Top Secret

“Life On The Flip Side: Thoughts On Thailand”

“Life On the Flipside: Thoughts On Thailand”

“I’m gonna open, open up the throttle
I’m gonna drink straight, straight from the bottle
I’ll sleep when I’m dead, so quiet the cello
I Didn’t Come Here To Get Mellow”

– Dan Tedesco (2013)

This, my friends, is what I’ve ultimately brought back from the flip side. If any of you have spent time traveling abroad, or just traveling in general, you might understand where I’m coming from. There’s a famous quote that says, “The more you travel the less you know”. The juice that quenches a thirst for the unknown is addictive stuff. As is being immersed in a world that operates very differently than your own. You never view your home the same and you, yourself, never go back the same.

The excerpt above is from a brand new song entitled, “I Didn’t Come Here To Get Mellow”. I’m putting the final touches on a Pocket Change release which will be posted later this month (see February’s broadcast schedule for details). The title showed itself in a couple specific instances:

1. A Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai. I was told if I like spicy food to put 5 Thai chiles in my Tom Kha soup. One of the classmates quickly told me I was insane to do it, to which I replied, “I didn’t come here to get mellow…”
2. On a speedboat headed out to the Phi Phi Islands amidst rough surf in the Andaman Sea. We were told they were going to check the waves and turn back if things got too wild. I just kept thinking to myself that they better not turn this boat around because, “I didn’t come here to get mellow…”

I’ve always favored experience over possession. I avoid hotels on the road, for economic reasons of course, but also because I’d rather meet local people and see how life in that particular town happens. If I had a hotel I’d just sit there until showtime, go back after, and leave in the morning. No adventure there and where there is adventure life, and songs, can be found.

Our time in Thailand was divided amongst the high-energy of Bangkok, the calm and cooler region of Chiang Mai and the uber-tropical paradise of Phuket and its surrounding islands. What struck me in all of these places was the immense kindness of the people. Of course, westerners with money to spend can bring a certain gleam to the eye but there was a sincerity amongst the people we met that was endearing. Also, as a result of their population density and competition for business, things operate on a more rudimentary, basic fashion. You have families that literally go the store, by produce, come home and have a “restaurant” on their sidewalk. No business licenses or health code checks. There was something very refreshing about that after you see, especially in Chicago, how many hurdles and how much red tape you have to wade through at times to accomplish a very simple task. I don’t bring this up to claim it to be better, but the fundamentals of it did affect me and will no doubt surface in my songwriting.

In Bangkok there was the pathological museum at the Siriraj Hospital. Malformed babies preserved in glass boxes on display. Diseased organs. Severed limbs. Full bodies of criminals preserved and displayed. And you know what…..a school class of 10-11 year-olds in uniform came through on a field trip. You simply would never see A) a museum of such nature in the US B) 10 year-old school kids checking it out on a field trip. I personally found the museum incredibly fascinating, and the lack of censorship that you find outside of the US is always very interesting to me.

Another example – Chiang Mai. Bareback elephant riding. No waivers. No insurance. You just walk up to some elephants. They teach you a few commands. The elephant kneels down and off you go. The freedom that exists should you be capable of not making very poor decisions for yourself is very wild.

You travel 6k miles, some 23 hours one-way. You walk on ground that is completely on the other side of the world, literally and figuratively. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t come here to get mellow.

“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!!!

“Tracks On Fire” Liner Notes

Hungover. I mean, HUNG-OVER. That is the first memory I have when thinking about our time recording “Tracks On Fire”. I imagine it holds that status in my brain because it was completely unexpected. After weeks of pre-production rehearsals in Chicago and a very conscious effort towards staying healthy, the bluegrass state got the best of us. After a seven hour drive on Friday, September 24th, load-in at the studio and the general set up of our gear, it sounded like a good idea to go out for a drink and relax for a bit. There was a lot of work to be done in the morning.

It turns out that the suggestion to “go out for a drink and relax a bit” was quite the slippery slope. Bourbon, my friends, could almost have received a credit on the album. To this day when I listen to “While The Band Still Has A Few Tunes Left To Play” I can still feel the sensation of my head practically exploding, followed by the relief of Excedrin. Nevertheless, our pre-production efforts came through. Complemented by the insight and perspective of my producer, Duane Lundy, we crafted “Tracks On Fire” over the next three or four days.

The real beginnings of “Tracks On Fire”, however, go all the way back to my first album, “Starin’ At A Green Light” (3/27/09). I wrote the title track in early spring of ’08, about five months before “Starin’” was recorded. At the time, I somehow already knew “Tracks On Fire” would be the title track of my follow-up album. What I didn’t know was the exact story I’d be using it to tell or that the production would be based around such a minimalistic style with a very raw, live approach. With “Starin’” I was coordinating many different musicians schedules, over multiple studio sessions, resulting in a fairly produced sound. With “Tracks” we completed two thirds of the album in two days. All live takes. The only main overdubs were final vocal takes, and a few instrumentation edits (i.e. acoustic piano to replace my original keyboard tracks). However, we did stick with the original vocal on “Years Ago” recorded while capturing the rest of the song – drums/guitar/lap steel.

With this live approach we captured something very raw in the music that ultimately served as the perfect foundation for the album’s characters. “Tracks On Fire”, the song, tells the story of a failed suicide attempt inspired by people very close to me with varying degrees of such experience. The haunting, dark, isolated emotion of the unpolished, sparse arrangement helped breath life into the narrator of the song. The rest of the album was built around this concept.

The track listing was developed from songs previously written, or, in the case of “How Good Feels”, written specifically for the album. I wanted to tell the story of where those characters from “Starin’” had gotten to, or maybe were still going. On “Starin’” there’s a very forward-looking perspective, a beginning, a view from the starting line. A view from that dark intersection illuminated by nothing more than a green light, an opportunity, a chance, a possibility. With “Tracks” these characters had now been out in the world for a little while. Some chances had been taken, and choices had been made. Some good. Some bad. Either way they were now being dealt with. I watched people around me lose their jobs, relationships and to some degree their identity or sense of place (i.e. “Burn The Barn Down”). These people were in some form or another right on the edge with that guy in “Tracks On Fire”, and would serve as the blueprint for the rest of the album’s characters. They were uncertain, lost, confused, frustrated and lonely. Many may have forgotten, temporarily or permanently, how good it feels and the importance of enjoying the moment as in, “While The Band…” Perhaps some gave up, as some do, and others kept moving. They kept rollin’ on. They kept searchin’, as in “Lookin’ For A Girl Like You”, or realized the importance of what they still had as in, “Hold On To Me”. The story closes with a solo piano arrangement of a song that is a simple reminder that ultimately the choices, the decisions, are up to you and you alone. – “Whiskey Roads”. It ends on an unresolved chord because, of course, the story is unresolved and unconcluded. Just like you, I too am anxious to see where it goes from here.

Special “Thank You” from Dan

Hey Everybody,

I want to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation for all of your support.  I’m very excited to be launching the Dan Tedesco Music Channel!  Be sure to stay tuned as I will be releasing new material and news as well as putting up Subscriber Only promotions throughout the course of the month.

Thanks again for all of your support!

Rock on,

Tour Log – East Nashville, TN – Friday, July 30th.

Ah….so let’s see where to begin. The ride down to Cincinnati was….well…not all that exciting. But it did go by pretty fast. I picked up a new harmonica and a new harmonica brace (yep, getting back into that whole deal) on my way out of Chicago, so I was able to rig that up and practice my chops while driving. Not the safest thing in the world I suppose – but then again I’m a pretty compulsive text-while-driving driver. Fueled on coffee and the “poor musician’s feast” – 1 mcchicken and 1 mcdouble – I shot down I-65 and met up with I-74 outside of Indianapolis which carried me straight southeast into the heart of Cincinnati. If you haven’t been there it really is a pretty town. It sprawls out over the rolling hills of the Ohio river valley, which this time of year are a deep green given the oh-so-generous rainfall that the midwest has recently received. The river itself is a beast, usually seeing a good deal of action from barges. I have a strange interest in inter-modal transportation, so that kind of thing gets me off. What can I say.

I took Pete Rose way around the Reds stadium and crossed the mighty river on a bridge depositing me smack dab in the middle of Newport, KY – about 2 blocks from home for that night – the Southgate House ( When I walked up to start taking gear into the venue I caught a glimpse of the marquee (photo shown above). Rock ‘n Roll.
The Southgate House is a really, really, really cool venue. Very unique. As I mentioned in an earlier post it operates with three different rooms inside the house. There wasn’t a big show in the ballroom last night, but there was another show in what’s called the Parlour Room (I’ve heard stories of My Morning Jacket and the Black Keys playing to 5-10 people in that room back in the day). I put together my gear in the Lounge (directly underneath the Parlour Room) which is essentially the main bar area, ran a quick sound check, and was enjoying a frost Kentucky Ale by 8pm.
Unfortunately my presence in the Cincinnati scene is not too strong yet, and the band in the Parlour Room didn’t have a super huge crowd. What did this mean for me? A slllllloooooooowwwwww night. I did get a chance to play for a few folks though, and they sincerely appreciated it. No CD sales but when I play to 5-7 people all night I can’t really expect much. I passed out a few biz cards, so we’ll see what the future holds 🙂
And the night rolled on, a few more Kentucky Ales were consumed, and then – the Tommy Gun. If you didn’t read my earlier blog, the Southgate House is the former home of the man responsible for the invention of the Tommy Gun. That said, one would expect them to have a signature drink bearing the same name. I discovered this little gem. I suggest trying it when you have the chance. Jameson shot with a pickle juice chaser. Bam!
By 3:30 or so I was closing down the bar with the remaining staff and making plans to travel a few blocks away to an all-night diner – The Pepper Pod. A “the pod” I enjoyed a full ham steak breakfast complete with a full side of biscuits and gravy and a specialty of “the pod” – Goetta…some sort of sausage mixed with oats and fried. Sounds awful but turns out to be absolutely delicious. Especially after having suffered a couple “shots” from the Tommy Gun.
Sleep finally overtook me on the side of 4th street, lying across the two back seat captain chairs in my van. I think I made it through about 2 1/2 hours before the morning heat kicked in and awoke me into a fairly bad state. Of course nothing a few liters of water, gatorade, 2 bananas, a granola bar and a Snicker protein bar couldn’t save. Having patched myself up, I rolled the van on up to I-71 S and began the voyage down to east Nasvhille. I spent the drive going over my demos for my next album, listening to some really bad radio and mentally preparing for tonight’s show.
I now sit here in east Nashville with about 5 1/2 hours to kill before showtime later tonight. Rock on people.
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