Song of the Week #13 (10/10/12)

Song of the Week #13

This week’s “Song of the Week” is about an older man I know. Unfortunately, every time I hang out with him he wears a sadness about the past that is almost visible. He talks about his regrets and simply doesn’t seem able to shake loose of his self pity to find what is still great in him.

This situation is even more sad because this person was once a buoyant personality, ever the jokester. This song, “Why Would You?,” is my musing out loud about helping him rediscover his uniqueness.

Come see About A Girl perform this coming Monday, October 15th at the EARL. We play at 8:45pm and open for My Jerusalem and Dana Falconberry.

“Why Would You?”

Song of the Week #12 (10/3/12)

Song of the Week #12

The first band that I put together was called Radio Mango. I had just left my brother’s rock band, Aya Sofia, wanting to play music that incorporated sounds from the various places I had lived and visited. RM played original music with heavy Latin, African and Caribbean influences. We did some great things, played some great shows, but after 2 years performing together, we decided to split up.

I then formed a new band. Unlike RM, this time I wanted to have no preconceptions about the type of music we would play. Thus, About A Girl. We have continued to keep the free-flowing, no preconceptions thing going now for 5+ years.

When I was young I had a Sony Walkman then Discman, and it was always one album at a time. In the age of iPods, however, when you can listen to 15 genres or 15 bands or 15 songs from 15 countries – whatever – in an hour AND in this age of singles, not albums, I only think it right, for me anyway, to do lots of different types of songs. What is a genre?

On to this week’s song, “Brother.” At the time I started About A Girl, my brother and I had a big disagreement. RM was doing pretty well and he thought I was being stupid to start playing an entirely different type of music.

We debated it for a while, I tried to win him over and failed. That night I remember playing the conversation over in my head several times, feeling pissed and down. It wasn’t really that big of a deal, but I wanted him – my bro, who I had played music with – more than anyone else to get why I was making the change and to support it. To deal, I wrote this song. It will be on twoheartstwo which should be out this fall.


Song of the Week #11 (9/26/12)

Song of the Week #11

This week’s “Song of the Week” demo was created last night and this afternoon and is based on a marimba riff (see below) that I created this summer. Honestly, I hated the riff but made myself record it anyway because it popped into my head. I keep everything and constantly go over old voice memos recorded on my phone, song ideas recorded quickly on garage band, etc. looking for ideas.

I hadn’t listened to the marimba thing for a while. When I was checking it out last night, I added some delay to the part and it suddenly became something that I thought was cool. Thus this song: “House on Fire.” The song name is the working album title I’ve been using with all of my new songs.

“House on Fire”

“Marimba Riff”

Song of the Week #10 (9/19/12)

Song of the Week #10

Early this summer my sister asked me to write a song for the first dance at her wedding. I can’t tell you how excited I was. During a layover in Pittsburgh in June for about 6 hours, I took a shuttle downtown with my guitar and ended up writing most of the song, “I Feel So Lucky,” while sitting on a park bench between a couple of office buildings. (I had thrown my guitar case down sloppily in front of me and one of the security guys ended up asking me to leave thinking I was panhandling!)

My brother, Ryan, plays lead guitar in the video below along with Eric Davis, friend of the groom who also plays with About A Girl in Atlanta, and my cousin, Michelle Stevens. A few members of the band, Shimmer, also join us – Jay, Pearcy and Joe. Ryan and I did rehearsals piecemeal throughout the week prior to the wedding with each of the players. The performance was the only time we all played the song together. Enjoy the flashing cowboy hats!

“I Feel So Lucky”

Song of the Week #9 (9/12/12)

Song of the Week #9

I wrote and recorded the demo for this week’s Song of the Week yesterday afternoon. It was inspired by hearing someone say they wanted to have a relationship that made even going to the grocery store fun. I really liked that sentiment.

By the way, you can see my band, About A Girl, play in Atlanta on Monday, October 15th at one of my favorite venues, the EARL. RSVP on Facebook.

“Grocery Store”

Song of the Week #8 (9/5/12)

Song of the Week #8

I’m now set up back in the ATL. It was great to see everyone in Chicago! This week’s song is also a new one, written in California and performed for the first time at the Bucktown Arts Fest. I went out West to write and this was the first thing that came out. It’s about immersing yourself in nature and finding the words.


Adiós Tahoe / Dancing in the Rain

Lake Tahoe

The lake itself

Backyard in Truckee

Backyard in Truckee

Adiós Tahoe

Tomorrow morning I will begin my 3-day trek back to Chicago. I’ve spent the past 48 days in California blogging and writing and recording new song ideas. It’s the first time I’ve ever been able to dedicate so many hours in a day to writing, recording and simply thinking about music. It has truly been revolutionary and has given me a direction in my writing that I feel very good about.


An old friend gave me a book several years ago, which I feel contains oceans of wisdom, called Letters to a Young Poet. The book features letters from poet Rainer Maria Rilke to an aspiring artist.

One of the passages reads as follows:

“You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts. Now (since you have allowed me to advise you) I beg you to give up all that. You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself.”

When I first read this I felt I had found my bible. I believe in his advice so firmly, which is why I came here – to California, to the woods, to solitude – looking for answers.

“Then draw near to Nature. Then try, like some first human being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose.”

On the next page, Rilke continues his first letter with my favorite passage of the book. He writes:

“Therefore, my dear sir, I know no advice for you save this: to go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create. Accept it, just as it sounds, without inquiring into it. Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what recompense might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and find everything in himself and in Nature to whom he has attached himself.

For the creator must be a world for himself and find everything in himself and in Nature to whom he has attached himself.

I love that last line. No one can find your voice for you, no one can tell you what your song sounds like. We’re all naked and alone in that sense. Writing is a great and scary adventure. Will I find it? Will I know that I’ve found it? Am I copying? Is the shore invisible? Will anyone ever want to listen to this?

I felt so much doubt while touring and being out there on my own. But I did dive deep into myself and find something that I like. I don’t know that there could be a more valuable product of this summer. I feel that I have learned/grown/achieved more in the past 2 months than I had in the previous 2-3 years while working a full-time job. I feel obnoxious writing those words but I actually wonder if they are an understatement. Maybe 4 years…?


Salt Flats

Utah Salt Flats

Salt Flats

Future Tumbleweed

The ride home is pretty quick, machine-like and uneventful with quick stops at the University of Wyoming (got a sweet hat with their cowboy logo, which I love) and a beautiful state park near Council Bluffs, Iowa (camping out with the geese). My greatest disappointment about the actual ride back is that I went through Utah at night. The salt flats near the border of Nevada are one of the coolest, most ridiculous topographic features that I’ve seen on the planet. I absolutely love them. They’re mesmerizing.

Dancing in the Rain

About A Girl at the Bucktown Arts Fest


About A Girl had played the Bucktown Arts Fest a few years ago. Rob Brookman, curator of the music aspect of the fest, was nice enough to invite us back this year. While I was out in California, I contemplated dropping the band out of the fest so that I could spend an additional month (being a hermit in the woods and) writing. Big thanks to Rob for being patient with me. In the end, I decided it would do me and the band much more good to play the fest.

I quickly threw together a set list made almost completely of the new songs that I had written out West, then finished lyrics, made demos, wrote out sheet music, etc. so that we would actually be able to pull off all of the new material. I set up the living room in Truckee with the exact equipment – pedals, amps, vocal effects, etc. – I would use at the fest and rehearsed every day with the living room couches as my audience.

I set up the living room in Truckee with the exact equipment – pedals, amps, vocal effects, etc. – I would use at the fest and rehearsed every day with the living room couches as my audience.

I’m so damn glad I didn’t drop us out of this show. Having a performance to shoot for made the last 3 weeks in California extremely focused and productive. As I practiced the new stuff, I looked out “into the crowd” and imagined what it would feel like the night of the show. My visualizations always took place on a nice, warm late summer evening with a light breeze in the air. Particularly when I played the 7th song in the 10-song set, “Discovery,” a chill song in the midst of a relatively “hard” set for AAG, I imagined feeling a breeze across my face as I closed my eyes to passionately sing the chorus.

Upon arriving to Chicago, however, all I heard was rain, rain, rain. Numerous friends told me about the great weather they’d been having for the past week then followed up with: “Hope it doesn’t rain on Sunday,” “Supposed to rain on Sunday,” “Looks like it’s going to rain on Sunday,” etc…..


The rain started lightly the morning of the gig. I assured the band that the show would go on. We got to the venue to set up. While still tolerable, it was raining a bit harder and taking a big toll on the audience. By the time we started, it was a serious downpour, and the weather only got worse as the gig went on, reaching biblical proportions during our last two songs.


I looked around at the band during the last few songs. Despite being covered on the stage, most of our equipment was at least a little wet, but we all looked out to a crazy scene of people dancing around in the rain – some with ponchos and umbrellas, some without and completely soaked. Everybody in the band had a smile on their faces.

Most of our equipment was at least a little wet, but we all looked out to a crazy scene of people dancing around in the rain.

Gabriel drenched


While I was bummed that we didn’t get to showcase the new music for more people, the day – and the rain – reached a crescendo during the last song. A handful of people danced frenetically, all big, wet smiles, as cats and dogs and hippopotami fell from the sky! I loved it!

After the show, we loaded out as quickly as we could, which was never going to be quick enough in that weather. Before Marshall and James jumped in their car to leave, James took his shirt off and rang a bucket of water out. I was freezing and soaked when I got home. It took me most of the next day to dry out my equipment, my car, my wallet, etc.!

The show only confirmed everything I was feeling about the new music: this is the way forward. Things did not turn out as planned, but there still is quite a lot of joy in the world.

Song of the Week #7 (8/29/12)

Song of the Week, No. 7

Thanks to everyone who braved the deluge this past Sunday to see us at the Bucktown Arts Fest. This week’s song is one of the new ones, written in California and performed for the first time last week. It’s about neighbors, love and, of course, gardening.


Song of the Week #6 (8/22/12)

Song of the Week, No. 6

This week’s song is one I wrote a few years back. I plan on including it in twoheartstwo. Sometimes I forget about it and then stumble upon it to remember that I really do love this one. It was written after I had impulsively broken up with a girl and then regretted it. It didn’t work.

“Can’t Let You Go”

Song of the Week #5 (8/15/12)

Song of the Week, No. 5

This week’s song, “Not Like Tonight,” is the last one I will post from Truckee, California. I came out here to write and ended up creating demos for about 9 new songs, many of which will be performed live for the first time during our show at the Bucktown Arts Fest on August 26th.

Early next week I’ll be heading back to Chicago for the show. I’m sad to be leaving the mountains but thrilled about the chance to perform the new work for human beings. There aren’t too many where I am now!.

“Not Like Tonight”