It Takes All Kinds

First it was a poster on the door of the bookstore/bar:

Amy R-something & HER BAND! scheduled for a day I knew I’d be in Michigan.

I put it out of my mind,

“We can’t wait to see you play on Friday!”  a friend said. Where? I asked. “Here! We saw a poster!”

Another Amy, with her band, playing Blues & Original Songs too. In a sort of old-timey script? I. just. don’t know – how that could be me?

Then there was another Amy Rigby in my Twitter feed, I think she’s a life coach. She actually seemed really cool and I loved her article about stripping down her life to the bare minimum. It was inspiring.

Help me, Amy Rigby, I thought – help me, Amy Rigby!

I know there’s also an Amy Rigby bodybuilder (in Scotland), an Amy Rigby dentist and an Amy Rigby special needs teacher.

But I’ve already done the Who Am I theme here. A lot.

One thing I haven’t done is make a video til now. Eric and I made one for Do You Remember That which I will forever love. It’s taken a little while to make this one for Tom Petty Karaoke, I thought it would be so fun and simple! It was fun, but it took a little while – many thanks to Ted Barron who filmed it and put it all together and is such a great photographer and now videographer. It’s up!

I spent a week packing and shipping and making travel arrangements and getting Eric launched off towards Australia and New Zealand; trying to sort out my guitar travails and the change of seasons and the looming midterm elections. I went back and forth to the laundromat and have had a hard time trying to do my bookstore job when I’m not doing my music job, but I love it too much to stop.

“Look forward to seeing your show on Friday!” texted a friend. They’ll probably fall in love with this other Amy R. I tried not to imagine her strutting along the length of the bar playing a blazing Stratocaster…she might even finish the show by picking a book off my “Staff Picks” shelf, flipping a lighter out of her back pocket and setting it on fire while she blasts a harmonica solo. Bitch.

I felt run down and then my eye started aching and I realized I was getting another eye infection and wondered how I could bear to get on a plane and go hang out with people and play in front of them at this songwriting retreat I was scheduled for. I went to the doctor on my way to the airport, afraid that if my eye didn’t get better quick I actually might have trouble driving because I can’t really see out of the other eye.

I drove four hours north of Detroit listening to Tom Petty like two years ago when I went to the same retreat, only Tom was alive then and now he’s…gone. I was careful not to cry because then it would’ve really been impossible to see.

I wore dark glasses for the first day at camp because my eye had swollen shut in the night. I wanted to shout to a lot of the campers from two years ago – “it’s me! Remember me? I haven’t suddenly gotten pretentious, honest!” The swelling went down and I found that if I combed my bangs just so they covered most of the swollen part of my eye.

Lamb’s Retreat is one of the most fun, inspiring weekends you can have. It’s forty or so songwriters and five instructors. Most of the songwriters are from Michigan though this time there were some from as far away as Northern California and North Carolina. There were more women this year too which made me happy. A lot of the people come every year, to have a chance away from their regular lives to work on songs, play music and hang out and listen to other people play and hear what we the instructors have to impart. The retreat is led by John D. Lamb, he’s the one who gave me the assignment two years ago that became From Philiproth@gmail to He’s a songwriter too – I love his songs and his vibe. John writes these detailed writing prompts, a different one for each person at the camp that are like little short stories and everyone has to write a song and play it on the last day of the weekend. It’s intense yet fun.

Each of the other instructors had a unique perspective and skills to offer: Chuck Brodsky a classic songwriter in the folk story song tradition, very literate and lots of baseball songs; Kate Macleod sang like a cross between Emmylou Harris and Joni Mitchell with an edge to her songs; Jeffrey Pepper Rogers who is also the editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine gave a great presentation about accompanying yourself on guitar that everybody learned a lot from.

Then there was Steve Poltz who is indescribably good – I’ve met him a time or two over the years and had a sense of his energy for performing and writing but in person he was just – jawdroppingly imaginative and creative. I never feel at my best in teaching situations, especially with two bad eyes, but I felt better prepared for what to do this year when I talked to the group and I hope I gave them something that could help inspire them like I felt inspired listening to everybody’s songs and playing. Sometimes I get so focused on putting out a record and booking shows and trying to keep getting out there  that making music kinda falls by the wayside…the retreat really gave me back so much that I needed, I’m glad I toughed it out and was starting to feel better.

The instructors did a concert open to the public Saturday night, and on Sunday morning everybody had to play their songs. Each person killed in their own way, people were so resourceful and inventive. I laughed and cried, it’s easy to get caught up in all the work you have to do to keep going out to play and forget the fun of playing music. I love Lamb’s Songwriting Retreat, it’s a long way to go but it was really worth it.

I went to hang out in my room and turned on the TV and the Steelers were playing, it seemed predestined. I drank a beer and was looking at Facebook and there was a message from Bob Kirsch, who was my publisher in Nashville. Wow, I hadn’t heard from him in so long.

“Bob! How are you?”

“Doing well, blessed. Have you heard the good news?”

What – Welk is out of business and I get my song catalog back? was my first thought. Or – finally, Welk got somebody to cover one of my songs! Or – wait, has Bob become a Christian and wants to tell me about his new pal Jesus?

He messaged again: “From Publisher’s Clearing House?” Wait – does that still exist? And…Bob WAS my publisher back when and maybe when they want to dump a load of song catalogs, that’s Publisher’s Clearing House too?

Bob: “I won $150,000 and saw your name on the list, how can they get in touch with you?”

This Bob (not the one of my song but a song and story guy) had been a big part of my Nashville period – he signed me to a publishing deal that allowed me to buy a house and write a whole lot of songs, it was life-changing really…they never got any of the songs covered but it was a big deal for me anyway. And we used to meet about once a month for lunch and go over stuff and talk about music and literature, I miss that guy.

Bob’s FB has been hacked. I honestly don’t know where he is these days.

After another rousing song session (people were practically laying face down on their guitars from song exhaustion at this point) I left to drive back down to Detroit airport. My eye was almost better but I still couldn’t figure out how the hell to open the gas cap to refuel my rental car. I felt like an idiot having to search “Nissan Sentra fuel tank how to open”, looking at a YouTube video duh and then saw that five million viewers had been there before me! I don’t know if that made me feel better or worse.

The airport shuttle van was playing a song with the lyric “It’s a beautiful day for going nowhere” which made me laugh. Nobody else on the shuttle seemed to notice or care. I was able to finish watching the Andre Leon Talley documentary on the flight back home and my guitar rode in a first class seat for free on Delta when I told them about what had happened the last time…

Back at the bookstore bar for a shift, a couple friends and customers mentioned they’d been disappointed when they learned it wasn’t me playing over the weekend.  I didn’t have a chance to ask one of my fellow bartenders how the show went. Did it really happen? Maybe it was just a joke somebody played on me? One time on a long road trip Eric and I went over first names and how many performers have the same ones – there were a lot of Bobs, some Phils, a few Toms – Brian was a popular one…and on and on. Amy – there were many Amys! Some play blues and originals and strut with a Stratocaster, some write songs and like to dress up like J Mascis. It takes all kinds.

UK tour dates

Wed Nov 14 – Manchester, Gulliver’s
Thu Nov 15 – Glasgow, Hug & Pint
Fri Nov 16 – Edinburgh, Voodoo Rooms Speakeasy
Sat Nov 17 – Durham, Olde Cinema Launderette
Sun Nov 18 – Hull, St. John’s
Thu Nov 22 – Worcester, Marrs Bar
Fri Nov 23 – London, Betsey Trotwood
Sat Nov 24 – Portsmouth, Elmsworth Sports Club
Sun Nov 25 – Folkestone, Lime Bar Café

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