Wednesday, December 14, 2016

One Dead In The Attic

The year was 2005 and I had moved back to Louisiana yet again after my 2 year relationship with Atlantic Records came to an end.  The first time I moved back home was after 911 to find a studio space.  I was tired from three years of work on my first record "So Long" and was a little freaked out after watching buildings fall and being scared of anyone with a back pack on the subways.  But now in 2005, it was August and it was hot.  Close to a year had passed since I toured constantly playing festivals and trying to remain out of the spotlight somehow.  I was recording everyday in my studio in Gramercy, Louisiana just off of the river, usually into the wee hours of the morning.  

One morning I woke up and headed to the grocery store to pick up some milk when I noticed huge lines at the gas station and that's how i learned a storm was coming.  I'm sure I did what I always do, get some essentials and hunker down for the night and make music until I lose electricity.  

The next day there were lots of people stranded from their homes because they left at the last minute when they realized New Orleans was going to receive the worst of it.  My cousin and I turned a community center into a shelter for about 150 people and then the rest of the Parish trickled in to help out.  No one had electricity or TV and all we could hear was rumors that New Orleans was done.  The oak trees were under water and the city was destroyed and not coming back.  It was quite a pill to swallow as I played nightwatchman at the community center.  There was a lot of stress as many different races were in the same room night after night saying good night to each other.  I was peacemaker and comforter in those delicate hours right before bed.  

It was easy being there for people and being strong for them but the late nights alone were eating away at me.  Those stories in the Times Picayune every morning would stick with me.  I didn't know Chris Rose personally, but had read his work for years and now he was painting the craziest pictures ever.  I moved back home because of the culture.  I had been all over the country and nothing was like South Louisiana or New Orleans.  And now it was part of the gulf, to be long forgotten.  I tried to imagine being alone in a New Orleans house all boarded up with the sounds of guns going off just outside.  I could not imagine the horror that Chris was going through and was not surprised to hear years later that those writings became a best seller.  

Last year, I was asked to sing a few songs for PORT-New Orleans 10 year anniversary celebrating New Orleans' comeback.  I was excited to play on this night.  I had plenty of material for such feelings.  I lived through many family tragedy's, 911, Katrina and was a wolf waiting for his time to howl.  I knew Chris Rose was going to be there and in the back of my mind was a little concerned but let it go and howled nice and loud through the roofless building at the moon.  When he got up to the mic after me, he looked at me and said, "who the hell are you, and why don't I know you?"  It made me feel good to see the look on his face.  I knew my words and music were received and in that moment I felt value as a musician for the first time in New Orleans.  

Over the past year, Chris has come to a few shows and has become a big supporter of what I'm doing as I reenter the music business on my own terms.  I've been on his radio show several times and we just started doing duo shows where he reads from his writings and I set the mood with soundscapes and songs in between.  This has proven to be a good fit for my music and am fortunate to have found such a venue to sing in.  

"I want that Dustan vibe!  That one of kind, dirt low down echo chamber of howling rage and joyous rapture; that incandescent sunburst of melody, hope and rage, that organic acoustic interpretation of original sin and saving grace, that thing you do so well."  -Chris Rose

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Freak-A-Zoid Robots Please Report.......

In 1983, as a wee kid of 12 or so, I witnessed perfection and experienced a change in myself.  The local high school football team, Lutcher Bulldogs, had a new quarterback and he was black.  This was unprecedented at the time.  Roger Staubach, Danny White and John Elway were just some of the names  that came to mind when thinking of QB's.  But that changed quickly the first night I saw Terrence Jones.   

Sitting in the stands to the right of the press box with all the cool kids and my jam box and a Midnight Star tape, I witnessed poetry in motion.  There was definitely "No Parking" in the pocket.  When the defense got too close he'd wiggle his way out and before you know it, he was 40 yards down the field.  Danny White would have folded to the ground.  My dad, Danny Louque, worked the chains for the games and said when the receiver would catch the ball, there would be a loud thump because of how hard he threw the ball.  I'm assuming he was talking about Theron Maddie, or Laurence Felton.  That team made such an impression, I could probably name every position, even you "Chiz".

I could feel myself walking differently the next morning at football practice and would even throw the ball a little harder.  I was swaggering like TaTa before I even knew it.  I was beginning to let my imagination run like never before and learning how to express myself through sport and to rely on instinct.  This would prove to be a life long lesson long after leaving the ball far behind.

Every Friday for 14 weeks straight, I watched #10 become more and more confident in his own direction achieving perfection in the end.  After a great career at Tulane and a Heisman campaign, he played in the CFL.  The NFL wasn't ready for a black quarterback in those times.  In those times!   It's so disappointing and I'm sure it was for Terrence too.  I hope he is continuing to find his glory off of the field.  Joe DiMaggio said you never know who's watching you for the first time so play your best at all times.  I first learned this from watching #10 and think about him from time to time on the road.  When the well worn path appears in my direction, I juke it into the unknown.  Thanks Mr. Jones..."Electricity"!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Like Spinning A Web......

I played my first show since getting back to Louisiana on Saturday at The Saladino Gallery in Covington.  I love having a show on the North Shore.  We left early and enjoyed a rest and drink in the park right on the lake before going set up.  

We had worked hard during the week preparing a set that would complement Blake O'brien's work.  He had requested I play a Radiohead cover from their last record and something from The Smiths.  Needless to say the setlist leaned towards a more moody, and dark set.  For whatever reason, we struggled a bit to settle into the set and I think I got a little too into my head about the material I had chosen for the evening since there were kids and older folks hanging out.  

Then I let it go and drifted off into the music and forgot about the struggling.  For whatever reason, every night is different.  Same sound equipment, same sound guy (me) and same instruments but man things can feel funny at times.  Most of the time I know as soon as I sound check wether it's going to be a fight or an easy ride.  

On Sunday, we got up and had coffee and breakfast and wandered into the woods and noticed a huge spider spinning his web.  I think we sat there for a good 20 minutes watching all eight legs in perfect concert, weaving and spinning.  It was amazing how the spider didn't even look at each of his legs,  he just reacted to his surroundings combining the old web with his new one.  

Later Sunday night someone sent the video above to me.  At first when I saw it was a video, I remembered the struggle and didn't really want to watch it.  When I hit play, I heard something beautiful and saw my mind completely immersed with two hands in perfect symphony with each other, moving like the spider.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Thoughts from the road......

Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  I've felt these patterns before and maybe had brushes with insanity because of my obsession with detail.  The path I'm on now is hard to create patterns on, though after two years I'm already trying to. Every city, every show, they're all different.  They're all reactions to the environment.  They're the accumulations of all the miles of thought as the landscapes change.  It's an interesting thing to drive through the collective consciousness of America in 2016.  Even weirder is to turn on the TV in the hotel room and see what the political landscape looks like.  And even weirder are the talking heads on all the media channels.  We are really becoming robots.  If you mute the sound and just watch, it's quite numbing.  

And then there's beautiful people that come into your life.  They welcome you into their lives with open arms and make you feel like a contributor.  When kids sing your songs back to you, it's a beautiful feeling.  I always feel like my music is like slow food and feel like the attention spans are eroding and maybe I need some glowing lights and fireworks like the commercials on tv.  Speaking of, I just watched a few of the college football opening season games and they all looked like bowl games or the Super Bowl.  There was so much hoopla involved.  Maybe we can't help ourselves.  We are human after all and need to keep outdoing ourselves.  Too bad we can't make that ultimate decision to do better.  To stop and really look at history and forget about where we are now for a minute and rewind the clock to study the course of human history.  How about forget about striving to be smarter, how about striving to be wiser.  Not richer.  

Felt so bad for LSU the other night.  They lost the opening game.  Would have been a great uplifting thing for all the folks in Baton Rouge who had flooded homes.  But I have to say, I've stopped putting my hopes and dreams in other people.  There were times that those games could have ruined my whole fall but not anymore.  Speaking of insanity!  Every year, they run the same offensive plays and expect different results.  It's insane to place all your hopes of joy on that grass eating man.  

And then I found simplicity in the hills of Hiltons, Va.  It was so quiet as I walked on the Carter family property.  There was a tiny road with tobacco barns and tractors and people sitting on porches staring blankly as I passed by.  I couldn't believe Country music was founded here.  People are great man, that's all there is to it.  A.P. Carter was possessed by music and he had the will to get out in the world and find the songs.  Maybelle was a bad ass.  I saw her guitar and couldn't wait to get home to my old Gibson.  This little trip gave me confidence that music can come from anywhere.  Doesn't matter if you come from a little tiny lane with tobacco barns, tractors and people staring blankly.  

I think I decided I didn't need the bright lights.  Pretty soon darkness is going to be the new light anyway.  Isn't that right America?

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

PORT-New Orleans

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!