February 2015 Newsletter
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
AGAINST ALL ODDS
"Musicians and night-club proprietors lead complicated lives; it's advisable to check in advance to confirm engagements."
I've always loved this bit of fine print that precedes the Nightlife listings in The New Yorker magazine. It's not that there aren't plenty of other kinds of people who also lead complex lives, it's just that I've found the musician life to be more complex than I'd ever anticipated. I think many of us harbor the notion that touring folksingers simply drift around from town to town, visiting friends or making new ones, crashing on the occasional couch, with nothing but a guitar and a small bag of rumpled clothes to weigh them down. That all sounds romantic, in the way that others' lives can sometimes seem, but that's never been my experience.
I still have a calendar from when I was in graduate school, trying to get my masters in evolutionary biology while also playing as many gigs and open mics as I could, with nearly every day a tangle of commitments scrawled in different colored inks. I remember being so busy it kind of scared me. Then I graduated, headed straight out into the music scene, and the calendar changed--the vast expanses of blank space, the time between gigs (and paydays), scared me even more. Fortunately, the calendar gradually filled back up again, with each year a little busier and more successful than the last.
Getting married added another schedule to the mix, and every decision I made also affected my spouse and her calendar (and vice versa). When I started working as a sideman, those artists naturally weren't factoring in my life when they booked their shows. If I wanted the gig, I had to work things out on my end. That was a delicate dance to be sure, which got more complicated still after we had children. And then the kids got old enough for school and activities of their own. Now there's my gigs, sideman gigs, my wife's work schedule, the school calendar, playdates, holidays and birthdays, and sports practices and games. And it's worth noting that there aren't any vacations, date nights or down time in that list.
Into this crowded mix steps Barnstar!, which embarks on its first limited run of tour dates this week to celebrate the release of our new record. That's five guys with both solo and sideman careers, so now there's Josh Ritter, Lori McKenna, Ray Lamontagne, Paula Cole, Red Molly, Eddie From Ohio, Elephant Revival, The Bluegrass Gospel Project and several other artists' schedules to wrangle. Once we can get all those availabilities lined up, there's no guarantee the venues where we hope to play will be free, so that's anothe layer of schedules too. I still have to pinch myself that we actually got these Barnstar! dates on the books.
None of the above is intended as a complaint--they are simply some of the many factors that must line up for me to make music and take it on the road to you. When I write it all out, I am fairly amazed that it ever works out at all. I started out with that romantic dream that I'd be a traveling troubadour living a simple life full of music and free of distractions. Instead, I've come to realize that those distractions and complications ARE life, and I can't imagine mine without them. Somehow the music, against all odds, always finds a way get made, and for this I remain ever grateful.
MP3 of the MONTH: Does the title of this month's newsletter remind you of a certain 1980's Phil Collins chestnut? Good, because this months free track is a cover of Collins' "Against All Odds" from last December's annual covers show. Though I am no fan of the dated production of the original, there is a great song in there and I think we found it in this version. It's available for free for the month of February on my Bandcamp page. Enjoy!
YOU TURN ME ON I'M A RADIO: Barnstar! will hit the airwaves this week. Let your favorite station know you need a shot of badass bluegrass in their regular rotation. We'll invade NPR as a guest on WBUR's Radio Boston program Mon FEB2nd at 3 pm. We'll be performing live on WUMB here in Boston on the official release day of "Sit Dow! Get Up! Get Out!" Tue FEB 3rd at noon. We're recording sessions at WFUV and Sirius/XM satellite radio and will let you know when those are set to air.
JANUARY reminder: Barnstar! hits the road this week for our 1st ever shows in DC, VA & NYC!
Thu Jan 29th - The Hamilton, Washington DC - 7:30 pm
(Jimmy Gaudreau & Moondi Klein support)
Fri Jan 30th - The Jefferson Center, Roanoke VA - 8 pm
Sat Jan 31st - Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2), New York NY - 8:15 pm
BARNSTAR! The Tour Continues**
Feb 4 - Oberon Theater, Cambridge MA - 7:30 pm**
The big hometown record release show. There'll be costumes, disco balls, aerialists, special cocktails, snakes on a plane, sharknados...it's gonna be a bonafide bluegrass extravaganza. I know it's a Wednesday. If this show doesn't get you through to Friday, nothing will.
Feb 5 - One Longfellow Square, Portland ME - 8 pm**
Always great to get back to Maine, the only other state I've ever lived in besides Massachusetts. Really excited to see how we shake up this room. Our first gig in Maine, tell your friends, or better yet: bring them with you.
Feb 6 - Club Helsinki, Hudson NY - 9 pm**
I used to play at this place when it was in Great Barrington MA, but I haven't been back since it conquered the Hudson Valley. Looking forward to this.
Feb 7 - Academy of Music, Northampton MA - 7 pm**
This is the largest show I believe I've ever headlined as a full part of the main act and not a hired hand (e.g. not a sideman). Forget the technicalities--this is a BIG show! A beautiful old theater in a place I called my hometown for several of my most formative musical years. Northampton was a place where a lot of my musical dreams came true, and now it's happening again. Joining us on this bill will Laurie Lewis, a bluegrass pioneer and bonafide legend, and I'm hoping she plays my "Hartfordtown 1944" (which she covered a few years ago) in her set. This place has 836 seats, and I'm hoping you all come and occupy one.
Feb 27 - Stone Church, Newmarket NH - 7 pm
It'll be great to get back to the MILLTOWNS show, and what better place to do it than one of Bill Morrissey's old haunts? Bill used to live in Newmarket, played this room often, and the town and it's characters populate several of his songs and books. I'll have Richard Gates on bass, and that means it'll be great.
Feb 28 - Circle of Friends Coffeehouse, Franklin MA - 8 pm
This is one of the Boston-area's premiere church coffeehouses, and I'm really excited for this one. The Surly Temple, featuring Jim Henry, Doug Plavin and Guy DeVito, will kick off the night. Then Jim Henry, who I go waaaaay back with, will join myself and Richard Gates for a MILLTOWNS set. Doug also played with Bill Morrissey for a spell, so I'm sure we'll get us all together at some point. Epic.
No sideman gigs this month, it's all about me. But you never know where I'll pop up unannounced.
ON THE HORIZON:
Mar 14 - UU Church, Melrose MA (in the round w/Alastair Moock & Bill McQuaid)
Mar 28 - Sounding Board CH, W. Hartford CT (with Red Molly)
Apr 18 - Book & Bar, Portsmouth NH
Apr 19 - St. Giles Presbyterian Church, Greenville SC