thoughts & ideas

Brief Thoughts On Whiskey, Death, and Parenthood

“It’s called being a parent!”

Somebody yelled this out to me in the middle of my set the other night in Asbury Park.

I had just finished playing a new song called Whiskey & Jellybeans.

Whiskey and jellybeans
Goodbye to all my teeth
Nothin ta see but gums
Not kissin anyone

The point of the song is to feel better about death. To laugh at it. That’s what a rock n roll song can do. It can give you a way of laughing at death. Other kinds of music don’t have the same power.

Whiskey and jellybeans
Diet of champeens
Can’t get a leading role
Maybe some radio

I finished the song and talked a little bit about getting older. My teeth are falling out, my hair is falling out. My body is crumbling.

“It’s called being a parent!”

I don’t mind a good skewering when I’m up on stage. That’s part of the deal. I’m your sacrificial lamb.

It was a good night. A special night. Lots of familiar faces in the house. A good show brings everybody together. It’s kind of a miracle in that way.

Here’s a recording of the performance.
Quality is not so good, but you can get the feeling.

You Don’t Always Get To Choose

You don’t always get to choose.

But you always get to play.

Besides, life would be pretty boring if you always got your way, wouldn’t it?

There in between what you want and what you can’t have…

Well, there’s your story.

 

WILLOW BRANCH (Download)

Recorded in a 2008 Toyota RAV4

A dress in the mail
A suit from the mall
Hung some crystals on trees
All we had was three days

Some nails and some wood
A few potted plants
Dad knew a judge
Who could help with the plan

This is where it all began
Under that willow branch

A few folding chairs
a bright autumn day
the boys cleaned up nice
uncle don brought a cake

john took some pictures
of us with our folks
jess caught the bouquet
paul gave a toast

This is where it all began
Underneath that willow branch
Hand in hand
We’ll start again
Underneath that willow branch

 

 

How To Be An Artist When You’re A Total Nobody 

I should know. I’m an artist. And a nobody.

But guess what? If you’re an artist, obscurity is your best friend.

When you’re anonymous you can develop your art without answering to any expectations other than your own.

But to develop, you have to cash in every day.

What I mean by that is, you have to get today’s art out of yourself because tomorrow it will no longer be there.

One way to look at it: Magic Dollars

Your ability to make art is like a stack of magic dollars that disappear at midnight. You’ve got to spend them or your lose them. You’ll get new magic dollars tomorrow.

Another way to look at it: Speeding Train

Imagine yourself in an open field, looking at a freight train racing across your field of vision.

That train is your artistic identity.

Always moving, never the same.

If you sketch (write, sing, paint, invent, sculpt, design, build) the cars you see today, you capture who you are in this moment.

If you wait for better cars, they will surely never come.

The way you feel today is a thing.

Seize it and draw upon it! Melt it down and form it into something.

Do you think Springsteen could ever write another Darkness on the Edge of Town?

Of course not. But I bet he wishes he could.

Life moves forward, and our insides evolve with every day.

That’s why we have to always be taking pictures of what we see.

Every day, a snapshot.

Someday you will be wiser than you are right now, but you will have paid in innocence.

The innocence is what makes your art great.

Enjoy your innocence. Revel in your obscurity. Spend your magic dollars.

TODAY! GO! NOW!

The #1 Secret To Getting Better At Any Musical Instrument

It’s actually really simple. Stupid simple.

That’s what drives me crazy about life. The answers are all right there, right in front of us.

But we can’t see them.

Were too worried, paranoid, sad, disappointed, guilty, fearful, and afraid to die to notice them.

Or maybe that’s just me?

But there are little tricks… ways of escaping the corners life wants to box us into.

Most of them have to do with altering the way we see things. Changing our approach.

That’s what this little secret is all about.

It was taught to me by the legendary Tommy Gryce back in my days at arts high. He said to me…

“Leave your horn out.”

That’s it. That’s what he said to me. I don’t even play a horn. I was playing an upright bass at the time.

But what he was saying was universal to any instrument. If you want to get better, don’t ever put it away. It’s that simple.

It makes sense. When you leave your instrument in its case, or under the bed, or in the closet, there are too many barriers between you and the instrument. Playing becomes a special occasion. A rare treat, for when you have time.

You could just open the closet and take it out of the case when you want to play it. But you won’t. There are just too many mental steps. It’s a psychological thing, not a physical one.

Keith slept with his guitar. That’s a guy who knows how it’s done. Speaking of the greats, what about Miles? He said could tell about a player just by the way he picked up his instrument—just by his approach. What better way to improve your connection with your instrument than by making it more approachable?

Keep it on a stand in the corner. Hang it on the wall. Put it in the room where you spend the most time.

Leave your horn out. It’s worked for me, and I hope it works for you too.

How To Be Yourself, Even When You Don’t Fit In

Tropical storm be damned, I wasn’t about to miss The Oblivians.

I sloshed over to the South Street Seaport through the rising flood and headed out on Pier 17. There was a big tent, this must be the spot.

I approached the hand-stampers, a couple of young girls. The one looked at me.

“Are you here for the concert?”

“Yes. Why, is there something else going on?”

She smiled and stamped my hand. “No, go ahead in.”

I was wearing my work clothes, shirt and tie. Maybe she thought I was too square for the rock show.

When I got inside, I saw why. Everybody, and I mean everybody, was dressed the part of a rock n roller. It was kind of a turn off. My bullshit detector kicked in immediately and I was kind of sizing people up trying to figure out who was the real thing and who was just playing pretend.

This kind of put me in a sour mood. I started feeling like a crabby old guy. But then I realized, no, I’m not just a crabby old guy. I’m searching for authenticity, in myself and in others.

Or maybe I am grumpy cause my socks are soaked.

The opening band started playing and I went to the back of the tent. Got myself a hot dog and sat down on a picnic bench. Took my book out and started to read. It’s fun to do whatever you want to do, even when it’s totally weird like reading a book at a rock show.

The band ended and The Oblivians were up next. I started to get pumped. I stood up, looked around, and suddenly felt very proud that I was the only guy in a shirt and tie at the whole show. I’d rather just do me than look like eveybody else.

As I waded up to the stage I started seeing some familiar faces. Jon Spencer of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Eric Davidson from the New Bomb Turks. Yes! These people made me feel at home. It didn’t matter what I was wearing, I was among kin.

The Oblivians took the stage. They sounded perfect. I felt victorious. End scene.

Here’s me singing my favorite Oblivians song, Bad Man.