I'm 29 years old, I write songs, and I've been a musician for most of my life professionally. I like long walks on the beach and getting caught in the rain. No.
I got that line from someone else once so I always like it when I get that one. You've been a professional most of your life. How did you start out in that?
I started when I was very young playing guitar. Then I went to school, music college. Just started playing around Dallas from then on and then went to New York for about four years and just recently moved back about a year ago. Last year I was on the road six months out of the year so I'm just now settling down. All the craziness has subsided for the near future anyway.
You were on the road continuously for six months without a break?
I did one month for the Etherville tour and then I did five months with a circus. The Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. I did guitar in that.
Really? How did you get hooked up with that?
Just from some connections I made along the way. Actually some North Texas Alum recommended me for the job. There were a couple of them in the band at that time and that's where I went to school, North Texas, so we knew each other and we were friends and they recommended me for the spot. I took it because I was basically waiting for the record to come out for the most part. There was all this waiting around so I thought I'd go ahead and do this. I did it for five months. I did it up at Madison Square Garden and then I jumped off the train literally.
What did you do when you were with the circus?
Mainly just wash the elephants and...no, I'm just kidding. I played guitar. They have a band and it's like a Broadway rock type of band. For the most part, I've just been mostly a freelance guitarist I guess you could say. I was just playing rock guitar basically in kind of a Broadway thing. A lot of people don't even realize that there is a band. The way they have it mixed and the way when we rehearsed it. You play maybe 11 shows a week. Prior to when the show gets on the road, you rehearse it for five weeks. By that time you pretty much have it down. It sounds real clean and it sounds like a CD basically. Like a recording. Sometimes when people notice there is a band, they're like "oh, I didn't know that." We're not in a pit. We're by the portal where everything comes out and we're back there in the dark doing our thing. It's pretty much like going to see a Broadway show or something and they have an orchestra pit.
That's really cool. I haven't seen a circus since I was a kid so that seems like something new.
Yeah, they've had a band for some time but I think what they used to do is they used to pick up a band in every city and now they have their own traveling band. It's a hard life because you live on a train. A dorm room would be palatial compared to the room you've got on the train. It's very small and so it's like you're always at work. It's kind of like being in the military. Your quarters are there at the job also so you're constantly there.
We had an apartment like co-ed dormitory on my base so it wasn't so bad until the jets would fly over in the middle of the night.
It's not as bad for sure.
It was just a matter of getting the jets to fly over the dorms during the day and not during the night. Tell me about Etherville which is a really nice CD. I like it.
Thank you. Etherville was penned a few years ago now and at the time I was living in New York and that's where all the songs were written. I recorded it mostly in New York but also in Denton with Matt Pence who mixed the record and plays drums on one track also. I recorded some tracks at his studio, the Echo Lab, here in Denton and it was just finishing up basically. It was right when I got out of New York and basically all the songs had a lot to do with New York and a lot to do with living in New York. It's kind of a somber CD. It was a somber time I'd say so it's reflecting on that. It also has an approach that's been called chamber rock or chamber pop or other people call it that. Basically having arranged strings on there and an accordion. It's not a conventional rock album. It was developing as I was writing it. As I was writing it I was recording it. It just turned into what it is now. It's a good debut record I think.
Chamber rock, huh?
Yeah, I've heard that twice actually.
That's definitely something new. I like the cover of it. You seem to be in a bottle in a shoe.
Yeah, the cover is actually a sculpture made by a folk artist named Sue Little which is actually my mother-in-law. It's a sculpture and it's a pretty good sized sculpture. A lot of people think it's a Photo Shop job or a picture. It's an actual sculpture and I thought it was emblematic of the record in that it's that feeling of being trapped somewhat yet you can see on the outside what's going and that's the feeling I think I get from big cities. Just the thought of being a musician in general and being an artist. Everyone has their everyday thing and being an artist you're separated from that. You don't have the same schedule and usually you don't have the same routine but also the same mentality or the way you don't look at things the same way. A lot of people don't really understand that which I guess is why we make art. Which is how we talk about life. I thought that that sculpture with the baby in the bottle was just great. It has that feeling to me.
A lot of songs on here are about living in New York. Why did you decide to move to New York and what was your life like there?
I moved to New York like a lot of us have from North Texas. Norah Jones is one of them. A lot of friends of mine. Dan Everly. Bill Campbell who is the drummer on most of the record. Just a whole bunch of us. I guess we moved to New York basically to make it. To be I guess saturated with the arts and with that whole thing that New York is. This very unique place where so many creative things happen. We all wanted to be a part of that and we wanted to contribute to that and eventually be able to make a living doing that. That's why I moved to New York. I was basically playing sideman kind of gigs. Whatever would come up. I would play jazz gigs. I made some connections and did some studio work. Did some things with Nelson Gonzalez who plays Cuban guitar which is another instrument I play called a tres and then I worked with Omar Faruk Tekbilek who is a Middle Eastern musician and I went on the road with him. Actually I just did a thing with him recently a few weeks ago in Chicago at a Middle Eastern festival they have there called Hamsa. My life was basically playing on these gigs as a sideman, as a freelance guitarist and I just started writing these songs. I recently went to New York to play jazz professionally but after a while I just got into the whole songwriting thing.
You've definitely had the opportunity to play a wide variety of music. That's pretty damn cool.
When you're just a musician or when you're just a guitar player I should say, you learn to adapt to certain styles because the more styles you can play and the more things you can do, the easier it is for you to find work.
You're not just locked into one style of music.
Tell me about some of the songs on Etherville and what was going through your mind as you wrote them.
There's a good amount of love songs on there I'd say such as "Love Song". "I Went Away" was based on the life of Gauguin. Not so much his life but the one I guess...Gauguin the painter who left his family and went to Tahiti and just started painting. Now it's kind of romanticized that he did that but man, he had to be a real asshole. You leave your kids and you leave your wife. Forget this, I'm going to Tahiti. Bye. At the same time it's not like he didn't make great art. The art is moving people today. He had such a contribution so it's very interesting to me. Those two things juxtaposed. I wrote that song about "I'm leaving and I'm doing this." If I were Gauguin, how I would describe it. At the end of that song you have a free kind of section where it's just drums and guitars. You have a guitar riff that continues along repeating and repeating and it's the only thing that's really in time and everything else is just kind of chaotic like a little episode at the end. That's supposed to represent the kind of inner turmoil that you have doing something that you feel is right. At the same knowing that it's wrong. That's "I Went Away". Various other songs, they're not autobiographical I would say the whole time. Maybe half and half. "Happiness Today" is a love song also. I would have to go through the list but those are a few of them anyway.
If someone were to pick up the CD and this is the first time they've heard you perform, what three songs on it do you think represent you the best?
I think "Fast As You Can", "I Went Away", and the third song would be "Love Song". I'm working on the demos for the next record. I've already got four or five songs recorded for that one. Just demos. They're not actually the tracks, the final recording process. I'm getting it together. I think "Nocturne" is up there too. If you allow me to pick four, those are the four. They're the four that I think came out the best. I think it is representative.
You recorded it in two different places?
Yeah, I recorded it in various places. Mostly, it was recorded in the co-producer's studio. It was also recorded in the Looking Glass studio in New York. All the drums were recorded in Matt Pence's studio. Some things were recorded at home with my setup.
How long did it take to record the record?
It was an ongoing process. It was the kind of thing where Oligie and I were just basically doing it whenever we could do it. It wasn't like we had the opportunity to say "all right, let's just spend two weeks or three weeks or a month in the studio and get it done." It was like "hey, what are you doing next weekend? Let's work on this record." It probably took about a year. There were songs that were written during the process of recording that record because it took so long. I'd say around a year off and on.
Sometimes the longer you take, the better the quality.
Yeah, hopefully with the new one I plan to be able to just get it hopefully done in a month or so. That's the plan.
You're not going to take another year.
Yeah, try not to. I've been writing the whole time and even on tour and along with the circus because by the time it was recorded and by the time it was put out, that's another year or two. Now I have all this new material from when the record was finished to when the record was released as well as while the record was released which was July. Now I have to make another record. I've got all these songs. It's going be a double album.
Are you doing any gigs around town?
Yeah, I'm playing in Denton. I'm doing a solo show of my songs at Art Six Cafe in Denton. Just real low key. I'm playing on the 18th with a whole bunch of other bands. It's for a benefit concert at Club Dada. That's for the whole hurricane thing. Also on the 16th I'm having a CD release with another band I'm playing in and that I front. It's called the Latin Pimps. Our record came out a few weeks after mine so I have that coming up here this week.
You're definitely a very busy guy.
It's funny. Tonight I'm playing with a band called Midlake. They were nominated in the last Dallas Observer Music Awards. They get nominated a lot. I don't think they took anything home though. But the Latin Pimps won for the best Latin band. We went to music school and the drummer for that band is a good friend of mine and he wanted to get together to play some be-bop. Yeah, why not. What else are we gong to do so tonight we're actually playing with one of the faculty at UNT who used to be my guitar teacher. We're just doing a trio gig tonight here in Denton just for kicks. We play mostly rock so now we're going back to the be bop a roo. See what happens. It'll be fun.