“2012 – A Life On The Road”

Packed Van

From the time I was a kid, I could always tell I was going to spend a lot of time on the road. I used to get excited when we would take road trips. My parents would wake my brother and I up before dawn to ride out to NJ for Christmas or FL for spring break. I can still remember looking out the window as my Dad accelerated down the highway entrance ramp. Like a lot of people I couldn’t wait to drive. I’ve always loved it. When I realized that I could go on tour, combining travel with performing music, I knew that was what I wanted to do. 2012 has proven to be my most ambitious year on the road. As we reign in this year I thought I’d share a few memories with you….

The Drive

It’s often silent. Hands down, the most common question I’m asked is, “What do you do in the van while driving alone? Listen to music?” My answer is always the same – I usually think. I sing song ideas into the recorder on my phone. Plan my goals for that night’s show or upcoming shows. For me the van is a quiet respite. I’m always hearing music, even when I’m not. Driving gives me a chance to unwind and rest. It’s the calm before the storm. On certain occasions, for scheduling purposes, I spend a few hours driving into the wee hours after a show. In these moments I feel like an athlete after a game. I go over the show in my mind, the good moments and the bad ones. I think about how to make the show better and let my adrenaline slowly subside.

During the daytime, I take in the view. When time permits I’ll stop off and check out historical sites or notable towns. I have a deep passion for traveling: seeing new places, meeting new people, tasting unique foods and drinking unique beers. Driving let’s me pass through these experiences on my way to the next stop. And I love it. Thinking back over this year I recall:

– My first ride ever, in January, through the Blue Mountains in the Carolinas
– Negotiating a wicked summer storm/brown out in Kansas on I-70
– Waking up at sunrise in my van parked in downtown Pueblo, CO in 90 degree heat
– The violent shaking of my steering wheel while descending out of Asheville, NC on
I-40, and the sensation that a front wheel was going to fall of sending me into a
huge ravine
– Getting lost in Boston for the 5th time
– Sunset on the Mississippi pulling into Memphis
– Nebraska
– An inch bolt sticking into my front-right tire upon arrival to a hotel at 2am in
Amarillo, TX
– Gas mileage, or a lack thereof
– Coming around a bend to see the Chicago skyline after being gone for a month

Usually every couple of days I’ll dial into a local NPR station and catch up on world news as well as the regional highlights of wherever I am. I do what I can to keep my brain sharp, hoping that I’ll find the next great song somewhere up over the rise.

The Food

Oh the food. Man…..the food. Everything from cheap frozen bar pizzas heated up in an Otis Spunkmeyer electric oven to gourmet, hand-made, make-sure-you-write-a-blog-about-it greatness. I’ve been a pescetarian for the last year, so some things that get me excited might not sound so amazing to you. But let me tell ya, the BBQ Po’Boy with seitan at the Beachland Tavern in Cleveland is RIDICULOUS. Or the fried scallop and oyster platter in Charleston, SC. A few more highlights:

– my Aunt’s asian shrimp pasta helps out in Atlanta
– the blow-your-mind $3 breakfast burrito in Lubbock, TX
– the tofu and broccoli monster in Columbia, MO
– the $15 lobster special in Boston
– a home-cooked meal in Columbus, OH
– establishing that there is one decent item at a Shell station that won’t bring on diabetes or heart disease
– the amazing donut shop in Wichita OR the even better one in Lexington
– Cracker Barrel
– a local coffee shop in Louisville that will melt your brain
– trying to avoid Starbucks
– For that matter, trying to avoid McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell/KFC,
Hardee’s and all the rest of ‘em
– soul food extravaganza in Birmingham, AL
– the food cabinets of a good friend’s kitchen (Anywhere, USA)
– sitting down at your own kitchen table

Now I could go on and on about the beer. I’m a bit of a fanatic. I love trying all the microbrews. When I step up to a venue’s bar I always ask, “What can I get that I wouldn’t find in Chicago?”. At this point, the best is literally scattered all over, but either Asheville or Denver wins. You guys own my liver. Cheers!

The Shows

I haven’t done a hard tally yet but I rung in at least 200 of them this year. It’s hard to remember them all. You get up that kind of number and things start to run together a bit. I do have certain memories that I still go back to, however:

– soundcheck at IOTA in Arlington, VA where the audience started clapping
along to my stompbox before the show even started
– The Gaslamp in Des Moines, IA – 3/9/12 – biggest show to date
– realizing this solo deal wasn’t just working but was REALLY working
– Hometeam BBQ in Charleston, SC – a rare performance in front of my
– Lincoln Hall in Chicago. One of the most incredible venues I’ve ever played
– House Concert in Co Springs, CO
– The Living Room in NYC playing in front of my cousin who got me started
on the guitar
– Spur of the moment, unamplified mini-set at the Lionheart Pub in Albany, NY
– Any show where the room was silent, I mean hear-a-pin-drop silent
– The Mean-Eyed Cat post-ACL set in Austin, TX
– The Zoo Bar in Lincoln, NE
– The Lion’s Lair in Denver, CO
– The Thirsty Beaver in Charlotte, NC

The list goes on and on. There are honestly too many to recount. I live to play music and any day I get to play a show is a good one. I look forward to many more in 2013 and beyond.

The Fans

You guys are everything, really. Having you affords me a sense of purpose and place. Music has connected me to all facets of my life, in one way or another. It provides me my identity. Having your support and the privilege of communicating with you through my music is the essence of it all. Much like many musicians/artists you may have read about, I was always an outsider. I never really fit in anywhere. Music gave me that sense of belonging and mattering. It provides me with the freedom to be who I am. I can never thank you enough for helping make this possible. I hope that we can both grow old continuing our conversation with one another.

Coming Home

Not much to say about this one. Nothing beats it. Hitting the road hard makes the arrival back home that much sweeter. I love rolling through the country, stopping in town-to-town, playing for you and whoever will listen. But make no mistake. There is nothing like coming home. See you all down the road in 2013!!!

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