Live Music, Please (and may it be safe soon)

Hi all,

I know I haven’t written in a bit (a month to be exact) and I do have a nice SUPER LONG post coming, but this article just showed up in the Atlantic today, and I think you ought to read it.

First, it’s Dave Grohl, so….

Second, I miss live music, and I think you do too:

“In today’s world of fear and unease and social distancing, it’s hard to imagine sharing experiences like these ever again. I don’t know when it will be safe to return to singing arm in arm at the top of our lungs, hearts racing, bodies moving, souls bursting with life. But I do know that we will do it again, because we have to. It’s not a choice. We’re human. We need moments that reassure us that we are not alone. That we are understood. That we are imperfect. And, most important, that we need each other.”

More soon, I promise.

The Quarantine Film Festival

So, things are pretty quiet around here these days.  Not in terms of music – there’s plenty going on there, including a demo for “Clouds,” which is now making its way to a true recorded form.  Likewise on the performance front: I have a few live-stream performances coming up, the first of which will be on the Apocalyptic Open Mic stage, planned for 8:30 PM Eastern on April 14. Please look for me there, and I’ll also do some Tunnel 18 sets in the coming days.  I’ll let you know when!Clouds

Still, being stuck in the house has given me a chance to catch up on some films I’ve wanted to see, or to rewatch. While a few of them fall into the category of brain candy, there are a few that have given me a renewed appreciation of the music that I grew up with, and that influenced me greatly. I have a few film recommendations I’d love to share with you, and not surprisingly, most of them have to do with recording studios, or communities of musicians who pushed each other forward. 

Echoes in the Canyon

echoJakob Dylan was inspired by the music of the mid-60s, and it clearly shows in The Wallflowers’ sound. In this documentary, shot in 2018, Dylan explores how a community of musicians living in Laurel Canyon, just north of LA, inspired and challenged each other to create a brand new sound by marrying folk music with electric guitar, strong melodies and harmonies, and truly poetic lyrics. The legacies of the Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, Buffalo Springfield, and the Beach Boys have been with us ever since. 

Sound City

sound cityYeah, I know. No surprise that I’ve got a Dave Grohl film in here, and this one specifically. I do recommend of course watching several episodes of Sonic Highways, particularly the LA, Seattle, and New York shows. However, there is an indelible place in my heart for this documentary, which showcases the history of Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California and how it played an integral role in the careers and sounds of Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, and so many, many others. I have just about everything from this movie (and the shorts from the DVD) memorized and am much the better for it.

Trivia: Nick Raskulinecz got his start at Sound City as a runner.  Now go look up who he is and why all Rush fans should care!

The Smart Studios Story

SmartSmart Studios was a classic DIY concept, started by Butch Vig and Steve Marker in Madison, Wisconsin. And if you’ve ever wanted a great story about how to just make shit happen – as well as learn a hell of a lot more about Killdozer, Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, and a treasure trove of Indie bands from the late 80s and early 90s – this is the one. 

And now, a little mind candy….

That Thing You Do

thingYup, purely for fun.  But at the same time I was put in the mind to watch this again after hearing the news of Adam Schlesinger’s death earlier this week.  It’s a sweet film with a few really great songs. It’ll bring a smile, and honestly we could use that right about now.

Almost Famous

almostAnother one purely for fun, and music that’s a lot closer to what I grew up listening to.  Peter Frampton and Ann Wilson from Heart were musical advisors on the film, and the playing is great as a result.  Also, Jason Lee is a comedic treasure as a lead singer who constantly gets second billing.

Now I’m looking for other great films to watch. I know there’s the Joan Jett film, and that’s on my to-watch list, but what else do you recommend?  Please leave me suggestions in the comments – I’d really appreciate adding great stuff to the list!

-Chris

PS – The featured image is from the CD label for the first album I released back in 2015 when I was working under the (clear) band name of Steeling Time*.  You can take a listen to the full album here.

 

*Unfortunately there are bands in Canada and Australia working under the same name, so I changed back to using Tunnel 18, which frankly is more meaningful to me anyway.

 

Confinement, Day 20

Man, these are weird times.

First, let me repeat what I said the last time – I really hope that you are all safe and healthy. This is a very scary time, and all of us have been affected.  

On the one hand, I do want to share with you some silver linings from my own recent experience. First, losing my commute and spending all my time in my home studio (which is also my home office and my bedroom) has helped me find more time and focus to write and record music. I already have several songs that are on their way into the world, including “The Head that Wears the Crown” and “Clouds.”  The first one is already up on Facebook, and the second is available today via YouTube. Both will be more formally recorded and shared via SoundCloud and then Spotify in the coming weeks.

There have also been some wonderful online gatherings – ranging from getting together with old friends whom I haven’t seen for many years, to continuing to play live online with friends, particularly through the Virtual Necessity Open Mic2020-03-24 19.59.01 

(Speaking of which, please join us for our first ever live event, coming up this Sunday at 8 PM! Come to share your music, poetry, prose, or comedy, or just join us to listen. We’d love to see you there!)

Still, these are scary times. I have friends who are still on the road, half a world away and not sure whether and when they are going to be able to come home. I have family and dear friends in the greater New York area, who are doing everything they can to stay in their homes as much as possible and minimize exposure. Even here in the Boston area, I have been out of the house for very short periods maybe once a week.

May we all find our way through this healthy and strong. On the other side of this crisis, may we find the opportunity to celebrate once again with each other.

2020-04-03 20.08.29

It’s amazing how many times in a lifetime one lives through an experience that ends up in a history book. 

May you live in interesting times, my friends.

-Chris

 

Making Lemonade (and Music)

Not sure about you, but I am on day three of lockdown due to the coronavirus situation. Have been working from the house, making a lot of meals at home, even baking some bread. I hope to be finishing up some songwriting – some of that has been going on, but not enough yet to put anything out.

One of the things I am missing desperately is of course getting out and playing live. No one is going to open mic nights, particularly in Massachusetts, as there are no bars and no restaurants open. (Editorial statement This is a good thing! We are trying to preserve the public health.)

I watched on Facebook as several friends I have met through playing music mourned their last gig before going into seclusion/quarantine and started wondering when the next time was we were going to be able to play in front of an audience. And then I realized that in today’s day and age, we didn’t actually need to leave our homes to be able to find at least some form of an audience. At the very least we could get together online and play for each other – and then hopefully invite others to watch as well.

OurPerformers

Enter the Virtual Necessity Open Mic page.  We are only two days in, but there are already over a half dozen performances up, and performers are working on new videos every day. This has started as a Metro West Massachusetts thing, but there is no reason that others who have a song to sing, a comedy bit to make people laugh, poetry to make people feel, or stories to tell can’t submit something to the page (send as a link or in a message).

Author

Art is what will get us through this. Art and the knowledge that we are doing what we can to protect the people we care about. Please go ahead and film your song, poem, story, or jokes and then send them into the page. We’d love to get a little light.

 -Chris

Farewell, My Friend

First, it is my dearest hope that all of you are staying safe, and staying as healthy as possible. For those who can, please work from home, and certainly do what you can to both keep yourself from catching COVID-19 and help keep it from spreading further as well.

Second, I have some sad news related to Tunnel 18’s history. Donald Humphreys – my friend since our first day of kindergarten, the one drummer I have spent the most time with (we played together from about 1983-1996 or so), and the guy who came up with the name Tunnel 18 – died this morning.  

He was diagnosed with glioblastoma (the same cancer that killed Neil Peart and Gord Downie) last spring and had been fighting the disease ever since.

I’m going to take this moment to renew my plea that if you can, please donate to any of the cancer societies who are doing good work and research into battling this disease. My favorite is Sunnyview, but there are many others. Don and C

Aside from this, I’m going to spend some time thinking of my friend and brother in music. I will remember building and then blowing up plastic model planes in his backyard. I will remember model railroading. I will remember riding bikes halfway across Bergen County. I will remember the very first days of Tunnel 18, of learning songs, sounding terrible and then sounding less terrible. I will remember playing parties where we eventually got police officers from four different towns in the county to come by to shut us down. I will remember meeting his kids for the first time, and him meeting mine.

We hadn’t been able to play music together for years because of the separation of a few hundred miles, but just like I have been playing music again, he was as well, shifting from drums to guitar in Outside The Lines, a band in northern New Jersey. I believe they will be soldiering on, and I strongly recommend you go out and take a listen if you can. 

Farewell, my friend – thank you for all of the wonderful memories and for the impact that you made on so many of us.

-Chris

Don-Guitar

Turn off the Radio, Turn on the Video

I am incredibly thankful for my life and the incredibly cool things I get to do. Yes, there’s all the travel and my family and friends and music and building stuff, but…

Last fall, I spent the day with some new friends on the Esplanade in Boston. My friend (and sometime spirit guide) Andrew Geano had released his first solo album a few months earlier and was looking to shoot his first video:2020-03-06 23.08.31

“Chris! Are you free on Sunday? I am shooting a scene for my music video for my song “Not That Free” on the Esplanade and I am gathering people I know to participate in it have a small little part that I thought you’d be really good for. You’d be playing a street preacher getting up in the face of the lead character (played by our friend Audrey Rose). It will be pretty simple stuff, and you won’t be mic’ed, and the your part will last no more than 15 seconds. If this is something that interests you, let me know. 🙂”Preach

My response was a casual and nonchalant YES!!

The video was formally released yesterday and there was a release party at Sally O’Brien’s in Somerville, MA last night to celebrate. And if I haven’t already, let me recommend a few bands and let you know about the great music you missed from: 

Audrey Rose Hughes

Jim Weeks

Wildcat Slim

And of course…

Andrew Geano

Thank you for being patient during a long absence – been an interesting few weeks, and I should be back on this blog a little bit more regularly now.  Without getting into details, I hope to be recording a few news songs, including one I started last night about how life flies by so fast. 

I’m looking forward to being with you again soon. Thanks for joining me on the journey, as always.

The Jetset Life is Gonna Kill You*

Right in the middle of an e x t e n d e d travel jag right now.  Do have some music news as well.

So maybe let’s cover that first:

InTheEnd-Singlecover2Hey! I’ve got yet another new single up on Spotify!  In The End has seen a lot of good play in open mic and drop-in band action in Massachusetts and Alberta over the past few months, so it was time to finally drop the recorded version.   

There are more songs in the works, too.  More on that in a bit.

First: travel updates.  The good news is that I have gotten to visit and experience yet another faraway place – one that really belongs on a list of must-see places.  The bad news is that I really just barely experienced Antananarivo, and cast only the briefest of glances at Madagascar. 2020-01-25 11.25.45

I’m pretty much an accidental tourist in cases like these, but one of my favorite things to do when forced to travel for business is to get out and explore the city.  In many cases I am able to just walk around and observe life, browse newsstands and grocery stores, take pictures of old railway stations, etc, even when it is quite obvious that I am not a native – that I neither look nor speak like the people around me.

Unfortunately, this kind of exploration is not that easy to work in to such a short stay in Antananarivo.  So: for this trip, I do my own variation of the Joe Walsh “live in hotels, tear out the walls” (which in my case involves writing songs and maybe playing Roblox) and then go on my merry way.

And then get home from Antananarivo late on a Saturday, do laundry on a Sunday, and then head straight off to Edmonton.

2020-01-29 09.31.14-1I love this town, I’ve loved this town for a long time, and it really is a second home to me. I know the flow of the city whether it’s +30°C or -40°C. Either way, I don’t care. Plus, I have found a real community out here – friends I love to see and spend time with, places I love to see through the seasons, sunrises and sunsets that I don’t see very much anywhere else. 

Then home again on a Friday afternoon, another run of laundry, dry cleaning, cleaning the house, spending time with family, and then off to another plane. This time to Vancouver. An oddly cold and snowy Vancouver. Another of the most beautiful places on Earth, and another where I have wandered far and wide.

Home again by red eye on Thursday so that I get into the house around lunchtime on Friday. Sunday fly out to Tampa, fly home again on Tuesday.

And then rest.

And God I need a rest. This rockstar life without actually being a rockstar can be very tiring. Neil Peart once wrote that trying to figure out a different shower every night is hard enough, never mind a coffee maker. Suffice to say I can relate.  Also, rental cars have a learning curve, and why do so many automakers use exactly the opposite directions for engaging windshield wipers?  I assure you, this is not a thing one wants to be fumbling with when one truly needs them!  

Anyway…

2020-02-01 20.33.55One real benefit of being on planes is it seems to bring out ideas for new songs.  I had listed a few things I was working on in the last blog. Well, the flight back from Edmonton last week provided yet another new song, Clouds, which got tracked in demo form last Saturday.  And another set of riffs came during the flight out to Vancouver today.

International rockstar traveller, indeed!

 

*(Apologies and thanks to My Chemical Romance)

Resetting

Resetting is a very necessary thing.  And a thing I rather wish I had an ability to truly do.  Work for me is an obligation, but also an aspiration.  

My brother and I have had conversations about this.  Somehow we and everyone else in my family have absorbed the message that we are supposed to be working at pretty much all times.    Any spare moment is a moment that we really ought to be doing a thing from the task lists that have been assigned to us. 

Of course, this is incredibly unhealthy, and leads to burn out, sickness, and a general mental malaise. It also makes us not a hell of a lot of fun to be around.

So, here’s a picture of some cows:2020-01-11 16.02.43

These are authentic Texas Longhorns, located on a ranch northwest of Nacogdoches. The ranch is owned and run by some distant family members of ours, and the cows are kept as pets. In fact, they referred to them as “very large dogs”.

While there is cell and Wi-Fi coverage there, it is spotty and somewhat unreliable. As a result, the focus is a little bit more local. Access to my day-to-day job and work very much took a backseat. What work there is to do on a ranch is a lot more immediate and tangible, and the results visible and more immediately relevant to life.

In the process of catching my breath and spending a little time in the woods, I came back to a whole set of songs that I have started but not done very much with. I don’t know how many of these will actually make it to a final form, but here is a list of song titles of things I’m working on:

  • Burn the Ships
  • Death in the Neighborhood
  • Pixie Queen
  • They’re Waiting for Me
  • Uneasy Lies the Head
  • Nobody’s Business

As has been my habit of late, I will typically demo songs in the studio at home, then take them out to open mic to work shop them a few times, and then do a final set of recordings for release.

Along those lines, I do have a little bit of news:InTheEnd-Singlecover2

Instead of releasing an entire new album at this point, I have decided to put the songs from Wayfinding out as individual singles as I am happy with their recording, mastering, and mixing. The first two have just been released and are available on cdbaby, iTunes, and Spotify. 

Not That Bright

In The End (Spotify link coming soon)

Please go ahead and take a listen! We’ve also put a lot of work into artwork that was or is intended to eventually be used for the album cover, for the CD print, and for liner notes. I promise I will make those available for download on this website as soon as I release a few more of the singles. 

Also, I continue to play at local open mics in the eastern Massachusetts area, and will be playing at Devlin’s in Brighton on Monday, January 27.  If all goes well, I will also be playing at Pub 340 in Vancouver on Wednesday, February 5. 

I have also confirmed that I will be the featured performer on Sunday, April 5 at Article 24 in Brighton. I really, really hope to see you there!

Please like and follow Tunnel 18 on Facebook or Twitter for more real-time updates. 

So finally, if I can leave a gift for you – here is the sunset from the first night that we spent on the ranch. I dare you to look at this and not feel just a little bit more calm, and recognize just a moment to be still. 

2020-01-11 18.10.11

The Professor (RIP)

A personal blog is often a place for many words about a lot of things: thoughts, reflections, and whatnot.  Today, I will offer just a few words, about something that has affected me very deeply.

2020-01-10 17.12.57As I’ve said before, Rush was my favorite band growing up.  Their music was the soundtrack I lived my life to.  Their lyrics reassured the mind of a kid who was a bit of an outcast, and more than a little odd.  And their music never got old – they continued to change with the times and with their own tastes.  A lesson I hope to keep with me as I (hopefully) continue songwriting for many years to come. 

Neil Peart died earlier this week after a three-and-a-half year battle with glioblastoma.  If you don’t already know who Neil Peart was, all I can do is offer you just a sample of how the man played, and then urge you to read his writings.  His lyrics are the liturgy of Rush. His own storytelling spoke of a humble but searching mind.  

I would ask you to do one thing, if you can.  Glioblastoma is a devastating and frighteningly unkind killer.  Unfortunately it is a disease that I have more familiarity with than I would like, due to a dear friend’s struggles (more on him another time).

Glioblastoma of course also took another great songwriter, Gord Downie (of the Tragically Hip), back in 2016. On his passing, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto established a fund for brain cancer research.  If you can, please donate.

I have to go now.  It’s hard to type through tears.

New Year, Stuff Done, Stuff to Do

A very happy 2020 to you all! 2019 was an incredible year, and I’m really looking forward to this new year ahead. In 1943 Woody Guthrie famously put together a list of things he wanted to accomplish in the year ahead. I’m gonna do something of the same here below (though a slightly shorter list). 

Live Performances

I played 40 shows in 2019 – mostly at open mics.  While most of those appearances were in Newton and Brighton here in Massachusetts, I also played live in Edmonton, Red Deer, Indianapolis, and Toronto. I also played four longer shows where I was the featured act. All steps in the right direction!2019-11-06 20.29.24

With the new year, one of my resolutions is to do more live performances in 2020 than I did in 2019. My work travel schedule may make this a little challenging, or it may make it that I am performing in more parts of the world. 

First live performance of 2020 will be an open mic – look for me at Article 24 on Sunday, January 5 (and then another one on January 19) a little after 9pm.  Details here.

New Songs

Did get a few new songs out there in 2019, notably “In a Minor Key” and “All’s Well That Ends.”

Still, there were a lot of false starts. One of the challenges I have is that I have a lot on my plate, making it rather tough to have a clear mind to write and then to record. 

For 2020, I have a few ideas:

  • I have a lot of musical ideas stored up on video and sound clips (but without lyrics). I have about 100 lyrical ideas stored up either as a line or two or as complete songs (but no music).  Dig into the bag of ideas and bring together some of these things into full songs.
  • Take the entire Wayfinding album and release it – not as a full CD, but as singles. The first of these (and there will be two, as singles always have and forever shall have an A side and a B side) will be “In The End” and “Not That Bright.”  The plan is to release these in early January – CD Baby is having a little indigestion with the audio files, but we’ll fix it.
  • And of course I’ll keep bringing new tunes to open mics, to Soundcloud, and to Spotify as they ripen.

Anyone Wanna Play?

Man, I really want to be part of a band again.  Have had the pleasure of jamming with a few friends again over the past few months and – while they’re not in a position to be part of a band right now – I love that energy, and so many new ideas come out of playing with other people.  It just raises everything to a new level.

So….

Do you play guitar, bass, or drums?  Maybe even sing a little bit?

Wanna get together and play some of my tunes, some covers, and try out some things you’ve got on your mind?

Want to get in front of people and see what this sounds like when other people hear it, start dancing and maybe even sing along?

Please oh please let me know.  Let’s make some music together!