Tour Diary

I ought to have written this a whole lot earlier, so it will be less detailed than it would’ve been if I’d have written each night about each day. But here we are, on April 3rd so we have to go back a few days… I left Atlanta more or less concurrently with Chris Acker and drove many hours south to New Orleans, where my friend Amanda left a key for me at her place since she would be at work. On the ride I began listening to Werner Herzog’s autobiography via the Libby library app. This book is very easy to lose track of while listening as the tales branch off each other and Herzog’s reading has a hypnotic effect. For that reason it’s like listening to a Thomas Pynchon audiobook, and I didn’t really understand it, just listening to the words like a stream of water. So I don’t end up listening to it as consistently as I do some others. I’ve listened to music.

Let’s go back to my friend Amanda’s house. Amanda was very generous to put me up the whole time. She is so generous that I apparently never thought to tell her how long I was planning on staying, which was the number of four nights. I enjoyed sleeping on her golden couch looking at the 3-quarter moon while trains rushed by and their whistles blared.

But the first night I arrived, I brought my guitar and notebook in and looked over what might be recorded in the next days. At this point my voice was still very affected by laryngitis, which I was trying to only see in the most positive light, but also knowing that I would not be able to sing certain songs like “Funny Stuff,” without my voice healing. Changing my singing style to current-Bob-Dylan’s Great-American-Songbook croon worked well enough for most things. “Headed Nowhere” seemed to stretch out to about 8 minutes like saltwater taffy. So we would have to record calmer, lower-pitched vocal tunes for the first day. Those turned out to be “Home to Hell” and “You are so beautiful.”

I was very curious to see the studio, and I went over in the morning to unload and meet Ajaï who would record me with Sam Doores, Gina ____, and James Wallace. The studio is located in the Bywater beside the Saturn Bar where I once played a show with my brother Brad and Joshua Bennett (Nommo). I am so thankful and excited about this event and consider it a blessed occurrence. I was relieved that I felt instantly comfortable with Ajaï, thankful for his ability to never seem to get stressed out despite all the really demanding technical aspects of recording. I’m also thankful that Sam and James have a lot of technical knowledge and experience with the recording process that I don’t, and awed by what a tight, funky band capable of all sorts of colors & textures they make. I loved the pastel yellow walls, accented with a deeper shade of yellow, and the shell-shaped lamp that is also yellow.

I picked James up at the airport and we went straight to the studio and recorded those two songs I mentioned before. James had an unusual vision for You are so Beautiful with a rolling Latin rhythm which turned out really beautifully, I think.

James and I both stayed with Amanda and the next day James and I went to a Co-op grocery to buy snacks for everybody to share. Hummus, chips, cans of sparkling water, trail mix, apples, bananas, this was my diet for the next three days, except for the water.

We worked really hard in the studio, and had a blast doing it. There were only good vibes the whole time and the feeling was really relaxed. The second day, when we recorded two flower-themed songs, “December Dandelion” and “What Flowers Do” I also had a concert to play that evening at 6PM, at Domino Record Shack, with Chris Acker for the third and last time of this tour. This show was staged to coincide with the opening day of MLB baseball season. One funny thing about when I first met Chris was that he asked me if I liked baseball, as though affirming what he knew to be one of my characteristics, which it is. I asked him how he knew that, and it was because he had seen that I liked posts by the account batflipbombz on Instagram. That moment really got me. I loved the concept of this show, which included free hot dogs. It’s always a good idea to offer free food at shows, it was one of the rules for a Dos Bros show to have free chips and salsa provided. I remember Josh Windmiller giving communion to his audience with bread he’d baked the day before.

I was a little flustered going into this performance, because I had completely entered the world of recording and needing to return to playing live felt like a shock. But I had a very quiet room and a wonderfully friendly crowd. I played and stretched out all the fun bits and just felt very easygoing and breezy. The best moments involved interacting with Broozy (not sure how that’s spelled), who is a friend of Sam’s who hadn’t planned on coming but was convinced to… that was unknown to me but for some reason I singled out attention on him during the show, partly because we had similar-looking Nalgene water bottles, and we made a show of drinking water at the same time, it was a real hoot, you had to be there I guess, maybe you were. He was really into it and bought a copy of Excelsior Breeze Catchers. There was another good moment when I sang my old song “Because I Don’t Love You” and asked people to raise their hand when they heard me mention New Orleans, which is where the guy in the song moves in the third verse.

After the show was over I went to the bar next door (where earlier I had used the toilet, now I was a paying, or rather a paid-for, customer!) to watch a Seattle Mariners baseball game because Chris and Matt, the owner of the record store, are both fans of that team. As it turns out, the bar did not have that game or any baseball game available to watch. So we hung out in this bar with a lot of people I didn’t know. It was both fun and socially awkward for me to have my voice be too quiet to be heard in such a loud place. I mostly had to listen and react with a physical gesture. After a while I went back to sleep on the golden couch at Amanda’s place.

The next day was the best studio day: we recorded five tracks including New Sadnesses, Funny Stuff, Chico, Or Something, and a spoken monologue. This was a really long day I still haven’t fully recovered from, because the next day, the fourth and last in the studio, was even longer. That day we were mostly recording overdubs, including all my vocals and guitars in case the live ones don’t work as well, which I suppose they don’t on account of other instruments bleeding into them. At this point, my voice was thankfully almost back to normal, but not quite. It’s not ideal for recording but I think it made me sing better in the end, because I had to be very thoughtful and careful about how I was doing it. At the end of this day a loud marching band passed by and started up at the Saturn Bar, and we had to add more sound protection. We recorded 3 solo acoustic songs. I was a bit tired at the time as it was around 1 or 2 AM and didn’t want to repeat them too much, so they’re not perfect, but they have the right feeling in them.

The recording experience was really intense and fun. I am a bit tired now, but I hope to add more details later.

The next day, when the recording was done, I felt a really odd feeling, because this phase of it is now complete, and it had been one of the main things I thought about over the last few monthss. That was suddenly changed, because the treatment of those songs was different now, as the lyrics were already settled and laid into the tape. Now the thing to think about was how to finish some remote overdubbing and considering of arrangements, which mostly don’t have to do with words. I felt excited about that, like a freshening of my view – I could write about anything, now, with a completely open intent. I sat down for a minute that morning and wrote something, some kind of poem song and it felt great.

Then I had to get my butt in the car and head north to Starkville, Mississippi, where I’d never been before. I was going to meet with Ming Donkey whom I’d played with once in Chattanooga around 12 years ago. I am amazed that he would consider putting on a show for someone like me who would do something like I did. It was about a 5-hour drive from New Orleans to “Fire Station Park” where the show would be, and Google Maps took me to a Fire Department, where I could hear from a short distance Paul McCartney’s “Temporary Secretary” blasting on some speakers. I followed that sound until I found the show. This show happened on Easter Sunday, the air was warm though the sky was cloudy, and birds were singing all around. When I arrived, Max – aka “HBO MAXX” sang some tunes that were so cool they really took me by surprise, to a Boss drum machine and electric guitar. I recorded most of his set and gave him the file later. I loved his music. Then I played and it felt really good. I just felt happy to be there and it felt easy to sing after all those days of laryngitis.

After the show, Jason (Ming Donkey) told me he’d treat me to dinner somewhere, I said I wasn’t hungry but I’d like to go hang out a minute, and so he and his buddy Keith took me to a bar called Rick’s Café Américain where we had some time to chat. I loved hearing stories about growing up in Starkville and the movie Dark Passage that I really want to see now. I left the bar for Columbus where Max lives and where I would sleep that night. Columbus is about 20 miles away and what I saw of it was beautiful old houses in a neighbordhood full of trees. That’s where their house was, and I was greeted there by Miles, Max’s cousin, who also plays in their band, Hartle Road, and by his dachshund, Ozzy, who at times quite excitable. We ended up talking about music, listening to each others’ records, the one they just made with Calvin Johnson, and other things until about 4 AM. I was amazed at the recording setup they have in their house and I would call the people of that house mad geniuses. Finally, while listening to a monumentally-huge sounding Scott Walker, I fell asleep on the couch.

I woke up around 8 in the morning completely covered in blankets around my head, and I just sat there and meditated. I was tired so my meditation blended with dream deviations when I slipped into sleep. Still, a very nice thing that I did right before Max came in. I hadn’t seen him since the show the night before, because unlike me, he had gone to bed early. He was great to talk to after having talked with Miles the night before. I’d like to stay in touch with those guys, their music making is top notch!

Next… to Albuquerque.

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