12/6/07

Yup

The guilt, the guilt. I haven't written in a while and it's mostly because I'm scared.

Not scared, really. Just busy.

I have been having a fantastic time here in Los Angeles. First of all, it's not raining! It rained for a day last week but I got the feeling that it was more for show than anything. Honestly, I wasn't impressed.

The album has been on hold since before Thanksgiving. We're resuming work today...It's the last turn before the homestretch. I'm excited to get back in there.

I've been getting to know the locals. There is a genuine soul beneath the concrete-crusted exterior of this place. I've seen lots of shows and all of them have been good. The songwriter scene is strong here, and very creative. People are friendly to each other and remember each other's names. People are excited to ask about each other's projects, and happy to talk about their own.

I like where I'm living quite a bit. It's cozy. Also, I found a late-night taco truck that parks itself a couple of blocks away and serves amazing carne asada tacos to people coming home from work or the bars. It's all I can do to keep myself from going there 20 times a day...

That's all for now.

11/9/07

The Record.

Man...time flies. Really.

I left Eugene for Los Angeles. Eugene was nice enough, but she just couldn't give me what I needed. I suppose I wasn't as good to her as I could have been. Maybe we can work things out somewhere down the road.

Los Angeles is exciting! I have been here for a few weeks now, and I'm settling in. I hit the ground running; a couple days after I arrived I began work on The Record (I capitalize because it feels more real in proper noun form). Zac Rae offered to produce The Record in his studio, 'The Bank'. Burbank, California. Suburbs. It has been great, and Zac's involvement has been truly wonderful. For 10 days he and I worked, elbow to elbow, for long hours with only the occasional break to visit the taco stand next door. We weren't totally alone, though. Blair Sinta (drums) and Sean Hurley (bass) came in for two days and played some amazing stuff. We did nine songs in that short time and I'm really happy with the results. All three guys are talented in ways that I've only read about in music magazines. I felt lucky and silly at the same time. It was like fantasy baseball camp, where you get to spend a week playing ball alongside the pros. Oh...as an extra special treat, David Immergluck came by for a few hours and played some beautiful pedal steel, mandolin, and dobro. It was spicy.

There's still a bit of work to do before we mix. I'm aiming for completion this year, with a release in early '08. Totally feasible, and somewhat likely to happen.

Man...seems like I move from one transitional phase to the next. I wonder if I have grown so accustomed to constant motion that I actually seek it out. Maybe so.

I moved into a place in Culver City, adjacent to Venice. It's nice to walk to Trader Joe's and the chinese restaurant around the corner. It's nice to drive a mile or two to the beach.

I just took a temporary job teaching enrichment classes in an after school program for elementary school kids. I'll do it through December and see if I want to continue...I'm glad to have something to think about besides my career. Kids are refreshing.

Wow...I feel like a rusty writer. My blog muscles are flabby. Sorry for the absence, and I'll try to stay on track from now on.

10/16/07

Los Angeles!

So...

I'm in Los Angeles. I'll be making a record next week and I'm pretty excited about it. Zac Rae is producing...he's a very, very talented guy and I can hardly wait to work with him. It'll be an education for me, for sure.

I think I'm going to live here for a while. It is one of those times in life when all signs point in the same direction and it would be foolish to ignore them. I can't say for sure how long I'll stay...I'll find a job somewhere and try to immerse myself in the songwriter scene...hopefully I'll make some progress.

I'm heading out to see Priscilla Ahn tonight...she's a great singer/songwriter with a fantastic voice. She and I spent an afternoon recording one of her tunes last year and it was big fun...it'll be nice to see her play.

If any of you happen to run a bar/restaurant/coffee shop in the area and feel like employing me, get in touch. I also accept cash donations.

10/4/07

Testing, testing

wintertime comes
warning in advance that
it is on its way

trees wave their red and orange goodnights
and slowly undress and prepare themselves
for the long sleep

creatures get their jobs done;
collect some food,
grow their hair out
and hope that their babies
grew big enough this spring and summer
to make it through a winter alone
should they need to

i say my goodbyes to the summer things.
for months they have been there
when i looked out the window
or walked out amongst them.

they have been my friends.

when i wanted a body to lean against
every tree offered its own

when i wanted to gaze into deep eyes
the pond sat still in front of me
dark and unblinking

i have an idea to go south this winter
so i say my goodbyes.

i say them silently
(i think nature is telepathic)

9/28/07

things l like

This week, I have come across a few things for the first time and revisited a few old favorites. These are at the top of my list:

(book) Mary Oliver

(music) Dan Jones' record "For Your Radio" (sorry Dan, I know it's old but it's so good!) It's on Itunes.

(artist) Richard Serra

(brainless entertainment) This guy on YouTube: watch the Santana one
http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=StSanders&p=r

(documentary) The Fog of War


What's your list?

9/25/07

Thinkin'

I had a thought.

It's funny that the world just is. It does its thing...rolls right along so steady and un self conscious. It has no opinion of itself. It is not a bad world or a good one in its own eyes.

In our eyes, though, the world can be both. We judge it as though it has some responsibility for the way it is. When we see the world as being cold and unhelpful we feel angrily towards it. We want it to change its ways and to treat us kindly.

When we see the world as a friend, it is our best friend. We laugh with it and are happy to be in its presence. We say things to the world like "Your sun sure looks nice today, and your grass is so soft!" On these days, if the world has any shortcomings they are hardly noticed.

I suppose that it is part of our nature to look outward as much as inward. It must be helpful to project ourselves upon something outside of us. That way, we can examine and understand, circle around and look from all sides. We are good at projecting. Are we good at examining?

We are so used to hearing the cliches: 'Life is what you make of it'. It rolls off the tongue easily and we say it, knowing that it is true but hardly considering the depth of the statement.

So we project ourselves like a picture on a wall, sometimes appreciating the beauty and style of life, sometimes only seeing it for its smudges and erase marks.

The world, the picture, just is what it is. It is both beauty and smudges.

9/19/07

Show (s)

Well, things are moving right along. I'm playing a show tonight in Eugene with some good buddies. Sean Peterson and Rich Sellars will help me rock out at Sam Bond's Garage, and The Dimes will rock out there too. I like Rich, Sean and The Dimes very much.

I realized recently that I have some baggage left over from growing up playing baseball. Ballplayers, you see, are very superstitious. You'll never see a guy step on the chalk line on his way out to the field. Mitts, bats and hats might be lucky or unlucky. Each guy has his own set of things which he believes, if done properly (or not done at all), might influence the outcome of the game. Some guys wear the same undershirt every time they play. Some guys don't shave on game day.

I haven't played organized baseball in years but I'm still a little superstitious. I'd like to let you all know about some fun news related to making the record but I'm afraid I might jinx it and everything will fall through. I can't help it.

As soon as my plans are firm and unlikely to change, I'll clue everyone in.

In the meantime, come to a show! I'll be in Chicago soon, among other places. Also, my old bandmates, Justin King and the Apologies, are about to embark on another national tour. Check their schedule...they're probably coming to a town near you!

9/14/07

Mastan Music

I met a couple of cool folks at the Eugene Celebration and I thought you all should know about them...

Mastan Music (www.mastanmusic.com) is run by a couple of guys who are working pretty hard to help the Northwest music scene. They run a recording studio in Portland and host a podcast spotlighting Northwest artists. They were kind enough to play one of my tunes on their most recent podcast...thanks guys! Check out episode 32.

9/12/07

Went to a show

I saw some great music last week and I think I may have been bitten by the tour bug.

A friend of mine called and said "I'm working for A Fine Frenzy...wanna come to the show?" They were playing with Brandi Carlile, who I really like. I went.

A Fine Frenzy is a trio led by songwriter/pianist Alison Sudol. The tunes are mostly mid tempo, dreamy, Tori Amos-ish...well supported by the keyboard player and drummer, who are both extremely creative dudes. My buddy was their tour manager so I got to hang out a bit with the band. Very nice!

I was struck by a few things while watching the show. The band really made the most of their tools. The tunes were well arranged and played and the choice of sounds and instruments was great. There was no bass player, but I didn't miss it. They played with subtlety in a way that most bands don't. It was cool.

As I watched them I thought about how much I enjoy the process of writing, arranging and performing music. I thought about how great it is to play with musicians who bring their own voice to the songs, and who elevate the whole experience. It was inspiring.

Brandi Carlile was great too. She brings 100% every time.

I'd like to hit the road...I'm getting antsy.

9/4/07

In the studio

It was a good weekend. I was in the studio from Wednesday night to Monday afternoon with Alexis Stevens; she's a talented songwriter and a good friend. She and I, with the help of Scott Hedrick and Dave Snider, worked hard. Probably about 14 hours each day, I'd imagine. We came up with a cool sound, described by our friend John as 'desert music'. Scott's drumming was great, Dave played amazing bass, baritone, and banjo, and Alexis sang and played like an angel. I pushed buttons, moved faders, positioned microphones, and ate Erin's Kettle Corn by the bushel. I played a little guitar and sang, too. Justin King let us use his place and we all really appreciated it.

There were some magic moments for sure. Recording is a funny process; sometimes you happen upon a single thing, maybe a bass line or a vocal harmony, that breaks the song wide open and defines its character in a whole new way. It's as distinct a feeling as if you walked down a street in Cottage Grove, turned a corner, and found yourself in Times Square. I love it.

One night, after a particularly long day, Alexis and I were tired but not ready to go to sleep. We ended up sitting at the table listening to some of our favorite songs on my little laptop speakers and wondering how people like Patty Griffin ever got so good. We sat in silence while the songs played, eating tortilla chips and taking big swallows of cold beer. A song would finish, we'd tell about the first time we'd heard it or why we liked it, and then one of us would suggest another song to listen to. It was almost like a musical...we were having a conversation and the dialogue was continued and supported through the music.

I'll mix her record this month and hopefully it'll make its way out into the world sometime soon.

I've been listening to Lucinda Willams' 'West'. It took me a couple of listens to get into it but now I love it. It's one for the headphones...each song is so well recorded and there are so many subtleties that are lost when listening through regular speakers. Her voice is amazing.

I upped my caffeine dosage to about double the usual amount...I'll be scaling it back down this week. I might be grumpy.

8/28/07

Ah, Tuesday

I have spent the past few days doing whatever I wanted to do. I saw two movies in the theater and went to the art museum. I sat outside Sweet Life bakery and read and wrote. I finished the last Harry Potter book (very important literature) and started Maugham's "The Razor's Edge", which was loaned to me by a friend who has never yet suggested a book that I didn't enjoy. I wrote lots of lyrics, some of which might actually be used.

I rode my XS 650 to Oakridge, a little mountain town east of Eugene, and had a turkey and brie sandwich at a nice little hippie cafe. I read part of a funny essay by Carol Bly about paranoids. The only bit of responsibility I imposed upon myself was to pick up a friend at the airport. Her flight was delayed twice and it made no difference to me...I had nothing else to do.

Normally, when I need do have this sort of weekend I go camping or visit a friend out of town. Granted, I hardly ever do it, but sometimes I need the time to myself. I get in ruts and routines. Often, they are self-imposed for the sake of feeling productive and staying busy. At some point I realize that I am experiencing diminishing returns and need to change things up a bit.

It wasn't all play...as I mentioned, I wrote some lyrics that I think I like. Also, I think I may have found myself in an amazing situation in regards to the record I'm trying to make. No, I haven't landed a record deal. I have, though, made a decision that makes me very happy and excited. I'll explain more as soon as it's all firmed up...sorry for the crypticism. I don't want to jinx my plans!

8/22/07

Apologies

I'd like to start this one with a couple of apologies. First, I've been referring to the band Reily as Riley. Small error (and it's partly their fault for choosing a weird spelling), but I felt a large dumb sort of feeling when I discovered my mistake. Sorry guys. For those of you who don't know, Reily is the band I recorded last week, and with whom I played a show last night in Seattle. They are great songwriters and excellent guys, and we had wonderful times together. And I've been spelling their name incorrectly.

Number two, I need to apologize to everyone, including myself, for falling off the blog wagon each of the two last weeks. I've been posting a blog every Tuesday for a while now, per the advice of my publicist friend Leona, but recently it has been like pulling my own teeth to get an entry up on schedule. I'm sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.

So, I'm in Seattle. It's raining and fall seems like it's just around the corner. I played a fun show last night; Reily hosted an art auction/concert to raise funds for their record and they asked me to play. It was exactly the sort of thing I love being involved in; artists of different sorts together, showing their stuff and talking about it, all doing what they can to spread the word. I met a guy who has a little studio in a remote mountain area of Japan where he makes electronic music with his wife...how cool is that? I sometimes forget how valuable and inspiring it is to just hang out with other artsy types. I often prioritize holing myself up in a studio or a basement to write or record, thinking that I need to put in the hours and stay on task; sometimes it's better to get out and mingle a bit.

Anyway, I'm sorry for my recent missteps. I'll be good, I promise.

8/17/07

In the studio, on the stage

It’s quiet around the house this morning. Nice, because I actually have a second to sit down and write something. The past week has been a flurry of activity from early morning to late night.

The Jonny Lang/ Los Lonely Boys show at the Cuthbert went well. It was great to play the tunes in front of so many people and to receive a warm response. The guys in my band were great…it was an all-around success.

All of the other days this week have been spent in the studio with the Seattle-based band Riley. At its’ heart, Riley is two songwriters, Dave and Grant, who have been writing and playing together for a few years. They made their last record in their garage and it was great…this time they decided to move to a different studio. They decided on Blackberry Hill and I was asked to help engineer and co-produce.

It’s been a lot of fun working with/for these guys. They are extremely nice dudes and are both very talented and creative. We’ve been putting in 12 or 14 hour days all week and I’m still excited to get back to it each morning. The music is excellent…we’ve been having fun getting it on tape.

I’m going to Seattle on Sunday to see friends and to play at Riley’s art auction. Then I’ll come home and work on my record for a week or so before I start working on Alexis Stevens’ project. She’s another extremely talented writer whose music I love…it’ll be great!

I’m getting tired again…oh well. I’m happy to stay busy. I’m fortunate to have the chance to do these things and I’m not about to turn them down just to get a little extra sleep.

8/9/07

Land On You

I've posted a demo version of "Land On You" on the Myspace page...feedback is welcome!

www.myspace.com/ehrenebbage

8/7/07

Full, full, full

My mouth is full, metaphorically speaking, and I hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew.

It's the nature of this profession to have periods of little activity followed by periods of intense activity. When it rains, it pours, right? It just started raining! The next two weeks will be filled with outrageously fun musical happenings...there will be almost no time to work on the record.

I mentioned the cool show coming up next week; I get to open for Jonny Lang and Los Lonely Boys at one of Eugene's best concert venues, the Cuthbert Amphitheater. When the promoter called to offer me the spot he told me that he needed a full band. I told him that my band would be ready. Then I called some friends and asked if they wanted to join a band. Luckily, they all said yes. I have been feeling anxious about the idea of playing these tunes for an audience of thousands with a band that is less than a month old; usually it takes lots of rehearsals and shows to whip a band into shape, and we just don't have that luxury. I've chewed fingernails thinking about it. Well, we had another rehearsal last night and many of my concerns have been alleviated. These guys are great musicians (I already knew that...that's why I asked them!) but more importantly they've spent some time listening and learning the songs. The tunes are really coming together and I think we have a decent shot at sounding pretty good! It makes me happy.

A few days after this show, I'll go back to the amphitheater to play in the Floydian Slips, a Pink Floyd tribute band. This is a hugely popular local event; once a year we get together and play some classic Floyd tunes, complete with laser light show, and a few thousand people come to see it. It's extremely fun. Anyway, I still need to learn two hours of music before our rehearsal on Sunday.

On top of it all, I agreed to help record a band all next week. They're called Riley, and they're a cool Seattle band with a bit of a following. I'm excited to do this...it'll be great experience and a lot of fun...all day, every day during an already busy week.

Also, I've been working with my friends Kyle and Leona on a t-shirt design...I'm no graphic designer and I have no business being involved in this stuff, but I'm doing it anyway. The shirts should be ready by next week.

Even my blog is a little too full...I have lots more to say, including my thoughts about working at an all day hip hop show, and my ideas about scrapping this record and re-doing it with another producer. I'll write again soon.

8/2/07

JK

Hey all,

My former bandmates, Justin, Drew, and Nadir, are up to some exciting stuff and I thought I should mention it. First, it looks like they are close to finishing editing the video we shot for 'Bright and Dirty Lights'. Here's a sample they put together:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdmwcSeBOms

Also, they're going to Korea at the end of the month and touring the US as soon as they get home. Not too shabby. Keep track of their progress at:

www.myspace.com/justinkingband

Nice work, guys.

7/31/07

Eugene blues

I'm not as good at maintaining routines as I'd like to be. I have a hard time adhering to schedules, even when they're self-imposed. This is not always the case; I exercise every day, alternating between running and swimming. I look forward to it and do it faithfully, rain or shine. So, why can't I make myself sit down and write every day? Who knows. Maybe the key is to find the routines that work, not work to make the routines fit.

For a few weeks now I've been getting up every day between six and seven AM and doing chores. My folks have horses and, especially since my mom broke her finger, they can always use an extra hand. So I've put myself on an early-to-bed schedule. Well...a few nights ago a friend had a housewarming party and I felt the need to attend. It was fun; I talked about fishing with a guy, Minnesota with a girl, et., etc. It was close to my bedtime when someone suggested that we move to the bar a block away. I was about to make the usual excuses but, for some reason, I chose to go along with the gang. I would be tired the next morning, for sure. I didn't care. I'm reckless.

The Vet's Club is just what the name implies...kind of an 'old guy' hangout. Vinyl seats and smoke stains on the walls...clientele of the older-middle-aged variety. We walked up and milled around the entrance, trying to decide if it was worth it to pay the cover charge to get in. After a few minutes of this the door guy let us in for free. Nice. I walked to the bar and placed my order, and I was halfway through my first swallow when I realized that the blues band on stage was pretty good. Wait...really good! I recognized the hammond player; he's been kicking around Eugene for years and years. I didn't know the other guys in the band. The drummer was a young guy, everyone else was fifty or so, and he was rocking pretty hard and seemed to really love it. The other guys were great, too. I haven't cared to listen to a blues guitar solo for about five years but these guys were undeniably good. It was perfect; funky bar, dim lights, blues band, cold beer. I really liked it and I didn't even think about leaving until they finished their set. I walked out of there feeling pretty inspired and like I had become reacquainted with an old friend. It's good to watch people do what they love. It's also good to know when to bend your own rules.

The past couple of days have been so-so in regards to the record. I've been focusing in on the near view, thinking about lyrics and bits and pieces. I need to pull back a bit and try to get a handle on the overall record. I feel good about the way each song is coming along but I'm not sure how they'll all fit together as a whole. One of the challenges of doing everything yourself is maintaining perspective, or multiple perspectives. Forest for the trees and so on. I often think about the conversations I had with Rob Schnapf while we were working on the Justin record. He found the zoom-in, zoom-out thing to be a challenge too. He handled it quite well. It's just part of the role of the producer to keep track of this kind of stuff. I have found myself wishing I had another producer to work with. At the same time, I want to learn everything I can through this process. I have a feeling that the value of making this record will mostly be in the education I am receiving by doing it this way.

There.

7/28/07

Shows

Hey folks,

I have a couple of big shows in Eugene in August...both are at the Cuthbert Amphitheater and each one will be huge fun!

August 14
I open for Jonny Lang and Los Lonely Boys! I've asked a few of my good friends to join me for this one...it'll be the first full band show I've played in a while! Very exciting...

August 18
The Floydian Slips return! This 'band' began ten years ago when a few friends decided to learn Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon'. It was very well recieved and the show has grown like a well-fed pig. This one promises to be the largest one yet, with an expected audience of several thousand Floyd fans. I'll be strumming along on my acoustic guitar, singing backups, and wondering how this happened.

Still working away on the record, mind you. See you soon!

7/24/07

Working away...

Good news, good news. The tunes are coming along nicely this week. I have 'Land on You' mostly done and I've started recording another brand new one. Justin King has been generous enough to let me use his studio every once in a while, so my anxiety about getting good sounds is greatly reduced. I'm not sure if I've ever given Justin his due thanks...he has helped many times in many ways.

I met with a new friend for coffee yesterday. Brooke is a Eugenian who has been out in the world for the past few years and she has a ton of experience as a songwriter. She and I are planning to get together this week to co-write. Co-writing is something that the Eugene community hardly ever does, but is totally commonplace in NY, LA, Nashville, Austin, etc. I'm glad to have met someone here who is hip to it.

I have a couple of production things coming up in August...I'm excited to have a chance to be part of someone else's creative process. The artists are both great...

A good friend, Jenny Queen, is about to record an album...she and I wrote a bunch of tunes last time I was in NY; hopefully a few of them will make the cut.

Still assembling songs for my record. I'd like to write one or two more tunes that aren't about love relationships...we'll see. Fiona Apple gets away with it.

I'll be exploring a new creek this week. Heard there are some great swimming holes nearby, in case you were wondering.

7/22/07

A little sideways

A friend just alerted me to the fact that someone posted a clip from the Country Fair show on YouTube. Thanks! The song is a newer one called 'Land on You'...I'm not sure why it appears the way it does but it somehow makes sense that a video from the Country Fair came out sideways. Here's the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBofhD710Yk

Also, I plan to post a rough mix of this tune in a day or two...

On a side note: You know when you have a bad dream and, upon waking, you feel a great sense of relief? I had one like that last night. The Oakland A's had been eliminated from the playoffs.

7/17/07

Oregon Country Fair

The Oregon Country Fair is a scene, to say the least. For three days each year the tiny town of Veneta, Oregon, is overrun by thousands of hippies. They come from all over to reunite and have been for over thirty years...it's a place where peace, love, and the ideals of the 60's generation rule. There are half a dozen stages or more...music is played 'round the clock. I played at 11 am on Saturday morning to an enthusiastic audience. I made some new friends and saw some old ones...

I spent most of each day behind the counter at my friend's tamale booth serving food to hungry fairgoers. The rest of the time was spent walking around, listening to bands, and watching folks go by. I didn't have time, space, or energy to write anything at all. I'm home again and anxious to spend some time with my guitar.

I'll start recording soon. I'm looking forward to it. There's a certain kind of creative head space that I've only experienced in the studio. All else takes the back seat and I focus entirely on the work. I think I'll have some friends play on the new songs...I like doing everything myself but I think it's better to have more folks involved. It's like dogs; purebreds are fancy but mutts are usually the most healthy and free of neuroses.

Perhaps I'll post some demos this week...

7/10/07

Up a creek

I've been home for a couple of weeks now. It's the longest stretch of time I've spent in any one place all year. At first it felt like the brakes had been slammed on and I screeched to a halt amid a cloud of dust and burned rubber. I've done a thorough evaluation and, though I may have been shaken, nothing broke.

I'm back at the folks' house in the country, the purpose being to write and record more songs for a record. I have plenty of time every day to devote to the task, and plenty of life experience to write about. Still, it's not coming easily. So, I decided that I'd take some time to restore a sense of balance in my life in the hopes that I could trick myself into being more productive. Here's my internal dialogue:



Interior. FRUSTRATED WHINY SELF is staring at the wall.

RESPONSIBLE SELF: You should be writing and recording!

FRUSTRATED WHINY SELF: I don't have anything to write about. I'm tired and frustrated.

RS: Oh, I understand. You're right. We should just go fishing instead. You know, to restore balance.

FWS: Good idea! I like you. We should hang out more often!

Cut to: Standing in the middle of a large creek putting bait on a hook.

RS: Ahhh...nothing like the oudoors, eh Whiny?

FWS: Yep. Nothing beats it. The only thing I like better is writing, recording, and performing tunes.

RS: Really? You've had all this free time and you haven't done any of those things. I thought maybe you'd lost the spark.

FWS: Lost the spark? Never! Matter of fact, I think we should get out of this water and go back home to write!

RS: (Smiles to himself) Okay, Whiny. Whatever you want.

6/25/07

Eating, talking, playing.

I took the weekend off, thank you very much...

Mike and Jenny invited me to go to Connecticut with them and I said 'yes, please', partly because it's one of the few states I hadn't seen and partly because their description of the place made it sound so nice.

We loaded up on Saturday morning and hit the road. Once we got out of the reach of New York City's sprawl it became a very pleasant drive through greenery and quaint old towns. We listened to science podcasts and songs the whole way up. In just under two hours we were in New England, which was just the way I pictured it.

Mike's family was gathering at Uncle Leo's place on Money Island. As legend has it, Captain Kidd buried his treasure there in the late 1600's. Today there are 20 or 30 summer homes overlooking the Long Island Sound. The place is gorgeous. We took the ferry over and had a look around. I met the family and felt comfy right away.

I chatted with an old guy named Cappy for a while. I told him about Oregon and he told me about everything. The Yankees game was on the radio so he told me his stories about playing trumpet at the ceremony at Yankee Stadium on 'Babe Ruth Day' in 1947, and how his son was recruited by the Yanks before he injured his wrist.

Mike and I decided to take a dip in the Sound. It was windy and everyone told us we were crazy, which made us even more determined to do it. It was cold but not frigid. Someone built a diving board on one of the granite rocks that stick out of the water.

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I did a triple back flip with a twist but unfortunately it was not caught on tape.

We ate pasta and fresh seafood. Then we ate a lamb roast and chicken cutlets. Then we ate dessert and coffee. Cappy told me again about his son, who was recruited by the Yanks before his wrist injury.

We took the last ferry of the evening and saw the sun set over the water.


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We spent the next day at Mike's folks' place. It was great...we ate, played ball, ate, played ball, ate, watched the ballgame, and ate.

I was too full to write songs this weekend.

I'll be in my own bed tomorrow night. It'll be nice. I'm looking forward to playing at Luna in Eugene, and to being around my friends and family for a while.

6/20/07

The weather is exciting

I had such a routine going with all of this blogging; once every three or four days, with metaphors and common themes...leave it to New York to break me of a good habit.

Everything is going well out here. The weather is exciting; sunny days for the most part, with the occasional thunder-and-lightning storm. On Father's Day I went to Mike's folks' place about an hour outside of the city. His folks were gone somewhere. It was nice to be in the country. I talked to my dad on the phone...I made a passing comment about having doubt that I'm on the right track. He said I am and that I should keep going. I'll take that advice.

The rest of the time I've been writing. The purpose of this trip is to write with Jenny Queen, a friend and fellow songwriter whose last record did well enough to warrant a follow-up. She writes words and I write music...it's fun. We've written 5 songs so far and I believe we'll add a couple more before I go back home. She's happy with the results, which makes me happy.

I've spent some time in Prospect Park watching Little League ballgames. Mike and I got a whiffle ball and bat and played 9 innings. He won by 2. I'll get him next time.

I read 'Coraline' by Neil Gaiman. He's a great writer. I just started another one of his books called 'American Gods'. I'm getting through it pretty quickly.

Looks like I'll spend a fair amount of time at home this summer. I've decided that all of this moving around spreads me too thin. I need to buckle down and record some more tunes. I need to make a record. I've been listening to Lyle Lovett, Patty Griffin, and Lucinda Williams more than ever. I have a feeling that the record will reflect that. There's something so sincere about their music and I'd like to aim for the same thing. Plus, I'm totally enthralled by pedal steel guitar.

I'm in a coffee shop in Brooklyn. Zep's 'Rain Song' is playing on the stereo and it's raining outside.

6/13/07

Weather

It never rains in Colorado except for every time I've ever been here, ever. For real. Every single time I come here the locals say "It doesn't usually rain so much. We usually see the sun 350 days a year!" Yesterday there was a big storm with thunder and rain and everything.

For a second I thought that I might have some effect on the weather systems, making it rain wherever I go. No...I remember there being a drought in California when I was a youngster. People were saying "If it's yellow, let it mellow..." and things of that nature. I have a vivid memory of a teacher explaining how to turn off the water while soaping and shampooing in the shower. Conserve, she said. It's for the environment. She told us not to water our lawns during the day, or at all if we could help it. At ten years old we were probably not making those decisions for our households. Still, it was good to know.

I've been thinking in metaphors and analogies lately. Food, gambling...I'll try another one.

It's either flood or drought, lately:

RECORD DEAL!
no record deal.
TOUR!
home, broke.
TOUR!
home, broke.
ETC!
etc.

What I mean to say is, life's weather is unpredictable and varies greatly from day to day. It seems like every time the sun comes out I can hardly get my shorts, towel, sunscreen, and flip flops out before it's raining again.

I don't mean this as a complaint. I'm learning things.

It's the same for everyone, especially in the music biz. I was just talking to a producer friend of mine about this very subject. He's well established and works steadily most of the time. Right now, though, he's not working at all. Why? Who knows...surely not for lack of talent, experience or connections. Drought.

I guess the key is to find ways to persist through any conditions. The happiest people are the ones who do this well.

Anyway, I have a couple of days left in Denver before I go to New York. I'll do a lot of writing while I'm there and I hope to come home with a batch of new material.

I booked a last minute show in Eugene on June 28th at Luna. Jessica Parsons-Taylor will be playing too...she's good! I'll have a little time in Eugene before I take another trip, this time to Nashville. Giddyup!

6/9/07

Betting in Las Vegas

What is so enticing about putting money into a machine, pulling a handle and watching wheels spin? Does anyone really expect to win big? Is the activity really interesting enough to spend money on it? What are people thinking?

I pulled the handle and lost the last 25 cents of the two dollars I allowed myself to play. Las Vegas airport, 8:00 AM, and I was wasting time while I waited to board a plane to Denver. Slot machines in the airport...we're a funny people. I had been up for 4 hours already and I was feeling a bit punchy. I took deep drinks from my cup of coffee and thought about the previous night.

It was my last night in LA. I'd spent the day working, but in a relaxed manner. Nadir (former band mate and current lodging provider) and I went to Venice beach to have lunch with a friend. I spent the rest of the day trying to finish a new song about people who make bad decisions.

Nadir had a gig that night; I was torn...on one hand, he's my buddy and I wanted to show my support. On the other hand, it would mean staying out late and getting little sleep as I had to wake up at 4:30 am to get myself to the airport. I decided I needed to see the show. He had been hired by an actor-turned-musician, Bryan Greenberg, who is starring in a new show on tv. The club was full of youngish girls who wanted to get an in-person look at the hunky actor. It was quite a scene...a couple of famous faces and industry bigshots were there.

As expected, I got home later than I'd wanted to and I got just a few hours of restless sleep before I got up to go to the airport.

So my layover in Las Vegas got me thinking. Is playing a slot machine in an airport really so different from betting on a career as a musician? Like sacrificing money to the machine, a musician sacrifices parts of his/her life with the idea that it might pay off in the end. I try to work towards this career in a practical way, but there is still so much left to chance. So many things are entirely out of my control and all I can do is hope that I am dealt a hand that I can play with. It creates some stress but at the same time it's quite exciting.

6/5/07

Recipies and Metaphors Thereof.

Life is like cooking from scratch with no recipe to follow. Yes, I'm attempting to be deep. Stay with me…

It's true. You have your refrigerator full of food, your cupboard full of seasonings and, if you're lucky, a little herb garden in the backyard. Maybe even a fruit tree, too. With these you make what you can. It's a process of trial and error, adjustments and discoveries. "Too much salt. A little sweeter. More protein needed." Unfortunately, you can't just stick to the same recipe every day, even if you find one you really like. Ingredients go bad. Tastes change. Etc., etc.

I use food for my metaphor because I'm hungry at the moment. Also, because it seems to work. Also, because I'm hungry.

Really, though. A month ago I was on tour with my friends, seeing the country, meeting new people in new places. It was a diet rich in heavy stuff; steak and eggs, cheese and beer. Full all the time. Then I made the decision to switch things up. I needed fruit and fiber. I needed fresh. I needed regularity.

I quit the band and said goodbye to my friends. It was time for me to push myself off in a new direction. It felt like jumping ship and rowing off in a little life raft out in the deep water and big swells of the ocean. Sorry…different metaphor. It felt like emptying my fridge and cupboard of its contents and then realizing that I would be hungry again soon.

Now I'm in the process of shopping for things to eat. Nice, because I can try new things and experiment a little. Difficult, because I need to eat every day and I don't exactly have the budget to stock the kitchen with good stuff to last.

I think I've worn this metaphor out.

What I mean to say is, here I am. So different from just a month ago. I'm in LA for a week trying to make something out of a few connections and the idea that I should write songs for a living. I have an idea of where to begin and what the end result should be, but the whole middle part is still very fuzzy. Do I sautee? Roast? Simmer? Barbeque?

I have to operate under the assumption that things will work out in the end. I just don't know where my next meal will come from, so to speak (I guess there's a little more to squeeze from the metaphor). I am not to the point of eating plant leaves or bugs, but I am starting to feel the hunger pangs coming on.

So, I'm working on my recipe. I've written two and a half songs in the past couple of days. Feels great; I hadn't written a song in weeks and weeks. I have my protein. Now I need some seasoning.

6/1/07

Tour Journal, part 2.

Los Angeles, again. Overcast and smoggy. I heard that the pollution was worse in the 70's and 80's; I can't imagine how that could be. Maybe one day we'll all wise up together and turn it around.

I'm staying at a friend's apartment in Hollywood. He's out of town for the weekend so I get the place to myself. I'm actually glad to have some time to rest up. My reserves are low. I'll go through his movie collection and pick a few to watch tonight.

So, Missy and Jud are great. They live in a house that Jud built in Central Point, Oregon, just north of Ashland. The living room is big enough to host house concerts; the Justin band played there a few months ago and we rocked out. I was happy to return...they always have a fun group of friends in attendance. The show was part performance, part discussion. I liked it! I believe art should be experienced this way...the usual awkward separation between performer and audience has always struck me funny.

We ate, I played, and then we made a discovery; many of the folks there were sci-fi buffs! I enjoy a well-made film or book every once in a while but I'm not exactly an expert. Kyle, on the other hand, is. He found his people! They talked about it for a couple of hours before we finally hit the road. I learned some things about Star Wars.

That night we stayed in Yreka, California. Totally unremarkable, except for when we went to the drive-through coffee shack and the coffee girls thought I was being stupid. As I reached out the window to take the cups and then pay the girls I couldn't look up at them because of my sore neck. It looked like I was bowing to them as I paid. They thought I was strange and Kyle made fun of me for it. I should have left him there.

I didn't leave him there. We drove on to San Francisco. I've always loved 'The City' (as if there are no others...) and it was nice to be back. We hung out at a cafe in North Beach and watched the city folk and tourists go by. We got some pizza and walked though Chinatown as we ate. I considered looking for one of those massage parlors but I wasn't feeling confident enough with my Mandarin skills to be able to say "No. Just the neck, please".

Back at the cafe it got crowded. A woman walked by us a couple times looking for a seat. She finally asked if she could join us, as there weren't any other tables available. She was fun and funny, and she told us stories of being turned down for marketing jobs after 9-11 because of her Iranian heritage. She told us about her experience living in Vietnam; her Cuban boyfriend was kicked out of the country for living with her. They didn't even give him a day to pack and say goodbye. Just for living with a woman out of wedlock. She was not impressed. We talked about other stuff, too, and Kyle eventually hit his stride and had us in stitches for a good hour. She eventually left and we did too.

The San Francisco show was fun. Cafe du Nord is a fantastic venue and the folks who run the place are very, very nice. I was thrilled to see The Bittersweets play, too. Hannah has an amazing voice, Chris writes wonderful songs, and Steve Bowman is still one of my favorite drummers. A ton of friends showed up and it was a challenge to spend quality time with any of them. I was happy to see them. Dave Getzschman, photographer extraordinaire was there. He really is quite good.



The next morning Kyle and I rose early to catch separate flights. It was time for him to go home to Seattle and for me to come to Los Angeles. As we were pulling up to return the rental car he got some great news about the comic book he's been working on with his brother. I can't say exactly what it was, but it's exciting and you should all go look at www.smashcomic.com.

We parted faux-tearfully and I was left with a feeling of faux-emptiness. He's a good friend.

I landed in LA. I bummed around for a couple of hours before going out to see some music. I saw my old bandmate Nadir play...he sounded great. When he was done we went to the Sunset Strip to watch another friend's band, Pedestrian. As we approached the Roxy we were passed by a couple of groups of guys who were dressed in 80's rock garb. Makeup, hairspray, bandanas...the whole nine. They weren't kidding, either.

Pedestrian is fantastic. The band is made up of 4 extremely talented musicians...the songs are great, the playing is phenomenal, and they brought an odor of class to the dumb-smelling Roxy (I was charged a dollar for a cup of water. Not a bottle of filtered spring water...a cup of tap water). I would highly recommend seeing a show should the opportunity preset itself. I was inspired.

Tomorrow I'll play the last show of the tour...I'll let you know how it goes.

www.ehrenwords.blogspot.com

5/29/07

Tour Journal, part 1.

Ow…Ow…Ow…

For some reason, the muscles in my neck have tightened themselves up so much that I can’t move my head without serious effort and some pain. Too much headbanging? Maybe so. Will I ever stop? No way. I can’t function like I usually do; no headspins, no balancing large clay pots full of water on my head, no headbutting. My quality of life is going way down. This is not a cry for sympathy…it’s a cry for massage therapy.

I have two shows left on the tour and I will play through the pain.

So, Seattle was okay. It’s still one of my favorite cities but I’m not convinced that the feeling is mutual. I was not greeted at the airport by anyone, let alone the thousands of fans I was expecting. There were some tech issues at the club which meant I started late and only had time for about 5 songs. The audience was rowdy and oblivious to the performances happening on the unlit stage behind them.

There were a few people who were trying to be polite, though…thanks! The place was great for hanging out but not so great for performing. Food and staff were good…I really liked the other acts, especially ‘The Graze’. Kinda indie rock, kinda alt country. Think Ben Kweller + Wilco.

My best bud, Kyle, lives in Seattle and he decided to hop in the car and ride along with me to San Francisco. We haven’t gone on a road trip together since the summer after high school…fun!

Portland was fun. A bunch of my Portland friends came, and I played a full length set while they ate and drank. The venue has a classy air without being to uppity and it was fun to have some time to talk and hang out there. My friend Leona brought her friend Mandy, a massage therapist. Mandy very generously worked on my neck problem before the show and it really helped. I was relaxed and pain free!

I locked my keys in the car outside the club. My high school friend (and former locker mate) Stephanie called her roadside assistance provider and saved the day. Thanks Steph. Then, she, Kyle and I went for donuts at Voodoo Donuts, where they put things like Fruit Loops and Oreos on/in their donuts. Delicious! We went for a drink at some ‘Irish’ bar (read: bar with an Irish name and frat boys with tattoos of 4-leaf clovers). We left and I set my sights on the late-night sausage cart across the street. While waiting for my sausage, an argument broke out between two drunkards. It ended when one guy was hit from behind by the other guy’s huge friend. I would have stepped in if it were not for my Sore Neck. We left in a hurry.

We dropped Steph off and went to Kyle’s brother Chris’ apartment where we slept soundly for a while. Chris is a writer/actor/director with an impressive body of work. One of his short films was featured on IFC not too long ago, and he’s making plans for his next film. He offered me a part! I’m excited!

The tour is going well. I'm enjoying playing the tunes every night and hanging out with Kyle. I'm enjoying being back in California. I'm enjoying my coffee.

The next entry will detail the trip down I-5, the house concert at Missy and Jud’s (where Kyle met a few guys who love sci-fi as much as he does), and the show in San Francisco. Stay tuned!

5/25/07

On the road again

Tomorrow begins the first real solo tour in over three years. It’s not a marathon, cross-country 8 week tour like the ones I became accustomed to while playing with Justin King and the guys; it’s a more modest string of west coast dates. Still, it’s a tour, and I’m getting excited. Fun and unexpected things happen on the road.

I’ll play shows in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles, with a good ol’ Southern Oregon house concert thrown in for good measure. The San Francisco show should be great...I'm on a bill with The Bittersweets, a cool rootsy/country/americana group that has been gaining some momentum. Cafe du Nord is a great venue and it'll be my first time playing there. When I get to LA I’ll hang around a while, writing and recording with a few friends, which will hopefully yield some good stuff. I’ll try to see Jon Brion’s show at Largo and I may even sit on the beach for a day. I’m an adult, and I can make my own decisions.

Today I was asked to go to NYC to help a friend finish the songs for her upcoming record. I’ll head out there immediately following the tour (which means another entire month away from home). Yesterday I was wondering how I would fill my time in June…today I’m juggling to make everything fit. Funny how things go…still not complaining.

If I can keep all of these plates spinning I’ll have a pretty productive summer. Of course, I’ll make sure to leave some time to update my blog…

5/15/07

Liftoff...

Once again in the airport concourse which has become so familiar. I'm waiting for a plane to take me to Colorado...I have 10 days off and I'll be spending them in Denver. I'm getting to know the city and I really look forward to being there.

Things are changing. I've adjusted some of my career goals and I'm making new plans. As soon as I return from Denver I'll hit the road on my first-ever solo tour of the West Coast, and then I'll finish up my first-ever full length record. I'm excited to introduce folks to another side of my musical self...

I decided to start a new blog for a few reasons. First, as much as I use Myspace to keep in touch, I'd like to dive into a pool full of something other than glitter graphics. I love them as much as the next adult male, but I'm afraid they will induce a seizure if I'm not careful. Second, it'll be interesting to get to know other writers' work. Blogging has taken on a more heady aesthetic and I'd like to be exposed to the thoughts and conversations that take place.

I learned recently that my tunes can be classified as 'Americana'. Is this true?