Saturday, 31 October 2009

New York

Hello New York. What a time to be here. The Yankees are in the final of the World Series and people are singing the Jay Z/Alicia Keys song in the street, their new anthem.

I'm up in Queens, about half an hour on the metro from Manhattan, but it's a city in itself (I think). I have a room in the Wonderland, an artist commune/collective. Like a smart squat. Everyone's very friendly and it's quite clean, even though I did find a cockroach in my suitcase this morning. But for $40 a night in New York is worth it.

My cell

Goodbye Imp


Farewell faithful friend. I would take you with me but New York is no place for a rental car. We did 5678 miles together. By bottom will always remember you. Here's where we went in the last three weeks.


Friday, 30 October 2009

The Perfect Wife, Manchester VT

My audience in Manchester.

It's nice to be back in Vermont. It's like the Lake District of
America. Except here there's skiing, which starts in about four weeks,
which is when I should come if I want a crowd. It was pretty empty
after this old crowd left the front table. Thankfully as they were
very loud and I didn't have a mic initially due to an organisational
oversight. It was my best paying gig of the tour so far so I didn't
complain.

I'm crashing at the owner's brothers place, a guy my age who's just
renovated a house in the woods. A very sharp little place, like
something straight out of Wallpaper.

I made it all 44 days without having to pay for one motel room!
Tomorrow is back to New York and off the road for a while.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Bug Jar, Rochester NY

A cold night in Rochester but still a good turnout especially for a
Wednesday night. The Indras (pic) and The Filthy McNasty's played.

The Halloween fever is growing. It's been in most bars and houses
since the start of October. They really go for it over here. Then
Thanksgiving, then Christmas, so that's three months of solid
decorations.

It came down to the wire finding a place to sleep and my cleansheet
was threatened, thankfully the last band live together and had a spare
room.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Cleveland, OH

12 hours driving split over two days to get from Chicago to Rochester.
It's raining constantly and quite foggy, not the best driving
conditions. I stayed overnight with Pat, a fireman in Cleveland.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Well that was Chicago...


It ended with a waffle from the only Dutch waffle shop in Chicago. A strange guy who heckles people from across the street late at night to come in and sample his produce. He flies back six times a year to bring back Albert Heijn Chocolate. We questioned whether that was really necessary but he insisted it was. He did give some great tips on the cheapest way to travel... from Chicago to Frankfurt and then by train to Amsterdam. Under $300 all-in. Pretty impressive. You have to go to the German-language version of Deutsch bahn to get the cheapest tickets and buy the discount cards.

My translator and guide, John Hart, has been a wonderful host with boundless energy. He has devoted himself unreservedly to the Foundation's cause and I have much less to do than I did when I arrived.

Al's place

Welcome to Jazz Club.

Debt train

I just got the first mix of the Debt Train from Chris in Philadelphia. It's still pretty rough and my timing is off now there's a piano in there - I'll need to sing it again. And the keyboard part makes it sound a little cheezy. But on the whole I'm really pleased and think he's done a great job. It has a Tom Waits / gypsy vibe going on.

Download Debt Train

Sunday, 25 October 2009

New coat

From a Vintage shop but never been worn. $30. You gotta love the
future.

Pizza Chicago


Pizzas are big in the future.

Working on the merch stand


Saturday, 24 October 2009

Drinking with Patty and John

In the future, every day is Octoberfest

Disco bowling


In the future you can bowl 24/365

The future

America is the future" Scott Smith

In the future you can drive through doughnut shops.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Homebrew

I crashed with a fun house of people. Students Brandon, Daniel and
Laura who are heavily into yeast, baking and brewing, and languages.
Madison is a cool little town.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Frequency, Madison WI

Speed metal night. Guess who opened up?

Mojo's, Davenport

 A lunchtime show in the Foyer of the River Music Experience, a big venue in Davenport. I had a teacher bring a whole load of students in. They said I was a cultural experience. I've never been called that before.

Two shows today. The busiest day of the tour. 3 hours driving to get here. And now another 3.5 to Madison. And it's pouring.

A light in the tunnel

I got a phone call from Kevin in Philadelphia when I was in Des Moines, telling me how much everyone he plays it to loves the 'Debt Train', I recorded there. I'm so curious to hear it. It's just a song with three chords that repeats. I don't even play it live much, so that's great to here.

I've decided to go skip back there for more recording when I'm in New York, and then go again in December on the way back from Austin as it's such an opportunity. Kevin was a live touring engineer for years, with artists like Marilyn Manson, Debbie Harry, etc, and has a lot of contacts, and wants to shop the album or EP around to people. It would be great to get some help professional booking and promoting. It gets a bit much doing everything myself and doesn't leave much time for music.

- - - - -
In other news, I'm one of the featured artists on www.reverbnation.com this week, which gets a lot of publicity.

Vaudeville Mews, Des Moines


I stayed with Mark in Des Moines. He's a doctor in casualty (ER, A&E depending on which country you're in) and is now on a career break, just taking photos and drinking and having a good time. It was an experience out on the town with him. Imagine Richard Bull in heat, on speed, and American and you're halfway there.

The show went well. Again not many people and no money but I've long since come to expect that. The other bands were good. Des Moines is a nice enough place. It was an experience walking across town to the gig through the Skywalks without having to go outside. The city is a cross between a space station and a hamster run.

I almost couldn't walk to the gig because Mark made a Chicago-style pizza - the first one I've tried - and I stuffed myself. Truly deliscious!


Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Monday, 19 October 2009

Record Bar, Kansas City



Just had a great show in KC. Nice to play in a professional sound venue. Sissywish from Norway are playing now, a cool electro duo with sharp melodies. Scandinavians are always so refreshing, especially in the mid-west.

Retail therapy


To recover from my close encounter with poverty I went shoe shopping
in the world's biggest cowboy boot shop

They have a no return policy...

Saint louis

A rough day on the road yesterday. Nasville to Kansas city was too far
for one day so I found a place in saint louis through couchsurfing. It
turned out to be one of the poorest parts of town. So poor almost
everyone was black. They didn't even have wifi.

The family were very friendly but nocturnal and I didn't get much
sleep. At least I wasn't there the night before when one of their
friends was on PCP and put his head through the glass door. They tied
him up in the spare room until he'd calmed down.

They have four young children and the youngest was crying at 3am askin
for the mother who was out. I tried to nurse him back to sleep with
tales of my adventures, but he didn't know what a jacuzzi was. A rough
night.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Roller Derby

I went to a Roller Derby after the show. Great fun. Kind of like a
cycling Madison, with more pushing.

Richards Cafe, Whites Creek

A Cajun restaurant just outside Nashville. Really great food. Nothing
in the tip jar again. Nashville has (god awful) music coming out of
every hole. Now I know why the booking was so easy. To paraphrase a
Groucho Marx quote, I shouldn't have played at any club that would
have me as a performer.

Seth took me around downtown Nashville this afternoon. I've got to get
some cowboy boots to go with my tweed three-piece, but not at those
prices. I also need a coat. It's cold!

Music City Bar, Nashville

The Music City Bar in Nashville. You get the idea.

The other band playing were really good. The Woolly Mamas.

My couchsurfing host Seth and a fellow surfer, Victoria, who's cycling across America. She's doing about 50 miles a day, taking four months, and sleeping in a tent or couchsurfing.

This photo and the one below were taken in the Gaylord Opryland, a huge indoor hotel and conference centre across the road from the bar.

Before leaving Knoxville I found a Vintage shop that was closing down and having a 75%-off sale, so I got a new suit of classic togs for $28. "Sweet" as they say in these parts.
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Friday, 16 October 2009

Song of the day in Kansas City

I got some big promotion before my show there on Monday in Present Magazine

Preservation Pub, Knoxville, TN

It's gigs like that that make me wish I had a full band backing me up. Playing noise back at the noise. The only way to get a crowd to listen to you is to rock, or to be a two-piece Swedish girl group singing lullabies. I keep thinking that if I was good enough then it should get their attention, so it bruises my ego. I should have started acappella. It doesn't matter how good your lyrics are if people are talking.

The advance promotion didn't work so well either. A fraction of the people who said they'd come down actually came. Nevermind. I was on a flat fee so it didn't matter so much. But next time I will run out some cheap b&w flyers and paper the place.

I had a great four days here and made friends for life. I'm ready to hit the road again though. It's a small town and I've seen a chunk of it. On to Nashville.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Yes man

I'm turning into Jim Cary in Yes Man and it's good fun. Tiring but
fun. Yesterday Evening i jumped in the car with Matt and Hollis to
drive to Chattanooga for some late night shopping to buy guitars for
his new music shop from a shop that was closing down.

I'm staying in his shop now while he's out of town. It's not open yet
and I have all the instruments to myself.

Now I'm off to the gym with someone I just met in a cafe. I'm tired
but they offered so the yesman goes.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

New hometown

I think I could really have hit on something by staying in a town two or three days before a show. If it's a town like Knoxville (not Johnson City) then there's plenty to do. I got a free yoga lesson this morning - it's such a hard life on the road.

The promotion is going well. If as many people come to the show tomorrow night as say they're coming then there they'll be queuing round the block. It's so easy to meet people here. They have just come up to me in the street because they think I look different.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The great outdoors



I spent today with Scott, the couchsurfing ambassador for Knoxville. We went on a three hour hike in the smoky mountains. A lot of climbing and then in the afternoon it was on his jetboat. Man that thing is fast.

Monday, 12 October 2009

WDVX, Knoxville, TN


I've had a tour of Knoxville today. I played on the Blue Plate Special radio show at lunchtime. It was a nice show and the lyrical content raised a few eyebrows among the live audience but in a good way. The host Matt Morelock took me out to lunch afterwards and then around town.

It's a very lively place, like Austin used to be they say. Most people know most people and everybody knows Matt so it was good fun going around with him. He's opening a music shop on the main street and the big banjo above will be his show-piece (no, he's not a midget). I helped him move it down the street to a few raised eyebrows.



We visited his girlfriend Hollis getting a tattoo. She has a yoga studio and raw food restaurant, as well as owning the largest tour catering company. She did Bob Dylan's tour catering for 10 years. I hope to get some good anecdotes tonight when we're all getting off for Sushi. I wonder if Bob's a Sushi man?

Acoustic Coffee House, Johnson City, TN


A smattering of people who didn't have a hangover made it down for my
show. Another night of minimum tips. It turns out Wednesday night is
the busiest night to play, as it's half price beer. But I'm not even
sure I'd want to play to a noisy crowd without the armory of a band.
I met a lot of nice folks again. The Lone Tones were very social and
had folks dancing. I got chatting to a cage fighter. He asked me if
I'd ever seen it and I said only on Bruno, which I immediately
realised was the wrong thing to say. Thankfully he hadn't heard of the
film so I retain the abilites to walk and feed myself.
Another guy was an ambulance driver. The most common call-out was for
people with breathing difficulties or other problems of obesity. But I
haven't seen any of them. It's like they exist in a parallel America,
driving from the office, via the 24hr walmarts and home. The pear people who walked straight off a Gary Larson sketch.
I travel via the interstate to stay with open-minded worldly people to
play in bars that attract social people. I'm not seeing the other
America. I walked downtown in Johnson City, a once thriving town and
more than half the shops are closed, but it's still a prosperous town.
Everything is now in the malls outside if town. It's a real shame.
Convenience kills.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Live

Tonight's show will be broadcast live on State of Franklin internet radio

Misty mountain top

I never thought Tennesse would be so mountainous. I imagined it as the
dry South not forestry.

Had a quiet morning alone in a house to work on songs for once. My
host from couchsurfing was out of town but left the key out for me -
having never met me. It refreshes my faith in humanity, every night I
stay with someone through couchsurfing.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

I've come to Johnson City a day early to try my promotion idea. I did
a 'commercial' between the two acts, playing one song and handing out
flyers, but by the way they were going I think most will be too
hungover.

There are some real characters. This guy Benjamin drives 18 wheelers
for days straight, while surfing the internet on his laptop (it's
easier at night because you can drive in the middle and follow the
white line). The companies sacked the experienced older drivers and
hire young guys like him for cheaper.

Hill and Frances

I had nice and interesting hosts last night. Hill is a sailor and used
to be Walter Croncite's yacht captain. Frances is a stockbroker and
has a house to match.

Juggling Gypsy, Wilmington


Now I'm really in the South. Swamp country. It's a sauna. If it's like this in October I can't begin to imagine what it's like in the summer. The show went well. My best money so far on the tour, which is good because it was four hours to get here. I don't have any time to look around as it's a seven hour (minimum) today. Better get going.


Friday, 9 October 2009

3 weeks in...

The route so far... 1736 miles covered, 17 shows played, 15 couches surfed.


Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Triple, Richmond


An experience. I opened up the night for four Screamo Death Industrial
Metal Hardcore bands (reaarrange into your favourite acronym). One guy
vomitted while he was singing. The crowd just lapped it up.
Thank heavens for the pool tables.
I found a place to crash before even entering the place. An 18 year
old kid who needed to be with a band to get in. A very interesting
young fella who's majoring in film and anthropology. Who lives in one
of the Victorian style houses. Who has the life aquatic flag tatooed
on his arm and is endorsed by Bill Murray. And tells me that the
biggest French film festival outside France is in Richmond.
Besides him I spent the night playing with two locals on the table and
drinking my two free pitchers of beer just to numb the noise.

Canada

I just got a message from my friend the Wind Whistles, who have just finished their Canadian tour. They're from there and have had quite a bit of publicity but people just aren't coming out for their shows and that it's the same for everyone. That's good to hear in that I don't feel it's just me, but bad in that there's no hope!

Maybe I need to rethink my strategy and get to the cities a day early, and go round talking to people and handing out flyers to get them out. It would be better to play half the number of shows and have double the number of people out. I don't really have any time to promote now. At least it's good I haven't started fixing my next North American tour yet, because I'm learning something new every day.

The Wonderland Ballroom, Washington DC




I made the same mistake of playing after the local band. They asked me to play second but I should have stood firm and played a short set first. It's virtually impossible (even for me!) to follow a loud band in front of an even louder audience by myself. I did my ruddest set and got a few laughs but they were drops in the ocean.

I crashed with Tony (my brother's wife's cousin - is there a name for that) and his fiance Emily, who gave me a quick tour of DC.

Just did a bunch of booking for Germany in March (my friends Andreas and Patrick from Copenhagen said they'll back me up on bass and drums - all I need to do is find well-paying enough shows). Now I'm off to climb Mount Vernon.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Zoo and To Do



Phew. I don't know whether I'm coming or going. I have to play a show tonight and it's come as a surprise. My head is somewhere else entirely. I went round the zoo in Wilmington today to try and clear my head after the studio.

I have so much stuff to do, I don't have time to play a show. Touring is really cutting into my booking time. Luckily I had a cancellation for Saturday.  One good thing about working on the road is that you're more realistic and not so ambitious. For example, I have a three week gap in Spain in February that I was going to break my back to fill, but now I think I will just take it off. I have friends in Barcelona, Madrid and Seville and can take some downtime.

Here's a copy of my To Do list:

  • Write more songs
  • Update Google map of where I've been
  • Advancing (confirming shows two weeks before)
  • Mail everyone I met at Dewey Beach
  • Book Spanish venues for February
  • Book Germany for March (big job)
  • Find US house concerts (important)
  • US and Canada dates (Apr-June - big job)
  • Start a Facebook group (I've been resisting)
  • Make the ultimate merch stand
  • Book greyhound from to Phili for more recording and the gig I got through the open mic
  • Book flight back to amsterdam
  • Book ferry to England for Christmas
  • Add shows to agenda
  • Press kit to NL and beyond
  • Work on mailing list
  • Get St Louis show
  • Message wind whistles
  • Record tracks to click track
  • Learn covers for NY subway (gotta make some money)
  • Get my Dad a birthday present
- - - - - - - - - - - -
I'm upstairs in the Wonderland Ballroom in Washington, DC. I've set up my office in the corner and will wait for the fans. Could be another quiet night. Barack has to work late and Michelle was only a maybe.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Studio

It's been a great day in thestudio. We've done four tracks now which
they will produce as the 'Philadelphia sessions' EP. And I thought of
asking Alan to do the artwork.

I never expected to do any recording on this tour. Kevin even
suggested doing an album. It's a real stroke of luck to meet him. If I
had to pay for their time and that studio it would be thousands. I'll
come back on 5th and 6th November and do more.

Good luck card

Staying in Wilmington again and Alan made me a card. Both he and
Nicole have been super hosts.

Back in the studio...

Started doing another three tracks today at 4pm. Things happen fast in
the states. These guys already feel like old friends. A really nice
vibe in the studio. They're so enthusiastic. Real Americans.

World Cafe Live, Philadelphia + ADD

The open mic was very good last night. It looked more like a nightclub, with velvet curtains and plush carpet. I did two songs, Gay OK and ADD with Chris. It went down really well, so it was worth the wait.
- - - - - - -
I already have a rough version of the track Chris and I did together. They're going to work on it a lot more but this is the skeleton version, and is what we performed at the World Cafe Live. You can download it here

Wilmington



I surfed with Nicole and Alan in Wilmington last night and the walls were covered with his funky pictures. Today is Borders Books all day. Taking advantage of their free WiFi and reading material.

Nicole

Alan

Monday, 5 October 2009

In the studio in Philadelphia



It's a hectic day today. I wanted to hang out in the jacuzzi but I'm having too much good luck. I met a producer at the conference called Kevin Wesley Williams who said come to my studio in Philadelphia tomorrow and record with this great guy I know called Chris Leggerie.

The studio is top notch and Chris is a great multi-instrumentalist. We worked on ADD (Parental Deficiency Disorder renamed for simplicity's sake), which they both liked and I've ever recorded before.



Chris on the studio's 120 year old Steinway.

I've left them working in the studio to queue up for a good slot in an open mic, even though I swore I'd never do another one. I have a free night and it's in a top venue (World Cafe Live), and you can get bookings from it, and Chris will come down and we'll do the new and improved song, and there's WiFi in the queue.