Tell us about your tour vehicle. Any notable breakdown stories?
We’ve toured mainly in a full size Sprinter that we rent from Bandago, we’ve used tour buses before but the overhead is extremely high and we’ve always made a much more liveable wage touring in Sprinters.
We once got hit from behind at night outside of a small Mormon town in southern Utah. The guy hit us and drove away so we chased him in the Sprinter. He pulled down a dirt road and we followed. The road dead ended in the middle of nowhere. He turned his massive truck around and we had a sort of stand off type scene. We ended up chasing him back down the dirt road to the highway where he lost us. We called the sheriff who took a couple of us and went to find the guy, a local good old boy, drunk as a skunk who said we hit him and then we chased him, which was only partially true.
That same trip a kid walked out in front of us on the freeway going 75 and tried to kill himself. We stopped in time and pulled off the road but the kid climbed down under the front of the Sprinter and wouldn’t come out. He was high as shit and really wanted to die. We coaxed him out with some bottled water. Maybe that’s a little too dark to put in print.
How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?
As far as healthy food in America, there are only two areas where that exists, the mountain west/coast and parts of the east coast, otherwise it’s fast food and/or nothing. Larger cities have healthier options for sure, but the States is pretty largely a food desert unless you’re into having the runs. Truck stop peanuts and jerky are good during the day and the venues often have a good menu.
How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?
I usually change strings every four shows so in a month tour with maybe three days off that’s 27 shows, 7 sets of strings a tour. If you do maybe four months out of the year that’s 28 sets. We get them wholesale through Ernie Ball so they’re at cost which I believe is 4 bucks so not much over a hundred bucks a year per guitar.
Where do you rehearse?
We rent a spot in a hundred year old retired cement factory. The acoustics are for shit but it has a nice inner city industrial ambience. There’s a pole dancing studio down the hall so there’s a lot of health and empowerment vibes floating around which is great.
What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?
No idea, but I did write a song once called “The Checker and the Thieving Magpie” about a kid that’s a grocery checker who falls for this girl that he sells pop rocks to every day and he tries to convince her that his band is legit but she doesn’t buy it, too cynical.
Describe your first gig.
First gig was a piano recital in grade school where I forgot the song I’d learned and so I vamped on a sort of Chopsticks/Stand By Me hybrid until my hands got too sweaty then I bolted for the gym where I hid beneath the bleachers.
What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?
At the moment I’m a full time case manager at a 24/7 homeless shelter in Portland, Oregon. Definitely my favorite day job I’ve had ever. Bizarre and rewarding and sometimes blood curdling, but never boring.
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?
We started out touring around eight months a year so our income was mainly road money, but over the years we’ve cut it back to four months and then two months and then now no months. So really it’s all records money right now, which isn’t great but having written all the songs I get a pretty good writer’s royalty throughout the year, not enough to live on, hence the day job.
In 5-10 years, I will be making all the music digitally and climate change will make touring in a large diesel combustion engine vehicle virtually criminal, if it isn’t already.
What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?
I wish I’d concentrated less on the music and more on the people I met along the way, I’ve met a million really amazing players and songwriters over the years and I wish I’d really put more time into forging deeper, longer lasting relationships with more of them because the music is ultimately just a symptom dependent upon the richness of our friendships.