Sunday, January 27, 2008

Extraordinary

Only ONE WEEK until you can buy both Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory at my Web site. The date is February 4th, next Monday. One friggin' week! I’m going to have to hatch something really interesting for next week’s blog, which will announce the first day of sales for these two labors of love. Mark it on your calendars!

This week, you get a peek of both novel and CD. You can now read the first chapter of Ghost Notes at my Web site. See where we pick up with Hote after he scrammed for Seattle at the end of Stuck Outside of Phoenix.

(By the way, if I read my letter from iUniverse correctly, that copy of Stuck for sale at Amazon is one of the last new copies available for sale--that isn’t for sale at my Web site. Get it while you can!)

Also this week, you get another sample track from Songs from Memory, which is called “Extraordinary,” which can be found at my MySpace Audio page.

“Extraordinary” is a very special song to me because it bridges the gap between the Refreshments and Songs from Memory. In fact, I called the record Songs from Memory because, back when I first picked up the guitar again, some of my material was so old it was a challenge to remember it. Once I got sold on the idea of a solo record, I wound up writing more songs, which booted some of the old stuff off the record. As it stands, only three of the ten tracks on Songs from Memory are from Refreshments days. The rest have been written since then.

What most people won’t remember about “Extraordinary” is that it was actually a Refreshments song for a brief time. We probably played it live 3 or 4 times, with me on lead vocals, when the band was in its final throes in 1998. I generally class it with later Refreshments songs like “Easy,” “Honky Tonk Union” and “Tell Your Momma,” songs you can hear Refreshments’ versions of at the Taste of AZ show.

Frankly, “Extraordinary” never sounded as complete as those other songs, and I’m partially glad that the Taste of AZ show gets cut off after about an hour; we very well may have played “Extraordinary” later that night.

But I never doubted that, with “Extraordinary,” I’d written a song worthy of being played and recorded. For whatever reason, it never congealed with the Refreshments.

That was always a difficult thing for me to deal with, writing songs that I loved but for some reason didn’t come together when the four of us played them. (There were many other songs of mine that didn't make it out of the practice room.) At one point, after playing someone very close to me several of my demos, the person said, “I could hear these songs on a Paul Simon record, but not on a Refreshments record.”

I found this frustrating—aren’t the Refreshments just a conglomeration of the best songs any of the four of us can write and perform together? That was how I saw it.

In retrospect, I think the Refreshments got defined too narrowly. To me we were, first and foremost, always and forever, a pop rock band, and in the broadest sense. Listen to “Down Together,” “Carefree,” “Mekong,” “Don’t Wanna Know” (I could go on and on). None of these songs mentions Mexico, or tequila, or anything relating to the Southwest (nothing wrong with any of those things, by the way). They’re just pop songs, and by that I mean, in terms of theme, they could’ve been written by anyone anywhere.

My new record, Songs from Memory, is also a collection of pop songs. I’ve heard from a few that it reminds them of the Refreshments. I always smile when I hear that. "Exactly," I want to say. "Pop music. That’s what the Refreshments did."

Anyway, enjoy “Extraordinary,” and enjoy the first chapter of Ghost Notes. Next week, I’ll upload “I Don’t Know Right Now,” which should provide plenty of motivation to buy now!

Slight correction from last week: the full band gig on Saturday, March 8, at Last Exit is now supporting Shurman, not Dead Hot Workshop. As always, we hope to add more confirmations this week, so keep an eye on my Web site for the most current information. I'll announce all updates here, too.

One more week!

Art

Sunday, January 20, 2008

More Dates Confirmed/Riverboat Captain

First of all, I've firmed up full band gigs in Phoenix (Sat., March 8, Last Exit supporting Dead Hot Workshop) and St. Louis (Sat., March 29, Lucas School House with John Austin). With any luck, we'll be adding more confirmations this week, so keep an eye on my website for up-to-the-minute gig updates at the events page. I'll announce them here, too.

Also, only TWO WEEKS until you can buy Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory at my website. The date is February 4th. This is the biggest release of my life. I'm the luckiest guy in the world.

Finally, you can now hear, along with "You," "Riverboat Captain" at my MySpace Audio page, both tracks from the forthcoming Songs from Memory.

"Riverboat" is a very special song for me. I credit it with making me a songwriter again.

In December 2003, I'd all but given up on music. It had been five years since the Refreshments had broken up, and I was content to write novels, plug them where I could, and ride off into the sunset. There are worse ways to get from A to B in this life.

But a funny thing happened. I found out that promoting a novel wasn't as easy as scheduling readings at bookstores and waiting for people to show up. In general, people needed a more compelling reason to leave their homes and their TVs and their Internet. (My Phoenix area readings were the exception.) People wanted more, and I had to figure out how to give it to them.

My acoustic guitar and bass were in the closet, so I broke them out, blew the dust off the cases, and started practicing again. I needed a gig, so I booked a happy hour show at Long Wong's in Tempe and cajoled a group of friends to kill an hour or two onstage at Wong's with me, play some old songs, ham it up, and promote Stuck Outside of Phoenix. This became the infamous "Friends of Betty" show in January of 2004, a couple of months before Wong's went kaput.

So, it's December and I'm rehearsing for the show. I'm playing "Carefree." I'm playing "Birds Sing." I'm playing a bunch of other songs I almost forgot I wrote, and I'm having a pretty good time.

Then, my wife and I rented Charade.

It's a movie made in the 60s starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, and it turned out to be one of my favorite movies of all time. It has all kinds of silly scenes in it, like Grant and Hepburn, in formal evening dress, playing that game where you try to pass an orange from your neck to your partner's without using your hands. I loved the dialog, and I got that excited feeling I get when I see a movie that really resonates with me.

And then it passed through my head:

We'll pass oranges with our necks just like Charade
And with our drinks we'll all make lemonade


Words and melody. Waiting for the movie to finish would've been intolerable, so we paused the tape and I ran upstairs, picked up my guitar. In 30 seconds I had:

And if you think it wasn't, well it was
And if you need a reason, it's because
I'm the riverboat captain


In another few hours I had the whole song, beginning to end. I was a songwriter again. Take a listen to the finished product here.

I guess it's a song about my life at the time, the riverboat captain some kind of take-charge image, but to me it will always be about that scene in Charade, Audrey and Cary balancing an orange between them, trying hard not to use their hands.

For the story of the recording of "Riverboat Captain," go here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

First SFM Song Up/Taste of AZ

First of all, you can hear the first cut off Songs from Memory, which is called "You," at my MySpace Audio page. Let me know what you think. Both Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory go on sale at my website on February 4th. Mark it on your calendars!

Next week, it's "Riverboat Captain," the first song I wrote after a six-year hiatus, the first song we recorded for the album, and the theme song of Ghost Notes.

For some reason, Amazon is currently showing a 3 to 6 week wait for Stuck Outside of Phoenix. If you want a copy of Stuck before it goes out of print, I still have them for sale at my website. And I'll sign it, too!

As a few of you probably know, Kevin Guhl was kind enough to put his old Refreshments videos into digital form. What does that mean? It means we can all watch the 1998 Refreshments Taste of AZ show on YouTube!

This was great fun for me, and for others I'm sure, so thank you, Kevin.

A little explanation: the Taste of AZ took place in the parking lot of Sun Devil Stadium, just to the east of the Rio Salado River (this was before the water park), toward the end of the band's existence. I'm guessing this was in the last dozen--maybe last half-dozen--shows we played before breaking up in May of that year. We also flew to a couple of radio shows at the end--one in Charlotte, NC as I recall--and played a few shows in Tempe.

When I first watched this show (Kevin was kind enough to send me a DVD) on my computer, I was struck by how lax we seemed. I attributed this to the fact that we were probably aware that the band was winding down at this point. That bummed me out, so I decided not to watch the rest.

Fortunately, Netflix screwed up our account for a day, and Kel and I were without a DVD one night.

"I've got this Refreshments show this guy sent me," I said.

So we watched it on the big screen, and boy did my opinion change. This gig was after about two years of straight touring, and the tightness (the good kind) showed. It's nice to think we might've sounded like this more often than not on the road.

Other highlights:

Blush's "Mekong" solo. Sick.

"Broken Record" was always one of my favorite Refreshments songs.

Who wants to hear me clank backing vocals? Check out "Fonder." Nice face.

Nice little country ditty.

I love the muzak version of "Banditos." This was composed for KOTH episode 5, "Luann's Saga," and we kept playing it after that.

There's a definite turn-this-dump-over moment at the end of "Banditos." No other band I've ever been in could freak 'em out like that. That's when you felt like you were doing something special, making people forget their inhibitions for a few moments and really cutting loose.

That gig happened 10 years ago this month. Yikes!

Good times. Enjoy, everyone!

For those about to Proust, we salute you.

Art

Sunday, January 6, 2008

What's New for 2008

What’s new? What isn’t new!

First of all, I’ve updated my website. There you will find art work for both Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory, and at the events page there's a list of confirmed--or very close to it--events. Phoenix, Tucson, Denver, OKC, and Atlanta metro are all on the docket, and there’s plenty more in the process of becoming so, including a full-on rock show in Phoenix and a weeklong tour up the middle of the country in late March. I expect newly confirmed dates every week in Jan., so check back. I’ll announce them all here.

You’ll notice that each event varies a bit. I plan on mixing it up as much as possible in 2008 between readings, acoustic shows, full band gigs, every combination thereof, and anything else I can get away with. I’m always looking for a new way to keep it fresh. We'll see what works, and laugh off what doesn't.

Also coming on the website, the first chapter of Ghost Notes and some song samples from Songs from Memory. Not today, but they’re coming. I’ll let you know here. The early reviews are good on both.

Starting next week, in anticipation of its February 4th release, I’m going to start adding tracks from Songs from Memory to my MySpace Audio page. Expect the first track, “You,” next week.

Also this week, I’m going to update my MySpace and MySpace Audio pages. It’s been awhile. If you’re on MySpace and haven’t linked to both of my pages, this is a great place to get updates about things like new layin’ down the blogs. Friend me, baby!

Also, I’ve started a new blog for those interested in self-publishing and other independent creative ventures. Why a new blog? Click on the link and find out.

Finally, Stuck Outside of Phoenix is going out of print at the end of the month! Only a few more weeks to get this first edition before it becomes part of my past. Get yours now!

Next week, we’ll talk more about the types of events planned for the year, and hopefully I’ll have some more confirmations for you.

Oh yeah. Look for all LDL blogs to be published on Monday as opposed to Sunday from now on.

Art