Milk Carton Kids

I've known Joey Ryan for 5 years or so.  He was one of the first songwriters I met and wrote with when I moved to Los Angeles in late 2007.  Talented, nice, and smart in an unassuming sort of way.  He seemed like a guy that had a real shot at poking his head above the Hotel Cafe songwriter scene.  I remember questioning his judgement when I heard that he was putting his solo career on hold so that he could record and tour as a duo with Kenneth Pattengale as The Milk Carton Kids.

I saw a show and understood.  Their voices are like peanut butter and jelly.  Joey's guitar playing is solid and foundational.  Kenneth plays gorgeous solos.  Their on stage banter is hilarious.  Dang.  This could be something special.

They've been working the old fashioned way for a couple of years now.  Touring, writing, touring, writing.  I get the impression that they want to build slow and steady, fan by fan, town by town.   It's exciting to watch; it seems like a very real, organic, honest thing.

Speaking of watching, they just played an NPR Tiny Desk Concert, which you can see here.


Folks, it's hot down here.

We're halfway through our second week of 100 degree weather and looking forward to next week when it's supposed to cool down to the mid nineties.  Our little tomato and basil garden, which had been growing like crazy, is trying to hang on for dear life; we're not experienced gardeners and can't offer much more than words of encouragement.

In the meantime, I'm just plugging away at my tv music work and trying to arrange my schedule to allow for more absorption of inspiring stuff.  There is no shortage of that around here.  Seems like everywhere you turn there is someone doing something cool.  It's been a challenge to get out and see live music, though, mostly because I'm ready for bed by 8:45.  I have become an early morning person.

I finished reading Wallace Stegner's Big Rock Candy Mountain and loved it.  I'm becoming a fan of his.  I read Angle of Repose last year and have been thumbing through a collection of his short stories.  He finds his drama in the everyday challenges of American life.  He writes of the internal struggles that we all face; the 'who am I, what am I, why am I, where am I going' sorts of questions that we ask ourselves with every step we take.  Or is that just me?  Either way, it appeals to me and I like it.

I'll be playing some songs at our cool neighborhood music venue The Family Wash next Tuesday.  That's Tuesday, July 10th for anyone keeping track.  It's a night of 'short sets', where a handful of songwriters are invited to play...short sets.  Probably six songs or so, which is a nice way for me to ease back into performing.  It has been a long, long time since I've played my tunes...they almost feel like new songs again.  I was invited to play by fellow former Eugenian Mare Wakefield.  She's been living in Nashville for a while now and has been very generous in her offers to help me get to know the place.

Anyhow, things are moving right along as they should.  I'll keep you posted.



I suppose it's about time I make a note of my thoughts about our Nashville experience thus far.

I'll start with an explanation for our move.  We got the itch to do something new (which seems to happen every 6 months or so).  After our excellent experience living in Los Angeles I felt the need to live in another music city, and Nashville has been on my radar for a while.  The idea wasn't to come in search of fame and fortune.  I wanted to find my way into a community of music folks who work at a high level in a blue-collar sort of way; get up, go to work, do your best and go home at night.  I was around a lot of this in Los Angeles and wanted to get more of that experience.

We're one month in and it has been great.  Everyone we come across has been genuinely friendly.  We found a house in a great neighborhood that feels like a combination of some of my favorite places.  We have taken weekend trips to New Orleans and the Smoky Mountains.  We have seen world class musicians play at the neighborhood bars for tips.  I've met and worked on projects with a handful of excellent musicians, engineers and producers already.

On some level I had braced myself for a soul-sucking 'Nashvegas' experience; the Music Row pop country songwriter grind that outlines most people's pre-concieved notions of what this place is like.  I know that stuff is here, and I'll get some experience with it at some point, but so far I have felt nothing but artistic inspiration and a motivation to become a better musician.  I am hoping that a new record of my own, as well as collaborations with great artists, will come out of this experience.

In the meantime, I'm working away at my TV music experiment.  18 months ago I started writing instrumental 'cues' for lots of different TV shows.  I wrote hundreds of these little pieces last year and I'm on pace to do the same this year.  It's very satisfying in a craftsman sort of way, and I have to admit that I get a lot of pleasure out of hearing my music on TV.  It still amazes me that I have the opportunity to do this from the comfort of our spare bedroom.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to having more news to share.  I have a feeling this is going to be fun.


Sons of Guns

Well, I wrote a tune for the closing scene of the latest episode of 'Sons of Guns' and it aired tonight.  I had to channel my inner tough guy while recording it.  It was pretty fun.  Look for it on iTunes sometime soon...


I've been on a documentary kick this week.  'Who is Harry Nilsson', 'No Direction Home' and Ken Burns' 'Jazz'.  All great.  A good documentary gives you something that you can't get just by listening to someone's music.  It provides context, both artistic and personal.  It's not just what was done and how they did it, but how it was influenced and why it stood out in the time it was being done that makes art important.

I find it interesting that, in spite of achieving significant success, many of these folks didn't consider themselves successful.  Harry Nilsson had written hit songs, made a truly great record, and was hanging around with the Beatles and he still didn't feel like he'd made it.   I suppose the relentless drive to reach unattainable heights is part of what makes a person great but it also seems to make them unhappy.

Speaking of unhappy, I'm writing this before having my coffee.  I'll sign off now and put the kettle on.