At The Coop

At The Coop

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Heckuva Day

     I had a heckuva day on Saturday. Woke up way too early, had breakfast, wrote a blog piece, and got in the car by 6:00am.
     The weather and the traffic weren't too bad. Rolled through Nashville and Chattanooga, and into Atlanta before I ran into trouble. Traffic was stopped on I-285. Too many people were trying take the exit onto I-85 North. Fortunately "Haunted Man" by Rod Picott came up in the shuffle and significantly mellowed the mood. 
      I was crossing the South Carolina state line on I-85 just north of Lavonia, Georgia (where Michael Curtis Branch's listeners have made my song "Inside That Box" a staple on his "Breakfast With Porkchop" radio show) when "Desert Skies" by The Marshall Tucker Band came on. I thought "I guess I am supposed to be in South Carolina tonight."
      I got to Greenwood and found my hotel, stretched out for a few minutes, and then took a shower.
      Soundcheck was at 4:00pm. I headed over, met up with event organizers Trey Ward and Frank Elliott, tuned up my guitar, and climbed up on a stool center stage. Greenwood Community Theatre has great acoustics, and the soundman knows his stuff, so two half-songs later I was done checking.
      Byron Hill and Wil Nance showed up for their soundcheck. Between them, they have written several truckloads of great country songs, and they were the headliners for that night's Nashville Songwriters Benefit for Make-A-Wish South Carolina concert. I had met Byron before, and certainly knew about his songwriting success, but I had never met Wil.
       After soundcheck, we all strolled over to Montague's Restaurant for dinner. Montague's was one of the sponsors of the event, and our dinner was on the house. The food, the service, and the atmosphere were all excellent, as was the company. We talked about everything except songwriting...our various gastrointestinal issues, history, food, arthritis, and how beautiful Greenwood is.
      Trey kicked off the show with a few of his songs about 7:00pm, accompanied by David Tilley. They play together on a pretty regular basis, and David's sweet touch on the guitar adds another beautiful layer to the songs that Trey writes. They played several heart-rending Bluegrass songs, and then ended with "Second Hand Spit". Trey and David pretty much knocked the crowd dead. It was my job to resuscitate them so that Byron and Wil could lay them out again.
       I played a mix of songs from my CDs "What's Not To Love About That?" and "One More Night In Nashville", along with two songs that I have not yet recorded. I was well-received, although I was afraid that I might have gotten a little too weird for the crowd when I played "Can't Cut The Baby In Half". I told a few stories, and generally acted like a fool, but nobody threw anything. It was fun.
      Byron and Wil came on, and Wil started with this song that he wrote for George Strait...
...and it only got better from there. Those guys had so many big songs (including Byron's first #1.. which was also George Strait's first #1 "Fool Hearted Memory") that I can't even list them all. The near-capacity crowd definitely got their money's worth, and Make-A-Wish South Carolina is well on their way to making another child's dream come true. My dream of sharing stages with big hit songwriters is already coming true.
     After the show, I had the opportunity to hang out with an old college buddy who had the adjoining room to mine at the hotel. Bill Roberson and I were in theatre together at East Carolina University. He has since gone on to act in "Forrest Gump", "Radio", "Patch Adams", and a bunch of other film and television spots. Here's an Oscar Meyer commercial he did recently.

      Bill and his wife, and a friend of theirs from Columbia were great company, and we sat up until well after midnight, when I excused myself and crawled off to sleep.
      Did I mention that I had a heckuva day on Saturday?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Imagine You're A Carpenter...

You can LISTEN to this piece.

Imagine you're a carpenter...

You've spent years honing your skills.

Not only do you know the concept of framing a solid house, you have done it time and again.

You have learned the intricacies of trim to cope window and door casings and baseboards so that all of your joints are tight. If it can be done with wood, you can do it.

You decide to build a house.

There are some skills that fall outside your area of expertise, such as masonry, plumbing, heating and air, electrical work, and painting, but fortunately you know people who are good at those things. Some of them even agree to help you out for less money than they would like to get paid, but they like you, and they would rather be working on something than not. Even so, there is money that has to be spent in order to get the house built. Money that comes out of your pocket.

After all the working and worrying (and no small amount of spending) is done, you finally have a beautiful house. You are proud of the work you have done, and appreciative of the others who helped you complete the project.

Along come people who say “Nice house” and then expect to live in it...for free.

After all, it's already built. Why shouldn't they move in? They like the house. In their minds, it belongs to them. If they compensated you for it, you might be able to build another one, but all of the love and labor you invested in that house is not even a consideration.


Now imagine you're a songwriter….

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Goose That Lays The Golden Age

     I don't do a lot of writers' rounds in Nashville any more. When I do, it's usually because somebody has invited me to be a part of one that they are putting together. I very seldom schedule my own.
     When I first came to town, I played out all the time. It seemed like a good way to meet other writers, and possibly make industry connections. I have some great friends that I met while playing my songs, or waiting my turn to play my songs. I was living here without my family, and trying to make the most of my time. I went just about anywhere I could in order to share my music with people. I have often joked that if there was a gas station in Antioch with an open mic on a Sunday night, I was there.
     I still go out from time to time. I enjoy going to the Douglas Corner Café, where my friend (and hero) Donnie Winters hosts an open mic on Tuesdays. I even put the bartender Rhonda Wey in a song on my "One More Night In Nashville" album. I enjoy the camaraderie there, and the picking on the back deck usually outshines what's going on inside.
     Mostly, I just got tired of playing the Nashville writers' nights game. There is almost nowhere in Nashville for a songwriter to do more than two or three songs, and those are usually interspersed with other writers doing their two or three songs. Most writers' nights in Nashville are a way for the venues to get free entertainment, and to make money off of the writers. They usually aren't real particular about the level of talent as long as they have people in the seats spending money. I go out of town and play shows of 2+ hours of all original material. I get paid, respected, and usually fed well by venue owners. I get to show more than the tip of my catalog's iceberg to audiences who are appreciative. It feels pretty good. Then I come back to town to a scene that doesn't support its lifeblood at all. They expect you to be excited to come to their venue and spend money while waiting your turn to perform for no compensation, and often while sitting through performances that aren't worth the time it takes to listen to. I can cook better food at home than what's offered at most music venues. Why should I want to spend $30 or more for my wife and I to have dinner at a place where I am performing for free? I can't remember the last time I was even offered a free soft drink at one of these places, much less anything to eat.
      I should mention here that Ri'chard's Café (which is just two hills over from where I live, and only five minutes in the car) in Whites Creek lets me play from 45 minutes to an hour by myself. They don't pay me, but they feed my wife and me, and I usually get some good tips. It's a deal for them, and I'm okay with it. We're scratching each other's backs.
     I get approached all the time by folks who want me to come play at their "writers' night at this new place". I mostly make excuses not to say 'yes". I was recently contacted by a friend who was starting a night at an upscale bakery in Bellevue. He was booking some great writers and performers. The menu at the place looked interesting. He said he would check with the owners to see about some consideration, food-and-drink-wise. It turns out that there was none, but I didn't find that out until I got to the venue. I brought two of my friends who are world-class performers. We had an hour. Basically, four songs apiece, but we also played and sang along with each other. We rocked that joint. It was fun. I knew the host was trying build up something good, so I agreed to do it again in February.
     I got a message this morning from my friend, the host. It seems that the venue owner wants to "age format" the writers' night, and is demanding that I add at least one "younger" writer to my round. She wants to cut the music back from three hours to two, and have at least one-third "younger" writers. Never mind that the writers who have been performing have written and/or produced huge hits (one of them is in the Thumbpicker's Hall Of Fame), bring crowds that spend money, and can generally be twice as entertaining as many performers half their age.
     I'm not knocking younger writers. I know some brilliant ones. Sometimes I'm in rounds with them. They are good because they are good, not because they are young. The notion that younger is better is misguided at best, and I won't be there to witness it when (if) this venue owner realizes the error of her ways. I even told my friend to tell her she could kiss my ass, and I don't generally talk that way. He said that he wouldn't tell her that, I told him to tell her I said it. Some of the writers have said that they don't think it's right, but they will play anyway. That's not me. I wish more people would stand up for the fact that the venue owners need people like us way more than we need people like them.
    None of us are getting any younger, but some of us are still getting better.
    Happy New Year!