Tuesday, June 16, 2009
So, today I was presented with an interesting juxtaposition.
I was stranded in Mississippi an extra day thanks to my car being somewhat unreliable yet again, however, was fortunate enough to have it break down while still in the driveway of my very good friends and generous hosts, The Scotts. The good fortune of being able to stay down here in the black hole of my phone reception, was that I was able to visit the Amish community just outside of Pontotoc, MS, accompanying the Scotts with the intention of buying more chickens for their ever-expanding (although possibly now complete) coop. Now, as anyone knows, should you ever need good chickens, apparently the Amish are the people to see as they take pretty darn good care of them (as far as resources go) and they are very good layers. The chickens, not the Amish, that is.
So we headed down there, and the inevitable happened as we entered this hospitable, open, yet religious and very disciplined community: I was struck by the simplicity and apparent peacefulness of their everyday lives, and felt a yearning to understand it better, and I have no doubt that a part of me desired to be like them.
To fill in the uninitiated, the Amish are a religious group that originated in Holland in 1693 as a result of internal differences within a Christian sect known as the Mennonites. In the early 18th century large groups of Amish migrated to America to begin anew and settled in Pennsylvania, and have since spread to other parts of the country. There is now estimated to be over 200,000 Amish living in the U.S.A. today. the most well-known aspects of Amishness are of course, the shunning of electrical power, telephones and automobiles, which are three seemingly ubiquitous parts of our modern lifestyle. Yet these people survive very well without them, indeed they seem to prosper.
For example, one could say that the simple values inspired by this lifestyle, based on community, self-subsistence and religious purity are something to aspire to, and we can all learn something from it, even if we take out the religious bit, which some may or may not agree with. Above all, I was struck by the sense of co-dependency within the family, and to a certain extent the larger community unit. For example, everyone is expected to pull their weight, and do so happily, to carry out whatever chores need to be done to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. It's this sense of all for one that I think our own western (or as the Amish refer to it, English) society may benefit most from. We are all in this thing called life together after all, people.
At the other end of the spectrum, I had the dubious pleasure of watching the first half an hour of the CMT music awards on TV later in the evening. Those who know me well may have heard me harp on about how much I HATE awards shows, for a variety of reasons, and this one was no different. The whole smugness and fakeness of these shows really turns me off. While it's good to acknowledge individual or group achievements in any industry or field, I feel like there must be a better way to do it than just pump up everyone's already over-inflated egos and try to push and market everyone's product just that little bit more, and in a completely unsubtle way. Well, unsubtle to me, anyway. Actually, it would pretty much be unsubtle to most people who were capable of feeling the presence of a brick hammering them in the cranial region.
Anyway, the obvious contrast of these two entities, Amish and Varnish, makes for some serious thinking. For example, where does the proverbial 'I' fit in? As a writer and performer, I obviously want people to hear my music, but do I need to pander to trends and write what people WANT to hear in order to do it? There are many of you who no doubt say "well, maybe you do" but on the other hand, couldn't we all take a leaf from the other book; sticking to our principles and own sense of self, in spite of the overwhelming presence of a great majority who conduct their lives in a material society at odds with your own? The Amish have managed it for over 200 years.
Then again, maybe I'm wrong, and there is no 'marketing' going on and everyone is playing and singing their little hearts out, and all are genuine and saying what they really, really feel. That would be nice to think that. I really hope that is the case.
Mainly 'cause I quite like Taylor Swift, and don't want to be disappointed.
Think about it.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Welcome to my first post in a long time here to my blog page. From now on, you can come here to check out whatever new postings I put up, and if you subscribe to it, you'll be informed via email when that happens. Technology's a wonderful thing, no?
Or I'll be posting them on the other pages too, so you can continue to read them on myspace, facebook, or whatever suits you best...
Anyhow, to business. As some of you may or may not be aware, I have been living in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A. for the last 3 months or so, in an attempt to stimulate my writing for my next record, as well as work on lifting my profile and creating an interest in my music stateside. I am pleased to say that both of these aims have met with success so far. I have a great batch of new songs lined up, both ones I have written all by myself, and also some I have co-written with some great Nashville songwriters. For those of you whose alarm bells are currently breaking residential noise restriction limits at the thought I've been writing a bunch of commercial country songs, do not panic. I'm not about to do anything too rash. I'm just trying to write the best damn songs I can, and I have a feeling this next record is going to be my best one yet. If it isn't, well then I just won't make it until I'm convinced it will be. There's no point in taking a backwards step then, is there?
Hmmm. That was a bit confusing. But I think you may get the drift of what I'm saying. Or trying to say, without stumbling over my own metaphors.
Anyway, life in America (pronounced murkah) is grand, and I'm beginning to get used to it now. In fact, I'm kind of having a ball. Nashville has a great music scene, and there's a lot of great Indie rock bands here that I've been seeing and enjoying. Of course, the great elephant in the room of Nashville that I haven't reffered to yet is the country music, and I can tell you there's also a heck of a lot of great Americana and country music to be found as well. I'm trying to soak in what I can and you might just hear it on the next record.
Then again, I may decide at the last second to do a spoken word record detailing and explaining little known but significant achievements in molecular science. That's bound to give my career the kickstart it needs.
I live in the great suburb of East Nashville in the even greater zip code of 37206, made famous by such bumper stickers as "37206 - First it steals your heart, then it steals your lawnmower." True. Not that my lawnmower's been stolen (I don't have one, and you should see my front yard - I think I noticed a Bengal Tiger out there yesterday) but you get the idea.
So, suffice to say, I am going to make a regular sustained attempt from now on at sticking my thoughts, however random, into this blog, and then for those of you who are more interested in my thoughts and experiences, well, you'll have more regular access to them. Well, the ones I want to share, anyway. I'll also stick in gig info and numerous goings in my musical world.
Hope all's going well with everyone. We'll talk again soon.
The Big Star Market sign at Bolivar, Mississippi.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
First of all, Happy New Year and I hope you all had a great Christmas break. If indeed, you had one. But if you didn't, I hope you enjoyed whatever it was you were doing, you workaholic. Jeez, take it easy...
So, first up on the CP news front is that my record Excuses Excuses is to be released nationwide (in a new package with additional tracks, I might add) by our good friends at think/Fuse Music Group. The first 'single' from the record is 'Save Your Breath', and to support it I am about to embark on another tour. The band is coming and playing all the gigs on this one so you should definitely come down to your local capital city venue and check it out. Dates and venues are:
Melbourne: Northcote Social Club, High St, Northcote; Thursday Feb 5th 8:00pm - support from Ryan Meeking and Chad Mason. Tickets are only $10+b/f and are available now! Get yours online at www.northcotesocialclub.com or by phoning (03) 9486 1677.
Sydney: The Supper Club, 134 Oxford St, Darlinghurst; Friday Feb 6th 8:00pm - Support from Matt Joe Gow. Cover is $10.
Brisbane: Live Spark at Brisbane Powerhouse, New Farm; Sunday Feb 8th 3:30pm (that's in the afternoon, people) - support by The Sunburys. Free Entry.
Now, after this tour I am heading back to the United States to perform and showcase at The North American Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis, TN. After that, I'm going to stay over there and do as many gigs and write as many songs as I can. I may also try to learn Spanish. I will also be continuing my ill-advised and potentially life-threatening quest to eat at each of the major fast-food chains in the U.S. I've got quite a few to go, so this may take me some time.
So, suffice to say, I don't know when I'll be back at this stage, so this tour willl be your last chance to see me for quite a while. You'd better not miss it. Or you'll kick yourself. Which is physically possible, by the way. The cultural part of your brain will lead a commando raid on the lame part of your brain for even thinking that you should just stay home and watch TV that night, and subsequently infiltrate your brain's nerve center and force one of your feet to lash out and kick the other. There have been recorded events of this very situation, where one part of the brain mutinies and revolts against the rest, occuring throughout history. For example, in 1812 and two weeks into his campaign to invade Russia, it is recorded by his Generals that Napoleon suddenly lost control of his right foot and struck himself hard and quite painfully on the shin.
It is also reported that on the opening night of his new musical endeavour, The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table (on Ice), composer Rick Wakeman (the keyboard player from 1970's prog-rock band Yes) suddenly and unexplicably kicked himself very hard on the ankle, causing him to lose his balance and fall on his Moog synthesiser. His close friends claimed the imprint of the twiddly knobs remained on his face for weeks afterward...
So don't tempt fate, my friends. You have been warned.
For those Brisbane residents, you will also be able to catch me with The Black Alles Band playing at the Joynt in South Brisbane on Sunday afternoon January 25th from 4:00pm. It's a public holiday the day after so you've got no excuse not to come. If you came to our pre-Christmas shows at this same venue you will know what you are in for so don't miss it, and if you didn't, you should get in on the action and hear what all the fuss is about. The Band is mighty.
That's all for now. Expect more updates in the next few weeks...