Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Art of Breaking Down.....


As a Virgo, I'm always super prepared and organized.  When not on tour, I'm having repairs done on my van and tinkering with any problems that it may have.  After growing up with a machine shop in my back yard and seeing pump after pump come down the driveway to be repaired, I have grown to love the idea of maintenance.  These pumps would come in old, dirty and broken down with who knows what kind of chemical residue on them.  But one things for sure, they'd leave looking like new.    I'd watch the millwright work as if unfazed by the wreckage and continue to take his notes and measurements.  He'd always find the reason the pumps had failed and say something about the operators not caring about their jobs.  

At the time, I owned a 1967 Mercedes 300 SE and I began to view it the same as these old pumps coming in.  I was obsessed with taking care of it and keeping it working properly.  This idea has always been a part of my life, wether it was an old Huffy bike I sanded down and repainted or the 1972 VW Beetle I worked on every weekend as a kid.  

This practice has followed me on the road in my VW van.  It is the reason I can trek back and forth across the country without many problems.  It's silly to think that we don't have to pay close attention to our vehicles.  When people come talk to me, usually they ask how many miles are on it.  Like, how could you be doing this in a old van?  But what they don't know is how much care I put into keeping it running like the day it came off of the factory floor.  There's a lot of respect for the machine and it's many moving parts.  

However, there are days when things happen out of my control.  So far on this tour, I've made two trips to the mechanic.  One in Atlanta for a leaking coolant hose and then in the lovely Cape Cod after wading in the waters counting my blessings, I ended up on a tow truck and spending the night outside a shop awaiting the mechanics to show up on Monday morning.  

One thing about van life is it's always easy to get that sense of home no matter where you are.  In the parking lot that night, I was home.  Sure there were uncertainties but I ate a good meal, read a book and looked forward to finally getting to the bottom of my clutch issue.  I ended up needing a new flywheel and my sponsor, GoWesty, couldn't locate one in a rush so I had to find one on eBay.  The whole process of finding parts and talking to the mechanic became just another part of my tour.  

Because my tours are hosted by long time fans of my music, I end up staying in the homes of people who I only once knew from an email.  My breakdown in Cape Cod was embarrassing but it couldn't have happened at a better time with my tour schedule.  I'm staying in Jamestown, RI with the Krause family and have been here for well over a week.  It's going to be like two weeks total by the time I get out of here, but I have found a new set of friends.  Found a new family.  No one wants to make mistakes or have failures but today I'm thankful for my music career not working out like it was supposed to.  Every tour I go on starts to develop more and more and my network of friends is growing across the country.  My tour bus doesn't have a bathroom or a driver who leaves the AC running all day so the star doesn't sweat, but I do have a repair manual.  




Thursday, July 28, 2016

I Know No Strangers..,.




It's only when I check into a hotel room after days on the road, camping in national forest or playing music in beautiful spaces that I realize why the world view is so negative.  Yes, there's a tv in every hotel room and sometimes I put it on.  Blood, bitching and booing is all you hear and a lot of advertisements. Fear is a great way to herd the cattle and make em fall in line and buy what you're selling.   

If you watch enough of this, these messages start becoming reality and your world view starts to change.  You start to believe there's no good in the world and that you're just this one little speck of a person trying to make a difference.  But, I know better because I have the great luxury of traveling around the country and seeing a different side of things.  I'm always amazed by the beauty of our country and the views, but the people, they are amazing.  




Meet Georges and Joline Meyers.  After a hot day of traveling from Richmond to Baltimore, I stopped at a rest area to cool off with my ice bucket of Florida water.  It was the hottest day in Baltimore since 1920.  

I couldn't help but notice the huge Fiat camper next to me.  It had a nice design and knew it was shipped here because I'd never seen one.  I didn't want to bother them but was dying to meet them but I decided to leave them alone.  I could tell they were from France by their plates as I got back into my van to leave and just then they waved with a big inviting smile as if to say, "don't leave"!

I hopped out of the van and before long I'm sitting in their van/house sharing stories and looking at a huge map of their travels from Vancouver and all through the states.  They were well traveled people.  One of their other maps was of their road trips through Russia and farther east.  I asked if it were intimidating going through there with all the terrorism going on and they smiled and said No! The people are beautiful everywhere!  I smiled really big right back at them and they at me saying nothing.  It's a feeling you only know if you travel.  We bonded on such a deep level barely being able to communicate, but we spoke with our hearts.  






Wednesday, July 20, 2016

We Are The Solution......




Yesterday, a dear friend Dustin Tomlinson, wrote that he was being sent to Baton Rouge to aid the police force in these trying times.  I met Dustin when he was right out of high school and we met because of my music and we have always had a special relationship and have seen him in many cities at my shows.  It hit me hard to see that he was being sent to Baton Rouge and it showed me how complex the situation is not only in our country but in the world. 

Dustin is not a racist, not a power hungry guy who wants to beat people.  He is a good citizen who has traveled the world and happens to be a policeman.  When I first saw the photo of the beautiful girl in a dress and the line of policeman in military garb, I was mortified.  This was the same town I grew up going to as a kid to see LSU play or to go to the night club 2010.  In those days, 2010 seemed like a long ways away, but we never imagined our future would look like this.  


I read an article the other day about the news media and it said "If it bleeds, it leads".  With the advent of ad blockers on computers, it's harder and harder to get peoples attention and violence is the only thing that will get people to pay attention.  Ever notice when driving up on a terrible accident and you can't help but look?  It's the same concept and journalist are going after the money.  These are the only stories that sell.   The media is whipping us into a frenzy and has everyone on edge and in conflict.

"So instead of reducing violence, the way the news media covers violence fuels more violence in a positive feedback loop - a vicious cycle."



I have kept quiet while watching all of this.  I'm not one to speak my mind because I don't think that my opinion is the only opinion.  I do feel that empathy is key.  If we all could wake up each day and realize that every human wants the same thing as you.  We want to feel good about ourselves and contribute to society.  

But I can't just sit and watch and not at least write in my own journals while even a terrorist attack in Paris is connected to my circle of friends.  The band that was playing during the attack was very good friends of some people I know and they come to New Orleans often.  Things are getting too close.  It used to be terror was a thing far off but now it's people you know.  Now close friends of mine are being thrown into the fire to protect us.  It's easy to see the other side as evil, but there are good people in every walk of life who can choose to remember why they're doing what they're doing.  I'm sure there are many good folks who wanted a life in politics but after a few years in D.C., they get seduced by some corporation and then they check their morals at the door and change.  It's the same for cops, businessmen, and even musicians.  How many artist sell out and play the game.  It's ugly.  But there are people out in the world who are strong and are good.  American politics is a mess and have always been a mess.  You'll see if you research it.  The left and right have always been fighting and the whole time the people have been the make up of this American life.  We are the people that make up our little communities and we are the ones living the beautiful relationships born into the complexity of what it means to be American.  

Just like Dustin Tomlinson, I was born in St. James Parish, Louisiana.  Born in a place laced with plantation homes that were built long before us.  We suited up in football uniforms and lined up with many of our African American brothers.  Sure, men before us made horrific decisions but we managed to get past it and create some beautiful, lasting relationships.  It's so hard to articulate all my feelings and thank God that I have music and song to run to.  It's hard, because our system is broken on both sides but we can choose to get up everyday and do good.  Often, I can feel powerless but then I realize that I can do good everyday.  Yesterday, I was polishing my van full of pride, when a guy from Mexico came up and asked to take pictures of my van.  He said he sent his dad a pic and they both cried thinking of their simpler times they had in the van they once owned.  Everyday, I aim to connect with people and to be present and look them in the eye.  We can make a difference.  The government is only the government and the television is just a noisy box.  The country is still full of beautiful people.  You are beautiful and need to work hard to find empathy and find the strength to love even when you don't understand.  The aim is to be selfless in a selfish society.  Nothing is more gangster than that!






Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Going 63 In An Overheated Country......


I set out on the road again the other day for a two month tour.  I booked back to back nights in two different cities for the first time and rushed to my second show in Atlanta and went 70mph at times.  This is something I never do.  The whole point of having my Westfalia is to slow down and live a minimalist life and to live in love everyday with my journey, in good times and bad.  When I got to Atlanta, my coolant was leaking and my van was not happy.  It was no big deal, just one of the hoses that I hadn't replaced yet, but I saw it as a sign to slow down and remember what it is that I'm doing.  

Perhaps, this is the problem with society today.  We have the cruise control set to 100mph and we want to go faster.  We're going too fast to see each other and taking in so much information.  I sometimes feel crazy for quitting a good job with good people to hit the road to play music in the age of downloading, but most of the time I feel happy.  Happy to be useful in society. 
  


The Brody's in Decatur, Ga. are becoming good friends after hosting two shows in the past year and a half.  I'm Myla's second favorite artist after Taylor Swift.  She thinks I play stadiums.  

Last Friday, Paul Hebert hosted a show in Madison, Al.  We played at the old Black Bear. What a sweet family and love that little town.  


Into the sweetness of the unknown.  I'm sitting in a Nashville cafe and don't give a damn about all the super star musicians.  When I peruse the magazine sections in the book store, I skip the rock god magazines.  I feel like people need to get off of their hi horses and put their feet on the ground and find empathy.  Empathy is key right now to get us out of this mess.  Man has been fighting since the beginning of time, you think we would have figured this out by now with all of our technology and cleverness.  May music find its healing powers.


Thursday, June 30, 2016


On Sunday night we put together a show at PORT in New Orleans.  The space had no roof and was high enough to bring the van in and set up a make shift camp sight.  Doors were at 7:00 which meant we had to get there at 4 to properly set up everything and make sure the space had just the right vibe. When we got there the sun was burning down on us in the hot June stillness but I knew it was going to be worth it once the night began to fall and the swamp projections became visible on the wall.  







Raja Kassis joined us for the evening on guitar after having only one rehearsal.  We had some nice musical moments that went along with the swamp scenes behind us.  My favorite thing is having a vision and seeing it through.  There's so many details that go into putting on your own shows.  If you forget one little cable or adapter it could make a huge difference.  I don't really get nervous for shows anymore but I do have a lot on my mind the day of trying to make sure all my bases are covered.  



This is why I like playing in non music venue kind of places.  This scene is not like anything you've ever seen.  We don't play on a stage above the audience.  We don't disappear backstage after the show.  Everything is out in the open.  








Chris Rose has become a dear friend.  He heard me last year at a Katrina event and has loved my music ever since.  He was there with his friend Lori Kramer who took all of these pics.  I remember getting to know Chris' writing during Katrina.  Every morning he'd have an article on the front page.  He was reporting from the scene every night.  No electricity, looters and guns everywhere.  It's hard to imagine that our city lived through that and we came out the other side and got back on our feet. It's nice to be appreciated by a guy like him. 


I'm very excited about sound right now.  I've been practicing a lot of guitar lately and exploring new sounds.  I have a new Roland JC40 coming soon that will be small enough to fit in the van and big enough to beef up my sound a bit.  Raja is used to playing African music and was excited at the chance to play music with so much space.  Two weeks ago he was in Morocco playing to a large festival crowd and on this night in front of 50 people seated watching every note.  During the intermission he told me how different it was for him to play in this way but he sounded great.  





The best door man in New Orleans, Jacques.




This was Margaret Hebert's first show since breaking her wrist and first show playing a Nord Electro. I've been wanting her to explore more sound design and move away from the piano and the vintage Wurlitzer we've been using.  She was very brave to get up there and play.  Many people were seeing her for the first time and she barely had use of her right hand.  We expected that something good would come out of her injury and due to the limitations we discovered more ambience and space with the Electro.  



It was nice to play an ambient show in New Orleans and have people come out and buy tickets.  This gives me great hope for my future in New Orleans and sends me out on the road feeling good about doing things on my own with no label.  Happy Trails!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ode to Time


the richest man is he who carries understanding in his heart and
the most virtuous is he who extends that understanding to another being
we're in a world who's quivering and wavering with question
i've been blessed with the precious gift of time
and i see kings with false notions of our possibilities 
and
i hear only one voice
all kings sitting highest on the mountaintop eventually cannibalize themselves
man's lust is a dirty whore
i've been charmed and repelled by ms. america
and i'm free of her bondage now 
and know my country and its beauty is going to come from me
my america is a blank canvas and shall plant the seeds around me
no matter what soil i lay my bare feet
thanks to god
to the god of all nations
for i've been blessed with time 




Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Cafe Windows....





I'm no longer seeing the world through the cafe window.  Well sometimes I am but at least now I'm out in the world as my true self again.  I love cafes and looking out the window on a rainy day.   When I get to Paris I could spend hours in the window, gazing at the scene and thinking and living off of bread.  I like eating simple and cheap and nourishing myself with culture.  Seems like the only thing that matters to me these days is staying on a path of growth.  It could be musically, artistically but mostly as a human.  Understanding is everything in this world, even today.  With all the modern devices, we are as confused as ever.  Fulfillment in simplicity, is what I'm after.  Sustainability. We need to go on a "fear of missing out" diet and get back to the essence of life.  

 

It sounds simple but stripping oneself down to the core is a life long journey and there are so many things tugging at us to make us think contentment lies in a product.  When I look at the Grand Canyon, I feel small and  feel our time here is but a speck in time.  It's healthy to feel these sort of things. It's better to look death in the face.  How else are you going to hear her secret.  Time is precious.


I was scared to hit the road again.  Scared that I might actually find what I was looking for.  Is that crazy?  It's true, many people shoot themselves in the foot like me.  I guess I fear luxury and not having to dig.  That is where I feel I find my true essence.  I think life is set up perfectly.  It's good to work for things and have obstacles.  I like limitations which is why I travel in 1987 VW Westfalia.  Sure you can go up to 75mph but the sweet spot is 63mph.  It sips not guzzles.  Sips miles and forces you to sit back and take it in.  


It's been amazing being in the van on the road.  There's a feeling of calm no matter where I am because it feels like home.  I always find that sense of home when I set up camp for the night, no matter where I am.  Some of my morning views are better than others.




My west coast trips are getting better and better and less intimidating.  First time I went through the desert, it kicked my ass.  I underestimated it.  It's good to get your ass kicked sometimes too.  Nothing worse than being too complacent. 



Only problem with camping in the desert for a few days is I come out singing like a wolf.  So much rage for the land.  It's nice though.  I'm cool with it.