Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Hi! Brrrrrrrr (nation)

Ah the wind and the cold of a Chicago winter. Good for hunkering down, reconnecting with old friends, rediscovering a love of Guinness, and trying to gain back all the weight you've lost living healthily over the last three months.

Also good for letting inspiration ferment inside a wine-filled belly and waiting for the perfect moment to unleash it. Aided by hours of listening to new CDs gifted by generous relatives and playing a "new" 1963 Gibson ES-125 gifted by one sneaky, wonderful woman. Mix in the coming storm, the coming work, the coming projects...

And now to plot more, to drink more, to live more, to sleep more, to feel more, to love more, and to wind those silken cocoon threads a little tighter, seal off the light for a few more weeks until we know we're ready to take flight as something new.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Clock watching

I can't believe this year is almost over. What a blur. I feel like I'm sitting in class, waiting for the bell to ring.

After a long stretch of being extremely busy, Friday will find me with a bit of a much needed break. I have 3 and a half paid days off from Baker & McKenzie in the next two weeks and two forced days off from teaching (Christmas and New Year's Eves). Additionally, the week between Christmas and New Year's will be slow for teaching.

So I'm looking at a span of 11 days where I'll work at Baker all of a day and a half and likely teach just a day. And I'm fine with that. I think 2006 is going to be a great year full of a lot of hard work so I'll need my, er, beauty sleep. We got the balance of our CDs, got our press pictures, and, I believe, got our CD release party booked for early February with a release date to follow.

So there's lots to be excited about. Lots to be... zzzzzzzzzzzz.


Friday, December 16, 2005

The Eagle Has Landed

Indeed. Bottle Boy CDs were placed on my front porch on Wednesday. There was much celebrating. It looks great. It sounds great.

Thank you for rock n' roll. Thank you.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005


You know how we set the clocks forward an hour each spring? Well, I feel like I set my clock forward a week. I mean, where the heck have I been?

Last week was filled with rehearsing and playing at Schubas. Of course, the show would fall on the night Chicago gets 6 inches of snow. So attendance was a bit limited. But it was still a good show and we got to try out a bunch of new material we've been working up. This weekend, we had a family event and then we pretty much just hibernated... and shoveled snow.

Well, I shoveled snow. Everyone else in my house seems to be afraid of our shovel. Especially Hendrix. And now we're already smack in the middle of another week. I've got a bunch of lunches (with our web designer and a prospective student) and then my office holiday party on Friday. Always a good time.

Mix in a couple of rehearsals too as we start to focus on our CD release party. And speaking of our CD, it is supposed to be delivered today. That's right. Today. I really hope it shows up before I have to leave for lunch and to teach. So that's what the title of this post refers to. Not the movie in which rednecks sodomize hunters while a retarded kid plays the banjo.

Not that there's anything, er, right with that.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Thank-full redux

This week has a cluttered feel to it. So much to do, so little time. We're expecting that Bottle Boy will be delivered (heh) this week or early next, so we've begun putting together our list of press contacts for advance copies and strategizing exactly how and when we want to release it. This is one area where our manager Paul has proven quite helpful.

We posted a couple of the new tunes on MySpace at Looks like we'll then stream the whole album from our site starting in the New Year, and look to schedule our CD release party/show and official release date in February. Very exciting. We're also playing at Schubas on Thursday (8:00 pm sharp) where we'll be debuting most if not all of the new material we're planning to record for a new EP. Good times. And all this after a busy weekend.

On Saturday, after teaching 13 students, we met up with a group of friends at a homeless shelter in Andersonville and helped cook dinner for a group of homeless men. Boy, was that humbling. It's so hard for me to relate to the whole idea of homelessness... what it means, why it happens, how it happens... a good portion of the guys for whom we made dinner seemed to have serious mental health issues and I would imagine that this is the single biggest factor in being homeless.

It was a good experience and we got a chance to make a huge meal and then eat with the guys and talk to them. The homeless shelter, which is set up like a halfway house, is designed to get its residents jobs and eventually homes, and a couple of the guys were actively holding down jobs and making progress. Talk about being thankful for what I have.

After dinner, we stopped for a drink in Andersonville and then headed down to Wrigleyville to meet up with my best friend Ben, who was in town from Reno. Good times. After struggling to bed quite late, we got up early and met up with Ben and his wife April for bloody marys and the Bears' game at a bar near our house. Good times again.

Sunday night, I spent a frustrating 4 hours putting together our mailing list on our new server... retyping hundreds of email addresses... grrrrrr.... and the task spilled over to last night/this morning when I finally get our mailer out. So now... all that's left is to rehearse tonight and tomorrow and play this show on Thursday. And work and teach. Oh joy.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Madness, Meet Method. Method, Madness

I feel like a shut in. After chaining myself to the couch yesterday and leaving only to go to rehearsal, I awoke this morning to find an inch or so of snow on the ground.

Days like this make me want to pull down the shades and just write all day... and I'm currently wrestling with whether I should go to the gym and then to teach, or spend another day inside. After catching up on a little sleep yesterday morning, I managed to get some work done in the afternoon. Emails were sent, webpages were updated... so in the afternoon I was finally able to settle in to do some playing and writing.

I played from about 3:00 to 5:30 without stopping, running through some new tunes a few times, and then starting work on a simple idea I'd come across on Tuesday while I was teaching. I usually tune my students' guitars at the beginning of each lesson because a) it's quicker if I do it, and b) I want to make sure nothing is wrong with the guitar, i.e. it needs new strings or a set up. So after I tune the guitar, I usually play a couple of chords, let my hands wander a bit to make sure everything is okay.

I can't tell you how many times I've hit upon song ideas during these brief fits of playing. I think it's because while playing I'm often simultaneously talking to my student, and therefore my hands and ears are left to work unencumbered by my brain and mouth. If I hit on something that strikes my fancy (sometimes as simple as a little phrase or a cool chord change or a good rhythm) the trick is to remember it until I have a couple of minutes by myself to really solidify what I did in my head and hands.

My students are very patient with me and my quirks, which often include playing the idea a good dozen times with my eyes closed whilst singing along with it as well as jotting down some cryptic notes. I figure it gives them a bit of insight into how songs are written. By me at least. Anyway, most sparks that are worth remembering, I remember. Then begins the actual process of writing.

Some things to consider: is the spark a verse, chorus, or neither? Is it in a good key? What is the feel/rhythmic suggestion? Is it too obvious/too esoteric? A lot of the time, these questions are answered subconsciously and instantaneously. And once I have something that I like and I think it's sitting well in my hands and ears, I try to start singing something. Anything.

Usually open vowels or words with open vowels, just to see where potential melodies sit in my voice. Sometimes I get lucky and I sing some legitimate words that jump start the lyric writing process. Most of the time, I have to be a little more calculated, and start thinking about what the song sounds like it's about and how that jives with some of my recent lyrical ideas. Anyway, I'm over-analyzing the process here.

Yesterday, I began building some ideas around a simple eight note pattern I came across Tuesday. The first thing I did was lower the pattern a half step and then I changed the way the bass notes on the guitar supported and related to the pattern. Once I was happy with the basic structure and feel, I began brainstorming some lyrics.

I don't know if it was the day, or the fact that I was a bit sick, or the fact that Gina is out of town and I was missing her, but I was feeling incredibly sad as I began writing and I tried to capture some of that... a lot of the time, lyrics start with certain words or phrases that I find attractive and then I have to go back and figure out what the heck they mean in the context of the song. I've gotten to the point where I have maybe one line left to write in a particular song, and I still have no idea what it's actually about. I like this. I used to be a stickler for concrete meaning, but I've learned to write more towards the sounds of the words and the images and then bring the meaning along afterwards if need be. Sometimes.

Sometimes I try to write with a particular meaning in mind too. So yesterday, I began with this idea of driving back from the airport at 7:00 in the morning from dropping Gina off, and kind of went from there. As I wrote things down, crossed them out, revised what I had, the sun went down and soon I was sitting in the dark, straining to see my writing book and singing this new song. I managed to write most of two verses and then got stuck on one line in the second verse. A lot of times, the best thing to do is to put a song down and come back to it the next day with a new perspective. Which is what I did this morning. And it clicked.

BREAK Slipping through the empty streets at the break of day Lost an hour somewhere along the way... do you remember when The innocence was just enough to get us to the show? I guess it wasn't all that long ago And the buildings that hang along the lake Swallow up our lightening from the moment we awake... and in between The northern star and the old train cars, a lion sits and waits I wish that this fragile heart would just go on and Break break break... is it too Late late late