Mark Erelli

August 2018 Newsletter

August 2018 Newsletter

with Josh Ritter, July 2018


Our desire to give our boys a taste of an old-fashioned summer, the fact that no one wants to go to a coffeehouse in July, and a dearth of childcare have typically ensured that the past decade of my summers have been fairly sleepy. I do a few scattered outdoor gigs, but mostly I'm home with the boys and grateful for the downtime before the dependably hectic fall. This summer, however, Lori McKenna released a new record, Josh Ritter asked me to do some dates, and--miraculously--there were no conflicts. It's been an adjustment for me and my family, and this month I thought I'd share some of what I've learned on my sideman summer "vacation."

I usually choose the instrument that best matches each song, and if that means bringing four guitars, I bring four guitars. However, due to the heat, humidity, and travel constraints, I decided to commit to playing my Creston custom solid-body Telecaster for the entire summer. I've really enjoyed the process of trying to coax the different tones I need for the varied material I'm doing, and I am grateful for the stability of its tuning and intonation. It's fun to acquire a variety of tools, each of which suits a particular job perfectly, but sometimes it's also enjoyable to see how much you can do with a single tool.

Lori and Josh are two of the best songwriters of my generation, but they are remarkably different artists and each gig requires its own skillset. The last thing I want to do is launch into "Girl In The War" when I'm supposed to kick off "Stealing Kisses." Josh's songs have so many words, all of them vital and poetic, and I have to take care to avoid playing anything that draws a listener's ear away. At the same time, he likes a rock n' roll show with a big dynamic range, so I have to be ready to go from relative calm to musical thunder in a split second. Lori's vibe is more measured, by comparison. She never gets too loud, or too quiet, which is partly why you are so surprised she breaks your heart in every song--you never hear it coming. I play more texturally with Lori, staying with very simple melodic hooks, and shift my focus to singing the harmonies. Regardless of the gig, I have the best seat in the house night after night with two remarkable artists.

Time away from the family must always be rationalized by a combination of several factors: money, opportunity and fun. Rarely does one gig satisfy all these criteria, but you need at least two of the three. Being a sideman usually means less money than being the main artist, but also promises less expense and generally requires fewer logistical headaches. The artists I play with--two of the best songwriters of my generation--is definitely fun and provides me the opportunity to play venues and stages I might never play on my own. I'm looking forward to some more gigs of my own (and with Barnstar!) come fall, but this "sideman summer" has been a welcome and inspiring change of pace.

MP3 of the MONTH: This month's track, as in several years past, is a live version of my song "August." This one, from a June show at Club Passim, feels particularly sublime. Check out the fiddle solo from Jake Armerding, it'll give you chills. It's available for free on my Bandcamp site for the month of August. Enjoy!

I don't have any shows of my own this month, but I will be playing in Lori McKenna's band instead (see dates below).

8/3 - The Ark, Ann Arbor MI** **with Lori McKenna
8/4 - City Winery, Chicago IL**
8/5 - Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis MN**
8/15 - City Winery, Atlanta GA**
8/16 - Blumenthal Performing Arts, Charlotte NC**
8/17 - CMA Theater, Nashville TN**

9/22 - Princeton Coffeehouse, Princeton IL
9/27 - 2nd Shift Music Series, Waltham MA# #with Barnstar!
9/28-29 - Word Barn, Exeter NH#
9/30 - Vinegrass Festival, Truro MA#
10/2 - Lincoln Elementary Auditorium, Winchester MA (special Mixtape benefit show for Winchester Music!)
10/18 - House Concert, Bowling Green OH
10/19 - G.A.R. Hall, Peninsula OH
10/20 - House Concert, Pittsburgh PA


updated: 1 year ago