I have always been a big proponent of following your heart and doing exactly what you want to do. It sounds so simple, right? But there are people who spend years—decades, even—trying to find a true sense of purpose for themselves. My advice? Just find the thing you enjoy doing more than anything else, your one true passion, and do it for the rest of your life on nights and weekends when you’re exhausted and cranky and just want to go to bed. It could be anything—music, writing, drawing, acting, teaching—it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that once you know what you want to do, you dive in a full 10 percent and spend the other 90 torturing yourself because you know damn well that it’s far too late to make a drastic career change, and that you’re stuck on this mind-numbing path for the rest of your life. Is there any other way to live? I can’t stress this enough: Do what you love…in between work commitments, and family commitments, and commitments that tend to pop up and take immediate precedence over doing the thing you love. Because the bottom line is that life is short, and you owe it to yourself to spend the majority of it giving yourself wholly and completely to something you absolutely hate, and 20 minutes here and there doing what you feel you were put on this earth to do. Before you get started, though, you need to find the one interest or activity that truly fulfills you in ways nothing else can. Then, really immerse yourself in it for a few fleeting moments after an exhausting 10-hour day at a desk job and an excruciating 65-minute commute home. During nights when all you really want to do is lie down and shut your eyes for a few precious hours before you have to drag yourself out of bed for work the next morning, or on weekends when your friends want to hang out and you’re dying to just lie on your couch and watch TV because you’re too fatigued to even think straight—these are the times when you need to do what you enjoy most in life. Because when you get right down to it, everyone has dreams, and you deserve the chance—hell, you owe it to yourself—to pursue those dreams when you only have enough energy to change out of your work clothes and make yourself a half-assed dinner before passing out. Say, for example, that your passion is painting. Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and buy a canvas and some painting supplies! Go sign up for art classes! And when you get so overwhelmed with your job and your personal life that you barely have enough time to see your girlfriend or boyfriend or husband or wife, let alone do anything else, go ahead and skip classes for a few weeks. Then let those paint brushes sit in your room untouched for six months because a major work project came up and you had a bunch of weddings to go to and your kid got sick and money is tighter than you thought it would be and you have to work overtime. And then finally pick those brushes back up again only to realize you’re so rusty that you begin to question whether this was all a giant waste of time, whether you even want to paint anymore, and whether this was just some sort of immature little fantasy you had as a kid and that maybe it’s finally time to grow the fuck up, let painting go, and join the real world because, let’s face it, not everyone gets to live out their dreams. Not only does that sound fulfilling, but it also sounds pretty fun. Really, the biggest obstacle to overcome here—aside from every single obligation you have to your friends, family, job, and financial future—is you. And I’ll tell you this much: You don’t want to wake up in 10 years and think to yourself, “What if I had just gone after my dreams during those brief 30-minute lunch breaks when I was younger?” Because even if it doesn’t work out, don’t you owe it to yourself to look in the mirror and confidently say, “You know what, I gave it my best half-hearted shot”? -by David Ferguson
You can look into a person's eyes, and tell if they are Present, or not. In those glazed-over moments, what goes on? Perhaps it is different for everyone. I have moments when my anxiety starts to swell up. And for me, the music in my head just.gets.louder. Sometimes its a song that I like, concentrated, and I'm feeling safe through waves of detailed memory. Other times, its a song I am jealous of, or otherwise bothered by, and it grates on me, feeling like its pounding in my head unwelcome yet untamable. I think its a defense mechanism to drown out "the noise", and center myself under a childlike blanket. If you are talking to me at a time when this happens (maybe your words are bothering me!), I will seem to blank out for awhile, eyes far away, your voice a distant echo amidst a rich, silent swell of harmony and melody. If nobody is around, it still can happen this way, and I just drift silently with myself. The more my anxiety grows, the louder and more clear the music gets. Its weird! Eventually, though, since everything is eventual, I come back. And that is where my new song begins: "When Will You Come Back?"
An Extra showcase. Because the last Thursday of 2014 was going to fall on Christmas Day, and then New Years Day the following Thursday, I was short one (1) "final show". So, I was offered Tuesday December 23rd, 2014, and I took it. December 18th, the previous Thursday, was Great. And this Final Weagle Tuesday: GREAT. Martin Hill opened the show with his main henchmen Jack and Tim. I call them The Martin Hill Tree, because they feed, grow, and well a beautiful canopy over Martin's songs. Joe Tomaino was second, in a red-accent suit, and with a considerable audience. Joe is fierce on guitar, and bearded on lyrics. John Manns, fresh off a new album, kept a drifty crowd together in his Slot # 3 with lots of thumb-guitar-bass and simply, great, songs. Check out "Sweet Home Band" online. Megan Cronin & Overwinter were focused and melodious. She is a compelling solo performer on the guitar/vocals, and also a rip-roaring viola expert! So last but not least, was Woody Moran & Kelly Brightwell. Kelly is a very nice lady, with a very nice-looking new album. I will be listening to it shortly. Woody is a dear friend, poppy on vocals and chordal on guitar…he is a fantastic Portland Musician with many roots. Thanks to everyone who was there, and hope to see you again soon. White Eagle Thursdays made for quite a special year, and despite all the pitfalls and derails that happened in 2014 (just like every year), I feel deep down like 2014 was my most successful year of music-making in a long time. Happy New Year 2015!
And thus, 15 months of Weekly Weagle draws to a close for Thursday evenings. It was a tremendously musical year for me, and it all started when Lisa Lepine passed my name to Alex Widman of the White Eagle, and he agreed to take a chance on me as a host. I used my weekly happy hour time slot to give back to the local community that had supported me as a songwriter around Portland for the last several years. Each week, I invited special guests to perform a set. When I took the stage myself, I tried to play different songs every week, mostly so the bartenders and regulars would not get bored. On Thursday December 18th, I had my Final Weekly Weagle, and I'd like to tell you about the seven local phenoms that were invited to perform: Shane Brown, Noah Stroup, Andrew Goncalves, John Rankin, Dan Weber, Dan Dover, and The Grodie Bros. --- I think of Shane's music as "bluesy grunge-reggae." Its very paced, and bass-heavy, and often lyrically dark…and he has developed a pop-reggae stylization that is very catchy. Shane is a special songwriter, and is going to go on to do great things. --- Noah Stroup was the bass player in Maryspeak, and we made our album together in 2004, in Corvallis Oregon. After the band drifted apart, we all did our separate things; I moved on to Evelate and Huge Sally, and Noah formed Stairway Denied as the lead singer. His bluesy pipes and solid rhythm-guitar playing are very cool. He has a new band together, and I can't wait to see them! --- Andrew Goncalves just released his first-ever solo album, called "Fire Inside." I know every single song on it, because I was lucky enough to be around when he was writing it! He would perform them live at cool venues like White Eagle for my happy hour spot, Pacific City Music Festival, and sometimes even with his trio Boa Saida in 2012-2013. --- John Rankin I have been a fan of for about 4 years now, first getting to know him through Daniel Work's community (The Noted), and then following his band Commonly Courteous around. His Soul & Roll style resounds with anyone who loves music, and he has some of the better dynamic senses I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. --- Dan Weber is a very such successful country-style singer-songwriter, traveling around the country playing house concerts. He has an album out as of 2013, "Ash and Bone", and is set to record a brand new Live album in March 2015. He writes deeply anthemic local folk songs, always wears a cowboy hat, and Always Totally Brings it when he performs; one of the most 'mindful' performers I've ever seen. --- Dan Dover is a local legend. He is a great poet in his own right, but he also does something that I admire very much: puts the local community First. He encourages, he hosts song circles and house concerts, he finds, he networks, he brings people together and helps them realize the importance of Feeling Great. He is a tremendous man and his partner Cheryl helped push me to be the songwriter I am today by giving me a chance one dusty night at the Buffalo Gap in southwest Portland. --- The Grodie Bros are community builders, just like Dan & Cheryl. They host Pacific City Music Fest every year, host concerts and parties of their own, and enthusiastically support all that is good about local music. Uncle Spud has never written a song of his own, but luckily, Rich Waggs handles that, and Spud sings, and Piers adds a solid third to their wildly lovable lineup. I love their John Prine covers, and I love their originals more than that, and I love them as people the most of all. Thank you to everyone who helped make White Eagle special from 2013-2014, Thursday Happy Hour!
Another Great night at Artichoke Music. Joe Tomaino played a Real Set there, as a solo artist, with an acoustic guitar…standing up! He played "Light A Fire", one of my favorite rock songs of his, and "Ocean", his sweet-one-minute-fingerpicker. I also especially enjoyed his 2-mic technique, where the copper one gets a whole lotta reverb, and only the most dynamic of attentions. It was nice to see my friends Vicki and Britta there, their first time to Artichoke…and even Megan came (Very rare for one of my sets). Joe's family was in town, visiting from Reno NV. And also, his brother, our very own Crabass, made his way to Artichoke to support. Joe and Jesse and I all sang "End Of Line" together for Joe's first song. K8 was there with the camera, and I think a "Live @ Artichoke" Dvd might be in the works...I played 4 covers: "The Perfect Space", "Bring Your Love To Me", "Dying Day", and "Don't Fence Me In". To Richard Columbo, the legendary host of Friday Night Coffeehouse, I would say this: Keep the mustache for 25 more years, and PLEASE keep hosting Friday nights! Also of note: Don Wheatley's 18-minute story about his grandfather, and a bit of his family history. Wow. Every time I see Don, I just want to give him a Huge Hug. If you ever see him live, make sure you ask him to perform his "…we will have a good time…" song…In conclusion, I really appreciate everything that Artichoke Music and Richard Columbo do. Cheers to Them!
Some musicians take umbrage at being called "hobbyist". After all, they have played and performed and practiced their instruments for many, many years. How can they be a "hobbyist" if, whenever they touch their instrument, they impress everyone for miles around with their pomp and classy skills? Here's my take. Once you have: - - - mechanics - ability to replicate - some catalog of memorized original pieces/riffs/sections - - - Then you can Begin to work towards "being a Professional." You can begin to work towards marketing/auditioning your material. You can begin to work towards a "more perfect stage presence". You can begin to work towards a more "professional studio-time presence". You can begin working towards obtaining your own paid contracts. And only then, at this last point, can you honestly call yourself a Professional Musician. It does not matter "how many years you've been playing"; " How expensive or cutting-edge" your gear is; "How great your attitude is" every week at practice; "How creative" your friends tell you that you are; "How creative" that you FEEL you are. These all help make you a "good musician"…but there is that literal aspect of the definition: a Professional Musician secures paid contracts. You can play in a band that gets paid to play, but if you are not the one that obtains a contract, you are a "hired hand", a "studio musician", a "backing musician"…you can't say that you are Real Professional. In that instance, to say that you are is an insult to the hard work and risk that the real Professionals make and take. Another important aspect, more important than gear and weekly attitude and praise from friends: A Professional Musician will always strive to be Better...strive to constantly identify faults or failures; strive to create new and interesting methods; strive Constantly to achieve new personal goals. Like a professional athlete. The best of the best of the best would be the most personally humble and self-critical, and more interested in elevating the level of their band or teammates (in the interest of "succeeding" or "winning") than in personal credit or accolades.
How do you tell someone who is extremely talented and full of themselves on their instrument How to play their instrument in a particular song? Its very, very tricky. Almost impossible. Its a skill I've been working on for close to 15 years. I am not especially great at it, and don't really know anyone who is. An effective way of communicating this seems to vary by the person. Some people are easy to direct, others are not. If you say something wrong, maybe even with the wrong inflection, you plant seeds for problems down the road, Even if you can convince that musician to "play it the way you want it to be played" in that particular instance. A very challenging thing, to Lead a Band. In my experience, successful music projects come to fruition when each band member gets an opportunity to fully explore their chosen instrument and exercise their Role. ESPECIALLY at the Beginning. If you want to be a harmonic or melodic player in the band, bring harmonies and melodies, and make them ready-to-go, and communicate them clearly to your bandmates. OWN it: its Yours. If you want to creatively contribute, and you are the percussionist: bring rhythm ideas, like for example "this beat" into "that beat", or just simply: "How about THIS beat, Uh!". The bass player; the fiddle player; the keys player...should just write sweet, signature riffs. Bring it on! I suppose if you really want to be a lyricist, but are uncomfortable with melody and don't want to sing, you can try to bring in poems, and see if the melody and harmony Roles need that extra help; but this might be a hard sell. Having roles defined is not boring or restrictive: its Efficient. Likewise, having a "formula" for your band's sound is not boring or restrictive: its efficient. And ultimately, it allows everyone to take as much creative control as they are comfortable taking, without stagnating progress in petty arguments over "how fair" everything is. I think that each band member sticking into a Role at the beginning of a creative music project is extremely important. I am speaking only from personal experience here. There are probably social and group-psychology theories on the subject, but I will not reference those. There is a recent documentary by/about Chris Theile, a bluegrass songwriter and performer, called "Building A Band." There are plenty of ideas and lots of realistic and practical information there. But, I will only offer it as a footnote that you are welcome to explore, should you not already be fast asleep by this incredibly boring and presumptuous blog entry.
Traditionally, the day after a Big show like Artichoke Music on a Saturday, words and wiles will fly out of me into a blog. This writing is coming 2 weeks later; after having listened to the audio recording a few times through; and seeing a few raw video clips courtesy of K8. I have been in and around Artichoke Music since Richard and Jim first bought the place in 2005. By attrition, on their honored stage, I confounded many with my various twists and antics; transitioning from a Rock&Roll artist to a funky-folk storyteller. I also found a home ("…this must be Artichoke…") to express my temperamental compositional whims. Joe Bass and Steve John Waters performed at Artichoke for the first time on Saturday October 25th. Joe had been in the building only once (on a "scouting mission" for our concert-to-be). Steve had come to see The Tummybuckles in October 2013, but other than that was unfamiliar with the scene there. I was proud to introduce them to the community. We three played a pair of sets that were a little more on the "rock arena" side than the room was used to…but ultimately, after 2 months of preparation, Joe and Steve and I were able to fit our honest sound into the confines of the established culture. We were joined by my trusted friends Woody Moran and Karma on a few numbers. It was an Honor to have them as special guests. Thanks to Russ (capturing the audio!), and K8 (3 cameras!), we have a way to mark this concert as a launching point for future success with this project. A DvD to come, and potentially, an original new album. This weekend, Saturday November 8th, this same trio will be bringing our Hard Rock Set to Ash Street Saloon in downtown Portland…a vastly different musical set will be witnessed there, a contrast to our Artichoke presentation and a glance at another side of our collective wide-ranging personalities. Looking forward to seeing you around the bend, thank you for reading.
I have been lucky enough to see quite a few amazing live shows in my life. Its actually pretty hard to pick a top five. Sometimes the bands are simply tremendously memorable performers, like Wolfmother, or The Deftones, or Live. Other times, however, they are sharing something else, something MORE. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Avett Brothers, 311, Floater, Incubus, Victor Wooten, Dave Matthews Band, Rage Against The Machine…these groups go way beyond the music itself, the albums themselves, the classic lyrics and riffs even. There is Wisdom in their craft. A ageless element that does not depend on "The Times". A universal attitude that, without particularly knowing each other, they all tap into collectively. They bind the souls of generations together. CULTURE. My #1 most favorite show I had ever seen was the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Rose Garden in Portland, a huge arena show for the album "By The Way" (2002). I went with Joe Bass, and The Flaming Lips opened. I had actually not been a fan of that Chili's album so far…the songs that made it on the radio as singles to that point were just "ok" to me. Once we got there, though, the thing that struck me about RHCP was that the whole band, all four of them, were so Completely Invested in the music and the moments. Watching them was inspiring, because you KNEW that there was no backup plan. There was no going-through-the-big-arena-tour-motions. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis was actually sick that night; a big part of the magic of the show and the drama was him just simply overcoming it for the sheer love of performing and singing. It was the way a live show should have been, and it has been firmly entrenched in my mind as a defining moment in my budding dream of being a real, living songwriter. And now, I LOVE THAT ALBUM (pssst: buy it). Last weekend, I saw The Avett Brothers at the Britt Amphitheater in southern Oregon. It was the best show I've ever seen in my life. Absolute Tops. They overtook the Chilis, after a decade of other shows by hundreds of bands big and small. Again, I was not a fan of their new album coming in, "Magpie & The Dandelion" (2014), as much as their others. Now, after seeing it live, I LOVE IT. Again, the Avetts and their backing band were all so completely enveloped and invested in the music and the production that it was awe-inspiring. They have a way of connecting and involving the community of fans in a way that I have not seen other internationally famous contemporary bands do. They remind me of my development as a fan of live music with early 311…The Avett Brothers sell a Mood with their show, and whether or not they play "your favorite songs" on any given night, you leave completely satisfied…because its really all about THE CULTURE, not the songs or the lyrics or the skill of the members (original or guests) or the music itself. I mean, it IS all of those things…but…its the Family of Fans & Band that is the most resounding. I figured out that THAT is what I want to see in an artist in the live setting. I don't want them to just write a song or two that speaks to me. I want them to craft a canopy under which we can all gather at our leisure.
Cole Porter. Bing Crosby. Roy Orbison. Willie Nelson. David Byrne. The Killers. These guys were onto something. And now, for no particular reason I can discern, other than I woke up with it one day in my head, and then for the next three days could not get it out...I'm onto it too! Recognize it? "Oh give me land, lots of land under starry skies above...don't fence me in...let me ride through the wide open country that I love...don't fence me in...let me be by myself in the evening breeze, listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees, send me off forever but I ask you please, don't fence me in...Just turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle underneath the western sky...on my cayuse let me wander over yonder till I see the mountains rise...I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences, gaze at the moon till I lose my senses, I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences...don't fence me in..." And we're OFF!