Tell us about your tour vehicle.
I had to break down and get a new car. I prefer small compacts because I do most of my touring solo or duo, and often pick up bands for bigger venue shows. So it’s “The Black Beauty” – a Hyundai Elantra with 18,000 miles.
My last car, a Toyota Corolla (“The Silver Stud”) rolled over a parking cone after a gig in Pismo Beach, California. It ripped up the entire front undercarriage, but true to its amazing form, Guerrilla Duct Tape came through. The Silver Stud went on another 40 K miles with the tape binding its wounds until I traded it in.
How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?
I’m a bit of a squirrel on the long desolate drives with only fast food. I pack loads of nuts, fruits, carrots, popcorn, and turkey jerky. Bigger cities provide Asian food or Middle Eastern. Huddle House in a pinch, and in desperately sleepy situations I’ll resort to Peanut M & Ms.
How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?
I don’t break strings like I used to, which to me is a sign I’ve learned to relax more onstage. But I do change strings when I feel them getting dull or not wanting to tune up well. For my little 1957 Martin 0017 I use D’Addario Phospher bronze provided kindly to me by our Nashville Rep via a sweet little endorsement deal. On my Gretsch 1961 I spring for extended play Jazz style electric strings. It’s a bit costly but they last longer and sound great.
Where do you rehearse?
My rehearsal space is lately at Dave Coleman’s basement where my latest album Rhythm of the Rain was produced. It’s small and has a lot of guitars and basses. My absolutely charming and talented band of Blue Souvenirs pack in there and it’s tight.
I also sometimes rehearse in Sergio Webb’s living room in his big old beautiful house in East Nashville. As long as I’ve lived in Nashville we’ve always just made houses our rehearsal spaces to save money.
The craziest rehearsal space memory I have is at Sergio’s when, at the break, he whipped out a white silk jacket of Rod Stewart’s (his wife Julie Sola works with Rod’s wardrobe) and invited me to try it on. I do believe there was some moonshine floating around that Marco Giovino had obtained from Butch, Lucinda William’s drummer. 🙂
What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?
When I was about 10 our family beagle, Molly Brown, died. I wrote a song to her… ”Molly is a good dog, she’s always been one too, when she was just little she liked to untie my shoe.”
Strangely enough, songs to dead people has become a theme in my writing. I believe songs transcend this physical earth, so it’s my gift to the departed.
Describe your first gig.
I’m not sure if it was my first, but I remember a hellacious gig in Cambridge, Ma. when I was VERY green. It was a chain restaurant called “Ground Round”. They served bowls of free peanuts in the shell so there were nut carcasses all over the floor along with hay for some kind of rustic effect. I played four hours as drunk people ate burgers and gave me absolutely no ear. I think I had a little beer mug tip jar that might have had a few dollars at the end of the long shift.
I got a meal (I was vegetarian at the time ) and a few drink tickets which I was grateful for since I was nervous. Think about that, nervous to play a non paying terrible gig surrounded by peanut shells:) I had nut bits all over my equipment for months after. It was really bad, but hell, it was a gig. I sometimes dream about it.
What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?
I help a pal when I’m home at nights with some data entry and accounting in Nashville. It’s very loose and I come and go. Sometimes I feel he’s just being a good patron of my music. I have cooked for years in restaurants and catering companies, but not for a long time thank god. Kitchen work is fun and I love cooking but it’s exhausting. I will dog sit and paint and rake leaves. I have no shame. Bills must be paid, and let’s face it, music pay over all is not great these days especially with the shrinking CD sales since SPOTIFY became a word we all know and are forced to embrace.
How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?
Like I mentioned in the last question, CD sales used to be a big slice of the pay pie. One of the reasons I tour UK and Europe is that people are still buying CDs but it has dwindled there too. I do have one vinyl album printed up (Home Sweet Hotel) but it’s not that cost effective, although it’s a steady sale. I’ve learned to say no to gigs that don’t pay with very rare exceptions. House shows are great financial fillers and “concert series” are usually well funded.
BMI statements have a way of adding up all the pennies from Spotify- due to my music and a lot of co-writing, and my TV placement in Justified is the gift that keeps giving. But I’ll be honest, it’s rough out there these days. One of my new year’s plans is to incorporate more songwriting mentoring individually and in groups.
What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?
If you have room on tour to carry along at least a part of your own sound DO IT. Minimize drinking and drugs and take good care of your body and soul. Stick to your own vibe, and believe in it. Let the rejections roll off your back. Work like a mule and the more you fully respect your fellow artists the more good comes your way. Spread peace and love wherever you go.