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!

A Special Place

I am of an age at which starting new habits or routines is unusual and often difficult. We become set in our patterns and are loath to change them – which is why when it comes time to make a change, having a supportive community around you is so incredibly valuable.

An institution of seven years came to a close this past Monday night. The Open Mic Jam at Bill‘s Pizza* – formerly at Terry O’Reilly‘s and at Smoken’ Joe’s before that – provided that supportive community for many songwriters, musicians, comedians, poets, and even novelists. It was on this stage 16 months ago that I first returned to performing live (after a break of few decades).

2019-12-02 21.14.38I will be eternally grateful to Terrance and Andrew for providing this environment, both for a returning performer to find his chops again, and also for providing a great workshop for trying out new songs and material as I was writing them. I am so, so pleased and honored to call you my friends!

Likewise, I now find myself in the community of some truly talented fellow performers, including (but absolutely not limited to) the up-and-coming Elliot Wren, the folk voice of Bob Greenwood, bassist extraordinaire Ethan Mackler, and theater composer/lyricist/blogger Danielle Pinals. 2019-12-04 23.11.35

In the meantime, the revitalized Tunnel 18 is moving forward. I’m gonna be playing with a couple of interesting people over the next couple of weeks, including a drummer who I am really looking forward to collaborating with. Look for new music soon – I know I’ve been promising it for a while, but it’s on its way. Love to you all, and best wishes for warmth and fellowship this holiday season. 

 

*Bill’s is still an institution on its own, and run by some damn fine people. Go and enjoy the food!

Good Nights and Learning Nights

Ok, so it’s been a little over a year of performing live now. Have really been enjoying it, and just about every night out is better than the one before. 

Just about, that is. 

For those of us who tend towards the self-critical, one of the hardest things to do is to backslide. And yes, that’s the word we use sometimes. The we-were-doing-so-well and the it’s-just-not-there. And maybe it never was and we were just fooling ourselves for a bit and now we’re back to where we should be – amateur, dreamer, pretender. 

Sometimes by a miracle (or a hell of a lot of work and therapy) we remember that in fact all of this feeling of inadequacy is a natural side effect of learning and growing. 

What the hell am I on about? Well, I tried something new in my slot at the regular Monday open mic with Andrew and Terrance. Went with my Telecaster instead of my acoustic and also brought the small pedalboard (just to make it less twangy). Also didn’t really figure out which songs I wanted to do until the day before (not intentionally, but still).

And it was pretty bad, by my standards. Missed chord changes, weak voice, forgotten words, thin guitar. 

Just about everything was bad, and all that after a week of feeling really great about how far my music and performance has come. 

I’d forgotten that I’d spent all of Saturday working on a new song, including recording basic tracks and overdubs. At kind of the last minute I’d decided to do two original songs: one that I’d played live once, and one that I hadn’t quite figured out the live arrangement for. I was using the pedalboard out at a gig for the first time. 

Had Sir Humphrey been nearby, he would have described my choices as “brave”. 

On the way out, I ran into one of the comics who had also performed that night:

“How was your night? I think I missed your songs.”

“Well, there are good nights and there are learning nights, and I learned a lot.”

“Yup….  Same for me.”

Except he was great!