I want to take a little time to thank you once again for following our tour. I used to document my adventures much more thoroughly, and I realize after getting back into the blogging rhythm that I miss it. It forces me, in a way, to dig into every experience and extract the goodness. It’s always there if we choose to look for it. I probably wouldn’t be looking as hard for it if I didn’t have a blog to keep up with. So thank you for reading and sharing your comments with us.
Also thank you to the kind hosts that shared their stages, homes, cabs, food, and lives with us. You folks are the backbone of independent music tours. Without you it all falls apart.
Last but not least I want to thank my tour partner, Sara for her fabulous work. It was such a gift to have a professional photographer capturing these moments with images that don’t need words to accompany them. Her touch gave this little blog a lot of class, I believe. Please check out more of her work here.
If you’re an artist thinking about collaborating with a specialist of a different medium than your own, do it! It can be a great learning experience for all involved. Never hurts to see past your own nose for a little bit.
I will continue blogging in the future. Perhaps on Music Seen, perhaps somewhere else. Wherever it may be, I hope you’ll continue to follow along and share your thoughts with us, too.
This tour, while short, has been a good sampling of different types of shows that an independent solo songwriter might play. As Sara and I made the very short trip to Annapolis on Day 7, I geared up for the gig that evening: an event called 12 Voices.
David Glaser, an Annapolis-based songwriter, hosts this monthly concert series at 49 West, a great coffee shop and restaurant in downtown Annapolis. Every month David brings in a featured artist to share his or her tunes. He’s hosted songwriters from all over North America. Every show also includes a “cameo” artist, which in this case was me. David plays a few tunes to kick off, then introduces the cameo, then the featured artist plays. We take a break, then reconvene to perform an in-the-round set where we’re all on stage together, accompanying each other, impromptu style.
The beauty of a gig like this is in its empathetic nature. It’s a show for songwriters, hosted by a songwriter. David uses his extensive knowledge of the touring life to cater to the needs of his fellow performers. He, unlike many hosts, knows exactly what we’re looking for in a show. This is not a knock on other venues, but more of a praise for folks like David. He does all that he can to create an intimate, comfortable environment that’s conducive to a human connection.
David’s favorite part of the evening is the in-the-round set, when all three performers sit on stage together and share stories and songs. Spontaneous song circles like this happen all the time at conferences and festivals like Folk Alliance and the Kerrville Folk Festival. After being a part of many of them, David wanted to bring some of their improvised magic to a concert setting. I’m not sure if the results are more fun for the performers or the audience, but it seemed Monday night like both parties were enjoying the moment.
These times wake up the guitar nerd in me. David is a very good guitarist and mandolin player as well, so it was great fun to play off each other. When you go on tour you end up playing the same 10-15 tunes every night, so it’s refreshing to be thrown into a situation where you’re playing along with a song you’ve probably never heard before. It’s almost as if you upped the stakes a bit. Living a little more dangerously. And when everything works out, it’s that much more exciting when you strum the final chord.
I want to thank David for facilitating a great event in his hometown. Check out his music here. Also, please check out the featured artist from this show. Her name is Ellis, and she’s originally from Texas, now living in Minnesota. Her songs, even the sad ones, are some of the most uplifting you can find. I dare you to see her live and not smile. It’s impossible.
Thanks for following,
Post with 2 notes
Susie Markland runs a concert series out of her house in Gambrills, MD. Wait, she does what? Yes, she really does this. Her basement has been converted into a mini concert hall, complete with five or six rows of chairs, lighting, and a P.A. system. When she hosts a concert, she begins by serving food to the guests upstairs while the artists check sound below. When it’s show time, she herds the concert goers down her red carpeted stairs to the listening area. They find a seat, she introduces the first artist, and off they go.
I first began experimenting with house concerts in 2006 when I hit the road as a full-time musician. I quickly fell in love with the format, because it offers what so few other venues offer an audience and it’s performer: a chance to interact.
At many venues across our country owners seem to think it is enough to set up a musician in a corner, turn up the volume, and go back to whatever they were doing before the guy with a guitar showed up. Thousands of coffee shops, bars, restaurants, book stores, and other businesses seem open to the idea of “having” live music, but very few want to actually facilitate a human connection.
This is what happens so easily at many house concerts. The performer is often in a small space only feet away from the audience, who are usually crammed in close in these “just-so” seating arrangements. Everyone is up in everyone’s business. This can be uncomfortable at first, but after a few jokes and some good songs everyone relaxes and opens up. It’s this unique level of vulnerability that makes house concerts so rewarding for both audience and performer. As a listener, you can hear every lyric, every guitar part, every nuance of the performance. As a performer, you are able to have confidence that those quiet, subtle nuances won’t fall on deaf ears. A songwriter has the freedom to perform, and a fan has the freedom to listen.
My pal ellen cherry performed a set Sunday afternoon as well. Please check out her music here. If you sign up for her mailing list, she’ll send you an MP3 of her song “Maryanne.” It’s chilling. She totally killed it today.
Until you’ve experienced a good house concert you can’t fully understand the power of this kind of intimate performance. If you’d like more information on house concerts in your area, or if you’d like to try hosting one, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You don’t even have to host me! I’d just like to tell you more about them. They’ve been a saving grace for many an independent songwriter.
Thanks for following.
Post with 3 notes
In the past four years I have probably played close to 500 gigs. Out of these, probably 50 or fewer were with a band. I generally tour solo for one reason: money. Most nights I am not able to afford a single accompanist, let alone a trio or quartet (at least not at a fair wage). It’s for this reason I relish the nights that I get to perform alongside other musicians. This is made all the more exciting when I get to perform with not only musicians, but friends.
Jeff and Dylan in the Soho
Jeff Rogers (drums) and Haley Shaw (harmony vocals) both appear on my latest record, Texodus. Both also performed with me at The Living Room Saturday night. Jeff lives in New York with his wife Allison and Haley just happened to be visiting friends this weekend.
(Jeff surprised Allison on their 6 year anniversary - which happened to be the night of the show)
The three of us, along with Sara, met Saturday afternoon for brunch at a great spot in Astoria called Sandford’s. We then walked over to Jeff and Allison’s apartment for a quick run-through of the set. Later that night we reconvened at The Living Room, one of my favorite NYC venues.
One of the challenges of playing a place like The Living Room is resisting the urge to rush through your set and play as many songs as possible. It can be difficult to sit back and enjoy the moment. For whatever reason, I felt more patient at this performance. I knew we only had 45 minutes and that another band was waiting in the wings, but for our allotted time I felt calm and confident. I took time to look at the audience and to talk to Haley and Jeff on stage, just as if we were back in the apartment goofing off. Haley also performed her song “Swing Low,” to the delight of the nearly packed house.
I was thankful for Sara’s perspective on this night. She remarked on how different I appeared to feel compared to the gig in Charlottesville. I notice these things, too, but sometimes wonder if it’s just me overanalyzing. The reason for a different performance seems simple: Haley and Jeff.
Please check out Haley’s songs here. She’s one of my favorites. Send her an email and let her know how much you’re looking forward to her new album. And please visit Jeff’s site here. I’m honored to know him and his wife Allison. They are a constant source of inspiration.
Thanks for following. To check out more of Sara’s photos go here.
Post with 2 notes
Driving from Charlottesville, VA, to New York City costs around $30. $30 in tolls. This does not include gas, wear and tear on your car, or food. If you decide to go out to eat and have a couple of drinks with friends once you arrive, you will probably spend another $40. This does not include cab fare or a Metro card. If you decide to take your own car instead of public transportation, expect to pay another $10 in parking. And if you drive back to your friend’s apartment, be sure to not park on the side of the road where they will be sweeping in the morning or you will be fined, towed, or have a boot put on your tire.
Oh, and welcome to New York.
My older sister and my best friend both have lived in New York for a few years now, so I have made it a point to book tours to The Big Apple twice a year or so. This allows me to get in a good visit with each of them. If they didn’t live there, however, I’m not sure how often I would visit.
The trade off seems clear: if you’re willing to do battle with one of the world’s hardest cities, you may be rewarded by the realization of your dreams. People move to New York every day because it is where so much is happening on such a high level. Art, music, dancing, fashion, business. All these fields have a home in the city that never sleeps. But as Rosie Thomas asks, “If this city never sleeps, does it mean that no one dreams?”
It stands to reason that for every dream realized in New York, thousands—maybe tens of thousands—die. Perhaps they die because the dreamer can never get it together financially. Or maybe like the shepherd boy in Cohelo’s The Alchemist, the dreamer is distracted by a lesser, more attainable achievement and ends up settling for a while, the mist of his original dream dissipating into the noisy sky above. It seems a dream is all at once more safe and more vulnerable in a city like New York.
I’m thankful that my livelihood affords me the chance to visit far away loved ones, and the fact that I’m an independent artist means I can book tours up the east coast any time I want. And don’t get me wrong, New York is without a doubt one of the singular most exciting places I have visited. However, my fondest memories of New York City have one crucial commonality with my fondest memories of anywhere else in the world: they were made in the company of people I love.
Thanks for following.
Fall leaves in Charlottesville. This was the afternoon before The Garage show.
Post with 2 notes
The drive to NY was pretty long - about 7 hours from Charlottesville with traffic. In that time we drove through DC, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. I tried to get Dylan to go see the Appomattox Court house, but he would not drive there. We stopped at this wonderful gas station called Sheetz just before we left Virginia. Touch screen ordering kiosks, an entire rack devoted to jerky, handspun milkshakes, and the shweetz section made this place something I have never seen before.
Sheetz Gas Stations
They have chilled cream to put in your coffee!
Drinks with flavour shots! Vanilla, Lemon, Cherry, and a few others that I don’t remember.
Jeff and Allison Rogers (friends from college) - Lara, Allison’s sister, in the background
Chocolate pie Lara made - yes.
Page 1 of 2