This has been a crazy month. It’s almost over, and I feel like I’ve done more in the last month than all of 2013!!! (It’s not true… but still… it feels that way. Here’s how it went down.
January 2nd. No gigs scheduled for the month. Sort of in a panic because I’m wicked high on my debt limit and I got a royalty check that was significantly less than I had thought it would be. “I need to book some shows…” I thought. So I did. A lot. In a lot of different places. It started with an e-mail from my friends over at the KoffeeHouse. “Would you be interested in playing a few shows for us at The Sundance Film Festival?” “YES!” I replied and proceeded to book 4 shows.
Then, I got a message to play at North Central College for the School’s Newspaper at the Union in Naperville with Nathan Angelo. I had heard a few of his songs on iTunes Radio and knew that I had to make this work. I lost a show with the guys at KoffeeHouse, but they were wicked gracious and worked with me. I can’t tell you how nice that is. There are so many people who let that bend them out of shape, but the Koffee House has a deep roster and were able to fill my cancelation. (Thanks guys!)
A few days later, my manager, Jeff got a call from the House of Blues. “Would Josh be available on the 21st for a show on the mainstage?” Jeff texted me. I said, “I’ll be at Sundance… but I could probably come back early. Who’s it with?” Jeff didn’t know, but submitted my name back and I decided to google who was playing. 3 Doors Down… ”Are you kidding me??? BOOK IT, JEFF… BOOK IT!!!”
Once again, it messed things up for the Koffeehouse guys, but they were wicked cool. So now I was down to two shows at Sundance, an opening slot for one of the biggest bands in military rock that I listened to in high school, and a TON of flights and driving.
Meanwhile… my bank account is pretty much non-existant. Normally, I’d be worried about a thing like this, but I guess it gets to a point where you realize that you’ve been broke for years, and even though this is pretty bad, I’ve been through worse. I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers” and in it, he spoke about Martin Luther King and some of his advisors/sidemen. The idea of “not being afraid of angry mobs” was similar to my situation, because he had already faced them before. I’ve already faced this before. Now, having the KKK come after you is much worse than Wells Fargo, I imagine… but the fact that I’ve gone through it, makes it much easier. Little notes kept popping up from friends that encouraged me, and for some reason, I had a good feeling about the month.
I booked flights for Chicago with the last of my bank account and plotted out my trips. “If I sell this many shirts in Naperville… I can make it in my car from San Diego to Park City, Utah and back if I don’t buy any food…” (Common thoughts like this rotated in and out of my every day routine.)
I also got an e-mail from my buddy, Tim Moyer, about playing at NAMM. Man… It was gonna be crammed…
I flew to Chicago and while I was getting on the plane I saw a guy with camouflage crocs. I overheard him say to the woman in front of us that he was from New Hampshire. I thought that was cool, and he was acting kinda funny and outgoing so I figured if he was to talk to me, that I would mention that I was from Maine. He did turn around and say, “You play guitar?” “Yeah”, I said, with it firmly strapped to my back. (NEVER check your guitar on a plane… NEVER EVER EVER… kick, scream, yell, but don’t put it down with the luggage. EVER.)
“Nice man. You gotta keep pushing…”
“Oh man…” I thought, “…If he only knew…”
“I heard you say that you were from New Hampshire. I’m from Maine!” I said, without giving a hint of my thoughts of money woes.
“NO WAY!!!” He chirped. “Are you drunk, too???”
(Yeah… that was the end of the convo… but I almost spit my coffee from laughing so hard.)
Gina was the one from the Chronicle who had lobbied for me and got me to fly out and play in Naperville. She picked me up from the airport at the exact spot that Matt Ryd was supposed to have picked me up the year before. (See http://wp.me/p16MHE-ld for THAT hilarious story…) That was kind of a hard memory since he passed a few months back, but I always loved that kid… even when he was a goober.
We drove to Naperville and I made jokes about how cold it was. (I had just gotten to 12 degree weather from San Diego… where it was 85….) I cracked a lot of jokes about snow and acted like I didn’t know what it was. They had asked me to do a quick sets at the dining hall and coffee shop on campus and I was willing to do anything, as long as it meant I could be inside.
The show was fantastic and I had a great time with Nathan Angelo. He is one of the coolest guys I’ve met in the biz, and we commiserated on being singer/songwriters and it was a fun night. (It included a duet of “A Whole New World” which I was not expecting, but thoroughly enjoyed.)
I flew back to San Diego, but my flight had been delayed a few hours. I was shocked at how angry the people were that were in the terminal… We’re going to San Diego, people… chill out… So I went and got an Ice Cream from Ben and Jerry’s and took a nap.
When I landed in San Diego, Amanda texted me and asked if I needed a ride to my house, which was AWESOME, cause it meant I could use the cab fare I was going to use on food. (Still scrounging… apparently my budget includes ice cream… hmm… I should have thought about that one…) I got home. Took a shower. Repacked my stuff and started the 12 hour drive to Sundance.
I started listening to “An Innocent Man” by John Grisham. The story is about a man who was convicted of murder and on death row because the local police department and DA didn’t do their jobs right. It was riveting. I thought it was fiction, because that’s what John Grisham normally writes, but it wasn’t… and that made it even harder to hear. I took a 2 hour nap in Vegas and got to Park City around 3 in the afternoon.
Both of my football teams lost, so that was kind of a bummer, but I had a great time at the show. I met a TON of great bands, and a couple that were a little full of themselves… but I’ll leave that a mystery as to who was who. I’ll just name the people I liked… :-) r
- Ryan Innes – It’s ALWAYS good to see Ryan. He was so great, and I promised to text him… but I forgot to… Oops… How LA of me… I’ll fix that.
- Jess Penner - She was my buddy all night. She and I are both extremely similar, but she’s a girl. Great songwriter who I admire deeply.
- The Weight – These guys were awesome, and so nice to me. I played right before them, and they talked to me most of the night after. They also tweeted and facebooked and I hope to see them again soon!
- Jim & Sam - Super nice. I had inside jokes with Jim less than 3 minutes into our meeting. Seriously good songwriter duo with a seriously great sense of humor.
- Moi Navarro – Didn’t make it to the show, but I hung out with him the day after. Obviously one of my favorite people in the world. Always love running into him.
- Eric Zayne - Super nice, down to earth guy who can dress like a fashion model, but not act like an asshole. A rarity in this industry. He was super kind and I got to see him at NAMM too.
Everyone played two songs a piece. I always go back to my first Open Mic night when I play two songs for a set. “If this was my ONLY show… which two would I want to play…” I always freak out at this thought. I WANT to play new ones. I SHOULD play “the greatest hits”. (Pocket Change, Cougar, etc…) I had decided on “Just Let Me Love You” with my loop pedal and then see how it went. Unfortunately there wasn’t a ton of time to soundcheck, and as anyone who has ever seen my technical rider knows, the Digitech JamMan can feed back if the sound isn’t dialed in. Because of a little feedback issue, I called an audible, and unplugged and played “If I Had a Dollar”. That seemed to go over pretty well, but I was running on fumes, and eventually crashed in a closet and slept for 13 hours.
3 Doors Down
After my show the next night, I took a cab back to my car and drove the 13 hours back to San Diego for the show with 3 Doors Down at the House of Blues. I got home around 7am and slept till 4 in the afternoon. I woke up, got fashion advice from Amanda again and packed up the car. The first face we saw at the House of Blues was a smiling security guard who said, “HEY JOSH! So excited for you tonight!”
I honestly didn’t know who he was. He had seen me during my residency at the House of Blues last year and had followed my career since then. Jeff, my manager, used to tell me, “They (the staff) LOVE you at the House of Blues!” But I never really believed me. He’d say, “Josh… I know you won’t believe me, but they always ask about you…”
Without exaggerating, the first interaction at a venue has the power to kill your show or make it better. The fact that he not only knew who I was, but excited for me, was one of those moments that make this all worth it. I’ve had many people who honestly just didn’t care who I was or why I was there. They had a yellow security shirt, and that meant that they were more important than me. Not this guy. He was my instant friend. From there, I was greeted by my sound guy, lighting guy, and house manager in the same exact way. I can’t tell you how amazing the staff at House of Blues was.
When I walked in, it was already my turn to check. I set up my gear and the guitar tech from Three Doors Down walked over and asked about my Deering Phoenix 6 String Banjo. He called the band over and in about a minute, a bunch of the guys were huddled around me. Was I really meeting the band before the show??? This is actually a lot weirder than you’d think. Most of the artists I’ve opened for have stayed in their green rooms and avoided me. These guys actually sat through my sound check and were incredibly nice. I’m pretty sure that other than Eric Hutchinson, these guys were the nicest major artists that I’ve ever opened for.
The show went great, I had a free taco and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Afterwards I got to meet a bunch of cool people who I doubt knew that San Diego had a local music community. It’s always nice to open people’s eyes up to that. I expect to see a lot of them at a lot of shows soon!
I had a couple days off and then drove up to NAMM. (National Association of Music Merchants) This is a completely heavy musical gear convention that can be really intense and overwhelming. If you think walking into Guitar Center is crazy, imagine one the size of the Anaheim Convention Center and crank everything to 11. (I’m guessing that’s because most musicians eventually go deaf…)
NAMM is hard to get into, because it’s not open to artists. You have to have a friend who is in the industry of selling or purchasing or making instruments. Because of my endorsement with Deering Banjos and my old endorsement with Wechter Guitars, I’ve been able to go the last 4 years or so and have played on many different stages/showed off their gear. This year, however, I was actually on the official schedule and was really able to show off my gear. (Specifically my Deering Phoenix Banjo w/ Kavanjo pickups.) I ran into SO many friends it would be hard to name them all, but I’d say the ones who I spent a good amount of time with were Tim Moyer, Kendrick Dial, Jamie Deering, Paul Cannon, Jason Adamo, Chi McClean, Chalise Zolezzi, Nick Adams, Maggie McClure, and Shane Henry.
These shows were awesome, and I even got to do a second gig with Jason Adamo and Chi McClean that was a ton of fun. It was cool to drop by the T-Rex Pedals booth and meet a ton of new peeps.
I have one more show left for this month and it’s a good one. I’ll be playing with 2013 SD County Fair Singer/Songwriter 1st place recipient, Tolan Shaw, and my good friend Brenda Xu, who is back in SD for this show from Seattle. I hope you guys can make it out, but if not, I’ve got a few other shows in San Diego already lined up for February and a trip back to Naperville! (Gonna be another crazy month before starting the new record!)
All my love. If you made it through the whole blog, thanks so much, it took me WAYYYYYY too long to write this.