I thought I had Nashville sort of figured out.  Having been there a few times, and intently watching the TV series, I had formed my own impression of Music City.  I felt like I was ready to dive in and take the next step towards my recording goals, so I went out on a limb and contacted Gregg Brown, who is from my hometown of Carlton, MN and owner of Revelator Recordings in East Nashville.

Gregg Brown - Revelator Recordings
Gregg Brown – Revelator Recordings.  Fittingly with a Good People Brown Ale.

Gregg has had a great deal of success and action in the Nashville music scene dating back to the 80’s, working with Warner Brothers and the likes of Hank Jr., Tanya, and Travis Tritt among many others.  My goal, to see if he could point me in the right direction to record a few of my tunes and hang out a bit.

I really didn’t think I’d be recording with him but, he decided to carve out some time for recording a few tunes in his studio with one of Nashville’s most prominent sound engineer Matt Coles.  The whole thing really sort of materialized at the last minute based on coincidence, timing, connections, and I’d like to think some good karma.   I had a few open days in Nashville and had already “been there done that” with traditional touristy stuff of the downtown scene.  Too many people and a little too crazy for me at this point.

Even though I was only in town for a short period of time, nothing felt rushed.  I was able to lay down 8 tunes, which I’ll narrow to 5 for my EP.  Probably the funnest part, though, was just hanging out with Gregg, Matt, and friends that sometimes popped in and out, and walking around the area.

Julie Gribble
Musician and actress Julie Gribble

Julie Gribble stopped over for a few hours to collaborate on a co-write and we all shared a few tunes and stories on the porch.  Her music has taken her to the Late, Late Show and Tyra Banks, and as an actress she’s been in Quarantine 2: Terminal and Ride Along.  She self-admittedly came in like a tornado and sort of changed the direction of the day.

I had already recorded a few songs in the morning and my fingers were almost gone.  So once she left, and it was just me, Gregg, Matt, and Brad, we all went down a path for a new song that basically ended up being a Spanish scat tune inspired by the day.

Here are the Quattro Amigos recording this never-to-be-released song.
The Quattro Amigos recording their never-to-be-released Tornado song.

 More studio and East Nashville shots of the experience.

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Recording with Matt’s Martin.
First listen.
First listen in the studio.
Second listen with Montana Brad who stopped by for a listen.
Second listen with Montana Brad who stopped by.
Gregg and Kraig hangin' on the studio porch discussing walleyes, dogs, Carlton, and Sasquatch.
Hangin’ on the studio porch discussing walleyes, dogs, Carlton, and Sasquatch.
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In the mixing room with Gregg.
East Nashville post-recording fun.
Quattro Amigos East Nashville post-recording fun.
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I Dream of Weenie in East Nashville.

If you’re thinking about going to Nashville, I’d recommend East Nashville 5 Points area.  People are generally friendly, almost everyone said hello back on the sidewalks, and it feels like its more “real” than what the Gaylord Opryland and downtown have evolved to.  They even have a cool weenie stand / VW bus.

When staying in East Nashville, I’d recommend the Nashville Writers Room Air BnB that I stayed at.  The host (Brad) is super nice and even hung out in the recording studio.

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Oh, and I took my first ever UBER ride with Devin from Kingston.  UBER is great! I’ve taken several now and they have all been excellent…much more convenient, economical, and professional than a cab ride.  I’m a fan.

So if you’re in the Carlton, MN area I have a few shows coming up, hope to see you out!

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “vintage” as an adjective:

—used to describe a wine usually of high quality that was produced in a particular year which is identified on the bottle

—used to describe something that is not new but that is valued because of its good condition, attractive design, etc.

—used to describe something that has the best qualities or characteristics of the things made or done by a particular person, organization, etc.

We likely relate vintage to fine wine or furniture, but some may say we should use antique when talking about anything old other than wine.  “WOW! That’s a vintage ’72 cab, eh?” or “Hey fella, want to buy a vintage chair for $500, its got the charm of an old farmhouse“. How about vintage people, can that be applied?

When looking at the 3rd Merriam definition, one could say the best qualities or characteristics of a person represent their “vintage”.  “That Sugar Mags > Scarlet > Fire from the ‘91 Vegas show was vintage Jerry Garcia man!“.

Today was my parents 51st Anniversary and during our visit, they shared some fond memories of their relationship and acknowledged the ebbs and flows.  Mom’s big walleye that she may have thought was going to pull her in the water (she doesn’t like water much/at all.), their early years when Mom lived with the Balows and they were wildly dating, phone booth relief (inside joke that I can’t expand on), and the latest, Mom getting doused by the sprinklers at the Carlton Greenhouse when picking out geraniums.  When people can laugh at their little tidbits of misfortune or lawful craziness, I relate that to a vintage-level characteristic that will last beyond their years.

Today’s vintage moment came when I was showing my parents the “new” vintage 1938 Gibson archtop guitar I just got.  I had to show it off, its my first real vintage guitar.  My mom was asking many questions about how the notes work and such so I decided to teach her how to play a G chord.  I play a G chord wrong, since I use my thumb on the 3rd fret, (but I’ll blame that on Neil Young since watching MTV Unplugged was how I learned to play).  Nonetheless, at 80 years old, she picked up the G pretty quickly and as soon as the guitar chord was solid, she even crooned a little bit.  My dad also plucked a few, rockin’ it at 82.

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Both now have my “cheater G” down and it makes me wonder if it is never too late to learn how to play a guitar.

Well I have about a week and a half to get my “new” vintage guitar dialed in.  I hope to play a few on it, if I can let go of my Alvarez for a few songs, at upcoming shows.  Check out the Shows page for dates and times, hope to see you there!

I don’t know why I am such a glutton for songwriters contests.  Of course I enjoy writing songs and prefer for that to happen when they just “come to me”.  Seeking out a song, hunting it down, forming it for a somewhat specific purpose, and having a deadline creates a different kind of energy.  Maybe it actually helps focus the musing and it is a good thing?  I know it helps me with may day job, tapping into my creative side while meeting deadlines….

2015-05-22 10_47_39-Singer Songwriter ContestSo last fall, Jason Wussow at Beaners put on a 36 hour songwriters challenge whereby he texted a single word to me and some others afflicted by songwriters contests.  We all had 36 hours to craft a song “inspired” by that word, and then perform the song live on the Beaners stage.  The word was BRAVERY.

Maybe some other gluttons had songs in their back pocket, but in this case, my approach (and personal challenge) was simply to not use any previous material, and to not use the “word” too much, if at all, in my song.

It was a fun, challenging experience and I ended up with an fast-moving diddy about two soldiers from opposing sides, but sharing many parallels form signing up for service to watching all their comrades die on this gory, smokey battlefield somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  The hook came towards the end when both soldiers, realizing pretty much everyone else was dead, caught each others eyes through their scopes and had a “moment” where they both paused, stood, dropped their weapons, and went out to pay respects to the fallen.

I guess I felt that was some extended, unique form of bravery and it still gives me chills when I play it, so I guess Jason’s 36 hour challenge produced fruit.

Here is that verse:

“They were the last two soldiers alive, as they’d come to understand….understand
And as they walked out of their cover, eyes fixed on each other,
They both picked up their flags, and slowly dropped their arms…that caused the harm

They walked around the dead, to the middle of that field.. that deadly field
And strapped their flags together, half-mast in the dirt….Mother’s Earth

Together they buried the dead, toe to toe, head to head.
Each got a fitting grave, together for each they prayed…yeah they prayed
They could say hey, they could say no. They could say hey, hey, hey brother don’t you know.”

2 Brave soldiersHere is a link to the full lyrics of “Two Brave Soldiers, hope to record it someday…

So tonight I have the chance to debut a new one at the Red Herring Lounge in Duluth as part of Duluth Dylan Fest, a tribute to Bob Dylan and sort of week-long celebration of his birthday here in his birthplace of Duluth, MN.  John Bushey, a nationally acclaimed student of Dylan’s work, is putting on the Duluth Dylan Fest Songwriters Contest.  It has been held for several year’s in Hibbing and this is the first year of having it on the hills of old Duluth.

Last night after work, I spent some time on the shore of Lake Superior with my guitar and put the final polish on my tune.

Songwriting by Lake Superior

Its called “Visions of Bob“, which is an amalgamation of about 20 Dylan-inspired visions he transmitted to “us” in his musings.  Its an upbeat tune with a few harmonica slices.  I’m really in love with the chorus:

“Through you we rowed every ocean, with Spanish boots on our feet,
To new worlds with Captain Arab, Johanna’s vision when we speak.

For Dylan affectionado’s, this song is inspired by 18 Dylan songs.  Here are the lyrics and the “key” listing the songs that primarily formed the visions of this tune.

If you are near Duluth, stop into the Red Herring tonight at 7PM to hear my debut of “Visions of Bob” (and several other gluttons sharing their Dylan-inspired musings), or catch me at the Streetcar Pub in Carlton Saturday night from 8-10 for a full set on Bob’s Birthday Eve.