Dear Mistress Fantasy

“I want…big, electric guitars…tons of harmonies, driving rhythms that make you want to dance!”   Daisy Jones flings her arms out the width of Los Angeles and turns her face up to the sun while her producer nods appreciatively and says: “I think I know just the guys for you.”

Meanwhile, on the East Coast: “I’m so sorry – that smell from the kitchen is horrible. I can’t stand it – just hold on a minute.” Amy Rigby exits the studio, grabs a pot off the kitchen stove, opens the front door and places the pot on the porch. “There, that’s a little better – so you think I should do my guitar part again?”

Back before the pandemic, Eric and I were addicted to the audiobook of Daisy Jones & The Six. I think we listened to it twice, driving to and from gigs or the airport. A novel told in oral history style, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s book was a fantasy of life in a rock and roll band: glamour, excess, fabulous clothes against a backdrop of seventies Los Angeles straight off a Crosby Stills & Nash record jacket. We’ve been waiting for the tv series ever since.

It doesn’t feel like mere coincidence that the episodes have dropped (there, I sound like I actually know something, don’t I – but wait if a show streams how can it drop?) while we’re in the thick of recording my new album. The fictional band in the show, The Six – whose genesis was in the unlikely city of Pittsburgh – and Daisy the female butterfly, who bursts forth as an artist to front the group, traipse in and out of Studio City, the epic real life recording den situated just north of Los Angeles. They all drive adorable sports cars, wear the best vintage clothes and sunglasses a wardrobe mistress could lay hands on, cycle through a collection of layered hairstyles and facial hair on the men, lashes and halter tops on the ladies. Riley Keough as Daisy is lovely and feisty with a wounded core and unlike in the book where the songs that issue forth from Daisy’s teenage style diary never made any sense, the songs in the series actually click. I won’t go into any more plot details because the plot was not what drew us to the story, it’s the time worn and loved fantasy of being a band; limos and Bolly before the show; rustic cottages in Laurel Canyon and mid-century houses in the Hollywood Hills; rehab, soul-searching and cocaine on the recording console we can’t get enough of. I won’t even go into the heated dialogue and body language between Daisy and the leader of the Six that results in tempestuous hit songs, and enough broken glass to fuel a Friday night emergency room. Just keep those riffs and spliffs rolling and we’ll keep watching.

As well as being pure entertainment, the show only highlights the humility of our operation. Recording here takes place through a console that Eric refurbished with his bare hands on racks he has built again and again and I think again, in what once was the living room of an early 50s Cape Cod style house across the street from the chief of police of a small upstate town. Eric has been recording himself for many decades, before that kind of autonomy was accessible to most people. He’s produced & engineered our three records as a duo, singles and tracks for tribute albums and since we’ve lived in New York he’s on his fourth solo album. This is my second we’ve worked on. I’ve taken to huddling over Garageband in my room upstairs to knock out tracks on my own but this album is a full-fledged affair because Eric chases sound in a way I don’t have the patience for – he does it the way I chase words I guess. We’ve been working almost every day for the last two months and the tracks are piling up.

At the same time we’re recording, we’re dealing with day to day life that the people in rock pics never seem to do – they have wives and managers and impresarios and agents to prop them up and take care of the mundane details. We just have each other and the occasional drummer or coffee with a friend but while we work we’re also running to the post office, getting our cars inspected, dental appointments, shoveling snow, doing laundry, booking gigs.  I try to get down and see my Dad. Occasionally a new piece of equipment shows up, or an order of t shirts to print. I work at the bookstore/bar a couple times a week and fulfill orders for records, aprons and tea towels. We’re sort of a mini pop Leonard and Virginia Woolf, running their own press out of the house. Without meaning to we start dressing alike, dark denim, hats (but never the same style hat at the same time, that would just be embarassing), patterned scarves and boots. Instead of fierce passion or murderous glances over a microphone, we’re often doubled over with laughter. Sometimes I’m sleeping on a stool as Eric tries another compressor or pre amp, or I study the spiky shapes of the sound files over his shoulder and update a checklist of songs in my notebook. The films and shows could never depict the hours of work that might not feel like much in the moment but add up and add up – an audience would be stricken into a coma of boredom.

Imagine this as a voice over for the series: We recorded another track. It wasn’t right so we did it again. What should we do about dinner? I think there’s some ravioli in the fridge. Maybe I’d better run to the Price Chopper. Is the vocal okay? I think it needs a harmony. Did you pay that parking ticket?

For sure a series like Daisy Jones (that occasionally drags but at the same time I wish would go on forever) gives a false idea of the art of making music. The idea that an artist will “bring the magic” like a casserole to a party in a room that just happens to be soundproofed and full of instruments, where the musicians all groove together in a fetid marathon fête instead of tediously trying their separate parts over and over again.

I’ve recorded in New York, Nashville, Los Angeles and Springfield Missouri, but I’ve never seen a drummer blissing out in a leather vest over his tanned shirtless torso like Warren in the Six. I come from Pittsburgh, but I’ve never huddled, stacked hands with my band and shouted PITTSBURGH to the heavens…but I intend to start. Eric and I HAVE looked into each other’s eyes on stage, really sharing a moment, but if a thought bubble appeared above our heads it would probably say “wait did you just play the wrong chord or was that me…and when this is all over won’t it be fun to just watch some TV?” The artists in these music pics always implode, the singularity of their purpose simply too much for a human to withstand. We know how to pull back and whip up a plate of pasta.

So we’ll carry on working on these tracks, day by day, and it’ll all hopefully keep adding up to something good or even great. And I’ll wait breathlessly for the next episodes of Daisy to drop. I want to dance on the rim of Los Angeles in cut offs and a diaphanous shirt to the unschooled rhythms of my soul. I want to remember what it feels like to have the number one record in the country without doing any real work.

Just wondering what to do about that pot on the front porch.

Shows coming up to keep it real, click image for ticket links

Enough For Now

“Got any gigs coming up?”

As the words were leaving my mouth I regretted saying them. 

A musician I admire and am friendly with was standing in front of me which felt like a miracle in a way. She is so cool in my book it’s hard to believe she actually exists as a real person, and that she would know me and say hi.

I could see her almost flinch when I asked the dreaded question and immediately tried to backtrack: “Forget I said that, I’m so sorry, I know I know!”

“It’s…hard,” she said and I understood completely. “It’s all kind of challenging right now.”

In the quiet times, when we were all stuck at home – 2020, 2021 off and on, again in 2022, such a question never came up. Not being able to go out and play gigs was hard, it was painful BUT it was also a relief. For the first time in my artist life, I was just working for myself.

Unemployment helped. I have never not had to struggle to make a living. I’ve been really broke a lot of my adult life. Part of it is being an artist — if making a living at this was easy, more people would do it— part is a lack of caution/ a devil may care “I’ll think about that tomorrow” attitude. I’ve been lucky to have family and friends who would never let me be without a home or a car, though I’ve been close to the carless part a few times. And I have a partner in Eric who  has negotiated the valleys and peaks forever and knows you just keep working.

So in 2020 and 2021, through unemployment benefits I actually made enough money to pay off some debts and keep up to date with bills, without ever leaving the house. I tried to stay productive but I missed the beautiful parts of playing live – the communication, the high and the intimacy. The sense of purpose – so this is why I write songs! My identity: this is me, loading my guitars in the back of the car. Looking for a place to park as close as possible to the door of the venue. Setting up, worrying if anyone will come. Checking the sound. Seeing some familiar faces. Ripping a piece of paper out of my notebook and writing out a set list, even if it’s basically the same one I played the night before – it’s some kind of meditation before a show. Trying to amp up the eyeliner and smooth down my hair, hoping for the best. Then – playing and letting all the planning and desire to do a good job and look good doing it go out the window – I’m here to feel something and make someone else feel it too.

See, even typing all that out, I get giddy. Playing live is LIFE, condensed into an hour and twenty minutes. The highs, the lows, the oh god why did I do or say that. The transcendent moments where you know you’re not really in charge of anything, some greater power is driving it all. What a privilege, what a joy.

But then I remember all the other before parts: what should the ticket price be? Is this a fair deal? Oh god I wish I had a more current photo I like, and who wrote this bio (oh right, I did). Is anyone going to care when these tickets go up for sale? Oh I’d better share the show again, and again. What if nobody comes? And on and on for the months, weeks and days leading up to the show. I miss that part not at all. 

Throw in uncertainty, competition from super well-loved high ticket artists everyone has to see after years of being deprived. Travel costs and hazards, the inconvenience, the angst. When it was all a centrifugal motion machine you just did it and never stopped to think. Nearly three years of stopping and thinking.

The competition – festivals; cruises! Opening slots. I get envious, wishing I could be on this bill or that. Maybe when I have another record out? Maybe I already had my chance and should just be happy with what I do have? Then I remember I have a festival to play, in June. A few gigs. That’s not nothing. Fire that machine up again.

I’ve been working on a new record in the studio with Eric. His new one is done and mastered, another masterpiece. He sets a very high bar. I put my draft of a second book away to spend every day on this set of songs, some written earlier in the pandemic or just before, some from the last year. It’s starting to take shape. If I already said all this in the last post I’m sorry but it’s a few weeks later now so the tracks really are moving forward.

Getting serious in the studio

I miss just tinkering around though. So much of making stuff – writing or visual art or songs, is puttering and playing. I have to grab a few minutes here and there to pick up a guitar and learn a new song, keep reading and trying to get out to walk. That kind of freedom really was the best thing during the quiet time of the pandemic, and felt like a luxury I hadn’t had since I was in my twenties four flights up in the East Village, living on nothing and falling in love with songwriting. 

14th Street

After a weirdly warm winter spring feels like a vague concept. We sat in the coffee place in Hudson and that annoying guy with his dog was in there. I don’t really know why he’s called “that annoying guy.” It might have been a certain hat he wore for a while and just a sense of him taking up too much space. I remembered him coughing in March 2020 and everyone jumping back. Someone even sharply told him to cover his mouth, we don’t know what we’re dealing with. He’d joked that he was sure he was fine.

No one was fine.

Now we were back in the same spot and his dog wanted a taste of my cupcake. It had snowed and that feeling of an event bonded us. We smiled and laughed a little and I was glad to see the guy and his dog and have even sort of started to warm to him, just for that sense of familiarity. Maybe it’s kind of like that with life now in this “post” phase. Maybe it’s springtime coming again, but not the 2020 kind. It’s 2023 now. New work, a few gigs.

That’s enough for now.

Let The Monkey Roll

I used to be so good at breakfasts. I had not one but two waffle irons, could fry up a mess of bacon, scramble a load of eggs and dish up a farmhand’s feast on checkered tablecloth, vintage plates.

Where did those waffle irons go? I don’t remember giving them away, but maybe like socks one of them disappeared naturally and the other could very well be sitting in our attic.

I thought about the waffle iron, more as a concept than anything I could actually lay hands on, when our friends were coming over for Sunday breakfast with their almost two year old daughter this morning. Just as I thought about a tub of my daughter’s old toys that’s probably lodged up there too. My daughter is thirty four so by rights those toys could have been dumped long ago but I’m sentimental.

It had been a long time since a two year old was in this house. I think the last time was Eric’s granddaughter back in 2013. I am out of practice at a lot of things: breakfasts, entertaining friends, and toddlers. Those are skills I thought I would have forever but when you stop doing things, even actions that seem natural or at least ingrained from years of practice, abilities fade. Sure I’ve learned plenty of new programs and skills since domesticity was my language: podcasting, InDesign. GarageBand (anyone can do it). Writing and editing. Screenprinting. I play guitar better than I used to. Eric even gave me a crash course in plumbing the other day – I helped him install a new sink and dishwasher in our kitchen — it was wonderfully basic but the physical gyrations make yoga and Pilates look like a walk in the park — I just kept telling myself “pretend it’s downward dog” when trying to hold a light for Eric from an impossible position. “Breathe…breathe…and. don’t. Move.”

But back to breakfast. I felt like my pancake game was a little off when our pals came over but put enough maple syrup on anything and it will taste good. Eric recoils at the sight of eggs so I left those off the menu, and we technically gave up bacon back in Season One of Covid, but the chicken sausage I cooked up wasn’t bad. It was great hanging out but then it was playtime with the adorable toddler and…

I remembered how fun two year olds are. I’d worried about toys but anything is a toy for a child this age. A feather duster handle became a cherished friend to us, we swaddled our baby in a dishtowel a hundred times, then woke her up, then covered her with the towel again.

After that got a little old I remembered this weird ancient monkey toy that’s been sitting gathering dust on a shelf that holds guitar strings, pedals and music stuff nobody wants or cares about but we’re just too busy or lethargic to deal with. This monkey looks European, and probably comes from the fifties or before. I worried “is it okay to play with the monkey?” thinking maybe it was valuable or precious. But I wondered who that someone could possibly be and thought THIS was the moment for the monkey. I have no idea where it came from, why it’s been sitting here in this house for a dozen years, but what would be the point of saving this already pretty tired looking toy?

So we turned the little key on his side and the monkey started to do somersaults on the floor, very awkwardly like a person who hadn’t been to yoga class for a while. The toddler was a little scared but also enchanted, wanted me to stop making it move but begged me to keep it going. The monkey was looking younger by the minute. Sort of.

It felt good to spend time down on the floor with a little one like that. Eric’s grandkids are getting older now, we missed two years of them growing up while travel was not happening which I don’t think I’d even really registered til now. Two years without having people over except in super-casual let’s all meet up outdoors ways and I became a lot less sociable than I used to be and protective of my time to get work done. I used to love to put meals together for people and hope I will again, or just pick up pizza to be able to have friends over. I think there’s a waffle iron from my past like a guardian angel upstairs.

Another thing I noticed with the toddler was how every word I said, she repeated. She was learning new things by the second, developing before my eyes. I thought what a huge responsibility to be a parent, more than it’s possible to realize when you’re in it because if you did you’d be completely frozen. I remember just trying to do my best with what I had. Like you wish you could step outside yourself and become this paragon who does everything right but all you can do is love your kid and give your all and hope things don’t go too wrong.

I think about this a lot lately as I’ve been working on my second memoir. It’s about moving to Nashville and other choices I made that impacted not just me but my daughter, and it’s difficult to face some of it. Way harder than my first book which was a coming of age cause you’re only allowed to be that young and foolish once. The youth part fades away but you still carry on and the path isn’t always clear.

Our friends went home and Eric and I worked in the studio for a while. I really want to get another record made. But soon I was back in the kitchen getting a chicken in the oven because dinner doesn’t make itself. I took out potatoes to roast and first I had to peel them. Meanwhile Eric was putting a bass part on a track we’d just worked on, as I shuttled between the kitchen door and the studio door to offer advice or encouragement. But back to peeling potatoes. I don’t know about you but the only way I ever knew to peel them is back to front, striking the peeler away from me. And I hate it and no peeler ever works as well as it should. Eric has seen me doing this from time to time and said “No, you peel towards yourself, like this,” and shown me. And I’ve grumbled and shaken my head and said everybody has their way.

Well last night I decided to really try peeling towards me. And by god it worked. I got it. And I thought about growing up and my mom showing me the way she knew how to peel, maybe the same way her mother had taught her.  But this new way had a whole other level of control and it was a revelation. I thought I might have had a better handle on life overall if I’d only been shown this basic skill in my formative years. I wished I could go back in time and show my mom “look, look – this is so much easier”, but we can only move forward. So I’m a long way from my new young friend the toddler, in terms of learning new things. But it can still happen. I’m suddenly eager for the next peeling job. Parents can only do part of the job and the rest we have to be responsible for ourselves. So this lets my mom off the hook. And allows me a measure of forgiveness too, towards myself.

Maybe home fries next time, for breakfast?

Code Of The Road (Playing The Artist Card Pt 2)

I think they say “don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story”…It might also be said, don’t let a good story get in the way of the truth. And maybe because it’s my birthday weekend and I’m feeling particularly grateful, I realized I left something out of my last post that needs to be said.

And that is — I am goddamn lucky to be an artist. AND there are so many people who I wouldn’t have encountered on my life’s journey if it wasn’t for going out and playing music. After I posted my last blog I thought about the friends I’ve met who have supported and cheered me on – some are fans, some are fans who became house concert hosts; fans and hosts who’ve become dear friends: Dan and Liz Ferguson, Clyde and Tobi Kaplan, the Hogans in Columbus, Jeff Mendez and his lovely late wife Missy, Kate Flynn and Scott Johnson, Rick and Monica Simpson, Vic and Jenn at Vines on the Marycrest, Tom and Jann Kohn- they’ve hosted concerts, put me up, treated me royally. Promoters, record store people, radio show hosts, book store friends. And all the talented musicians and artists I get to work with. If I left your name out I mean you too.

Maybe the truth is I feel SO lucky to get to do what I do, if anyone knew how good it was they’d go hey I want to lay down my life for…whatever it is you do. THAT is code of the road, people. What goes on out here stays out here. Unless we decide to share, but selective sharing can sometimes keep a picture alive that is a bit old, a bit tired. Artist as whipping boy. This life is AWESOME. Except when it’s hard. And even then it’s a beautiful thing because we never know what is gonna happen next.

It occurred to me yesterday morning I am two thirds through my life, if I get to live as long as my 95 year old father, which I honestly am not sure I want to do. If I can keep my wits about me and my health, I guess it would be okay. 

Eric and I had a fun day going to the Berkshires. There’d been snow the two days before so it looked very pretty and white but the roads were clear which was good because some of the drive is quite steep and probably treacherous in the snow. It felt like we were the only car on the road and I enjoyed the scenery, it was looking like New England and Germany and Austria all rolled into one, and we even sang the Beatles “When I’m 64” for a few minutes. It was nice to take a break and just be free and silly. 

I’d never been to Mass MOCA art museum and there was this Laurie Anderson exhibit I wanted to see, including her trip To The Moon which was so odd, a virtual reality excursion where Eric and I were both on stools traversing the moon and there were really scary moments and I kept thinking I’d see Eric in the lunar landscape but we were both very much alone in outer space and that was a little bit the point of the voyage, just you and the stars. There were also some amazing handmade instruments by Gunnar Schonbeck we spent a long time playing and a few other exhibits we kind of sped through because we got there a little late in the afternoon. 

It was still a lot of fun and then we checked into Tourists, a beautiful sleek motel. All the details were just perfect, down to the heated floor – it made me so happy to just stand there in bare feet, what a treat. It had seemed a little indulgent to stay in a hotel only an hour and a half from our house, but it was so cozy and restful and we had dinner and then watched Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born which I’ve resisted the few times I’ve encountered it, but maybe it was the setting, I gave in a little. Eric and I have watched the Babs and Kris version so many times it’s kind of hard to live up to our devotion to that film but this time I felt moved.

And to cap things off there was an Adam Sandler movie this morning. I felt like that was the perfect way to end a birthday because he just makes me happy. Call me juvenile (I hope you will). I seem to remember a scene with chimps playing instruments too and that was the icing on the cake. 

But maybe that’s too frivolous a note to end things on, so for a little symmetry, I’ll say that Eric and I listened to Gordon Lightfoot together and talked about recording. I really am lucky, and will stand in water with a tepid plastic cup of beer if that’s what it takes to keep doing this. It only makes all the good times feel that much sweeter. 

Playing The Artist Card

Maybe suffering and self-flagellation are the default settings for anyone who grew up Catholic. Sometimes I think I’ve put enough distance between myself and those heady, sore-knee days: “Forgive me Father for I have sinned, it has been at this point about fifty years since my last confession”? But it all runs so deep I suppose it takes a lifetime to undo the damage. Just thinking about that sentence (Forgive me etc)- for those who never went to Catholic confession, it went like this: You enter the dark confessional, hit that kneeler, the little door slides back and you tell the invisible stranger on the other side of the partition what a loser you are. Not even a “Hello Father” or “Good Day!” Just get right to the “I fucked up” bit. FORGIVE ME…FOR LIVING.

All as a way to say, I had a really good time last weekend at 30A Songwriters Festival in beautiful Rosemary Beach and environs. Not one thing went wrong! And – I learned something.

I flew from the new LaGuardia terminal and immediately felt like I’d entered a weird alternate reality where being at LaGuardia didn’t suck. There was the usual mess of roads and traffic getting into the airport via parking shuttle but once I entered Terminal B I just kept wondering “Am I in Europe?” There were soaring ceilings, artwork, there were Dancing Fountains with colored lights, a sight so amazing weary travelers stood in awe before them. The stalls in the restrooms were the size of NY studio apartments. Food choices abounded.

And my Southwest flight left on time. Not only that, as we were boarding, the flight attendants said “Folks, we have a half-empty plane going down to Nashville so we need you to just spread out. Take two seats, hell take three! Traveling with a guitar? We have overheads galore. Welcome aboard!”

Once settled in to my three seats, just after takeoff, a flight attendant came by and asked what I’d like to drink. And it was all free! Passengers were looking at each other warily, expecting something awful to happen to let us know we’d been punk’d but – nope. On time arrival.

The next flight to Panama City airport was much shorter – no drink service. My rental car was waiting for me even though it was well past eleven pm. A nice young man called Jason said he was keeping the Enterprise counter open until the very last traveler arrived. My car was nice but the road was really dark and I got worried when I looked behind as I headed out onto the unlit road and saw a line of cars following me, imagining I’d lead all of us into a drainage ditch. Eventually the other cars turned off and I carried on to the beach house the festival was putting me up in for the weekend.

The guard at the gate threw me a little when he asked for the name of my beach house. I had the hosts’ names, and the address, but not a name for the house. The guard and I went back and forth through a list of possibilities:

“Is it called “You Found It”?

Dun Roamin’?

Mama’s Pride!

Just Chillin?

Daddy’s Home!

and on and on until we both got tired. It was nearly one am. Eventually he let me in and I found the place and crawled around in the dark looking for a lockbox to let myself into a very nice house I hoped wasn’t occupied by someone armed.

Next day dawned bright and sunny and COLD but it was beautiful and I found a charming diner serving biscuits and gravy and saw Will Sexton and Amy LaVere perform in the local record store. 30A is nonstop songwriters and artists playing from morning til night in venues spread out over about twenty miles of beautiful beachside bars and restaurants. By the time I played that night it was close to freezing but the tent was heated and I really enjoyed trading songs with Jeff Black who I hadn’t seen since Nashville days and Hannah Miller who was super-sweet. The audience were great and so supportive. After our set I saw Will Kimbrough, Kim Richey, Mary Gauthier and Jaime Harris all on the same stage together with Gretchen Peters and her partner Barry Walsh and they were sublime. I got that old feeling I used to have in Nashville when I’d see my fellow singer songwriters play – there are never too many great songs, or too many good people to play them.

But the thing that dawned on me that day that maybe I knew already but had forgotten—there’s a real upside to being an artist. See, I was waiting to get into the record store to see Will & Amy (wow, that’s weird) and it was freezing cold and I probably hadn’t really brought warm enough clothes. I was in line with all these festival-goers and everyone was wrapped in blankets and making the best of things and hoping to get into the packed show. And then the line moved and we were on these stairs and it occurred to me that I had an artist badge. And suddenly I thought “Wait I don’t have to wait in this line! I mean, I’m with them all in spirit and I would wait my turn but I’m really cold and I’m supposed to play three times this weekend and – why don’t I just play the artist card – flash my badge and get in NOW.” And I did. Like magic.

So the next day I played at eleven AM with an interesting character called Jonathan Byrd and it was really fun. And I thought if I really hurried I could drive out to the big stage to catch Rickie Lee Jones cause I love her. But the parking was packed and I could hear Rickie Lee as I drove further and further from the stage to find parking. Still, it was cool to be there and I got some ice cream and found my way into the field where the audience was and I moved around until I found a good spot by the mixing desk and was talking to some nice folks there and then a volunteer came along to tell us to move on, we couldn’t stand there. Most of the audience had folding chairs and were all settled in for Lyle Lovett who was up next and I wondered what to do and where to go and then I saw a sign that said: ARTIST GUESTS. I asked a nice lady did that mean Artists could be guests or did you have to be specifically a Guest of The Artist (ie Lyle Lovett) and she smiled when I showed her my artist badge and said “This is all for you – you’re an artist!” And there were free drinks and couches and a tent blocking out the glare of the sun and a perfect view of the stage. It just struck me that I could’ve been standing a few feet away wishing I had somewhere to sit and wouldn’t it be great to find a drink I could buy and here it was all laid on for me. For free. Duh.

Not that into Lyle so I didn’t hang out too long and I had some other shows I wanted to catch so I moved on. That evening I saw Marti Jones and Don Dixon and then Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey – these are folks I’ve known most of my life and I guess you could say I should have sought out new talent but it was wonderful to hear them. Same with Chuck Prophet Trio after.

So the weekend continued on like that, me flashing my badge and getting right up front to see Steve Poltz who always puts the biggest smile on my face; and finally getting to play a fun show with The Kennedys and afterwards the venue giving us menus with THE SAME FOOD AS THE PAYING CUSTOMERS including steak frites. I remembered me and Eric playing a French gig where the venue in Limoges made us sit behind a partition away from the actual customers and served us some slop that wasn’t on the menu for humans because that’s how you feel like an artist sometimes, sub-human, from standing in basements where there’s nowhere to put your stuff that isn’t wet, and being subjected to band flats where middle-aged musicians are expected to heave their aging weary bodies up ladders into bunk beds and spend the night praying for morning to come while crude drawings of penises glare down at them from the ceiling. Blend all of that with a Catholic upbringing and you can see why when someone offers me a free cocktail in a clean GLASS and serves it to me with a smile and a THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING HERE, I want to start weeping and laughing and thanking the gods I threw my lot in with the troubadors and the artist fools cause some days you’re a clown but other times you really are treated like a king or queen. The hosts of my lovely beach house came to hear me play and said they wished I was staying longer. “Stay as long as you want!” they said. After the hard time I had at the festival three years ago, I felt like I was receiving all the blessings from a god who can be benevolent sometimes, if only I remember to ask.

Band flat in Hamburg/2014

I got a parking ticket in Florida but I sent them a pic of my artist badge and they forgave it. I flew home through Nashville airport but the flights were crowded, the drinks cost and the luggage took a long time to come out. It seemed like the ole artist magic was wearing off. But when I got in my car at the long-term parking it started right up so I felt I was still on a roll. And when Gordon Lightfoot came on, singing Early Morning Rain, I felt like I was living under some kind of magic cloak I wanted to hold onto forever.