Recording, and Being

Greetings everyone. It’s the end of another week, and the beginning of yet another. I cannot express to you how happy I am that I’ll be taking vacation time at the end of this week. Also, there are at least two new songs that feel like they want to be written. I plan to work on those as well as the approximately 8,243 other songs that I have in various forms of semi-completeness. Three days of work should allow me to finish them all…

This is… easy?

Terrance sent me the first remixes of “In a Minor Key”a few days ago. The new mixes are just absolutely wonderful. He re-envisioned these songs in ways that I hadn’t quite thought of, yet capture their spirit beautifully! The new punch and clarity of In A Minor Key made me really see how I could give still more to the song by recording the vocals in a much cleaner way. Just spent three hours today doing exactly that, and I am so excited to hear the final product!

One of the things that occurs to me, though, is the difference between the songwriter’s experience and the fan’s experience of a song. A songwriter lives with a song as it evolves from the initial germ to the point of recording and beyond, including varying interpretations in performance. Every performance is different, every night is different. A song is like a child: born full of potential, growing into itself over time, always changing.

However, fans very often have cemented in their minds the one performance that is captured on tape or the recording that they play in their bedrooms, cars, and phones hundreds upon hundreds of times.

For the musician, it is one song, but taking on thousands of lives as it is performed over and over again. For the fan, it is one performance, played thousands of times. 

Anyway, all of this is by way of telling you that there is new music on its way, and quite soon. I can’t wait to share it with you!

-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

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

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!

Fighting the Self Doubts

RedDeerIt’s been a lively and busy summer so far, and last night I just did my 21st open mic night since first getting back out on the stage last September. It’s been a transformative experience, and I am incredibly appreciative of the community of artists that I have been able to find, particularly in Newton, Massachusetts and in Edmonton, Alberta.

I can feel that my songwriting has changed in the last 10 months of performing. Being around all of these other artists is incredibly humbling. The depth and array of talent is astounding. It is hard not to think of it as a competition when these incredible artists get to the stage before you and completely blow you away with their talent, their depth of feeling and performance…   and then, after you get over that little bruise to your own self-esteem and that hurt little being that is inside of you, you can take what you have seen and see it as inspiration for becoming a better songwriter, better performer, and even maybe a little more pleasant individual. 

The hosts of these open mic nights can make or break them. In particular, I have found two events that have become very dear to me both because of the encouragement of the hosts of one and the opportunities that have been presented by the host of another. 

Andrew Geano and Terrance Reeves host the open mic jam at Bill’s Pizza in Newton, MA.  They were there when I first brought the guitar back out of the case to perform live,  and both of them have been an incredible source of encouragement on songwriting and on how to improve my live performance. Please look both of them up – Terrance is a local music producer and mixer in addition to being a great open mic night host.  Andrew is genuinely one of the nicest people I know, and also is an incredible singer-songwriter. You can find his work on Spotify and also find his live gigs here. 2019-08-10 05.52.42

The other gig that has been a source of opportunity for me is Tim Ko’s open mic night at Tommy Doyle’s in Nonantum.  In addition to giving local musicians a place to play, Tim uses his open mic night to find people to take on longer sets around the MetroWest area. It is through Tim that I’m gonna be playing my first longform solo gig on September 20 at Tommy Doyle’s.

 

I have to go catch a plane now, but I look forward to talking with you again soon. Please mark September 20 on your calendar, and I’ll get you more details really soon!