Song of the Week #4 (8/8/12)

Song of the Week, No. 4

This week’s Song of the Week installment, “Boys and Girls,” is also a recent creation and product of the “Truckee Sessions.” It will be performed for the first time in public at the Bucktown Arts Fest on August 26th.

“Boys and Girls”

Song of the Week #3 (8/1/12)

Song of the Week, No. 3

This week’s Song of the Week installment, “How Dare You,” will also be on the forthcoming album, twoheartstwo. It is one of my most recent creations, a product of the “Truckee Sessions.”

“How Dare You”

Song of the Week #2 (7/25/12)

Song of the Week, No. 2

This week’s Song of the Week installment, “Saturday,” is an unmixed/unmastered version of a song that will be released next month on the album, twoheartstwo. The song is a late-night, post-going out musing about the people close to us and whether or not we’ve communicated our true feelings to them.


Song of the Week #1 (7/18/12)

Song of the Week, No. 1

I am starting this Song of the Week (SOTW) series off with a silly double-shot. I confess to having done a good bit of online dating. While I consider myself a very good looking man, I decided to whip up a song for a woman I thought was particularly special in order to increase my chances of getting a date. I wrote something based on info I had pulled from her profile and sent it to her in my first email:


She was hilarious. Her response was that “2” was much too easy a word to rhyme with, so she asked me what I would have written if her handle had been “orange.” Ha. So, I whipped up another song for her. Here’s that one:


I knew this was all quite a gamble, but I didn’t care. If nothing more, I would have some fun writing a couple of songs. In the end, that’s all it was, as we went on only one date. No real-life chemistry. Alas.

Tour, Day 32 – Seattle Practice Space

Back to the Music

Seattle Practice Space

I think that’s Bob Marley on the back wall

Two of my goals for this tour were to become a better performer and to get a sense for how compelling my music is. I have absolutely been able to learn a lot in both of these areas. One of the challenges, however, due to so much driving and cramming so many shows into such a short time, has been putting what I’ve learned into practice. For weeks, I’ve wanted to lock myself in a room and make some revisions to how I’m playing some of the songs that I think are strong, add in some new songs and try new instruments and arrangements. As I drove through Oregon and Washington, I made calls to several band rehearsal studios in Seattle and finally found one that had a room free at a reasonable rate for a two-day rental. The prospect of actually being able to set up all of my equipment in one place got me very excited as I pulled into Seattle.

That said, the building was a complete shit hole, as many band rehearsal buildings are. It reminded me of a less clean version of the space my Radio Mango band mates and I shared at Superior Street Studios in Chicago, though the common areas in this building were much worse. My actual room was quite filthy and still had drum sticks jutting out of the walls in various places where the previous tenants had jammed them into the drywall (WTF?). The rooms weren’t sound-proofed so you could hear endless drum soloing coming from two rooms down adjacent hallways and you could hear – and feel – the sludge/black metal band on the other side of the floor bringing the hate full on.

Nonetheless, it was still great to be able to make my own noise. That first day I stayed there 12 hours straight. Since the tour began, I had worked harmonica into my repertoire. While in the space, I worked on incorporating the loop pedal I had recently bought, my keyboard and some electronic track sequencing. I hoped to use all of these in the final North American show in Vancouver on Sunday night. I also was able to write a new piano-based song titled, “Little Bird.” I’m very excited about it and will post it to the site as soon as I make a demo.

Ultimate FrisbeeThat night, I got to hang out with a college friend, Cam Caldwell, who has been living in Seattle for about 6 years. I hadn’t seen Cam in 10 years or so. He happened to also be at the wedding in Maui, so we ended up seeing each other twice in one week after such a long hiatus. I had a few beers with him and his friends next to a fire pit in one of his friend’s backyards, which was great. Chilly at night here, even in the summer. We talked a bunch about the weather – how the eastern half of Washington is hot and dry almost all the time while the western half is cool and wet – and ultimate frisbee, which they all played together. They told me about some big UF tournament, where a team played quasi-naked. I have to go to one of these events sometimes. The people that play UF seriously sound half-bent.

Tour, Day 25 – Put Her to Bed

Kacy and Meme Curtis

Kacy and Meme Curtis

Second day hanging in San Francisco with Kacy and Meme. No show, but, oh, there is some music! Kacy, who I forgot to mention in my last post is a novelist and gifted wordsmith – you can check out some of his work here (and check out this hilarious old bio) – had written some lyrics to a song he titled, “Put Her to Bed,” a couple weeks back.

Today the three of us spent most of the day coming up with some music for the words and then recording the song. The title of the song is a pool reference to calling out a little bump against the rail or another ball as you sink the 8 ball. You can see the random-ass video I made for it below, which is made of images from Kacy’s Facebook page and others that I pulled from doing a Google image search for “playing pool.” I love the images that pop up that have nothing to do with your key words. (You will see a lot of those in the video.)

Miles: No driving for me today!
States: California
Lodging: With my friends Kacy and Meme Curtis in San Francisco, CA

We did most of the recording in the middle of the day, then made a quick jaunt out to Oakland to see one of Kacy’s good friend’s nephews play in an AAU basketball tournament. Talk about a mishmash of a day. After the game, we had a nice dinner with the whole fam at a nice Italian restaurant called Paisan, in Berkeley, and then listened to some live jazz at a small gelateria/cafe a block down called Caffe Trieste. We then headed back to SF and put the final touches on the song, which included creating percussion instruments by putting large necklaces in brass pots and beating on other random household items. Check out the video here:

Tour, Day 23 – You Played the Bassoon

Leyla Zamora

Leyla and her bassoon

Today I got up and hung out with Jason for a bit. He showed me his awesome studio/workspace in the basement of his apartment, where he does some of the construction of the timpani mallets he sells through his company, JG Percussion. He also has a practice area where he rehearses timpani and other percussion parts. When I was in town, he was practicing for an upcoming – big time – audition for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He then cooked me a fantastic breakfast: two pieces of toast with circles cut out of the middle and filled with eggs over easy, topped with marmalade and honey. Beautiful! I don’t know why I didn’t take a picture of it.

Miles Driven: 227
States: California
Lodging: Slept in my car near Santa Barbara, CA

I left Jason a little before noon and headed to meet a friend of his, Leyla Zamora, with whom he played in the San Diego Symphony. Leyla is a bassoonist in the symphony, as well as one of the most kind persons I met on this trip. She has an unmistakably positive aura that is infectious – you can’t help but feel good around her.

I recently recorded the basis of a song that I’m very excited about titled, “You Played the Bassoon,” which is about living next door to a bassoon player. This song will be released this summer in the follow-up album to twoheartsone and will be called, twoheartstwo. Imagine it! Jason had connected me with Leyla a week or so ago, and that afternoon, we were set to record the bassoon parts I had charted out for this song.

Leyla lives with her husband – also a musician – in a very charming bungalow. We set up in her husband’s “man cave,” a small one-room structure in their backyard, which was quiet and perfect for our recording. Leyla was a pro we did a couple of takes and got everything done – set up and breakdown in an hour. I can’t wait to mix this song and post on the site!

Los Angeles Traffic

Los Angeles Traffic

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

After leaving Leyla, I headed north through the jungle of LA highways. A real joy. Check out my view for much of the way in the picture at left. I stopped in Santa Monica for a few hours to have a few drinks with my friend, James Hunavinch. We met a few of his friends, including TV show host Krista Gibson, at a place called The Misfit. James is a wicked entrepreneur/programmer, who recently sold MoVoxx, a mobile ad network, and is currently working in LA on launching a new firm, EverySignal. He went to college at Iowa State with a bunch of my Chicago friends.

California Countryside

Near last night’s “campsite”

After hanging with James, I pressed on toward tomorrow’s destination – San Francisco. I had planned on camping at a state park north of Santa Barbara. I got there very late – as usual – and the wind was blowing cold air like crazy. I pulled my tent out…and then decided against putting up. I drove a bit further down the road and found a quiet spot alongside a farm for some more beautiful sleep in my car. (It actually isn’t that bad. I have a system going now: passenger side, seat fully reclined, shoes and socks off, inside my sleeping bag, pillow under my head, camping mattress rolled up and under my lower back (filling in the crack in the seat) and voilà! If I park on an incline, I’m nearly horizontal and feel like I’m in a twin bed.)

Tour, Day 7 – College Hill Coffee

University of KansasWent over 2,000 miles on my car today. My odometer was at 521 when I left for the first show in Milwaukee!

In the morning, I took a quick spin through the University of Kansas and then had lunch at Biemer’s BBQ. I absolutely cannot resist stopping at BBQ joints when I see them. There are a lot around here.

Miles Driven: 216
States: Kansas
Lodging: With my friend Scott Williams, Winfield, KS

College Hill CoffeeTonight I am playing with a full band for the first time since the CD release show in Chicago. Scott Williams – brother of Tim Williams, who plays percussion in About A Girl – lives in Winfield, Kansas. He is a fantastic pianist and can be found playing on a number of tracks on our album, twoheartsone, (which you can buy on iTunes here). Scott sent me piano tracks via my FTP site after playing along to some of our roughs and recording at his home. Having already added his work to our album, I didn’t actually meet him until I arrived today at the venue!

Scott Williams and band

Guys playing jazz set after I finished

Scott helped me set up a gig at College Hill Coffee, a cute little coffee house in Winfield run by one of the most delightful people I’ve met on this trip, Blenda Hoskinson. Blenda was nice enough to let me play at CHC and Scott was fantastic in getting Lane Turgeon (a 15-year old bass prodigy) and Nick Hofmeister (an awesome percussionist attending Southwestern College, which is right across the street from the cafe) to play with me. They did a rehearsal or two (or maybe it was just one?) and were absolutely spot on during the show. It always blows my mind when you can play with musicians who follow along so well that the audience might believe it was our 50th show together and not our 1st. Big thanks to all three of the guys for playing with me.

Lane’s dad, Brad Turgeon, also joined us on trumpet near the end of the show on the song, “Dutch Girl, In Summer.” You can hear him playing on that song in the album. Scott facilitated some more postal service action to have Brad’s parts sent to me for the album, as well.

You can catch Scott regularly playing jazz gigs in Wichita and Winfield. His quintet is also performing at College Hill Coffee on August 24th.

The gig was very fun and went well. There was a good, very sympathetic crowd. I played a few songs by myself, then the whole band played. After our second set, Scott, Lane and Nick played a wonderful jazz set. The guys are incredibly talented.

After the show, we headed to Scott’s place to have a few beers and listen to some music. Scott has instruments all over his house – guitars, mandolins, keyboards, an amazing Rhodes with Leslie speakers and many things for which I don’t the name. Scott also has a nice record collection. One of the bands we listened to was The Ohio Players. For some reason, I had never heard of them in spite of the fact that they had a couple of #1 albums in the mid-1970s. You absolutely must take look at some of their intense album artwork.

Album Release

twoheartsoneWe released our album last night at the Whistler in Logan Square. Great turnout, great show! Especially good attendance from C&W. Thanks guys and gals!

The Whistler is a nice venue – no sign, art installation in the front window, nice little stage, lofty space with brick walls… One of my favorite things about playing there is the drinks. They are well known for their cocktails, bartender Paul McGee being particularly renowned for his abilities. Instead of the couple of PBRs the band might get at many venues, the Whistler hooks up the players with a band cocktail of the day. Sunday night it was a Tequlia Sunrise with, I believe, some sort of chipotle-infused tequila. Tasty! My friend, George Banks, however, ended up drinking all of the bar’s supply of fresh-squeezed orange juice! so the las few of our drink tickets went to some bourbon-based drink instead. No complaints here.

And the show? Our lineup was me on vocals and classical guitar, Tim Williams on drums, James Ross on upright and electric bass, Glenn DeMichele on pedal steel guitar, Kristine Sorum-Williams on backing vocals and Ronnie Kuller (of Mucca Pazza) on accordion. Everyone except Ronnie played on the album. Ronnie performed with us at the Goa Inn in December, this was her second show with the band.

So, I’m getting more and more introspective as the day to leave my job approaches. I’ve worked for 5 years doing graphic & web design/marketing/PR for a commercial real estate firm in Chicago. The album was released on Sunday (April 29th) and my last day at work is on Wednesday (May 2nd). Everything now is “for real.” I want to make a living playing music and now it’s time to deliver.

I say all of that to get to this point: I thought we did a great job, but I couldn’t help myself from appraising our performance throughout the entire show in terms of how compelling it all is. I believe in the music, but is it really compelling? Does it really grab you? I’m not so sure is my conclusion. I’m hoping that having the opportunity to play in front of audiences across the country over the next couple of months will give me more clarity here. I think authenticity is fundamental for success playing the type of music I want to write and perform. I think I have that in spades. My songs are nothing if not honest. But compelling? This is the thing I think I am still searching for.