Moving on…

So anyway…here’s a list of my top ten favorite fruits.  In no particular order.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Mangos
  3. Watermelon
  4. Honeydew/Cantaloupe (can’t do just one, but didn’t want to do two entries)
  5. Are Avocados classified as fruit? I’m not Googling it.
  6. Bing Cherries
  7. Grapes
  8. Bananas
  9. Tangerines
  10. Peaches

I also really like pears.

Where I Presently Stand

Okay. For any who have been wondering… This is where I stand as of the time of writing. I am going to continue to work with The Social Gospel because those guys still think it’s worth it. Even though I don’t believe in me, I believe in them and I trust them. Maybe I’ll find the fun of it in a couple of weeks. And I am also still going to do the gig on October 12 at The Merge. But I am still evaluating what if anything I want to do as a “solo” artist beyond that point. So there’s your update…

But there’s something else I want to say, even though saying it kind of makes me an asshole. And this is it… A lot of my friends have let me down over the past week and that’s FAR worse than just being unsuccessful at something I love doing.

Here’s some free advice. If you EVER hear a musician-friend say they’re thinking of quitting and your response is ANYTHING other than, “Don’t!” then you’re kind of a shitty friend. And I understand why so many people didn’t say that. I think a couple of them probably even thought they were being supportive…but seriously… Fuck the guy who asked me how much I thought I’d get for the guitars. That’s not a friend. Acquaintances at BEST at this point.

You might think that not particularly liking someone’s music doesn’t mean that you don’t care about them…but you’re wrong. To a musician, saying you don’t like their music is saying you don’t like THEM and saying nothing at all is saying that you don’t even CARE. Even saying, “it’s not my cup of tea, but you play it well” feels kind of like you’re saying “good job having sex, but your baby is fucking hideous.” But at least it’s still a well-wish. Some of you might not have known that before now. Now that you do, DO BETTER. Not just for me, but for every musician you know and claim to care about.

Sorry if that’s specifically stepping on anyone’s toes (or am I?), but I needed to say that. I am deeply grateful to the handful who have taken the time to be encouraging. I could use some more of that if anyone’s looking to get back in my good graces…but I feel fucking pathetic having to ASK you to do so.

Anyway…I’m not done just yet I guess. But I’m not as into it as I feel like I SHOULD be for not being done. And that’s where we are.

Update in Brief…

In a brief update, I am still weighing out a few factors, but I’ve had a couple of discussions with people that matter, and that’s helping.  I should be posting something semi-definitive shortly–probably Friday or Saturday.

In the interim, I owe a world of thanks to particularly my Dad, my brother, and my amazingly supportive friend Mic, who retweeted something to me that I’ll also share here.  Because important.

In which I face the reality…

I need to get this out there, so maybe I can start sleeping at night…

I launched my great folly of an “absolutely free” music site last week, promoting it heavily on every form of media to which I had access.  I’m not going to lie…I have been incredibly disappointed by the numbers.  Even factoring in that nothing there is really “new” and that some people probably already had it…there were still only seven people who downloaded anything in a week’s time.  I offered about 60 tracks for FREE, and seven of my friends (and/or family members) downloaded any of them.  That’s it.  Seven.  Four people downloaded EVERYTHING, and three downloaded sporadically.  The Bandcamp site also allows you to track how many people listen to songs without downloading.  They even tell you how many people listened to partial songs and how many listened to complete tracks.  Out of 60 tracks and over 100 page-hits (at least 50 of which were probably me checking the site), I’ve had 14 total listens.  And that’s it.  I can account for two of those listens myself.

If you want to know what it’s like to see the folly of 20 years of effort, give away your music for FREE in such a way that people don’t even have to put on pants to get it, tell ALL of your friends and family members about it, and then have only seven people take any of it.  I feel completely defeated, hurt, and baffled.  And when I voiced it on twitter, the only response I got was one well-meaning friend basically saying, “the website design sucks,” taking four tweets before even throwing me the bone of saying, “It’s good music.”  I have never felt so much like quitting in my entire life, and I am considering doing just that.  If you can’t even GIVE it away…what’s the point of doing it at all?

I have voiced that thought to three friends, and also on twitter.  And no one has tried to dissuade me.  In fact, I flat-out said to one person, “I have started pricing how much I want for each guitar” and his response was “How much do you think you’ll get?”  That felt like the equivalent of me saying, “So I think I’m going to shoot myself” and him asking, “What caliber of bullet are you thinking of using?”  (Before anybody over-reacts–I’m not going to shoot myself.)

So…  I’m considering walking away.  I’m in my 30s now…I can’t keep wasting tens-of-thousands of dollars on something that turned out to be a hobby rather than the identity I thought it was.  And that hurts.  Badly.  And what hurts the most is I know for a FACT that some of my best friends didn’t even go over to the site to stream, much less download anything…and those same people didn’t even try to talk me out of it when I said I wanted to quit.  And this blog post is a last desperate attempt to get ANYONE to ask me to keep going–but honestly if anyone does, I’m not sure it was worth pulling the teeth necessary to drag it out of them.  I have not yet made a final decision…but it is likely that I will pursue no further solo gigs after the thing I’m doing on October 12, and I am presently suspending all work on what was supposed to be my next solo record–I just don’t know that anyone WANTS it, and I’m not sure I am able to find the necessary joy and fun needed to complete it.

I can not put into words how grateful I am to the seven people who made the effort to go over to the site.  I also can not put into words how grateful I am to those who showed me support over the years by buying physical products and/or coming to gigs.  Me considering walking away from music is like someone saying they’re thinking of walking out on their wife and kids–because not to get too weighty, but I don’t have those things, and at this point it’s kind of unlikely that I ever will.  Music has been the only thing that has been a constant for me.  I was a musician before I was a Christian, and before my mom died.  It’s all I’ve ever turned to…and it turned out to just be a hobby.

I’ll keep you posted on my final decision–the handful of you that it matters to.  I don’t know when I will make it, but if you see me listing gear on Craigslist, you’ll know. There is a possibility that I will keep playing with The Social Gospel, out of a sense of loyalty to particularly my brother…and at least people came to that gig.  But I am having difficulty finding a reason to proceed as a solo “artist” at this point.  The simple fact of the matter is that my typical Facebook statuses get more “likes” than my entire music career.  That’s eye-opening.

So…there you go.  I honestly have no idea what happens next.  I’ll update when I update.

Music Roundup – Completely biased reviews

I do a yearly top-ten list of music I like.  Throughout the year leading up to it, I’ll take occasional looks at the stuff I’ve bought and think about if I can see any of it making the list.  I decided to play that game today and toss it on the blog.  So…here’s where we are, with some of my thoughts.  I’m arbitrarily grading the releases and giving my two-cents.  I’ll try to be concise.  Enjoy!

List of Stuff I’ve Bought (no particular order):

  • Jason Isbell – Southeastern: A+
    Probably my record of the year, and I’m prepared to say that already.  I think I was prepared to say it by the second week I owned it.  The songs are personal and beautiful, and it represents some major strides forward for Jason as a writer and a person.  He’s also a hilarious Twitter follow, by the way.
  • David Bowie – The Next Day: A
    If you had told me this would be anywhere other than the number-one slot before I heard Isbell’s record I’d have called you a damn dirty liar and run your pants up a flagpole.  Not just the pair you had on.  ALL your pants.  It’s great to have Bowie back.  This one’s going on the Top Ten for sure–probably at number 2.
  • Hatebreed – Divinity of Purpose: A-
    Picked it up on a whim and it’s been a regular in my player ever since.  Loud and pissed, just like it should be.
  • Stone Sour – House of Gold & Bones Part 2: B+
    Not as good as “Part 1,” but still pretty kick-ass.
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter at the Feast: B+
    This record overcomes some serious challenges and does it wonderfully.  I’ve had it playing in the car with more than one person (with VERY different musical preferences) and each time, the conversation has included, “This is really good…who is it?”
  • Coheed & Cambria – The Afterman-Descention: A
    Coheed seems to just be getting better with age.  Sonically, the “Afterman” records have been their best sounding, and the songs might just be the best written stuff in their arsenal, too.
  • Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart: B
    This record had a big challenge in front of it, attempting to live up to the previous record, “England Keep My Bones.”  And…it didn’t.  But it’s still good.  It suffers from being drug down by a couple of poorer tracks, and the deluxe edition (which I bought) has three songs on it that are probably best left off.  But, the stuff on it that works, works really well.  “Plain Sailing Weather” is one of my favorite songs of the year.
  • Tegan & Sara – Heartthrob: A+
    Blown away by how much I like this one.  Not only a great, fun record, but a LEAP into a whole new type of writing for the act.  These ain’t your teenage angsty pop-songs.  These are grown-woman angsty pop-songs!  (And you WILL dance your ass off to it.  It can’t be helped.)
  • Sound City: Real to Reel: A+
    It’s a soundtrack, so I’m not sure if it’s eligible for the top ten…but it probably should be…and it might be.  “You Can’t Fix This,” “From Can to Can’t,” “Mantra,” and “Man That Never Was” are instant classics, and this record should be in every home.
  • Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze: A
    Slip off your shoes, sit in a warm room, and enjoy the hell out of this.  Trust me.
  • Steve Martin & Edie Brickell: Love Has Come for You: A
    Absolutely beautiful.  Some of the lyrics aren’t QUITE to my liking, but all of the music is. Wonderfully crafted.
  • Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks: A
    Nice to have Trent back doing what he does.  He’s the best at it.  At times, you feel like you never left “the spiral,” but this still manages to feel fresh and relevant.  Good for him.
  • Newstead – Heavy Metal Music: C
    It’s fine…but that’s all.  Maybe my hopes were too high…but I just expected more.  I may need to re-listen to it now that I know what to expect.
  • Camera Obscura – Desire Lines: C
    It isn’t bad.  I’m giving it a C because it isn’t BETTER.  Even though it’s absolutely fine and sounds exactly how you expect Camera Obscura to sound if you’ve got any of their previous work…that’s kind of the problem.  I HAVE their previous work…why did I need this one?  It’s nice…but I want them to grow and branch out…and they didn’t.
  • Queens of the Stone Age: Like Clockwork: F
    I don’t know what everyone else is hearing in this one.  I really don’t.  I’m starting to feel like the only thing that’s “Like Clockwork” in the QOTSA camp is how they’re going to disappoint me with every record since “Songs for the Deaf.”  It’s just…it’s boring.  Everything from the packaging that is an insultingly slapped-together middle-finger to those of us who still buy the physical product (not to mention the guest musicians they didn’t even bother to list in the liner) to the music that just doesn’t build to anything is a complete letdown.  I’m sorry…but it’s boring as hell.  I keep hearing people saying, “Dude…you’ve got to give it a LOT of listens before you really start to like it!”  Umm…isn’t that sucking?  I feel like that’s sucking.  I should find something to grab onto without having to memorize it first.
  • Steven Wilson – The Raven Who Refused to Sing: B
    It’s wanky, pretentious, long-winded, and not anywhere near commercially accessible.  Just as it should be.
  • Anthrax – Anthems: F
    Hey!  It’s a bunch of songs I already have re-done in a way that is absolutely no different from the originals!  Nice money-grab, guys!  Here’s hoping your next REAL album redeems this…  Might I suggest a $2 off coupon for anyone who submits a valid UPC code from the copy of this they purchased?

Stuff I haven’t heard yet, but am looking forward to (most of which isn’t out yet):
Hugh Laurie
Christopher Lee
Beady Eye
Dream Theater
Arcade Fire
Pearl Jam

…and that’s how the year’s shaping up so far.  Looking forward to seeing how it ends!  🙂

Random Musical Updates

In case you aren’t friends with me on Facebook, or somehow missed the announcement…all of my music is now available online for ABSOLUTELY FREE (or “pay what you want,” if you feel compelled to do so).  Go to and rob me blind.  Everything about me must go!

Seriously…please go get some free music.  You don’t even have to enter an e-mail address.  Just go nuts.  And anticipate the day when the new record, “Ink Stained Fingers” will hit the site, also for free.

Why am I doing it?  Because no one owns the air over your head, and I don’t think you should pay me to fill it.  Also, I care a LOT less about making money off of it than I do having people HEAR it.  So I’m making it a no-brainer.  If you’ve ever considered listening to my stuff, but either didn’t know where to start or didn’t want to spend the money without knowing if you like it, now there is absolutely no risk.  You can even stream it before you download it, if you still need a preview before downloading.  No excuses.  Don’t be a dick–download my shit.

Also: ALBUM UPDATE.  I’ve written a new song that is very sad and is about a friend of mine who is going through hell.  And I think it’s going to replace “Stay Away from Andy” on the record.  “Andy” is an okay song…but it’s just OKAY.  “Waiting Room,” on the other hand, I think is something I need to get out there.  And musically they’re kind of similar…so “Andy” will have to stay away from my record.  (See what I did there?  What’s that?  Of course you do, because you’re not an idiot?  Okay!)

Also Also: You may have noticed a new link on the right for my new music tumblr page.  “Spinning Sides” is a blog of the vinyl records I listen to throughout my week.  Or month.  Or whatever.  I’m having a lot of fun with it, and you can expect to see a lot of weird shit pop up on it.  I’ve got  bunch of my dad’s old records over here–including some he apparently stole from a library–and Vintage Vinyl has a constantly changing and evolving $2.99 vinyl bin that I love wading through.  Got a lot to write about.

…and that’s all I’ve got tonight.  I’ll write again when I want to.  You can’t make me.

“So How Did Your Gig Go?” – Everybody that promised to be there but wasn’t…

The very first gig for The Social Gospel is in the books. There were some bright spots and some slip-ups. I am personally more than a little embarrassed to have completely forgotten some of the lyrics to a song I’ve been singing for several years in a way that was unrecoverable. And I’d even dedicated that one to Johnny Cash. My brother said he thinks Cash would be cool with that. So far he hasn’t haunted me, so maybe Dave is right.

On the positive side (“WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH DEREK?!?”), we had a basically solid first gig that at moments felt like we’d been gigging in this format for years. (As long as Dave and I have been working together, don’t forget that this was only his second live-show as a bass player.) For the most part we hit the really complicated stuff and recovered quickly from the errors we did have. And the audience was good. They clapped and cheered. I was particularly smugly pleased to more than once receive applause from people DURING my guitar solos. I think that was a first for me, in fact.

On the negative side (“Oh, THERE you are! Don’t scare me like that!”), there WERE highly noticeable mistakes that we all made–though I don’t think any so noticeable as my lyrical freeze-up. And that was on the LAST song, too–the one people remember. But given that the backline was just our amps (we weren’t plugged into the house and really should’ve angled the amps so we could hear each other better) and we had no monitors (new system and they weren’t installed yet) some of our hiccups were just environmental and therefore dismissible. (That is in no way an insult to the venue. Every place is different and that’s how this place was set up on that night. They’re great folks and it’s a great place to play–the room sounds good no matter what you plug into the board and you can really tell they thought that through. I’m really looking forward to being back there and will be better prepared to give a better performance now that I know the set-up.)

In all, I’d grade us with a B-. There were some sloppy mistakes we shouldn’t have made that we DID, but we were far from failing. Still above average. Next time, we’ll be better.

My deepest thanks to everyone who came out and I hope to see you all again for my solo show at the same place on October 12!

Live Your Life
The Difference
One of Us
Wastin’ Time
I Go…
Just Another Day
Fighting Drunk
Sister Myrtle
Sleepin’ In
Hey Hey, My My
Mother Maybelle’s Shotgun

Guitars used: ESP Ltd; Les Paul present as a backup, but not used.

Favorite Moment of the Show: Playing the solo in “Just Another Day.” First time playing it live and it hit just right. (Cheers from the crowd.)