I’d just finished my stint in Nashville leaving behind several great friends who’d helped me find the heart of another Saturday night! You might know some of them from the Canadian roots music scene: Melanie Brulee, Jadea Kelly and Cindy Doire. I’m a lucky man to be occasionally surrounded by such youthful beauty and supreme talent.
In fact, Jadea sang on a duet that I wrote several years ago entitled Worthless String of Pearls. It references “searching for the centre of all night long!” We did. Ouch. The next morning was a little rough.
“My head hurts, my feet stink and I don’t like Jesus.” Thanks Jimmy.
They were en route to Las Vegas for a Griswold family vacation while I had to split for Columbus, Mississippi.
I was to perform in a house concert of distinction. I mean, it was a house so grand I expected to see Scarlett O’Hara greet me at the door. That said, I spent the entire evening pre and post show examining the walls of this great house.
If that’s not enough the next morning I drove a few miles down the highway to visit the Howling Wolf Museum. What is going on here. How do you finish an afternoon like that? Well, with southern BBQ at Phil’s roadside BBQ shack. Great guy. Loves the Wolf too.
Drove by Muscle Shoals but didn’t have time to check it out. That was a drag. I would have just found point zero, slept in my car by the river and cranked some Etta James, but I had to split for my next show in Georgia.
My agent in the US booked me for these shows and this next one was a definitely a gamble. I hit a place called The Red Clay Theatre in Deluth Georgia. They were having a songwriting competition and I won the $100. I get to return for the potential to win $1K in November if I want. Someone told me they have some heavy hitters who judge the 10 finalists. I hate these competitions with every fibre of my being. Judging art! Arggg!!! Usually these songwriting competitions ask for $20 per entry. It’s bad. Don’t do it kids. Just go sing your songs. Stop letting people judge your art for money. It’s just wrong!
This competition was free and although I have been protesting this type of nonsense, I was happy to take the hundred bucks, find a nice room and order some first rate Mexican food. Mexican food introduced to me through Michelle Malone who was at the theatre. She was kind enough to invite me out with her band after the ordeal. It was only after I came returned home did I Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelle_Malone ) her to find out she’s a two time Grammy nominee blues rocker who packs them in from all around the US. A cooler gal you will not meet. We did the CD exchange and I’ve been blasting her tunes ever since. A real gem. She wants to co-write. Never tried that. Maybe I’ll start.
The next morning I was surprised to hear from Michael Phillip Wojewoda, a Canadian producer I admire greatly. This guy has produced many of my all time favourite albums over the years and his work has only been garnering more and more accolades as time rolls on. (See: Buffy Sainte-Marie’s latest Polaris and Juno winner – Power in the Blood or Amelia Curran’s – They Promised You Mercy. Both on extremely high rotation in my car).
We’ve been discussing working together and he’d just finished listening to a few of my demo’s and was very encouraged. I wrote back that I was encouraged as well and that somehow we would find a way to work together.
I’ve only ever made indie CD’s and have yet to get a big name producer (save my pal David Baxter) to work with my stuff. I think it’s the time to do it. I’m going to have to find about 30K -40K to get it done. Everyone keeps telling me to do an online fundraising platform and I think I’m going to try it out. Much like the songwriting competitions which I’ve resisted, I’m going to have to suck up my pride and ask my fans for some money up front. We’ll see how it goes.Anyway, having Michael contact to let me know he wanted to hear the rest of my new songs put me into a great frame of mind. It was enough to distract me from the sad letter I’d had from a recent ex-girlfriend AND the fact that my mother was just admitted into a long term care facility. Life.
The next few shows were fast and furious. My songs seem to resonate more in the US. I can’t explain why. Maybe the listeners take the craft more seriously here. I sold a ton of merch at these US shows. Very promising.
I’m going to need to sell much more merch to fix the broken air conditioning in my Toyota. It was hot and humid to the point of being unbearable. I had every window open and that didn’t help. I quite often drive for hours with complete silence as I finish verses of songs in my head. That’s why I require long drives alone. That’s how I write.
I arrived in Appomattox, Virginia for my Friday night show. It was strategically booked for me in a book store. I’d been reading chapters of my book (The Chicken Came First) at several gigs. When I arrived for sound check, I performed a quick set for some students who were working away in the corner. We talked about their university courses, living away from home, dealing with their future, the American election debacle and of all things: ROOTS MUSIC! It seems the young guy Ryan was also in a roots music band. He couldn’t stay for the concert and was bummed out.
“You guys hang tight. I’m going to give you a hour of original music before the show starts.”
And so I did. When I got back to the hotel room that night, I found this email in my inbox.
Thank you so much for lighting up my Friday Night.
I was so happy to be able to make it just for your private set, and I apologize for having to leave. I did not know you were playing tonight; otherwise if I knew there was a full set live show I would have scheduled to stay the whole time; I love listening and meeting artists like you.
I look forward to reading your book as well as checking out some more of your music. I really appreciate guys like you, and that you give me a story to see the big picture of who you are, and why you are you. But so far, you are in my Johnny Cash, Buck Owens and Hank William’s all rolled into one category. You’re a singing-country-folk-poet in my opinion.
I will get back to you when I finish your book, because I think you are a really awesome guy to follow, and get to know more than just a standing act.
But in the mean time, put me on your mailing list, and I’m gonna follow your tour since you are a great inspirational songwriter that has fantastic taste in style and lyrics.:)
I have a list of places that you should tell your booking agent to put on your next tour/ even this summer if you have any availability in PA.
I would love to have you make it through my area if that’s possible!
My hometown area is driven by artists like you and there should be no difficulty for you getting in or drawing any crowds, since you are a national touring artist.
Your new fan,
Now to be honest I receive occasional letters like this but am hesitant to go full braggadocio on the world so I keep them in a file marked: Happy Thoughts.
So far I have 122 Happy Thoughts in this file. This one got to me because of the unbridled enthusiasm AND likely the best line about my music and spirit of all time: The Singing Country Folk Poet. I love that. I’m gonna use it.
I finished the week touring Virginia and the many sites of the civil war. It really is a beautiful state. I stopped into a gas bar en route to Washington DC and had the strangest encounter with some civil war actors who were dressed in full regalia for the tourists.
“Hey man? You’re a Canadian musician? You should meet our buddy over here…”
What do you do when you meet one of the Beach Boys sons (Denis Wilson) after having just watched the documentary on how his father and Charlie Manson were originally buddies? He seemed like a cool dude. Drove a black jeep with batman crest on it. Lots of tats and big black hat and long civil war coat. He had just returned from Europe after meeting with a publisher who’s interested in a book he’d written on his father.
We talked about the Beach Boys and the sun and the heat.
What do you do when a Beach Boy’s son tells you to drive to Boot Vil in Ruckersville VA? You follow his advice about the need for cowboy hats while touring all summer long and do it. I bought a straw cowboy hat which now goes on and stays on.
Actually, I never really dug the Beach Boys. I know, I know – Pet Sounds. Guess you had to be there.
I finished my show in Washington, got back on the highway and blasted some Wolf for the next hour. I now know why anyone would howl for this long in this heat. And hell, I’m just driving. Imagine some white asshole forcing you to pick cotton under that sun? The world is crazy man.
Things I’ve learned. I need to fix my AC. Always play a long sound check set even if there’s only a few people there. Read more Kafka. When in Georgia, always finish any dubious statement with “Bless your heart!” And finally, under no circumstances, don’t go on a ten minute tirade from stage about the absurdity of Donald Trump. Don’t say things like “He should make ball caps that say “Make America Hate Again!” Don’t do this. You will lose 50% of your merch sales after the show. And as you know, I need that money as I’ll be making my first real grown up album soon.
Driving into the Maritimes now. I’ll be going coast to coast for 70 shows across Canada from May to October. Special guests galore. See you soon amigos.
“Drinking doubles on the Rock till I washed up on the shore so they shoved me off the dock for a show in Labrador…” ohh…you know the rest.