Tag Archives: Soundtrack

When the Morning Comes

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When the Morning Comes

I decided, after much deliberation and fretting and sweating and stress, that the first single from our recording session should come out.  This even though we’re still in the process of rehearsing and recording the rest of my record.

Why?

Because I . . . and frankly all the musicians in the Ain’t Got No time (Rock and Blues) Band were moved by the results.  That’s not something happens all the time.  The mixture of the acoustic guitar along with the beautiful vocals that Matt Retz and Eric Rosander arranged for the tune were so stirring I felt that the time was right to release it.

When the Morning Comes will be the first single, released April 22nd in iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, YouTube Music, iHeart Radio, whatever the hell that thing Jay-Z and Beyonce have is called . . . hell I’ll beam it to Pluto so the aliens can broadcast it to the computer chip in your fillings if you want.

So let me regale you with the background of this song, if you will.

I came up with two lines in the very beginning, and that was some time ago, not long after losing my wife, Andrea.  She passed away on March 26th, 2011.

I’m broken and bent, beat down ’cause I spent my time fighting my battles of the heart.

I also had the chorus:

I see the moon…rising in the midnight sky, I see your headlights as you pass me by.
Though I wait here for you you’ve left me behind

Some years later the aching and pain started to fade and were replaced with some yearning.  Not for who I lost but for wanting to find someone else.  When that came I realized that meeting, seeing, hearing someone new was just as exciting and lovely as what I had.  So the last line of the chorus just fell into place:
And she’ll be here when the morning comes

The song is about loss, about love, and about the drive and enjoyment of moving ahead.  Sometimes you lose and you never recover.  Sometimes . . . life catches you by surprise.

This project…it’s just such a personal one, and as a musician that’s what you want, I suppose.  You grab deep into your soul, find themes that are universal, and bring them to the fore.  You don’t have to lose someone . . . we all have had breakups, arguments, divorce, loss takes all forms and faces.  I feel like this song could apply in so many ways.

My colleagues and fellow musicians say they can hear so many of my influences, from the Allman Brothers Band (particularly in the guitar solo) to The Black Crowes to The Eagles (particularly in the harmonies).  In the end, though, that combination of all of those makes this uniquely our own creation.

April 22nd the song drops.  I hope you are touched by it as much as we were.

 

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A Time to Release . . .

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A Time to Release

Things have been a bit radio silent here for the last several weeks.  It’s time you knew why.

The picture up there is from last Monday, the 28th of March.  Just two days after the anniversary of my wife’s passing . . . two days past what would have been my 23rd wedding anniversary (we married young, and yes…they are the same day) I was in a recording studio.

Fancying myself a bit of a storyteller let me give you the long-winded explanation of why this is significant.  It comes, essentially, in two parts.

First . . . this whole thing started in the week or so following my wife, Andrea’s death.  I binge-watched in a sleepless week the entire TV series The Wire, which was good, from what I remember.  Then I did something my wife disliked…I picked up a guitar, in the living room, at 3am.  A song started to form and the anger and frustration I had got my blood going and in my sleepless state I had inspiration for music.   All the anger and emotion flooded out and I wrote a song about where I was at.

Then the writer’s block hit.  For more than a year-and-a-half I was unable to write music.  It was frustrating.  After that time, though, the dam burst and I was nearly prolific.  The result was close to a dozen or more songs that I was constantly honing and re-recording in demo form.

Fast forward a few years . . . my oldest daughter was struggling with what her career choice would be.  Deep down she wanted to do one thing but was clinging to what her mother wanted: something in the medical field.  She would have been good at it, it’s a noble thing to do . . . but I knew she didn’t want to.  So I told her to look at herself, her life, this was her time, after all.  “Find something you love, what you’re passionate about and work really hard at it and you will be happy.  Maybe not rich, but you will be fulfilled.”  (Or words to that effect)  My daughter turned that around on me a year later.  “When are you going to do that, Dad?”

I was floored.

“You need to go into the recording studio again.  You’re too good and you talk a good game . . . but don’t use us (the kids) as an excuse.  Find a way.”

So I have taken my own advice.

I joined a band . . . the Ain’t Got No Time (rock and blues) Band.  This is a group of some of the most talented people I know.  We started gigging first, a couple free fundraisers for charity.

Then I asked them if they’d record an album with me.  I even considered, at their suggestion, whether or not this could be a band album.  I almost did that . . . but a couple things stopped me:

  • Much of the material (most of it, in fact) helped me get through the struggles, the grief and confusion.  I wrote what I felt and this was a very personal project.
  • I wasn’t going to say this was “the band’s” record when I wrote all the material.  These guys all write and they write amazing stuff.  The world needs to hear a full band record, too.  That will come later.

We started rehearsals:

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And the band seriously became nearly de-facto producers of the record.

Here are the cast of characters of AGNT:

IMG_6543Kevin Mooney is the drummer.  He basically looked up, said “who do you want this to sound like,” and counted off the beat.  When we said more he gave more.  When we needed a break in the song he hit it dead-on.

IMG_6565Eric Rosander plays bass and sings backup (at least here).  He sings in an a capella   group so his vocal arrangements are strong.  He plays upright, and is one of the best bassists I’ve ever played with.

IMG_6569 (1)Matt Retz plays guitar – rhythm and lead – and sings.  He and Eric arranged backup vocals for my first single that sound like a full chorus of people behind us.  It simultaneously evokes gospel meets The Eagles and I’m so proud of it all.  Matt took some of the reigns and helped produce an amazing three songs.

IMG_0752Then there’s Robert Sabino…our keyboard player…though he’s so much more.  A resume that includes Bowie, Madonna, Simon and Garfunkel, Mick Jagger, and a who’s who of people from the 70’s-90’s and beyond.  Rob helped so much with arrangements that made the songs so much more than I ever thought they would be.  Between Rob and Matt the material didn’t just get better, it sang.

So two days in the studio, a massive amount of guitar amplification and a set of torched vocal chords by the end and I have two full songs and an acoustic instrumental that may be my proudest work so far in my life.

This was certainly something I did for me, for sure.  But without this band and these people it certainly wouldn’t be the material it is.  I love them all and they are truly magical people to be around.

So . . . that said . . . instead of working toward a full record and holding off, I’m so proud of this material I’m going to release a single in the coming weeks.  I am simply waiting on the publishing and copyright paperwork to clear.

Stay tuned for updates . . . hopefully the term “radio silence” will not be applicable is so many more ways.

In Three Part Harmony

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In Three Part Harmony

Working on your own material with a group of very talented musicians might seem nerve-racking.  I can’t speak for  other writers, but I always have apprehension when I bring up a new piece of material.

Yet when you have a group of guys who are not just talented but wanting to hear your stuff and wanting to help you succeed there is something so very satisfying about that.

My goal in the first recording session is to have two songs recorded and completed.  If there had been any fear that this wouldn’t happen I left those by the wayside after Friday’s rehearsal.

We started slowly, listening to the very bare demo and quickly put an arrangement together.  Then we tweaked it, wrote out a bass line, put things together, took them apart . . . and then it just seemed to work.

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When we finished the arrangement came the harmonies, which just added even more life to the song.  Something more than I could ever have hoped.

This all came after visiting the studio, Pus Cavern studios, which is small but comfortable.  It looks like the right kind of place for a group of guys working out harmonies in the drummer’s living room.

Not that doing this in a living room detracts from the material.  One of the best feelings is to have these guys say they like the songs and help me make the arrangements.  One of the bad parts of having learned guitar by ear is the fact that I cannot easily write up anything about what we’re playing.  It takes me awhile to even figure out what chords I’ve been playing by scrolling through reams of chord charts.

But as I look at the material, my daughter on the couch listening, she started to hear what it was all pointing toward.  “I always liked that song when you played it,” she told me, remembering my writing it with an acoustic guitar on the living room couch.  “But I just listened to the lyrics all the way through and . . . wow, I just never thought about things like that, from how you look at it, dad.  Wow.”

When you can touch a 16-year-old with your lyrics and music it’s a big deal, at least to me.  That says the themes are pretty universal.

It also says that the idea of finishing this and closing one door while opening another on my life is the right direction.  What an amazing experience to work with such talented people.  The songs take this raw form and turn into something so much bigger and livelier.

What an amazing experience . . . and we haven’t even hit the studio yet.

Marshalling a Rehearsal

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Marshalling a Rehearsal

(See what I did there?)

The first rehearsal for new material.  I was nervous as it’s my material, stuff I’ve written, and for the most part the most personal music I’ve ever written.

I wasn’t nervous about doing arrangements and playing the material, that’s not my big concern.  The musicians I’m playing with, affectionately dubbed the “Ain’t Got No Time Band” which is shorter than “Ain’t Got No Time Rock and Blues Review” and any other number of names we’ve come up with.  They are consummate musicians and I’m quite proud to be playing with them.

We sat down to go over the first tune, a rocker called How Much More that was one of the first tunes I wrote after the passing of my wife.  How Much More is literally the angriest song I’ve ever written.  It came after losing my wife, my house, and having my salary drastically cut.  The first line of the song is, literally, “How much more can I take?”

As is typical when you get really good musicians together, the demo I recorded is simply a road map.  With the others in the band we spent four hours, first playing the verse section over and over to get a groove.  Then came the chorus, which is different the first time from the last two.  Then we weaved the opening interlude into each section between verses.

By the end, the entire ending of the song had changed – for the better.  What started as one thing became far better, the keyboard player, Rob Sabino, conducting and moving as I soloed at the end of the song.

Debate rattles around my head…the offer was put up to make this a band album, gigging to pay for it, taking our time, writing other material too.  The collaboration is so very attractive.  The other side is that this is kind of a finality to one part of my life.  Shutting the door, closing the cover on the first story.  It transitions to the next, with songs that speak of love, loss, and finding love again.  It’s almost a story in itself, nearly a concept album.  I still waffle which would be better . . .

Regardless, to get the tone I want as well I broke down and pulled the trigger on a 50 watt Marshall amplifier.  That’s the one you see up there.  I picked it up today, knowing full well it needed work.

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The evening was spent swapping out tubes.  Yes…the amplifier uses vacuum tubes, an old-school technology.  But I am kind of old school anyway and they just sound better.  Marshall amplifiers are a staple of rock and roll.  Jimmy Page with Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, with Cream, and even solo used them.  It is a quintessential tone and one I wanted in my musical toolbox for years.  I just didn’t want a 100 watt version that could cause my ears to bleed when only turned to 3 on the volume.

Thus the 50 watt combo, same amplifier, smaller and I don’t have to spring for a separate cabinet.

So after testing tubes and swapping out I got it working . . . one speaker is a piece of junk but it works.  The other is a high quality Celestion.  The bigger issue – the desirable high output jack seems to not work.  I consulted a great amp tech (read my brother the wunderkind and uber talented amp builder and musician) and the two jacks are actually connected.

So this week will be cleaning, repairing and working.

Decisions have to be made, repairs have to be made . . . and I have to make up my mind.  But still . . . it’s a great week.

What Comes This Year?

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What Comes This Year?

I got an email yesterday out-of-the-blue from a company asking me what adventure . . . what bucket-list things . . . what was going to happen this year?

That’s actually a fortuitous question as I have a lot that may happen this year.  Some of it involves my kids.  Much of it actually does not.

As children get older they tend to have their own lives and their own things they want to do.  So as a result many of their ideas for what the year brings are different than mine, but we will still go out, do things, be adventurous on our own.

Together?  The kids all want to see the volcanic area of far northern California, so we’ll make a trip at some point to Mount Lassen.  When it’s warmer and the snow isn’t an issue, of course.

One child wants to try out for basketball.  Another is running for Fall student council.

Bucket list?  Well…I’m not ready to kick said bucket, but regardless, a couple of those items will tick off this year.

David Gilmour, of Pink Floyd, is playing the Hollywood Bowl in the Spring.  I’m going.  No question.  Tickets in-hand, trip ready, all set.

Sometime in the spring as well?  I plan on hitting the recording studio to begin work on a solo record.  I’ve been working the material for a long time.  It’s really time to get it set to tape and release it.  Will it sell?  Who knows?  But I have to get it out.  Kind of killing me not to do that.

There are a million other things I’d love to do but we will see.

I want to see the site of the first nuclear explosion.  I know, that’s weird and a bit off-the-path, but still a totally strange thing I’d be able to tell people I did.

I want to go back to the Midwest and see family.  Not a bucket list thing, but we’ll do it anyway.

Yosemite.  We did it once, and it’s close by so why not?  Our first trip was a bit odd . . . for personal reasons.  We’ll do it right this time.

To be fair, this whole post was actually inspired by that company’s marketing person emailing me.  Maybe it was a robot email.  Maybe it wasn’t.  They say they have a contest and are pushing readers of sites like mine to enter . . . as part of their outdoor gear company.  If you’re interested, you can go here and explore the company’s website.

I will be up-front and tell you that I do not actually own anything from the company nor am I able to give an endorsement as I haven’t used anything from Cotopaxi.  Not saying they’re bad, either, just that they contacted me.  Regardless, an interesting email and it did inspire me to write so for that reason I thank them.

But it does beg the question . . . what does your 2016 look like?

Amazeballs!

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Amazeballs!

(Yep, I did it. The uncool Dad thing of saying the current slang that was added to the urban dictionary. Deal with it!)

When’s the last time you did something amazing, spectacular, jaw-dropped speechless for your kids?

I don’t mean “I am (insert butler/maid/launderer/chef) for my kids” kind of thing. We all do incredible amounts of work for our kids. I don’t mean the daily grind. I also don’t include soccer practice, baseball, sports competitions, swim meets, school plays . . . none of that. I’m talking about something totally unexpected, off-the-map, hard to do, hard to find, hard to accomplish kind of thing?

I actually managed that this week. I have my share of real life. Guitar lessons on Saturdays. School clubs, student council, field trips, all of that. My daughter had an adventure for Homecoming that had me playing chauffeur for two days.

This weekend I loaded the four smaller Manoucheris into the car and drove up to Portland, Oregon. It’s not because I like rain or the show Portlandia. (Okay, I like Portlandia, but I digress)

You need some back story here. Not Disney Phineas and Ferb backstory. There’s no “stand outside and be a lawn gnome” business going on here. (There’s actually a Wikipedia page of Heinz Doofenshmirtz’s backstories. Amazing! Google the lawn gnome, it’s worth the digression. We’ll wait here for you!)

………….

(Okay you’re back…)

My son has a soft spot for what is called stop-frame animation. He grew fascinated when I was watching a documentary one day on the director Ray Harryhausen. He is the man behind Clash of the Titans and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts. My son sat, at age 10, and watched two full hours of the history of Ray Harryhausen. He has a scale model of the Jason skeleton as well as a t-shirt bearing homage to the late director.

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The technique is called stop-frame because you make a model, or puppet, or what have you and you move the model a fraction. You shoot a still frame of film. You move it a little more . . . and a little more. It takes 24 of those pictures to make one single second of a film.

My son decided to start doing this himself. Last Christmas I got him software that came with a web-camera that lets him shoot stop-frame cartoons. I do believe in all sincerity that making these little movies was a boon to my son’s mental health. He was having a really hard time dealing with the grief of losing his mom. The meticulous nature and attention to detail funneled his creativity and helped I am sure of it.

Some amazing movies are made with this system. One of the biggest studios now, a studio my son knows and loves, is called Laika. They have made the movies Coraline as well as The Boxtrolls, and ParaNorman. My kids love and have seen all these films.

Coraline, courtesy Laika Films.
Coraline, courtesy Laika Films.

I reached out to the folks at Laika and told them exactly what their films and what this kind of animation has meant to my son, and to all of us. I simply wanted to have my son meet an animator or talk to one or see the inside of their building, anything would be great. To my astonishment and utter delight they told me I could come up and see them and they’d give us a full tour.

Thus the trip to Portland, the city where Laika has their headquarters.

I kept why we were going a secret, other than telling them we were visiting their older sister. When we pulled up there was no indication where we even had arrived.

“Dad, this looks like an insurance company,” they told me, knowing full well it couldn’t be.

I cannot tell you what we saw. That’s part of the deal. No photos, no phones, non-dicslosure all around is the theme of the day. None of us cared a lick. We were happy to sign it.

My son asked a million questions, enthusiastically and almost giddy. The answers he got had the same level of enthusiasm and imagination. The fact that this little 12-year-old was on the same wavelength seems to have connected with the employees who took us around.

There is nothing to compare with that starry-eyed look of astonishment and excitement when your kids are truly youthful and imaginative and seeing something they’d never thought in their wildest dreams they’d experience.

So why do I tell you this? Am I looking for the “Coolest Dad Ever” award or something? No. This is my lesson to every parent because I learned it well: our kids work really hard not just for themselves but for us, too. When my son was grieving he tried to keep it from me or he tried to work it out even though he was terrified to face it and didn’t want to deal with it. It caused him terrible problems which hurt him and made me hurt as well. I couldn’t fix this problem. Some are just too big for a dad to tackle.  Yet he found this amazing thing that let him work out his frustration and grief and he worked it out as much for all of us as for himself.

So when the thought hit me that if I took the family up to visit their sister, we could stop in Portland maybe they’d let us say “hello.” Instead, this wonderful group of people at a major studio told me to come in and we’d get a tour. We’d not only get to see someone who works for this company . . . we’d see them in action.  I got an event that all four kids will remember for a lifetime. We saw magic – not film magic, though that is there. We saw imagination turned technical turned artistic turned . . . beautiful.

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“This would be the coolest place to work . . . ever,” my son whispered to me during the tour. I can’t disagree.

The folks at Laika told us “we need box office results in order to get the money to keep making these so we’ll need you to go see this film. Maybe see it twice!” It was a joke . . . but little do they know we were at Boxtrolls on opening day and we’ll be seeing Kubo and the Two Strings, their new film (I am allowed to tell you the title) next year, too.

Poster for Kubo and the Two Strings, Laika films, coming out next year
Poster for Kubo and the Two Strings, Laika films, coming out next year

Amazement. Sure my kids showed their amazement, slack-jawed, eyes glistening and floored at the imagination.

I’m not amazed at that. I’m amazed that a group of people who had no need to show us around simply said “come on in!”  I’m amazed at how lively and excited they were with us and the others getting a tour that day.

I’m amazed at the love and humanity of other human beings. That is truly wonderful.

(Yes…I resisted the urge to say “that was truly amazeballs!)

Lost in the Bottom of a Suitcase

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Lost in the Bottom of a Suitcase

It’s been easy to recount tales of the times when my kids had two parents, when things were bright. Holidays and a tiny house in the Midwest and moving to a larger home in Texas. Those all seem just such easy things to recount and such amazing things to remember. It’s also therapeutic to talk about events as they unfold in our lives and how we’ve had to adjust.

One thing I hadn’t thought about was the fact that, now more than four years removed, that things will spring up as memories from those first days after losing someone you love. It’s easy to understand the melancholy of memories from a song, a scent, or even a taste. You don’t think about what comes in those days just after since you lived them.

Recently, though, I stumbled on something I’d totally forgotten from the first few months after my wife passed away.

Cleaning up the remnants of a trip to visit my family I reached into the side pocket of the suitcase my sons used and found two envelopes. Neither of them was from our trip so I was a bit confounded to find them. Inside were two greeting cards, ones sent to my sons from me during the summer of 2011.

You have to have some context here: my wife passed away in March of 2011, causing unbelievable grief and uproar in our home. In that same stretch of a month or so I changed jobs, we lost our home, everything was a mess. In order to actually concentrate on the work and setting up our rental home my parents volunteered to take all four of my kids back with them for the summer. As needed and appreciated as that was the times at home alone were maddening.

After a few particular conversations over the phone I sent greeting cards to the boys.

IMG_5297I know I sent them to all four kids, but these had IMG_5298been lost to the recesses of their suitcase from the trip to the Midwest.  The boys had worked for the newspaper for fun and inserted ads in exchange for some small change. The paper is run by a relative and “worked” is a bit of a misnomer, but it was the same. The boys had said they didn’t get to do the work that week and I had an idea.

IMG_5299My new job had a vending machine that dispensed dollar coins, the kind that look goldIMG_5301 and had Sacajawea on them. I got four of them and taped them to the cards. I also wrote notes to each of them, promising to visit them before the summer was over and come back home with them. I made good on that promise, by the way.

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I had forgotten the cards, and maybe I had wiped it clear for a reason. The notes are hopeful and talk about how much I loved them and would see them soon. What they don’t reveal is how much of a panic I was under and how I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. Regardless, though, I couldn’t show panic or worry to my kids.

My oldest daughter said something once, and I’m likely quoting it wrong, but the gist is there: as a kid growing up you live with your parents and it’s like living with giants. But losing their mother it was like seeing the giants fall and you can never raise them up again.

They’d already learned their parents were mortal. They needed to cling to the hope that their father had an idea of where to go next, even if he really had no idea.

So reading these notes brought back the heartache for me and how difficult that first 3-6 months was for our family.

My sons? They looked and said . . . “HEY!  I forgot these were in here. Now I have two bucks!”

Looking into Your Past

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Looking into Your Past

I like having something going on in the background when I’m working or cooking.  Often it’s the kids’ television shows – their most recent obsession is the Disney shot Gravity Falls.  The best of those shows, like that, Phineas and Ferb or the old cartoon my daughter adored Animaniacs and Freakazoid were the best for adults because they also included adult humor.

I have to admit . . . Spongebob has grown to be like fingers on a chalkboard for me.

Yet when their shows had run their course and my stereo was acting up I decided to flip through channels and couldn’t find anything.

So my kids found VH1 Classic.  Now…mind you…I don’t know that I could call many of the music videos that came from my teenage era classics, but the kids flipped to it.

I believe the first video was Def Leppard’s Rock of Ages.  

I think the first reaction from my kids was: “whoa! Did people actually think this was good, Dad?”

I wasn’t sure how to explain “oontagh gleeten glouten globen” to them.  I didn’t know what the hell it meant.  I tried to explain that the old-style superimposed faces and freeze frames were essentially state-of-the-art at the time.  But I had no choice but to admit…it’s really bad. I could see every shot from the movie Spinal Tap reflected in it.

Then came Money for Nothing.

This, at least, they could relate to as it looks like a videogame, albeit a videogame that was powered by a Commodore Amiga from 1990.  They missed the whole “I want my Mtv” point because, let’s face it, Mtv hasn’t actually played music videos since 1990, either.

“Geez, I don’t know how video could have killed the radio star from all this,” said my daughter, sarcasm dripping from the kitchen.

I couldn’t convince them that John Landis had directed a mini-film like American Werewolf in London in Michael Jackson’s Thriller when all they know is that prisoners in the Phillipines are now copying it on YouTube.

Finally, having had it with their derision turned off the TV and pulled up YouTube on the Google Chromecast and played them this:

I wasn’t a fan of the song or the band . . . but even I remember the video being brilliant.  Hand-drawn, pulled together, it was even today a bit mesmerizing.

Then…the pinnacle:

It was here my son, the stopframe guru, lover of Ray Harryhausen and The Boxtrolls and Paranorman and all things motion capture was captivated.

“That, my children, is what a good music video can do.  Catchy Peter Gabriel tune…amazing video that took weeks to make in stop-frame animation.”

They agreed that this was pretty cool and that few new videos, even in today’s special-effects driven world, weren’t as interesting.

But they had a point…for every Sledgehammer there were Warrant videos with porn stars dancing with cherry pie in their laps.  For each live Pink Floyd performance there was a Ratt video. There may have been the Police’s Every Breath You Take but that was followed by Styx’s Mister Roboto.  

But as they were telling me how terrible the soundtrack to my childhood was I informed them that their YouTube world had given us Rebecca Black’s Friday along with Psy’s Gangnum Style (yeah I probably spelled that wrong, don’t care) and everything by Kanye West.

It was here they bowed to their father’s logic.

 

A Random Connection

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A Random Connection

I’ve stumbled upon old things before.  Older pictures of the kids, a card that was sent to me many years ago, even long-forgotten messages that were there for me to see.

Today, though, in the middle of the mundane task of doing my taxes for 2014 the strangest thing happened.

My daughter’s phone was broken, in the middle of all the boring tasks of real life.  I had set up an appointment for her, but her phone didn’t work, thus severing the immediate connection I had with her not more than a week ago.  It’s a funny thing.  I saw several eras of technology in a very short time.  When I was very little there was one phone and it was attached to the wall.  In the 1990s there was a period between the wear-on-your-belt pager and the cell phone where people chatted via email and web chat.  (Stone age technology, I know)

So this 1990s connection was the way I talked with my daughter.  Not horrible, not great.  But I needed her Social Security number and she had her card at college.  Months ago she’d given me her number so while I waited for her response . . . which was via email . . . I began to think I could scroll through my old texts and find it from her.

Randomly, with no apparent reason, my wife showed up on the list of text messages.  She passed away almost four years ago.

 

Bear in mind that when I moved phones and ran out of space I deleted most my texts.  When I looked through all the messages I sent and received from Andrea they were sad in how ordinary and boring they were.  No “I love you’s” at the end or sappy messages.  Most asked what was for dinner or what have you.

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The messages were from a period not long before she passed away.  We were both exceptionally worried about my oldest daughter.  She’d had Mono . . . and there was worry after that, much later, she’d had a problem with her spleen and might need anything from a course of treatment to surgery to God knows what.

There were pleas for me to come home early.  In fact, there was nearly a daily plea for me to come home or call out sick or any reason.  At this point, she was home with the kids, lonely, wanting another adult.  The problem for me was the fact that I was the only income so I couldn’t.  I was happy my messages weren’t acrid in their response, but they were firm.  I know they had to be, but it’s hard to read.

Still…compared to others, there is warmth there.  In the past I’d have been sad that I found these messages, they don’t show a bright spot, they don’t show poor times (well these have some of that) they just show life.  It’s a life, though, I haven’t lived in more than three years.  The part that saddens me is that it’s a life I will not go back to living, nor would I if given the chance.  Too much has happened, too much water flowing under the planks on our bridge.  Part of me misses things but part of me sees so much promise in the future.

There’s promise in living the way we do.  There’s not a lot of money, but one thing the messages showed me is how much we did struggle then.  That’s not because of her, we’re just in different situations now.

Part of me sees this, as I put on the title to this site, as a new start.  That includes a new start for me.  I have a different job.  I’m writing music.  I look forward to who may come into my life in the future, whatever may happen.

Maybe they showed up because my daughter’s broken phone is connected to my account.  Maybe it’s the fates sending me random thoughts.  Still, it’s a random connection to the past, that shows a glimpse, too, of what promise the future holds.  That, it seems, was the best part.

Say It Loud, Say It Clear

The musician and his daughter
The musician and his daughter

Say It Loud, Say It Clear

Over the weekend I watched a documentary on a free preview of the Showtime network.  I’m not afraid nor am I ashamed to admit that it was on the band Genesis.  I know there’s some backlash, particularly since the shift from music in the 1970’s to the 1980’s and today when people have some chip on their shoulder about the band.  I’m not sure why, perhaps it was the second lead singer, Phil Collins, having been everywhere from on television to a cop on the film Hook to doing the soundtrack to Disney cartoons.

That said, I’ve always liked them, no shame or afterthought to that statement.

But this isn’t about them, at least not particularly.  No throwback to the 1980’s or melancholy or wishing things were like when I was a kid.  Genesis is just the impetus of one of the sweeter surprises I’ve had in some time.

The picture up there is from the 1990’s, not long after my oldest daughter was born.  She’s the infant in my arms, on a stage, Clapton Stratocaster around my neck, while I have long hair and look something like a character from the movie Death at a Funeral.  My wife took that photo, though I can say I never thought she was particularly pleased to be there.  This was my band, with my brother a member, playing at a summer festival in Omaha.

My wife had little or no use for my being a musician.  It didn’t make a ton of money – which isn’t at all what I was performing for in the first place.  It didn’t focus on our relationship or on her, except the couple songs I’d written about her or us.  Neither of those was easy enough to pull off live so there was no focus for her.  She wasn’t at all convinced this was a good idea.  In my defense, I just cannot stop being a musician.  It’s in my DNA.  It’s like that Stratocaster is part of my left arm and if you removed it I may as well bleed out.  I will also argue that there were months, in the bleakest of times when she was in Pharmacy school and I was working two jobs to keep the heat on in our home that we ate due to the gigs I played.  It wasn’t a ton of money, but it was money and every dime counted.

Living Years

Watching the Genesis documentary they brought up each of their solo careers.  Sure, Phil Collins had one; a stellar one, in fact.  But the guitarist, Mike Rutherford, had a band and still plays much of the time with his own band, Mike and the Mechanics.  After a start with one singer they switched to another singer, from the band Squeeze, named Paul Carrack.  The album came out in 1988, some years prior to that photo of my daughter and I but it continued to get some airplay.

As Rutherford recounted the fact he couldn’t sing and that may have affected his ability to sell the millions of records like Collins, my daughter looked over at me with a smile.

“Mom always thought you sounded just like him, did she ever tell you that?”
I looked at my daughter and at the television and was more than a little bewildered.  “Like Paul Carrack?!”
“Yeah.  She never told you that?”
“No!  I would have remembered that.  That’s a helluva compliment.”
“She was right.”  She looked at my son sitting next to me and asked him . . .  “don’t you think Dad sounds like that guy?”
My son just looked up, matter-of-fact, “yeah.”
“I can’t believe Mom never told you that,” she said, confused.

In less than two months it will have been four years since my wife passed away.  We had an interesting relationship.  Always loving, always friends, and often contentious.  Music was part of our lives but not always a part she wanted.  I always had a dream, even with 1, 2, then 4 kids of making a living doing it.  She never thought that was practical or realistic.

But then she’d surprise me.  She always did.  I never made the connection nor have I ever claimed to be of the caliber that Paul Carrack is.  I’ll take the complement, nonetheless.

Now, almost four years after she’s gone, I hear that she heard my voice and heard possibilities.  I knew her well enough to know that’s what was going through her head.  When she’d dismiss recordings I’d make she’d tell her daughter or friends that her boyfriend/husband sounded like Paul Carrack.  Should I be mad that she never told me?  No.  Not a whip.

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Today I’m sitting home, recording, getting ready to find funds to hit the studio and hire a drummer and bassist to put a full record together.  Where I’ve been frustrated trying to get that chord progression right or my computer gives me CPU errors during a take or I just can’t get the lyrics the way I want I’ve been frustrated and silent of late.

And then this comes, out of nowhere, blasting through, and I feel a pride I hadn’t known for awhile.  Pride in the fact she heard something in my voice, even if she never voiced it to me herself, not in that way.

This weekend she said it loud, said it clear.

It’s just up to me to listen.