You win some you learn in others. If you’ve been following my career for the last five years, you’ve probably noticed a huge drop in performances since November. I have yet to play my own show in 2014. I decided in November not to book anything until I knew what the hell I was doing. I also have performance commitments with my band, a day job (yes, I have a “real job” again for the first time in forever – I love it and it works well so far with my schedule… Plus I work with a great team…), and hockey practice for my son that really make it easy to not want to be booked every Wednesday through Saturday.
I had a great conversation today with the friend producing my next record – and this one will be great. I have complete trust and faith in what he and his partner do, and while I don’t want to spend too much time writing about it until we begin recording it… I feel I can breathe again. I don’t have to constantly debate whether to play guitar or saxophone. I don’t have to play a gig every night. I can have other interests and take my family out for dinner once in a while.
I really enjoy instrumental music – and it has been my bread and butter for the last five years, playing restaurants. It’s not jazz, but it’s not not jazz. The saxophone inspires me, keeps me sane, and has been the foundation of my life. I love the music of Joshua Redman, Stan Getz, Hank Mobley, and countless others. But the amount of focused time practicing to consistently play at a level that can entertain for a two hour show with no band…is tiring, overkill, and burning me out! Playing restaurants instead of listening rooms can also be disheartening if the response isn’t there.
About nine years ago I began playing guitar. I first wanted to play it because I was worried one night my band wouldn’t show up and I would need to perform by myself. Then I heard Ben Harper. Then I heard Stephen Kellogg. Then I found myself more and more just… into it. I began carrying a guitar everywhere in order to make up lost time practicing. Picking it up at age 29 is a little late… Along the way I fell in love with music from Stephen Kellogg, Matt Nathanson, John Mayer, Howie Day, Dave Matthews Band, OAR, Aaron Lewis and Staind, Barefoot Truth, Ben Harper, State Radio, Zac Brown, Rick Monroe, Kenny Chesney, and Jimmy Buffett. I’ve been fortunate to perform with and open for some of my favorite acts… and began playing guitar and singing a few of my songs at some of my saxophone dinner shows.
I took a step back from the guitar this fall. First, my main gig is playing saxophone with the world’s premier Jimmy Buffett tribute, Changes In Latitudes (which is an incredible show if you haven’t seen it). Returning to restaurants after the summer tour season, I blew out my voice a bit, and at the same time had been inspired to play more saxophone after a jazz performance by Joshua Redman in Albany. I hit it hard, practicing a lot and trying to make meaningful phrases to connect with people. But more and more… I felt a disconnect. People just didn’t care. It was background to them… Filler.
In December I released an instrumental recording. It is on iTunes. It has not charted in any way. A few friends have purchased songs from it, and I thank them. I hope you enjoy the music as much as I did recording it. And it will always be there (well, until iTunes stops). But it didn’t connect. My previous recording, the all guitar and vocal Vermont sold well, and people would return to shows and ask me to play songs off of it – particularly “Fish and Chips” or ‘the one with marijuana in it’… which to me showed a connection. That didn’t happen with “Songs to go with Your Morning Coffee”. The reaction was just not there. I didn’t play many shows in that time, but even when I did… Yeah. Wasn’t happening.
So today, I was asked by this friend who happens to be a great producer (to be named later) whether this would be more of an instrumental album or a songs-with-lyrics record… And this was it. The moment of truth – after he listened to demos and judged whatever it was I was doing… And I said…
“Well, I can do instrumental but I’m thinking this one should be with vocals and…” He stopped me there.
“Good – we’re on the same page… This will be great”…
The decision was made.
Looking back, my strength on the horn is absolutely playing with bands, and while the restaurant dinner shows were well thought out and wildly successful financially and as a career boost, I love playing with the bands. And especially CiL, a great, growing organization.
But it’s time. So in late March, barring any changes, I’m beginning a journey with some gentlemen to make a record that I have wanted to make my entire life. It’s personal, it’s meaningful, and it’s no-holds-barred. Beyond anything, it’s where my heart and soul are. To play a song on a stage that reaches someone, and to add a voice from my horn on top of it makes way more sense to me than picking one over the other. But the song needs to be there… It’s all about the song.
So that brings me to this. I’m not sure when I’ll begin booking restaurants again. I may do some bar shows with an OAR tribute in March and April, but I may be recording then. I’m sure I’ll be touring all summer with the band. Who knows what fall will bring. But for now, it looks like the restaurant dinner shows are on hold for a while.
I want to thank all of the restaurants that supported me but especially, Four Main Street, Spoleto, Noon Hill Grill, and School Street Bistro. These were anchors for building schedules again and again. They enabled me to leave a career I didn’t want behind and launched me into employing myself as a full time musician from 2009-2013. Thank you all so so much. Maybe we’ll do more together some day.
All the best to everyone in 2014. I hope I’m part of your soundtrack this year ~