July 2017 Newsletter
Sunday, June 25, 2017
ROCK STARDOM & WALTZING POODLES
My musical life is a rolling cycle of returns and departures. There are places I've revisited to annually ever since the release of my 1999 debut. Each time I pass through I note how things change, or don't, over time. I celebrate the upgrades in a sound system or green room, but am also grateful for the things that remain constant, like a favorite soundperson or venue owner. I try, as suggested by Lori McKenna's recent smash hit, to travel this musical road being humble and kind to others. After all, you often see the same people on the way down that you saw on your way up.
Despite its cyclical nature, this musical life brings inevitable highs and lows that punctuate its natural fluctuations. Like that time at a coastal Maine art gallery, where the owner tried to cheer me up by grabbing his toy poodle by its front paws and waltzing around a room completely devoid of any other audience members while I sang my heart out. Or the time in Pennsylvania when I realized, onstage, that my lung was collapsing (again), with an 8-hour drive to reach my hospital back home. To maintain some semblance of sanity, my mantra is that anything really bad is at worst a fluke that won't last, and at best a mistake that needn't be repeated.
Similarly, I treat my best musical experiences as fleeting victories and happy accidents. I savor but never expect them to last or repeat. After all, you can miss a lot of today by hoping and waiting for yesterday to come back around. For example, 10 years ago this month I was on tour with Lori McKenna, opening arena shows for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw's Soul II Soul tour. It was my first time traveling in a tour bus, enjoying gourmet backstage catering and playing nightly for audiences of 15-20,000 people. Our run ended with a triumphant 2-night stand at the Boston Garden (I'll never call it anything else), home of the Celtics and Bruins, and host of many legendary concerts from the Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen and U2. I remember drinking it all in, thinking all the while: "enjoy it kid, this will never happen again."
Fast forward a decade: I'm still playing guitar with Lori McKenna, and I've got two kids and an unglamorous minivan of my own. Later this month and almost 10 years to the day, I will inexplicably return to the very same Boston Garden with Lori as we once again open a couple of shows for Tim and Faith's Soul II Soul reunion tour. This has exposed a little wrinkle in my worldview--if the really great times can come back around, does that mean the lowest lows might revisit me once more too? I shudder to think: it's one thing to leave home or gamble with your health when you're in your 20s, but it's another thing entirely when you've got a family depending on you.
It'll all surely (and temporarily) swing south again, so I'll be extra careful to savor my return to the big stage with Lori later this month. Because we don't get to pick and choose any of this stuff and life isn't a la carte. If it were I'd be playing the Boston Garden every goddamn night, and I'd have never discovered that poodles can waltz.
MP3 of the MONTH: It's only fitting that this month's track is a live version of "Once," a song I wrote on the Soul II Soul tour with Lori McKenna the first time around. The song anticipates the birth of our first son, Owen, who will turn 10 later this summer. It was recorded live in Portsmouth RI with Zachariah Hickman on bass, and you can download it from my Bandcamp site for free for the month of July. Enjoy!
No shows of my own this month, just sideman stuff. But it's really cool sideman stuff.
July 7 - Boston Garden, Boston MA# #Soul II Soul tour with Lori McKenna
July 8 - Boston Garden, Boston MA#
July 14 - Criterion Theater, Bar Harbor ME* *with Lori McKenna
July 15 - Stone Mountain Arts Center, Brownfield ME* (SOLD OUT)
ON THE HORIZON:
Aug 13 - Energy Park, Greenfield MA