We all know where I stand on the topic of Mary Chapin Carpenter. She’s only one of the greatest American songwriters ever. I am fortunate sometimes when the Greatest comes to my neighborhood, and I get to see a show! My friend Heidi rolled into town from California – we’ve seen about 45 million MCC shows together (or like…8? A lot), and we road tripped down to Galveston for a night at The Grand Opera House. Amazing space, and it’s survived a couple of hurricanes.

I was scared to take photos because I don’t like getting kicked out of things I paid to see, but I did snag a set list.

Then, in a ridiculous twist of fate…MCC played 20 minutes from my house, but I could not go that night because I had a gig. A really cool gig…my friend Noelle Hampton and I organized a night called Popped! A Folk Tribute to Pop Music. We asked all our friends to come play one song each, and we gave all the money to Austin Pets Alive…it was pretty epic. Look at THIS set list:

We raised $1300! Here’s Noelle and Emily being awesome on a Hall & Oates cover:

Then Heidi and I took off to Oklahoma City because through some insane miracle of the internet (and the fact that I am always on it), I got front row seats for this show. See?

I had never sat that close before – I was studying, literally, at the feet of my hero. I got to see all the cool guitar stuff and that was worth the ticket price alone. Another crazy great show complete with a Q&A in which I asked what book MCC was reading. She replied with this suggestion, and I suggest you take it.

Then it was back to real life for about 2 says…then on to Los Angeles! That’s the next post.

Let me explain. I’m deep in a year-long program with Rubicon Artist Development called Rubicon Gold. It’s for folks like me who want to keep focused on our musical goals and “next level” it. It’s self-paced and guided by my producer and great friend Daniel Barrett. There’s reading, check-ins, goal setting, vision and values assessment, and lots of positive encouragement.

It’s actually changed the entire action plan for my music in the past five months…or at least helped me embrace it. I’ve always been fascinated with commercial music and music business, and I unabashedly love popular music, and now I want to write it. I want to meet people who write it, write with them, write it alone, get cuts, chart things, see my name in the “songwriter” slot of the Grammy nominations, have my songs in the background of your favorite TV shows. Working with Gold and Dan has helped me work this out, and now I’m starting to take steps to do this. I have a trip planned to Los Angeles in April and while I feel a little bit like a freshman on the first day of class, I already have a few things lined up to make this trip a good one, and it’s just the start.

You may also recall that I have blogged about Dan’s book before – The Remembering Process. Dan taught this to me years ago – and I recommend you get the book. The jist is a technique beyond positive visualization to make proactive change happen in your life. Instead of thinking about the future, you actually REMEMBER the outcome you want as if it already happened. It works and it’s FUN.

Dan challenged us Gold program folks to make a video about how the year is working out for us, so I decided to apply The Remembering Process and post my interview with Oprah after my success as a popular songwriter in the year 2025. I know, I haven’t aged a day and neither has O. (She said I can call her “O”). Here it is…as you can see, I’ve had some good stuff happen.

Check out Rubicon Gold here, and Daniel Barrett here!

This is the 4th year we’ve done the Red River Songwriters’ Festival in Red River, NM in late January, and the first year we actually had to brave some snowy roads to get there! We did it though…because nothing can keep us from a line up like this:

It was one big weekend of good friends, inspiration, and snowy vistas.

Lori McKenna headlined on Thursday night and was absolutely incredible. She’s had songs covered by Little Big Town and Faith Hill among others, but nothing beats hearing Lori play them with just her voice and a guitar.

Matraca Berg and Jeff Hanna headlined the next night, and again…so much goodness and a slew of hits. Matraca started off with “Wrong Side of Memphis” that Trisha Yearwood made popular, and ended with “Strawberry Wine” which is one of those songs that you KNEW BY HEART if you were anywhere between the ages of 12 and 112 in the 90’s.

Then I got a guitar lesson from Jeff Hanna and everything was amazing. Music takes you on some strange, wonderful journeys sometimes.

“The Mac is most definitely…back.” That’s what Mick Fleetwood said to the Toyota Center in Houston on Monday. Really, with a history as insane as this band’s, you can argue they went away several times, or they never really did…maybe they just morphed a lot. They have definitely gone through some changes, but this line up of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and YES, Christine McVie…is kind of The One. Some diehards argue for the British blues band version of Fleetwood Mac but whatever. This is the one…Britain meets Southern California to make magical pop rock for forty years. Wow.

I was introduced to Fleetwood Mac in 1997 thanks to PBS (how lame does this make me?). I was 15 years old and taking guitar lessons and they were playing The Dance special on repeat every few weeks, so I happened to catch it. Then I got the CD. Then I could not stop playing all of the songs. This is probably how most Fleetwood Mac fans are made…you play their songs once and you can’t stop.

I had given up ever seeing them live because while you’re not supposed to pick favorites, Christine McVie is totally my favorite and she left the band 16 years ago right after The Dance. It wouldn’t be a true Fleetwood Mac show for me without “Everywhere” and “You Make Lovin’ Fun” and “Little Lies” and “Don’t Stop” and “Songbird.” When they announced she was back, I knew this was the year. Luckily my friend Kelly was quick on the ticket grab and got seats for me and Susan as well.

It was everything I wanted, really…they started with “The Chain” which is how you have to start. All the Christine songs, Stevie twirling for “Gypsy” and “Dreams” and an acoustic version of “Landslide”. Lindsey KILLING IT on “Second Hand News” and “BIG LOVE” (have you not seen him play guitar on Big Love? Click this) oh my goodness. “Seven Wonders” was something from Tango In the Night I hadn’t totally paid attention to lately but I loved it live. All of them sounded great. Mick Fleetwood is like 70 years old and could out do most people half his age on a marathon, I think. Christine ended the show with Songbird solo on the piano and I was ecstatic.

So there you have it. I highly recommend Ken Callait’s book Making Rumours – it gives you insight into how these folks work, and how many drugs they took, and how it’s amazing they’re all alive, really. A true American (sorta British) rock band that made it through to be legends and can still play their butts off. Props.

Sometimes the amount of cool stuff I have on my radar makes it impossible to fit into one Facebook post, and thus another “Rad Stuff” post is born.  I have some really great friends putting out records this week.  Czech it:


RAD LISTENS


The Belle Sounds – Blackstone

This band is amazing. Every time I see them live I am awash in amazing harmonies, cool pop hooks, and great writing. Also, they are the KINDEST people, which makes it even better. This is the first Belle Sounds album my good friend Emily Shirley is on, and I am so glad for her. Go team, go! BUY IT.

Drew Kennedy – Sad Songs Happily Played
There’s a cool concert series in League City, TX called the San Benave Series, and Drew did a show there. It was an amazing show. He didn’t know they were recording it, and he was pleased when he found out they had. So pleased, he’s releasing the show! Drew is aces at storytelling and of course his songs are articulate, smart, and singable (which is the best combo). BUY IT.

RAD READS

I had a lot of time to read in the car this trip. One book that particularly sucked me in because we spent a lot of time in Northern New Mexico, Eastern Colorado, and Western Kansas was “The Worst Hard Time” about the Dust Bowl. This is the real story of the Dust Bowl, not the glossed over “it stopped raining and there was dirt everywhere” grade school version. Short version: humans messing up the environment made more problems for humans. Imagine that. READ IT.

Taylor Swift is this month’s Rolling Stone cover story. I think she’s great. You get to make your own decision.

Ok, we’re finally up on iTunes…here is the link if you like to download musics on lovely Apple devices with little to no effort on your part.

The cool news is this little record is currently (as of this typing) #59 on the iTunes singer-songwriter chart. This means at least one person has purchased it on iTunes, haha. No really, that’s kinda neat. I’ve never charted anything except chord charts and pie graphs in college.

With that said, I haven’t done a List of Rad Stuff in a while. So why don’t we?

Good Read
The Weird, Scary, and Ingenious Brain of Maria Bamford. – Maria is my favorite comedian, bar none. She’s brilliant. She’s charming, smart, and makes you uncomfortable…all the things comedy should be. I saw her perform live once and my stomach hurt the next day from laughing so hard. Read this.

Good Listen
Johnnyswim. This is the best new band I’ve heard since…a while. A married duo, to boot. They are adorable. They folk it up like it’s their job, but with plenty of soul mixed in. This song Diamonds is the one that hooked me. Look at that strum!

Good Look

I got to go see Georgia O’Keeffe’s Museum again in Santa Fe because it is one of my Top Ten Places On the Planet. They do a really good job of rotating exhibits there, so I’ve never seen the same batch of paintings twice. The fact that I can walk right up to this painting and see the brush strokes on the canvas blows my mind.



Good Pledge

I love me some Lucy Kaplanksy. She was the FIRST folk singer I ever saw live in the flesh. I was in high school. She plays guitar like she’s on fire. It caused a revelation. She’s doing a Kickstarter project with Richard Shindell and they’ve blown past their goal of $40,000. Why? Because it’s going to be fantastic.

I’m supposed to be packing for a real honest to goodness vacation I am taking this week to see a bunch of my family and see my awesome niece, Cathy, get married to a cool dude named Matt.  In Wisconsin.  After I fly to Albuquerque and collect my mom.  And then we drive to Minnesota to get my sister.  And THEN Wisconsin.  I haven’t family road tripped or been to the Midwest in eons.  BRING IT.

So instead of packing I’m reading old blog posts and remembering that I have had some amazing musical experiences over the years.  I consider myself fortunate to have seen and met some of my favorites…so why not recap?  That’s why I run this personal scrapbook of a blog anyway.

No order, just as they pop up in my brain, dates might be wrong…and these are non-work related concerts. I could write a book about all the cool stuff I’ve seen working with the people I work with…a different day.

Tori Amos
– Albuquerque 2005…my friend Laura was wearing a Tori shirt so some tour manager type dude gave us front row seats. It was amazing.

– SXSW 2009…my friend Elizabeth had given me a wristband for SXSW that year and we went to La Zona Rosa to see Tori debut tracks from The Beekeeper. Perez Hilton introduced her…weird.

Imogen Heap
– Austin 2006…Imogen played La Zona Rosa. I went by myself and the show BLEW MY MIND. I went again a year or two later and got to meet her outside her tour bus. So lovely, so British. She signed my iPhone case (it’s all I had) and it promptly rubbed off in a week.

Mary Chapin Carpenter
– I’ve seen MCC a lot. I’ve seen her play in Santa Fe, Denver, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Austin among others. I met her last fall. It was one of the best days ever. Her music has made me travel and I am forever grateful. The photo above is of MCC and Shawn Colvin at Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA.

Indigo Girls
– Kerrville Folk Festival 2009. I had a backstage pass and I used it when the Indigo Girls were playing. Terri Hendrix played a couple of songs with them and she introduced me to Amy Ray. I said nothing of importance because I couldn’t think, but I remember Amy was eating a peanut butter sandwich before playing. Superfood of folk?

SHeDAISY
– I still maintain these girls put out some of the smartest country pop of the 2000’s. They just haven’t recorded in a while…I hope they do again soon. I met them at a casino in Ruidoso, NM in 2005, because casinos in New Mexico get the touring acts for some reason.

Lady Gaga
– I’ve seen her stadium show twice over the years, and then I got to see Gaga close up at SXSW this year. Amazing. Roasting on a spit and all.

Kathleen Edwards
– One of my favorite writers period. My friend Ben and I went to see her in Santa Fe in 2004 or so when we were in college, in some bar. I don’t even remember where. We had seen her on Letterman the year before and were hooked. I haven’t had the chance to see her since but she’s put out some of my all time favorite albums.



Rose Cousins

– Folk Alliance 2011. The cool thing about the Folk Alliance gatherings is you see people from all over play acoustic sets in hotel rooms for 3 days. Rose has always been a favorite but she doesn’t make it to Texas much, so I followed her around (from a distance, non-creepily) at Folk Alliance. Gold.

Haim
Haim was about to blow up when I saw them at SXSW 2013 in a bar on 4th street. I was right in front of the stage and Este knocked her mic stand onto my head. Totally rock and roll.

Doing this list makes me want to buy tickets to more shows…I’ll be adding Fleetwood Mac to this list later this year. So excited!

Ugh. I hate to be typing this, but here is a link to an Indie Go Go fundraiser for John Jennings who is fighting metastatic kidney cancer. You can read all the details at the site but he has had surgeries and is canceling his touring with Mary Chapin Carpenter this summer and his other projects. That’s tough. Having been through the mass canceling of gigs when Susan broke her arm, it is frightening to say the least when you are self-employed like that.

If you know me you’ve probably heard me talk about JJ. He was my very first guitar hero. I spent hours and hours learning transcribed solos of his from Mary Chapin records when I was in high school. I bought a Martin Backpacker because JJ had one (I still have it…he signed it).

I’ve had the good fortune to run into him several times over the years, and even when I pop up in the oddest places like San Francisco or Folk Alliance in Memphis (where we were both conference attendees), he is the nicest and stops for a chat. Here’s a link to his bio if you want it…he’s worked with the likes of Mary Chapin, the Indigo Girls, Lyle Lovett, and John Gorka to name a few. His musicianship is bar none and his qualities as a great human being surpass everything.

Give what you can and share this link. Chances are he’s had his hand in at least one album or show over the years that has affected your life. Give back!


This Gaga photo has nothing to do with anything.

“Do it right the first time.” I guess I would say I ascribe to this saying. It’s common, it’s one of those oft-repeated sayings from school and childhood used to ward off mediocrity and slackerness.

Except I’m realizing that mantra is not always the best or most logical thing to follow. I’ve been 99% done with my record for a couple of weeks now, and the deal is…I have what I would call “good ears”. SOME have mocked me for my OCD ears, but we’ve brought this album so far and it’s SO GOOD that I just want it to be the best it can be. So does Dan, the producer man.

The other night I was listening through and almost ready to upload the album to my Kickstarter backers, because they are amazing and get it first. That’s when I heard, on the last track, a noise. A lot of times there are little noises made when you record. An open room mic, an artifact from the recording software, whatever. Dan takes care of these as he mixes, but some are tricky and hidden.

So I’ve sent notes to Dan before about noises. Mastering actually makes these little buggers pop out more, I’ve been told, so it’s pretty normal to notice stuff like that. Some of them he hears too and we’ve taken care of them. Some of them, I’m over-listening and it’s a guitar pick sound or something that’s supposed to be there. Dan is very patient and also awesome.

I thought we were done, but there it was…a noise. I slept on it because I really didn’t want it to be there because we’ve mastered this album twice already. I woke up and listened again, and there it was. I emailed Dan. He said, “Yep…there it is.” So he kindly took it out, no big deal, and we re-mastered for the third time (thank you Mark Hallman) and I am going to pick it up today. This is the one. I hadn’t heard anything else, and this was the last track of the whole shebang.

So this morning I was pondering all this. I do operate on a level of perfectionism in my life sometimes, but in art you really do have to learn (and re-learn) that things aren’t perfect and that’s what makes them great. I’ve had to find the line between obsessing over something and on one hand trying to make it almost sterile in its perfection (which benefits no one), and on the other hand understanding that we have made this project SO GOOD that it would under-serving it to give up on the last yard in the marathon.

I think we have done our due diligence, and I am super grateful to Dan for listening along with me. And we DID do it right the first time, meaning we have approached this EP with care and fun and attention, and I think that reflects in the music. It’s as great as it can be and I’m super proud of it.

The Kickstarter backers shall have it shortly, and I’m making a plan to get it to the rest of the world this summer. Promoting a new album is another example of letting go of doing it right the first time, because there’s always something new to try or learn. Let’s hope that process is as fun as the recording process has been!

Making trailers for things that aren’t movies seems to be hip these days, so I decided to gather up random footage of things in my brain and shove them all together into a minute-long clip. There is indeed a bit of one of the songs from the new EP here to listen to…once you get past Mary Chapin, a very hymn-like hymn, and the Gin Blossoms.