It did absolutely fantastic. I sold close to 6,000 copies and I got a lot of press. A lot of PR. Toured a lot for it. The record did absolutely fantastic for me. It opened a lot of doors.
What have you been doing between that release and your release of Half & Half?
Touring mostly. I played constantly, mostly on the East coast but I did a West coast jaunt last year. Predominately most of my touring is between Boston and Atlanta although this year I'm actually stretching it down to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and some other states. I'll be in Florida at some point this year but I spend my time doing a lot of gigs and writing. In the process I recorded the new record. I actually recorded two records. I have a full band record ready to go that I'm tweaking at the moment but just been real busy doing a lot of live shows to get the word out there.
Were a lot of them just by yourself or were a lot of them with a full band or a mixture of both?
Pardon the pun, about half and half last year. About 50 percent of the shows I did last year were full band shows or variations of the band in acoustic settings. I would do me and my guitar player on acoustic or I'd go out with my bass player and my piano player. Whatever variation I did, I did a lot of shows with the guys last year. There were a fair amount of full blown band shows. Fully electric, the whole nine yards. Then there were just as many solo acoustic shows also. The whole fall was spent mostly solo acoustic though. Since the release of this record, I've been doing almost everything solo acoustic to kind of stay true to the record.
That must be quite a challenge to just get up there all by yourself with just an acoustic guitar.
Three years ago yeah, because I'd never done it before. I'd always been in full bands. Full big out electric bands so when I released Leap Of Faith and I didn't have a band, going on the road by myself was really hard because I didn't really have that rapport down on my own. At this point it's 300 shows later and most of them by myself so I'm pretty used to it at this point. It's kind of free. It's nice because I'm not constrained by a band. If I feel like changing something or adding an extra part, I just do it. Slow something down or speed something up. Whatever I feel like, whatever order. I usually don't even have a set list. I just have a list of songs and I play whatever comes to mind at that moment.
You shared the stage with the likes of Rik Emmett, Hootie & The Blowfish, and Sister Hazel. Are there any particular shows that are really memorable?
Actually the Hootie & The Blowfish show never happened. I never got on that bill. It was expected and it didn't happen but the Rik Emmett show was absolutely the show for me. I have been a Rik fan since I was eight or 10 years old. He was the biggest influence on me as a musician. My practice room as a kid was wallpapered with Triumph and Rik Emmett. To get up there and open a show for him at the Bottom Line in New York City first off and then secondly, to have him bring me out on stage to close his show playing "Hold On" was just...the next day I could have retired from music and that would have been fine. It's like "okay, there's nothing left here to do."
Those were some of the tracks you put on Half & Half.
Yes, that show from the Bottom Line. Correct.
Tell us about Half & Half.
It's a half studio, half live CD. Oddly enough how it came about was, I was working on the new full band record and I had done the show with Rik Emmett in July of 2002. A few months later I get an email from some guy who said he bootlegged my show at the Bottom Line. He asked if I'd like a copy and I was like yeah, absolutely because I didn't have a copy of the show. I had no way of recording it that night. He sends me a copy of the CD and the recording quality was of course not pristine because I believe he did a mini disc with a stereo microphone sitting in the audience but it was not bad. I said I'd take it into the studio and edit it to nice, neat tracks because it was just the whole show in it's entirety. I cut out some dead spaces in between and some crowd stuff. Then I mastered it and it sounded so much better. I said that if I put some studio tracks to this, I have a live album. I have a record. I have a full album. I went in and I cut about a dozen new studio tracks and I picked the best six. Then I took the best five off the Bottom Line show and then one track from a radio show I did that came out kind of fun. There we go. That's how the record wound up coming to be.
You're going to be riding in the Mardi Gras parade on Valentine's Day in New Orleans.
Oh yeah. I got hooked up with that because a lot of the fan base that I'm tapped into now. I share it with Edwin McCain and Sister Hazel and people like that. Edwin McCain did this parade last year and when the people who were running it were getting ready to do this year, they contacted me and asked if I would be interested and of course I said yes so I am flying down to New Orleans on the 13th of February and I'm doing a show that night. Then the 14th I'm riding on a float in the Mardi Gras parade. Not just riding but performing. I'm going to have a full PA on the float and myself and a woman named Irene Sage who is a big New Orleans performer will be on the float as well as Billy Dean, the big country star. The three of us will be riding on the floats and performing throughout the entire four hour parade and we're actually doing a meet and greet and a performance before the parade starts out in the street. It's going to be awesome. It's absolutely going to be incredible. Most people go down to New Orleans and spend so much money to go see Mardi Gras and I get to go down and be a part of it so that's really cool.
Fans can be a part of that too.
Yeah, anybody who has the money can jump on board this float. Absolutely.
Is it going to be each person performing sets or is somebody going to do a song and then somebody else does a song?
I think it's going to be two or three songs each round robin. This way as I'm throwing beads, Irene or Billy will be playing and they'll do two or three or four songs and then they'll take a break. One of the other ones or myself will pick up and start playing and they're throwing beads and having fun and playing with the crowd.
Have you been getting a lot of radio airplay?
Not as of yet. We really haven't attacked a whole lot of radio. I've been getting Internet play. Some fairly recent Internet radio play but as far as terrestrial radio, the normal standard radio, we haven't really attacked it as of yet. We will be this year. I will be putting together a little campaign and going out to a lot of stations in the next few months. Hopefully that will pick up.
You've been listed on Pollstar.
Yeah, that was very nice to make the front page of Pollstar in their tour de jour section is fabulous because that's like the who's who of touring right now. I'm listed right underneath John Mayer so there's a lot of people going to be looking to see where John Mayer's playing. My name is right underneath his so just by default I'm probably going to get some traffic of people looking to see who I am and where I'm doing it. Pollstar felt the tour was impressive enough. I'm doing 24 dates in 13 states over two months and they were happy enough with the schedule to say "okay, we'll put you up."
You spend a lot of your time out on the road.
Yes, I do. It's great. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Tell me about the new album with the full band.
That's going to be later this year. Probably September. It's going to be a 12 song CD. I'm not on the positive on the track listing yet. We've already cut 10 songs and since they were cut, I've written about a half a dozen more that I want to go in and cut because I think that they're fantastic. I want to whittle them down to see which ones are actually the best 12 out of the 16. Then we're also doing a DVD. It's going to be packaged with a CD and a DVD in the same CD package. We're shooting for a September release on that. It'll be awesome.
It's hard to decide which songs you want to use on a CD.
You know what I do? I have a listening party. I'll get all 16 songs, I'll invite a whole bunch of my friends over, and I'll just throw it in. People give all their opinions back and the songs that don't consistently get the best opinions are the ones that don't make the record.
Sounds fair enough.
Yeah, it's the easiest way to do it and I don't have to pick on any of my kids. They're all my kids. Every song I write is a part of me and every one of them to me is as good as all the others. It's almost impossible for me to pick. I leave it up to some ears that don't have as much at stake as I do.
Anything else you have plotted for the future?
After I leave Mardi Gras, I'm embarking on what we're calling a seven states in seven days tour. It's a part of a whole southeast tour. I'm doing the two days of Mardi Gras, the 13th and 14th, which is cool because I'm actually spending Valentine's Day at Mardi Gras. Then I hit the road right from there. On the 15th I go to Jackson, Mississippi. The 16th I'm in Birmingham, Alabama. The 17th Atlanta, Georgia. 18th Greenville, South Carolina. 19th Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 20th Alexandria, Virginia and the 21st Annapolis, Maryland. I'm not slowing down. It's just one state after another. Day after day after day. That gets me all the way straight back and on that last Sunday I drive the last few hours to New Jersey and fall asleep. It's cool. It's going to be a once in a lifetime thing because I'm taking my dad with me. My dad is totally supportive of what I do. Every local show I play, he's at. Quick jaunts from the house, he makes me pick him up. I said I was going to Mardi Gras. He said he had always wanted to go so I said let's go. I'm going on tour after that and he said cool. So he's coming on the road with me for 10 days. Me and my dad are going to hit the road and see the whole southeast by car. We're renting a car in New Orleans and driving all the way back to New Jersey. It's going to be a once in a lifetime thing to do that whole thing with my dad. We're going to have a good time because my dad is definitely not an old guy. He's not that young any more age wise but mentally he hangs with the boys. He's 22 in his head and he comes out and hangs out with the guys constantly and all the guys in the band love him. When I go to shows they're always asking where my dad is because they just expect him to be there. This is going to be a fun trip to bring him.
Any other thoughts or comments?
Stop by the web site. It's brand new. I launched an entirely new web site on January 1st. The entire old web site is gone. You can stop by and check out the whole new web site. There's a new message board. The guest book is gone also and I have a new message board in its place. It's hosted by Quiet Tantrum who also hosts Sister Hazel's board and McCain's board and Howie Day. It's a good company because the people who are registered on the boards can go from board to board to board with their same login. It's a lot of cross-pollination of fans of everybody who has these boards. It was a good place to get into. New web site is really great. It's getting close to 1,000 hits a week at this point. Come out to the shows. It's going to be good to see everybody and it's the first time I'm really touring the southeast. I have a lot of friends and fans down there. It's going to be nice to see everybody finally.
Are you real interactive on the board?
Yeah, I'm all over the board. I'm very much a hands-on performer. I'm not the guy who sits back and just watches everything. I want to be involved. I'm as much a fan of so many bands as I am a performer so to me, these are friends of mine. I've gotten to the point where my fan club president is just a friend of mine now. A lot of these people who visit my site frequently, I'm on email all day with these people and I talk to them constantly. It's like having friends more than anything else. It's really cool because I don't do that whole separation of fans. You stay over there and I'm over here. I don't do all that stuff. I'm definitely in the mix and I like it that way. It's more fun. It's more personal. When you get to a gig, you're playing to people who are coming to see somebody. I'm looking forward to The Rock Boat again this year. That'll be in October and that's going to be awesome. That's pretty much it. I have a lot of stuff on the plate this year.