Davy Knowles

Electronic Press Kit

The official website for Blues/Rock/Roots musician, Davy Knowles. 

Three Miles From Avalon - Album Release Show

Last Friday I had one of the best gigs of my life. 

It's a beautiful, yet slightly daunting feeling to release an album. This is the fourth full-length studio one I've been a part of.  There's a sense of vulnerability involved. There are pressures, both from those you work with and self-inflicted along with expectations that are slightly blurred and easily confused with blind ambition.  Ambition, I think, can both give you the drive and life-force to push forward and yet somehow, simultaneously cripple you with doubt.  

Photo by Kristine Walton

Photo by Kristine Walton

I'd heard of this venue before,  many artists I admire play here.  Without doubt 'SPACE' in Evanston, Illinois is one of the very best clubs i've set foot in.  It's a gorgeous and well thought out venue.  There was a bloody turntable and record collection in the dressing room for gods sake.  Sold.  The perfect place to do a record release party.  Warm, intimate, and vibey. 

We decided to film and record this show.  Sometime the 'red light' syndrome comes into play at these gigs. Get your mind out of the gutter.  'Recording light' may be a better term.  This time I was determined to ignore the camera crew and the Pro Tools rig. Aside from pleasantries, and vague detail-ironing, I kept away.  I wanted this to be about the band, and the audience.  

What an audience.  With us from the first note to the last. I remember walking through the crowd as we were cheered for an encore.  I remember looking down and smiling.  What a beautiful feeling.  

What a band, too.  How fortunate am I to play with such marvelous musicians, who every night, dig deep and pour themselves into a little tune I wrote? Marvin, Michael, Andrew.  I love you like brothers.   

Anyways. I think we captured something quite special that night.  

Here's our setlist.  The whole of the new album from start to finish, some acoustic tunes, then some old favourites. 

  1. Ain't Much Of Nothin' 
  2. What You're Made Of
  3. Falling Apart
  4. Never Gonna Be The Same
  5. Gov't Row
  6. Oxford MS
  7. Three Miles From Avalon
  8. What In The World
  9. First Words Of A Changing Man
  10. As The Crow Flies
  11. Stay
  12. Roll Away
  13. Riverbed
  14. Catch The Moon
  15. Come Home
  16. Gotta Leave
  17. In A Little While 

 

 

Direction (with a little artistic license)

It was the end of the school year,  and the exam results had come in. The young boy hadn't done too well.  He knew it. 

He wasn't particularly worried about the actual results.  It was more the explaining to his teachers and parents he was nervous about.  

"Maths. You got a C.  That'll pass you, but you could have done better couldn't you?

"Yes Sir"

"Life Skills. You got a D. Not so good."

"I know. I'm sorry".  The boy was wondering at what point in his life any of those 'skills' he had been tested on would come into play.  He wasn't even sure this was actually a legitimate subject. 

"English Literature. That was better. B. Well done"

"I like reading" 

"Art. D. What happened?" 

"The teacher didn't like me" 

"Well perhaps he would have liked you if he'd gotten to know you, or indeed seen any of your artwork. You'd have had to have turned up to his lessons for that to happen though, wouldn't you?" 

"Yes Sir. Sorry Sir." 

The rest of the results filtered in. History, English Language, French. Not so good all around.  Maybe enough to get him into the university the boy had half-heartedly picked out. He'd chosen Philosophy as a direction there. Mainly because he liked arguing. His teacher stood up from behind the big wooden desk and walked out into the corridor, obviously unexcited about bringing the boys parents in and letting them know the poor academic performance of their offspring. 

"If you'll take a seat" he said to them, gesturing to the two empty seats either side of the boy. 

"It seems," he continued, "that your son hasn't quite performed as well in his examinations as we'd hoped from him.  Have you talked about his plans after leaving this high school?"

Both parents shot a look that expressed both disappointment and total lack of surprise. The boy shrank down in his seat a little further.

 "Well yes.  He's very into his music, and he's met a gentleman in the music industry who is very keen to offer him help.  He's met with us a few times, and we trust him.  He wants him to take a gap year and move to England to pursue his music." 

The teacher looked at the parents. Then at the boy. Then at the sheet of paper in his hands.  He cleared his throat.

"Well. Let me put it this way. Your son is not a model student, he dislikes studying, has a short attention span, talks too much, and under performs during exams. He hasn't turned up for many of the classes he chose to take this year. "

The teacher paused, and a wry smile started to appear on his lips. He continued. 

"However. Your son is also not a mathematician. Nor is he a painter.  He certainly isn't a geologist, physicist or chemist. I can't much picture him as a great philosopher either.  Your son is a musician.  I've seen him play.  The joy he has for it is obvious.  I whole heartedly recommends he takes this gap year and makes the most of whatever opportunity he gets in the field and direction that makes him happy." 

The boy couldn't believe his ears. What had he just gotten away with?! This was too good to be true. 

It still is. 

 

 

 

THREE MILES FROM AVALON! Listen to NEW music, and read reviews!

Well,  it's not long until the new record 'Three Miles From Avalon' is out! 

We've already premiered TWO tracks with the fantastic folks at both AMERICAN BLUES SCENE, and BLUES ROCK REVEIW,  and garnered a GLOWING review from American Blues Scene... I'm pretty giddy with excitement.  Here's a bunch of links for you to check out! 

If you haven't checked out these tracks, you can listen to 'OXFORD MS' HERE...

... and 'WHAT IN THE WORLD' HERE...

...you can read the REVIEW here...

AND PREORDER THE ALBUM HERE! 

Boom! 

Off Again!

Man this has been a busy few months! 

But after a short break at home in Chicago, it's time to load up the van again and head out on the road.  

We've got some very exciting gigs in the books,  Alexandria VA at the Birchmere with the marvelous Samantha Fish,  multiple shows with total guitar hero Johnny A,  and some return shows to familiar venues, with familiar faces.  It's lovely to become friends with folks you see coming out over and over again to our shows.  I feel very privileged. 

On top of all this,  the release campaign for the new record 'Three Miles From Avalon' is really gathering pace, we have a tremendous publicist,  Steve Karas, on board,  the album is now mastered for VINYL, and the test pressings sound like everything I wanted this album to sound like.  You can pre-order your copy HERE - and get two tracks immediately, and access to whole bunch of other things.  You should totally do it ;) 

So, head on over to our TOUR DATES,  and I hope to see you at a show soon! 

Davy 

 

 

(Perhaps) Unwanted Advice

I am writing this from  a depressing casino in Black Hawk CO. It was a good point to stop on i-70 heading west on our way to California (yep. Driving from Denver to San Francisco).  Silver lining here is the lovely man behind the check-in counter said: "we don't get many Brits here,  I will upgrade you".  Marvelous gesture, incredibly kind of him.  I do, however, wonder what the rooms I booked looked like... 

What an ungrateful sod I am. 

Anyways. 

I've done a few interviews recently for some of these shows this tour, and I get asked a lot "where do you see your career in 5 years?" and "what advice would you offer younger musicians coming up?"  Thought I'd share my (perhaps) unwanted views and advice. 

Answer to Q #1.  My goal throughout all of this, every show, recording session, late night jam, and sleepless night with my mind whirring about music, has all been about being the best musician I can be.  Chasing an inward vision of how you picture yourself sounding. It's hard to vocalise what that is,  but each day is about striving towards it.  My 5 year plan? To still be doing it.  Flat out.  Would I like to play to big crowds every night? Sure! But sometimes the small, sweaty clubs are way more fun. Would I like a little more recognition? I'd be lying if I said no,  I think anyone likes a good pat on the back for hard work. But as soon as you think you deserve more, there is something catastrophically wrong. Work hard, and enjoy yourself doing it. 

Answer to Q#2. Make sure your motives are in the right place. Don't do it for that proverbial pat on the back,  or for the dreams of rock-star grandeur.  You will be on an emotional rollercoaster in your career. You will play incredible shows in front of thousands cheering you on,  then spend the same night in a motel on top of the blankets in fear of bed bugs. The next day you may drive for 5 hours, to play a dingy room for 3 people. Again, don't think you deserve better. Work for better.

If you write music, make sure you write honestly.  If you don't believe what you are doing whole heartedly, how can you expect anyone else to? Personal relationships are hard to maintain (unless you get very lucky with an understanding spouse!),  and you start to regret not paying more attention to your Maths teachers at school. It's exhausting (I sporadically suffer from Sleep Paralysis in times of high stress, low sleep touring),  and at times demoralizing. 

But my god.  Do it the hard way and love every aspect.  Don't try and fast track yourself into reality television.  That's not being a musician.  That's thinking you deserve more than what you haven't earned. Let's not make that the new normal for artists. 2 or 3 years in the clubs is not 'slogging it'.  That's the bare minimum.  

Play because you simply can't bear NOT to,  sing because you think you have something to say,  and become a musician because, quite simply,  in your heart of hearts you have absolutely no other choice. 

 

 

 

 

Things I learned on my drive to PA

Today I drove from my home in Chicago to Pittsburgh PA. It is a long drive.

Here is a list of things I learned in that time.

1. Ohio is bigger than you think.

2. The highway authorities put cones and speed restrictions all along i-80 for the sole reason of making you swear profusely - not for the understandable reason of road maintenance.  I saw not one example of an individual or group thereof maintaining any portion of road. 

3. Prince died.  Devastated. We lost another one. Another visionary, who left this world better than he found it. I have close friends who have worked with him. They couldn't say enough nice things about him.  My heart goes out to them, and to his family and friends. He was a genius in the true sense of the word, and he will be sorely missed.  I got to my hotel room, and switched to the first news channel on the TV.  All I heard was Nancy Grace and her irritating timbre speculating on how he died.  Maybe shut up, Nancy.  Maybe just be sad he's gone, but happy he lived.  Drop the sensationalism and have some humanity.  We lost a great man. 

 

 

 

No Place Like Home

I'm traveling through Dublin airport again,  on my way back to the Isle Of Man.  

I'm accompanied by my usual traveling companions, sans guitar.  Old worn leather backpack, passport, boarding passes. Coat that is far too warm for the inside of an airport.  I refuse to carry it though.  I'll never get the attire right for aeroplanes or airports. 

I've lived in the States for a long time now,  but as soon as I touch down on this side of the Atlantic,  there's always that lovely warm familiarity that hits me.  Things start to look like how they did when I was a kid. People talk funny - a bit like me.  It's raining. The chocolate isn't shit anymore. It's the little things I think. I could do without the crap bubblegum Euro Pop music that blares out on every tinny little speaker though. 

I'm lucky enough to have two homes.  At least that's how I think of it. Hell, right now some folks don't even have one. I'm lucky. I have a wonderful life in the States, a nice, cozy, apartment in a nice part of Chicago. Lovely friends. A marvelous Fiancee who frankly puts up with way more than she should. I have a pretty cool job too. I like it. It suits me. Like I say, I'm lucky. I'm happy.  Things are good. 

Doesn't stop me from missing home #1 though. The original home. The one that you don't get to choose.  My home #1 isn't better than yours, or anyone else's.  I don't think it matters where home #1 is. This one just happens to be mine, and it is rather lovely. Lots of open space, green (it rains a lot) , the sea, friendly people (although I heard crime is spiraling out of control at the moment there.  A gentleman appeared in court recently for fishing in a designated worm-dangling reservoir 30 minutes after it had technically closed.  I hope they throw the book at the bastard). It's pretty idyllic really,  and i'm sure I mention it a lot, but I feel very lucky to be from there. 

I'm also lucky to do an enormous amount of traveling. I spend more time doing that than playing the shows i'm traveling to get to.  So really, I guess i'm a professional nomad. It's brilliant. I wonder when someone will turn around and find me out.  I'm not sure I can hack a real job.   

I get to meet a lot of people while nomad-ing.  I like people. They are inherently good, with the odd total arse thrown in that makes you squirm.  They're put there to make sure you appreciate most people aren't like them.  

When meeting new people one of the icebreakers is always "where are you from?". What a great question. I like that one. 

We're all from somewhere. We may have moved elsewhere. Some of us may not even remember what it was like where we're from. But we carry it with us. Everywhere. It's a lovely thing. That's why it breaks my heart to see a huge portion of the world forced out of their home #1, then get treated like pests when they try and scramble a life together in possible home #2. I'm sure they didn't want to leave home #1. I guess it's hard not to when you fear for your lives on a daily basis though. I'm not going to get political, don't worry. It just breaks my heart.  

So, here I am. Laden with coffee, entirely too warm in a huge coat, and feeling very fortunate and grateful to be going back to my home #1.  Missing home #2 (i'm always missing one or the other),   but my problems are few, my shoulders are light, and my heart is full.  

I'll send you guys postcards. 

 

 

A World Of Good

Something really lovely just happened, something that makes me feel a little bit giddy about living in this day and age. 

I think we all need a bit of validation in what we do every now and then,  it may be a tiny bit self indulgent and egotistical, but it's a natural human reaction.  

I can't imagine my work is much different from any other job that an individual enjoys doing. Sometimes it does feel like you work in isolation a bit,  especially when I'm working from home. The goals are less tactile and immediate than being on the road, where its more along the lines of 'get there, do the best show you can'. It's easy to lose a little confidence and motivation when you're working from a desk with a guitar. 

But today I did my first Live Stream Facebook Video and it felt GREAT.  So many lovely people tuned in, and it was truly heartwarming and inspiring to chat for a while,  play a few licks and answer some lovely questions. 

Just wanted to say that it gave me a good boost, a little of that validation that (I think!) we all crave, and spurred me on to do better - knowing you're not shouting into a cave and hearing only your own voice coming back at you.  It's nice to know folks listen.  

What I'm trying to say is Thank You. You guys are the best, and let's do it again. If you're not a friend of ours on Facebook,  come and join us.  We're a friendly bunch. 

 

 

 

 

 

Oops.

Well, I've gone and done it. A couple of blogs after I complained about 'the acquisition of things',  I have only gone and acquired more things.  

This one was worth it though. And in all fairness,  I got rid of a whole bunch of stuff to make room for it. 

1966 Fender Telecaster

1966 Fender Telecaster

That is my 1966 Fender Telecaster.  Not a 'relic' not a copy, but a real 1966 Tele,  played to shit. Why?! Because they just don't build them like this any more.   

It barks, it bites, the whole thing shakes when you play it.  

I'm not worried about bringing this thing on the road either. In its 50 years it's seen a lot more than I have,  and I'm not going to be the one who puts it in a cupboard at home, just to say I have one. No. This bugger is going to be played and played. 

 

 

 

 

 

This is it...

It’s a new year,  it’s certainly the time most of us pull up our socks,  vow to lose weight, be more considerate,  spend less time on Facebook etc… 

Well, I think my Facebook/real life balance is pretty good,  I think being considerate is a year-round thing,  and I’d certainly like to lose a little weight,  but I think the enormous amount of work ahead of me is going to take care of that slightly-tighter-than-it-used-to-be wasitband.  

I do have resolutions though,  Stress is a big problem for me,  and I have noticed a patch of grey hair either side of my head start to grow.  So dealing with that is top of the list. A lot happened to me last year.  Things that changed my perspective a little. I’ve perhaps realised that if I can get through that, stressing about the little things is perhaps something I can deal with. Those grey hairs already growing can’t be reversed though. 

With the fog clearing a little,  with my mind finally starting to click and whir into action,  what am I looking forward to doing in 2016?  Well, our recent partnership with Intrepid Artists International is already a fruitful one,  with tours planned all over the US (and plans for beyond!) already in the books,  and more arriving each time I turn my email machine on.  I’m excited to get back on the road,  with the best band I’ve had,  and play to as many of you as I can.  NOTHING beats being on tour. It’s all i’ve ever wanted out of music,  the chance to play it every night.   We have a bunch of new music slated for release this year,  some REALLY bluesy stuff,  and some music influenced by my Island Bound film project.  I love all sorts of music,  so it’s fun to return to my roots,  and by that I mean both my initial musical and homeland ones! 

So,  take a peek at our tour dates,  come out and say Hi, let us know what you think of the new material.  In return,  I will work my socks off in 2016,  try and get to as many places as we can, play as best I can,  and hopefully by the end of this year I will be a better musician,  a wiser person,  and a happier one.  It’s certainly a good start I think.

Cheers, 

D

 

Home For The Holidays

Slightly tired male,  late twenties,  a little heavier than he probably should be, shuffles off Aer Lingus Flight 136 into Dublin Airport.  Dressed in a pair of jeans, navy blue wool sweater and long, WW1 style great coat.  Wrapped around his neck is a blue scarf, and on his back a worn leather satchel.  He is entirely too warm,  and questions why he thought he’d be outside more between Chicago and Dublin. 

After clearing the usual, but always surprisingly casual security checks, off he goes into the swarm of other folks going back to their homes for Christmas.  Families with excited kids, and visibly stressed parents awkwardly blunder through the middle of the airport avenues, as only 4 people who are all physically attached to each other can do. The rest do their best to fill in the spaces,  meandering in and out of each other’s footsteps. 

There’s a bittersweet feeling, and you can see it on his face.  The excitement and anticipation of seeing those he’s missed,  the sadness of leaving behind loved ones to travel (an occupational hazard for those who live abroad, you're always leaving someone, no matter where you go),  and the deep sorrow of knowing someone wouldn’t be attending this year. Or any year from now on for that matter.  There’s also an uncertainty as to how he is going to deal with that sorrow over the coming days.  

With a couple of hours to kill before his next and final flight, he entertains the idea of having a drink,  despite it being 5AM in Dublin.  He also knocks around the notion that it’s 11PM back where he got on the last plane, and perhaps acceptable - taking that and other things on his mind into consideration.  Sense prevails, although not always, and he turns to a coffee instead.  

He’ll be home soon.  Maybe he’ll lose a little weight there. 

The Acquisition Of Things

As a general rule,  guitar players are obsessed with gear.  The market is flooded with different (yet remarkably similar) guitars,  amplifiers and effects pedals.  Especially effects pedals. 

The Internet has made it worse. There are whole forums dedicated to bitching and arguing over which pedal will give you the closest sound to a particular style of effect manufactured only in March of 1972,  and even then the units made at the beginning of March were way better than the ones at the end.  Stubbornly and aggressively defended,  should someone dare to question or disagree.  That is, until something new comes out (preferably in a handprinted box - they sound better), or one of their favorite players comes out in saying they like the ones made at the end of March better.  

Is this a fun hobby for a lot of people? Yes, of course it is.  Does it detract and distract from actually playing and making music?  I think so.  I've been guilty of this,  but i'm making a conscious decision to change my ways. 

I've sold off most of my pedals,  keeping only the ones given to me by lovely companies (morally wrong to sell these,  though some guitar players do),  and the units I feel are, and may be, useful.  I own 15 total now, down from a number considerably larger.  My live pedalboard is now down to 4 and a tuner.  The bare minimum I need to do my job.  

I'm recording a new album at the moment.  The whole things has been done on the same amplifier and the same guitar.  A big dream for many players is the almighty endorsement deal.  It was mine too.  I've been lucky enough to work with PRS Guitars for many years now (and happily no contract, and aside from some royalties on a short-lived model I had a bit of input in, no money either - a good thing in my eyes.  Money makes things more complicated), and I have yet to find a nicer bunch of folks.  I'm very lucky, they have been a tremendous support.  However,  one can feel a little hemmed in, and perhaps like you're putting all your eggs in one sonic basket.  I do not want to come across ungrateful,  and perhaps I have been greedy in my excitement of being a young musician (although the young part of that may not apply any more!),  but out of all the beautiful instruments they have provided me,  perhaps only three of them actually see regular use. Is this fair, or right?  No, and it makes me feel guilty when I look at them.  I've toyed with the idea of sending the unused ones back, but have held off in fear of offending. Perhaps they would be better served given to someone who needs them more than I.  

What i'm trying to say, in a very long-winded manner,  is this year has taught me a lot.

I'd rather be swimming in the joy of the few, than the obsession of the material many. 

Back On The Road

This is only a short run,  a few nights around NY,  but god it feels great to be out and about. 

This is what it's all about.  Straight from the airport to a TV show,  in bed in the wee small hours. A belly full of laughs,  the bittersweet, strangely reassuring feeling of being transient.  A gig to look forward to tonight,  one day at a time,  any more than that is tough to deal with.   

No distractions (although maybe this is the distraction?),  just music, music, music. 

I like this. 

 

 

 

 

 

Update From The Studio #3

The last day. 

Man,  that went fast.  8 tunes, 3 days.  Very happy.  Great studio,  great engineer and great band.  I'm a lucky guy. 

For the most part,  I only ever played one guitar and one amplifier,  the no longer rented (now bought) Fender Telecaster and my Bludotone Bludodrive, 'Mabel. Only pedal I used was a tuner and my Pete Cornish boost for one solo. My trusty old 1934 National guitar made it on a track too. Only other effect was the Fulltone Tube Tape echo our engineer, Anthony used on my solo tone.  This was definitely done in the true spirit of what we set out to do.  Minimal fuss,  just simple, raw, great sounds.  Trying to capture performances.

Michael Coakes,  a friend of mine and a fantastic photographer,  took some cracking photos,  again in the spirit of our 'vintage vibe' recording.  Check out these polaroids.

Cheers,  and can't wait to share the new stuff with you!

D

Update From The Studio # 2

I think I'm going to call this next release 'Three Miles From Avalon'.  I wrote a song recently by the same name, we put down the rhythm track to it yesterday.

It was really about being on the cusp of achieving what you set out to do,  having it in your sight, but somehow never quite reaching it.  The last couple of years have been a bit tough, and it's only now I feel i'm starting to get back on track.  It felt like a good time to vent a little about it in a (hopefully) musical way.  

I do realise that you are always on the cusp though, and that perspective is subjective to time.  

I used to hate the studio.  It was like a poor imitation of the kick I got playing live.  I was told we needed to record so we could go gig other places. Get more gigs. Agent needed material to entice promoters with, then we can play more. Money? Nah. I've always been a bit shit about that.  Makes me squirm. Playing more was my incentive.  That's never changed.  It's just that now,  I don't really mind playing for a room full of microphones anymore.  I'm actually really enjoying it this time around.

So here are some pictures of us playing for a room full of microphones,  taken by my good friend Michael Coakes. 



 

Update From The Studio #1. 'The Old Fashioned Way'

We're back in the studio.  

image1.JPG

It hasn't been long since I was recording last,  but this is different.  Very different. 

Firstly,  I've been sitting on a lot of songs. They needed taking beyond the home demo's and sketches that I had scattered around.  It was time. 

Secondly,  this is a band.  

For a while recording, to me,  has been about assembly.  Don't get me wrong, I don't mean generic production line, get it on the conveyer belt and here's a record that sounds done. But rather,  let's assemble some great players,  people who we know will do a great job,  and let's record these tunes,  bit by bit, by bit.  Make a mistake? It's OK,  we can go back and fix that.  There's always been a bit of a safety net,  and I've definitely needed it sometimes. I'm not ashamed of it, there's nothing wrong with this approach, and it's kind of the norm these days,  stop and start, stop and start. But it has left me finding it difficult to gather the adrenalin, the excitement, and the energy the same way I do when I play live.  

Not this time. 

This feels a little meaner, a little more dangerous,  a little more exciting.  For the first time in a long time I feel I am part of a band of musicians who are just going to play. Live, together, and to two-inch tape.   It feels a more honest representation of actually what I sound like and what I do.  Actually, more importantly, what we do. It's invigorating. 

We have 3 days in the studio,  2 days left.  8 tracks to cut.  2 down.   I purposefully hardly brought any gear to the studio,  and so far for both the tracks we've recorded I have used the same guitar (a rented Telecaster) and the same amplifier (my trusty Bludotone Bludodrive).  No pedals, except for tuning up. I wanted this album to sound stripped down, raw, energetic, aggressive, a performance record. All about the vibe,  the feel. Less about 'perfection'.  Production is minimal, and taken care of by myself, the band, and our engineer, Anthony Gravino,  as we go along. 

I also can't believe that this is my first time recording analogue, to tape. It's extremely satisfying,  and that sound... There is nothing like it,  no plugin, no emulation, that can get that beautiful warm, glue on your sound.  It sounds like a record immediately.  There's also a beautiful lack of freedom.  Something about the limitations in recording this way that really spurs you on to capture something magical. 

It's sad that this is kind of a novelty now.  Recording a band playing live to tape. But sometimes it's the old fashioned way of doing things which are still the best. 

 

A Manx view of America.

I am writing this from Bethany, MO,  on our way to Kansas City for a show.  As I was standing outside the hotel having a morning cup of coffee I had a little 'woah,  I'm touring America' moment.   

America, I'm sure, means different things to us 'foreigners' coming over, living and working here.  One of the reasons I connected so much to Woody Guthrie's 'Pastures Of Plenty' was the story of migrant workers coming here,  working the land, traveling across this vast and diverse country.  Well,  that's me really.  

Yesterday,  we drove more miles than the length of England,  for one show,  and to get a little ways to the next.  3 people,  in a van full of gear.  It's not glamorous.  It's not what half of our audience think is what we do,  and even at its most tiring,  relentless and uncomfortable, it is still an absolute dream come true. 

While I wake up, and wait for the rest of the band to do the same,  I wanted to write about what this country looks and feels like,  as an 'Outsider Looking In'. It's a long one,  but bear with me. 

America looks like the movies.  Big cars,  pickup trucks, drive thru's and ins,  massive portions of food.  Endless straight roads. Huge trucks hauling their loads.  Who knows where they're going.  Scenery changing from lush green rolling hills and forest,  to flat plains and farmland dotted with red barns and silos.  Seemingly out of nowhere, the high plains,  dotted with ancient canyons and vast mountains spring from nowhere,  eventually giving way to unforgiving but beautiful desert that roll down to the pacific coast, again turning into massive forests in places, massive valleys and sandy beaches in others. It's totally and utterly mind blowing.

I've been to 48 of the 50 states now. Alaska and Hawaii still on the list. 

Describing America to someone who's never been is almost impossible.  I was once flying from Manchester UK to see my sister in Malta.  I was carrying my mandolin case,  which is always a great converstIon starter; 

 "What's that you've got there then?"

"oh it's a mandolin."

"very nice,  where are you from? "

"The Isle of Man, but I live in Chicago now" 

"Really? You like it?  We didn't like it in America at all!"

"Love it,  great place to live. Sorry you didn't like it! Where did you go?!"

"Las Vegas,  2 weeks". 

End of conversation.  You are judging a country 3,500 miles wide on a 2 mile strip of debauchary, seediness - basically an adult theme park you stayed in for two solid weeks.  It's like judging the entire of the UK after going to Alton Towers one time.  With more alcohol. 

To experience the U.S is to travel across it,  to see that scenery change,  to find the family run little restaurants and diners and shops in between the iconic and incredible cities that seem to have grown out of the ground as if they were always there. To meet the fantastic people here.  America has got to be the friendliest place I've ever traveled to.  I maintain its a wonderful place, filled with wonderful people, poorly represented outside its borders. 

I've seen a lot of it,  and there's still more to see.  It's so vast and diverse - it's totally understandable that a good portion of Americans haven't been out of the country.   I've made a home here,  my Fiancée is from here.  So are my two cats.  I still miss home (Isle Of Man home) and still maintain that there is no such thing as 'The Best Country In The World',  only 'A Country In The World'.  

This is a very good one.  Not without its faults or quirks, but an inherently good one. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observations From A Hotel Bar

Here I am,  my bags and guitar cases littered at my feet,  I finally collapse on the bed of the Marriott Hotel in Newport Beach, CA.  I'm tired,  I have a show later,  and I'm hungry.  With a couple of hours to kill I splash some water on my face and meander down to the hotel bar.   

I'm greeted by the bartender, professionally dressed like a penguin,  and he asks me politely what he can get me.  I ask if there's a local beer.  He pours me one.  I order a sandwich.  Within ten minutes I am eating it. 

Cue group #1.  A gaggle of loud,  yelping, early 20-something's flood up to the bar. 

 "Hey there,  can we get a drink?" 

 "Hi guys,  of course,  can I see your IDs?" Asks the bartender,  understandably and politely. For the purposes of this story,  I shall name him Bill.

 "Oh.  Hey, how are you too" says Entitled Child #1. 

After checking their ID's, and ignoring this blaring sarcasm,  Bill kindly thanks them and asks them what he can get them. 

 "Can you make me a Jack Nicholson?" 

"I'm sorry,  I have no idea what that is,  there's a drinks menu right there though."

Disgruntled, Whining Child #2 looks down the list and decides they should all have margaritas. High pitched yapping commences.  I think this means they all agree.   Bill writes it down.  

"Can I get you anything to eat?"  

A girl with the kind of voice that sounds like she's always complaining pipes up. 

 "urrr yeah, you know, like, I'd like the turkey burger,  but can you do that with a pretzel bun,  and romaine lettuce instead? And I'd like,  I mean have you, like, got a chili mayo I can, like, get on the side?" 

The only thing original to the menu was that the burger patty was made from turkey. 

This is,  and should be, a simple transaction.  Look at the menu.  Is there something you like? Good. Order it. There isn't? Go hungry or go elsewhere. 

After taking similar ridiculous requests from the rest of them,  and confirming that yes,  he would be happy to bring everything out to the pool for them,  Bill resigns to making them their order.  

Cue wealthy, orange, Golf fanatic.  His skin looks like old leather stretched over bones. Like an emaciated cow.  I imagine him firing someone from The Company while making a put on the 15th hole. 

"Hey you",  he shouts to Bill,  "there's a place setting missing from our table"

Bill politely nods,  puts down what he's doing,  walks across the room to the table next to wealthy orange golf fanatic, picks up a napkin, knife, and fork, and places it on his table.  

Surely after all his 138 years on earth,  wealthy, orange, golf fanatic could have done this for himself.  I did a quick check. Yes,  he had all of his limbs. Perhaps it was a brain and some common courtesy he was missing.  Perhaps the dangers of sunbeds had fried that out of him. I can't help but imagine this is what Entitled Child #1 will be like when he is older. 

Bill takes his order too. Some ridiculous drink that requires a Bachelors of Arts and a tiny piece of Bill's Soul.  

Meanwhile,  as if he was listening to my thoughts, Entitled Child #1 enters the bar again. 

"Hey. Any chance we can get our drinks, like, before the food?" 

"yeah,  I just want some alcohol" Whines complaining girl,  who had somehow crawled in too. 

Bill nods,  explains there is only him here,  apologizes to them for the four minute wait, and tells them he will be there shortly.   

They shuffle off,  whinging to each other.  I think to myself how awful it must be to be them.  Living in a constant state of disappointment. 

I glance at my watch and finish my beer.   Bill asks me if there's anything he can get me.  I ask for the cheque,  but tell him there's no rush,  he's a busy man after all. 

Bill closes out the tab,  I pay him.  He thanks me for my patience.  I thank him for his.  He smiles,  and gives a little chuckle.  He knows exactly what I meant. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Percy Got An Upgrade

Hello from Sacramento airport

Last night was the last show with George and Brian, and before I go any further, I have to thank them and their tremendous crews for taking such good care of me. What a wonderful bunch of people.  

Yesterday I flew up from San Diego and picked up my rental car in Sacramento.  Meet Percy Mk II. 

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Percy got a facelift, a paint job, and really grew up.  Proud.  

This also gave me the chance to fulfill a lifelong ambition,  drive a pickup truck in America.  Cue the Merle Haggard and off we went. 

With an afternoon to kill ahead of the show in nearby Lincoln, Percy Mk II and I headed out to explore Old Sacramento.  While well preserved,  I have to say it was really touristy and not really my thing. I was about ready to call it quits when I found the saving grace of Old Town.

Down the stairs and into the basement of what I can only imagine was a brothel back in the day, I found Brooks Novelty Antiques and Record Store.  While I didn't see many novelty antiques, the record selection was astounding,  and the gentleman behind the till was helpful and very friendly.  I left smiling,  with these under my arms,  and with a recommendation for lunch that was bang on the money:

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On to the show... 

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Beautiful big venue in Lincoln, CA - with only one major drawback.  The expansive team of Physicists and Meteorologists who accompany me on every tour determined that it was in fact hotter than the surface of the sun, and that it was the wrong day to wear black jeans - no matter how slimming they may be. My acoustic guitar preamp agreed and immediately overheated, the monitors soon followed suit,  and I received third degree burns from my metal-bodied National guitar. After covering the equipment in foil blankets like the marathon runners they are, and with the expertise of Gary at front of house, Pete on monitors, and Brian's guitar tech, Tyler,  the show ended up a good un. 

So what next? Well,  today I take a Short Flight to Long Beach, where I am looking forward to playing a house concert tonight.  Then I fly home to Chicago for five days before meeting my Mum and Sister in Malta (where my sister lives) for some much needed time together.  We will be raising a big glass of wine to Dad,  and with it being Father's Day tomorrow,  I feel much wine may be needed. 

Cheers, 

d