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!

Climbing

I have a lot of baggage.

Literally, I have a lot of baggage – see examples at right.  Over one two-day period here in August I started the day with a hiking pack and an overnight bag, transitioned to a guitar case to play an open mic, and then grabbed my carry-on and computer bag to head to the airport at 5:30 the next morning.2019-08-22 08.14.41

So, that’s

  • Hiking pack
  • Overnight bag
  • Guitar case 
  • Roller bag
  • Computer bag

Not all of them at the same time.  Not all of them useful in the same way.  And at least one of them more beloved than the others (and P.S.: it’s not the computer bag).

The second favorite bag is the hiking pack, though that relationship is a little complicated.  My son and I have been on multiple significant, multiple-day hikes over a span of years that goes back to about when he was 10 years old.  Many of those hikes occurred in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and many of them were arduous, in the cold, in the rain, and with a pack that made me wonder if my shoulders would ever recover.  Terrain has ranged from flat and grassy to alpine garden to boulder scramble to near-vertical ravine.  2019-08-18 13.21.59

This past weekend’s hike was a one-day, but pretty difficult climb up the Hunt Trail to the peak of Mt. Katahdin, the highest point in Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.  

It’s a hard truck. 5 miles in, 5 miles out, and 4400 vertical feet of elevation change. A good deal of that 4,400 feet occurs in what is called the Gateway – a near-vertical boulder scramble at the edge of an outcropping of the mountain. 

We were in fog for most of our climb. This was certainly disconcerting as it could rain at any moment and become very slippery, but in hindsight it actually was very helpful. The fog kept us from being able to see completely where we were going or where the summit was, but it also made us feel a little bit more enclosed than we actually were. In those few moments where the fog cleared, there was a very distinct feeling that we were scaling the outside of the building. In the same moments, there was the realization that however we went up, we are eventually going to have to come down!

But, then we got to the top….

2019-08-18 09.58.49

As you might be able to guess, it’d be easy for me to make the analogy to songwriting, or to my playing, or to performing.  But you’re all smart and creative and feeling people – you can make that connection on your own.

Tonight I’m doing a different type of climbing.  I am reliably informed that we are currently nearing our cruising altitude of 30,000 feet and will be making our connection more or less on time so that I may make it home in that vague in-between place that can be called either Wednesday night or Thursday morning.  

It’s a pretty empty flight, and the attendants had us shift around for weight and balance – and I have found myself in an empty row as a result.

As an overly experienced flier, I almost always take an aisle seat so I can get out and make my next flight (or get the hell home or to the hotel).  But tonight, look out that window….2019-08-21 20.34.04

…sometimes you’re reminded to stop, look around, and remember why the climb is worth it.

Cleveland

On the road again, this time through Cleveland and then on to Toronto and Edmonton for the second half of the week. 

While in the Cleveland airport, I had a quick moment of déjà vu, and then of revelation. In the picture to the side you will see an area where I spent an overnight in the airport in April 1993. I was returning to Chapel Hill, North Carolina from my first trip to California. It was a long set of flights, and I didn’t quite realize what I was getting into when I made the reservation.

At that time American Express would allow students to get one flight anywhere in the United States round-trip for $199. So, I used mine to go out to San Francisco to a meeting where I hoped I might also find a job. The flight out was easy, leaving from Raleigh and making one connection in Newark. The flight back was San Francisco to Denver to Cleveland to Newark to Greensboro. Once I arrived in Greensboro, my girlfriend at the time was to pick me up and drive me back to Chapel Hill.

The whole return trip was a “direct” flight, meaning I didn’t have to change planes, but it was more like riding a local bus route.

What I’d also failed to grasp was that the flight would shut down and overnight in Cleveland. Again, this is a concept I would understand (and prepare for) better in years to come, but I had no experience to prepare me for it.2019-05-07 17.57.25

So, we got to Cleveland, they told us to get off the plane, get our bags, and check back in when the airport opened in the morning. Not realizing that this was part of the plan, and I had of course made no arrangements. So I slept right about where this picture was taken. And by slept, I meant dealt with a massive headache from not having eaten for the previous 24 hours except for the candy bar in Denver that gave me an initial sugar rush, followed by a migraine.

Morning came; I checked back in, and started off on my remaining flights. Got picked up by my then-girlfriend in Greensboro, met her parents for the first time (yup), and then drove back to Chapel Hill where I took a long shower followed by a long nap.

I tell the story because there were multiple points during that whole journey where I felt multiple flavors of “What’s going on? Why am I here? I’m completely screwing this up, I’m an idiot. If you screw this up, imagine what else you’re going to screw up.”

Walking through this part of the airport, that memory and those feelings came right back. And then I remembered they always go away.  It usually turns out that I haven’t screwed up, or have done so only very minorly. And if I screw up, so what? I’ve learned something. And then I do better the next time.

With all the storms that I’ve withstood, still don’t think that I’m damaged goods.

So, maybe a long way around to share that song with you, but I hope you also see from this very minor example of stress and recovery that the sun always rises the next day.   And then you get on the next plane and go to the next destination.