The travails of booking tour dates... 

Those "Facebook memories" things are often unsettling (or sometimes downright creepy), but this one was kind of funny:

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Jefferson Thomas

March 24, 2015 · New York · 

Booked three tour dates today: a radio-sponsored show in northern California, a festival in New Hampshire, and a club in Copenhagen. That has to be the worst job of routing EVER. Maybe it's time I hired somebody who knows what in hell they're doing.

Not the least bit Irish, but St. Patrick's Day is always very special to me... 

I'm not the least bit Irish, but St. Patrick's Day for me is always a special memory of my first-ever paying gig.  My dad was the guitarist in the backing band of an Irish singer who would come over from Belfast several times a year and play the US. They always did big business in the Catskills (a couple of hours north of NYC), and there was an enormous Irish festival there every year for St. Patrick's Day.

One day, my dad gets off the phone and says they're doing that festival again, and the guy needs a bass player for this gig on short notice.  I was eleven.  I had taken up bass two years earlier, and had just recently gotten my first-ever instrument, an old Hofner-copy Beatle-esque bass, with action so high you could win an archery contest with it (it still adorns my wall at home)...

...so I was suddenly pressed into duty.  One of my friends called as were were leaving, wanting me to meet the gang and play football.  "Tell him I gotta play a job" I said matter-of-factly, savoring the words.

There was no rehearsal.  My dad explained to me during the long drive to the festival that "It's pretty much all three-chord stuff, kinda simple and a lot of fun, but it moves pretty fast.  Just follow me and listen to the singer; you'll be fine."  I got there and met the other guys in the band, who had flown in from Ireland. I could barely understand any of them.  I remember my dad being really proud and thrilled that I was joining him.  We played about an hour, then took a break and I sat with the guys, having my first corned-beef and cabbage, and my first beer ("Don't tell your mother" my Dad whispered, conspiringly).  Then we played another two sets, I got paid a couple hundred bucks and just smiled the whole way home.

It marked the beginning of the end of whatever football career I may have been destined for. 

Happy Birthday, Dad! 

Yeah yeah yeah, we'll get to all that other stuff, like what I've been up to lately, blah blah blah. Today we take time out for my dad's birthday! 

This is the last recording of my dad, captured by my brother in a high-end boutique guitar store somewhere in New Mexico. 

The only thing he enjoyed as much as a good night playing was prowling music stores by day, trying out instruments and sharing old songs and stories with the staff and local players.  He was a curator of great old, lost songs; the more obscure, the more he enjoyed bringing them to life again. 

My earliest memories are of tagging along on these excursions, prowling music stores for great old instruments.  I eventually inherited his penchant for breezing right past all the sexy new stuff and heading straight for the “island of misfit toys” - the area in the back with every used and abused, sorry-looking old clunker in town. 

I also never got tired of seeing all the headbangers, shredding away on their raging death-metal, stop what they were doing and come over to see the old man laying down some great old stuff. 

He would leave us not very long after this, and he had clearly lost a step on guitar at this point, but his voice had aged and deepened, like a fine wine.  We’re fortunate that my brother suddenly decided to bust out his phone and capture this. The video didn’t come out, but I’m glad; for me, this is like an old-time radio show. 

It ends with him saying "I'll jump right in with your band anytime," and the guy in the store says "Anytime!  It's too bad you're lcaving too soon."  Touche...

 

Escape from New York... 

I’ve spent 2019 so far sequestered in the warm and cozy confines of the recording studio, cooking up all kinds of new things for you.  But last Saturday night I came out of hiding to do a private show and test-drive some of the new things we’ve been recording. 

Anyone who lives in NYC knows the trick to living here is getting the hell OUT of here once in a while.  So we did this at the original "Darryl's House" (where Darryl Hall filmed the first two seasons of "Darryl's House" before building the current location nearby).  It’s a fantastic place, but not really the kind of venue that has its own website, so the closest thing I could find was this:

CLICK HERE

Almost as nice as the venue was the two-hour drive north of the city.  The owners at Fraser Ridge first brought me there to play last summer, and they're such warm, hospitable hosts. It was great to go back and knock around some new music to an appreciate bunch of folks (fortunately we were INDOORS this time, since it was a cold and snowy February night.) 

We’ll probably do something like this again, and if we do it before the new album is out, we’ll record it live and make these “test drive” versions of the new songs available only to you special people, the JT.com subscribers.

The slow burn... 

You work and work at this, and you’re so close to it that sometimes you don’t get to see the bigger picture and the progress you’re making.  Pick your metaphor: “forest for the trees,” “battle vs. the war”, etc - the point is that a few years ago I made a conscious decision to venture beyond America with my music, and I knew whatever was going to happen was going to be a slow burn: a grassroots kind of affair, and that such things take a while.  I wanted to grow my fan base, and you do that by abandoning your comfort zones and bringing your music to new people in new places, not by playing for the same old people in the same old places, which is a rut a lot of musicians get stuck in. 

Suddenly, this morning, I noticed that the majority of interaction I’m having these days (social media, email, website, etc.) is with people I don’t know from distant places, who either saw a show or came across my music online and sought me out. The shows I’ve been doing outside the United States have been a lot of hard work and the travel can be a grind.  You work it from the ground up and cultivate something a little bigger each time out (we ain’t exactly flyin' in private jets and sellin’ out stadiums yet, and that’s OK; we're doing better than last year, and last year was better than the year before that...you get the idea).

When you do all this yourself, the rock-star glamour is a very small part of your day.  And I like that, because we live in a time where people seem to be increasingly putting their stock in fake things and fleeting things and “virtual” things.  I'm keeping my eye on real things.  Stuff that comes without much effort usually comes without much value.

So thanks – and welcome – to all you new friends from foreign lands.  We'll be coming to see you all again in the spring.  Patience, people...we’re building things. And it’s good to build things. Remember – if you’re finding that something is hard, chances are it's worthwhile and you’re doing it right.

Country vs. Folk... 

Just heard some over-educated pseudo-intellectual blowhard postulating at great lemgth and with unnecessary nuance over what makes country different from folk. Dude, chill. Stop making shit difficult. It’s simple: country is Dunkin’ Donuts. Folk is Starbucks.

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