Tony Soprano

11 Jan

So here’s the story of how I joined the band that started my musical career…… As I mentioned in a previous blog, I was asked to audition for a band after I sang some songs in front of my geometry class. Little did I know that this meeting would be my first venture into what it must be like to be in the Mafia.

We set up a date to rehearse together—which was January 11–and I arrived at a very large house and was led up to a room that looked like a shrine for AC/DC, Metallica and Black Sabbath. Posters of these legendary bands hung from the walls and ceiling and beneath these posters was a room filled with real, authentic, rock-n-roll gear—a drum set, guitars, basses, guitar amps, bass amps and a PA system for yours truly to sing into. All of this equipment was crammed into a room barely big enough to walk through.

And in this room, I was introduced to the person who soon became my guitarist, my best friend and brother for the next 11 years of my life. For those who know of my old band, you know his name, but for now, let’s just call him “Tony Soprano” (that name will make sense further into the story).

Tony and I hit it off from the very beginning. This was his band I was walking into, it was his house I was visiting and it was my life that Tony was about to change. That day, we ran through a lot of cover songs—everything from Green Day to Pearl Jam and it was a blast! A few days later, we practiced again—this time, we ventured into actually writing music together. It was a jam session that churned out quite a few songs (not great songs, but songs nonetheless) and each one of these songs was recorded on a little four-track mixer. THIS PART IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER!

These musicians I was singing with liked me. I brought something to the table that they wanted to be a part of and vice versa. But unbeknownst to me, they already had a singer for their band. And also unbeknownst to me, that singer had no idea we were rehearsing together. He also didn’t know that his time in this band was about to come to an end.

So here’s the reason I have nicknamed my guitarist “Tony Soprano”. Tony was an amazing guitar player, but he also had a way of dealing with certain things that would have made him an incredible mafia boss as well.

At our third rehearsal together, I was asked to be in their band (which I gladly accepted) and then was told that they recently fired their last singer. This was news to me, so I asked them what happened to him and here’s the story that Tony told me that day.

After our second practice together, it was decided that I should be their new singer and their old lead singer needed to be “disposed of”, so Tony invited him to his house. This poor fellow came over, thinking him and Tony were going to go over some new songs together. So they went into his band room and Tony sat him down in front of the four-track mixer we had recorded those songs on. I wasn’t there, but to this day, I picture Tony sitting very calmly–reclined in his chair with the smirk of the devil on his face–waiting for just the right moment to break the bad news to him.

According to Tony, this singer had written a handful of new lyrics and melodies to songs they were working on and wanted to play them for him. But that never happened. Instead, Tony told him, “Before you do that, I want to play something for you.”

He then got out the tape of songs we had recorded and—I shit you not—played them for this singer without saying a word. He didn’t try to be polite or come up with a nice way of saying, “it was fun playing with you, but we’re going in a different direction”. He just hit play on the mixer and let the music we created end their relationship.  Basically, the best way to describe his actions is to say….Tony blindsided him and did it on purpose!

Like I said, I wasn’t there, but I’ve pictured it in my mind over and over. This poor guy probably had the same big dreams every musician has when they create music. He probably saw himself on stage at the Grammys one day, accepting awards with his band. Instead, he was told to listen to a tape of me singing with his band and sitting across from him was his guitarist—killing him slowly with my voice as their new singer.

Tony could have called this guy and told him he was fired and he didn’t need to come by his house ever again. Or Tony could have met him somewhere other than their rehearsal space to break the bad news. Tony also could have never put in the tapes of our jam sessions and saved this guy the humiliation of being replaced. But that wasn’t Tony’s style. Tony WANTED this guy to come over to his house, listen to the singer that was replacing him and watch his dreams die with him that day.

And keep in mind, this merciless hit wasn’t being done by a middle-aged Italian mobster in an expensive three-piece suit, this was being done by A 15 YEAR OLD BOY I WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL WITH!!!!……But it was still something straight out of The Godfather.

As I was told, the singer got real quiet and eventually said, “So I’m out of the band, aren’t I?”

Tony said yes, the singer took the news like a dead man walking, resigned as Tony’s lead singer and left his house like a whipped puppy. I often wonder how that poor fellow is holding up these days. I’m sure he doing just fine, but I also imagine there are some mental scars Tony left him with that haven’t healed. I know it must have hurt a lot, because when Tony told me the story, he seemed to relish every single moment of this guy’s heartbreak. And that is how I joined a band 20 year ago—by whacking another singer for the job.

Here’s 37 years of wisdom…

14 Dec

It’s my birthday. I’m 37 years old. And here’s what I’ve learned, ladies and gentlemen:

1. Be good to your dog. I know I should probably say that you should be good to your children, but that’s a given. Be good to your dog. My dog is named Sugar. She is loyal, loving, and a great companion. She is always happy to see me when I come home, she is always happy when I pet her and she has no idea what social media is. That makes her a winner. So be good to your dog because she will never care about any of you or your friend’s social status updates.

2. Be happy even when you’re not happy. The people you love don’t deserve to be dragged through your depressing, miserable phases in life. We all have rough patches that we must endure. But that is no excuse for putting other people through those times with us. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to people about your problems, but don’t burden them with it on a daily basis. Life is a journey that only you can go through. Don’t expect other people to experience your pain and suffering with you on the same level that you do. It’s unfair to them and it only makes you an asshole 🙂

3. Don’t let your kids kick your ass. I know that raising kids is not an easy task, but this is a fight in life that you cannot lose. Your kids are not your friends, they are your kids. Protect them, love them, do everything you can for them, but don’t be enablers to them. In this day and age, it’s very easy to let a child waste their day playing on the iPad, Xbox, or whatever devices they can get their hands on. There’s nothing wrong with that to an extent (that’s the new way of the world), but it never hurts to show them how to climb a tree, play catch with them in the backyard or kick a soccer ball around. They need you to show them things that the iPad and the Internet can never show them.

4. Appreciate another human being’s craft. There are people out there who create things and no one thanks them for it. I create music. There are others that paint incredible art, create crafts from wood, metal, electronics, or whatever you can think of. If you look around, there are people doing amazing things that we all take for granted that deserve–at least for a moment of our time–our appreciation and respect. We all have travelled this long road called life and became doctors, lawyers, electricians, construction workers, store clerks, etc and helped pushed the human race in a better direction. If someone you know helped your life in a significant way, the least you could do is be respectful of that and give them a nod of approval for their contributions in the world before they shed their mortal coil.

5. Tragedy can be the best part of your life. I went through a divorce a couple years ago. I thought I was done. I thought I was going to mentally die. My whole life was turned upside down and I had no say in it. But after the dust settled, I was ok. My kids were ok. My ex wife was ok. We all picked up the pieces and made the best of it–which says something about our strength and character. We all made the best of the circumstances and now I feel like each one of us is a bit stronger because of it. Listen, if I asked you (metaphorically speaking) to step into a boxing ring and fight for 12 rounds with no training or preparation, that would be brutal. But if I asked you to do it and draw from the tragedies you’ve endured to help pull you through, my money would be bet on the fact that you will endure once again. You may not always win, but will always thrive when the dust settles for you.

6. Love your parents. Not all of us have had great parents, but we all have been given this great chance to step up to the marathon race called “life” and at the very least, we should thank those who helped us get to that starting line. My parents gave me an entire world to conquer and I love them for that. They sacrificed so much to make my life better than theirs. If you don’t have parents like that, I bet you can find “parent figures” in your life (teachers, neighbors, friends) who did. Love them and do the same for them when the opportunity comes up. People are awesome! I know the media these days wants to divide us at time and pit us against ourselves, but the truth is, we all share this life, planet and existence together and we are only as awesome as the person standing next to us.

6. There’s a good chance no one is ever gonna make a movie about your life, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t/will not be/hasn’t been amazing! If you really take a step back and look at everyone you know and multiple that by a couple billion/trillion, the fact that we all have these amazing lives and stories is more important than anything. Maybe some days of your life aren’t what you hoped it would be. But during those days, someone else’s life is either going amazing or going tragic or turning from one to the other. Even when you spend your day watching too much Netflix, life is still happening all around you. Appreciate those amazing moments along with the amazing moments in your life. WE HAVE IT ALL! ALL OF US ARE ON THE BEST RIDE THE UNIVERSE HAS TO OFFER! So throw your hands up, keep love in your heart and remember to see the big picture!

Lost and Late

14 Nov

Today, boys and girls, I want to talk about being late to work. I know that most people have been late to their job and they get written up or get a slap on the wrist, but I can promise you, those people will never feel the anxiety I felt the day I was AT LEAST AN HOUR LATE TO PLAY A FREAKING WEDDING!!

I met this couple who worked very hard to book me for their special day. They came out to multiple shows and when I told them I was unfortunately booked that day, they went to even more shows to persuade me to reschedule and play their wedding.

I finally worked it out with my prior show and we were all set. So the day of the wedding comes and I’m ready to go. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I like to be SUPER early to each show to avoid stresses like…..I don’t know, not being on time to play!

I get in my car and type in the address to their wedding in my “GARMIN”. For those who don’t know what a Garmin is, it’s a thingamajig that tells you how to get to the location you’re heading without having to use maps or your brain to find the way. You just type in the address and the nice lady in the “GARMIN” tells you when and where to turn until you arrive at your location. Sounds easy enough, right? Unless that nice lady doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

So I’m in my car, driving to the wedding waaayyyy earlier than I’m supposed to be there when I get the distinct feeling that something is wrong. Miss Garmin (I’m assuming she’s single) tells me “turn here”, “turn there” and with every turn, I begin to feel like she is……wait for it…..lost! But I am a man of technology! I love my iPhone, my computer, my iPad. I love technology and I believe in technology! I believe in my Garmin. She would not steer me wrong.

But steer me wrong she did. The location she led me to was an empty field–nowhere near any sign of a wedding or civilization and I know any back-tracking I need to do will cut my arrival time very close. Now remember, this isn’t just being “late for work”. This is late to a WEDDING I’M WORKING! I imagine the family and friends sitting in the church waiting—the bride and groom panicking, because they are supposed to walk down the aisle to a song I’m supposed to be singing. I imagine I’m holding up the day they’ve been planning for their whole lives and I have no IDEA where I am.

Luckily, I did have the bride’s number, so I called her—no answer! And why would she answer? This is HER day. She’s probably in her wedding dress, waiting to get married–not hanging out on her phone, playing Angry Birds or checking her Facebook page. But she is my only contact for the wedding, so I have to keep trying. I start texting her.

“Hey, it’s jeff wood. Could you please call me?

I wait. No answer. So I call again. No answer. So I keep texting.

“Hi, I really need you to call me. It’s an emergency”

I wait. No answer.
Now in full panic mode, I start texting her in all caps, trying to show my desperation.

“I’M LOST AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE I AM!!!! PLEASE CALL ME!!!!”

I’m freaking out, envisioning her soon-to-be husband and the entire wedding party waiting for me to show up—not so they can start the wedding, but instead, lynch me on the spot for being late to the ONE JOB YOU SHOULD NEVER BE LATE TO.

At this point, I’m still driving around aimlessly, hoping for a sign from God or an airplane to crash-land on top of my car when the phone rings.

“Oh hey, Jeff. Sorry I missed your calls and texts.” It’s the bride. She doesn’t sound remotely mad—almost like she’d forgotten that I’m supposed to be there. I explain to her that I’m hopelessly lost and I’m so sorry when she starts laughing.

Apparently (and this is an absolute first for me), the wedding party is eating dinner first, then going to proceed with the wedding. In fact, the bride was not even in her wedding dress yet! She helped me get back on track and sure enough, I showed up and everyone is eating a plate of BBQ. No one is threatening to kill me, everyone is excited to hear me play and the world somehow went back to spinning normal again.
The wedding (which didn’t even happen until an hour and a half AFTER I showed up) was a beautiful event, I had a great time and made some really great friends that night. Most importantly, I didn’t die of the heart attack I thought was going to end my life.

Thanks for reading! Please sign up for my e-mail list at http://www.musicjeffwood.net today!

Mexico (part 1)

8 Oct

So here’s how cool my job is—a while back, I was flown to Mexico to play four songs in paradise and then spend the next four days in a house straight out of Miami Vice with a couple that have now become good friends of mine…..I’ll let that sink in.

Let me start from the beginning. I was doing a show at a winery when a guy came up to me and asked, “If I fly you out to Mexico for a couple days, would you play some songs while I propose to my girlfriend?”

I know it sounds unrealistic, but I do hear things like this all the time–and every time, nothing ever comes from it. But I can’t look this guy in the eye and say, “You’re full of shit and don’t waste my time.”

Instead, I say, “Sure, I can do that. Here’s my card. Call me and we’ll see if we can make it happen.”
He took my card, thanked me and walked away.

I didn’t think anything else about the possibility of this happening until three or four months later when I got a call from him, saying it was time. His proposal to me was, “I want to fly you to Mexico on my dime, put you up in my mini-mansion for four days, pay your expenses for the partial week…..and all you have to do is play four song while I propose to my girlfriend”!

Of course, I said yes and a couple weeks later, I was in f-ing Mexico, staring at a gorgeous beach and thanking baby Jesus that I found my way to playing guitar. But first, I had to get through this proposal with him.

I told him we should devise a plan to make this work without her knowing he was about to propose. His thoughts were, “how about you just show up and play?”

I told him that wouldn’t work. She was there with him that day he saw me at the winery and if I just “happened” to be in Mexico while they were there and just “happened” to bring my guitar and play her some songs, she would figure out his intentions. So I came up with a plan…..and here it is.

There was a restaurant not far from their mini-mansion that we were going to meet up at. They were to be there prior to my arrival, just having some drinks when–all the sudden–I walk in with my suitcase and guitar. The groom is at a table with his girlfriend when he looks up and sees me.

He turns to her and says, “Hey, isn’t that the guy we saw playing at that winery a few months ago?”

His girlfriend, whose answer hopefully only reflected that she had no idea what was going on, said, “How the hell should I know?”

The groom then got up and said, “I’m going to go talk to him—ask him to come over and sit with us.”

From that point, I was invited over to their table and quizzed about the weird coincidence that I was here in Mexico, that they had seen me back in Texas and that we would be at the same restaurant at the same time. But I had a back story previously planned.

Girlfriend–“So what are you doing here in Mexico?”

Me–“Oh, I just played a wedding for a couple who flew me out here. Today’s my last day and I’m getting ready to catch my flight back home in about 8 hours. I had to check out of my hotel early, so I thought I’d come here to pass some time before my flight home.”

Groom—“Your flight doesn’t leave for another 8 hours? That’s crazy!! We’ve rented a house not far from here. You should come over and hang out with us till you have to leave. We’re fixing dinner—you should come eat with us!”

Me—“Ummm…..Okay….Yeah, if it’s not too much trouble, that sounds fun!”

So we hop in their transportation and head to the min-mansion for dinner. So far, the plan is working. After dinner (keep in mind, I have my guitar with me from the fake wedding I played), I thank them for having me out.

Me—“Since you guys have been so nice to me—even though I’m kind of a complete stranger—the least I could do for you is play some songs.”

Groom—“Oh, that would be awesome!!!….Hey, why don’t we go do it down by the beach!” (yes, this mini-mansion was right on the beach)

Me—“Yeah! It’s the least I could do!”

And so the fairy-tale started with us on the beach—the lovely couple listening to me play the songs the groom had previously hand-picked for me to play and ended with him asking his fiancé to marry him. And with tears rolling down her eyes, she said “Yes!”

It also led to an amazing week, hanging out in paradise with people I now call friends—for FOUR days!!! We had a blast and made memories I’ll never forget. If you hadn’t notice, this was a trip of a lifetime for a little old musician like me, but it doesn’t end there…….Oh no! There is a part two to my trip to Mexico.
But that for another blog!…..Stay tuned!

British Invasion

11 Jul

Just to let you all know, I have a very good fake British accent. If you come to a show in the near future, please don’t ask me to perform it for you. First of all, that’s a rude request and I’m not a trained monkey, willing to perform for you at the drop a hat….oh wait, yes I am…yeah, but still, I don’t want to show off ALL my talents in one seating.

Having said that, there was a time years ago that I would drop into my English alter ego and never come out.

Once upon a time when I was out on the road with my band, I decided–along with my bass player–to have some fun with my newly mentioned talent. We had been touring the countryside for quite some time and had gotten bored enough to decide the next show we did, we were going to make it interesting—if only for ourselves. Our next stop was Fort Wayne, Indiana and while on that drive, we brainstormed a brilliant plan to become two British blokes in an American band.

So here were the rules—be British all night long. That’s it. This was our very first show in this city and no one knew our name—let alone our nationality. So when strangers talked to us, we had to have our accents going. When we were onstage, we were English through and through. When we got offstage and talking to new fans, we were distant relatives to the Beatles.

So the second we set foot inside the venue, the stage was set for a British Invasion. We walked into a bar filled with ho-hum Midwesterns who seemed tickled to death that there were two British band members walking amongst them.
All night long, my bass player and I kept up our accents and had the locals buying us drinks, begging us to say certain words to tickle their fancy, and asking us about life back home. They bought it hook-line-and-sinker.

“How far did you live from Liverpool?”

“How long have you lived in the United States?”

“Is it true British people don’t wear deodorant?”

IT WAS A BLAST!!!

We got up onstage that night and kept the party rolling! Everything we would say in between songs was with our British accents. Everything we said offstage was with our British accents. After a while, every thought we had was in a British accent.

It was all going so well until….

It just so happened that one of the bands we were playing with that night had relatives from England. They were—like everyone else—curious about our English decent and began asking my bass player questions that any civil Englishman could answer.

“Tell us about your favorite soccer team overseas?”

One thing you should know about my bass player….he knows nothing about sports—let alone popular sports overseas. They poked and prodded him about soccer (or as the rest of the world calls it “futbol”) and he had no answers for them. At this point, the gig was up. My bass player was caught in our lie. I only learned this after we had left the show and we were heading to the next town.

In our conversations about the night/show, the question came up, “Did anyone catch on to the fact that you guys weren’t English?” My answer was no, but my bass player grew quiet, then said, “That other band figured it out. I broke down when they started asking me about soccer”.

He hung his head like a whipped puppy dog. Meanwhile, I felt triumphant. The other band never ousted me for not being British and the rest of the patrons that night never were the wiser. And if we were keeping score, my British accent held up the best, because no one questioned me or my phony dialect. Not that we started this prank out as a game, but if we did….guess what, I won! L….O…L

Ray of Light

27 Jun

I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of as a musician. This story isn’t necessarily the worst I’ve done, but it was still cruel and only for my entertainment. Well, I guess now it’s for your entertainment too.

I was doing a show a while back at a very nice place for a very nice event that just happen to put me in a spot where the devil on my shoulder was talking louder than the angel. Let me explain. At this show, I was set up in the corner next to a very large window where the sun was shining in perfectly on me and my guitar. My guitar has a polished finish on the wood and on this particular day, the combination of the sun reflecting on my gleaming guitar made for a powerful ray of sunlight that blinded anyone caught in its path. It was like when the sun hits the face of your wristwatch and you can direct that light any direction you want. I had played an entire set before I realized the power I possessed at that moment.

It was the funniest and meanest thing I’ve done while playing a show. While singing, I could move my guitar around and shine rays of sunlight into people’s faces without it appearing as if I were doing it on purpose. I’m assuming from the audience stand-point, my movements looked like I was just getting into the song—even though those movements were blinding them with my powerful sunray. People went from smiling and enjoying my songs to covering their eyes and trying to protect their vision.

Someone should have caught onto me. I would go from singing a serious song to trying my hardest not to burst out laughing. I know this moment in time doesn’t make me look like a very good person, but come on, it was funny!! If you had been me, wouldn’t you have done the same thing? Probably? Probably not? Okay, maybe I’m not as funny as I’d like to think I am. But next time you’re at one of my shows and a ray of sunlight hits you in the face, just know that you had it coming!

Half-Assed

25 Jun

I always show up to my gigs waaaayyyy earlier than the time I’m suppose to start playing. I do this because I have been working this job long enough to know that my equipment could break down on any given day and I might need to run to a music store and fix the problem before my show starts. Having said that, here’s a story of when that kind of thinking paid off for me, even if it was under different circumstances than I expected.

Not long ago, I was playing an afternoon show in Fredericksburg, Tx and I arrived there at my earlier-than-needed time to set up my equipment.  I was bending over to move some of my gear when out of no where–I heard a rip.  This rip felt very close to me.  Extremely close!

I shot up and immediately began to assess the situation.  I thought, “okay, I heard something rip and it sounded it like came from somewhere on my jeans, but I don’t know where”.  Just as this was happening, an elderly woman approached me and started asking me questions.

“Excuse me….we came here to hear so-and-so play and he told us he was going to be doing a show today. Is he coming here to play with you?”

Obviously, I was a little distracted at the moment, because I was trying to figure out where that ripping sound I had heard came from. I knew it came from “down below” (if you know what I mean), but I couldn’t find the rip. 

Then I found it!  Right around the buttock region, I felt a huge rip in my jeans where my ass would be.  And it wasn’t a small rip. Oh no!  It was a “my-whole-ass-is-hanging-out” rip and I was suppose to play a show in front of a lot people in less than an hour.  Plus, I had a woman standing in front of me, asking me questions about another musician I knew nothing about and she clearly didn’t know about my current problem.

I tried covering the rip with my hand while answering her questions.

“No, ma’am,” I said, ” I’m the only person playing today.”

Not satisfied with my answer, this lady kept asking me questions about this other musician, thinking I would eventually have the right answer for her.

“Well, is he gonna play with you today? Because he told us he would be here at this venue.”

“Are you sure no one else is playing music with you? Because we came out to listen to him.”

“Is he sharing the stage with you? Because he told us……”

Every question she asked, I answered “no”–all while trying to cover my exposed rear. At this point, I noticed some girls had gathered behind me and they were clearly catching onto the fact that I was very “vulnerable”.

I didn’t mean to be rude, but this elderly woman would not accept that whoever she came out to listen to was not playing today, so I abruptly told her “Lady!  He’s not playing here today!  I don’t know what he told you, but I’m the only musician here today!” and I ran to my car.

I started racing to the nearest store–all while calling the venue I was JUST at–telling them I was  NOT going to be able to start at the designated time they wanted me, because of my personal crisis. They just laughed and told me, “get back when you can”. 

I found a nearby thrift store, tried on a pair of thrift store jeans that would/could replace my now assless jeans, put them on and returned to my gig to play five minutes later than I would have normally started.

So the moral of the story is, it’s alway a good idea to get to work long before you’re expected and always pack a second pair of jeans.

Dad

25 May

I’ve recently started getting into the UFC/MMA. I admire these guys who get into a ring and give their heart and soul in the octagon and risk so much for their status in their sport. I have been following so many of these athletes lately that I began to think they were the cream of the crop of what human beings are capable of. Then–this Memorial Day weekend–I read a piece my father, Jerry Wood, posted on Facebook about his time in Vietnam walking point for his platoon.

Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, GSP…..true champions. They fought hard for the place in a sport that is very risky, but rewards them as legends. Meanwhile, my dad fought with his VERY life for our country for little recognition or pay or fame or fortune. I feel ashamed that I have been so enveloped with these athletes who are capable of so much more than the normal person that I began to think no other human is capable of enduring what they do.   Yet for 36 years, I have lived with a man–who not only went through something 100 times harder than they will ever endure–he also did it for a much more noble cause and was willing to die for someone other than himself—he was willing to die for all of us. My dad went to war for me, so that I could do whatever the hell I want to with my life. He was willing to give up his life for me, you and everyone in this country without a single camera or pay-per-view company cashing in on his sacrifice. He is taller, stronger and braver than any champion I have ever seen.

So Dad, Happy Memorial Day weekend to you, Champ. You deserve it!

Liner Note$

17 May

I’ve put out quite a few albums over the years and with each one, my list of “thank-yous” in the liner notes has gotten shorter and shorter. The liner notes is a space on the inside of an album that most artists use to thank those who worked with them or showed love and support during the latest musical outing. For my first CD, “Underneath Me”, I used an entire page to thank anyone and everyone I could think of—family, friends, fans, people who kinda knew my name or were sorta nice to me once. I even thanked my dog, Sugar. With each album since, that list has dwindled more and more. For my latest CD, “The Great Escape”, I just thanked my children and everyone who has ever believed in me over the years—which could round out to be everyone on the planet or no one at all.

I guess I’ve learned two lessons that have led me to shortening my thank-you list. First of all, it’s very self-serving to think that anyone out there cares about who I thank for helping me make an album possible. Long ago, I thought it was important for certain people to read their name on my “all-mighty” CD or for others to read that list and ponder “What lucky devils helped elevate this artist to greatness?” It took me years to realize this was only important to me.

Secondly, some of the people I’ve thanked on previous albums aren’t even in my life anymore and like a tattoo, those names are nearly impossible to erase. People like….oh, I don’t know off the top of my head….my ex-wife.

But there is a story behind this seemingly mindless rant—just because I’ve chosen to keep my liner notes short in the thank-you section doesn’t mean I can’t be bought to change my mind.

About a month before I released my previous albums, “Listen Closely” and “Keep Listening” (both available on ITunes….wink, wink), I was visited at a show of mine by some dear fans who some might call “rich” or “wealthy”–or as I like to call them “very good tippers”. They had brought another very pleasant couple with them that night and during one of my breaks, I went over to their table to say hello.

After they got through telling me “what an amazing singer I am” and “how I am so talented” (it’s my story to embellish if I want), my wealthy fans asked, “How’s the new album coming along?”.

I told them it was all done—the music, the artwork—and now I just needed to save up the money to pay for it. Putting out an album can be a costly venture and every album I order or reorder takes some budgeting on my part.

The man in this wealthy couple asked me, “How much is it gonna cost to get your CD done?”

I told him the going rate for the kind of album I wished to put out and without batting an eye, he turned to his wife and said, “Honey, hand me our checkbook.”

As his wife dug through her purse, I felt my eyes enlarge to the size of baseballs and my jaw drop like a draw bridge. As this man began filling out a check for the exact cost I quoted him, he told me his one condition for essentially paying for the production of my album.

“All you have to do is include my name and my wife’s name in your thank-you notes.”

“DONE!” I shouted, finding it difficult to control the volume of my voice.

While all of this was going on, the very pleasant couple they brought with them was returning from the bar with drinks and looking at their friends very curiously.

“What are you doing?” his friend asked.

“I’m writing him check to pay for his new album under the conditions that he adds me and my wife’s name in the liner notes.”

Without batting an eye, his friend turned to HIS wife and said, “Honey, get out our checkbook. I want to get our names in the liner notes too.”

AND HE MATCHED HIS FRIEND’S PRICE!!

That was the greatest break during a show of mine EVER! I tried to play it cool and I’d like to think I pulled it off, but I would have much rather started break-dancing and screaming, “I’M RICH!”. That would have shown more accurately how I felt at the moment. If you don’t believe this story, I guess you’ll just have to buy “Listen Closely” and read the liner notes for yourself. They are the folks I thanked at the very end, followed by…“FOR THE HELP WITH THIS ALBUM”.

So the moral of this story is……..is there a moral to this story? No, not really, but for me the moral is, I have a price and those people found it:)

Q and A

16 Apr

For this blog entry, I asked you–the fan– to do a Q and A with me.  I thought it’d be nice to answer some questions from the listeners (plus I’m short on new stories right now) and here’s what you all came up with.  Truthfully, some were hard to answer.  I thought people were going to ask me easy questions like, “How have you managed to stay sooooo good-looking for so long?” (it’s a gift from God) or “How come you’re soooo talented?” (same answer as before).

Nonetheless, thanks for the questions!  I’m sure we’ll do this Q and A again soon!

What was the hardest song to write?

The hardest song I ever tried to write would be a rap song.  I just don’t have mad flow or a good rapper name.  But seriously, 90% of the songs I write have some degree of difficult moments to navigate through. There is that 10% of songs that kind of fall in my lap and I write in one sitting, but they are rare.  Sometimes a verse doesn’t work or a chorus isn’t catchy enough.  Sometimes I’ll have a song idea and end up scrapping the whole thing and going in an entirely different directions.  But there are some ideas I have that just hang around until they actually find their place in a song.

An example of that is my song “The Problem” from “Listen Closely”.  The chorus to that song—which is “I want it, I need it, I’d steal for it to feed it….just to have it and hold it….it’s all that I think about”—has been bouncing around in my head for nearly 8 years before I finally use it in that song.  Some song ideas just need time to marinate!

What is your favorite original song to sing?

I don’t have a favorite song.  When people are deciding on which CD to buy at my shows, they ask me “which one of them is your favorite?” And my answer is always, “That’s like trying to pick between my kids.”

I guess it’s the same with my songs.  I can say this, I really like playing the new songs I’ve written, because they’re still fresh to me.  It’s exciting to see how they play out for the first few performances in front of a live audience.

What song (if any) are you sick of singing?

I don’t get sick of singing any songs on my list, because they’re on my list for a reason—I enjoy playing them.  If you’ve been to my shows, you know I have a list of covers song and original songs that people are allowed to make requests from.

However, there are songs that people can request at the wrong time.  There are instances I’m playing a show in front of an energetic crowd, wanting to hear upbeat, fun songs and someone comes along, requesting a bunch of slow, downer songs from my list.  Sometimes what you want to hear is not what the audience wants to hear.

But I can say I’m never excited when someone requests “Brown-Eye Girl” or “Sweet Home Alabama”. 

When are you going to put a show on in Sedalia?

That’s a great question!  For those who don’t know, I spend most of my childhood growing up in a town called Sedalia, Missouri before I moved to Kansas City.  I would love to play a show on my old stomping grounds! But when?  That might be a little more difficult.  That might take someone in Sedalia helping make that happen.

Do you have one favorite all-time singer?

Okay, I don’t have a favorite song, I don’t have a least favorite song and I don’t have a favorite singer.  Wow!  I’m not very good at answering simple questions.  So here’s a list of people off the top of my head who have given me chills at some point in my life.

Eddie Veddar, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Tori Amos, Maynard James Keenan, Tracy Chapman, Ray LaMontagne, Fiona Apple, John Mayer, Marcus Mumford, Trent Reznor…..

I’m sure there’s more, but those are off the top of my head.

Which song are you most proud of, out of them all, and why?

The songs I’m most proud of are the ones I’ve written about my kids.  The best part of what I do is this little legacy I’m leaving behind.  Someday I’ll kick the bucket, people will forget I ever existed, but these songs (I hope) will be passed on through my kids’ lives.  I can think of nothing better than my grown-up son and daughter playing my songs for their children one day.

When you write your songs, about how long do they take on average? Lyrics or tune first?

They can take 10 minutes or 10 years, depending on how many roadblock my mind wants to setup while I’m working through it.  I always start with the music first, then come up with lyrics.  Without sounding like a hippy, I try to let the music tell me what the song might be about.

What’s your inspiration to Sunshine Girl? Football or baseball? Beach or mountains?

It’s about the one and only, Shelby Wood—my daughter.  We called her Sunshine Girl when she was a baby.  I prefer watching football, but liked playing baseball better and I love the beach and the mountains equally (but probably the beach, because it’s warm)

So there you have it!  Next round of Q and A, I would appreciate some softball questions like, “How can I model my life more like yours?” (answer: you can’t…..next question)