through early-morning Piedmont is revealed, the stretching towards a promise of another morning and blueberry futures.

Categories: JOURNALS

FEATHERS AND DRIED UP TAR: THE ‘WHEREVER YOU ARE’ INTERVIEW

2005/06/02 Comments off

A short phone interview just prior to the WHEREVER YOU ARE tour.


About a year ago you had just started touring for Indiana. As you’re about to start another tour very soon, how would you reflect on the past year?

Fondly! I think there was something about Indiana that was a little more friendly than some of my other records and I think it was a warmer invitation to a lot of people. Touring-wise, it was a lot easier to pull that record off – either solo or with one or two musicians, which is usually the way I have to do it. It got a lot of press in places I hadn’t been before, like No Depression and some of the more singer-songwriter things. There’s a community that exists around those outlets that probably didn’t care when I was presented in my major label “wannabe king of the world” facade or whatever. Indiana leveled the playing field on a lot of levels. I thought it was a really good step forward. You know, I would have loved if the record sold 100,000 more copies than it did, but at the same time, living in real world, I was happy with the result.

Wherever You Are represents your farewell to New York, whereas Indiana represents you settling down in Nashville. Now that you’re promoting Wherever You Are, how does it feel to go back and revisit that period of time?

It’s interesting because now I’m much more excited about everything as a result of Indiana and because of some of the headway that’s been made with touring, MySpace and other stuff. Since getting off a major label and a major indie, I feel a lot more in control of my career; it’s something that I devote a large part of every day to. My attitude towards that was a lot more disinterested when all of the Wherever You Are material came about. Some of the dislocated feeling of that record is definitely the result of living in this bubble where – this probably sounds odd – it didn’t feel like I had the ability to have as much direct effect on what was going on around me. It was a pretty unfocused time in my life; I’m surprised that record actually sounds as good as it does, given the circumstances. I don’t know – this really sounds cliché and dumb – it’s sort of like going back to New York now, it’s about something completely different than it was when I actually lived there. I can go out and take advantage of it a lot more. In a similar way, these songs are so old in some respects that I have to approach them from a new perspective and that’s a lot more exciting than I thought it would be.

November of 2001: you started to debut some new songs at the end of the Mine And Yours tour. Out of the four songs debuted around this time, “Hold On” was the only song that made it to the recording sessions. Would you say this song is the centerpiece of the album?

I think that one could be the centerpiece of the record; that’s one of those questions that is sort of difficult to answer with so much time gone by. I know that was the one that really got it all going and into focus a little bit. I had that one kicking around for a while and I actually finished it on September 12th or 13th or something, right after 9/11. It just had this resonance then. Working through that song provided the oomph towards finishing the rest of the album. So I don’t know whether it’s the centerpiece or not. In this new context of the mini-album “Wherever You Are” kind of feels more like the centerpiece to me. I feel really hands-off with it in a lot of ways; it’s such a weird process of getting this batch of music out there. I am a lot more open to interpretation than usual because I don’t always know what I think of it myself.

You debuted most of the songs that would make up the Wherever You Are sessions during two shows in New York with Ethan and WhyNot in August 2002. How did you feel about them at the time and how were they received?

I think they were received pretty well; I remember one show was totally weighted with all of our friends anyway so we would have really had to screw it up to make it appear that nobody liked the stuff. It was so long ago it’s hard to remember exactly how I felt about it. I remember thinking, for example, this one song called “Attitude” was a hit; I thought that was a big deal – and who knows, maybe it still is. It felt like something kind of happened along the way of the recording of that where it fell by the wayside, which is why doing preproduction and then trying stuff out like that in a more intense microscopic environment is usually beneficial.

Wherever You Are was the original home for Indiana staples “Beauty” and “Oneplusone”. What were these original versions like and will they ever see the light of day?

Actually, those would be good candidates for MP3′s on the site at some point if people are still interested. I think that version of “Oneplusone” is killer…

It is; I prefer it to the version on Indiana. Definitely superior.

Yeah, the scope of Indiana to me – the more limited instrumental scope – didn’t allow “Oneplusone” to be as fully realized as it was in the Wherever You Are context. “Beauty” – that version is a little more epic; it’s driven by programming a little bit more with the live acoustic drums. It’s just a lot bigger…

Yeah, a little more experimental.

Yeah, I guess so. Experimental in David Mead’s world, I don’t know about anybody else’s… [laughter]

Hey, you got some weird sounds in there.

Yeah, we threw in a few…

Your wife Natalie has once again done the cover art – is that a new piece or was it intended to be the cover at some earlier point?

That’s a new piece commissioned for the EP. I think my original idea for the cover – at least back when I knew RCA was going to pay for it – I had come up with a plan to… it’s pretty difficult to describe, but it was all transparent and all of the artwork was made up of words which were just printed directly onto the CD jewel case and the CD itself so that it all came together as this multilayered thing. It would still be really cool to pull off but it would be really expensive as well. That’s the only original idea I can remember for it.

During the 2003 tour, you sold shirts with a drawing Natalie made of a house, was that ever intended to be part of the artwork?

No, not really, although we did use that for a five-song promo around that time.

Stylistically, conceptually and emotionally, how does the new condensed version of Wherever You Are compare to the original version?

I felt like the original version as a whole piece of work was a little more dysfunctional than most stuff that I had done before and have done since. It had this emotional core to it that I tried to preserve when I selected what went on the EP; I just wanted to get that central feeling in it. There were some super pop songs on the original full length that – they’re not bad songs in and of themselves – I just feel like presenting them in the whole might have weakened the rest because, even though they were fine on their own, they just didn’t have the resonance of the ones that ended up on the EP. I’m hoping that I succeeded in chipping away at the diamond so to speak – kind of getting rid of what felt superfluous. It’s hard to say because, for example, there’s nothing wrong with “Little Sister”; it might have been the best opportunity I ever had at a radio single. Maybe someone will hear it in fifteen years and say “what an idiot, why didn’t he put this out there?” But in the context of everything else, it kind of felt a little… I don’t know. The fact that I actually considered making it into a duet with Michelle Branch kind of illustrates the point that it was a pretty direct and unapologetic attempt at getting some radio airplay. I don’t have a problem with unapologetic attempts to do that, but taking that song and putting it next to “Astronaut” might have endangered the believability of the entire thing. I could have been wrong, but that’s what I was thinking.

Categories: INTERVIEWS

THE WORLD AWAITS YOU, MY SON

2005/05/15 Comments off

I was astride a fine dappled mare named Maggie in the hills of Tennessee when I finally got an interesting idea for a new album. I happened to be directly behind my father in a line of horses bearing various members of my extended family. A couple of years ago Dad and his wife Vicki hit upon the idea of taking a family trip at Christmas instead of giving gifts; this year’s edition was taking place on a blustery weekend in January at a dude ranch in the foothills of the Smokies.

I had been kicking a verse and a chorus of a new song around for the entire morning but continually running into a brick wall as soon as the first chorus finished. Another verse would begin to formulate, then fall apart. Was it too soon to go to a bridge? What would the bridge be about? This verse and chorus already had guns and heartbreak in them, never easy topics to follow. Repeat the chorus again?

How about a modulation into a funky boogaloo? Mmmm… yes. And then another modulation into a slightly more restrained and jazzy solo echoing the verse? Aaahhh… The whole thing fell right into place as I leaned back into the saddle against the mountainous grade. Seemingly on cue, Dad’s horse paused to drop what appeared to be 17 pounds of steaming green excrement on the trail in front of me.

The events of 2005 thus far have been no less random or unpredictable. I had been enjoying a couple of weeks off in January until a very unexpected phone call from the Colonel got my teeth grinding again. Nettwerk Records had just called to inform him that, due to a loss of funding from EMI and a supposedly drastic restructuring of the company, they would not be picking up the option for my next album. The detailed conversations regarding said album that had occurred as recently as late December were deemed irrelevant; there was nothing to be done but accept another cold reality of the music business and get on with life.

I have become accustomed to the low percentage of returns one generally reaps from one’s expectations of Corporate America, but these were Canadians, for Chrissake; I thought they were nothing if not reliable. To the point, in fact, that Natalie and I had committed ourselves to a couple of slightly ambitious financial situations that depended on a little startup capital from Vancouver. The air around me suddenly reeked of panic. I was not an easy man to be around for a day or two.

A few weeks after these fateful events, I took to the road supporting Hem, a talented group of sweet folks from Brooklyn who play their own unique brand of nouveau Countrypolitan. I can’t say that I was particularly thrilled to be leaving my wife at home for three weeks in our newly impoverished state, but the shows eventually began to ease the tension. It was nice to have some good car time to sort through things. I also saved myself a lot of heartache by strictly scheduling my alcohol consumption and visiting the local YMCA’s along the way. There is something incredibly grounding for me about going to a YMCA in this country. They all smell the same, everyone is nice and you can always have a random and oddly soothing conversation with a fat guy in the sauna.

Hem’s audiences were awfully quiet and respectful. The band seems to have made its way into the world with a lot of help from National Public Radio. I actually saw people reading books before the show. (I, in fact, read books before the show) It was very refreshing to just walk onstage and play instead of fighting with a crowd that has better things to do than listen to an opening act. I was also encouraged to find that most of the people I talked to at the shows had no idea who I was, which was much better than finding out that they did and just didn’t care. In the future, I will try to curry favor with these fine folks over a nice glass of claret.

The shows contained their usual array of surprises: I ran into Whynot Jansveld in Cincinnati (he’s now playing with Gavin DeGraw). The alcohol schedule was appended, but only for a night. I had some excellent dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) in Columbus and a purifying tofu and vegetable concoction, not to mention a fine chat with Linda and Dale, in Ann Arbor. The two-night stand in Chicago was my first official booze appointment, which I kept in style with my friend Brad Peterson. I bought a couple of great hats the next day as the snow flurries began to build into a blizzard.

It was tricky work driving to Minneapolis the next day for a crowd that could not even be won over with a exceptionally competent cover of a Replacements song. The next morning I had breakfast with my childhood friend J.P. before setting off to Omaha, a town I had actually never been to before. I enjoyed the long drive across the snowy plains of Middle America, and the show turned out to be one of the highlights of the tour.

I flew back to the ‘Ville for a few days while the Hems drove all the way to Seattle via Denver. I met them there for a good show at the Tractor Tavern. The next day I made it into Portland early to hang out with my childhood buddy Jay. Joe Brookhouse had been kind enough to drop off a bottle of excellent vodka that was mostly gone before the show, which went swimmingly, I thought. Jay and I stumbled around to a few more of his haunts downtown before going back to his house and calling everyone we could remember from high school.

Moving on: Eugene, Oregon is the city my father went to college in. I only succeeded in getting into an argument with a waiter about how to prepare Massaman Curry and limping through my show. Sorry, Pop; fortunately, the kids are still very accommodating in Eugenia.

For some unknown reason I elected to spend my day off in McCall, California, a town in the foothills of Seneca Mountain that is nice to look at but very limited on commerce in February. I spent the day drinking wine (the alcohol schedule was permanently appended for the West Coast leg of the tour) and reading a bad novel on the hotel’s wraparound porch, then drove a few towns over for a decent Mexican meal.

San Francisco was next; I had a nice chat with my step brother Eric and his girlfriend Agnes before calling it an early night. After a mere 13 hours in the Cit-aaa-eee by the Bay I was back on the road. I took the terrible drive down the I-5 to Los Angeles, where I promptly checked into the Hyatt on Sunset and commenced to drinking more wine. The gig at the Troubadour was pretty successful minus a few slurred comments regarding my current place in the music industry; I was also able to reconnect with a few friends and former label associates.

I dreamed my way into San Diego (the drive was the best part of the day) then set out across the desert for Tucson the next morning full of renewed motivation and strange cacti inspiration. I was happy to take Tim, Hem’s tour manager, to the wonderful Cafe Poca Cosa. It should be mentioned that Tim earned this meal and many more in the future with his stupendously upstanding treatment of me during the entire tour. He checked in with me daily to see if I was making my drives and provided a metaphorical shoulder to cry on on a few occasions. Relationships with the headlining band’s tour manager are rarely this thorough, trust me.

The Hem tour wrapped a few nights later in St. Louis. I drove home after the gig and began plotting new directions to deal with the situation at hand. I had already had preliminary talks with Brad Jones regarding my new record. On top of completely confirming my instinct that he was the right choice for a producer over an excellent Mediterranean meal, he agreed to begin the recording process with next to no funding given my current label status. (I will take this opportunity to send out a firm and unending hug to my father, who graciously lent some seed money to the project to get the ball rolling) Brad and I had a few more preliminary meetings to review my rather sparse demos, during which an entirely more adventurous approach was settled on. I distinctly remember Brad questioning the necessity of verses on a song called ‘Hallelujah, I Was Wrong’, inspiring me to drop the verses completely and entirely rearrange the song in a flurry of free association and marijuana. He also had an idea to break the first chorus of another song down to dueling ukuleles and vocals. He continued to warp my musical mind as the process continued; the 19 days we spent making the album were some of the most ridiculous and fulfilling of my brief recording career. I will elaborate at a later date; the last time I committed a ‘making of’ journal entry to these pages before the release of the album it ended up not coming out for nearly three years.

WHEREVER YOU ARE is the name of that particular mini-opus, the very one that was ready to drop as April began it’s tumultuous blossoming into May. I took Paul Deakin and the Brothers Henry up to the Louisville-Cincinnati-Indianapolis Triangle for a few highly encouraging gigs at the beginning of the month, finished up mixing the new album with Brad and made ready to conquer Scandinavia, where WYA was being released on the 28th. Natalie and I got lucky when John F. Fairhead, our real estate agent, pulled a few tricks and procured some much-needed cash out of some dicey speculation that was beginning to seem hopeless. The metaphysical relief was beyond description.

That being said, being behind the proverbial eight ball has made for some of the best days I’ve had in a long time. Poverty has made me evaluate the measure of manhood in a way that I am slightly embarrassed to admit to not doing in awhile. The texture and sweetness of all things is amplified by a growing realization that life is short and money or the lack thereof is a stupid fucking thing to be restrained by. A nagging assumption that more cash will somehow alleviate or validate the essential problems of being human is a pain in the ass, one more cheap excuse for planning instead of being.

At the moment, my only real worry is that I’m wide awake at 3:07 AM Greenwich Mean Time in a foreign country with no one to wake me up for my 6:00 train but myself and the kind folks at the Oslo Radisson. I am staring down five shows in a row in five different cities starting today, and the view is good. I was trying to explain all of this to my Mom yesterday over a unexplainably hissy transatlantic connection. She understood. I could have been a banker, the taste of freedom is stronger than cigarettes, etc., etc….

‘And here I go again on my owowown…’
-WHITESNAKE

Categories: JOURNALS

COLD COMFORT, MY HEAD HURTS, WHAT’S THE USE IN CRYIN’?

2004/12/11 Comments off

Our beloved Nick Robinson’s Adult Origami is a work of beauty. I don’t know a lot about origami except that it seems to be an increasingly rare discipline that is criminally underappreciated these days. Anyone familiar with my work might deduce that I rejoice in the concept of creating something beautiful out of a found piece of material, exactly what Nick has done for me on several occasions at shows with nothing more than a bar napkin or an old magazine receipt. I encourage everyone to check out his work as soon as possible at http://www.12testing.co.uk/origami/books/adult/forsale.htm. If a more appropriate holiday gift for the person whom you think has one of everything exists, I have yet to come across it.
Nick presented me with a highly personalized copy of the book at a show in Wolverhampton. We had a nice chat beforehand in a surprisingly cozy dressing room above the venue, sipping cans of warm Red Stripe to ward off the chill of another September English drizzle outside. From the looks of the playroom downstairs, that night’s engagement was not likely to be incredibly well attended. We got to talking about how to combat the inevitable feelings of slight hopelessness that can set in when faced with a minimal crowd. I supposed, and he agreed, that it all comes down to accessing a portion of ‘Fuck It’ along with a good dollop of appreciation for the opportunity, not to mention a healthy side of awareness that anything can happen at anytime. It was inspiring chatter, and I took the stage with renewed vigor that the excellent crowd of fifty or so patrons responded to enthusiastically. They turned what could have been a mediocre evening full of mutual apologies into a goddamn triumph. Thank You, Wolves.
A couple of nights later I found myself backstage at the Late Late Show in Dublin with Natalie, Andy and Gill, my Irish label representative. Our dressing room was next to Kevin Kline’s, who was there promoting his turn as Cole Porter in a fine film that I have since seen but forgotten the name of. I was struck by how well he carried himself in a nicely cut suit under two pounds of make-up. The Harlem Gospel Choir was also on the show; it was quite surreal to be hearing African-Americans whooping it up in an Irish hospitality room, and slightly terrifying that I was on the show to perform ‘Human Nature’. Go figure.
The rest of the Irish tour was slightly shaded by the fact that it occurred during the last week or so of a month-and-a-half spent on the road. In that time we only had three full days off, so everyone was a bit ragged in the Mini Van as we traversed the Emerald Isle up, down and sideways. There was a beautiful rainbow in Cobh, a fine lamb stew in Limerick, a nearly sold-out show in Dublin and an amazing array of publicity and radio in Belfast. It wasn’t always the postcard that comes to mind when one considers the Possibilities of Eire, but it was certainly a step in the right direction, commercially and spiritually.

Bergen, Norway is my new favorite city in the world. I have never been in a place so perfectly balanced in culture, population and standard of living. Talk about a postcard; Bergen’s ancient Maritime architecture rises up around a lovely little harbor that stays busy with everything from fishing trawlers to cruise ships. Wonderfully expansive squares and parks are perfectly placed throughout, achieving a simultaneous feeling of Southern European grandeur and Scandinavian privacy. The closest comparison I can draw in the States is San Francisco. But you don’t have to be a millionaire to live in the middle of Bergen. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to be a millionaire anywhere in Norway because of a handily progressive tax system that seems to keep all social services running with great efficiency and care. (Although not presently wealthy and therefore possibly biased in these matters, it seems like an amazingly humane set up, sociologically speaking. I am sure that Norwegian millionaires do indeed exist, and that they have plenty of ways of hiding their income from the government, if it makes all of you raging Capitalists out there feel better.) Norway has the distinct advantage of having its economy propped up by its oil industry, the taxation of which must make life easier for everyone. But consider how they use the spoils of their fossil fuels: Norway has an excellent state-funded health care system, not to mention a 99.9% rate of literacy. I was continually flabbergasted at everyone’s robust health and ability to communicate in at least two, but usually three or more, languages. In spite of (or probably because of) this, it seems next to impossible to find traces of snobbery anywhere. Every Norwegian I met, from convenience store attendant to rock star, was overwhelmingly gracious and helpful. The only hint of any sort of aggressiveness whatsoever arose when great quantities of alcohol were involved, and even then it usually assumed the form of a mighty Viking roar or, on occasion, extemporaneous dancing in the street. The Norwegians are all very proud of their country and, generally speaking, seem to have very little interest leaving except to occasinally sample the stark contrast the rest of the world has to offer.
Our gig in Stavanger was canceled at the last minute, giving us an extra day off in Bergen. To assuade our disappointment at missing what (upon further analysis of the weather forecast) would have been an incredibly nauseating boat ride, our friend Christopher took us to an amazing restaurant in the University section of town. We greedily sampled eight different local gourmet dishes laid out in small quantities on a handmade oak table. After walking around the harbor for a couple of hours, we took a nice sauna back at the hotel. The glories of the Scandinavian sauna cannot be overstated; it’s a multilayered process of swimming in the cold pool, sitting in the hot tub, sweating in the steam room, showering, relaxing with a coffee poolside, then repeating, preferably three to four times. I have never seen anyone so in their element as Andy Nice in a Norwegian sauna. His infectious laughter bouncing off the cavernous walls is a sound that comforts me even now.

…. Ahh yes, Even Now. With four hours to kill before sound check in Rock Hill, South Carolina, I am breaking a cardinal rule in my new Solo Touring Manifesto and pouring myself a glass (styrofoam cup) of Beaujolais before 7:00 PM. The fog has followed me North, enveloping this Holiday Inn off I-77 and leaving me with a chill in my bones. There is no sauna in the hotel, only what appears to be a 1983 vintage treadmill that someone not drinking wine from a styrofoam cup might use to get their blood pumping. I have really enjoyed my time in Gamecock Country, however. I look forward to returning sometime in late Spring, when the only effort required to induce a good sweat will be stepping outside these dank and smoky walls.
As the first miniature wave of fermented goodness washes over me, I am reminded of how fucking lucky I am to be living this life. Thank you all very much for maintaining enough interest in and support for what I do to enable me to continue going out on these little adventures. I am a blessed man, to be sure. Amen.

Categories: JOURNALS

FEELING GRAVITY’S PULL

2004/12/10 Comments off

“They’re coming. For sure.”
“Wow. Too weird.”
Me and Charlie Mars, Stockholm, Sweden, September 2004. Charlie Mars certainly looks like a rock star; a stunning set of cheekbones and long blonde hair that exceeds the legal Strokes limit. Tons of Oxford, Mississippi personality, to boot. He has just flown in from the States that afternoon. We are sharing a dressing room at Debaser, a cavernous club in some sort of bunker by a canal. Within five minutes of arriving he has picked up my guitar and begun a medley of half-learned songs: ‘I’m on Fire’ into ‘Lebanon, TN’ into something else… he says we should do a duet during the show. A bemused Swedish journalist looks on from an overstuffed love seat, smoking a Marlboro.
I hesitatingly sing a high harmony to the Springsteen song whilst musing over Charlie Mars’ guest list. It has now been confirmed that it contains the names of all three members of R.E.M. and twenty or so members of their entourage, all in town on a press junket. Charlie Mars is opening some shows for them in the States in a month or so and will be observed by the band for the first time tonight. To his credit, he is showing no signs of intimidation. (In fact, he will soon fall into a disturbingly peaceful slumber on the aforementioned love seat, sans Swedish journalist) He is nearly delirious with jet-lag, now lurching into a questionable version of the Laverne and Shirley theme on my poor, abused Larrivee.
A few hours later I am popping into the first chords of ‘Indiana’, expertly accompanied by my new friend Bjorn on piano. I met Bjorn a week before at a show in Bergen; Kip was wise enough to convince him to fill in for a few Swedish shows that Andy was unable to play. As I enjoy the mellifluosity of Bjorn’s ivory tickling, I am dimly aware of the intense congregation of bodies at the far end of the bar. The glare of the stage lights empathetically prevents me from ascertaining who these people may be, but I am fairly sure that they were on Charlie Mars’ guest list.
The show is a smashing success. I finish with a cover of The Darkness’ ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ to a very satisfactory ovation. There are hugs and handshakes in the dressing room; the Swedish debut seems to have been well received. I saunter out to the merchandise table and begin talking to a very tall man dressed like a Republican. His name is Bob; I have met him before at a show in Seattle. He is the tour manager for R.E.M. Thankfully, he is a fan, a large man with overcompensatory hand gestures that seem entirely appropriate for the evening. I am preparing to respond to some of his machine gun repartee’ when a slight, almost elfin figure in a large hat emerges from out of Bob’s considerable shadow and extends a very skinny arm.
‘Hi, I’m Michael.”

The members of Jump (ne’ Little Children) have taken up alcohol in the years between our last touring excursions. They blame their participation in a country band and the constant vigors of touring for their new habit. I only remark upon it because I can remember a particularly lubricated morning of bowling a few years back after a show in Atlanta, me off my face on something or another but still present enough to notice that all members seemed to be entirely beverage-free at 5:00 AM. Talking trash to Matt Bivins about performance, his mother, etc. One of the prettiest men on the planet, Bivins.
The whiskey is currently being passed around (albeit in a moderate fashion)on a night in early December in the dressing room of the Morton Theater, a gorgeously restored vaudeville house in the heart of Athens, GA. Apparently it was slated for demolition back in the eighties but was saved by the efforts of a dedicated town contingency led by the members of R.E.M.
An hour later I am leading a wonderful crowd through an acoustic sing-along rendition of ‘New Mexico.’ I leave the stage to warm applause and the promise of a brief night in Athens, one of the world’s most inviting small cities. Outside the theater I meet Tom and his sister-in-law Mary Katherine, who invite me to a bar down the street for a drink. We happily pass an hour or so over PBR and merlot, a strange combination that is inexplicably Athens. A fine conversation about music and organic farming is left dangling around midnight when I realize that the theater might be shutting down with my gear still in it. After my load-out I hit the road back to my Mom’s house in Acworth, tenderly guiding the Altima through the angelically-lit streets of that strange little place that still smells of quietly contained freedom.

Speaking of quietly contained freedom, try 5:15 AM in a penthouse apartment in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, the quiet resolution of the Manhattan skyline offering comfort from across the East River. Ethan has upgraded his accommodations since my tenure in New York; he now shares a deeluxe apahtment the the skaayy-hi-hi with our friend Andrew. They were kind enough to let me occupy their sectional a week or so before Thanksgiving. An unexplainable bout of insomnia had turned into nostalgia, as it often will. I had spent the day walking around Manhattan with my former tour manager Damian Kozak, catching up and eating a lot of food. Damian is on an almost entirely Asian diet these days; he spends hours ambling through Chinatown looking for the perfect Vietnamese pork sandwich while plotting the intricacies of his new entrepreneurial enterprise, personal training. From the looks of him, he’s definitely got the right idea. The kid is in top form; hundreds of hours spent in a
sweaty boxing gym have sculpted him into a Ukrainian Adonis, a fountain of information towering over the chattering denizens of Canal Street.
New York, that funny sensory recollection, so hard to contain, so hard to call it something familiar, but it is. Who writes the manual for cataloguing experience when experience feels like so many dreams come and gone, coming back again, then leaving you just when you think you might have found a soft red folder in your heart in which to file it? I am onto a new method, actually an old method, one that I’ve been adhering to for years without realizing it: Let it go and it will come back to you when you least expect it and, quite possibly, when you need it most.

“Yes, I know. It’s great to meet you, Michael.” Shuffling, come on, you can think of something here, he smells like booze, ah, my wife… “This is my wife, Natalie.”
“Nice to meet you, Natalie.”
“You too.” I love my wife’s hair.
“Uh, we had an idea.” Bob.
“Yeah. The Darkness song. Bag it.” Laughter. That stifling monotone, undeniably American. 1986, the black boom box in my bedroom, the feedback intro to ‘Feeling Gravity’s Pull’.
“Really?” You parsimonious little bastard. I got the idea of doing weird covers from seeing you people pulling ‘Moon River’ and ‘Wichita Lineman’ out of your asses. MTSU Arena, 1989.
“Yes. I think you should always leave the audience with a taste of your own material.” Bob nods along, seemingly adept to the guttural rhythms of his employer. He is wearing a John Kerry button. On a tweed jacket.
“Yeah, well, I guess it’s a little bit of a gimmick move. Sometimes you have to surprise people.”
‘Yeah, maybe. I really liked the rest of your set. The songs are good. Yours, I assume?” I love Michael Stipe; he is one of the most influential artists America has ever produced. An Icon, so rare in our baby country’s brief lexicon. A giant of mythological proportions. He has seen more than I may ever see. He knows things.
“Well, actually, they’re all Darkness B-sides.”

An hour later, stuffed into a cab with my wife, manager and two Norwegians, I am still trying to absorb it. Beer and a commanding view of the Stockholm skyline from our hotel room will help a little, but it’s not until we get to London that I will find a temporary location for it, a cramped space in the revolving door of a foreign country; my fickle little soul talking back to me, yet again.

Categories: JOURNALS

CATCH-UP

2004/12/09 Comments off

Well, I said I would, and I am. Under the weight of my perfectionistic tendencies, I have delayed getting a new journal entry out for some time. The sheer magnitude of covering all events now passed makes it easier and easier to put off. This is exactly how I can suddenly go from forgetting to return a friend’s phone call for a week to not speaking with him for six months. Ummmm…

Who gives a damn anyway. I will strike out from the present and delve into the past as whimsy allows. I did start something about the last European run:

HAIL EUROPA: PLANES, TRAINS, BUSES, CARS… A BOAT, NEARLY 

From the cozy confines of the Doubletree Hotel in Alsip, Illinois, the stunning Western Fjords of Norway seem very, very far away. But I was there, I’m sure of it… no, it couldn’t have been a dream, I have pictures, I have skin white and slightly bloated with the residual salt of multiple meat and cheese encounters. Come with me, friends, let’s relive the legacy…

My wife and I endured three crowded flights over eighteen hours to reach Oslo. Having my favorite traveling companion along for the interminable ride made things far more enjoyable. She seemed slightly perplexed by my traditional ingestion of three pints of lager in Heathrow at 9:00 AM local time, but a marriage is nothing if not a journey. It was 5:00 somewhere.

On the bus ride into the city we were struck by how much Scandinavian design has completely infiltrated and defined every aspect of what we foreigners refer to as ‘modern.’ We passed barns that looked more progressive than most new performing arts centers in American cities. Traipsing through the rest of the country over the next week, I would come to realize that, comparably speaking, Oslo had a slightly cold feeling to it. But at the time of our arrival it seemed to be stone, glass and steel Nirvana sprung up out of carpet of evergreen. Neither of us had ever been to a place with such an unmistakable air of newness about it.

After checking into the hotel and taking a much-needed nap, we headed out for a Thai restaurant that had been described as cheap and tasty by our Lonely Planet guidebook. It was indeed tasty, but the arrival of the bill quickly put to rest all hopes we had kindled about anything in Scandinavia being cheap. We stopped by an Internet cafe on the way back to the hotel, then a 7-11, which are in no short supply in Norway. After sampling a few funky candy bars at the hotel, we snuggled into our single berths and slept.

The next morning we sampled our first Norwegian breakfast, a complicated buffet replete with several varieties of the aforementioned breads, meats and cheeses, as well as soft-boiled eggs, various pickled cole slaws and little squeeze tubes of ground salmon eggs called KAVIAR. Suitably fed, we wandered down to a castle overlooking the bay.

I was reunited with Andy Nice in the hotel lobby a few hours later. We walked to the gig for sound check, then had a pint in an outdoor cafe on a large square when the sound engineer proved to be absent. Andy had recently returned from a lovely holiday in Slovenia where he was unmercifully demonized for swimming naked in the pool of a resort. I assured him that skinny-dipping was completely accepted, if not expected, in Norway. A wide, expectant smile spread over his face as the sun was overtaken by clouds that began spitting rain onto our little round table.

The gig that night at Cafe Mono was good, well performed and well-received. No

Charleston, South Carolina seems a long way from Alsip, Illinois. Charleston, South Carolina makes Oslo, Norway seem like another planet. I drove to my gig tonight through a blanket of fog covering a nearly empty I-26, occasional headlights in soft focus letting me know that there was actually other life forms traversing this planet of mist. I had the sensation that if I just gunned it really hard my rented Nissan Altima would simply rear back and take flight, becoming one with the earthen clouds that obscured mortal vision. SR-17 spread out over a very high bridge crossing what appeared to be a vast expanse of Cumulus Nimbus, stretching the flight metaphor to very realistic proportions.

On nights like tonight all of this feels more like time travel than a job. I think that Charleston, South Carolina would be a great place to grow up, to dream of leaving, then rediscovering at a later age. I watched the kid that opened up for me tonight guzzling a shot as I hurried out the door, hauling gear, practically running back to the anonymous comfort of middle age in the Airport Radisson. I could see the need for confusion in his eyes, leering out from under a slight misinterpretation of the Strokes Haircut. The badge, the requirement of progress. For a brief moment I wanted to go there with him, pretend like I was stupid enough to want it all over again, want that, instead of my father’s carefully prepared path of traveling salesman heartbreak.

Alsip, Illinois, or somewhere close: I’m watching Joan Baez, whom I am opening a couple of shows for, take the stage. The very seated and fairly mature crowd of 1200 goes as nuts as their possibly disappointing lives will allow them to go for an icon of sixties youth. God, what it must have been like to be young in the sixties. I see the weight of the vision preached to these people when I talk to them after the show, their hair gone mousy, the skin on their faces a road map to somewhere less disagreeable. One lady tells me she doesn’t like my lyrics; she likes Joan’s, she likes things with a message, and I’m wondering if the intellectual laziness that the preaching of the sixties birthed is any different from the black-and-white couchpotatosity that props up our current ruling class, the Christian Right. Later that night, a one man party at the Doubletree featuring many letters written and never sent by the power of Almighty Jameson’s.

Rock Hill, South Carolina tomorrow. One would assume that most hills are made of rock. I must be missing the joke, again.

Categories: JOURNALS

2004/08/09 Comments off

Hey Everybody. Hope this is finding you all happy and relatively cool. All sympathies to our friends in Europe who have been enduring a massive heat wave. We keep you in our sweat-drenched prayers and lamentations.

I would like to say thanks to all the folks who came out to the show in Atlanta this past weekend. The turn out was truly spectacular and it was one of the most enjoyble shows I’ve had in awhile. We also made some great new friends in Louisville earlier this month; fly Redbird, fly. As for more immediate events on the horizon:

The nice folks over at ABC have been kind enough to include a whopping three minutes of ‘Beauty’ in this coming Sunday’s episode of ‘The Days.’(10:00 EST) Tune in early to check out our friend (and Indiana contributess) Butterfly Boucher singing the theme song, as well.

I have been invited to share the bill with Bruce Hornsby at Nashville’s World-Famous Ryman Auditorium on August 26. This will be my first ever show on the hallowed boards of the original Grand Ole Opry and I am heartily anticipating it. David Henry will join me onstage to play cello and dance.

We’ve also just added a show in Oxford, MS on Sep. 2. I’ll be sharing the stage with a promising youngster named Trent Dabbs and eating several different varieties of prepared meat in my down time.

A massive European tour spanning most of September and October is nearly finalized; I’ll be traipsing through Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England, Scotland and Ireland with my good friend Andy Nice and my hot wife, Natalie Cox Mead. One of the cities we will be visiting is Tromso, Norway, which is called the ‘Gateway to the Arctic’ and has the highest per capita percentage of restaurants and pubs in all of Europe.

Furthermore, there are a lot of different options coming together for more dates in the US for October and November; whatever they end up being, I can assure you that they will be voluminous and thorough.

The State of Affairs is Excellent, folks. Thank you very much for your continued support and all-out chicanery. The pot is getting closer and closer to boiling; any day now, any day…

Love,

DAVID

Categories: MAILING LIST