Sunday, December 13, 2015

Along The River Road...

Before I left for my December tour, I built a tiny bonfire on the river back home in St. James Parish.  We used to build huge ones with a bow saw, me and my cousin Gerard would do the cutting.  It would take two months because it was so big.  It was normal to spend all day finding the center pole, hauling it and recruiting help to get it in the hole.  Each year the logs got fatter and me and Gerard would dare to cut down the biggest tree in the woods.  

I enjoyed having a goal and working towards the end and being able to climb to the top of it.  One of my favorite things to do during the month of December is to make campfires on the river at night and cook on the open flame.  My nephews and I camped out on the river the day we built this before I left.  We were so tired that night but managed to stay up playing Batteille and hanging in the upstairs bed of my Westfalia.  

photo by: Margaret Hebert

My cousins laugh at me because I had a hard time cutting down trees.  We built this mostly with trees that had been felled.  

I've always loved these trees with the moss growing on them.  Next week when I get back in town, I'm looking forward to putting the cane reed on it so it will pop when we light it.  

For many years, I've been wanting to write a Christmas song but could never whip myself up in the right mood.  Christmas Eve hasn't been the same since my grandmother died.  I remember making up songs in the back of the truck on the way to her house on Christmas Eve.  I beat on boxes and sing about the people in our family we were going to see.  Such pure joy being a kid on that day knowing you'll eat your dad's gumbo, open presents and then go to the river for the bonfires.  

After a few years of living in Brooklyn, I remember returning home for Christmas Eve and when they lit the fireworks and the fires started to catch, I was in the middle of the roaring crowd and had the chills thinking of our tradition that had died but was reminded that it was still going on and that I had to let go and make new ones.

Last November, I sang at my cousin Patti Poirrier Amato's funeral.  The choir director, Mrs. Poche, told me I'd have to sing a long time because there were a lot of people in the church going to communion.  I began making a song up at the end of Amazing Grace, I don't know where it came from but it resonated with everyone and brought a certain peace.  I was encouraged to write a Christmas song after that experience.  I've been all over and have never found a tradition like ours.  It's a beautiful thing that there's still a place in the world, where the doors remain open to strangers, with a place at the table.  So let it snow in the mountains, I'll take my fire by the river.  Happy Holidays.  "Light the fire, I'll be coming, coming home"!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Mourning For The City Of Light, For Mankind....

Here we go again.  More crazy terror.  I not only feel for Paris but all the small countries that experience this everyday and we don't hear about it or maybe we do but can't quite connect to it like we can to the City of Light.  We can't even connect to it when it happens on our own soil.  I remember being in Williamsburg during 911.  It was quite a feeling.  Everybody put their coolness and clever attitudes away and needed each other for a bit.  It wasn't long before they all slipped back into cool and began smearing the beard wax.  

I often feel too serious and wish I could make cool music or fun music that people come to New Orleans to hear.  But I can only create truthfully.  I want to say the things that no one is saying.  Say the things that no one said in the months right after 911 when everyone was about go spiraling back into the nothingness of money, cool and the new crack, social media. Andy Warhol had no idea it would be more than 15 minutes people needed.

The other night I came across a notepad that read "Letters To Patti Ann".  These were letters written to my cousin Patti when I lived in Brooklyn.  She had almost died and woke up with no arms and legs.  Now what do you say to someone when their world is turned on its head?  The letters are encouraging as I'm experiencing great difficulty trying to will out a record out of myself for the first time.  It was because of Patti's late brother Joey that I set myself on a new path in life.  I vowed at his funeral to never let myself slip into nothingness and to follow my path no matter how afraid I was.  I've always felt that "So Long" was a heavy record but people have been finding it over the years.  Now I realize why it feels the way it does.  These letters tell the story for sure.  They are direct and almost feel like they're from someone who's a military leader.  In one letter, I'm telling Patti that I woke up to the sounds of sirens and looked out my window and saw the World Trade Center was smoking.  Ladies were running to me as they got off the Williamsburg Bridge with fear in their eyes.  How do you let these things go?  Where do they go?  I've never been able to let these experiences settle anywhere and hide.  I wish there was a leader that had a deep wisdom and the ability to get to the people's hearts and slow everything down.  From this day on, I'm not going to feel bad or weird and judgmental towards my music.  I'm going to let it be.  Maybe I'll never have a hit song, but when it's all over I will have lived truthfully in my time.  "I walk onto the wild side, Wildflower."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I'm the Elephantheadd......

I stumbled into this room at the Pink Pony in New York in 1997.  The lower east side to be exact, on Ludlow St.  Fresh from the country, just got a new cut and some over the top sun glasses and probably some new shoes or something.  I love feeling brand new or not recognizing myself and being in a strange city and not knowing anyone and finding value for myself.  I loved sitting in this corner.  "Please hold me the forgotten way!"  I'd look at all the pictures on the wall.  Warhol, Lou Reed, all kinds of artist from the neighborhood over the years who became iconic symbols of the best eras of downtown.   

I must admit, at that particular time deep inside I wondered "how the hell you gonna pull this one off Putty?" I looked at those pics and thought about each one of them when they first stepped foot in the city.  They were nothing too and had come here to be sharpened by the city's stone.  All I needed was a little hope and small victories to keep going and some things to seduce me in the right directions.  I'd definitely trust my instincts and follow them despite my inhibitions.  It's not that I wanted my picture on the wall, I left that one up to Vincent Gallo.  His picture was already up on the wall.  I couldn't figure that one out.  It was too early for that shit man.  He had only made a few films and a few records but was really good at the mystique thing.  It wasn't the picture on the wall I was seeking.  I wanted the "all knowing smile" on their faces.  The comfort with themselves after wrestling with their own creative demons for years.  I wanted the look of the prized fighter too but I knew a fight was coming and was ready.  The fight would be the life.  The picture would just be a picture on the wall with nothing to say really.  No one knew what those pics were saying, what they were thinking.  

Sometimes I dream I am a man who dreams of having a mustache.  He thinks it has hidden powers of persuasion.  He makes great espresso and even roast his own beans.  

Singing in a vocal booth for the first time with a room full of people in the control room is probably the most frightening thing I've ever done.  Singing over strange loops and beats was my way of getting into music.  

Stella Adler made me an artist.  I'll say that forever.  I didn't believe I had creativity in me until I went to the conservatory.  Well, I knew I was creative but didn't really believe it yet.  
"Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art"

The machinist son, laden with opportunity.  It wasn't going to be wasted.

This guy achieved success in being himself.  I see him every time I go Paris.  It's beautiful to see people.  I never forget a face.  I'm the Elephantheadd.

I've struggled to hold onto the artist in me sometimes.  I guess every artist has self doubt.  When I'm around familiar things from childhood, I forget.  Forget what I've done and all the work I've put in.  It's so silly, but I imagine everyone deals with these thoughts.

And then your super talented friends come to town and let you know that you're not normal and invite you up on stage.  The Coco Rosie girls have always been inspiring too me in their defiance of the norm and what it is to be a woman in this era. If the Pink Pony were still open, I believe their picture should go up.   

One trick I have is to pinch roll my jeans to remind me of the swagger of the late 80's.  I will always be a New Waver despite what music I'm playing.  

I was in a temporary apartment last winter and all I needed was a picture and a blue guitar.  This picture holds me accountable somehow.  When you are an artist you need to be held accountable.  Get in front of the work and do it.  It's one of the hardest things to do.  Trust, and it shall come.  

To remain a child is the goal.  Childlike in your relation to things.  It's hard to stay naive after you learn the corruption of the world but all one really needs is a little corner of the world to do his work. I'd live in a box so that my creativity may live.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Indigo, banana paper and a black iron pot.....

I was asked by my friend and collaborator Tiffany, what is the most essential thing on the road, what are your favorite hidden spots and what about this obsession with indigo?  It's not just the indigo I'm obsessed with, it's the vision that occurred to me in my years away from pursuing music on the road.   For years I asked myself, what was it that was so bad about being on a big label and touring in a tour bus? 
 I went to work with my dad for a while and remembered how he built his business with his two hands and imagination.  Everyday he woke up and loved it even though there were doubts and many trials to come.  I thought about our next door neighbor, my aunt Marie, becoming the baddest wedding cake maker in the parish.  I thought about aunt Doris catering weddings and cooking all the food.  I was brought up by resourceful people.  My mamere chased her own chickens and grabbed them by the neck with her own two hands.  My papere steered his own stubborn mule with no complaints.   Oh and did I mention resilience?  Those two lovely people lost two kids and raised 9 others on a farm.  

My goal when getting back on the road with music was to connect with my own kind and not be forced into silly circles.  I wanted to connect with people with vision.  Brave people who were not afraid of being themselves.  Not afraid that they may look in the mirror and not recognize themselves.  
The road is a scavenger hunt to find these people.  Long attention spans, and focus is their gift.  They can sit through a whole concert without looking at their phones and their tiny homes are filled with books and records with no tv in sight.  They are a bit obsessed with finding simplicity and the things that really matter.  They want to reclaim time for themselves.  

This is my ever changing pot of gumbo.  I started making music with an MPC 2000 and a computer, so sound design has always been my main interest in music.  I grew up on Lanois and Eno and Depeche Mode and Chopin.  It's all with me when I'm up there with only an acoustic guitar and my pedal board.  It's fun to have an instinct up there and recall my days in a Stella Adler improvisation class and let it fly knowing you may fall on your face.  Sometimes, mistakes become my new discovery.  

I still love NY even though there has been a mass exodus of its creative class.  This bridge in Prospect Park is one of my favorite places to be.  It's quiet, it's full of nature and it's in Brooklyn.  I love Brooklyn.  When I was living in Williamsburg years ago, I noticed a DIY movement happening. I was making a record in my apartment, I saw coffee becoming and art form, and folks were getting fed up with their cubicles.  This was the overall feeling of excitement the whole time making "So Long"  we were touching everything.  

Before we even mastered "So Long", Mac Premo came up with a concept that we would mass produce on our kitchen table.  We made album art with banana paper from banana boxes from Bodega's all over Brooklyn.  I put all these vignettes in between each song, burnt the cd's and wrapped them in twine. We had stacks of them.  This is how I ended becoming friends with Sierra from Coco Rosie.  They hadn't recorded a sound yet and she came to look at my apartment because I was leaving.  She saw the stacks of records and was so curious.  I told her I made a record and the packaging and sent her off with one.  Years later I ran into her and she was so excited to see me and give me their first record.  She said my little disc in the banana paper was an influence while they recorded in Paris.

This is Brother Moto in Atlanta.  It's a motorcycle repair facility.  It's a meeting place.  You become a member and you can use one of their stalls in a cafe setting to repair your own bike.  Lots of bike geeks around if you have any questions.  It makes for a nice community.  As record shops die, those communities are dying.  The internet is nice but it's not like being in the record shop in Philadelphia my friend Mary worked at.  You can smell the packaging on the old records, read magazines as they spin rare records you would have never known about.  We lose that sense of community when we live online or on a tour bus behind that lonely window.  

This leads me to Indigo dying.  Before we signed to a label, as I said, we touched everything and the process was fulfilling.  Eventually I didn't have to do anything and my face was painted on a BEEFY Tee!  Yeah, the one thing I told them I didn't want and there it was on a huge piece of cotton in all the wrong sizes and fit.  Corners were cut over and over and eventually I didn't want to be associated with my own brand.  Now that's a bad feeling no matter how many people are in the crowd at Bonnaroo.  

I've always loved indigo and I learned how to dye from my friend Aaron Ruff of Digby & Iona.  I didn't want a band shirt so I began collecting shirts on the road at Goodwills for dyeing.  It's so fun to come home with an army bag full of stuff and see it come out of the dye bucket and change colors as the oxygen hits it.  

Still using the brown paper I started with in Brooklyn though only special editions are made with the banana paper now.  

The idea for getting back on the road would be very boutique and hands on with no sights set on getting discovered.  An older VW Westfalia would be the perfect vehicle to sip the land in.  I didn't want to just roar from town to town.  

These shop rags remind me of my dad, the machinist.  These rags were always around and are a symbol of work ethic for me.  

This is in Appalachiacola, Florida were I stayed a few nights and ate oysters.  I also learned to camp for free in this area on St. George Island.  In a wooded area, I slipped behind the brush right at sunset and lit candles and no one ever saw me.  

This is in California south of Big Sur.  Those are all not rocks in a distance, they are Elephant Seals.  I heated up some black bean soup and we ate right there with the sea gull on land that will probably disappear soon.  
 Big Sur has become one of my favorite places.  It has the quiet that I like.  Henry Miller is in the air there.  Everything is poetry and simple.  It's nice to be able to get to the coast without a fence or having to pay to get through a gate.  The one thing I've noticed about traveling most of our coasts, is that we have put up a fences around the coastline and are charging admission to see it.  It's crazy how we develop our beaches, but this scene is where it's at.  

El Cosmico in Marfa, Tx is a great spot to stop.  I love it because it splits up the insane amount of miles between Austin and El Paso.  I spent a record 19 degree desert night in the van one night there. It was fun to do battle with the desert, but should not be taken lightly.  It can be intimidating.

Room 242 at Hotel Congress in Tucson is my kind of thing too.  The hotel boast a few bars and a restaurant and cafe but 242 is haunted.  I stayed in there but only got a song out of the deal.  I never saw the young, beautiful girl who shot herself in there.  I ran my hand over the bullet hole.  I was mad at her and was expecting something but not even a flicker of light or noise.  

One of my favorite stops right outside of Joshua Tree is Chiriaco Summit.  I was low on gas and it seemed like the gas stations were getting further apart.  I exited because I saw a station and when I got there I noticed it was a ghost of one, mocking me. I was scared.  I was envisioning sleeping on the side of the road when I noticed a huge Chevron sign in Chiriaco Summit.  I drifted in and fueled up and noticed a free camping sign.  Such a change in mood instantly.  Next thing I'm building a fire and cooking in the van with New Order cranked.  Probably my favorite winter time spot.  No one in sight.  No signage, just me and the mountains.

The most essential item in the van is my black iron pot.  Everything is cooked in it and new recipes are happening because of it.  In California, Rosemary grows everywhere and Thyme in some other places and they become key ingredients.  Of course everything becomes a taco.  

Joshua Tree is another favorite place.  When you're in the middle of it, it's like nowhere you've ever been.  And oh the silence, such silence!

"The aim of life is to live, and to live is to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware. "-Henry Miller

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Lou Go East Que, A Child of the Wolf........

I hit the road in June after getting the van out of the shop.  I had an oil change, rotated tires and had Joey, the mechanic,  listen for a valve tapping noise that was coming and going.  He put an additive and said that it should help it out and I hit the road.  
I'm all about preparation and ruling out any room for  error, so this didn't send me off without reservation.  I spent the first night at a camp site in LaGrange, GA.  The van had tapped the whole way there.  As soon as I got on the bridge out of New Orleans, he started tapping.  Of course this consumes your mind and it interrupts the normal writing and music listening on the road.  I did everything I could to fix the problem and eventually, I let it go and thought I'd deal with it in Asheville at Dr. Dave's.  They had serviced "Tux" last time I was in town and they knew a lot about these vans.  

I was so excited to be playing in Athens for the first time.  I had made my own connection with Seth at Hendershot's the old fashioned way.  I had passed through town, sat at his bar for a coffee and talked to them about music.  When I was leaving, I told him I was looking for a place to play and he said he'd check me out online.  He wrote back a few days later saying, "I knew you'd be the real deal"! Ha, I love having to work for things, and having to earn the respect of my collaborators out there.  I camped out in my new friend Jason's yard for a night after a night of great music in town. Athen's music scene amazes me.  I think a city and it's musicians have to be brave to keep moving 
forward and not just give the tourist what they came for.  

My friend and guitarist William Chandler had told me about Julie Odell a while back and I made it out to her shows a few times and was blown away by her.  We became friends over time and had always said we wanted to play a show at Chattooga Belle Farms in South Carolina.  We played at sunset with the light creeping behind the mountains.  It was pretty surreal, I remember just howling at one point looking at the mountains.  I was "The Child of the Wolf" indeed!

It was good to be in NY again. Both Brooklyn and Woodstock were very inspiring.  I started some collaborations with Alex Lipsen, Prince Polo and Dave Burnett and even started recording "Along The River Road" with Danny Blume in Woodstock.  This is a song I wrote for the Bonfire tradtion in St. James Parish.  

New York will make you feel like you're not doing anything with your life.  Though up until this point I was having a good tour, I wasn't impressed with myself.  I never am.  One Sunday, I got up determined to wear a black suit and allow myself to feel like someone.  I'd be an accomplished individual.  In the past year I had played The Gary State Bank Music Hall, on a roof top in New Orleans, in the swamps, at festivals, in living rooms and I was connecting on a much deeper level than if I was on some billboard somewhere.  

I put on my suit and went straight to Grand Central to get my shoes shined.  It was working, I was feeling good.  It occurred to me that if I don't see myself, no one else can see me either.  Then I encounter a photographer in the streets shooting folks and he took two shots of me in all my glory.  We bonded over our simple little notes we are sharing with society.  All the work, ups and downs and we declared it was worth it and valuable.  We talked of Jazz era artist and discipline and really working at your craft not just relying on Instagram and social media.  We parted ways with a kick in our steps. 

The ever changing pedal board.  Loving my Space Echo for vocals for ambience.  I got another loop pedal with reverse on it.  I'm still arranging these to work like I need them too.

One Saturday morning I got up and watched "Man on Wire" and it inspired me so much and made me feel like I could expect more from myself.  This guy, Phillipe Petit is my hero.  
I'm going to buy his book "To Reach The Clouds".

Spent some time in Rhode Island and wow what a beautiful state.  Played a nice show in Providence and met some nice folks.  Before driving back down to Asheville.

Almost forgot, when I made it to Asheville, I got Tux checked out at Dr. Dave's.  At first, Dave thought it was more of a knocking than a tapping and that means rebuilding the engine which is not good.  Every VW shop I visited before this suggested I try 20W50 oil and it worked.  It's easy to think for the worst, but most of the time I know without a doubt that nothing will stop me from my road not even the 18 wheeler that side swiped me when I was at a stop light.  The damage was not as bad as it felt when I was trapped in the drivers seat.  I'm having it inspected this week and repaired soon.

I like staying in Oso's barn in Asheville.  It's a very creative room so far and will plan to be back there soon.

The black iron pot is the key ingredient to all cooking in the van.  I made some granola with my friend Mabel's recipe and it came out pretty good.  

Me and Oso

His daughter Solstice

And then I finished tour playing on this deck.  Knoxville turned out to be a good spot for me.  People I've worked with in the past are starting to hear about me playing again and hope to dabble with festivals and such as I continue to build my pop up shows.  Starting to believe I'm a child of the wolf.