Friday, June 6, 2014

Signs of Life & Culture in Louisiana...




Came across this photo the other day.  It's an old black and white 35mm picture of a chair in my bedroom in my Brooklyn apt. pre 911.  I've kept this picture because it always reminded me what role dreams and imagination play in our lives.  We shape our destiny and no one else.  I've learned that if you can't see it and imagine a path then nothing materializes.  I remember using this chair to write when I had the crazy idea that I was going to make a record called So Long.  All I had was determination and a gift for telling stories and a great team of folks contributing.  At the time Donovan Guidry and I were living in this two bedroom in Williamsburg. He'd work night shifts while I stayed home to record and write. I'd have major break throughs and would pass out late night and then when he got up we'd have coffee and play back the work from the night before.  Every week we experienced small victories but most days were filled with doubt.  I think as creative people, there will always be doubt at every level.  When I read Neil Young's book he's even worried about not being able to write the way he used too.  Bob Dylan in an interview looks back on the body of his work and shakes his head and says he can't do that anymore.  It's a scary, precious thing to have this fleeting creativity.  

After a three year period, it was nice to sit in this chair and blast the beats from the record we made through the Bose speakers.  The same speakers we'd crank Massive Attack, Digable Planets, Bob Marley and now little old me from Grand Point, Louisiana was coming through the airwaves.  

One morning I heard the TV on in the other room at 8:45 and found it odd cause Donovan worked so late and usually stayed in bed til 10 or so.  Then the phone rang and it was my mother asking if I was ok because the twin towers had just been hit.  I went to the chair and opened the window and saw the smoke and the building and the people running on the bridge to our neighborhood.  I would never be the same.


Spoon at The Civic Theatre in New Orleans


Though New Orleans is a bit hard for a musician like me, I have enjoyed living here through all its changes.  I have become overwhelmed with Chateau St. Roch and am beginning to wonder if it's a smart idea to continue putting so much time into it.  




Last weekend I drove to Baton Rouge to hear my friend Jacob's band Ghost Foot.  They were a three piece band with a baritone guitar as bass.  They sounded really good and was so impressed with Jacob's voice and delivery. 

Also on the bill was New Orleans' Julie Odell.  I've seen her in New Orleans once doing a solo show and loved it.  This night she was with a band and was just as good.  I expect some solid work from her in the near future.  




This is my good friend and film maker Mac Premo.  This is why I love him.  He's a grown ass man and is donning baseball pants to play in his softball league.  We met years ago in the East Village, NY and would battle at stickball at least once a week.  He is the artist who did the artwork for So Long.  It matched the 3 year process of the making of the record.  It was fully layered.  He gave me a big confidence boost in 2010 when he commissioned me to write a piece of music for an animation.  Months later we were in tuxedo's at the Emmy's because we were nominated as he one many of those little men.  He'll be in town this weekend to make three little short films on me to help promote my work.  I'm very excited that he's taken the time to work with me, especially when the last video he did with Oliver Jeffers was the U2-Ordinary Love video.  


On Tuesday night I was invited by my new friend Lee Martin to the Jack White concert in the newly renovated Saenger Theatre in New Orleans.  It was so nice to see the renovations and see that place thrive again after being destroyed in Katrina.  

Jack White was a beast up there and a gentleman backstage.  I have so much appreciation for him and his body of work along with all the great stuff he's doing in Nashville for Third Man Records.  Neil Young just recorded in his recording booth for his new record.  I plan to take a road trip up there real soon to see all this for myself and maybe even record in the booth myself.





I found these old photo's of my maternal grandfather Fredrick P. Arras.  He lived in New Orleans in the Ninth Ward before his father moved the family to St. James Parish.  


Lutcher High School 1920's

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sings & Strings Festival 2014...


On Sunday, Garyville hosted their first Sings & Strings festival.  Garyville was known as a cypress town during its lucrative years.  It was divided by a passenger train track where passengers would stop in for a bite to eat before continuing on.  Over the years, the town has become pretty abandoned, well at least the old town square and all the old commercial buildings.  

Last year when I played in the old bank I fell in love with this little town square and it was nice to share and  to see a little ripple in the culture.  Well this year Peyton Falgoust and the whole village started a festival to raise money for the old Timbermill Museum.  There were lots of guys and gals with guitars jamming all over and food and drinks everywhere.  When I drove up I couldn't believe all the cars.  As I expected, people are starved for culture.  



The bank ended up being a popular spot for all the musicians.  Everyone seemed to want to play in there but the place was loud and I couldn't hear myself think much less hear the music.  My good friend and photographer, Bryan Tornowski, suggested we move to the old barn just outside and it was a good call.  The sound was great in there and intimate.  I needed a place that was more focused and less party and more of a platform to raise an awareness of our deteriorated culture.  It felt right in there.  My cousin Todd was in there who gets me in all my depths because we've been through much loss together and always remind each other to live life. 


















Me and Peyton Falgoust





Sip from the root oh bountiful bank...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New York 4/17-4/27


Went up to New York a couple of weeks ago and slipped right back into the scene like I never left thanks to all my dear friends who invited me back to play.  The above picture is the wall outside the old headgear studio.  I heard it was going to be a JCrew soon.  Things change.  I've come to accept that people change and things must just keep going.  






I played a solo set on Friday the 18th followed by a full band set with The Royal Vagabonds with special guest Aaron Dugan.  It was quite a time playing with these guys as we lost control over ourselves and just followed the music.  Dugan played with Josh during his years with Matusyahu, so he had a command over all the dub stuff we did.  We went seamlessly from Folk/Americana to dub to Rocking out and all the material worked well together.  Me, Josh and Dave had started playing some of my old record material last year and it seems to be a good fit.  The crowd was really nice and appreciative and purchased all my cds.  Thanks everyone especially Pauley Ethnic for putting this night together.


I spent another day at Adios Babylon studios with DJ Kiva and we banged out another song.  We started out just experimenting but almost have enough material for an EP.  I like making music with Kiva as he is an expert on all things recording in Apleton Live.  I also got a tour of the school he teaches at called Dub Spot.  It's crazy all the classrooms they have set up to learn music production.  Thanks Kiva for sharing your talents.





On Wednesday I played with Helio Parallax which is the dub duo Josh Werner and Takuya who both met playing in Coco Rosie's band.  Bianca from Coco Rosie and I sang on a few tracks and had a blast.  It was so hard when we were both in the basement waiting to go on to play cause the band sounded so good.  We both did our thing though once we got up there.  This night was for the Bill Laswell Residency.  It was so nice to be in John Zorn's club The Stone finally.  It feels a lot like the old Tonic scene where I got to play years ago.  There were pictures on the wall of all the great musicians from the down town scene over the years.  Feels good to be carrying a part of that torch.

On Thursday, Margo Valiente and Dave Burnett invited me to sing at Skinny Dennis, the old honky tonk bar.  We did a Neil Young song and Bob Dylan's "I Shall be Released" that was written for The Band.  It was nice to hear her sing, ripping through like 50 songs in one night.  


I had the good fortune of playing at artists JR and Prune's home for their monthly dinner party.  JR is well known for winning the Ted award and for speaking on Ted Talks and for changing the world through his art.  I was introduced to everyone before playing by friend Oliver Jeffers.  It was so nice to play for this crowd with Oliver and Mac Premo sitting right there.  The audience was so kind and there was a feeling of love and humility in the room.  This is the feeling I've been looking for for a long time. No record industry can deliver this kind of thing.  This is a real path, with like minded artist forging new paths with each other.



This is a group shot after my performance.  I was joined by dancer Lil Buck the legend and Jonathan Batiste on melodica.  Thanks again JR and Prune.