Saturday, March 28, 2009

Life: It's Way Too Short.

Yesterday afternoon, as I headed home through the last gasps of rush-hour traffic on I-84 East in Portland, I popped in a Thrice CD. Yeah, I know. CDs are so 2002, but I haven't caved in to the XM oligarchy yet.

Halfway through rocking out to "Image Of The Invisible," a semi pulled into the fast lane. Into the exact spot that my car had been occupying until I slammed on the brakes and veered onto the shoulder. I stopped on the side of the freeway for a minute to hyperventilate.

At 5:45 AM this morning, I woke up suddenly to a stabbing pain in my chest. I couldn't breathe. I checked my pulse; it was normal. I've lost two family members to heart attacks, so I knew the symptoms, and I knew I wasn't having one.

I grabbed my laptop and went to 14 seemingly life-threatening conditions matched my symptoms, and I was instructed to call 911.

I didn't.

My mind was full of thoughts of my own mortality. Somehow I knew that this pain would subside, but these two incidents left me thinking about my last day of life. What if this were it? How had I spent my time? Had I made anyone else's life better, or just my own?

Whatever your religious affiliation, or lack thereof, you cannot help but agree that life is precious. At 26, I've already lost six high school and college friends. Three to car accidents, three to suicide. I've been to ten funerals in my life. I tried singing at one of them, but couldn't get through the song without breaking down in tears.

What am I doing with these days and years that I still have?

I don't want to be remembered as just another entertainer, a guy with a good voice who put on a good show.

I want to leave a legacy; to use my time wisely; to contribute to the good of mankind. To have my music make a palpable difference in people's lives. To make them happy, to make them think about what's important. I want to break the cycle of self-gratification and use my talents for other people.

Am I tangibly putting these thoughts into practice? Am I living up to these ideals? Sometimes, but not often. It's so much easier to take the other route. In the words of a song you might recognize: "I can't buy a minute; maybe you'll get it figured out on your own."

I'm determined to deny my lyrics the right to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

SXSW 2009: Cliff Note Edition

I spent parts of the last seven days in Austin, Texas, for SXSW 2009. I played four shows, met hundreds of people, went to tens of concerts and parties. A comprehensive blog post would end up being about as long as Ron Jeremy's, uh, career. Instead, I'll just focus on one day: Friday.

Tyler, Mandy and I woke up early for the second day in a row. 9:30 really gets to ya after awhile. We took the bus down to the Four Seasons hotel where the BMI Breakfast was taking place. I'm not even a member of BMI; ASCAP is my PRO, but their breakfast didn't offer free mimosas. We ate with some advertising executives and a couple of pompous, obese attorneys.

I was asked to do a TV interview with ME Television's All Access Live. I was scheduled for 4:30, so I hung around the TV studios all day. ME Television not only provided free drinks, but also live, televised, intimate concerts featuring artists from Kanye West to Portland's own M. Ward. 4:30 rolled around, and suddenly Miguel, the VJ who was slated to interview me, ran out of the room to take a phone call. Metallica's management was on the phone. My interview had to be pushed back to 5:45. I can think of worse things than getting your TV interview bumped for Metallica. Maybe next year it'll be the other way around. I did have some friends offer to punk Metallica for taking my slot. Be careful, Mikey. Lars is a pretty bad dude.

In the meantime, I went out to a wine tasting bus that had pulled up, where members of the San Francisco band Scissors For Lefty, who just got off a tour with Smashing Pumpkins, were holding an impromptu jam session. I chipped in with an acoustic version of "To Forget."

Friday night found me at the Vintage Lounge, one of Austin's most upscale venues. Tyler and Simon from The Slants rounded out my band, and we rocked that classy house. After my set, we stuck around for The Massacoustics, a two-piece pop band from Boston featuring one guy playing both drums and bass simultaneously, as well as patting his head and rubbing his stomach.

All in all, my first SXSW was a memorable experience. From Sammy Hagar to Lone Star to Zone Bars to Peter, Bjorn and John, it's definitely a week neither I nor my liver will soon forget.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring Tour Days 13 & 14: Spokane & Eugene

As I write this, I'm sitting in Denver International Airport, on my way to Austin to play four shows at SXSW. I'm staring out at a beautiful sunset juxtaposed with the barren landscape of eastern Colorado, and something about this view is stirring my soul. It's just a small glimpse of peace amidst these nonstop last few weeks.

DAY 13

Last Friday, I woke up early to drive to Spokane for a photoshoot. Spencer of Dummy Boy Records Dummy Boy Records set me up with Patrick Brown-Hayes, a photography and design guru, to take the pictures. I received a touch of eye makeup courtesy of Leah at Nordstrom, and we were ready to go. During the course of the shoot, I changed outfits several times, and Pat, for comedic effect or blackmail, kept shooting. If and when these pictures surface on the internet, I'd like to make it clear that I am not responsible for their content. Except for the one on the bridge over Spokane Falls.

That night, I played a show at Mootsy's downtown. The show was booked last-minute and as a result wasn't afforded a lot of promotion; nevertheless, I played for an hour and then hit the road for Portland.

At 3 AM, I had to pull over and take a nap at a rest area somewhere on I-84. At 4:30 AM, I ate an Egg McMuffin for the first time in ten years. If it weren't for ketchup, no one would order those rubbery things.

DAY 14

Ah, day 14. Saturday found me driving the last of the 5300 miles of my spring tour to Eugene to play at Luckey's. Played some pool before the show, and was reminded of why I'm not a professional pool player.

My boys in The Misery Science played after me. These guys will be playing a stripped-down acoustic set with me at Macadam's in Portland March 28. Check 'em.

My flight to Austin is boarding. I gotta cut this one short. Truncate it. Castrate it. Amputate it.

I'll write more from SXSW!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring Tour Days 11 & 12: Billings and Bozeman

DAY 11

There's not a lot going on between Rapid City and Billings, Montana. There's snow, for one. You'll also find Gillette, Wyoming, or the Razor City as its seventeen residents affectionately call it. I stopped there for a quick car wash to get the mud off of my undercarriage. Chicks generally don't dig soiled undercarriages.

You'll also encounter a slew of billboards. My favorite one was for a local auto body shop. Underneath the name of the shop, which I can't remember, was the following: "24 HOUR TOE SERVICE." I can only hope that this was a misprint, although who knows what kind of freaky fetishes these northeast Wyoming residents get into to pass the time during those desolate winter months. Honestly, after weeks on the road, my toes could've used a good servicing. Don't judge me! Unfortunately, I was running behind schedule.

After an interview with KPLN 106.7 FM The Planet, Billings' top AC station, I headed to Bones Brewing, a year-old venue boasting a great stage and a dinosaur theme, including beer taps with velociraptor claws on them. I played for an hour, then ended up going out to a dive bar with some fans I'd just met. This dive, the 90 Club, had a bartender named Jesus. Unfortunately for the 90 Club's liquor costs, this Jesus wasn't able to turn water into, well, much of anything. He was a pretty nice guy, though, but the advantage still goes to my man JC.

DAY 12

Rapid City, Billings, Bozeman.

Everywhere I went, people would tell me how it had just been sixty degrees a couple days prior, and how the 12-degree weather shouldn't scare me out of coming back. In Bozeman, the thermometer finally rose above the freezing point. It's funny how on a day that's warmer than the days preceding it, people will do warm-weather stuff, even when it's still 45 degrees out. All of Bozeman's bikers, skaters, and joggers wearing those short, swishy shorts came out to play.
45 degrees is not warm enough to justify those shorts. Come to think of it, no temperature is warm enough to justify those shorts.

I stopped in at the studios of 95.1 KMMS The Moose, Bozeman's premier adult rock station, for an interview with the esteemed Kim Rossi. I ended up playing "Going Home" live on the air, and did about a fifteen-minute interview with Kim. I didn't even swear. You're welcome, FCC.

Kim was awesome. She regaled me with tales of the famous people that had graced her studio, including Hootie, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and more. Her wall was laden with autographs of famous musicians, and she offered to let me sign it. You know you've arrived when you start signing walls. We talked for a few minutes more, and I took off. Unfortunately, I forgot to sign the wall! Kim, if you're reading this, forge my signature, please! It's just a bunch of squiggles with a dot on top towards the right.

After kicking it at the Leaf & Bean and browsing a 25 cent T-shirt bin at a thrift shop, I ended up hitting up the Bozeman Mall to buy some T-shirts. Rockstars don't do laundry; they buy new shirts. Or just don't wear them at all. Anthony Kiedis, if only you could get that guy from Bowling For Soup to follow your lead.

Thursday night found me at the Filling Station, opening for hardworking local band Ten Foot Tall and 80 Proof. After discussing the relative merits of taking a mannequin on the road with you as opposed to an actual roadie with Ten Foot Tall's frontman Kris Clone, I took the stage and played my little heart out. Ten Foot Tall played an energetic set, blending country and classic rock sounds seamlessly.

I had a hotel room waiting for me in Missoula. I got to it around 4:30 AM.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spring Tour Days 9 & 10: Winona, MN and Rapid City, SD

Why does the change in Daylight Savings Time always happen on the most inopportune evenings? I think that we should just keep on gaining an hour twice a year, and never lose one, until our noon becomes midnight and our society is plunged into a swirling cesspool of confusion, misscheduling, and ruin.

In any case, I arrived in the bustling town of Caledonia, MN, around 2 AM after a day of driving on three hours' sleep. I crashed on the couch of Amanda, a fan I'd never met. Kudos to her for opening her home to me, and for grabbing friends and driving an hour to make it to my show the following evening. No kudos to her cat, who was in heat. Her yowling woke me up at 5 am. I threw a shoe at her, and missed. Not one to miss a golden opportunity, she proceeded to hump the shoe and caterwaul even louder.


I woke up early on Monday morning to drive to Decorah, IA, to the studios of 100.5 KDEC to record an ArtistDirect program with Jeni Grouws. The program is slated to air March 20 at 8:15 AM CST. Not only is Jeni the station manager, but she's a DJ and a talented musician. She also took me to lunch and tricked me into letting her pay. Support KDEC, folks. Their people rock, and they might even buy you lunch. But let's keep it nice and altruistic.

I stayed to chat a little too long, and found myself running late for my next radio interview in Winona, MN. My GPS unit thought it would be funny to take me on twenty miles of dirt roads. Dirt is the new asphalt, though, so I was hitting corners at sixty MPH. There wasn't a speed limit posted. Come to think of it, there weren't any signs at all.

Coming around one particularly sharp corner, I was surprised to see none other than an Amish guy and his buggy. He was a little more surprised to see me, though; I had airbags, and he didn't. Unless he'd recently been on an episode of Pimp My Buggy and gotten that thing tricked out. Wouldn't that be pimp? Lower it down, get some spinners, put a hood ornament on your horse.. Too bad nobody in his family would have been able to watch the episode.

Thankfully, we missed each other. The horse reared up a bit, and I swerved off the road. No harm, no foul. I wasn't looking forward to picking beard out of my grill. Although from what I hear (ok, maybe from what I saw in the movie Sex Drive), the Amish are so nice that he probably would've picked it out for me before being carried by four strapping young lads to the hospital.

I arrived at the studios of KAGE 95.3 FM in Winona only about five minutes late. Did an on-air interview with DJ Steve Walker, and grabbed my guitar and played "Going Home" and "Moribund Refrain" unplugged on-air. Steve is a hilarious guy who is more knowledgeable about a wide variety of music than pretty much anyone except for perhaps Weird Al.

Monday night, I played at the Draught Haus in Winona. First, I slept on a futon in a back room for an hour, then played three hours of music for everyone's aural pleasure. Dan, a fan who had chosen to spend his birthday at my show, got sung to and later joined me on stage for an impromptu rendition of Tonic's "If You Could Only See." Met some great people, and practically sold out of my women's merchandise.

DAY 10

I'm not gonna lie: Day 10 was rough. What should've been eight hours of driving alone turned into eleven due to a freak Minnesota ice storm. I guess no amount of cold weather is 'freak' in Minnesota, but in any case, traffic on I-90 westbound slowed to a crawl. To make matters worse, I couldn't find my case of CDs, so I was forced to listen to either the sound of my own voice or old-school country stations playing their typical Tuesday afternoon "Best of Charlie Daniels Hour" shows.

I had a lot of time to think. What makes me want to drive eleven hours alone to play in Rapid City, SD? What good is it going to do me, my career, or anyone? Of course, I already knew the answer to my own question: playing music is what I love doing most, and every rose has its thorn. (Those would make great song lyrics!) The musician's lifestyle is definitely not always one big, glamourous party. That's not what I'm about, anyway. My goal is simply to write and sing music from my heart that makes people think, smile, cry, love.

I made it to the 445 Lounge in Rapid City a half hour after the show was supposed to start. After loading in my entire PA in subzero temperatures, I had to run my hands under warm water for a few before I could even play. The weather kept a lot of fans at home, but though the crowd wasn't huge, they were awesome. Arguably some of the nicest people I'd met the entire tour. Plenty of girly raspberry and peach flavored shots to go around. Tastes like estrogen! Gary, the hardworking manager/promoter, took me on a scenic late-night tour of the city after the show, and then put me up in the Radisson Hotel. I ate some carrots and called it a night around 3:30 AM.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring Tour Days 5, 6, 7 and 8: Des Moines, Chicago, and Michigan

Yes, I'm fully aware that I've been slacking on blogging. However, with all the time I've saved, I'm pleased to announce that my hair has been looking AMAZING.

Actually, I've been pretty much driving five hours a day, doing a radio interview every afternoon, and then playing a show every night. No excuses, though. It just seems that whenever I type while driving, the quality of one of the two activities tends to suffer.

Day 5 was supposed to be a driving day. Yes, Krista Herring, I play a lot of shows in the town of "Driving Day." Dinnertime found us in Des Moines, Iowa, craving some sushi. We Googled "sushi in Des Moines" and found Appare. We started talking to the Chris, the bartender, and found out that he was having a few musician friends come in for an acoustic jam later that evening. The promise of unlimited sake bombs bribed us into staying. I just happened to have a full PA in the back of my SUV. Everyone couldn't have been nicer! Ken, the manager, even broke out a couple songs of his own. It was a much-needed, low-key respite from the pressure of constant PR. We crashed at Chris' place, watched some Family Guy, slept a couple hours, and hit the road at 8 am.

Thursday night found me at The Spot. This place lived up to its name: fine dining, an upstairs bar, pool, and live music, courtesy of me. Great crowd, great times. I had fans drive three hours to see this show. I could've pointed out that I'd driven six to get there. But hey, I was getting paid to sing, not complain. I'm still looking for a job opportunity that will pay me to complain.

Friday and Saturday, I played at Andrews University, my alma mater. Friday night, after a live interview with CM Radio, I played a few songs at Fusion in front of almost a thousand people. Crashed with my parents. They didn't even make me take out the garbage. How things have changed.

Saturday, I kicked it with my college friends Matt and Leah, who had driven down from Lansing for the show. Shared the bill with a couple of talented local musicians, Michaela Lawrence and Jaci and Andrew Perrin. Saw some old friends, made some new fans. It's still great to sing and have my parents in the audience. It's also great that they're not the only ones in the audience anymore. :)

I apologize for not providing the amount of detail you've come to expect and demand from my blog posts. My memory is hazy. It's been 5 days, 1,493 miles, and one close encounter with an Amish guy since Saturday night.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Spring Tour Days 3 & 4: Cheyenne & Kearney


Wyoming is a pretty big state. Crazy to think that its biggest city, Cheyenne, is smaller than Gresham, the suburb of Portland that I call home. No disrespect intended, though. What other state boasts Devil's Postpile, the Grand Tetons, and a one-to-one antelope-to-cowboy ratio? None, that's who.

While on the road, Mandy ate her first kumquat.

After six and a half hours of pure, unadulterated Wyoming, Mandy and I arrived in Cheyenne. I made a quick stop at the 101.9 KING FM studios downtown to say hey to Grateful Mike and Hot Rodd Todd, the DJs who had aired a Jon Davidson interview the day before. They'd also been busy spinning my record and plugging my show. I said hello to Cheyenne on-air right before they played "Sunrise" again. People of Cheyenne, listen to 101.9 KING FM or we will brawl.

I didn't know what to expect from a Monday night show in Cheyenne, but the show at Scooter's more than exceeded my expectations. It's all about the people, man. Upon arrival, I realized that my mic stand was broken. A guy in the audience, Kevin, pulled out his cell phone and started making calls. "We don't have a Guitar Center, but Wal-Mart sells everything," he explained.

Grateful Mike and Hot Rodd Todd even brought their bad selves down to the show. Those guys are hilarious.

Towards the end of the night, I was joined on stage by my first ever pool stick backing band. These two guys rocked these pool sticks harder than the world has ever seen. They swore they'd make the drive to Kearney to do it all over again tonight. I'm not trying to doubt their committment, but I'm not holding my breath.

What would a trip to Cheyenne be without the drunk guy yelling something about how his only Portland experience involved him burning his lips on a crack pipe?

Around midnight, we packed it up and headed to our hotel room in Fort Collins. Cheyenne, I'll be back. Y'all rock.


After five grueling hours of cow-stench, we arrived at The Roman in Kearney. Cool venue, but no mandatory toga policy. Disappointing.

I shared the stage with Ryan O'Connor, a local hip-hop artist, and his band The Beat Continuum Project. Organic, acoustic hip-hop. Great stuff. We even did an impromptu collab on a couple of Incubus covers at the end of the show. Not the biggest crowd, but a reality check: it's a Tuesday night in small-town Nebraska. Ryan put us up at his place, and went the extra mile to make sure we felt at home.

Chicago bound, baby! I'm loving this wireless nationwide web access; I'm writing this blog post from I-80 eastbound in Iowa. So much is going on: trying to get everything in line for SXSW, still setting up radio appearances as I go (Mandy just scored me one in Decorah, IA, on the return leg of the tour), and taking care of getting some stickers and download cards printed.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spring Tour Days 1 & 2: Boise & Pocatello

Boise has quickly become one of my favorite cities to play in. Its growing, eclectic music scene reminds me of Portland's in a lot of ways. Plus, my favorite serpent, Rose, calls Boise home.

Upon arrival at our friend Geri's house Thursday night, though, I was saddened to find that Rose had shed. Not just one big, sleek snakeskin, the kind you mount above the fireplace, but small, dangling peelings. It looked like she'd been left out in the sun for too long. Snakes and sun don't mix; don't believe what you see on that there silly Discovery Channel. This snake could've used a healthy coat of Banana Boat.

You're saying you never mounted snakeskins?

Friday, I made an in-store appearance at one of Boise's four Hastings entertainment superstores, where my CD is for sale. Store manager Don went above and beyond: helped us load and unload gear, hooked me up with a discount on some necklaces, and let me spraypaint my name and website all over the store's sign. Well, two out of three ain't bad.

That evening, I played at The Bouquet in downtown Boise. Shared the bill with a great local band, Soul Serene. My boy Brock showed up with a swarthy beard, and told me a heroic tale of how his beard had literally saved an infant's life. After a little shakin' it at Neurolux, we called it a night.

Saturday morning, Mandy and I hit the road for Pocatello. I made an in-store appearance at the locally owned Budget Tapes and Records at 4 PM. Props to a new fan, Gina, for coming out and bringing people even though she was deathly ill with the plague. Saturday night, I played at Portneuf Valley Brewery. Great crowd, great brews, great staff. A gentleman bought my CD before I even started playing. He didn't even try to get his money back after the show was over! Great success. Turns out, his name is Greg, and he's not only a fellow musician but also an aspiring guitar builder. Generally, people named Greg rock. Except for you, Greg Scott. You know what you did.

En route to Salt Lake City after the show, I found out that "Going Home" was the song of the week on the Second Shift with Alan Kabel on Portland's top country station, 99.5 The Wolf. Several fans just wrote me and said I should go the Keith Urban route. I get rock airplay on stations in 42 states, but one country station plays me and everyone thinks I should make a drastic career change. So, I'm doing it. "Beautifully Bittersweet" will now be called "Beautiful Buckwheat Pancakes," and I'll just add a "Till I Get My New Tractor" to the end of the title of "It Won't Be Long". Any other song suggestions?