More new music 

Spending this week on a new song for an upcoming imdbTV comedy series about people getting out of jail and using their criminal talents for good. Sort of like the music business! And the real-life similarities don't stop there, since the recording studio is sort of like jail. 

We'll put this song on the new album unless they tell us we can't. And then we'll find a way to do it anyway! I mean, what's the worst than can happen...jail?!

The HESS TRUCK is back! 

It brings a huge smile to my face each year when I see that Hess has come out with its new “Hess Truck.” I hope they never stop doing this. 

I was probably nine or ten years old, accompanying my mom as she began her Christmas shopping. The very first place we went was a Hess gas station, where she bought the new Hess toy truck. I got all excited, seeing this really cool truck with its working lights and everything, but wondered aloud why she had allowed me to see her buy it, as it surely wouldn’t be a surprise. 

She said that it was not for me, or my brother (or my dad for that matter!). She explained, “Some kids aren’t as lucky as you are. They don’t have a Christmas. They don’t have a tree, or anybody to put anything under it for them. We must always remember that.” She headed straight for the Marines’ Toys For Tots bin and dropped the truck in there. 

After that, we began every season that way until I was old enough to go shopping on my own; we’d hit a Hess station and she’d buy the truck and then let me drop it in the Toys For Tots bin. Some years were leaner than others, and sometimes there wasn’t much under our tree. But some kid I’d never meet, somewhere, would have a nice new Hess truck every year. I found out, many years later, that she continued to do this long after my brother and I were grown and gone. 

THAT was my Mom.

Sweet Vintage Sounds... 

Well, it was bound to happen. Changing of the guard. My dad's 1967 Fisher 220 stereo amplifier (top) has been the heart and soul of my home audio configuration. It finally died, so it will go into the display case of his (now my) vintage audio components collection, along with his reel-to-reel tape machines from the '50s and '60s. For its replacement, I looked no further than that same display case. His 1978 Scott A457 (bottom) now takes over. Old shit still makes music sound awesome even if it's not quite as old.

The kid... 

The kid had to be about thirteen or fourteen.  He came sauntering in and took his seat. It was clear he didn't want to be there. Or anywhere, really.  He had the whole pre-teen recalcitrant, anti-social  "this sucks" body language down, a black T-shirt, the droopy jeans with a little wallet chain, and the not-very-long hair that would have been longer if his parents allowed him to have long hair.

I "got" this kid right away. I saw myself at that same age, in that bewildering no-man's land of not yet a grown-up but no longer a happy child; brooding, frustrated, impatient; waging a private little war against ...well, pretty much everything and everyone.  The one thing that would save me was a world of music to retreat into.  "Fuck 'em all!"

Everything about this kid screamed "budding rock musician."  I surmised that he had been dragged there by his older brother, the older brother's girlfriend, and some of their friends.  They were clearly really into the music, and it looked like they were goading him into acknowledging me, but he was having none of it.  It became a personal challenge.  He'd be watching me play and sing and I'd look at him and he'd quickly look away, feigning indifference, but overplaying the hand.

But I wasn't gonna let him off the hook.  I played to that kid the whole night, then went over to his group and said hello.  "Pretty cool stuff, huh?" somebody said to him, and the kid looked up from his well- honed art of shoe-gazing and said "yeah" and took my outstretched hand.  I remembered how self-conscious I was at that age, so I didn't push it with the whole "So, do you play and sing, too?" thing.  I just said, "Thanks."

Then I smiled as I went up to the bar to grab a drink, having just seen a ghost of myself as a punk-ass kid who had more than a lot of kids in this world back then, and wondering what in HELL I had ever been so mad about.


The ultimate irony - I started the day with Shawn Colvin's "Polaroids" from one of my favorite albums ever, by one of my favorite artists ever.  The ad that played just before was some dweeb advertising his download pack of chords and melodies samples and loops. "Get your songwriting together - download my melodies and chords package today...." 

Right.  Don't bother actually LEARNING chords or how to write melodies or how to write songs yourself.  Don't actually create anything.  Don't do the work.  Just download the work someone else has done for you. 

Forget about "what's wrong with music" - this is everything that's wrong with EVERYTHING.  I'm glad Shawn didn't just download a bunch of samples and loops, but learned how to actually DO something.  Something wonderful, at that.


I just had a very interesting conversation about social media and thought I'd share it... 

A colleague asked me why I had seemingly "disappeared" from social media recently, and I told him I had decided to largely take the month of August off from online promotions. I had pretty much reached saturation with the whole process during the spring and early summer, and I felt like if I needed a break, you folks on the receiving end could surely use one as well. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I seem to have taken much of September off as well. I highly recommend it. 

I explained that this summer was also an extremely busy time of gigging, traveling, personal life changes, etc. My colleague (who is, not surprisingly, a social media manager) said I was missing the whole point: "Your fans want to share in all of that; you should be constantly engaging them and posting every day" blah blah blah. 

I vehemently disagreed, explaining that while I'm well aware of the whole social media constant-pipeline conventional wisdom, my respect for those "fans" takes precedence. If I bombarded you constantly with every little daily development, why would I expect you to react in any meaningful way when I present something of true substance; a creative endeavor like new music, new videos, tour dates, etc.? 

Our "post-album world" notwithstanding, I still believe the reason the album format itself worked so well for so long is that music is a cyclical thing with an inherent shelf-life, where you make a bunch of it and work your ass off for about a year or so, then take some time away to recharge, recalibrate, allow yourself to grow and be influenced by new things and life itself, then plot your next move and do something NEW. 

And I believe you folks on the receiving end need that cycle, too. The “album” as a finite, periodic thing, was our culture’s working agreement between the producer and the consumer. I just don’t think we humans are hard-wired to be constantly producing or consuming ANYTHING. 

Maybe it’s those marketing courses I had in college, where I learned the concept of “scarcity”, but I think it’s time to draw a line in the sand…instead of letting your life be ruled by FOMO (“fear of missing out”), join me in a new approach with a little less desperation and a little more self-respect: HYMM (“hope ya missed me”). 

It would be unrealistic and disingenuous for me to write a song like “Selfie” decrying what social media is doing to the self-esteem of adolescent girls and then do a similar disservice to those of you who appreciate music by bombarding you with constant empty missives several times a day, just because "ya gotta be on there." 

It may run counter to our whole 24/7 LOOK AT MEEEEEEEEE music business model, but I’ve finally learned that the whole trick to balancing social media is to inform, but only up to the point of the dreaded “eye-roll.” So yeah, I’ll still go on there and harass the hell out of you when there’s new music or something to harass you about. But I refuse to go on there ten times a frigging day posting a picture of the half-eaten sandwich from this afternoon’s studio session or whatever just because “I gotta be on there.” 

Look for something meaningful perhaps once a week or so. As for my colleague’s admonition that “you’ll lose them” – I’d prefer to think there’s a little more to all of you than that, so I’ll take my chances. 

If you love something, don’t post stuff constantly. If people give a shit, they’ll come back…

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