Tuesday, April 29, 2008

human kindness

another birthday card
another candle on the cake
do i have the breath
to blow them all out this time?

i do because of you
my family
my friends
all the love i'm being sent
what did i do to deserve it?
most days i don't feel worthy
but i'm trying to do right by you
i want to give you music
that helps you
when you're feeling up
when your suffering
whenever you need it to be
whatever you need it to be
i'm filled up with life
hanging on as tight as i can
to the here and now
these beautiful perfect days
with jayme and G
i appreciate every second i have
with them

today i kicked the soccer ball to my son
the cool breeze blew through my hair
everything slowed down to almost a freeze frame
the sound of his laughter
and happy voice
blue sky
sun reigning down through the trees
i wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the universe
i wouldn't trade with a soul
not the richest
not the most powerful
not the most famous
or smartest
or best looking
or sharpest dressed
i am blessed with this wonderful life
the life i thought i'd never find
human kindness all around me

i know out there beyond this space i'm in
right now
there's unspeakable evil
my dear sweet friend carter ran into it
and it will always hurt
when i think of what happened to him
i can't let go of the pain
but i feel warm and safe here
in this soft existence of mine
every day like a dream

at least for now

wishing you all love


Sunday, April 27, 2008

hasselhoff free zone

i'm playing 4 gigs in one week
in a city renowned for it's lack of support
for local musicians
so, yeah
it's probably a bit too much
i think i've overdone it
maybe it's time for me to lay low for a bit?

we had fun at opening bell anyway
i played 4 new ones
"stranger in my own skin"
"don't mind me"
"saint georges"
"blink of an eye"
grace helped me decide to push "saint georges"
on billy full throttle
(thank you G!)
carla and dean and debbie and camille
sang along
next time i'll play "i miss you" better
i was glad to finally dust it off for you

i'm up way too early this sunday morning
with a water faucet for a nose
my allergies are going crazy
i guess the rain last night did something to mess me up
everything in my backyard looking so green
and lush right now
i hope those clouds roll on out so we can enjoy the day
not sure what i'm gonna do if they don't
jayme's going to paint
G and me going to hang
maybe we'll go see my parent's?
i do feel very lucid right now
so at least i think i can live in the moment today
footloose and hasselhoff free!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

blame it on austin

if you're reading this
you support dallas musicians
i love you for it
thank you
my friends appreciate you too
we played the mokah summit today
so many good people
working hard
spending their time
doing it outta love
not for money
they made a nice evening for us
which we all appreciated
my son had a blast dancing to our noise
and hamming it up for kate m. and her camera
i always feel lucky to play for even 1 person
that enjoys my music
of course i wish that even 0ne percent of the rest of DFW
had supported this great event
but oh well
i'm used to it after all of these years playing music here
life with art in a commerce town
don't come easy
i wish i could bless
jayson bales
cindy chaffin
amanda newman
mike biggs
ryann rathbone
ken albrecht
sarah jane semrad
and everyone else trying to help put on events like this one
they are all kind and generous individuals
with only the best intentions

i gotta admit
my head is still a bit cloudy
i haven't really fully come down from my 8 days in austin
since i've gotten back
my new songs have been in spin cycle
in my head
i'm already anxious to get back to work on my record
i guess i'd better snap out of it pronto
'cause it's gonna be a busy week around here
we're starting a new record at pleasantry lane
monday morning with becky m.
lot's of long sessions planned
thursday night the first annual Quick awards
i'm singing a country song with the kingbucks
you'd have thought that at least one of us
would have gotten "no country for old men"
i guess not...
saturday i'm playing opening bell
with camille and fishing for comets
i collapse in a heap

Saturday, April 19, 2008

super sunday

so i'm back
feeling drained
feeling change
the dream is over
just for now
i'll be back (like arnold said)
soon enough
2 gigs coming up on super sunday
good records at 3
to celebrate the blackheart's new record
which yours truly
reduced produced and helped birth
then at 6 o'clock sharp
i'm playing with the noise
for the mokah summit
i'm doing it for carter
and jayson
and ryann
'cause i love them

gotta go help my wife now


now that i'm back

Friday, April 18, 2008

a new blueprint

my friend marc
whom i've known 16 years
picked me up from billy's
and we went had dinner at Hyde park
another fantastic austin restaurant
this city has gotta be one of the best places
in america
to eat out
him and his twin brother
came to see me and F play
in '92
after they made the connection that
my birthday the moon festival
by steve kilbey
was what possibly inspired the name of our little band
back then
we had the long hair
and the fog
we were misguided
and misunderstood
in texas long hair and black clothes
means goth or hard rock
i wasn't into either
but i really didn't know who i was yet
i guess i was still a stranger in my own skin
it feels good to have a friend over the span of all these years
he knew me back in the dark days
and still stuck with me
just like ken b. and a few others
(thanks guys!)
after dinner we headed to a bar called LaLa's
where it's christmas all year round
surreal '50s decor
christmas lights
christmas tree
elves on wires
santa flyin' at you when you open the bathroom door
the whole sha-bang
dion's ridiculous "walk like a man" on the jukebox
other oldies like the great pretender
and "my boyfriend's back"
a totally bizarre but fun bar

my session with billy today was short and sweet
we started a song called "not enough"
that's only a few weeks old
everything seems effortless now
our voices sound great together
we've got our method rolling and down
i feel like a new blueprint has been started
just like i felt when F and i did nourallah brothers
and then again how i felt 6 years later with "polaroid"
and the start of my "solo" records
"snowing" was the end of something for me
it's true
and now this is the beautiful start of my next phase
i'm positive billy and i are on to something really special here
something that carries forward my musical past
but also is taking me somewhere completely new and different
i've spent 320 days a year recording music
for the past 5 years
so i'm trusting my instincts are right
i've been so revved up when i get home at night
than i can barely sleep
i was up 'til 3 last night just thinking about things
i feel like a child-like energy flowing through me
writing with the zeal of a kid
but with the knowledge now of how to succeed where i once failed
and it feels really really good
like all the dues have finally paid off

our tentative first baby steps of day 1
wasn't even a week ago
now it seems like a distant memory

Thursday, April 17, 2008

stranger in my own skin

we started at 5:30
i was feeling a little uptight
about tracking one of the best songs
i feel like i've ever written
"stranger in my own skin"
it came out in 10 minutes
one evening a couple of months ago
after a visit to my parent's house
billy told me at the end of yesterday's session
"let's do stranger tomorrow..."
the past 24 hours thinking about it
iced me
when i showed up
he says
"i'm feeling like pictures tonight"
i felt relieved for some reason
so i happily started playing that one
even though in me heart i felt like it was half the song
billy got out his orange framus electric
and totally bad-ass guitar
and pondered the end of my bridge
after about 15 minutes he suddenly changes direction
"let's do stranger!"
i'm totally relaxed now
ready to tackle it
and guess what?
it was the easiest one to date
a little strum strum on billy's j-45
the tempo there right away
3 vocal takes
then billy puts down some spacey electric guitar
in 2 takes
discovers two new amazing melodies
that immediately unlock the atmospheric world
this song is going to live in
then some fender rhodes electric piano from billy
in 1 take
i hear a wurlitzer part and put it down
billy sings some incredible harmonies
in just 4 hours we have one of the most developed
great sounding recordings of the batch

private monk nourallah

i feel like i'm in rock'n'roll boot camp
without the push-ups and hysterical drill Sargent
i wake up around 9am
work on this here blog
get ready
go to billy's
spend the whole day recording
go back to lisa and lee's
hang out a bit
go to bed
wake up
work on the blog
then do it all over again
maybe it's less like boot camp
and more like being in a music monastery?
or convent?
just call me private monk nourallah

tuesday the 15
3 days left of recording round one
i walk over around 12:30
it's another perfect day
when i got there we talk awhile
mainly about music
where this weird business we're in is headed
no one buying cds anymore
just downloading
and there's a lot of stealing going on
downloading songs we put our lives into
for free
taking for granted the struggle and countless hours of effort
(not to mention money invested in gear)
that went into making that one little song
they pluck off of the net
for free
what's it take to shell out just 99 cents for a song?
or 9.99 to download the entire record on i-tunes?
ah...kids today...

so we talk about that
and some other stuff
then he says
"so whatdaya got today?"
i'm feeling like doing one with rambunctious drums
i'm thinking "it's not enough"
he's not feeling it today so he mentions
this finger picked bossanova one called
"the man who learned to love"
i'm down with that
so i get out my old guild spanish guitar
and start playing it
he says he loves this one
it's like a "flower that just opens up at the end"
we both agree it's worth recording
he puts a korby c-12 on the guitar
i cut it to a click because the weird rhythm has to be locked
in to something
after 3 takes we do 3 takes of vocals
billy says it's so nice he doesn't want to start throwing things
on it just because we can
i mention i'd love to use the optigan on this one for a beat box
billy realizes he's hungry
so he makes something to eat while i fiddle around
with my guitar
"play something else...how about 'the quitter'?"
i play it
i can tell billy's not sure about something
"i like it but...i don't know...does it fit in with the rest?"
we agree to file it under "maybe"
"how about 'be here now'?"
i play it and he instantly digs this one
"we gotta do it - it's good!"
we talk about the lyrics on the chorus
and how i need to finish them
we agree to come back to it once i've done that
then i play "do you remember?"
"hmmm...it's ok...i don't know - you lost me on the bridge"
i agree - i had my doubts about this one
although something in it is compelling
i then play an old one called "constellation"
"pretty good - put it 'maybe'"
i start to play "we're all gonna go" then chicken out
i sing the bridge instead because i love it
he says "that's gorgeous - that should be a chorus"
i say "ok, how 'bout you take it and see what you can do with it?"
we go over all of the songs
"western hills" "saint georges" "the quitter"
and "easy" all filed under "maybe..."
then something compels me to play a song i wrote last May
called "don't mind me"
i hadn't been considering it for this record
only because i didn't think it fit with the rest
maybe too pretty?
maybe too much like something off of "snowing..."?
by the time i hit the second chorus
billy had just about leaped off of the couch
"this one is solid gold - DONE!"
so we immediately start working on it
he seems really excited about it
i do 3 acoustic takes trying to get the right tempo
going from 146 bests per minute down to 140
by the way
billy is really good at finding the right speed
for the vocal
i've been impressed with his intuition there
i sing it at 140 and it feels really good
billy seems really happy and even more excited by this song
even though he's beginning to not feel very good
he gets out a nashville string acoustic
and puts down an absolutely gorgeous lead part
i'm sold now
i'm glad i pulled this one out of the dusty song closet
we wrap it up around 7:30
another super productive
and fun day

this has been by far the most fun i've ever had
making a record

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

the wrong road

billy says
"so what do you wanna do?"
i don't know
i feel like nothing
sometimes the morning is not really my most creative time
i play "it's not enough"
a new one i like a lot
he says it's good
but he thinks the bridge might be too long
and it gets a bit depressing
i don't know
i like the long bridge
and the dark bit
so he says
"what about 'the wrong road'?"
i know that one is ready
so i play it for him
he kinda perks up and says "that one's killer"
let's do it
"you should play it on electric"
i know what guitar
he opens a closet in the front room
and pulls out an old beat up case
he carefully lays it down on the living room floor
and slowly uncovers a cherry red gibson 335
just like carter used to play
i was more than a little stunned
it was weird
so i play this beautiful guitar and sing
with no click
and after about 3 takes he says
"i think we've got a good one"
we start overdubbing
some backup vocals first
he puts the vocal mic in the washing machine
and has me sing into it
it sounds like i'm in a cave
then we both play bass
billy is starting to look tired
"i haven't eaten today" he says
i look at the clock
it's already 4
"let's get some food"
so we go to this place called phil's
i order the "78704" with a veggie patty
it's the best burger i;ve ever had
jalapeno cheese bun with sauteed onions
jack cheese and jalepenos
i cannot stress to you how good this thing was
and to top it off
these crazy sweet potato fries
that tasted awesome with it
(and i don't even like sweet potatoes!!)
when got back to the house billy had a lot more energy
he's like jayme i think
he forgets to eat sometimes
she does the same thing
so then he puts down some percussion stuff
a shaky thing
floor tom
then we play some floor toms together
he pulls out this crazy cool epiphone guitar
a 1960s red number
totally rare
i've never seen one like it
he does 2 takes of guitar
it's fantastic
then we set up two mics facing each other
and play dueling acoustic guitars
lisa and lee show up to get me
at 9:30
another 10 hours gone
in 5 minutes

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

the dream song

i walked over to billy's house around noon
only 15 minutes by foot
(it's only 2 by car)
it was another perfect day
cool and sunny
not even the slightest breeze
what were the odds that L and L would live so close
to the only guy in texas i'd want to make a record with?
when i got to billy's house
he was playing a beautiful finger picked song
on his couch
"it's not finished..." he smiled
it was really cool
i'm looking forward to hearing it when it's done
"so what do you want to do today?" he asked
i got out the scrap of paper with the dream song's lyrics
srawled on it
and laid it at my feet
then i played it for him
quietly singing the high soft melody
my dream friend had sent me
i felt kinda self-conscious
wondering what on earth billy was gonna think of this
was it just silly
or totally gay?
after i finished he immediately said
"i think we should record this!"
i was pleasantly stunned
so then i told him the story
about the dream and this strange kid
who taught me his songs
i also realized it was weirdly symbolic
that in the dream i was my current age
yet fumbling around nervously not knowing anything
agitated about performing
and the kid was calm cool and relaxed
teaching me how to play
assuring me the whole time that it would be ok
billy said it was a great melody
at first he was taken aback by the high vocal
but agreed that we should leave it in the original key
and not over-think it
we could layer the vocal in a wall of sound
he also smiled and said
"guess what? i hear drums on this one!"
so then we got to it
big dumb acoustic guitar strums first
then layers of vocals
billy set up the drumkit in the control room
and played the hell out of it
then i put down some bass in about 15 minutes
which is significant for me
because i resisted the urge to over-analyze it
normally i work on my bass parts for at least an hour or two
after that billy played the castanets
some harmonies
then at the very end
added a little wurlizter bit on the last chorus of the song
we both felt very satisfied
and happy with all of our progress
so we decided to knock it on the head
and call it a day
it was a fun
totally spontaneous experience
that could have only happened here
with billy's encouragement
i know i would have normally ruminated on something like this
for months
tinkered with the key
and the words
waiting for the right moment to strike
well today the right moment was NOW
i'm glad we just went for it

it made for one of the most memorable recording experiences
i've ever had

Monday, April 14, 2008

welcome to my freaky freaky dream

i hardly ever remember my dreams
it's a running joke in our household
jayme wakes up every morning
and gloriously re-counts every last detail
of her previous night's dream
down to the minutia of what she was wearing
or what the axe of the monster who was chasing her
tasted like
and usually
i've got nothing but a bad taste in my mouth
and a rat building a nest in my hair
i know i hear music a lot
i grind my teeth to the beat
i know i hear new melodies and songs
that i've never heard before
but no matter how much the music plays on
in my dreams
the second the shutters come up
and my eyes hit the morning light
the music is gone
like a puff of smoke
in thin air
and i can't remember a thing
it's always so frustrating

so i welcome you now
my friends
to my freaky freaky dream...

a kid with curly brown hair
and really piercing blue eyes
wearing some sort of vaguely futuristic threads
kinda baggy burlappy grey duds
was showing me how to play his songs on guitar
he was really patient
and kind to me
even though i could barely play them
he would smile at me gently every time
my hands fumbled over a chord
"remember...it's this way"
and his hands would glide down the neck
to always find the right chord
it was effortless for him
we worked on the songs for a long time
i was playing a red sunburst rickenbacker
with 3 pickups kinda shaped like a gibson sg
(for those non-guitar enthusiasts - sorry!!)
but i don't think there is such a guitar in existence
after a lot of practicing
he tells me
"ok - now it's time to go play with my band"
i remember frantically trying to plug all my gear in
while tousands of fans screamed
and jumped up and down
the band started playing without me
the boy looked back over his shoulder at me
and smiled
"it's ok..." he nodded
but i still couldn't get my guitar going
and was getting really upset
so then he stopped the band with a wave of his hand
and said "let's wait until salim is ready..."
the audience was fine with it
they waited too
and when i was finally ready
we kicked into the first song
i immediately forgot everything i'd learned
i was a tangle of fingers and thumbs
he looked at me again and smiled
so kind
so calm
and said "remember...this way"
chords back and forth from high to low
and then i got it
and started playing them the right way
the next thing i know it's montage time...

we're playing their hit song
all over the world
kids singing along and smiling
jumping up in down in slow motion
the boy looking over his shoulder between vocal lines
to smile at me
while i strummed my red rickenbacker effortlessly
over and over we play this beautiful song
a high soaring melody
so innocent and carefree
over and over again
to people all over the world
the song is so beautiful
i am in euphoric bliss
and then i wake up...

the song is still with me
all of it
the entire melody intact
it sounds like nothing i would ever write on my own
a gift from my dream friend

thank you



Sunday, April 13, 2008

i think we're gonna make a record

one of the many things i love about recording is
when things are going well
10 hours can seem like 1
the time flies by in a blur of creativity
it's a rush i cannot describe
nothing i've ever felt feels quite like it
this was one of those days
i showed up with my own producer hat on
thinking we should try something light and easy
like "pictures"
but billy had his own plan
"let's do, blink of an eye" he said
ah...another heavy one...
a song i about carter
i don't usually feel precious about my songs
but i gotta admit
i do about this one
"ok...why not?" i thought
billy told me to play it for him
right there on the couch in the living room
after i rang the last chord he mentioned some things about the structure
so we worked on that a bit
then i went into the vocal room
and started playing it live
he got a click track going for me
which made me laugh
i said he didn't have to do that
he said he wanted to
i gotta admit
it felt good having back my "brassiere"
we spent about an hour working on getting the right tempo
and fiddling with the song structure
once we had a good take
we started overdubbing
it was off to the races
everything we did worked instantly
and it felt kinda like we'd been making music together for much longer
than 1 and a half days
billy came up with another super cool
piano part
really evocative and haunting
i picked up the foot long casio sk-1 and the first sound i chose
was perfect for this little part i was thinking about
it was just one of those days
everything we did was easy
and toward the end something happened to me
that has never happened in all my years of making music
billy was playing his hofner electric guitar
and then i closed my eyes
and it sounded exactly like carter
although billy had never met him or seen him play before
what he was playing sounded identical to carter's very
distinctive way of bending notes
and then i was overtaken
i couldn't help it
tears welled up and there i was
sitting behind billy
crying like a baby
it felt like carter was right there with us
i will never forget that moment
it has already made all of this more worthwhile
than i could have ever imagined

Saturday, April 12, 2008

learning how to dance

it was a beautiful sunny cool morning in austin
billy and i met at 11
over at his house
he rolled up on a little black scooter
laughing right away about his entrance
we talked a bit in the front room
of his house
and then went to grab some breakfast
it was fun for me to finally hear
what songs he liked
and his thoughts on what kind of record
we were gonna try and make
a lot of the things he said
i'd already thought
like about not making it center
around the bass and drums
trying alternative methods of recording
starting with just voice and guitar
and building the recordings from there
when we got back to his house
he had me play "stranger in my own skin"
to me this one feels like a centerpiece
of the record
kind of like how i felt about "hang on" on snowing
and "the world is full of people" on BN
we spent about an hour tweaking the song structure
i'd wrestled a lot with it over the past few months
interestingly billy had me return to the structure
i'd originally come up with when i wrote the song
i like the way he tracks the emotion of a song
when he listens
that's what i'm always looking for
after that he set up a couple of mics
and had me play it live
right off the bat one funny moment was when i asked
"where's the click track?"
and he said "uh...i never use a click"
the "click" is a metronome or time keeper
i use them religiously
it's my sonic brassiere!
so immediately i was blasted outta my comfort zone
and although it felt strange
like walking around a mall no pants on
this is exactly what i've been looking forward to
breaking out of my comfort zone
and shaking up my way of doing things
after a few takes of "stranger..." billy asked me to play
"endless dream days"
which is another one of the "big" ones
i knew from the moment i wrote it that it was a good one
but was also probably going to be an absolute bitch
to record
so we waded into to it
trying to figure out the best way for the acoustic guitar to go
i think billy read my reaction to the no click thing
and tried to put me at ease by making a tambourine loop
for me to play along with on this one
i put down a couple of gingerly played acoustic guitars
and then sang
it felt really good to sing
and although this is the hardest vocal part of all of the songs
i felt good
and sang pretty well
billy then started playing his piano
which is strangely just like mine
a black yamaha upright
the melody he came up with immediately blew the doors
off of the arrangement
it was obvious to me that this was where the song needed to go
a whole world was opening up for it
since the piano was pretty outta tune
we put down a scratch track
to remember his ideas
and decided to call it a day
while we were waiting for my ride to come
we jammed on "pictures collected"
a jaunty number about our obsession with photos
billy played the funmaker wurlitzer in his living room
i think we should maybe try this one on day 2
something lighter and easier
we went right out of the gate with the monsters
even though we're kinda like
two people learning how to dance with each other
for the first time